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Oil thieves now convert trawlers to tankers – Navy

By on June 4, 2013

The Nigerian Navy, weekend, said crude oil thieves in the Niger Delta region have devised new tactics of converting fishing trawlers into oil tankers for illegal lifting of crude oil along waterways of the region with a view to evading arrest.

The ploy was uncovered last week following the arrest of a vessel,MV DALAL, laden with 120,000 litres of Automated Gas Oil, diesel, allegedly lifted from illegal refineries at the Akassa Creek in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

Authorities of the Nigerian Navy, through the Command Operations Officer, Central Naval Command, Commodore Emmanuel Enemor,  who disclosed this in Yenagoa said the confession obtained from the captain of the seized vessel showed that fishing trawlers were now being converted to tankers for the purpose of illegal bunkering.

Enemor said the Naval operatives intercepted the vessel while on patrol off the coast of Brass following suspicions that the ship had on board illegally refined AGO.

According to him, at the time of the arrest, the vessel did not have Nigerian Ports Authority bunkering permit, ship’s log, Naval Headquarters approval and  the certificate of the Joint Task Force, code-named Operation Pulo Shield.

He said: “Laboratory analysis of the sample of the product from the vessel also indicated that the AGO on board was of poor diesel quality. There was a need to institute a proper legal action againstMV DALAL and the navy had handed over 10 crew members arrested on board the ship and other exhibits to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.”

He said the suspects were transferred to EFCC after a brief ceremony at the command’s headquarters on Saturday in Yenagoa.

“EFCC was expected to carry out further investigations and prosecution of the suspects.The navy would retain custody of the vessel until the conclusion of the case,” he noted.

The navy, he added,  had demonstrated in the past few weeks its renewed determination to completely eradicate all forms of illegal activities in the maritime environment.

“We are concerned with crude oil theft, illegal refining of stolen crude, pipeline vandalism, sea robbery, piracy, kidnapping, hijacking of vessels and attacks on vessels,” he said.

Besides the territorial waters, Exclusive Economic Zone and the high seas, Enemor he also cited other water boundaries that were of concern to the navy in the war against crime as BrassRiver, NunRiver and St. Nicholas River.

Others include Santa BarbaraRiver, SambreiroRiver, MiddletonRiver, Akassa Creek and Furupa community.