There are growing concerns over 3, 000 identified wrecks and wastes littering the nation’s waterways threatening maritime transportation, which seems to have been abandoned after several interventions to remove them from the waters.
Consequences of wrecks and debris have been traced to the several maritime accidents that involved human casualties and businesses, which come with huge costs to the ocean and other water channels.
Other consequences of wreckages include danger to navigation of vessels along the channels, damage and degradation from oil leakages of abandoned vessels, which cause additional risks of pollution from chemicals and hazardous materials on-board wrecked ships.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had mandated coastal states to, as a matter of responsibility, urgently remove the wreckages from its waterways. It adopted the Nairobi International Convention on Removal of Wreckages 2007, which states, among other things that: “Pursuant to the draft convention, the coastal states will have the powers to order the removal of wrecks outside their territorial waters.”
However, Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, in one of his articles published a national daily, argued that various efforts to remove such wreckages from the nation’s waterways have not been successful over the years and that the challenge has not been thoroughly addressed.
He said the situation had remained so because the agencies mandated to carry out the responsibility according to their individual statutes, including NIMASA, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) have acted alone over time, resulting in lack of coordination of activities in the discharge of the common responsibility.
This followed 10 months after the NIMASA commenced the removal of critical wreckages from Tin Can and Badagry waters in Lagos, but since then, there has not been any other removal of debris in spite of the high expectations that greeted the ceremony.
NIMASA, NPA, NIWA and the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) had last year, started the first phase of the National Wreck Removal Exercise to rid the nation’s waterways of over 3,000 identified wrecks and wastes. Tagged the wreck removal and recycling market exercise, it was estimated at N30 billion and was segmented into four phases namely: The Badagry-Tin-Can Island axis, Western Zone, Eastern Zone with headquarters in Port Harcourt and Central Zone in Warri, Delta State.
Jamoh had also said the agency would issue marine notices to the owners of abandoned vessels on the waterways to evacuate them, noting that failure to do so after the expiration of the timeline, NIMASA would then move in to remove, auction and recycle them. But as of the time of writing this report, this has not been the case, as several abandoned shipwrecks and barges litter the Lagos waterways and other coastlines across the country, without efforts to remove them.
It was also earlier reported that most abandoned fishing trawlers and barges were littering the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) waterfronts in Lagos, thereby constituting danger for moving craft along the waterways, which is home to a large volume of cargoes from the Lagos Ports Complex (LPC) and Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC).
Investigation also revealed that most of the vessels have been deliberately abandoned for about a decade, while others have been on the same spot for years due to court injunctions. Others were moved there for repairs, maintenance and detention by regulatory authorities.
Sources disclosed that some of the vessels had been left on the same spot and that no organisation or individual had questioned their being abandoned, a situation, they said posed serious danger to aquatic life and navigation of smaller boats, despite the presence of NIMASA on the Kirikiri Lighter Terminals waterways. It was also discovered that several efforts to contact the government agencies on the need to evacuate some of the critical wrecks along the waterways were ignored.
Another challenge remains the patrol gunboats in the fleet of Global West Vessels Specialists (GWVS), NIMASA/Barugu, which were acquired 10 years ago but sank on April 3, 2022 at the Kirikiri Terminal. The boats had since remained in the water, as the Assistant Director, Public Relations of NIMASA, Osagie Edward, revealed that it had been a subject of litigation with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), thereby adding to the number of wrecks in the waterways.