The authorities in Equatorial Guinea have arrested 26 crew members of the MV Heroic Idun super oil tanker after evading capture by the Nigerian Navy on August 7.
The Heroic Idun, with International Maritime Organization number 9858058, was arrested by Equatorial Guinea’s Navy on Friday, following intelligence from the Nigerian Navy.
Comprised of 16 Indians, eight Sri Lankans, a Philippine and a Pole, the foreign nationals, first seen near the AKPO offshore oil field, were suspected by the Navy to be oil thieves.
A Navy source said the suspected oil thieves illegally entered Nigerian waters onboard a vessel capable of loading nearly three million barrels of Nigeria’s crude oil.
The source said the Navy became suspicious after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited said the vessel lacked permit to enter the country’s waters.
Detected by the Maritime Domain Awareness system, the vessel changed course facing Sao Tome and Principe after the Navy’s NNS Gongola tried intercepting it for questioning.
Confirming the arrest in a statement on Wednesday night, the Naval Director of Information, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, said that the feat marked the renewed collaboration between the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) nations.
Ayo-Vaughan said that the vessel, refusing to comply with the Navy’s order to sail to Bonny Fairway Buoy for interrogation, raised a false alarm that it was under pirates’ attack.
The statement noted that the vessel “resisted arrest when ordered to stop by NNS GONGOLA” and escaped towards the Nigeria-Sao Tome Joint Development Zone Area.
Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue of Equatorial Guinea said that the vessel, trading in “illegal fuel”, was stopped on August 12 off the coast of the Island of Annobon and later escorted by the Navy to Luba, where it arrived on August 13.
He said the vessel’s seizure by Equatorial Guinea “is a sign that cooperation between the countries is the only weapon to protect the coasts of the Gulf of Guinea.”
The Heroic Idun vessel is said to be owned by Hunter Tankers AS, domiciled in Scandinavia, Norway, but operated by Trafigura Maritime Logistics situated in the Netherlands.
The development comes barely a month after TotalEnergies EP Nigeria Ltd Managing Director Mike Sangster revealed that Nigeria loses $10 million daily to oil thieves.
Mr Sangster described the situation as “a huge loss for the country,” adding that to eradicate it once and for all, Nigeria must look “beyond the host communities.”
Also, Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, said in August that oil theft had become a national emergency, with approximately 400,000 barrels of crude stolen daily.
Mr Sylva said the massive crude theft affected Nigeria’s capacity to meet OPEC’s daily quota.
However, on Friday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd.) launched ‘Crude Theft Monitoring Applications’ to curb oil theft and pipeline vandalism.