Defense Ministry officials are still baffled by the appearance of a 60-meter Panama registered Nigerian flagged oil tanker that was found abandoned near Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County last week.
They, have, however, given the assurance that the Liberian National Coast Guard (LNCG) and other security agencies are jointly conducting an investigation to unravel the circumstances surrounding the deserted ship.
Authorities are piecing information together and searching the maritime registry to try and determine the owner of Tamaya 1, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai said, and noted that “Elements of the ship were burned, particularly the communication area.”
Assistant Defense Minister David Dahn told journalists in Monrovia that Coast Guard personnel sent to the area had entered the vessel. “As clearly as we can see, the ship was in distress,” Dahn said, adding that no passengers were on board.
After a search of the vessel, officers found that it had been damaged by fire and the hatches contained a mixture of oil and water.
So far, no information is established regarding the crew of Tamaya 1. It was discovered that the vessel’s last registered position was Dakar, Senegal, on April 22, 2016.
LNCG officers who boarded the abandoned vessel found overturned crates, wires strewn across its floor and charred metal littering its interior. To deepen the mystery surrounding the vessel, one of the two lifeboats on board is present with the other yet to be traced, raising speculations that some crewmembers might have used it to leave the vessel.
Late Thursday evening, the Daily Observer reliably learned that a lifeboat belonging to the Tamaya 1 was spotted in Edina, Grand Bassa County.
Defense Ministry officials confirmed that fire had gutted the ship but were wordless on the cause of the blaze. They explained in a statement that the vessel was discovered to be an oil tanker, but they could not establish the number of its crew.
“It was further gathered by the Liberian Coast Guard (LCG) that the fire burned the bridge (Upper and Control Center) along with all documents,” the statement said.
A released video footage shows the extent of the fire and the damaged interior of the vessel.
The Defense Ministry has assured the public that the Liberian Coast Guard in concert with other security agencies are further investigating to unravel circumstances surrounding the mystery oil tanker and its subsequent drifting into Liberian waters.
Another mystery, officials said, is that the ship apparently spent a week at sea during which its location was not recorded by Marine Traffic, a free service that gives information on land-based devices receiving tanker information, according to the website, G-Captain.
“It is rare that these devices just stop working unless it’s intentional,” according to Philip Miller, vice president of operations and engineering at marine monitoring company Exact Earth. “It’s an electronic device so it would have to be turned off. If they turned it off, they violated international law; and if it’s broken, they’re supposed to fix it.”
Curious residents of Robertsport, who have been streaming to the shore to get a glimpse of the ship, have been warned by police to stay away from the vessel as investigations continue to unravel the mystery that caught national security agencies off guard.
Meanwhile, 15 persons have been arrested by police for their role in looting mattresses, freezers and generators from the doomed ship and they are to appear at the 5th Judicial Court in Robertsport. The ship is now being guarded by PSU officers.