By Elizabeth Chukwuma
For the first time since the establishment of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, it has stamped its foot down as a key player in the nation’s Maritime, Oil and Gas sectors of the economy by insisting on participating in the recent offshore Oil and Gas barge fire incident in Ondo state, southwest Nigeria.
Note that the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, had recognised the National Oil Spill Detection And Response Agency, popular, NOSDRA, which is an institutional framework established in 2006, to Coordinate the implementation of the National Oil Spill Contigency to handle such matters. NIMASA, which ought to be carried along in such investigations had never been involved in the past.
Investigations by The Value News shows that between 2006 and now, the agency had been handling investigations of such matters alone. But this time around, NIMASA, had refused to be sidelined in the investigation of an offshore Oil and Gas servicing Company barge, a wellhead in the south west state to prove a point.
The Maritime Regulatory agency, may have sent an investigative team to the state to unravel the circumstances surrounding the fire incident to avoid been taken unawares by NOSDRA. Philip Kyanet, an Assistant Director and the agency Head of Corporate Communications confirmed the deployment of the Investigation Team to the area.
The barge, he revealed belonged to Michharry and Company Nigeria Limited, an offshore and onshore facilities provider for Companies in the nation’s oil and gas industry.
At the instance of Bashir Jamoh, the Director General, who, many believe understands the agency enormous responsibilities in the nation’s Maritime, Oil and Gas sectors of the economy was said to have ordered the officers from the agency’s Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standard Department ,MSSSD, and Marine Environment Management ,MEM Department to relocate to the scene of the wellhead fire incident with a mandate ”to conduct on the spot assessment and detailed analysis of the incident’’ that could help to address future occurrence.
Given the level of damage and pollution of the affected areas of the fire incident, the NIMASA boss, was said to have advised mariners and other maritime stakeholders ‘’to steer clear of the afffected areas for their own safety in order to facilitate the investigation and remediation work at the location, Ororo1, in Oil Mining Lease,OML, 95.The site, according to Industry sources was a Chevron platform which was said to have been sold to local investors managing it.
Kyanet, the agency spokesperson disclosed that preliminary investigations had shown that the barge, JUV Bellaton, a 300 Series SEWOP, that was gutted by fire was owned by Michharry but operated by Guarantee Petroleum.
The offshore Oil and Gas service Company, it was gathered had been working on the oil rig, Grace 1 HWU, when it experienced leakages of gas and oil, which were followed by a fire outbreak at the wellhead location. The good news was that ‘’there was no reported pollution following degenerative status of the platform due to the fire’’.The barge crew members were said to have been evacuated to safety, to enable the firefighters who were engaged by the company to try to put out the fire without difficulty.
Unknown to the Maritime Regulatory agency,NOSDRA, had also sent its own investigators to the scene of the wellhead fire incident to assess the level of damage and present their report to the Management which, in turn would be forwarded to the DPR for necessary action.
Perhaps, to avoid a conflicting report, the two government agencies were said to reached a working agreement. That much was confirmed by Kyanet, the NIMASA spokesperson who disclosed that that the two agencies had signed a working Understanding ,MoU. This is good news to operators in the nation’s Maritime, Oil and Gas sectors of the economy.
Given that NIMASA has a statutory responsibility for ensuring a clean, pollution- free, and friendly marine environment for safe shipping activities, stakeholders opined that the participation of the agency in the investigation of the Ondo Wellhead fire incident would expose the hidden activities in the nation’s offshore platforms and barge operations.
Already, Jamoh, has made it clear to all those that cares to listen that the agency would not hesitate ” to mete out sanctions to those found guilty including the Company if it had not followed all the precautionary measures to prevent fire disaster in their platforms or barges where necessary to deter future abuse.
An elated Jamo, the NIMASA Director General had said that “the Nigerian maritime industry and the economy will be the beneficiaries of the outcome of the investigation on the oil barge fire incident’’.