Navy arrest 79 crew, 2 vessels, 4 fishing trawlers for maritime offences
By OKOSUN DENNIS
The quest to deal with maritime crimes has been reinvigorated with the arrest of two tanker vessels and four fishing trawlers with 79 crew members onboard by the Nigerian Navy.
The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command (WNC), Rear Admiral Sylvanus Abbah, disclosed to newsmen on Tuesday at the command’s headquarters in Lagos.
National Daily gathered that “On July 2 about 11:30pm, MT DA-CHRIS was intercepted and boarded by naval personnel on routine patrol. Upon boarding, the vessel was discovered to be imballast.
The FOC explained that what they discovered raised further doubt on the activities of the vessel hence they had to carry out further investigation to ascertain the vessel’s dealings at sea.
Abba, however, said the ship’s Automatic Identification System was found to be constantly off constituting a navigational and safety offense.
He noted, “During the investigation, it was discovered that the vessel was operating with invalid documents.
“Again on July 20 about 05:48am, our personnel sighted MV SISI COMFORT 1 lurking around ABO oilfield.
“Investigation revealed that vessel had about 34,000litres of Automated Gas Oil (AGO) in its storage tank which they claimed they pumped from their bunker tank to the storage tank to balance the ship which was taking in water from its rudder.”
As a result, the vessel was asked to produce documents, which they were unable to and this raised suspicion on the activities of the vessel within the oilfield.
Admiral Abbah added that in line with the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Ibok Ibas’s directives to rid Nigeria’s maritime environment of criminalities, personnel of the WNC while on routine patrol arrested two tanker vessel and four fishing trawlers for various maritime related offences.
Abbah who said that the captain of the ship during interrogation earlier identified the vessel as ALPHA SIERRA later identified the ship as MV SISI COMFORT 1.
Also on August 27, four trawlers were arrested while fishing in prohibited areas with catches totaling 154,280kg and several kilograms of loose fish.
At the time of the arrest, the vessel was said to have had a total of 79 crew members comprising of 28 Chinese nationals, seven onboard each vessel, three Ghanians and 48 Nigerians.
“On interrogation, it was discovered that the vessels were not listed on the July to August
bi-monthly edition of the navy code word for fishing/trawling vessel at sea,” he said.
The FOC said that the vessels who could not produce relevant operating documents as requested was a clear indication that the vessels were engaging in Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Nigerian waters.
While handing over the impounded vessels and crew to other agencies for further investigation and prosecution, the four fishing trawlers were handed over to the Federal Department of Fisheries.
Similarly, the two other vessels were handed over to the Economic Financial and Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Nigerian Maritime Management and Administration Agency (NIMASA) respectively.
Abbah reiterated that the navy in its renewed efforts to curb maritime domain of illegalities, would not tolerate any fraudulent activities in the nation’s maritime environment.
“The command has zero tolerance for every form of criminality in its area of responsibility and advises defaulters to desist from such act or face the wrath of the law,” the FOC reiterated.