The Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base (FOB) Igbokoda in Ondo has announced the arrest of a 77-meter-long Motor Tanker (MT) VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS. According to a statement by the Nigerian Navy, the vessel had 17 crew members onboard at the time of arrest in the early hours of Thursday 7 December, 2023 and were caught engaging in illegal siphoning of crude oil from one of the well heads at EBESAN oil field about 7 nautical miles off the coast of Awoye riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State.
The apprehension of the vessel, the Navy revealed, was based on credible intelligence received by the Base on illegal activities of crude oil thieves at the location, which informed the swift deployment of FOB IGBOKADA personnel to enforce the arrest of the vessel and her crew. The Navy further stated that as the Anti-Crude Oil Theft Patrol Team of the forward operating base approached the MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS, the two boats attached to the vessel fled on sighting the naval personnel, which confirmed the engagement of the vessel in illegality.
When the Naval Patrol Team arrived at the scene, they discovered that the vessel was actively involved in siphoning crude oil from both sides of the well head and upon further search and interrogation, it was discovered that the vessel had on board 17 crew members of Nigerian nationality. The vessel’s storage capacity is about 15,000 metric tonnes and as at the time of arrest, she had loaded about 500 Metric tonnes of crude oil.
The Nigerian Navy in the statement fingered Tantita Security Service (TSS) owned by former militant leader, Government Tompolo in the crude oil theft pointing out that Awoye riverine area, which is close to the place of arrest of the vessel is covered by TSS. The Navy noted that it was upon the arrest of the vessel by the Nigerian Navy that Tompolo’s TSS began to raise false alarm, which the Navy described as totally unfounded and mischievous.
The Navy reiterated its readiness to remain resolute in the pursuit of her constitutional mandate of protecting Nigeria’s maritime environment for national economic development and prosperity while pointing out that the arrest of MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS attests to the Nigerian Navy’s determination to curb crude oil theft and all manners of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime domain.
The Navy in the statement solicited the cooperation of members of the pubic to promptly report any form of criminalities especially in the coastal communities to the Nigerian Navy for necessary action.