The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Adm. Ibok-Ete Ibas, has said that the navy can reduce sea piracy and robbery with support from stakeholders.
Ibas gave the assurance shortly after addressing commanding officers, officers and ratings as part of his two-day operational tour of naval warships and formations in Onne, Rivers, on Sunday.
He said that information sharing from oil companies and merchant ships was critical to naval operations following series of recent attacks by pirates on the nation’s territorial waters.
“Such corporation is needed because the Navy lacks enough warships to maintain 24 hours presence on the nation’s vast territorial seas.
“We are covering 420 and 200 nautical miles which when multiplied gives us 84,000 nautical miles of sea space which is quite vast.
“The assets (warships) that we have is not enough to cover our vast maritime space, hence the reason why it is vital that all stakeholders will support the Navy.
“We have merchant ships and oil companies (rigs) that are doing business out there – of which we expect them to share information that will enable us achieve our desired objectives.
“In the last three months, criminal activities on sea have been on the increase but we have been able to chase them and foiled such attacks with limited resources in our disposal.
“However, we are currently re-capitalising to get our ships back to sea to enable us adequately end these rising robbery and pirate attacks on the nation’s sea,” he said.
Ibas said that its recent collaboration with navies from the U.S., Ghana and Togo enabled its warship to intercept a pirate boat which attempted to hijack a vessel in February.
He recalled that troops pursued the suspected pirates till they were arrested on the territorial waters of Sao Tome and Principe.
The Navy boss said that in spite of the fact that the attempted hijack of the vessel started in Cote d’Ivoire’s waters, it did not deter Nigerian warships from rescuing the situation.
“Similar support also led troops to foil an attempted hijack and abduction of 25 foreigners aboard a Maersk merchant ship carrying general cargo to Nigeria in February.
“If we have this kind of support from within (locally, we will have adequate information and intelligence to enable us do more.
“Our determination to check criminal activities at se, led to the recent launch of “Operation Tsaronteku” with focus on deploying the Eastern Naval fleet to combat the menace,’’ he said.
He said that troops began the clampdown on abandoned warehouses as a result of intelligence findings which revealed that most oil thieves used such facilities for illegal bunkering.
The Naval Chief said the mop up led to several discoveries, of which arrested suspects were handed over to relevant government agencies for investigation and prosecution.
It would be recalled that the Navy recently discovered some 2,000 drums containing one million litres of illegally refined diesel in an abandoned warehouse in Port Harcourt.
It also discovered thousands of storage tanks containing stolen petroleum products at government-owned Ship Builders Yard facilities in the city. (NAN)