-Liberia’s shipwreck; many presumed missing, 11 rescued

MONROVIA – Maryland County Senator J. Gblebo Brown has described Saturday’s shipwreck in Liberia, as an incident that reflects the dark memories of the past.

Liberia’s Commissioner of Maritime, Eugene Lenn Nagbe announced early Sunday that a locally registered vessel, the Niko Ivanka, encountered a distress situation hours after it sailed off the port of Monrovia on Saturday, 17 July, headed to Harper, Maryland County.

Nagbe told reporters that while Niko Ivanka was underway to Harper, about 6 nautical miles off the coast of Marshall City, outside Monrovia, it reportedly started to take in water.

Commissioner Nagbe added that immediately, the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), the Ministry of National Defense, the Armed Forces of Liberia, mobilized resources, including assets and personnel, and launched a search and rescue operation, which he said was ongoing, to attend to the distressed vessel.

Authorities of the Liberian military leading the search and rescue operation,  disclosed that so far, of a total of 26 individuals onboard the Niko Ivanka at the point of sinking, 11 persons including a female have been rescued, while the rest are presumed missing.

Senator Brown said Sunday that the destination of the wrecked vessel was Harper City, Maryland County, which he represents in the Legislature, noting, “This event is a reflection; it brings back dark memories of the past. We stand here today to remember at least four ship wrecks that have happened to Maryland County; and each time it happens, we loss lives.”

He recalled that in 2010, there was a shipwreck that caused the deaths of 8 citizens of Maryland County, indicating that he could not actually quantify the loss of properties in said accident.

He thanked the Liberian military, thorough the Liberia Coast Guard, currently carrying on search and rescue operation along with Sea Shepherd, the US-based non-governmental, non-profit marine conservation group, and others aiding the operation, and offered to support the ongoing search and rescue mission in whatever way possible.

“We are happy that this time around 11 have been rescued. We are praying those that are still being considered missing — our hearts and prayers are with the families, and hope and pray that we can also recover them,” Senator Brown stressed.

Meanwhile, Maritime Commissioner Nagbe has disclosed that the wrecked vessel was under a current detention order and was not allowed to sail.

Nagbe said the Niko Ivanka was at no period throughout its existence, allowed or permitted or licensed to operate as a passenger carrier.

There are reports that at the point of sinking, the Niko Ivanka had onboard several passengers, including nine examiners of the West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC’s) Monrovia Office, who were scheduled to have administered this year’s version of the Council’s public exams to students in southeastern Liberia.

Commissioner Nagbe says the Maritime Authority and all other relevant entities including the Ministry of Justice, are commissioning an investigation into how the Niko Ivanka, a vessel that he said was detained, because of failure to meet rudimentary requirements managed to get on the sea with passengers and cargo.

He said such investigation is ongoing, but was quick to note that the investigation is subsidiary to the ongoing search and rescue effort.

“Our priority is to search and rescue.” “We want all of the members of the public to rest assured that we will continue to exert every effort to rescue those who were onboard this distressed vessel,” Nagbe emphasized.

He added: We have sent more resources and assets to the area, including searching along the banks of rivers in the area.”

Giving added detail regarding the technical aspect of the search and rescue operation, the Liberia Coast Guard divulged that of the 26 individuals onboard the distressed vessel, there were several Liberians, Chinese and a Swedish national, believed to be the Captain of the Niko Ivanka.

The Coast Guard disclosed that those rescued so far are nine Liberians, one Chinese and a Swedish national.

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