Six Romanians and nine Filipinos were yesterday arrested by men of the central command of the Nigerian Navy for their alleged involvement in illegal lifting of crude oil along the waterways and creeks of the Niger Delta region.
The 15 crew members comprising six Romanians and nine Filipinos on board the MT VANESSA were on Monday brought from Bonny, Rivers State, to Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, headquarters of the command.
The flag officer commanding, Rear Admiral Johnson Olutoyin, said, from investigations, the vessel departed Lome Port on June 5 and arrived the Akassa area in Brass local government area of Bayelsa on June 12.
According to him, the registered owner of the vessel is Sea Tankers Shipping SAS but it has no paper from the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation ( NNPC), Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Navy ( NN) for operation in Nigeria’s waters.
He disclosed that due to the concerted efforts of the NN to combat illegal activities in the Nigeria waterways, the Navy monitoring of the water with its Regional Maritime Domain Awareness Centres (RMAC) spotted the Ship and its movement.
Giving a graphical illustration of the movement of the ship, Olutoyin said the vessel was deemed a vessel of interest and a naval ship NNS ZARIA under Captain John Ezekiel was dispatched to arrest her.
During interrogation, after interception, the crew of MT VANESSA admitted that the owners of the ship directed them to be roaming the waters without any specific location in mind.
Olutoyin said immediately NN ZARIA said she was under arrest, the crew members resisted and decided to speed off but, after about three hours of hot pursuit, she was arrested and forced to anchor at Brass before NNS THUNDER escorted her to Bonny.
While stating that investigations were still ongoing, he warned that in line with the mandate handed down to it by the federal government, the Navy would ensure that all illegal activities are stopped in the waterways.
“It is pertinent to reiterate that, in line with the Federal Government of Nigeria directive for all illegal activities, especially crude oil theft to be stamped out of our waters, the NN has continued to maintain zero tolerance for all such activities in our maritime domain. The NN and the Central Naval Command in particular will continue to maintain vigilance over our waters and fish out all persons or vessels engaging in these illegal activities in our waters. For the avoidance of doubt, vessels without proper clearance and documentation for their operations or activities in our waters are to clear off our maritime domain.”
“Any vessel failing to do so would be arrested and handed over to appropriate agencies for prosecution accordingly. Also, foreigners being lured to engage in illegal activities, especially crude oil theft, are hereby warned to keep off Nigerian waters and desist from such activities.”