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Nigerian Navy apprehends Ghana-owned tanker in suspected crude oil theft

Vessel Intercepted Off Nigerian Coast Amid Escalating Concerns Over Oil Theft Operations

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The Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft Operation Delta Sanity has intercepted a Ghana-owned motor tanker, SWEET MIRI, allegedly engaged in suspected crude oil theft, marking a significant development in efforts to combat illicit activities in Nigeria’s maritime domain.

According to Lieutenant H. Ibrahim, the NNS Base Information Officer, the vessel was apprehended 174 nautical miles off the Nigerian coast, approximately 320 kilometres, en route to the Benin Republic. The SWEET MIRI, manned by 13 crew members—one Ghanaian and 12 Nigerians—was found carrying approximately two million litres of the suspected product without official approval.

Rear Admiral MB Hassan, the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, underscored the gravity of the situation, emphasizing that the vessel had deactivated its Automatic Identification System to evade detection on February 25, 2024. The strategic response involved the deployment of naval assets, including Ship ABA and NNS Sokoto, to investigate and intercept the vessel.

Hassan emphasized, “The vessel’s suspicious activities prompted immediate action from the Nigerian Navy, under the leadership of Commodore Kolawole Oguntuga, Maritime Component Commander, Operation AWATSE.”

The FOC further revealed that the vessel, owned and registered in Ghana, remains open to scrutiny by relevant agencies for independent analysis to ascertain its involvement in the alleged illegal activities.

“In alignment with directives from Chief of the Naval Staff Vice Admiral EI Ogalla, the vessel, owned by a Ghanaian company, is subject to scrutiny by other agencies for comprehensive investigations,” Hassan affirmed.

Highlighting ongoing efforts, the FOC emphasized the necessity of probing beyond the vessel’s crew to identify key perpetrators orchestrating crude oil theft operations. He acknowledged the crucial role played by the Department of State Services in supporting the Nigerian Navy’s investigative endeavors.

The interception of the SWEET MIRI comes amidst a backdrop of heightened concerns over rampant incidents of oil theft and illegal refinery operations across Nigeria, underscoring the imperative for sustained collaborative efforts to safeguard the nation’s maritime resources.

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