In its effort to curb oil theft in Nigerian waters, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has arrested ‘MT Dolpin’ vessel for allegedly loading and trans-shipping about 7,000 metric tons of suspected stolen crude.
Patrick Akpobolokemi, director-general of NIMASA, told newsmen in Lagos that MT Dolpin, which was earlier detained on court order over ownership tussle in 2011, was released in December 2012 following a court order to that effect.
“She started loitering on Nigerian waters upon her release, shuttling offshore Nigeria and Tema without reporting to NIMASA on her arrival at or departure from Nigerian coastline. Her movement became suspicious as she often switched off her AIS whenever she was on Nigeria’s maritime domain such that NIMASA placed her under surveillance. It was arrested on March 18, 2013 at Lagos anchorage involving in suspected illegal activities,” he explained.
The NIMASA boss noted that when officials of the agency boarded the vessel, six crew members who were onboard were arrested, and some have testified to the illegal businesses done by the vessel. Information from the ship log, he said, shows that the vessel was anchored off Akassa/Brass between December 31, 2012 and January 9, 2013. The report also shows that MT Dolphin discharged about 6,877 barrels of Bonny Light crude into a vessel called MT Vonstan at Tema port in Ghana on January 13, 2013.
He further said the second officer of the ship, Bonley Nchungong, confirmed to NIMASA officials that 700 metric tons of the products were transferred to another vessel called MT Vanessa off the coast of Benin before the vessel went to Tema to transfer the product to another ship called MT Vonstan. He assured that the ship would be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further prosecution.
“We have zero tolerance for not only oil theft but also piracy, and we will continue to tackle both issues. NIMASA has arrested a lot of vessels involved in oil theft but most of them had been handed over to EFCC for prosecution since the agency does not have prosecuting powers,” he said.
BusinessDay findings show that crude oil theft has become a constant re-occurrence on Nigerian waters and the nation loses $6 billion annually to the menace. The findings further show that these oil thieves are found among the highly influential, well-established, very rich and highly-syndicated oil mafia who work tirelessly to rip the country off its national wealth.
To save this country from this economic sabotage, Akpobolokemi said the agency, which has many vessels in its custody, will after the Easter celebration when the ongoing investigation must have been completed showcase them to the Nigerian public.