Oil Theft: JTF clears, releases vessel to continue operation

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By Shedrack Frank

The Joint Task Force (JTF) deployed to protect oil facilities in the Niger Delta, Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) on Sunday absolved the impounded vessel, MT Praisel, of involvement in oil theft and cleared her to continue its operations.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the clearance follows the discovery that the vessel’s operation was legitimate and received extant approvals.

Rear Admiral Olusegun Ferreira, the Commander of JTF, who stated this during a press briefing at the JTF Headquarters in Yenagoa, said the vessel met the standards to operate legally.

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He explained that MT Praisel was granted approval by the Nigerian Mid-Stream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to load 1,114,721 litres of High Pour Fuel Oil (HPFO).

Ferreira said the vessel was to convey the product from Greenmac Energy Storage at Tarus Jetty Koko in Delta from July 26 July to Aug. 8, adding that the approval was subsequently amplified by the Nigerian Navy for compliance.

He said that the Nigerian Navy personnel were deployed on board to monitor the vessel’s loading and discharge to ensure strict compliance with the approval by the NMDPRA.

“However, on Aug. 2, 2023 Tantita Security Services Ltd, reportedly acting on intelligence, suspected the vessel to be laden with crude oil and approached an element of Operation Delta Safe to accompany their operatives to board the vessel to confirm the product on board.

“It is pertinent to note that Tantita and other pipeline surveillance companies do not embark on independent operations. Operations are conducted in conjunction with OPDS units and troops based on intelligence provided by sources.

“Subsequently, the vessel was taken to Escravos Anchorage in the early hours of August 3, 2023 for verification of the product on board and other investigations due to the weighty suspicion and zero tolerance for Crude Oil Theft (COT) by the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

“It was also necessary to display transparency and synergy in any investigation bordering on COT.

”Accordingly, it is necessary to clarify that Pipeline Surveillance Contractors including Tantita are only to provide credible intelligence to the OPDS elements working with them and are not permitted to independently carry out operations to intercept or arrest any vessel,” he said.

The Commander explained that in this case, Tantita did not intercept or arrest MT Praisel but the vessel was directed to proceed to Anchorage for investigation.

He said that on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 samples of the product were taken for tests by the Nigerian Navy, Tantita and the NMDPRA.

“This is also in line with the harmonised Standard Operating Procedures on the arrest, detention and prosecution of vessels and persons in Nigeria’s Maritime Environment 2016.

“The results of the tests have been received and confirmed the product on board TM Praisel to be HPFO as approved by NMDPRA and not crude oil as suspected.

“I have with me here a copy of the test results and certificate of quality from NMDPRA confirming the product on board TM Praisel to be consistent with Nigerian Industrial Standard Specification for HPFO,” he said.

The Commander said that OPDS would continue to display high sense of diligence, transparency, synergy and professionalism in pursuance of the mandate to checkmate COT and other associated crimes in the Joint Operations Area.

He added that the OPDS would work with all partners, stakeholders and credible industry players to protect oil and gas infrastructure for the economic prosperity of Nigeria.(NAN)

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