… A Junkyard Of Obsolete Ships
NIGERIA may have become a dumping ground for obsolete ships judging by the number of such monsters dotting the country’s territorial waters. Many old ships have been abandoned in the country’s waters raising security and environmental concerns in the past two years.
Last week, there was an explosion in an old ship, which anchored on th
e lagoon in the Marina area of Lagos. The explosion caused the death of one crew member while others sustained injuries. Some vehicles parked in the area were also destroyed.
The Guardian had on several occasions in the past one year alerted the government about the dangers posed by obsolete ships that now litter the country’s coasts.
Investigations out on the Lagos lagoon showed that there are no fewer than four wrecked ships along carried the Victoria Island and Lekki corridor while other unused and abandoned ships can be seen from Apapa towards the Badagry end of the coastal area.
The ships are currently stuck along the coast of Lekki, Alpha and Eleko beaches in Lagos and they among other factors, have been implicated in the massive erosion rates in the area in recent times.
Before the explosion on the ship in Marina last week, The Guardian found in the course of investigations on abandoned obsolete ships that scavengers and people with questionable activities mill around and they enter the ships to carry out certain nefarious activities.
Besides, some people who apparently lay claims to the ships could be seen using artisans such as welders to ignite fire to dismantle and cart away materials. Apart from carting away of the materials, the main huge steel bodies are left stuck in the sand, later to result in severe erosion. Worried experts said that the ships portend danger to the environment, while eroding the coastline at an alarming rate.
Some of the affected areas stretch about six kilometres off Nigeria’s coastline. The abandoned ships could be seen at Okun Alfa area, which is fast disappearing into the sea and the tremulous waters of the Atlantic Ocean are constantly pounding them. The volume of water being hindered by the presence of the ships erodes sand from the coastline, with dire implications for economic activities in the area.
The sand that the sea has eroded is also building walls around the ship making removal more difficult.
Desmond Majekodunmi, an environmentalist who has for years been carrying out a crusade against the abandoned ships in Nigeria, said that the junk ships cause unnatural disturbance to the ecosystem. It is feared that some of the abandoned ships were used for illegal oil businesses.
Scrap metal users have been entering the ships to cut away pieces of metal using all kinds of wielding equipment. Majekodunmi fears that this is more dangerous because the massive steel will be left in the water causing more havoc after the needed components may have been carted away.
The people of Okun Alfa community in Lekki had constantly called on the government to help them remove the derelicts. Last year, a ship, which broke down was abandoned at the Agaja beach. It caused massive erosion in the area. Worried individuals, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and oil companies had to mobilise people and funds to remove the monster to wade off the threat it was posing to the coastal communities.
EXPERTS hinted that when the ships were wrecked, what the government could have done was to tow them away to a dock immediately and keep the ships there for the owners to come and take them.
Many parts in old ships are useable for other ships and this is why scavengers and artisans are always looking for ways of dismantling them. It was gathered that abandoned ships can be removed by dredging the area and pulling them out and they wouldfloat back. But it will cost a lot of money to do the dredging.
Removal of obsolete ships and ensuring safety on Nigeria’s coastal waters is the responsibility of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA. About three months ago, NIMASA put up a tender in a newspaper for the removal of abandoned ships along the coastal area but nothing has been done to remove the derelicts. More worrisome is the fact that more ships have since been grounded in the Nigerian waters since the announcement.
Respondents said that some shipping organisations now feel comfortable to come to Nigeria to ground their ships because they realise that they can easily get away with their actions.
After the explosion in the abandoned ship in Lagos last week, NIMASA’s Spokesperson, Alhaja Lami Tumaka said she heard about the incident but was yet to get detailed information on what went wrong. The Lagos State government said in a statement that the explosion occurred while the ship was undergoing repairs; it apparently came from a gas cylinder.