Oil Theft: Another ‘Rouging’ Vessel Unsettles Nigerian Navy
The Nigerian Navy appear to be in double-speak with the status of its encounter with Marshall Islands-flagged very large crude carrier Heroic Idun and its crew, said to be on its way to Nigeria, from Equatorial Guinea where it was arrested on August 12.
Media reports yesterday, quoting the Nigerian navy authorities, said the vessel is wanted back in Nigeria for alleged crude oil theft.
At a press briefing in Abuja on August 20, the Nigerian Navy issued a statement making it clear that the vessel was not found stealing crude oil. The Nigerian Navy said the suspected rogue vessel, MT Heroic Idun, had veered into Nigerian waters on August 8, with the intention to load oil illegally but could not do so before it was accosted by Nigerian Navy Ship, Gongola at the Akpo Oilfield Terminal.
The chief of the naval staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, represented by the chief of policy and plans (CPP), Rear Admiral Saidu Garba, said the vessel only spent 12 hours on the Nigerian waters and barely 20 minutes at the oilfield.
Gambo affirmed that he vessel had not commenced loading at the said oil field before the Navy Ship Gongola accosted it for interrogation and ordered it to Bonny Anchorage.
The navy said the vessel captain refused to take instructions, after he had communicated with his patrons and sponsors abroad, refused to cooperate with the Nigerian naval authorities.
The current account of the navy is that “after several attempts to identify the vessel failed, the VLCC escaped from the area and out into international waters under suspicion of an attempted piracy attack.”
The Nigerian navy has gone to claim that at the “request of the Nigerian navy, the vessel was interdicted by a navy vessel from Equatorial Guinea and escorted to Malabo, where it has been held back since August 13, allegedly for not displaying the Equatorial Guinean flag.”
Observers are picking holes in the stories bandied by the Nigerian Navy, when the vessel was arrested and today, more than three months after that the same vessel had been in the custody of Equatorial Guinea
The question is, how did the vessel finally vacate the Nigerian waters after it was initially apprehended? Was it really true the vessel veered into the Nigerian waters, perhaps by mistake? How come a fleeing vessel ran so fast from the chasing Nigerian navy, but so slowly that it arrived Equatorial Guinea four days after?
It is believed that the latest foray into the activities of crude oil thieves and their Nigerian top collaborators, has thrown up the incidence of the missing MT Heroic Idun, perhaps hibernating in Malabo.
Analysts believe that the full scale enquiries into the actors involved in oil theft may have thrown up, among others, the incidence of the MT Heroic Idun. It is also believed that the story peddled by the Nigerian navy today is meant more to save face, than saying the truth.
From another end, some law partners from the UK appear to have risen up for the vessel and the crew. One Stephen Askins, partner at UK shipping law firm Tatham & Co, has written to protest that the crew are being held under inhumane conditions pending further investigation or bail.
“In the absence of any extradition treaty, this amounts to unlawful rendition described recently in the Court of Appeal in London as one of the gravest breaches of human rights that there can be,” said Askins via LinkedIn, adding that the charges faced by the crew for attempted theft of oil carry life sentences.
He pointed out that the latest move will cause “serious consternation in the tanker community” and after other high-profile cases like the San Padre Rio serious questions would be asked about the Nigerian navy’s repeated disregard for international law.