Nigerian Navy said on Wednesday that MT HEROIC IDUN that attempted to steal crude oil at the Akpo Oilfield, deep offshore Bonny, a joint venture operated by Total Energies, has been handed over to the force for Investigation and prosecution.
According to the Director of Information (DINFO), Nigerian Navy, Commodore Ayo-Vaughan in a detailed factsheet released in Abuja gave other reasons the vessel will not escape sanction to include entering a restricted zone around an Oilfield without authorization and falsely accusing a Nigerian Navy Ship of piracy.
In addition, MT HEROIC IDUN hadn’t due NNPC approval and naval clearance.
The vessel, owned by Messrs Idun Maritime Limited, with Messrs Inchcape Shipping as its agent in Nigeria and OSM Ship Management AS as the vessel manager was accosted by the Nigerian Navy on August 8, 2022 shortly after midnight even though she had not lifted any crude oil from the oilfield.
“The vessel, following its initial encounter with Nigerian law enforcement, subsequently sailed out of Nigeria’s waters towards the Nigeria-Sao Tome & Principe Joint Development Zone and into the Equatorial Guinea EEZ, seeking to flee.
“The vessel, thereafter, raised a false international piracy alarm of being under attack by the NN ship. It is instructive to note that this is the same ship MT HEROIC IDUN had earlier had contact and communicated with, that she later referred to as a pirate ship.
As a result, “Nigerian authorities later made contact with the Equatorial Guinea Navy (EGN), and based on exchange on information, the Vessel was arrested by the Equatorial Guinea Navy on 10th August 2022,” it added.
Given reasons for not engaging the vessel in a chase, reiterated, “There was no need for the Nigerian Navy to pursue the fleeing ship, or forcefully attempt to arrest it, considering the fact that there is a robust regional security architecture that could be depended on to ensure that the ship is held accountable.”
The Navy, therefore, commended ‘Yaoundé Architecture’, as it is known, for enabling this seamless security cooperation.
“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’.
“After arresting the vessel and investigating the circumstances of its entry into the country, Equatorial Guinea imposed a sizable fine on her for sailing through the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) without displaying the Equatorial Guinean flag.
“The company managing the vessel has since confirmed payment of the fine.
“The Equatorial Guinea Government has now handed over the vessel to the Nigerian Navy as confirmed by a November 6, 2022 tweet from the Vice President of Equatorial Guinea,” it read.
The Nigerian Navy said in the factsheet that the Vessel will return to Nigeria for further investigations by the Nigerian Government on the charges of; “entering the restricted zone around an Oilfield without authorization.
“Illegally attempting to load crude oil from Nigeria without appropriate documentation, which is tantamount to economic sabotage.
“Falsely accusing a Nigerian Navy Ship of piracy on international maritime reporting platforms, a Naval Ship it had earlier communicated with without ambiguity about the identity of the NN Ship.”
According to Commodore Ayo-Vaughan, the action of MT HEROIC IDUN has the potential of denting the international image of Nigeria and also making nonsense of the gains recorded by the country’s security agencies in the maritime sector especially the delisting of Nigeria from piracy prone countries with zero case recorded in the last one year.
Nigerian Navy added that the MT HEROIC IDUN will be brought back to Nigeria in order to clear any misconceptions about its involvement in crude oil theft.
“If the vessel is found innocent, it will be released. If found guilty of breaking the laws of Nigeria, the appropriate sanctions will be enforced, to send a strong message of deterrence.
“It is important to stress that Nigeria has followed due process in its handling of this entire incident and will continue to abide by the principles of due process and fair and transparent investigations,” it stated
MT HEROIC IDUN is a very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) with length 336m, width 60m, draught 11m and 299995MT, and IMO Number 9858058. It was built in 2020 and is currently sailing under the flag of Marshall Islands.