The Nigerian Navy has taken delivery of eight new Epenal patrol boats that have been deployed to boost maritime security operations along the creeks and waterways of the oil-rich Rivers State.
The patrol boats were handed over to Nigerian Army Chief of Defence Staff General Abayomi Olonishakin by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike at Port Harcourt on 28 April as a donation from the regional government.
Wike said the donation was motivated by his desire to ensure public security and protection of the regional maritime-based economy, pipelines and oil infrastructure.
“This donation of eight boats is a furtherance of the state investment in the security of lives on her waterways. These boats are for the security of lives and property in Rivers State. They should not be taken to the neighbouring states on any account. Any other state that wants to secure her waterways should purchase her own gunboats,” Wike said.
Each boat is powered by two 250 hp Yamaha outboard engines giving a maximum speed of more than 35 knots. They feature an armament kit that includes two 12.7 mm machine guns and automatic grenade launchers.
The Rivers State is also finalising the acquisition of 13 more patrol boats to be distributed to the Navy, Army And Police services to enhance maritime security.
The Security Patrol Boats (SPBs) are produced by the Epenal Group shipyard based in Port Harcourt. They are 8.2 metres long and have a glass-reinforced plastic hull able to accommodate up to seven people.
Security agencies in Rivers State are battling an increase in arson and banditry crimes, which are blamed on the resurgence of previously disbanded militant groups.
Last month, the groups threatened to launch fresh attacks on oil installations and infrastructure after uniting to form the ‘Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators.’
The coalition said it would resume the attacks to protest President Muhammadu Buhari’s insincerity in resolving the crisis in the Niger Delta.
Apart from militancy, Nigerian security forces in the Rivers State are battling to control maritime crimes including piracy, robbery and oil theft from pipelines, ships and offshore installations.