Panic and confusion took over Tin Can Island for several hours on January 9, when two sudden explosions rocked the MRS jetty located at the Tin Can Island port, Lagos
| By Pita Ochai | Jan. 21, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE cause of the oil barge explosion at Tin Can Island is yet to be unraveled. The oil barge laden with premium motor spirit, PMS, exploded on Wednesday, January 9, at the tank farm belonging to MRS Oil and Gas at the Tin Can Island, Lagos. From investigation, it is believed that the jetty has been operating with inexperienced staff who have no knowledge in the handling of safety and other technical issues.
According to the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, MRS jetty branch, most of the experienced staff that would have ensured safety at the jetty were illegally retrenched in December 2012. Since then, the management of MRS has not replaced the retrenched staff or recalled those in areas where their skills are needed at the jetty.
According to information revealed by a member of the union, the explosion occurred as a result of metallic welding which was carried out at the same time that the barge was discharging the PMS. This act does not comply with safety regulations at the jetty. “Why would anybody be welding at the same time an oil barge was discharging fuel? It is not done anywhere except you want to set the whole place ablaze,” the union member said.
About five people received various degrees of injuries from the explosion and the resultant fire. The explosion which occurred at about 11.30 am, crippled economic activities within Tin Can Island, as the entrances to the three ports were closed while other maritime operators shut their gates against staff who ran there for safety. When the first explosion occurred, the initial impression of people within Tin Can Island was that it was an attack by Boko Haram, the dreaded militant group in the northern part of the country. Before the shock of the first explosion died down, the second occurred about 15 minutes later. The second explosion had a much stronger impact on the Tin Can Island, Apapa and Ajegunle areas of Lagos State. It shook buildings, shattered glass doors, louvers and created more pandemonium within the Tin Can Island environs.
Festus Ejiofor, president, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, lost all his bottles of drinks stored in a refrigerator as a result of the explosion. His office located in Adele Road, off Warehouse Road, is about three kilometers away from the MRS jetty. The reception unit of the office of the public relations officer, PRO, Tin Can Island Port, had part of its ceiling pulled down as a result of the vibration from the explosion. The administrative building of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and the First Bank branch just opposite the jetty were all affected by the vibration from the explosion. Most of the glass windows and doors of the two buildings were also shattered.
But for the quick arrival of the two tug boats belonging to the NPA, the fire which erupted as a result of the explosion would have razed down the whole of the Tin Can Island. The arrival of MV Sebring Express, a boat designed for firefighting, and other firefighting boats from the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, helped in checking the spread of the fire which had gone beyond the control of the firemen on ground. The firefighting boats helped in checking the spread of the fire from the quayside which was inaccessible from the jetty. On ground to help check the fire from spreading were firefighting trucks from the Lagos State government, the federal fire service, and other oil and gas companies around Tin Can Island.
Ibrahim Farinloye, director of information, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, said the cause and details of the explosion could not yet be ascertained immediately. To him, a total of five ‘minor’ casualty cases were recorded during the explosions. He agreed that four staff of the MRS and a fireman recieved various degrees of injuries.
But Marcus Storafi, executive director, Ship Trading Operation, MRS Oil, denied that the barge that exploded was loaded with petroleum products. He also denied that casualties were recorded as a result of the explosion. Meanwhile, Habib Abdullahi, managing director, NPA, has ordered an investigation into the cause of the explosion. He urged all stakeholders to go about their normal businesses at the Tin Can Island as measures have been put in place to ensure safety of everyone at the ports.