Officers from the Nigerian Navy operating from the Forward Operating Base have apprehended a vessel along with its 17 crew members carrying approximately 500 metric tonnes (equivalent to about 3,665 barrels) of stolen crude oil in the Igbokoda area of Ondo State,Daily Trust reports.
At the time of the vessel’s interception, the crew was reportedly engaged in the illicit act of siphoning crude oil from one of the wellheads at the EBESAN oil field, situated approximately 7 nautical miles off the coast of the Awoye riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State.
Commodore Ayo-Vaughan, the Director of Information for the Nigerian Navy, confirmed the arrest in a statement, revealing that the vessel, identified as the 77-meter-long Motor Tanker (MT) named VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS, was initially sighted on Wednesday around 10:00 pm and subsequently detained in the early hours of Thursday at approximately 3:00 am.
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Ayo-Vaughan stated, “The apprehension of the vessel was based on credible intelligence received by the Base on the illegal activities of crude oil thieves at the location which informed the swift deployment of FOB IGBOKODA personnel to enforce the arrest of the vessel and her crew.”
He added that the vessel was actively involved in siphoning crude oil from both sides of the wellhead, and upon further investigation, it was discovered that the vessel had 17 crew members of Nigerian nationality. The vessel’s storage capacity is about 15,000 metric tonnes, and at the time of the arrest, it had loaded approximately 500 metric tonnes of crude oil.
The Nigerian Navy emphasized its commitment to combat crude oil theft and illegal activities within Nigeria’s maritime domain, warning criminals and their associates that all legitimate means would be employed to track and apprehend perpetrators of such activities. The Navy urged the public to report any criminalities, especially in coastal communities, for prompt action.
Additionally, the statement suggested possible involvement by Tantita Security Service (TSS) in the illegal activities, as the Awoye riverine area, close to the arrest site, is covered by TSS. The Navy dismissed false alarms raised by TSS after the vessel’s arrest and reiterated its dedication to fulfilling its constitutional mandate for protecting Nigeria’s maritime environment for national economic development and prosperity.