The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) in collaboration with Nigeria’s leading private maritime security outfit, Tantita Security Services (TSS) and the Nigerian Navy (NN) earlier the week unmasked a foreign vessel rumoured to be linked to the Republic of Turkey believed to have been involved in the smuggling of Nigerian crude in the past twelve years.
Luck however ran out of the vessel which allegedly have been engaged in stealth activities for more than a decade, when operatives of TSS rounded it up together with its crew while illegally siphoning crude from an abandoned well head somewhere within the Niger Delta creeks located around Opronza, in Delta state.
Bothe the TSS Director of Operations, Capt. Enusoh Warredi and NNPCL Spokesman, Garba Deen Muhammad maintained that the identity of the vessel has been shrouded in secrecy, further noting that the vessel was scheduled to take the stolen products to Cameroun before its arrest.
Capt. Warrendi in an update yesterday said the vessel had been substantially degraded through primary destruction of its basic fixtures in accordance with the directive of the federal government, noting that the carcass will in due course also be grounded to serve as deterrence to would be crude thieves.
According to the TSS Director of Operations, efforts to establish the registration of the dead vessel for legitimate crude oil lifting and indeed get a proper log records of its activities proved abortive, after long hours of “practically turning the vessel upside down”, he said.
NNPC L on Monday said TSS personnel had intercepted the rogue vessel with a cargo of stolen crude oil on board. NNPCL Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Garba Deen Muhammad in a statement said the vessel was intercepted on the 7th of July.
“The vessel, MT TURA II (IMO number: 6620462), owned by a Nigerian Registered Company, HOLAB MARITIME SERVICES LIMITED with Registration Number RC813311, was heading to Cameroun with the cargo on board when it was apprehended at an offshore location (Latitude: 5.8197194477543235°, Longitude: 4.789002723991871°), with the captain and crew members on board,” it said.
The NNPCL noted that preliminary investigations revealed that the crude oil cargo estimated at about 800,000-litre was illegally sourced from a well jacket offshore Ondo State, Nigeria.
“There was no valid documentation for the Vessel or the Crude Oil Cargo onboard at the time of the arrest. Further investigation into the activities of the vessel at the NNPC Ltd. Command and Control Centre also revealed that the Vessel has been operating in stealth mode for the last 12 years. The last reported location of the vessel was Tin-Can Port in July 2011,” the statement added.
It said details of the arrest and the outcomes of the investigations were escalated to the appropriate government authorities, upon which it was concluded that the vessel be destroyed to serve as warning to all those engaged in such illegal activities.
The NNPCL assured that it will sustain the momentum in the war against crude oil theft until it is eradicated. Statistics show that crude theft from pipelines and wells in the Niger Delta has reduced Nigeria’s OPEC production output in recent years.
According to the NNPCL spokesman, “Destroying vessels involved in transporting stolen crude oil is of paramount importance as a strong deterrent. The illegal trade of stolen crude oil not only inflicts significant economic losses on Nigeria and legitimate stakeholders in the oil industry, but also perpetuates a cycle of corruption, environmental devastation, and social instability.”
Recall that In a bid to curb crude oil theft, the Nigerian government launched in August last year awarded the region’s pipelines surveillance contract to TSS, with a track record of integrity, experience, competence and reliability.
It will also be recalled that apparently pleased with the increased traction at combating crude smuggling, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has made it clear that his administration will not fold its arms at ensuring that the fight against crude theft is sustained and won.