The Nigerian Navy has seized huge quantity of petroleum product suspected to be crude oil off Rivers coast, a senior navy official has revealed.
Commodore Samson Bura, the Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, paraded the vessel, MT Marina Express, and its crew members in Onne, Rivers on Tuesday.
Bura said the vessel and its crew members had been on the Navy’s radar for suspicious behaviour over a period of time.
“On January 20, at about 00:45 hours, we got information about a suspicious vessel in compromising position at St. Bartholomew River in Onne.
“On gathering of this intelligence, we immediately deployed our gunboats and thereafter impounded the large vessel, MT Marina Express.
“The vessel at the time of arrest had two all-male crew members of Nigerian nationality with an unspecified quantity of product suspected to be crude oil,” he said.
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Bura said the vessel had been of interest and that it was for the same reason the crew members allegedly switched off its automatic identification system to hide the illegality.
“The vessel was then moved to its present position which is at Onne seaport for further processing (of the product).
“Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the vessel did not have required documentation or approvals for the product or the position (location) it was found.
“We are going to carry out volumetric analysis to know the exact quantity of the crude oil the vessel was carrying,” he assured.
According to News Agency of Nigeria the vessel was transporting several metric tons of suspected crude oil at the time it was seized.
Bura said the vessel would be handed over to relevant prosecuting agencies in line with the harmonised standard operating procedures for the arrest, detention, and prosecution of vessels.
The commander said the navy was determined to rid the Niger Delta of sea robbery, piracy, illegal bunkering and oil theft and warned criminals against maritime crimes.
Nigeria has been grappling with theft of its crude oil for several years which often times is smuggled abroad through the backwaters of the Gulf of Guinea.
This has deprived the nation of billions of dollars and accounted for pollution of the Niger Delta mangrove despite a special military task force set up to tackle the menace.