For allegedly carrying out illegal activities in the Golf of Guinea, the Nigerian Government has handed over the fishing vessel, Marine 707 to Ghanaian authorities for further investigation and possible prosecution.
Nigeria also handed over 51 crew members including 48 Ghanaian and three South Korea nationals to the governments of Ghana and Korea respectively.
The Ghana flagged vessel with International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) number 7419755 and registration number 316880 is owned and operated by World Marine Company Limited, Japan. As at the time of arrest, it had 51 crew on board, with all being Ghanaians except three who are from the Republic of Korea.
The vessel had authorization to fish in Ghana and Benin waters but was arrested by Nigerian Navy on the 18th of May, 2020 around the Southwest of Lagos waters with her Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched off, after being suspected to be used for piracy or being used as a mother ship to conduct piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Navy handed over the vessel to Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) after preliminary investigations.
Speaking during the official hand over of the Ghanaian flagged vessel and the crew to the representatives of the two countries, Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said that the Navy, NIMASA partnership which is now hinged on intelligence has put Nigeria on a pedestal of winning the war against piracy and other illegal acts at sea.
Jamoh, represented by Commander, NIMASA Maritime Guard Command, Commodore Aniete Ibok, said that though preliminary investigations could not establish that the Vessel and her crew were directly linked to piracy, however the vessel still ran foul of international laws for shutting down its Automatic Identification System (AIS) 36 times in the last six months, three of which were done in Nigerian waters.
According to him “we are handing over this vessel to the Ghanaian authorities in the spirit of bilateral cooperation both countries enjoy. We have done our preliminary investigations and we are yet to establish any concrete evidence against the vessel. But again, we would not know what she would be doing whenever she turns off her AIS which occurred 36 times without being logged in her record book in line with international protocols and three of these were in our domain. However in the spirit of brotherhood that Ghana and Nigeria enjoys we are handing over the vessel to Ghana for further investigations”
The NIMASA DG warned that individuals or organizations thinking of perpetuating any form of illegalities in the Gulf of Guinea should be ready to face the full wrath of the law. This, he said, is because of the Antipiracy law in place, along with the Navy-NIMASA partnership is waxing stronger with major focus on security in the Nigerian maritime domain and the entire Gulf of Guinea.
“We will not condone any act of illegalities in our maritime space, we have improved our intelligence sharing with relevant Agencies and with what we are doing now in no distant time piracy will be a thing of the past in the Gulf of Guinea because we have a robust antipiracy law that will deal with perpetrators of illegalities in our waters.”
While receiving the vessel and the crew on behalf of the Ghana Maritime Authority, the Second Secretary, Consular of Ghana in Nigeria, David Ako Sowah, commended the Nigerian authorities for being professional in handling the case.
He said what Nigeria is doing is for the benefit of the entire countries in the Gulf Guinea.
In his words “As the big brother in this region, Nigeria has done well in showing a lot of maturity in handling this case and I want to assure you that Ghana would also look into more collaborations in Nigeria to ensure that the Gulf of Guinea remains safe for maritime activities.”
Equally speaking during the hand over, the Consular General of the Republic of Korea in Nigeria, Kim Ln-taek, commended the party involved in handling the case.
He said his findings from the Captain of the Ship who is a Korean informs that the AIS was bad.
He noted that the vessel and her crew erred by not following the protocols of logging it in the record books when the AIS was down but he was happy that the case has been resolved up till this point.