BusinessDay

Rogue ships turn off identification device to avoid detection – NPA MD

..to counter crude theft with Vehicle Traffic Service

The Federal Government on Tuesday revealed that rogue vessels used for stealing Nigeria’s crude oil in the Niger Delta, succeed in turning off their Automation Identification System (AIS) to avoid detection in Nigerian waters.

Mohammed Koko, managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), disclosed this on Tuesday when he appeared at the 55th session of the media chat, organised by the Presidential Media Team, at the State House, Abuja.

He disclosed that several vessels engaged in crude oil theft on its deep waterways usually put off automatic identification systems to avoid being tracked by mart items officials.

It is estimated that Nigeria loses over $700 million per month, a situation that may greatly erode the nation’s fiscal assumptions and parameters, with projected federally-collectable revenue estimated at N16.87 trillion in 2023.

President Muhammadu Buhari had estimated that federally distributable revenue at N11.09 trillion in 2023, while the total revenue available to fund the 2023 federal budget is estimated at N9.73 trillion.

Out of this, oil revenue is projected at N1.92 trillion, while non-oil taxes are estimated at N2.43 trillion. The NPA boss stated that persons bringing in vessels to steal crude oil, “short down the AIS”,

Koko who noted that the vessels come in legally, added however, that “but then, they go by the left hand side to commit illegal activities after switching of their AIS”

He assured that the government has approved the deployment of Vehicles Traffic Service (VTS), as a means to counter the activities of crude oil thieves.

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“We are now in the process of procuring Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) to enable it to identify, locate and monitor all vessels in the nation’s waters.

“Going forward, we are deploying the VTS and to also have information in terms of vessel movement,”

He revealed that the authority was helpless over the recent incident of an oil tanker evading arrest in Nigeria after carting away illegal crude oil.

Koko explained that such ships evade arrest because they switch off their onboard automated tracking system that displays the vessel’s position and others in the vicinity.

The NPA boss the authority has been trying to acquire the VTS for about 10 years, saying that a certified consultant has now been identified to take up the process as he hoped that it can be procured before the end of the current administration.

Koko, while evaluating efforts to ease the congestion at the Lagos ports, lamented the negative impact of the stealing of buoys, navigational aids, deployed to ease movement of ships along the eastern waterways. He disclosed that the stealing and vandalization of the buoys put ships at risk of running aground

According to him, each of the buoy, which serves as navigational route signs, cost between N12 million and N20 million, whereas no fewer than 25 of these maritime safety equipment have been stolen from Nigerians waters this year alone.

Koko explained that apart from the cost of the buoys, it is even costly to install and deploy them on waters.

“As a result of this anxiety, many foreign ships avoid certain areas of Nigerian waterways, which has an adverse effect on government revenue at the affected ports.

The MD, who stated that the authority has been interacting with the locals communities and their leaders in the east, added that the NPA is intensifying efforts to prevent further vandalization if its equipment

He disclosed that the vandals steal the buoys and melt them into scrap metal

“These buoys have solar panels and sensors; and there is a beacon light there that flashes at night. So the first thing they do is to vandalise that sensor.