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Business, Maritime

Controversy Trails Where-Abouts Of Arrested Ship

Posted: Jul 31, 2015 at 12:11 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The fate of a 5,000 tonnes vessel; MT Sapphire 1, allegedly arrested by the Nigerian Navy is generating concerns among indigenous shipowners. The Navy has insisted that the vessel is not in its custody contrary to claim of the owners.

Naval authorities told Daily Independent that arrested vessels are released to appropriate authorities within 72 hours maximum. Such vessels arrested for illegal activities are handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Civil Defence Corps and Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

The Naval officer, who did not want to be named, noted that nothing like MT Sapphire was in its custody.

A member of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) and Managing Director of Mercury Oil Limited, Mr. Osita Onumonu, alleged that the Togolese flagged vessel, MT Sapphire 1 was arrested on February 18, 2014 by the Nigerian Navy offshore Agbara and was subsequently taken to Fomoso in Bayelsa State.

Osita explained that preliminary investigations have shown that the vessel was attacked by pirates shortly after it was engaged in a Ship-to-Ship transfer operation. He said that through the AIS of the vessel, the captain was able to alert the Navy which consequently arrested the vessel and refused to let it go.

”MT Sapphire 1 has been under arrest by the Nigerian Navy. I trade with the vessel sometimes I take products for individuals and companies including the company doing the bar beach construction. One such occasion, my company sought for a Naval clearance from the Nigerian Navy for an STS off Agbara Offshore on two badges, we finished the STS and unfortunately we were attacked, in the course of the attack we alerted the navy, when they arrived the pirates abandoned the vessel.

“The Navy took over the vessel and did their investigation for one month; they took all my crew and put them in detention at their base.

After this, they came up with their report which they sent to Abuja, after this nothing was done.

“They did not charge the crew to court; they detained them for seven months. When the heat was much, they transfered the case to Nigerian Civil Defense Corps, which released my crew and the vessel after its findings. They wrote to the Navy to release my crew and disembark from my vessel but they refused,” Osita said.

He alleged that about 1.8million diesel worth about N300million was loaded on the vessel shortly before it was arrested but the Civil

Defense in the investigation found out that the product has been stolen in the custody of the Navy.

Osita claimed that his bank; Diamond bank have already sold his property in Lekki in order to make for the money he owed for the purchase of the vessel, as well as the purchase of the product.

Osita said that an estimation of about N3billion has been lost during the one year and six months that the vessel has been under the arrest of the navy.

He also said that the vessel was dragging and almost grounded before he was alerted and quickly called in divers to rescue the vessel.

He said that he had sued the Navy to court but that they had refused to show up in court. He also said that his association; NISA is also doing all it can on the mater.

“This is the issue we face everyday. This is what happens to every other of my colleagues, and at the end of the day they will tell you the vessel was doing illegal bunkering, some shipowners have abandon their vessel out of frustration. I bought this vessel 3.1million

Euros. I am wondering, I suspect that somebody has an eye on her because the vessel is new, that is how they auction so many peoples’ vessels”

”My prayers is that my vessel should be released, I am not even talking about the product for now, I need to pay back debt I owed the bank,” he said.