Liberia: Maritime Authority Investigates How Grounded Niko Ivanka Criminally Took to Sea
MONROVIA – Over 16 persons are feared dead and 11 others rescued following the criminal lifting of a “detention order” placed on the sailing of the locally made and registered vessel NIKO IVANKA, which has sunk on the waters in Maryland County.
Among those rescued are about 10 men, one woman. Nine of them including seven crewmen are Liberians, one Chinese, and one Syrian. Six were rescued on Saturday, July 17, while the remaining was rescued on Sunday, July 18.
The vessel which, belongs to HYLALEA INC. was constructed in Marshall, Margibi County in the period of four months and commissioned by Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor in 2018.
It was carrying about 21 passengers, including nine workers of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) when it was reported distressed.
It can be recalled that under the administration of former LiMA boss, Dr. James Kollie, the NIKO IVANKA vessel, which was licensed to transport only cargo or goods, to the leeward areas in Liberia was declared unfit for sea.
It was grounded and prevented from sailing on the Liberian waters due to its deplorable conditions.
Though it remains unclear who order the sailing of the vessel which was previously barred by government from sailing, a probe has been launched into the matter by the government, through the Liberia National Police (LNP).
But it remains unclear how the vessel left from Monrovia on July 17, 2021 at 0600hrs and was reported to be in a “distressed situation” though there are reports that the vessel has been sailing for several months despite the ban.
Addressing a news conference at the Coast Guard Base on the Bushrod Island, outside Monrovia, the Commissioner General of the LiMA, Mr. Eugene Nagbe, disclosed that the investigation will help unearth how did the “detention order” on the sinking vessel lifted and by whom.
“The Liberia Maritime Authority wishes to state that the subject vessel was detained and not allowed to sail. Also, the vessel was at no time authorized or permitted to carry passengers or operate as a passenger’s vessel”.
“The Maritime Authority and all of the relevant entities, including the Ministry of Justice, are commissioning an investigation to how a vessel that was detained because of its failure to meet the necessary requirements managed to get on the sea with passengers and cargo. We issued a letter and said don’t move; how did it move? We will determine that very shortly”.
Mr. Nagbe pointed out that the ongoing investigation is a subsidiary to the sear rescue efforts of the Liberia Coast Guard and others, including Arcelor Mittal for the use of two tugboats, Lone Star Cell MTN to know the exact location of the vessel and Sea Shepherd.
He assured that actions will be taken following the outcome of the ongoing investigation, beginning with the owner of the vessel to ensure that there is no “reoccurrence of the situation”.
He justified that for a vessel to sail on the Liberian waters, it should have met all of the domestic and international standards to be granted a license.
Mr. Nagbe noted that the LiMA, along with its agents, also carries out regular safety regulations and inspections to guarantee the safety of crew members, passengers, and goods, among others.
According to him, a detention order is normally issued to any vessel or ship that does not meet the above requirements, and as such, the probe is necessary in an effort to establish why a detention order previously issued was overturned.
The happening and deceit
He added that the vessel while underway to Harper about six nautical miles off the coast of Marshall City, reportedly started to take in water.
According to him, the Liberia Maritime Authority, Ministry of National Defense, the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), particularly the Coast Guard, mobilized resources, including assets and personnel and immediately commenced search and rescue operations to attend to the vessel.
“The distressed vessel, NIKO IVANKA, had onboard a crew complement of nine persons based on the crew list submitted by the agent. Also, nine personnel of the West African Examination Council were on board as passengers.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Nagbe has assured that the Authority will continue to enforce the regulations and put in place precautionary measures despite the latest incident.
Speaking further, Mr. Nagbe disclosed that the government’s main priority remains to search and rescue the missing passengers that were abroad on the distressed vessel.
According to him, search and rescue efforts are continuing.
“We want the members of the public to rest assured that we will continue to exert every effort to rescue those who were on board this distressed vessel. We have sent more resources and assets to the area, including searching along the banks of rivers in the area”.
Not the first time
For his part, Maryland County Senator Gbleh-bo Brown recalled that the county has experienced “at least four shipwrecks” in the history of the country.
According to him, the latest incident is a reflection of the loss of lives and properties that citizens and others continue to experience as a result of the wrecking of ships or vessels in the county.
Senator Brown used the occasion to commend those involved with the search and rescue operations.
“Each time it happens, we lose lives and properties. We are happy that at this time at least 11 of them have been rescued. We are praying that the 15 to 17 that are still considered missing, our hearts and prayers are with their families. We hope that they can also be rescued”.
He urged citizens of the county to remain calm as the government continues to make efforts in rescuing those who are reported missing.
Meanwhile, the Search and Rescue (SAR) team of the Coast Guard, is currently conducting foot patrols along with the coastal land between Little Bassa and Marshall areas.
The team will transition to “recovery mood or stage” after 48 – 72 hrs.