By Godwin Oritse & Godfrey Bivbere
LAGOSâ€”FOLLOWING an alarm raised by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, yesterday arrested and detained a Maersk Line vessel, â€˜MV Nashiville,â€™ laden with toxic waste.
The crew on board the vessel and its agents were also arrested and detained, pending investigation.
The vessel was operated by American President Lines, APL, a wholly owned subsidiary of a Singapore based Neptune Orient Lines, and had in its hold, among other things, 70 storage (lead) batteries classified as Basel codeA1180 and broken televisions.
The ship’s agent, Vanguard gathered, was detained at the intelligence unit of the Tin-Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.
Sources close to the Tin-Can Island Port Customs Command, told Vanguard, that the vessel actually arrived the country on 9 April, 2010 and discharged some of its contents at the Federal Ocean Terminal at Onne in Rivers State.
It was learnt that the vessel left Onne and arrived Lagos on 11 April , 2010, and that the NPA allowed it to berth at Berth 7B early yesterday.
The vessel reportedly met its waterloo following a memo from the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA, to the NPA, which in turn alerted security agencies at the port.
Vanguard learnt that Maersk Line had earlier written to the NCS on April 12, 2010, requesting for berthing permission at berth â€˜Câ€™ of the Tin-Can Island Port.
Part of Maersk Lineâ€™s letter reads: â€œPlease be informed that the above named vessel is scheduled to arrive Tin-Can Port Berth TC 7B. We shall be grateful for your usual immediate clearance and cooperation.â€
Memo from NPA general manager
It was learnt that following the memo, the Customs service and other security agencies swung into action and monitored the movement of the vessel until she was arrested and detained.
A memo from the NPA signed by Malam Mohammed Bulago, General Manager, Western Ports to the port managers of the Lagos Port Complex and the Tin-Can Island Port informed them of the movement of the vessel and she was quickly granted a berthing space.
Part of NPAâ€™s memo reads: â€œPlease find forwarded herewith the letter from the office of the Director-General, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA, with reference NESREA/I &E/343/1/83, dated April 7, 2010 concerning the above-mentioned subject matter.
â€œYou are to urgently direct respective terminal operators to monitor the vessel MV Nashville and the container UESU-463595-0 and to detain the container on discharge and inform the agency accordingly.â€
Efforts to speak with both the arrested ship agent and the Customs Area Comptroller in charge of the Tin-can Island Port Customs Command, Alhaji Sadiq Sahabi, were futile as he was said to be awaiting directives from the Customs headquarters in Abuja.
It will be recalled that in 1988, over 3,500 tonnes of toxic waste were dumped at Koko in Delta State which caused unpalatable consequences on people of the area, including sudden deaths. The menace of toxic waste dumps, according to experts, has greater challenge because it is a silent killer.
Toxic waste dumps, such as used electronic products, batteries, computers, telephone handsets and used tyres, spark off huge radioactive waves which permeate the skin surfaces and blood vessels leading to the development of cancer of various kinds, high blood pressure, hypertension and heart attacks, among others.
Minister to release maritime blueprint soon
Meantime, the new Minister of Transport, Alhaji Yusuf Sulaiman has said that the ministry will come up with a blue print on the maritime industry in the next two weeks, even as he assured operators in the industry that the Ministry of Transport under him would fast track the implementation of all policies aimed at improving the sector.
Speaking in Lagos, yesterday, at a Maritime Round Table Series with the theme â€œEnhancing opportunities in Ship Repair/Dry Dockingâ€ put together by Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, the minister said this would serve as a means of achieving the maritime components of governmentâ€™s vision 20-20.
He said: â€œI want to assure you that the ministry will fast track the implementation of all realistic and protective schemes that will come as a result of this round table.â€