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Several persons missing as vessel sinks

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GOL on rescue mission, as Cummings applauds efforts
By Lewis S. Teh

Several persons are said to be missing after a local vessel Niko Ivanka carrying about 18 people including passengers and crew members bond for Maryland County in the southeast sank over the weekend.

The Liberian Government through the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), the Ministry of National Defense, and the Armed Forces of Liberia Coast Guard have since launched a search and rescue operation.

LiMA Commissioner-General Len Eugene Nagbe told reporters Sunday, 18 July at a press conference that so far 11 persons have been rescued since the rescue operation was launched, and are hopeful of recovering the remaining passengers and crew members on board.

Addressing reporters at the Coast Guard Base on Bushord Island, Nagbe said there were no report of casualty so far.

According to him, at least five vessels are participating in the search between Bassa and Marshall because there might be others who are still along the waterway.

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 Invanka, 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 personal 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 Invanka 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 this vessel in question is one of those vessels that are 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.

For his part, Education Minister Professor Ansu Sonii thanked the LiMA and its partners for exerting tremendous efforts in rescuing eleven persons, saying that there’s a need for all the parties involved to work together to help in the rescue operation.

According to Minister Sonii, nine staff were heading to Maryland, Grand Gedeh, and Grand Kru Counties to administer the upcoming national exams.

He said if they have another adjustment in administering the national exams, they will update the public, but urged everyone to focus on the rescue mission.

Meanwhile, Alternative National Congress (ANC) political leader Mr. Alexander B. Cummings has described the news as saddening.

“We are saddened by the news of distress to the vessel Niko Ivanka near Maryland County.

Our thoughts are with the families of the vessel’s crew and the passengers on board as we pray for the total success of the rescue operations. We commend the rescue of some of our citizens so far and our prayers are with those yet to be rescued.

We also call on the government to investigate what seems to have been an avoidable incident and ensure that anyone found culpable of negligence faces the full weight of the law,” Mr. Cummings wrote on his social media page. Maryland County Senator Gble-bo Brown also expressed sadness and termed the situation as regrettable.

“This event is a reflection, it brings back dark memories of the past,” he said.

“We stand here today to remember at least four-ship [wrecks] which have happened to Maryland County, and each time it happened, we lost lives,” he said.

He recalled that in 2010, a similar situation occurred when a vessel was heading to Maryland and eight persons died and others went missing.—Edited by Winston W. Parley

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