The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA has said that it took the collaborative efforts of the agency’s operatives and the NLNG that led to the rescue of a distressed vessel; MV ORC4contrary to reports on some online media platforms, which claimed that the agency failed to provide assistance.

Meanwhile, the management of ORC4Fishing and Food Processing Group Limited, has expressed its appreciation to NIMASA for its timely intervention that saved both the vessel and her crew when in distress.

 According to a statement signed by the Deputy Director Corporate Communications of the agency, Mr. Isichei Osamgbi, the truth is that NIMASA and NLNG actually saved the vessel through its search and rescue operations. The said fishing vessel did not sink and is currently at the ORC Jetty at Kirikiri Lighter Terminal in Lagos where it was safely towed after rescue.

“For the records, NIMASA Search and Rescue Control Room received a distress call at about 20:00hrs on 6th Feb 2019 that a Vessel MV ORC 4 was on fire at Bonny Anchorage and that the crew was abandoning the vessel. The agency’s Search and Rescue Station swung into action and relayed the emergency call to shipping within the area in line with its statutory mandate as enshrined in Sections.22(1) and 22(4) of the NIMASA Act 2007 and Section.2(1) of the Merchant Shipping Act 2007 on Maritime Safety.

“After preliminary investigation and assessment of the distress, the agency immediately sought collaboration with the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas NLNG whose firefighting tug was closest to the scene to assist in bringing the situation under control along with other neighbouring vessels who collaborated in the rescue exercise, in line with global shipping standards.

“Immediately, the NLNG immediately swung into action by dispatching the firefighting tug boat named; CTOW ANN SOPHIE to the scene which was used to extinguish the fire.  The crew onboard was safely evacuated and the vessel safely towed to her owner’s jetty where she is currently undergoing repairs”, the statement said.

Meanwhile, head, Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standards Department of the agency, Captain Sunday Umoren, who commented on the issue, commending the support of Atlantic Shrimpers vessels and the NLNG for the successful operation in saving the fishing vessel and further clarified the misconception as reported in the media. He said “there is a difference between emergency and salvage operations. Saving lives is the mandatory action during an emergency and should be treated with top priority, but saving an asset is salvage, which is never free”.

He also stated that usually, to save time, the salvor and the Master of the Vessel (to be salvaged) will agree for the operation to be under Lloyd’s Open Form (LOF), an international agreement which is a standard form contract for a proposed marine salvage operation which is aimed at eliminating pre-salvage negotiations deferring such to be decided by Arbitrators on completion of the salvage operation. On the incident, the head of Maritime Safety Department further hinted that post incident analysis will be conducted and recommendations put forward especially on fixed firefighting systems on fishing vessels and that lessons learnt from the incident will be shared with stakeholders in the shipping industry.

However in a letter entitled “Appreciation for Support During Fire Incident on Board ORCiv Trawler” addressed to the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside dated February 11, 2019, the Group Managing Director of ORCiv Fishing and Food Processing Limited, Rahul Savara, thanked the agency for the rescue efforts.

In his words, “We would like to sincerely appreciate Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) for all the assistance provided during the fire incident. Your timely support in dousing the fire aided in reducing the material loss that would have been incurred as a result of the incident. Please remain assured of our utmost regards and best wishes.”

Recall that in a recent interactive session with journalists in Lagos, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside had made it known that the Agency will continue to engage relevant stakeholders on the need for a sustained collaboration to develop the sector.

The agency has consistently expressed its commitment to its mandate of ensuring a robust maritime industry, which includes; safety of lives and maritime assets, search and rescue operations among several other functions.