Two fishermen died on Thursday dawn after their canoe was reportedly rammed by a patrol speed boat at the anchorage of the Tema Port.
The identity of the patrol boat is yet to be identified but some people from the fishing community have alleged it belongs to the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).
The GPHA in a press statement has denied that the boat in question belonged to the Authority.
The canoe with the inscription – Adesa Na Ohetsui – [Man, have patience] had onboard 12 fishermen.
They were said to have embarked on a Homowo ritual fishing sanctioned by the Tema Traditional Council.
However, others said the fishermen defied the closed fishing season, which is expected to end on Monday, July 31, 2023.
According to reports, a patrol team from the GPHA reportedly drove them away from the anchorage.
The incident happened at about 1:30am.
The fishermen were said to be hauling their net within the anchorage when they were allegedly rammed by the patrol boat that was at the scene to drive them away from the anchorage.
The deceased have been identified as Francis Tetteh Larbi, aged 27 and Samuel Acquaye Allotey, aged 45.
They are both residents of Tema New Town.
The incident sparked anger and outrage among the fishing community at dawn.
They have therefore called for an independent investigation into the incident while also calling for the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to be held accountable.
There was also a near-brawl between the police and a crowd of people who had gathered at the Canoe Landing Basin where the bodies were retrieved.
The crowd prevented the police from conveying the bodies of the deceased in a police pick-up truck, arguing that their kinsmen were not criminals to be conveyed as such.
A hearse later conveyed the bodies to the International Maritime Hospital mortuary for autopsy and preservation.
The Commander of the Marine Police Unit in Tema, Superintendent Charles Osei, confirmed the incident to reporters and said that investigations were underway.
He, however, said the police were yet to establish the identity of the boat and the cause of the incident.
It is believed that the patrol boat was deployed to the anchorage following a signal from port control about an alleged illegal activity by some fishing boats within the anchorage of the port.
The fishermen, the source claimed, were hauling their nets when they saw the patrol boat approaching and attempted to escape.
In the process, the said patrol boat rammed into the side of the canoe, causing it to capsize with the nets trapping the deceased.
Some quantities of premix fuel which were also onboard the canoe spilled over the canoe and into the sea causing the bodies of the deceased to peel off.
The Tema Awudun Chief Fisherman, Nii Ashitey Odametey II, revealed that the traditional council undertakes expeditions to catch baits for the performance of rituals towards the Homowo festival.
He said that the various stakeholders, including the GPHA and Marine Police, were aware of the expedition and that about 20 canoes were at sea for the expedition when the incident occurred.
The Chairman of the Tema Canoe Owners Association, Nii Adjiete Quaye said they received information that a tugboat rammed into the canoe and subsequently left them the fishermen to their fate.
He said a vessel plying the anchorage that chanced upon the incident rescued the 10 who later realised two of their colleagues were unaccounted.
“They then informed the rescue team which turned over the canoe leading to the bodies of the deceased being found trapped in the fishing net”, Nii Adjiete said.
The Tema Metropolitan Security Committee (MESEC) has set up a five-member committee to probe the circumstances that led to the incident. The committee, which is made up of representatives from the Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the Ghana National Fire Service, the National Investigations Bereau, National Disaster Management Organisation, (NADMO) and the Tema Metropolitan Assembly, has five days to submit its report.
GPHA however in a press statement signed by the Marketing and Public Affairs Manager of the Tema Port, Abena Serwaa Opoku- Fosu has denied that the boat in question belonged to the Authority.
The statement said that the Port Control Station on Wednesday July 26, 2023 at about 12:30 midnight received a distress call from MV. Seaspan Dubai for assistance to ward off several fishing boats which had surrounded their vessel.
“The security patrol team which comprises of the Ghana Navy, Marine Police and GPHA Security timeously responded, cautioned, and asked the said fishing boats to leave”, the statement read.
It stressed that at 01: 18 hours, MT Marina ‘M’ which was also at the anchorage, also called the Port Control Station for assistance to ward off a suspicious looking fishing boat with about nine occupants.
The team again responded by cautioning and directing the boat and its occupants to row out.
“On their way back, the Patrol Team chanced upon another set of fishermen who had cast their nets and were fishing within the terminal 3 basin, close to a container vessel. The nets were seized, and the men were cautioned and led out of the basin after which all patrol activities were halted at 04: 55 am on Thursday July 27, without any incident of collision whatsoever,” the statement said
It emphasied that whereas the fishermen are aware of the dangers of fishing within the port basin and anchorage, some continue to carry out these illegal activities at the peril of their own lives and that of vessels and cargo.
The statement said that while the Port Authority regrets the unfortunate passing of the two persons, and extends its sincere condolences to their families and colleagues, GPHA is a responsible organization involved in search and rescue missions and as such will not abandon victims of a collision even if it involved our own craft.