The Nigerian government has handed over the fishing vessel Marine 707 suspected to be carrying out illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea to the Ghanian authorities for further investigation and possible prosecution.
Nigeria also handed over 51 crew members including 48 Ghanians and three South Koreans to the government of Ghana and Korea respectively.
The vessel, which had authorization to fish in Ghana and Benin waters, was arrested by the Nigerian Navy May 18, 2020 southwest of Lagos with her Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched off after being suspected to be used for piracy or being used as a mothership to conduct piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Ghana flagged vessel with IMO number 7419755 and registration number 316880 is owned and operated by World Marine Company Limited, Japan and as at the time of arrest it had 51 crew on board with all being Ghanians except three who are from the Republic of Korea.
While speaking during the official hand over of the Ghanian flagged vessel and the crew to the respective authorities, the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Bashir Jamoh, who was represented by the agency’s commander, Maritime Guard Command, Commodore Aniete Ibok, disclosed that though preliminary investigations could not establish that the vessel and her crew were directly linked to piracy, the vessel still ran foul of international laws for shutting down its AIS 36 times in the last six months, three of which were done in Nigerian waters.
“We are handing over this vessel to the Ghanaian authorities in the spirit of bilateral cooperation both countries enjoy. We have done our preliminary investigations and we are yet to establish any concrete evidence against the vessel but again, we would not know what she would be doing whenever she turns off her AIS which occurred 36 times without being logged in her record book in line with international protocols and three of these were in our domain. However in the spirit of brotherhood that Ghana and Nigeria enjoy, we are handing over the vessel to Ghana for further investigations,” he said.
The NIMASA DG further warned that individuals or organizations thinking of perpetuating any form of illegalities in the Gulf of Guinea should be ready to face the full wrath of the law.
He said, “We will not condone any act of illegalities in our maritime space. We have improved our intelligence sharing with relevant agencies and with what we are doing now, in no distant time piracy will be a thing of the past in the Gulf of Guinea because we have a robust anti-piracy law that will deal with perpetrators of illegalities in our waters.”
While receiving the vessel and the crew on behalf of the Ghana Maritime Authority, the Second Secretary Consular of Ghana in Nigeria, David Ako Sowah, said, “As the big brother in this region, Nigeria has done well in showing a lot of maturity in handling this case and I want to assure you that Ghana would also look into more collaborations in Nigeria to ensure that the Gulf of Guinea remains safe for maritime activities.”
Consular General of the Republic of Korea in Nigeria Kim Ln-taek, said his findings from the Captain of the ship who is a Korean revealed that the AIS was bad. He noted that the vessel and her crew erred by not following the protocols of logging it in the record books when the AIS was down but he was happy that the case has been resolved.