Abandoned ships in Nigeria need to be declared wrecks

Because a large number of the abandoned ships off the Nigerian coastline have not officially been declared wrecks, coastal communities in Nigeria are suffering safety hazards and a threat to the livelihoods of local fishermen reported Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

Abandoned cargo ships and fishing boats are either floating freely or lying wholly or partially submerged on parts of the coastline. Environmental groups have estimated their numbers as into the thousands.

“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,” according to Raymond Gold, Community Developers Association chief from Irede.

The owners of unserviceable ships are believed to find it more convenient to dump them in Nigeria rather than dispose of them properly.

Master mariner Ezekiel Ishola told Deutsche Welle that legal bureaucracy sometimes prevented authorities from clearing the wrecks. “If they don’t declare them as wrecks, nobody can touch those ships, because technically they have owners,” Mr Ishola said. “So, if the Nigerian Port Authority or Customs want to handle these vessels they have to give notice to the owners that are going to take care of these ships because they have become a danger to navigation – otherwise the shipowner can come and sue.”

He noted that prosecutions for abandoned vessels never occur and responsibility for removing the wrecks usually falls to the government.