The patrol team of Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Beecroft, under the Commander /Maritime Component Commander Operation AWATSE, Commodore Kolawole Oguntuga, has arrested a Motor Tanker SAISNIL II, for alleged crude oil theft.

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The vessel, flagged St. Vincent & Grenadines had 11 crew onboard at the time of arrest.

Speaking with journalists onboard the vessel, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Mustapha Hassan, stated that the vessel was observed to have turned off its Automatic Identification System, AIS which was an infraction within the nation’s maritime domain, as activities of the vessel would not be determined when such systems are turned off.

He added that illegalities were perpetrated on such occasions.

He further stated that the information necessitated the deployment of Nigeria Navy Ship Sokoto, which sailed 199 nautical miles to intercept the vessel and move it to Lagos Anchorage.

The FOC said, “SAISNIL II initially sailed from Lagos Anchorage on November 23, 2023, to Taraba Jetty in Port Harcourt, Rivers State to evacuate about 720,000 Liters of Crude Oil Sludge but the manipulation of its AIS around ABO Field for over 48 hours gave rise to a reasonable suspicion of illegalities.”

“Samples of the product onboard have been taken for analysis and the outcome of the analysis will determine the next line of action. However, the vessel is open to any agency that wants to get samples onboard for analysis to confirm the product onboard.

“The Nigerian Navy remains resolute in ensuring transparency towards ensuring holistic maritime security.

“The successful detection leveraging technology and arrest of MT SAISNIL II despite the distance aligns with key priorities of the Strategic Directives of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, emphasizing the Navy’s unweaving commitment to eradicating crude oil theft within the nations maritime environment for the economic prosperity of our dear nation.”

However, one of the crew members, Jimoh Olusola, said they were being intercepted wrongly because the vessel’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) was off.

He stated, “I am to transport this Sludge oil from Taraba jetty to Batch MV grate, Togo.

“I cast off on February 6, 2024, as I was proceeding, the NNS Sokoto intercepted me. They interrogated me and brought me to Lagos.

“They said my AIS is off, but my AIS has been on at Taraba jetty since November 30, 2023. In. December, some of the crew went home. I had issues with the battery that powers the AIS. But whenever they put off the power generating set, the AIS will go off. By then, I was stationed at Taraba jetty where we anchored.

“The Naval intelligence officer and the OIC of Taraba are aware that the ship was there throughout December and January until we cast off on February 6th. We were intercepted on February 12, 2024.”