NIGERIA's waters have become a dumping
ground for shipwrecks and unserviceable vessels abandoned by local and
international shipping companies, posing a safety hazard and threatening
the livelihoods of local fishermen.
Abandoned cargo ships and fishing boats
also float freely or lay submerged on parts of the coastline.
Environmental groups say their numbers run into the thousands in
Nigeria's territorial waters, reported Germany's Deutsche Welle.
A quick boat ride into the Atlantic Ocean from Irede, on the outskirts
of the city of Lagos, reveals the extent of the problem. Abandoned
vessels dot the ocean, some visible only as chunks of rusty metal
protruding from the water.
"They constitute a lot of problems to us, they affect navigation in the
water because of most the time some are large chunks of metal or rusty
metal that was moved here from another place," said Irede Community Developers Association chief Raymond Gold.
"The small boats that the residents use could just run into them and it
could cause a lot of damage and threats to human life. We have had
fishermen come to complain that the shipwrecks are making it difficult
for them to fish in the waters."
There is mounting concern over the frequency at which unseaworthy and
unserviceable ships are being dumped in Nigeria's territorial waters.
The owners of unserviceable ships are believed to find it more
convenient to dump them in Nigeria rather than properly dispose them
off. Master mariner, captain Ezekiel Ishola, says legal bureaucracy
sometimes prevents authorities from clearing the wrecks.
"If they don't declare them as wrecks nobody can touch those ships. Yes,
because they have owners," Mr Ishola was quoted as saying.
"So, if the Nigerian Port Authority or Customs want to handle these
vessels now they must give notice that are going to take care of these
ships since they have become a danger to navigation - otherwise the
shipowner can come and sue."
Prosecutions for abandoned vessels never occur and responsibility for
removing the wrecks usually falls to the government. The Nigerian
Maritime Administration and Safety Agency has warned the local and
international shipping community of sanctions in the event of an abandon
vessel in Nigeria's territory.