Tragedy struck in the waters off Lagos a few days before Christmas as a 30,000 tonnes deadweight bulk carrier, MV Niki C, ran into a small 940 tonnes self-propelled tanker barge, MT Charon, sinking the barge almost immediately and killing two seamen.
SHIPS & PORTS DAILY learnt that the accident occurred on 21st December, 2013 at about 8.45pm, 20 nautical miles off the coast of Lagos.
Liberian flagged MV Niki C, laden with wheat, was said to be on its way to Warri Port in Delta State when it overran the Togolese flagged barge which had Nigerian seafarers on board. The Chief Engineer of the barge identified as Engr. Momoh Momodu and an AB (able seaman) named Blessing Odafe both lost their lives in the tragic accident but seven other crew members of the small craft were fortunate to have survived.
SHIPS & PORTS DAILY gathered that for yet-to-be-identified reasons, the Captain of the bulk carrier failed to report the accident to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), as is statutorily required by law and international convention, until about four hours after.
Lawyer to Peter Best Marine Limited, owners of the sunken barge, Barrister Lawrence Oiseomoje of Marina Law Chambers, who confirmed the accident said that apart from the loss of two lives, the seven remaining crew members also suffered severe injuries. The deceased Chief Engineer Momodu, he said, left behind two wives and five children including a three-month old baby.
Oiseomoje said the owners of the bulk carrier must be compelled to pay compensation for the sunken barge and to the families of the deceased seamen and the remaining seven injured crew members.
He said his firm has obtained an order from Justice M. N. Yunusa of the Federal High Court, Lagos to stop MV Niki C from sailing out of the country until it posts a bond of $13 million to cover the cost of the lost barge, compensation to the families of the two deceased and the seven severely injured crew members.
He alleged that certain highly placed individuals were plotting to aid MV Niki C escape justice. He said this will be a blow to Nigeria’s shipping sector if allowed to happen.
“You can’t go to another country, sink their vessel, kill their seamen and injure others and walk away just like that. It won’t happen in other climes so we should not allow it to happen in our country,” Oiseomoje stated.
Attempts to speak with the representatives of Monica Marine Nigeria Limited, agents to the MV Niki C, failed as security men keeping watch at the company’s premises in Apapa said no one was available in the office to make comments.