Liberia: Members of Senate Committees on Maritime and Defense Split on Niko Ivanka Vessel Report

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MONROVIA – Ahead of Thursday’s deliberation into circumstances that led to the sinking of the Niko Ivanka vessel last month, a FrontPageAfrica investigation has established that members of the Senate Committees on Defense and Intelligence and Maritime are said to be divided over the findings of the report.

Some members of the Committee who didn’t want to be named, told FrontPageAfrica the report presented to the House of Representatives by the owner of the vessel was contrary to Senator Steve Zargo’s report presented to the media Wednesday.

Requesting anonymity, one Senator told FrontPageAfrica: “We will speak out, but we are awaiting the findings from the House of Representatives report, we are told that the shipowner met with the House of Representatives Wednesday and what Zargo told the press is different from what the shipowner told members of the House of Representatives.”

Continuing, the Senator added: “We are talking about human lives, let the Senator stop politicizing this, the family of those people are grieving.”

The Senator believes Zargo, chairman of the joint committee and Senator of Lofa County, “made huge errors”, claiming his report contradicted the official response of the management of the wrecked Niko Ivanka vessel.

But Senator Zargo, when contacted, rebuffed claims levied against him of contradicting an earlier report presented to the House of Representatives by the management of Niko Ivanka.

It is gathered that the management of the vessel told the House of Representatives Wednesday that Maritime was fully aware of the vessel leaving the Port. 

Our source said the owner of the vessel told lawmakers Wednesday that what happened was an accident. “You can buy a brand-new car today and it can make accident, our vessel was never banned because it was faulty,” our source quoted the vessel owner as saying.

“We are on the water every week and Maritime has agents at the Port. The boat was never banned by Maritime, as it was claimed by Maritime boss Nagbe. It is only this morning we heard the Maritime boss Eugene Lenn Nagbe saying that,” the company’s communication head and current acting General manager, Tito Logan said.

According to Logan, Maritime collects its dues from the company every time and there is no way the vessel could leave the Port facilities without Maritime authorization and the Port management. 

Mr. Logan said if the vessel was banned as stated by the Maritime boss because it didn’t meet the safety requirements of Maritime, they wouldn’t have been making trips every week.

“There are Port security guards assigned at all of Liberia’s Ports and if any vessel is banned by Maritime, the International Seaport Police (ISP) wouldn’t allow such vessel get on the water,” Logan said.

FrontPageAfrica further gathered that Senator Zargo Committee did not do due diligence during the investigation. There were procedural errors and partial findings from the investigation.

“The report does not make logical reasoning on grounds that the hard questions were never asked. If Maritime says that the vessel was banned, where were their agents assigned at Ports when the vessel sail?” FPA was told by a member of the investigative committee.

The Senator also wondered what must have happened to the monitoring device being used by the Maritime Authority that tracks the movement of vessels in and out of Liberia.

According to him, it was not possible for the vessel to have been banned when it was established by the very committee that the sinking vessel made several trips out of the Freeport of Monrovia prior to the unfortunate accident. 

When asked what must have gone wrong, he responded: “The authority of Maritimes should have also been called in to answer to these hard questions. Something, he claimed, was never done.” 

He intoned that it was a wrong judgment on the part of the committee’s chair to have made wrongful indictments when there are more questions to be answered.

FrontPageAfrica gathered the reported banned vessel had made more than 10 trips to the Southeast during the period they claimed it was banned from sailing. Though there was an initial ban placed on it to meet up with its registration and financial obligations, it was given a 90-day grace period upon appeal.

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