NIGERIAN NAVY BRINGS BACK RUN AWAY VESSEL SUSPECTED FOR OIL THEFT, MT HEROIC IDUM FROM EQUATORIAL GUINEA
BY GABRIEL OKECHUKWU, PORT HARCOURT
Nigerian Navy has brought back a very large Crude Carrier, VLCC, suspected of crude oil theft, MT HEROIC IDUM which ran away but got arrested in Equatorial Guinea after she was intercepted for unlawful entrance into Akpo Oil Field Bonny to lift crude oil.
The feat was achieved through a sustained operation by Nigerian Navy which mobilized about five ships including NNS IKENNE and NNS OJI as well as team of renowned journalists from reputable media organizations for the voyage that lasted for eight days to and from Equatorial Guinea following intense diplomatic negotiations between both countries.
The very large Crude Carrier, VLCC, in question, MT HEROIC IDUM with length of three hundred and thirty-six meters, sixty meters width and draught of eleven meters, (IMO: 9858058) is registered in Marshall Island and has capacity of over two million litres.
The vessel entered Nigerian waters with intention to lift crude oil around Akpo deep offshore Bonny midnight of 7th August 2022.
However, on interrogation by Nigerian Navy Inshore Patrol Craft, NNS GONGOLA, it was discovered that she does not have both NNPC approval and Naval clearance and was subsequently instructed to proceed to Bonny anchorage for further instructions.
The captain of MT IDUM flouted the instructions and sailed out of Nigerian waters towards Nigerian-Sao Tome and Principe joint Development zone into Equatorial Guinea, where it was arrested.
Speaking on the effort to bring back the vessel to Nigeria for further investigation and prosecution, Chief of Policy and Plans, Naval Headquarters, Abuja, NHQs, Rear Admiral Saidu Garba attributed it to the renewed resolve by Nigerian Navy to bring to end high class oil theft in Nigeria.
“The Nigerian navy assures Nigerians that in with its statutory responsibilities and drawing strength from the strategic directives of the CNS, Vice Admiral Auwal Zubairu Gambo, the Service will maintain a posture of zero tolerance to crude oil theft and other criminal activities in our maritime domain. The Navy shall work synergy with other maritime stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria deserves maximum benefit from its natural maritime endowments.”
Rear Admiral Garba who expressed displeasure over the level of economic sabotage the perpetrators of oil theft have caused the nation noted that the arrest of the vessel by Equatorial Guinea Navy was part of the gains of “Yaounde Architecture”, where Navies operating within the Gulf of Guinea collaborate against, piracy, oil theft, Armed robbery, gun running as well as seamless hand over of vessels and suspects who have contravened laid down laws in member nation’s territorial integrity.
“Both Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea are signatories to the Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery against Ships and Illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa of 2013 commonly referred to as the ‘Yaounde Code of Conduct’.”
“The Code is backed by appropriate UN Security Council Resolutions and provides the platform for information sharing as well as coordination amongst signatories.”
“This includes handover of vessels or persons suspected to have committed offences in each other’s States.”
On the implications of the false piracy alarm raised by the Captain of MT HEROIC IDUM on Nigerian integrity on the global stage, the Chief of Policy and Plans NHQs noted that the false information was capable of denting the reputation of the country considering that there has not been any record of pirate attacks within Nigerian maritime environment since 2021, which was instrumental in delisting the nation from piracy prone countries by International Maritime Bureau in March this year.
“On the piracy alert the Nigerian Navy also through international collaboration alerted relevant piracy reporting centres through CRESMAO and ECOWAS ZONE F Cotonou headed by Nigerian Navy officers for the alert to be cancelled immediately which was done.”
“Permit me to mention here that Nigeria has not recorded any piracy attack in its waters in over one year.”
“Hence, this mischievous act by the ship is clearly aimed at tarnishing the good image of the maritime domain of Nigeria, which we have worked very hard to achieve.”
He stressed on the need to resist pressure from within and international collaborators who have perfected their gimmicks and networking for almost seamless stealing of crude oil.
Nationality of sailors onboard the vessel includes India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Poland.