Fate of MV 4th Republic hangs in balance

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) is in a dilemma over the fate of a pontoon which sank at the Akosombo Port in August 2009 when it was being rehabilitated by a German marine and industrial spare parts company.

The company, Messrs Hansa Maritim, was paid almost 330,000 euros for the rehabilitation, but the vessel sank at the port during a storm. The amount paid to the company represented 80 per cent of the total cost of the work, but the vessel is still rusting under the Volta Lake.

The pontoon, the MV 4th Republic, which was the safest means of transport from Agordeke in the Kwahu Afram Plains North District in the Eastern Region to Kpando Torkor in the Kpando District in the Volta Region, broke down five years ago and a contract was later signed for its rehabilitation.

 The MoFA, through the Afram Plains District Agricultural Development Project, and Messrs Hansa Maritim signed the contract for the latter to rehabilitate the ferry, which broke down at Agordeke. Steps by ministry

In an interview, the Legal Director of MoFA, Mr Seth Mensa Dumoga, said the ministry was taking steps to compel the company, which was found to have ‘exhibited gross negligence’, resulting in the sinking of the vessel, to salvage the pontoon for rehabilitation or refund the amount paid it as mobilisation fee.

He explained that the total cost of the contract was 411,714 euros and that it involved the purchase of major capital items for the rehabilitation. 

On July 28, 2009, the contractor moored the ferry from Agordeke to Akosombo to begin the repair works.

‘It was when the contractor decided to move the vessel from the drydock to the anchoret on the lake that it sank on August 29, 2009,’  Mr Dumoga disclosed.

He said when the ministry’s attention was drawn to the sinking of the ferry, a ministerial committee was set up to investigate why it sank and make recommendations on the way forward.

Some of the recommendations of the ministerial committee, he said, were that the contractor should bear the entire cost of the salvage work and any other cost resulting from the sinking. Technical committee

He also said following the recommendations of the ministerial committee, another committee of technical experts was set up to advise the ministry on the social and economic implications of salvaging the ferry and how the salvaging could be done.

Mr Dumoga explained that the experts, having analysed the economic and social benefits of the ferry to the beneficiary communities and done a cost-benefit analysis, ‘recommended that the ferry should be salvaged and repaired’ and that 1.2 million euros would be required for that.   Termination of contract 

He said it was at that point that the ministry decided to terminate the contract and it was advised to go to court on the grounds of ‘specific non-

performance’ against the contractors, since there was enough proof that the problem resulted from the contractor’s negligence.

Mr Dumoga said the ministry, upon legal advice, wrote a letter, dated November 23, 2011, to the Attorney-General’s office asking it to take up the matter in court  to retrieve any payment made to the contractor. At Agordeke

Agordeke was deserted area, with the landing site of the pontoon destroyed, when the Daily Graphic visited the area. 

The benches for passengers to rest on while waiting for the pontoon were scattered and the waiting hall was in a very bad state. 

Parts of the roofing sheets had been removed, while the floor and walls had been destroyed by the tides.

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