The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, has given all owners of abandoned ships, vessels and other crafts to urgently remove them from the nation’s territorial waters on or before April 28, 2017 or risk severe sanctions, which may include their removal by the agency at the owners’ expense and forfeiture.

It is estimated that there are over 2,000 abandoned ships, wrecks and derelicts on the nation’s waterways, which pose serious threats to safe navigation as well as security risk to the coastal communities, as criminals hide in these abandoned ships to launch attacks on these communities.

This ultimatum is therefore in line with NIMASA’s desire to ensure safe and secure shipping on the Nigerian territorial waters.

Director General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside who stated this recently in Lagos noted that it is in line with the commitment of the agency to ensure that our waters remain safe for navigation in order to advance our maritime interests.

According to him, all abandoned ships would be declared as wrecks, as the agency would ensure that nothing impedes safe navigation in the Nigerian waters by removing them.

“In line with our mandate on the protection of the marine environment and safety of navigation within Nigerian waters and our powers as the receiver of wrecks; owners of all abandoned ships, vessels and derelicts are sternly warned to seek removal plan permits from the agency and ensure the removal of these wrecks and derelicts from our waters on or before April 28, 2017 failure of which would attract appropriate sanctions”, he said.

The DG disclosed that the sanctions would include the removal of such wrecks at the owners’ expense as well as forfeiture of the vessels, stating that the agency is empowered to do so in line with the powers vested on it by the Merchant Shipping Act 2007 and other enabling Acts as well as some instruments of the International Maritime Organisation IMO.

Recall that Nigeria is party to the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks (Nairobi Convention 2007).

The Convention is a treaty of the IMO aimed at prompt and effective removal of shipwrecks located in the parties’ territorial waters including its Exclusive Economic Zone EEZ that may be hazardous to navigation or environment.

The convention gives states’ Maritime Administrations to remove wrecks and in Nigeria’s case NIMASA is the receiver of wrecks.

The NIMASA-boss also said that all abandoned Vessels littering the waterways and the shoreline of the country are affected by this directive.

The current management of NIMASA had constantly expressed the agency’s commitment to ensuring safer waterways for Nigerian maritime stakeholders to conduct their business.

Experts believe that the removal of wrecks has become inevitable at this point in time, especially, given the security situation in the country with the increasing spate of kidnaps using the waterways.