At least seven people are missing after a cargo ship sank off the coast of Liberia.
Liberia’s Maritime Commissioner Eugene Nagbe told reporters on Sunday that the vessel had not been authorized to sail.
The Liberian-registered Niko Ivanka left the capital Monrovia on Saturday morning for a port in the country’s south, despite being under a Liberia Maritime Authority detention order for failing to meet basic safety requirements, a Reuters report said on Sunday.
But addressing a news conference earlier, Mr. Nagbe said the ship sent out a distress signal that afternoon notifying the coast guard that it had taken on water. By the time authorities arrived, it had already partially sunk.
“We are commissioning an investigation into how a vessel that was detained for failure to meet rudimentary safety requirements managed to get on the sea with passengers and cargo,” Mr. Nagbe said.
“But that investigation is subsidiary to the ongoing search and rescue effort,” he added.
The search continued on Sunday afternoon as teams from Liberia’s coast guard scoped nearby shores and riverbanks in collaboration with a ship from anti-whaling organisation Sea Shepherd, the commissioner said.
The exact number of missing passengers remains unknown, Deputy Information Minister Jarlaywah Tonpoe told Reuters.
The ship’s manifest showed eighteen people on board at the time of departure but authorities suspect that more could have been on board, given that the vessel was not licensed to carry passengers in the first place, Mr. Tonpoe said.
Among those listed on the manifest was a Swedish captain, a Chinese crew member, and nine members of West Africa’s regional school examinations body.