Military seizes two vessels suspected of crude oil theft

An ocean going vessel identified as MT Askja and a barge have been seized by Nigeria’s Join Task Force on the grounds of a suspicion of being involved in loading of stolen crude oil.

The troops arrested the vessel together with the eight suspected oil thieves while the vessel was moored along the Forcados estuary in the Warri South West, according to JTF spokesman Isa Ado, cited by Platts.

According to him, the ship is currently secured at Yokri for preliminary investigation.

In addition, the command is reported to have confiscated an oil bunkering barge laden with 1000 metric tonnes of what was described as illegally acquired automated gas oil along the river Santa Barbara in Rivers State.

The arrest comes in the wake of Nigeria’s national oil company NNPC’s  lifting of ban on 113 tankers imposed in July.

The ban was ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 15th, but reasons behind the decision had not been disclosed. However, it is believed that the move was triggered by the country’s efforts to curb illegal oil trading.

The list of tankers attached to the ban consisted of mostly Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs), with some ship names appearing twice and others that have been absent from Nigerian waters for quite some time like the Happiness, the Huge and the Diona, operated by Iranian group NITC.

Following the ban lifting, ship owners have been cautioned by Intertanko to be very careful if trading in Nigerian waters as they might be exposed to checks and potential arrests arising from the ban. 

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