By Bennett Oghifo
S ome Nigerian sailors stranded in two ships, MT United Venture and MT United Trader have appealed to Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Navy to release them from the vessels to enable them reunite with their families and carry on with their lives.
For nine months, they have been detained along with the vessels they man at the Outside Bar, Lagos Anchorage because of controversies over alleged non-payment for bunker (fuel for the ship) by the shipsâ€™ managers.
Thereafter they went to appeal to NIMASA Labour to intervene, but the ship was boarded by officers of the Nigerian Navy, who prevented them from leaving the ship.
They have since been prevented from see their families and they ran out of food and water and they have not been paid since the face-off began in August last year.
According to the Second Engineer of United Venture, Usman Ilu, around the middle of August last year, they realised that they had no food, water and no salaries for two months and they called the management of the ship here in Nigeria to find out why.
Ilu said they were shocked by the response, as they were told â€œWeâ€™re sorry, we are no longer the managers of the vessel. That if we have anything to ask, we should ask the Chinese people.â€
When they were given this message, they wanted to abandon the ship with the implication that it could sink but that they had a second thought because they could be arrested by NIMASSA for the crime of sabotage.
Thus, they went to the regional office of NIMASSA to report the matter and urged them to tow the ship to the Inner Anchorage â€œso that we can go home and when the owners come they can give us our salaries, but they said we shouldnâ€™t go that they are making arrangements. We were there (NIMASSA office) four time but we had no good response.â€
Ilu said they were later referred to NIMASA headquarters but that the same scenario played out there. â€œThey invited the former managers and asked them to give us food, water and bunker and they were also given two weeks to provide at least two monthâ€™s salary for us, because as far as NIMASA was concerned, they were still the owners of the ship.â€
Regrettably, nothing happened and they were forced to visit NIMASA again to request that the ship be towed to the Inner Anchorage, but they were told it was a crime to abandon ship like that.
He said, â€œOn November 14, 2017, a bunker vendor sued the managers of the ship that the Chinese people owe him N43 million. The Navy came on board onNovember 14, saying that had orders to detain the ship and her crew.
After that, they got in touch with NIMASA to intervene on their behalf since it was the agency that asked them not to abandon ship, but that up till now, nothing had been done.
He said two months ago, another company came to tell them that they were now the new managers of the ship and that last month they people gave them food supply without water and bunker. â€œWe had to use wood to cook and harvest rain water to drink, cook and bathe.â€