The Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, NAMM has called on the federal government to come up with a law that will discourage the Nigerian military from burning vessels caught with stolen crude on the Nigerian waters.
The President of NAMM, Capt. Tajudeen Alao who made this call in an interview with our correspondent in Lagos recently said that the burning of vessels caught with stolen crude by the military is an emerging trend which needed to be tackled frontally.
Alao argued that this practice would have been acceptable about twenty to forty years ago when the international law on recycling and scrapping of ships was not in place saying that in the last ten to fifteen years, there’s been some conventions on bumping including the Hong Kong, the Nairobi and the London conventions.
According to him, “We must make this issue a national issue and then come out with a guideline peculiar to our situation. It is illegal to operate a phantom ship, a ship without identity. It must be illegal to carry cargo that has no origin and if the penalty is severe, it will be a deterrent.
“It is at the extreme where you bump a boat and then you pollute the atmosphere and release sulphur into the atmosphere, you destroy the ecosystem, the consequence is more than the trading profit. So, we need to come out with a guideline, a properly documented guidelines, what are the implications, what are the scenarios? We need to sit down, because this is an emerging issue and do the flow chart.”
Noting that one cannot just bump a ship, the NAMM boss observed that the record of the ship to be bumped must be properly kept so that whenever there is the need to trace anything, it could be traced back to the ship. “So, the flag administration must give approval, you must apply before a ship is scrapped, you must follow these procedures and a certificate must be given that all these conventions that we are signatories to were followed”, he said.
He continued, “So, it’s a big constraint, you don’t carry a vessel and bump it. Whereby this same ship, somebody comes up and says, I am the owner of the ship, I gave it out under bond that they will not use it for illegal business, I chartered it out. So, while you are holding the people, I give you a bond, let me be using the ship so that it does not deteriorate and become a wreck, anytime you need the ship, I will bring it back.
“That same ship went and did illegal business and it’s caught again. So, if you now keep that ship and it becomes a wreck, it becomes the responsibility of the state to salvage it. So, we are in a tight situation in our peculiar case. There is no quick dispensation of cases. Under the admiralty law, a special court, marine is not stagnant, a case cannot go on for years. Even if a ship has committed an offence, a trading ship, P & I will put up a bond and the ship will continue trading because a ship is under mortgage. Somebody has taken out a loan from a bank somewhere.
“So, we need the whole gamut of all these knowledge. We need to sit down to decide what to do.”
Insisting that the Navy had a responsibility to say that an act had been committed and thereafter destroy a ship, Capt. Alao maintained that the act did not amount to destroying the evidence.
He said, “That ship was caught with crude oil, where do we keep the crude oil? The oil companies don’t have facilities where you empty the products into. So, that product, eventually, water will enter into it because the ship is not seaworthy or they will remove the product and put water into it and there will be no product. That product is the most important thing, it must be evacuated but to where? To the local refinery? To whose storage tank?
“The Navy just arrested a ship and handed it over to the EFCC for prosecution. It has the right to intercept, investigate and hand over to people who will prosecute. They (Navy) don’t even go to court but the EFCC will release the boat under bond to somebody who claims to be the owner so that it doesn’t become a wreck and they will still go and use it to do illegal business under a different name and the boat will be arrested again by the Navy.”
Capt. Alao maintained that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, the Nigerian Navy had been destroying ships for a long time adding that the Navy had been bumping canoes, wooden boats, makeshift boats, steel boats, barges and so on. “But what we are saying is that in view of the law on recycling, it should be discouraged. Then, a procedure must be established to allow the cargo to be evacuated to somewhere”, he stated.
On those condemning the act of burning of vessels by the Navy, he said, “We are not condemning the act, we are condemning the Navy for doing their job. We like sensational news. The people crying that they are polluting their water are the culprits. They know that this business is endangering the ecosystem and their livelihood, then, they should be in the forefront to stop it. But they are the ones collaborating with them because it’s an easy means of livelihood.
“Government must educate, government must take the lead, the SANs must be educated to know that it’s not just about collecting money and defending rights but they must investigate through the professionals, the implementation of what they are doing. We are not looking at the implications, the National Assembly is not looking at the implications, everybody just makes sensational statements.”
Photo: Capt. Tajudeen Alao, President Nigerian Association of Master Mariners.
Send your press invite, news, press releases/articles to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow us on Twitter @PrimetimeRepor1 and on Facebook on facebook.com/primetimereporters or call the editor on 07030661526.