A routine cleaning of a storage well within MV Africa Star, a fishing vessel belonging to the Africa Star Fisheries Limited, has allegedly led to the death of a 27-year-old man, Elvis Otoo, at the Tema Fishing Harbour.
The deceased, an employee of Jamens Limited, a vessel cleaning company, died when a supposed damaged pipe containing ammonia, a refrigerant for the tuna vessel, exploded and trapped him and a colleague, Enoch Teye, 32, in the process.
Otoo was said to have had high exposure to the substance which he inhaled. He also had cuts on the body.
According to an eyewitness, attempts by his colleagues to rescue him were unsuccessful.
Teye, who managed to escape, sustained injuries and was rushed to the Narh-Bita Hospital in Tema where he is said to be receiving treatment while the body of the deceased has been deposited at the International Hospital Mortuary awaiting autopsy.
The Head of the Marine Police Unit at the Tema Port, Supt Joseph Antwi-Ababio, told the Daily Graphic yesterday that the incident occurred on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at about 12:30 p.m.
The vessel, he said, had returned from a voyage on Sunday, July 26, 2020 and began the processes to offload the tuna from the hatches (holding compartments) the following day.
He said Otoo and Teye were tasked to commence the cleaning works in the hatch which had all of its tuna contents emptied, while other workers of African Star offloaded the rest of the tuna from other hatches of the vessel.
Supt. Antwi-Ababio explained that the cleaning of the vessel was to enable it to go on another voyage when the entire contents were fully emptied.
He said during the cleaning the gas leaked into the environment, creating an uncomfortable working environment within the fishing harbour.
“According to an eyewitness account, Otoo could not escape the scene as the substance, apart from causing eye sensation, also came with a pungent smell”, Supt Antwi-Ababio stated.
While some workers of the company had alleged that the Chinese owners of the vessel attempted to tamper with evidence of the damaged pipes, the Commander said a technical team from the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) who visited the scene of the incident had tasked the owners to check whether there were any further leakages of the ammonia into other areas of the vessel.
“A proposal was also made for them to attempt to evacuate the ammonia from the other areas to its original holding base to prevent further leakage into the fishing harbour environment,” he said.
Supt Antwi-Ababio stated that the police had no evidence to the claims by the eyewitnesses since it was only the GMA officials who had the technical expertise to determine whether the vessel owners attempted to carry out any repair works on the damaged pipes.
The Deputy Director in charge of Ship Inspections and Maritime Security at the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), Captain Emmanuel Kofi Ankamah, who also confirmed the incident, said investigations were ongoing and that the Authority could only comment when they were able to establish the cause of the accident.