Navy Releases Large Oil Tanker to Idun Maritime

Navy Releases Large Oil Tanker to Idun Maritime

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

About nine months after MT Heroic Idun, a large crude oil tanker was arrested and seized alongside its 26 foreign crew, the Nigerian Navy has released and handed over the vessel to its owner, Idun Maritime Limited.

The release of the vessel came after the international firm had fulfilled the conditions of the plea bargain agreement held with the government.

The large motor tanker with its crew on board had resisted arrests by the Nigerian Navy Ship Gongola, near the Akpo oilfield offshore Nigeria and but were later arrested in Equatorial Guinea in August 2022.

On arrest, the vessel and the 26 foreigners were brought back to Nigeria for prosecution in November 2022, on three count charge, including attempted oil theft. The trial was held before a federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The vessel and her 26 foreign crew in January 2023, had pleaded guilty and elected voluntarily to enter into a plea bargain agreement with the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as make restitution to the federal government, in the interest of justice, the public and for public policy interest in line with Section 270 (5) (a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.

The convicted vessel, MT Heroic Idun and its owners were to pay conviction fines and restitution to the federal government and make a public apology to the Federal Republic, while the government agreed not to further criminally prosecute and/or investigate the vessel, her owners, charterers or her crew in the matter of her crime against the state. All these being the conditions of the plea bargain without which the vessel and its crew would not be released.

The convicted vessel, having satisfied the conditions of the plea bargain was handed over officially at the weekend, to the owners, Idun Maritime Limited offshore on the Atlantic coast of Rivers State.

Handing over the vessel, the Commanding Officer, Forward Operating Base, Bonny, Navy Captain Mohammed Adamu, said prosecuting the vessel under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, 2019 further demonstrated the Nigerian Navy’s practical commitment to end oil theft in the country.

Adamu who spoke on board the vessel, vowed that the Nigerian Navy under the leadership of the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, would continue to work in synergy with other Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies, navies of the Gulf of Guinea states and strategic partners of Nigeria to ensure that Nigeria derives the maximum benefit from its natural resources in her vast maritime area.

He said: “The subsequent transfer of the ship from Equatorial Guinea after she had escaped Nigerian waters and her prosecution under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, 2019 further demonstrated the Nigerian Navy’s practical commitment to ensure that only valid and authorised vessels were allowed to carry out export of crude oil or gas at the various oil terminals and this is with a view to enhancing energy security governance in the country for improved national prosperity as directed by the Federal government of Nigeria.

“Pertinently, MT Heroic Idun having fulfilled all the aforementioned conditions of the plea bargain to the satisfaction of the Federal High Court has been released today Saturday 27 May 2023 to its owners, Idun Maritime Limited with the consent of the court and approval of the Federal government of Nigeria”.

Adamu said the Nigerian Navy would not fail to bring to book those whose operation infringe on the provisions of the SPOMO Act and all maritime laws and conventions acceded to by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Captain of the convicted vessel, Mr Tanuj Mehta, who spoke, revealed that they were treated professionally by the Nigerian Navy and was pleased that they would be returning back to their country.

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