CRUDE OIL THEFT
By Ejiofor Alike
One of the two ships arrested last week with 1.3million barrels of stolen crude oil and destroyed by the Joint military Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta has been linked to Croatia, THISDAY investigation has revealed.
It was also gathered that the Ship, MT ANE, which was built in 1986 and registered with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), bore a registration number 8509703.
The vessel, which is classified as General Cargo Ship, had a Dead Weight (DWT) of 5,896 and was flagged in St.Vincent and Grenadines on February 1, 2010.
According to Lloyd’s Register, the ship had flown the Croatian flag from August 1, 2006, until it had its status changed on February 1, 2010.
On the current and former classification of the vessel, THISDAY gathered that the ship was classified by Lloyd’s Register on November 11, 2001 and November 11, 2006, while Croatian Register of Shipping carried out its survey of the ship on December 12, 2011.
THISDAY could not get any concrete information on the vessel before it got involved in the crude theft incident, because there was no record showing that it legally berthed in any Nigerian Port.
However, it was known to have been inspected in 12 other ports in South Africa, Croatia, Italy and Slovenia, between September 23, 2002 and October 19, 2011.
It was inspected at Durban Port in South Africa on September 23, 2002 and Rijeka Port in Croatia on February 1, 2006 and July 31, 2006.
The vessel was also inspected at Gioia Tauro Port in Italy on April 2, 2007; November 5, 2007; July 10, 2008; and September 30, 2008.
It also berthed in Rijeka and Spilt Ports in Croatia on December 18, 2009 and March 3, 2010, respectively.
The last known destinations of the vessel were the Koper Port in Slovenia on October 8, 2010; Porto Empedo in Italy on December 9, 2010 and Chioggia in Italy on October 19, 2011, according to records available to THISDAY.
Records also showed that the ship was not detained by any of the ports’ authorities but a total of 30 unspecified deficiencies were recorded against it.
However, two other “human element deficiencies” were recorded against the vessel at Gioia Tauro Port in Italy on September 30, 2009 and Rijeka Port in Croatia on December 18, 2009.
Before the vessel was arrested and burnt, there was no record indicating that it had berthed legally in any Nigerian Port.
At the time of arrest in Nigeria, the ship and another, MT OXO, was siphoning the crude oil from a Manifold that belongs to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Abonnema area of Rivers State.
The JTF, which made the arrests at Awoba area, under the Sector 2 Commander, Brig-Gen. Tukur Buratai, also set the two vessels on fire, explaining that it was the mandate it got from the Defence Headquarters.
A security source, who witnessed the incident, told THISDAY that a JTF patrol team arrested the crude oil thieves siphoning crude from Shell’s Awoba Riser, based on the information received by the task force from CAST surveillance team.
Buratai, who was on ground to inspect the vessels, had confirmed that all the 22 crew members on board the two vessels were Ghanaians, while the two local captains and two speed boat drivers, who were picked up for the assignment from Camp 45, near Bille, were Nigerians.