Liberia: Niko Ivanka Survivors Share Dreadful Experience with FPA; Explain How They Survived
MONROVIA – Lawrence Koffa, 24, took to sea onboard Niko Ivanka last Saturday, his hopes and dreams were to begin a new life and earn tertiary education at the Tubman University in Harper, Maryland County. This dream nearly came it an end when he began to drown along with Niko Ivanka. “I survived by the grace of God,” he tells FrontPageAfrica.
At the verge of drowning, Koffa got hold of a floater which eventually became the savior of five other drowning passengers.
The essence of his trip was to resettle in Maryland County where he was aspiring to enroll in the University there. “Life was not easy in Monrovia. I’ve been doing business since I graduated from high school and I have been wanting to go to college but it hasn’t been easy in Monrovia. I was told that Tubman University was very affordable and I could also do my business in Maryland.
Explaining the ordeal to FrontPageAfrica, Koffa recalled that he and other passengers had to sleep at the Freeport of Monrovia last Friday as the ship took off at 7 am on Saturday.
“Before we could leave, the engine failed, but they managed to work on it and it was okay so we started the journey,” he explained.
He said, at about 2 pm, they observed that the sea was very rough at deep sea and the captain paid no attention to that, despite concerns raised by many of the passengers on the ship.
“We confronted him about why he kept going deep sea when the sea was rough, but he wouldn’t listen to us. So, for me, I became afraid and decided to go and sleep. It didn’t stay long when we heard the alarm on the ship. Not knowing water was already entering. The captain began to ask us to pour out the water. He didn’t tell us the ship was sinking,” Koffa said.
He recalled that as they tried to dish out the water from the fairy, the captain and his associates went upstairs.
“When the captain realized that water had entered the ship and nothing could be done about it, they went up and got safety jackets and jumped off the ship, the crew, too, jumped off without giving us life jackets. They didn’t even consider the boy who was only about 12-15 years old on the ship,” he said.
According to him, they were left on the ship without live jackets. “Only the crew members had on life jackets. The ones given to the WAEC workers were also very small as if it was for babies,” he said.
He said after the captain left, the crew members, too, abandoned them on the sinking ship.
Koffa does not know how to swim, but he braved the ocean and jumped in in an attempt to make it to shore by any means.
“When I got in the water, I found a floater. It was just the miracle of God because I don’t know where the floater came from. I managed to get over it. The Chinese man was also in the water and he was close to me, so, I managed to help him to also get on the floater. It wasn’t easy. Before helping the Chinese man, I wanted to help the WAEC staff but he was still on the ship but fortunately, after the Chinese man got on it, the storm pushed us near the ship and that’s how we managed to help him and others to get on it.”
Koffa said they remained on the floater at deep-sea for 10 hours before they were discovered and rescued.
“I was going with all my school documents and goods but all left in the water,” he said.
Another survivor, Peter Flomo, 35, had been working on ship since 2018 when it was commissioned. He told FrontPageAfrica he was asleep when the ship began to sink.
“My brother, it was like I was at the point of death. Right now, I cannot even remember all that happened. I work on the engine and it was my time to sleep so I was asleep when water began to enter the ship. I woke up confused but we had a pallet on the ship so the other crew members and I put it on the water and that’s how we escaped. There is nothing more I can remember at this point,” he said.
According to reports, Niko Ivanka, a Liberian-built and registered ship for the transportation of cargo between Harper, Maryland County and the Freeport of Monrovia signal was last seen offshore between Marshall and Little Bassa.
The cargo ship sent out a distress call prompting the rescue team from the Armed Forces of Liberia, the Liberia Maritime Authority and Sea Shepperd.
It was carrying about 21 passengers, including nine workers of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) when it was reported distressed.
According to the Maritime Authority, in accordance with international practice, they have exhausted 48 hours of rescue missions and are now transitioning to recovery mode.
On April 22, 2021 the vessel was cited for being in violation of a detention order issued by the inspectorate department.
Six days later, on April 28, 2021, the vessel was detained for operating with expired certificates. That detention notice was served on the National Port Authority, Liberian National Coast Guard, the Management of the vessel, with all three bodies notified that the vessel was not fit to go to sea.
Though it remains unclear who order the sailing of the vessel which was previously barred by the 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 was 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.”