The Nigerian Navy personnel in the Maritime Guards Command of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) while on routine patrol of the Lagos anchorage area arrested a vessel, MT Floris carrying 185 tons (about over 200,000 litres) of suspected illegally refined Automative Gas Oil (AGO) on board.
The 200 ton vessel with an 11 man crew was arrested in the course of routine checks when the captain could not produce any papers stating the product it was carrying, point of loading and discharge destination.
During questioning at the Head Office of NIMASA, the captain of the vessel Mr. Martins Odedele confirmed the illegality of the transaction but claimed that he was an emergency captain and so was unaware of the illegality of the trip until he got to the location.
He said “I have been in school for about a year now and just came back last week. I was asked by the owner of the vessel to be the emergency captain and was given the coordinates to get to the location which I accepted inorder to get some money for the family’s upkeep. I never knew it was an illegal transaction until we got there and it was too late for me to disembark as I had to captain the vessel back to Lagos. I was going to disembark and go away before your men arrested us.”
The captain who said the vessel is owned by Jowal Dreams Marine Limited also confirmed that it was the owner of the company, Hon. Joshua Adewale that sent them on the mission. Efforts to contact Hon. Adewale as at press time were unsuccessful.
Further investigations revealed that the product was loaded at Akassa, a community near Brass in Bayelsa State obviously from an illegal refining facility as the density of the AGO and its flashpoint are well below standard.
The captain of the vessel and the chief engineer Mr. Alex Ebinum have been taken to the Naval Base in Apapa pending further investigations while the vessel and the other nine crew members are being detained by officers of the Maritime Guards Command at the Lagos anchorage.
The tide of illegal refining activities has been increasing with its attendant loss of revenue to the government. Investigations show that these illegal refineries get their crude by bunkering oil facilities and this illegal business continues to flourish because there are ready buyers who are partners in this crime.
NIMASA is however poised to stem this tide by ensuring that all illegal activities in Nigeria’s maritime domain are checked. The Agency will continue to enforce its mandate with the aim curbing illegal and criminal activities in the nation’s waters.
It will be recalled that NIMASA, the Agency responsible for the administration of maritimesafety in the nation has powers to arrest ships, non convention vessels and small crafts suspected of carrying out illegal activities in section 35 (1) of the Merchant Shipping Act 2007.