The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has handed over to Ghanaian authorities for further investigation and possible prosecution, a fishing vessel called Marine 707, suspected to be involved in illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.
The government also handed over 51 crew members including 48 Ghanaians and three South Koreans to the government of Ghana and Korea, respectively.
The vessel, which was authorised to fish in Ghana and Benin waters, was arrested by the Nigerian Navy on the 18th of May, 2020 around southwest of Lagos waters with her Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched off after being suspected to be used for piracy or being used as a mother ship by pirates.
Speaking during the official hand over of the Ghanaian flagged vessel and the crew to the respective authorities, Bashir Jamoh, director general of NIMASA, said the Navy and NIMASA partnership which is now hinged on intelligence, has put Nigeria on a pedestal of winning the war against piracy and other illegal activities at sea.
Jamoh, who was represented by the agency’s commander, Maritime Guard Command, Aniete Ibok, disclosed that though preliminary investigations could not establish that the vessel and her crew were directly linked to piracy, however the vessel still ran afoul of international laws for shutting down its AIS for 36 times in the last in six months, three of which were on Nigerian waters.
“We are handing over this vessel in the spirit of bilateral cooperation both countries enjoy. We have done our preliminary investigations and yet to establish concrete evidence against the vessel but again, we would not know what she would be doing whenever she turns off her AIS which occurred 36 times without being logged in her record book in line with international protocols,” he said.
Jamoh warned individuals or organisations thinking of perpetuating any illegalities on the Gulf of Guinea to be ready to face the full wrath of the law with the Antipiracy law in place along with Navy, NIMASA partnership that is waxing stronger.
“We have improved our intelligence sharing with relevant agencies and in no distant time, piracy will be a thing of the past in the Gulf of Guinea because we have a robust Antipiracy law that will deal with perpetrators of illegalities on our waters,” he said.
While receiving the vessel and the crew on behalf of the Ghana Maritime Authority, David Ako Sowah, Second Secretary Consular of Ghana in Nigeria, commended Nigerian authorities for being professional in handling the case.
He described what Nigeria is doing as one that would benefit the entire countries in the Gulf Guinea.
“As the big brother in this region, Nigeria has done well in showing a lot of maturity in handling this case and I want to assure you that Ghana would also look into more collaboration with Nigeria to ensure that the Gulf of Guinea remains safe for maritime activities,” he said.
Kim Ln-taek, consular general of the Republic of Korea in Nigeria, commended the party involved in handling the case. He said his finding from the Captain of the ship who is a Korean was that the AIS was bad.
He noted that the vessel and her crew erred by not following the protocols of logging it in the record books when the AIS was down but he was happy that the case has been resolved up till this point.
The Ghana flagged vessel with International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) number 7419755 and registration number 316880 is owned and operated by World Marine Company Limited, Japan and as at the time of arrest, it had 51 crew on board with all being Ghanaians except three from the Republic of Korea.