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Senate recommends further probe in sinking vessel case

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By Ethel A Tweh

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate has mandated its Joint Committee on Maritime as well as Defence, Intelligence, Security and Veteran Affairs to investigate the sinking of the Niko Ivankar vessel in July, which led to the death of several persons, including eight staff of the West Africa Examination Council Monrovia Office.

Plenary’s decision followed a report submitted by the Joint Committee on Tuesday, 9 November. 

On July 17, 2021, the Liberian-owned registered vessel, Niko Ivanka, sunk after leaving the Freeport of Monrovia, destined for the Port of Harper, Maryland County. 

The tragedy left a dozen persons dead in total with two persons still unaccounted for, while the value of properties lost in the sea disaster is yet unknown.

During the Joint Committee’s investigation, it was observed that the functions of the Liberian government are divided amongst Ministries and Agencies based on statutory considerations.

In the situation under investigation, the Joint Committee established that the Maritime Authority and the National Port Authority are the direct lines of focus in the search for answers as to what went wrong before and after the sinking of the Niko Ivankar vessel.

It also established during investigation that the Maritime Authority carried the responsibility of serving as the regulatory body while the National Port Authority is looked up to for enforcement of the body of regulations and is buttressed by the Ministry of National Defence through the Coast Guards.

The investigation, which is ongoing, among others, established that there was a lack of coordination in handling the situation, including conflict of interest before the vessel was allowed to leave the Port. 

Meanwhile, the Chair for the senate committee on Defense, Security, Intelligence and Veterans Affairs, Senator Stephen J.H. Zargo, had earlier blamed the Management of the National Port Authority for poorly handling circumstances surrounding the sinking of the vessel Niko Ivanka in Liberian waters on July 17, 2021, leaving about a dozen persons drowned, including eight staff of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Monrovia Office.

Senator Zargo explained the vessel, which Liberia’s Maritime Commissioner Lenn Eugene Nagbe said was never registered or authorized to sail, did not have an Automatic Information System (AIS) to ensure tracking in case of distress, and that the NPA itself never had a record of people onboard.

Presenting preliminary findings to the Senate during session in the chamber on Tuesday, August 17, Zargo lauded the Defense committee for a job well done, noting that through its intervention they were able to rescue some people that were on board the vessel.

The Liberia Maritime Commission had narrated that at about 3:51 PM Saturday, it received an alert from the Liberia Coast Guard through its Monrovia Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Center of a distress situation onboard the NIKO IVANKA.

Addressing a news conference at the Liberia Coast Guard Base on Bushrod Island, in Monrovia, Maritime Commissioner General and also the national coordinator for search and rescue in Liberia, Lenn Eugene Nagbe said the NIKO IVANKA vessel departed the Freeport of Monrovia for Harper on Saturday, July 17, at about 6:00 A.M. with nine crew members and nine personnel of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Monrovia Office onboard.

Commissioner Nagbe narrated that while on its way to Harper City, the vessel started to take in water about six nautical miles off the coast of Marshall City, Margibi County which prompted an immediate launch of a search and rescue operation by stakeholders in the Maritime sector.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/senate-committee-slips-in-sinking-vessel-probe/ Editing by Jonathan Browne

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