- We weren’t legally bound to rescue sunk gun-boat – NIMASA
By Kenneth Jukpor
While controversies on the ownership of the marine assets under Global West Vessels Specialists (GWVS) lingers since the gunboat, ‘NIMASA/Barugu’ sank at the weekend, Global West has disseminated a distress letter sent to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in January.
In the letter with ref no: GWVSLDISTVESSLS22/01/22 signed by the Managing Director of GWVS, Winifred Itima, on January 20th, 2022, the company noted that its crew has been pumping water out of the vessel since January 14th, 2022.
The letter titled: “DISTRESS VESSELS, URGENT ACTION NEEDED TO RESCUE THESE VESSELS MV WAO ETHIOPE AND NIMASA BARUGU” and received at NIMASA on January 21st, requested an urgent action to prevent the assets from sinking.
Meanwhile, it was also a follow-up letter on the precarious state of the vessels with an initial letter sent to NIMASA on November 6th, 2022 with ref. no: GWVSLDISTVESSLS/06/11/21
The letter read: “Sequel to our latter dated 06/11/21, Reference No. GWVSLDISTVESSLS06/11/21. Regarding the helpless state of the PPP vessels, I write to bring to your notice yet again that the situation is yet to be considered positively. Presently the above mentioned vessels need urgent action to rescue them before they sink.”
“Our crew onboard have been pumping out water from this vessels since January 14th 2022 and there is no improvement. As stated in our previous letter, it is beyond our capability now financially. If nothing is done urgently to these vessels they will sink and block the Badagry ship channel. Sir, I very humbly request that you cause action to meet with the rescue of this vessel and indeed all other vessels under the PPP agreement to avoid the looming risk of great loss (sinking) of vessels.”
Meanwhile, in a strange twist, NIMASA has given the covert reasons why it allowed NIMASA/Barugu to sink in a statement titled “The Sunken NIMASA- BARUGU Vessel: Matters Arising”, as the apex maritime agency faulted GWSVL for instituting legal cases against it and still expecting NIMASA to come to its rescue.
“If GWVSL wants NIMASA to assist with maintenance and other sundry expenses of their vessels, won’t they withdraw or suspend the cases instituted by it against NIMASA? But GWVSL prefers to eat their cake and have it. They insisted on going full steam ahead with the cases while applying all sorts of pressure through NGOs, Government Ministries, including the Media amongst others to force NIMASA to resume making payments to them.”
“If GWVSL were dealing in good faith, once done with the criminal charges, they should have approached the Agency for settlement. But no, instead they went ahead to obtain an arbitration judgement against their erstwhile partners and co-sufferers of the specter of criminal allegations.”
“Thereafter, they proceeded to seek an expert court order to enforce the arbitral award and attach the Agency’s accounts, while the Agency was completely unaware of the very doctrines of fairness equity and justice,” the report said.
Meanwhile, the Agency has assured that it will be launching an extensive investigation into the circumstances that led to the sinking of a stationary vessel in a sheltered anchorage, free of the pearls of the sea and weather interference.
The agency also lamented that the sinking occured in an unimaginably short time, while crew members cheered on like football fans in a stadium.