Stakeholders in the maritime sector have criticised the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), saying that the agency has failed in its safety mandate, especially as it concerns removal of wreck on Nigerian waters.
The stakeholders noted that NIMASA receives huge budgetary allocations yearly for wreck removal, but alleged that the agency has failed to remove a single wreck.
They called for proper scrutiny of NIMASA saying that the agency also collects huge revenue from ships in dollars for this purpose.
Leading the pack of stakeholders who raised the alarm, Business Manager of Kempt Harkulson Nigeria Limited; Mr Edmond Martins in a recent chat with Shipping Position Daily noted that, for several years NIMASA has been raising budgets on wreck removal and yet there are still some wrecks on Nigerian waters which has made it difficult for investors to come into Nigerian waterways.
He argued that the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) does not have the required financial capacity to carry out wreck removal.
He said: "Where I worked before, we went through a process of wreck removal, but NIMASA insisted that they already have it in their budget, yet the wrecks are still there, so, who is monitoring NIMASA? Part of the safety aspect of their job is to remove wrecks, so who is monitoring the fact that NIMASA is not performing their duties?
“They are collecting levies in dollars from all kinds of vessels and cargoes and they are not doing what they ought to do with that money, who is monitoring them, government is changing administration upon another and yet, the wrecks are still in place", he alleged.
Martins argued that NIWA hardly collect dues from cargoes and from ships, so NIMASA ability to raise revenue is times ten of what NIWA would raise.
According to him, wreck removal is capital intensive, "You need water cranes, barges, divers, NIMASA is the only agency that can afford to do this, they actually have a mandate and a budget for it, but I don't know why they are not doing it", he asked.
But, speaking with journalists recently, the NIMASA Director General, Dr Dakuku Peterside said the agency was working with some consultants to identify the wrecks and their location, adding that this had been concluded and the agency would commence the removal of the wrecks as soon as its budget for 2019 was approved.
Also speaking with Shipping Position Daily on the wrecks issues, President of Inland Waterways and Environment Safety Forum, Mr Abayomi Mukandas said that wreck removal on Nigerian waterways is primarily the function of NIMASA under the international conventions for vessels over 500 tons and NIMASA should enforce the Protection and Indemnity (P&I) clause being the Designated Authority (DA) under International Maritime Organization arrangement.
He noted that failure of NIMASA to carryout wreck removal has prevented local ship owners from getting rewarding contracts from International Oil Companies operating in Nigeria.
"Fortunately, Nigeria had signed up to the Kenya Nairobi convention on wreck removal and all the international oil pollution agreements.
Our pursuit as an association is to galvanize support for safety and security by providing P&I services among others, but local ship owners avoid paying premium which is a percentage of the insured assets"
On his part, Engr Mathew Alalade, President of Nigerian Merchant Navy Water Transporters Senior Staff Association said it is the sole responsibility of NIMASA to carryout wreck removal. He however said that other agencies like NIWA can also perform the exercise if the wrecks are affecting their operations.
"It is the job of NIMASA, but any of the agencies can do it if it is hindering their operations, they do not need to wait for NIMASA"
"I don't know their budget on wreck removal, but it is under the purview of NIMASA, they are the regulatory agency that is supposed to make the waters navigable for us", he concluded.