By Nwangwu Uba
The Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency , NIMASA, appears to have saved the nation’s maritime sector from a major international embarrassment by rescuing a distressed fishing vessel, MV OR4 from going the way of MV Gurara, one of the ships in the fleet of the defunct Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, which sunk several years ago.
The reports making the rounds initially was that the regulatory maritime agency never provided any assistance to rescue the vessel despite a distress call put out to the agency. The agency may have seen the originators of the dangerous rumour as agents of distraction.
An official of the agency in the Search and Rescue Department who spoke to the Value News dismissed the rumour as frivolous as the fishing vessel did not sink as earlier alleged. The official challenged doubting Thomases to visit the ORC Jetty at Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, Terminal, phase II, Apapa, to see the vessel which already undergoing repairs. The official disclosed that the vessel was towed to the location for safety by NIMASA Search and Resue officials.
Given the weight of the allegations against NIMASA, and the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company, NLNG, which were in a position to rescue the fishing vessel but failed to do so, the agency was forced to issue a Statement on the incident. It had said that the joint effort between the Organisation and the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, saved the distressed vessel from sinking which could have claimed the lives of the crew members onboard the vessel. The truth of the matter was that ”NIMASA and NLNG actually saved the vessel through its Search and Rescue Operations, the agency had said.
The Statement further revealed that as at the time the agency Search and Rescue officials appeared on the scene of the incident on February 6, 2019, the vessel was already on fire at Bonny Anchorage as the crew members were cited abandoning the vessel and running for their safety.
Giving an insider information, Dakuku Peterside, the Agency Director General said the Search and Rescue officials were forced to swung into action and relayed the emergency call to other shipping companies within the area for support.
The NIMASA Director Geeneral had disclosed that ”after preliminary investigation and assessment of the distress call, the agency quickly sought the support of the NLNG, which fire fighting tug was closest to the location of the incident to assist in saving the situation from degenerating. It was learnt other occasion going vessels within the location also collaborated with the NIMASA Search and Rescue team to save the vessel from sinking in line with the global shipping law.
As a prelude to rescuing the fishing vessel, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, subsidiary, was said to have dispatched its firefighting tug boat named ” CTOW ANN SOPHIE to the scene which was said to have been used to put out the raging fire on the vessel. The good news was that no life was lost as the crew members onboard the vessel were evacuated to safety and the vessel successfully towed to the Company’s KLT Jetty at Apapa, Lagos. The vessel, according o sources, is currently undergoinga major repair work before it would be put back on the sea.
An elated Sunday Umorem, Head of the agency’s Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standards Department could not hide his joy at the gallant effort of the Search and Rescue team put together for the rescue operations and the support of the Atlantic Shrimpers’ vessel as well in saving the distressed vessel.
According to him, there is a difference emergency and salvaging a sinking ship but the NIMASA team went for both. He noted that in an emergency situation, saving of lives was giving a priority attention but saving an asset goes with salvage operation. It was not surprising why evacuation of the crew members onboard the fishing vessel was taking as a priority before saving the asset which was never for free as the ship owner would be made made to pay for the services.
Going by the International shipping Agreement, to save time, the ”salvor and the master of the vessel to be salvaged must have to give the nod for the salvage operation to be under the Lloyd’s Open Form, LOF. This is a” standard form contract for a marine salvage operation aimed at eliminating pre-salvage negotiations by deferring such payment to be decided by ”arbitrators on completion of the salvage operations”.
There are indications that the post incident analysis will be conducted on the vessel and recommendations made to the appropriate Authority , particular on fixed firefighting systems on fishing vessels for necessary action and to avoid a repeat in the future.
With the successful rescue of the distressed fishing vessel, and subsequent towing to the Company’s Jetty at KLT, phase II, in Lagos, Raul Savara, Managing Director, ORCIV Fishing and Food Processing Company limited, an India Shipping Company based in Lagos, which owns the vessel, was said to have sent a letter of appreciation to Peterside, Director General, NIMASA and his Staff for the agency’s quick response in saving the Company’s multi-million dollar from asset from wasting. ” Your timely support in dousing the fire incident aided in reducing the material loss that could have been incurred by the Company”, he had said.