By Richards Adeniyi
A Palu-flagged ship named MT Apecus hijacked by off the coast of Bonny in the Niger Delta region has been trading illegally on Nigerian waters since 2014, according to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, who stated this in a press release on Monday, said, “Preliminary investigations carried out by NIMASA into the vessel involved has thrown up several unresolved facts. Firstly, the MT APECUS has been conducting trading activities in Nigerian waters since 2014 without any valid permits or documentation”.
NIMASA said it further observed that the vessel has changed name and the flag under which she operates on no less than a combined fifteen recorded instances with an additional five changes in call sign since 1993 and four MMSI changes which all point to her suspected involvement in illegal activities.
“Before her hijack, she was spotted in Lome, Togo on the 26th of February, 2019 for an hour, Tema, Ghana for two hours on the 27th of February, 2019 and Lagos anchorage for twenty nine minutes on 2nd April 2019 until her eventual hijack on the 19th of April.
“Reports also indicate the vessel was in the habit of switching off her Automatic Identification System (AIS) in order to avoid detection and had done the same thing prior to being attacked which had made locating her whereabouts extremely difficult. There is no clarity on her business in Bonny area where the incident occurred,” NIMASA said in the press release.
The agency, however, said that it was working in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, the Indian High Commission in Nigeria and other security agencies to unravel the mysteries behind the hijack of the ship.
NIMASA said the hijack of the vessel, with IMO no.7333810 and call sign number T8WU, occurred on the April 19, 2019 and resulted in the abduction of seven crew comprised of five Indian nationals and two other individuals of unspecified nationality.