The Nigerian Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) NNS Encounter is no more after it caught fire, ballooned into a fireball and sank off the coast of Lagos.
According to various Nigerian maritime operator services reports, the accident, which occurred earlier this month, is widely suspected to have been caused by an electrical fault. All the 13 naval officers who were aboard the vessel escaped unhurt by jumping into the sea after failing to douse the fire. They were rescued two hours later.
A naval medical rescue officer who spoke to Nigerian media on condition of anonymity said the officers were found floating in the open sea outside the Lagos Anchorage area following a tip off from a passing canoe which spotted the fire and reported it to the maritime authority in Lagos.
“The accident happened exactly 13 nautical miles away from the naval jetty at NNS Beecroft Lagos. Before the (naval) officers were rescued, they floated for over two hours and would most likely have suffered from hypothermia had they stayed longer in the water. They were taken straight to the hospital for treatment and released later,” the source was quoted by This Day as saying.
Preliminary reports suggest that the boat developed what the sailors thought was a minor electrical fault which suddenly produced sparks and ballooned into an inferno which quickly engulfed the whole vessel. The fire reportedly spread quickly by burning up the external foam linings which protect the vessel’s electrical wire systems.
The Nigerian Navy has confirmed the accident and set up a commission of inquiry headed by Navy Commodore Ovenseri Uwadaie to investigate the cause of the fire. Among other exploits at sea, NNS Encounter intercepted a ship and recovered a large quantity of illegal arms and ammunition off the coast of Port Harcourt earlier this year.