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Abandoned Ships A Rusting Hazard In Nigeria Waters

From the air, one can see the wooden ships that carry crude through the Niger Delta's winding creeks to makeshift refineries to cook into crude diesel and kerosene. Much of the oil, however, makes it to large tankers that then carry the oil out to sea and into the black market.

Those tankers are later discarded along the coast. Outside of Lagos at Tarkwa Bay, about a dozen abandoned vessels dot the coastline, including one from Zenon Petroleum & Gas Ltd., run by billionaire Femi Otedola, a supporter of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Coves in the area are being rapidly destroyed by ships, which deflect the force of waves in a different way, causing massive erosion, said Onyema, the professor. Oil from the ship and other debris, visible along the sandy beaches of Tarkwa Bay, cause damage as well, he said.

Yet the ships remain on the beaches. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, told The Associated Press in a recent interview the ships would be removed â¿¿ but could not say when or exactly how many abandoned vessels there actually are. Last August, Nigeria's Transport Minister Yusuf Suleiman promised to remove the wrecks within weeks, though nothing was done.

"No sane-minded man or person should be happy with such a situation when abandoned vessels can cause environmental problems, when they can cause navigation problems, when they can aid and abet criminal activity," Akpobolokemi said. "Why should you be happy?"

While the government hasn't begun removing the ships, others have. Groups of salvagers move along the coast, removing whatever electronics and communication gear remaining inside. Gas tanks and blow torches follow, leaving behind exposed metal skeletons along the beach.

But that scavenging takes months, as the heavy waves carry in new ships all the time.

___

Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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