Nigerian Navy seizes three ships, arrests 11 involved in illegal oil trade


The Nigerian Navy has seized three ships and their crew members after they were caught illegally bunkering oil in the Bayelsa region off the Nigerian coast.

ChannelS TV on Monday reported Captain Aminu Hassan, Commanding Officer of the Forward Operating Base of the Nigerian Navy, as saying that the 11 suspects were arrested after patrols by government forces.

While handing over the seized vessels and crew members allegedly involved in oil bunkering to the Nigerian Police and officials of the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Captain Hassan addressed the press and at the AGIP terminal in Brass LGA of Bayelsa State. He said that a total of 65 illegal refineries have been destroyed by his men.
“Within the past three weeks or there about, Nigerian Navy warships have been deployed and the Nigerian naval helicopters are overflying this general area on a daily basis.”

So far two of the 11 suspects denied having any knowledge of the contents of their vessels.

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.

In late October the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Authority (NIMASA) said it had detained five vessels for illegally transferring and storing oil. The MT Otakoy 1 and MT Mariny were apprehended in early October while three others, MT Cape Verde, MT Selueshing and MT Adamas, were detained at the end of the month.

NIMASA Director General, Patrick Akpobolokemi said the criminals, “get crude oil from smaller vessels from Nigeria and transfer these stolen crude to mother vessels, with connivance from Nigerians. 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.”

Nigeria has been strengthening its military its military capabilities over the years and has paid particular attention to improving security in the Niger Delta and off its 780 kilometre long coast, where it has numerous oil installations. In March 2007 it signed a US$73 million contract for two ATR 42MP maritime patrol aircraft to join its Dornier 128s. The first ATR was delivered in December 2009 and the second in March last year.

Late last month the former US Coast Guard Cutter Chase (WHEC-718) set sail from the United States to Nigeria. It was given to the Nigerian Navy as an excess defence article under the US Foreign Assistance Act.

The Nigerian Navy has received 10 donated vessels to enhance operations in the Niger Delta. The navy has also established new base in Lokoja known as NNS Lugard and another in Ikot Abasi known as NNS Jubilee.

The force is seeking government approval to acquire up to 49 ships and 42 helicopters over the next ten years to police the nation’s territorial waterways and Gulf of Guinea.