Grounded Mystery Tanker's Owner Steps Forward

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By MarEx 2016-05-18 20:59:30

Liberia's Ministry of Defense said Wednesday that Nigerian national Robert M. Saigba had claimed to be an owner of the Tamaya 1, the tanker which went aground near Robertsport on May 3. 

Saigba told authorities that he is part owner of H. Matic Resources Limited, a petroleum, logistics and engineering firm. He said that he purchased the vessel last year, confirming earlier reports of a recent sale to a Nigerian entity and of the vessel's reflagging. 

Two crewmembers, Tomogho Oye Amaliri and Omowho Bernard, have also come forward, authorities told the APAnews agency. The three men reportedly flew to Liberia voluntarily. They have not been arrested and are cooperating with the investigation. 

Saigba said that the ship sailed on April 22, bound for Nigeria, but ran into unspecified technical trouble under way. Bernard, the chief engineer, said that all attempts to make repairs were unsuccessful. The crew then abandoned ship with the assistance of a nearby fishing vessel. 

Liberian media outlet Farbric Radio provided initial reports on the grounding, and said that fishermen had spotted the vessel near the town of Taililor on May 2; they had not seen either crew or lifeboats aboard. Liberia's Daily Observer reported that authorities did not officially respond to the incident and secure the scene until late on May 4 – raising questions for the local community about the preparedness of security forces. "That it took [so long] before they knew about the ship's presence, is troubling," said one Robertsport resident. Liberian Ministry of National Defense Assistant Minister Dahn called for a more cooperative approach by local media outlets, many of which have questioned the pace of the government response. 

Following the grounding, the vessel was reportedly looted, and video shows her with a list to starboard, with waves periodically washing on deck.