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Controversy trails release of toxic waste vessel

By Godfrey Bivbere & Godwin Oritse

LAGOS — Controversy has trailed the alleged release of the contentious vessel, MV Maersk Nashville, detained for allegedly bringing a container load of toxic materials into the country last week.

While owners of the vessel, Maersk Nigeria Ltd, has said the Federal Government released the vessel on Friday afternoon, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, through its spokesman, Wale Adeniyi, countered the claim, saying; “As at yesterday (Saturday), the release order for the vessel has not been given.”

According to Adeniyi, “Customs has given clearance to that vessel. By Monday (today), Customs’ management will be consulting with other security agencies after which a decision will be reached.”

Under international conventions, such vessels accused of the type of offence are usually penalised and at least made to pay prescribed fine by individual Customs formation.

A statement made available to Vanguard and signed by Managing Director of Maersk Nigeria Ltd, David Skov, said the vessel was released by the Nigerian authorities after the crew was instructed not to discharge the offending container from the ship.

The statement read in part: “Maersk Line, the operator of MV Maersk Nashville, can confirm that the Nigerian National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA, detained Maersk Nashville suspected to be carrying toxic waste in one container (UESU4635950).

“The vessel has since been released from detention by the authorities Friday afternoon and commenced cargo operations at 1820hrs same evening. The said container was inspected by NESREA around 2030hrs Friday evening.

“Upon the cargo examination, NESREA instructed Maersk Line representatives to retain the container onboard MV Maersk Nashville and return it to the port of loading.”

The statement further noted that Maersk Line was still awaiting the official report from the authorities as to the exact nature of the cargo and also explained the shipment handled by Safmarine.

Skov said by the bill of lading, the shipper, whose responsibility it is to correctly declare the contents of the container, has listed the container’s contents as used items comprising a motor vehicle and miscellaneous personal effects, including electronic items (television sets and a car audio system), should be blamed.

He further explained that the goods were shipped from the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands on  16 March  2010 and neither Maersk Line, nor Safmarine wished to participate in illegal trade, illegal waste or any other type of illegal cargo.

In his words: “It is the responsibility of our customers, the shippers, to correctly declare the contents of the containers. Maersk Line and Safmarine recognise that transport of illegal waste has negative effects on people’s health as well as the environment in the countries where such illegal waste is discharged. As responsible companies, we do not want to participate in such trade.

“We have a clear policy that we will not transport illegal goods of any kind and we would not accept a shipment containing illegal goods. And we have procedures in place to ensure that we know what can be transported legally through our global liner network.

“Representatives of Maersk Nigeria Limited, as agents for Maersk Line and Safmarine, have attended several meetings with the relevant authorities including but not limited to the Nigerian Customs Services, Nigerian Ports Authority and National Environmental Standards and Regulatory Enforcement Agency, NESREA.

“As environmentally responsible companies, both Maersk Line and Safmarine have throughout this incident cooperated fully with the Nigerian authorities in resolving this matter so far and we expect to continue this good cooperation in the future.”


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