• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Navy still in custody of oil theft suspect vessel

Navy still in custody of oil theft suspect vessel

A vessel, MT Prestigious, recently apprehended on suspicion of engaging in illegal oil bunkering, is still under the custody of the Nigerian Navy.

Earlier reports in some media had reported the arrest of the vessel in the Bonny area but indicated that it had been released by the navy.

According to some online media reports, a local interest and pressure group, the Niger Delta Renaissance Network, had alleged that the vessel suspected to be engaged in oil bunkering and other illegal activities had been released.

It has, however, emerged that the said suspect vessel MT Prestigious is still in the custody of the Navy.

The vessel belongs to an oil service and transportation company Newcross Exploration and Production Limited which uses the vessel to service barges that convey crude oil to oil export mother ships on the high seas off Bonny.

Our findings indicate that the vessel was arrested by the Inspector General of Police’s Oil Bunkering Team on suspicion of engaging in illegal oil bunkering.

The team and a private security company engaged by the NNPC accordingly handed over the vessel to the navy.

Investigations have since commenced to determine the true identity and mission of the vessel in the area at the time of its apprehension.

Accordingly, the IGP’s team has obtained product samples as part of its investigation but can only progress to obtain fingerprints with the written permission of the regulatory agency, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and in the presence of an independent laboratory.

When contacted, the owners of the vessel Newcross Exploration and Production Limited, insisted that the vessel was not engaged in any illegal activity. The company insisted that the vessel is legally engaged by oil production companies for conveying crude to the Bonny Terminal SBM 3.

The company disclosed that the crew on the vessel have since made useful statements to investigators. In addition, Newcross Exploration and Production Company has issued a detailed report and formal statement on the incident and the transparency of the vessel’s mission and engagements. According to the company, their report and full disclosure account has been communicated to all the relevant agencies of government including the National Security Adviser and all service Chiefs.

Our reporters who went to the scene found out that while the investigations on the vessel are continuing, the vessel and its crew are fully and completely in the custody of the Nigerian Navy which is maintaining round-the-clock surveillance and monitoring of the vessel and its personnel.

According to officials of Newcross Exploration and Production Company Ltd., while lamenting the loss being incurred by their company over the vessel’s arrest, has, however, alerted the authorities to the economic losses the nation is incurring with the disruption of the vessel’s services to its client companies.

The disruption of the company’s crude oil barging services to mother vessels on the high seas has led to a disruption in some oil export activities and losses to the nation’s economy.

When contacted, sources at the Nigerian Navy headquarters in Abuja confirmed that the MT Prestigious was still in their custody as it maintains round-the-clock surveillance and monitoring of the captive vessel with navy personnel on board the arrested ship pending the outcome of the investigations.