The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has debunked the news making the rounds in some online media platform that the Agency failed to provide assistance to a distressed vessel; MV ORC4.
According to a press statement by its Head Corporate Communications, Mr Isichei Osamgbi, the agency maintained that contrary to the false report which claimed that it failed to provide assistance to a distressed vessel, resulting in the sinking of the vessel and loss of lives; NIMASA said it collaborated with Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) to save the vessel through its Search and Rescue Operations.
It said that the fishing vessel did not sink and is currently at the ORC Jetty at Kirikiri Lighter Terminal in Lagos where it was safely towed after rescue.
“NIMASA Search and Rescue Control Room received a distress call at about 20:00hrs on 6th Feb 2019 that a Vessel MV ORC 4 (ORC IV) was on fire at Bonny Anchorage and that the crew were abandoning the vessel. The Agency’s Search and Rescue Station swung into action and relayed the emergency call to shipping within the area in line with its statutory mandate as enshrined in SS.22(1) and SS.22(4) of the NIMASA Act 2007 and S.2(1) of the Merchant Shipping Act 2007 on Maritime Safety
“After preliminary investigation and assessment of the distress, the Agency immediately sought collaboration with the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) whose firefighting tug was closest to the scene to assist in bringing the situation under control along with other neighbouring vessels who collaborated in the rescue exercise, in line with global shipping standard.
“Accordingly, the NLNG immediately swung into action by dispatching the firefighting tug boat named; CTOW ANN SOPHIE to the scene which was used to extinguish the fire. The crew onboard were safely evacuated and the vessel safely towed to her owner’s jetty where she is currently undergoing repairs”, it stated.
Commenting on the issue, the Head, Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standards Department of the Agency, Captain Sunday Umoren while commending the support of Atlantic Shrimpers’ vessels, his team and NLNG for the successful operation in saving the fishing vessel further clarified the misconception as reported in the media.
He said “there is a difference between emergency and salvage operations. Saving of lives is the mandatory action during an emergency and should be treated with top priority, but saving an asset is salvage, which is never free”.
He also stated that usually, to save time, the salvor and the Master of the Vessel (to be salvaged) will agree for the operation to be under Lloyd’s Open Form (LOF), an international agreement which is a standard form contract for a proposed marine salvage operation which is aimed at eliminating pre-salvage negotiations deferring such to be decided by Arbitrators on completion of the salvage operation.
On the incident, the Head of Maritime Safety Department further hinted that post incident analysis will be conducted and recommendations put forward especially on fixed firefighting systems on fishing vessels and that lessons learnt from the incident will be shared with stakeholders in the shipping industry.
The Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) and the Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA) had accused NIMASA of abandoning the vessel when it caught fire and sank off Bony Channel in Rivers State.
The associations also alleged that two of the crew of the fishing trawler got missing since February 6 when the vessel sank after she was destroyed by the fire incident, insisting that NIMASA was culpable, given that it was repeatedly notified early enough for rescue to have been arranged for the distressed trawler.