The Senate Joint Committee on Maritime, Defense, Intelligence, Security and Veteran Affairs has pointed out in its recommendations to the Senate plenary that the National Port Authority, the Liberia Maritime Authority and the Shipping Agency, bear collective responsibility for negligence and dereliction for the sinking of the marine vessel, Niko Ivanka, in July this year.
The Joint Committee’s recommendation was contained in a report submitted to the Senate plenary yesterday during the sixth day sitting of its special session.
“After gathering facts during the investigation, the Joint Committee, in consideration of the totality of all that transpired in handling the Niko Ivanka’s situation, the uncoordinated approach in handling the issue before the vessel was allowed to leave the Port, the conflict of interest identified and the lack of coordination, eventually led to an unfortunate situation that could have been avoided,” the committee report said.
The Senate report comes after the National Port Authority (NPA) had earlier admitted in August that it approved the MV Niko Ivanka, which sank 29 passengers on board, killing 17, while the value of properties lost in the shipping disaster is yet unknown.
The NPA admission was blamed on a unilateral decision taken by the port’s pier supervisor, George McCay, to permit the vessel to sail, despite a detention notice from Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), prohibiting the ship from sailing. The ship which got its license in 2018, was not permitted to carry passengers but only cargo, but at the time of the incident, was deemed unfit for sea by the maritime authority.
Meanwhile, the Senate finding brings relief to families of those who lost their loved ones in the tragedy. The families had previously accused the NPA and the LiMA of dodging responsibility for the deaths of their loved ones.
The Senate report comes after the victims’ families raised contentions that the government has paid 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. It also strengthened their position in demand of justice since it is clear that the incident was something avoidable as claimed by the Senate report.
According to the Joint Committee’s investigation, NPA and LiMA are the direct line of focus in the search for answers as to what went wrong before and after the sinking of the Niko Ivanka.
The committee’s report noted that the Maritime Authority is responsible for serving as the regulatory body for licensing ships, while the NPA looks after enforcement of THE regulations and is buttressed by the Ministry of National Defence through the Coast Guard.
In a debate that followed, many Senators agreed that both the LiMA and the NPA should be directly held responsible for the July disaster, especially authority at the Freeport, where the vessel was anchored and declared unseaworthy.
Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, to the bewilderment of some of his colleagues, disclosed that out of the US$100,000 donated by President George Weah, US$80,000 went to the St Moses Funeral Home used for the burial of the victims of the sunken vessel.
Meanwhile, after several consultations involving some members of the Joint Committee over what should be contained in the motion for plenary decision, a motion was finally proffered by Maryland County Senator, Gbleh-bo Brown, but was surprisingly seized by the President Pro-Tempore Albert T. Chie to be discussed during the next Session.
Owned by HYLAEA INC, the ship took only four months to be assembled at its hub in Marshall, Margibi County. It was commissioned in 2018, and sank about six nautical miles off the Coast of Marshall City, while on a voyage from the Free Port of Monrovia and the Port of Harper.