The Nigerian Navy on Friday announced the arrest of 16 Ukrainian nationals for illegally transporting 5 million liters of diesel without permit from Nigerian authorities.
Their vessel, ‘MT San Padre Pio’ and the 16 all-male crew members were held in the operation, Capt. Suleiman Olorundare, Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base, Bonny told newsman.
Commanding Officer of Nigerian Navy Forward Operations Base, Bonny, Navy Captain Suleiman Olorundare who the vessel, ‘MT San Padre Pio’ and the 16 all male crew members were held in the operation, disclosed that the vessel anchored around Odudu Oil Field, Rivers, and waited to discharge the petroleum product to smaller vessels before it was arrested by naval patrol team.
He said, “On Jan. 23, MT San Padre Pio with 16 crew members of Ukrainian nationals was arrested over unauthorized entry into the nation’s maritime environment.
“When our troops went on-board the vessel, they discovered that the vessel engaged in illegal trading activities that contravene the nation’s maritime and cabotage laws.
“The vessel was carrying petroleum product suspected to be diesel of about 5,000 metric tons (5 million liters),” he said.
The commanding officer said the seizure and arrest were carried out in compliance with ongoing clamp down on criminal activities within the nation’s territorial waters.
He said the suspects breached international maritime laws and procedure by shipping products in Nigeria’s waters without permit.
“We also discovered that the vessel has been coming into our territorial waters with petroleum products without recourse to the nation’s law that governs such activities.
“The Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Ibok-Ete Ibas, is passionate about zero tolerance on illegality on our waters, and as such, we are fully focused on sustaining this mandate.
“The Nigerian Navy will continue to arrest and prosecute criminal elements who carry out illegalities on our maritime environment with intent to making legitimate economic activities thrive,” he said.
Captain Olorundare handed the vessel, petroleum product and suspects to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further investigation and possible prosecution.
Captain of MT San Padre Pio, Andriy Vaskov, claimed that the vessel had clearance from the Nigerian Navy to ship the product to Nigeria.
He said that they lifted the product from Lome in Togo and attempted to discharge the product at Odudu oil fields to its Nigerian partners before their arrest.
“This is about the fifth time that we have transported petroleum product to the country,” he confessed.
Vaskov named Blue Sea Marine Company as its Nigerian partners.
It would be recalled that Cabotage laws now make it mandatory that foreign vessels seeking to transport petroleum products to Nigeria must get clearance from the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) before shipment.
Meanwhile, two Canadian Naval Ships, HMCS SUMMERSIDE and HMCS KINGSTON, on Friday berthed in Lagos to foster the existing bilateral relationships and boost capacity of military personnel in Nigeria.
The Commander, Royal Canadian Navy, Vice Adm. Ron Llyod, who led the Canadian Naval team, told journalists that the visit was aimed at strengthening cooperation between the two countries’ navies.
The Canadian Navy Ships will also participate in the maritime exercise with the Nigerian Navy, United Kingdom and United States Navy coming up later in the year.
“We have two Canadian ships that will be operating in the maritime exercise; so we are very grateful for the Nigerian Navy’s hospitality,” he said.
Llyod said that he and the entire crew were very delighted to make this call to Nigeria.
“We have 75 crew members in the two ships,” he said.
Speaking while receiving the ship and its crew, Rear-Admiral Sylvanus Abbah, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, said that the visit emphasized the existing cordial bilateral relationship between Nigeria and Canada.
Abbah said he was delighted that the Canadian Navy came to Nigeria, adding that the country’s navy would also return the visit.
He said that the visit displayed one of the flag showing roles of navies worldwide, adding that friendly navies exchange visits like this.
Abbah said that the visit would further cement the existing relationship between Nigeria and Canada.