Maritme

Stakeholders raise alarm over multiplicity of ship wrecks on waterways

Oluyinka Onigbinde

Apparently dissatisfied with the degradation and rate at which the Nigeria waterways is being dotted with wrecks and derelicts vessels, stakeholders in the Maritime Industry have mounted pressure on the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to take the needed actions against owners of wrecks on the Nigeria waterways.

A shipwreck is what remains of a ship that has either wrecked, sunk or beached. That is either caused by bad weather, poor design, fire, improperly stowed cargo, navigation and other human errors leading to collision with another ship, the shoreline or an iceberg.

According to investigation,there are over 120 shipwrecks abandoned on Nigeria’s coastline and about 60 of them littering the Lagos waters, being a littoral state and the commercial hub of the nation’s economy, navigating the Nigeria’s waterways has become a formidable task for unsuspecting vessel operators due to wrecked hidden underneath the sea.

With millions of lives, properties and means of livelihood continually threaten and put at risk by these menace created by ship owners.

Some stakeholders have however faulted NIMASA for the irresponsible way at which they have handled the wrecks and derelicts vessels on the waterway.

However In a recent chat with Nigerian NewsDirect, a frontline Master Mariner, Captain Tajudeen Alao,  decried  the rate at which wrecks have dotted the Nigeria’s waterways, owing to failure of polluters to remove their wrecks from the water ways.

According to him “responsibility by polluter is different from support for ship owners. It is the responsibility of polluters to remove their wrecks from the waterways, just as  civil liability insurance for wreck is like oil pollution, hence wreck is an environmental pollution,” he said.

Also a member of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, (ANCLA) Mr. Kayode Farinto, who represented the President of ANLCA, Olayiwola Shittu, during the annual general meeting of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners in Lagos recently, also   raised the issue suggesting that owners of the wrecks should be sued.

While presenting a paper titled, ‘International Pilotage Services’ during the association of master mariners’ AGM, a former sailor, Iheanacho Ebubeogu, also  noted  that it would make economic sense if vessels that were still afloat but no longer in use were towed  back to their destinations before they sank and became wrecks.

He noted that some of the vessels came with bunkers and if they sank would lead to pollution.

According to him, although the law permits NIMASA to remove wrecks if the owners have not done so after one year, the cost of removing the wrecks is very high, adding that it costs as much as $1.8m to remove wrecks from the ocean.

He said, “What the law says is that if after one year the owner has not removed it, the appropriate authority that considers the wreck a nuisance can remove it and when that is done, the authority shall recover its money from them.

“But the unfortunate thing is that all the wrecks we have removed are worth less than the money we have spent in their removal. That is why it is advisable for these wrecks to be towed away from Nigeria when they are derelicts, abandoned vessels, since they still have their buoyancy then. With a good tugboat sailing for 28 days, you can to more than 16 ships to Bangladesh.

“The cost of paying for that towing is less than one tenth of the cost of removing one wreck from the water. None of the wrecks removed from Nigerian waters is less than $1.8m.”

Ebubeogu also advised that an appraisal should be done and depreciation policies should be carried out since most of the ships bought were second-hand and they had a lifespan, adding that maintenance culture was still lacking in the country.

“We want to use this forum to appeal that it is better to take ships away when they are just derelicts and abandoned, not when they sink as wrecks because it costs a lot of money to remove them. Environmentally, if the ships sink with bunkers in them, they become a source of continued pollution,” he stated.

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