Apparently reacting to the rising spate of sea robbery attacks on their vessels and crew, owners of fishing trawlers have begun gradual withdrawal of their crafts form Nigerian waters in what seafarers have described as an inevitable decision.
The latest in the strings of attacks on fishing trawlers took place about three weeks ago when sea robbers attacked a fishing trawler FT Star 1 which belong to former minister of defence, General Theophilus Danjuma on Benin River in Ondo state, killing the Captain Pius Italume in that process while the vessel’s crew were wounded seriously.
Since the story was broken exclusively by Shipping Position Weekly notable members of the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) as well as some master mariners have disclosed that it has become imperative for trawlers to be withdrawn from Nigerian waters.
First to confirm this was the first vice president of NITOA, Mrs Margret Orakwusi who disclose that prior to the attack on General Danjuma’s trawler, there had been at least four attacks and that even though no one was killed, the fishing trawlers were vandalized, while valuable equipment and catches were carted away by the robbers.
President of Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Captain Thomas Kemewerigha, also confirmed the withdrawal in a chat with our correspondent. According to him “fishing companies have started moving from the country because of the renewed attack on their vessels.”
Kemewerigha who members have suffered mostly in the hands of daredevil sea robbers explained that the attack on F.T Star1 and the killing of the ship’s captain , after several of such attacks in the last couple of weeks was the responsible for the decision of the shipping companies.
Confirming that the corpse of the slain captain is still in the mortuary, he stressed that after the attack on about four vessels earlier this year, fish trawler operators decided to commence harvesting outside Nigerian waters but lamented that the vessels were also being attacked on their way back into the country.
According to him, at least 10 Captains have been killed in recent times, even as he added that “here is an industry that is not only employing Nigerians but it is equally earning foreign exchange for this great nation, yet, the cost of sailing a vessel for 45 days is very high because of the high price of diesel.
“To sail a vessel for 45 days would cost you about N9million. What would you get from the sea that you would sell and get your money back, you are paying the crew, you are feeding them, and you are buying water? At the end of the day pirates will attack you at sea, loot all you cargo and your electronics and kill your crew”, lamented.