Equatorial Guinea detains ship accused of stealing crude oil in Nigeria

Equatorial Guinea detains ship accused of stealing crude oil in Nigeria

A very large crude carrier (VLCC) named Heroic Idun has been detained by the navy in Equatorial Guinea after it got into a dispute with Nigerian authorities.

The 300,000 dead weight tonnage carrier got into a dispute with Nigerian authorities last week and was chased down and detained by the navy in that country.

Equatorial Guinea arrested the vessel contending that it illegally entered its water without permission as it sought to evade the Nigerian forces.

According to the AIS signal, the ship remains anchored at the port of Luba, which is used mostly as a logging port on the island Bioko in the Gulf of Guinea.

The VLCC, which was built in 2020, has a crew of 26 aboard, comprising 16 Indians, eight Sri Lankans, one Pole, and one Filipino, and is being held while the matter is being investigated.

The Vice President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema, confirmed the detention of the ship on his twitter handle.

“Equatorial Guinea is still investigating the tanker detained last week in Annobon following a tip-off from Nigeria. So far, the tanker has incurred two serious offences; first, entering our waters without prior authorisation and second, navigating without an identifying flag,” Nguema wrote.

The local media reported that Heroic Idun, registered in the Marshall Islands, was seen near the AKPO oil field, off the Nigerian coast, on August 7.

The Nigerian Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness facility was the first to detect the vessel and flagged it for suspicious activity.

After the tanker departing an offshore field in Nigeria, the Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Gongola tried to establish communication with its crew to question them on their activity and inspect ship’s papers.

The tanker reportedly resisted the contact and at one point issued a warning of an attempted boarding that was recorded by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which was later believed to be a false alarm.

When the vessel was ordered by NNS Gongola to proceed to Bonny Fairway for further interrogation, it instead increased its speed and changed its direction toward Sao Tome and Principe.

The Nigerian forces requested the assistance of neighbouring Equatorial Guinea in the pursuit of the crude oil tanker, which was eventually arrested on the afternoon of August 12 and ordered to sail to Equatorial Guinea.

Nigeria loses about $40 million daily to crude oil theft. Recently, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil are stolen every day in Africa’s largest economy.

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