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As authorities continue search mission after vessel sinks

By Winston W. Parley

A Chinese national has been rescued, as authorities continue their search and rescue efforts days after a locally registered vessel Niko Ivanka sank six nautical miles off Marshall, in Margibi County.

The vessel was conveying about 18 persons including passengers and crew members bound for Maryland County, in southeastern Liberia.

A well-placed authoritative source who spoke to the NewDawn newspaper on condition of anonymity Monday evening, 19 July regarding the latest development of those who have been rescued so far informed this paper that the Chinese national was one of the latest survival.

However, unconfirmed reports say at least seven persons are feared dead.

Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) Commissioner-General Len Eugene Nagbe told reporters at the Coast Guard Base in Congo Town that there will be “a transparent and open investigation of the situation because there is a potential for loss of life and property.”

In the meantime, he noted that focus is still being placed on search and rescue.

Earlier on Sunday, 18 July, the Liberian Government through LiMA, the Ministry of National Defense, and the Armed Forces of Liberia Coast Guard informed the public that several persons were missing after the local vessel sank.

The authorities announced the launch of a search and rescue operation, and also indicated that 11 persons had so far been rescued, and they were hopeful of recovering the remaining passengers and crew members on board. The news of a Chinese national being rescued now puts the number to 12, the total persons rescued.

The New Dawn Liberia The New Dawn Liberia
Eugene Nagbe

At least five vessels are participating in the search between Bassa and Marshall because there might be others who are still along the waterway, Mr. Nagbe said.

He explained that LiMA got an alert from the Liberia Coast Guard through its Monrovia regional maritime rescue coordination center.

Mr. Nagbe further narrated that the center informed LiMA about a distress situation onboard M/V Niko Ivanka, a local vessel owned and operated by HYLAEA Inc. which according to LiMA was trading between the Ports of Monrovia, Montserrado County, and Harper, Maryland County.

Commissioner Nagbe said the information received indicated that the vessel departed the Port of Monrovia for Harper on Saturday, 17 July, and while on the way, it reportedly started to take in water about 6 nautical miles off the shore of Marshall City.

He stated that upon receiving the information, LiMA, Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of Liberia Coast Guard immediately mobilized resources including assets and personnel to begin the search and rescue operation to attend to the distressed vessel.

He added that ArcelorMittal Liberia, Sea Shepherd, and other partners were immediately contacted to utilize their assets to assist in the search and rescue operation, noting that ArcelorMittal launched its two tub boats along with Coast Guard personal onboard from the port of Buchanan to the reported scene of the incident between Buchanan and Marshall City.

He said the distressed vessel Niko Ivanka had onboard a crew complement of nine persons, based on the crew list submitted by the agent, and nine personnel of the West African Examination Council were also on board as passengers.

“The LiMA wishes to state that the subject vessel was detained and not allowed to sail, and this vessel was at no time authorized or permitted to carry passengers or operate as a passengers’ vessel,” Nagbe said.

The LiMA boss narrated that his institution follows all of the processes including the domestic, national, and international regulations or requirements to be granted or licensed by the LiMA, leading to the registration of any vessel.

He said in spite of the license, LiMA does regular monitoring of every vessel sailing Liberian waters, noting that if any vessel sailing the waters here fails to meet all of the requirements, you are grounded and detained.

Nagbe said the vessel in question is one of the vessels that were under a detention order for failure to meet all of the safety requirements. He revealed that passengers were onboard the vessel, but they were not listed. The LiMA Commissioner said authorities are still trying to interview some of the survivors, hoping that more people can still be found.

He detailed that the investigation will also determine why the passengers sailed, and who granted them the permission. by Othello B. Garblah

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