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SAND-SUNK VESSELS: GOVT SETS UP FRESH COMMITTEE FOR WRECKS REMOVAL

By NBF News

The menace of ship wrecks at Lagos waters, which was compounded by some vessels which sank at Takwa Bay in Lagos since February 14, 2010, has continued to generate concerns, as government, on Wednesday, set-up yet another committee to effect the wrecks removal.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA), had earlier commenced the removal of the wrecks after successfully salvaging some of the sunk ships, but the efforts ran into a hitch under controversial circumstances. The new committee to effect quick removal of the wreckages was set up by the Minister of Transport, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman at a meeting between the minister and Lagos State officials led by the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Olasupo Sasore, in Lagos.

Speaking at the meeting, the minister expressed worry over the danger of the wrecks to the environment and appreciated the concern of Lagos State Government.

He maintained that with the level of removal approaches of both Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, and NIMASA, it might take more than five or six years before the nation could salvage the whole wrecks and this portends danger to the shoreline and citizens of the nation. Alhaji Suleiman said both NIMASA and NPA had to come together and harmonize their methods on the removal exercise with the Lagos State Waterfront Agency.

'This is a very serious issue that affects our shoreline and needs to be addressed. It will take another five or six years to remove the wrecks with the approaches of the NIMASA and NPA. They must give clearer picture on their removal methods and harmonize them in such a way that will be acceptable to Lagos State. They must work hand in hand with the state', said the minister.

Speaking, Mr. Olasupo Sasore said he was impressed by the promptness of the minister to the matter, saying the state had conducted its on study on the wreckages and would appreciate working and sharing ideas with NPA and NIMASA on the problem. The commissioner said it is important to go after the perpetrators and hold them accountable for the ecological implication of their abandoned vessels, noting that the state and the ministry of justice, because of the legal implication, must be involved in the committee.

A representative of the Minister of Interior, Captain Emmmanuel Iheanacho, asked if NIMASA had informed the owners of the abandoned vessels about the development and such owners be made to face the law. Presenting the efforts made so far by the NPA, Captain Iheanacho Ebubogu, General Manager, Marine, said vessel wreckage has become a big challenge to the organization considering its implication to environment and easily vessel pilotage and dredging activity.

He noted that there are 100 identified wreckages alone in Lagos port channels and others in other ports, maintained that NPA had removed 21 while NIMASA removed four. According to him, 'If we don't remove these wrecks, it may affect our aspiration of becoming a maritime hub for West Africa and portend Nigeria as irresponsible before the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Apart from this, these wrecks can be a hideout for hoodlums and cause environmental degradation to the nation.'

Speaking further, he said it is very unfortunate that all these wrecked vessels are owned by members of the Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) who have failed to develop scrap policy on their old vessels and never bother about to have Protection & Indemnity insurance. 'When we don't have all these, we have wrecks littering our sea.'

Iheanacho, who suggested a collaboration with all littoral states on wreck removal and sourcing of fund from the ecological fund to tackle the menace, added that fishing vessels in the country flout safety regulation simply because they are under the ministry of agriculture, saying they must be subjected to the same rules and regulation guiding all ocean going vessels by NIMASA.