July 1, 2021
By Mohamed Konneh
Sierra Holding Limited Vimetco has cleared the air about the drowning incident that took place on the 7th June 2021 during its operations.
According to the management, on the morning of 7th June 2021, the Ocean-Going Vessel MV Concaran arrived at Buoy 4 anchorage point and crew received confirmation from their Port Manager, that barge Cornelia with push boat Mokanji have sailed with orders to transport stevedores and provide the first cargo load for the shipping vessel.
The General Manager of SMHL-Vimetco Mr Basudeb Datta said the stevedores were hired by Nectar Sierra Leone Bulk Terminal (NSBT) and they are in charge to operate the bulk handling crane during the process of loading the vessel. He said as part of the process, all crew members go through a mandatory health and safety screening; PPE compliance checks as well as toolbox talks.
Management noted that when the stevedores arrived at the Nitti Port the company Safety Officers at the port ensured that toolbox session, safety compliance and screening were done.
“We can therefore conclude that the stevedores have a fair idea of the risk involved. It should be noted that the selection and safety training of these stevedores’ rests with the management of NSBT. On the 7th June 2021, around 13:45 GMT, notification relating to the drowning incident was received at Nitti-2 Port from SMHL Shipping representative, Mathew Foday at Buoy # 4, the statement reads.
The Port Manager of Vimetco Mr Issa Sesay said the immediate organized a search rescue mission and investigation discovered that Gondama push boat and barge Cornelia came alongside the ocean-going vessel (OGV) MV Concaran, and Mr. Mohamed Koroma the cook for the Stevedores, fell over-board, sank and from the moment of landing on the deck.
He said the victim was said to have fallen into the sea close to where he was sitting and submerged without a trace. Investigation also noted that Mokanji push boat cast off from Nitti straight at around 0803H on 7 June 2021 and sailed safely to buoy 4.
Mr Sesay said the Master immediately received crew at the rendezvous position and the Stevedore foreman presented a list for screening onboard vessel. All members were announced one at a time to proceed for screening.
Our Investigation revealed that the late Mr. Mohamed Koroma was a cook and he was new to the bauxite bulk transfer operation. His job was to collect all working supplies including food items and other sundry materials. He does not actually involve in the actual operation. It was further confirmed that the deceased was urged to ascend the gangway but he decided to rest a bit because he was feeling tired. Hence, he sat on an open deck (Bollard of Cornelia) with no personal floating device while the rest of the crew were on board the vessel.
The Port Manager said the mooring line that was just at his back, got tension from the swells moving the barge away from the vessel and with contraction force in the line, the mooring rope swung from the bollard and tossed the Late Mr. Koroma at a time when he had taken off his floating device (PFD) and hard hat PPE.
Unfortunately, the rescue mission was unsuccessful to locate and rescue him.
“We would like the general public to know that our barges are manned by our personnel that includes expatriate and local captains, safety officers and monitoring foreman among others and that we do monitor all onboard. SMHL sells its bauxite on a FAS basis and not on a FOB basis rendering the stevedoring activities outside the scope of SMHL operations. The Stevedores (including the late Mr. Koroma) were hired by NSBT and we believe any issue regarding their maintenance or welfare rests under the responsibility of NSBT”, the company said in a response sent to the press.
The Corporate Affairs Manager Alusine Conteh said the company continues to uphold its health and safety measure which he said is key to their operations. He said the Company remains focus and will do all it could to prevent future occurrence. He expressed sincere condolences to the family of the deceased.
Mr. Conteh said the company through CDC recently funded a One Billion Four Hundred Million Leones project for the construction of a Multipurpose Complex in its operations community, doled out scholarships to thousands of University and College students within its mining operational and currently contracting a hundred beds Ultra-Modern Hospital in Ngolala, Upper Banta chiefdom, Moyamba district among other goodies and its relationship with residents of communities they are operating is very much cordial.