The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Authority (NIMASA) has detained five vessels for illegally transferring and storing oil, as Nigeria attempts to clamp down on the illegal oil trade.
The Nigerian Vanguard reports that two vessels, MT Otakoy 1 and MT Mariny, were apprehended earlier this month while three others, MT Cape Verde, MT Selueshing and MT Adamas, were detained several days ago.
NIMASA Director General, Patrick Akpobolokemi on Wednesday said that the vessels were illegally transferring and storing crude oil. The vessels’ crews were arrested and the craft taken to NIMASA facilities pending an investigation.
“They get crude oil from smaller vessels from Nigeria and transfer these stolen crude to mother vessels, with connivance from Nigerians,” Akpobolokemi said. “Besides, the illegal ship to ship transfer, there are other areas of off-shore high level stealing of petroleum products. We must stop all legalities on our waters, that is a presidential order I just received and with the support of government, we will clear our waters of criminals”
Early this week Nigeria’s military said it had detained a small oil tanker and arrested 46 people trying to ship illegally refined oil products, pursuing a fight against an underground industry worth hundred of millions of dollars a year.
The military said 13 large wooden Cotonou boats and a speed boat were ferrying barrels of oil product to a ship with the capacity to hold around 1,000 barrels, valued at around US$100,000. The oil had been processed in one of the hundreds of makeshift illegal refineries hidden in the creeks, Reuters reports.
“These suspects, who were nabbed by our patrol teams at River Akassa, were in the process of loading this vessel with illegally refined petroleum products. Presently, the oil vessel is detained at the Government Jetty in Yenagoa,” said a spokesman for the Niger Delta joint task force.
“These suspects have contributed in no small measure to the destruction of the nation’s economy and the environment.”
Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude oil exporter but its production capacity is reduced significantly by oil bunkering, where thieves tap often unguarded pipelines which pass through the thousands of kilometres of winding creeks and waterways in the vast Niger Delta region.