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The International Maritime Organisation has declared Nigerian waterways dangerous due to the presence of abandoned oil-theft vessels – Navy



The Nigerian Navy has stated that one of the key reasons the international Maritime Organisation, IMO, declared the country’s ports and waterways unsuitable to do business in the past was the regrettable tradition of abandoning oil theft vessels along the waterways.

It stated that such development has contributed to the high insurance premiums on ships operating in Nigerian waters, which has a detrimental influence on the country’s economy, and that a lot of money has been spent clearing the waterways of such wrecks.

Responding to charges made by the alleged owners of Merchant Vessel (MV) Cecelia that the vessel was seized and burned by the NN, the Navy said in a statement signed by the director of Information, Commodore A.O Ayo-Vaughan, on Sunday that the facility was being investigated for allegations of oil theft.

“The vessel was apprehended on 15 August 2023 at Meco Jetty in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, with products suspected to be illegally refined AGO following an operation by the Naval Component of OPDS.” The arrest was followed by a news conference, but the owners of the yacht remained at large.

“A sample of the products onboard the vessel was then taken for laboratory analysis, and it was discovered to be illicit AGO.” In addition, the owners of the vessel were not there to observe the test in accordance with existing protocol.”

According to the statement, “in some cases where vessels involved in oil theft are arrested, the owners abscond, leaving the NN to bear the cost of keeping and sustaining the vessels.” This has cost the country a lot of money and has caused severe national security issues.

“The majority of the vessels sink alongside the jetty or within the channel, posing serious navigational hazards.” These abandoned vessels were a key reason why the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had declared the country’s ports/waterways to be the most dangerous in the region.

“This has contributed to the high insurance premiums on ships operating in Nigerian waters, which has had a negative impact on the nation’s economy.” To summarise, NIMASA, NPA, and the NN have spent vast sums of money removing wreckage in the waterways caused by abandoned vessels engaged in oil theft.

“The public should be aware that the MV CECELIA has not been operational for approximately two years.” The vessel was carrying around 250,000 litres of illegal AGO at the time of the arrest. So far, three individuals have been apprehended and have provided useful information, while the putative owners remain at large.”

The vessel does not have NNPCL or any other governmental approval to function as an AGO storage facility, according to the statement.This fact is well known to the NN and OPDS, since all licenced storage facilities are routinely submitted to Naval Headquarters for surveillance by appropriate agencies.

“It is important to note that intelligence revealed that illegally refined products are received and stored onboard the MV CECELIA.” According to one of the accused, they normally bring illegally refined AGO in ‘Cotonou’ (big wooden) boats and Geepee tanks and discharge it into the MV CECELIA before selling it to unsuspecting members of the public. It is unfortunate that this practise was undetected until recently re-energized intelligence-led efforts by OPDS and the NN.”

The Navy declared that the seizure of the MV CECELIA was a watershed moment in the reinvigorated effort to cleanse the Niger Delta of the criminal crime of oil theft, adding that the NN and OPDS will not be hampered by the oil thieves’ customary tactics.

“Sometimes, the owners claim ignorance of the use of their vessels for illegal purposes.” The NN and OPDS continue to follow the law and will continue to perform out their statutory tasks in combating oil theft, including despotism.

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