NPA spokesperson discloses, identifies ‘guilty’ official
The National Port Authority has admitted that it approved the MV Niko Ivanka, the vessel that sank a few weeks ago, killing 17 people, to set sail from the Free Port of Monrovia.
The decision to allow the vessel to sail was taken, despite a detention notice from the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) that prohibited the ship from sailing.
The Niko Ivanka, before sailing with 29 passengers on board on July 17, was deemed unfit for sea by the maritime authority. The ship got its license in 2018; however, it was not permitted to carry passengers but only cargo.
After a prolonged period of red flags, the Liberia Maritime Authority on April 28, 2021, placed a detention notice on the ship, deeming it “not fit to go to sea.”
But that order did not deter one of the port workers, who allegedly released the vessel to sail with 29 passengers on board.
According to the NPA, the vessel was released unilaterally by the port’s pier supervisor, George McCay, thereby leaving management in the dark about his action.
“After an internal investigation, George D. McCay has been found guilty of unilaterally permitting the vessel to leave the Freeport of Monrovia,” said NPA spokesperson Malcolm Scott. “The Investigation discovered that George works as an agent of the sunken vessel, a conflict of interest situation which prompted him to take the decision without the approval of the Port Authority.”
Of late, families of those who lost their lives when the ship sank have said although they had been hard hit by the untimely deaths of their loved ones; they are suffering more as a result of the government’s failure to provide them with information.
“We have not been provided information about the investigation as it progresses. We do not know when it will end. We are in pain and we hold WAEC, Maritime, and NPA responsible for the deaths of our loved ones,” said a family member of one of the deceased.
The disclosure by the NPA, therefore, serves as a relief to the victims’ families who are demanding justice.
“Up to now, no one has clearly explained to us how our families were allowed on a ship designated not to carry passengers onboard… or even prohibited from sailing due to its unworthy condition,” a statement issued by families of victims said.
George McCay has been suspended for time indefinite, without pay and forwarded to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.
“McCay's suspension comes in the wake of his authorization of the Niko Ivanka vessel that sank in mid-July of this year, leaving several of those onboard dead,” Scott disclosed.
The NPA admission also comes after the victim families had raised contentions that the government was paying little attention to their plights, particularly issues that have to do with investigating the deadly voyage of the Niko Ivanka since it was deemed unworthy for sea.
They later threatened the government with a lawsuit both locally and regionally at the ECOWAS Court of Justice.
The Niko Ivanka vessel set sail from the Freeport of Monrovia on July 17 but sank after a few hours. With 29 people on board, 12 were rescued while the rest perished. Corpses of most of the missing persons have not been found except five.
The Liberian-made ship was commissioned in 2018, and in a space of two years, it sank off the coast of Marshall City, about six nautical miles. It used to regularly sail between the Free Port of Monrovia and the Port of Harper with cargo.
Survivors of the Niko Ivanka have described their experience from the sunken vessel as a “Horrifying” experience.
They reported that about two hours after leaving, the ship began to take in water but, despite the sign, the captain insisted on sailing on the high sea.
According to them, the captain and his crew were the first to jump off the ship as it began to sink.
Owned by HYLAEA INC, the ship only took four months to be assembled at its hub in Marshall, Margibi County.