The Nigerian Navy said yesterday that the suspected rogue vessel, MT Heroic Idun, which veered into Nigerian waters with the intention to load oil illegally could not do so before it was accosted by Nigerian Navy Ship, Gongola at the Akpo Oilfield Terminal.

At a media briefing in Abuja, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo,  said the vessel only spent 12 hours on the Nigerian waters and barely 20 minutes at the oilfield.

Gambo, who was represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans (CPP), Rear Admiral Saidu Garba, reiterated that there was no piracy attack on Nigeria waters in the last one year, affirming that the vessel had not commenced loading at the said oil field before the Navy Ship Gongola accosted it for interrogation and ordered it to Bonny Anchorage.

“On August 7, 2022, it was observed that a very large crude oil carrier MT Heroic Idun entered the Nigerian maritime environment and headed for Akpo field without any form of authorisation or clearance. MT Heroic Idun (IMO: 9858058) is registered in Marshall Island with an overall length of 336 metres and capacity of three million barrels.

“The vessel arrived Akpo field midnight of August 7, 2022 with obvious intention of lifting crude oil within the field. This was, however, spotted by the Nigerian Navy Maritime Domain Awareness facility which probed the legitimacy of the very large crude carrier’s presence in the total SA operated by Akpo field.

“The outcome of all relevant enquiries from controlling agency, NNPC Ltd, revealed that the vessel was not cleared to be in Akpo oil field,” he said.

He said Nigeria lost nothing to the vessel, as NNS Gongola was deployed on August 8, 2022 and interrogated MT Heroic Idun, asking critical questions including mission and approval status.

“The Captain of the vessel duly responded to the questions and further stated that the MT Heroic Idun was without relevant clearance to operate in the field.

“Accordingly, the vessel was in line with normal procedure, ordered to turn around and follow NNS Gongola to Bonny anchorage pending when she will be cleared for loading by NNPC Ltd.

“However, the Captain after contacting the master/shipping agent refused to cooperate with NNS Gongola and stated that she had been told not to take directives from the Nigerian Navy Ship,” the Naval Chief said.

He noted that the defiance to constituted authority by the Captain of the vessel necessitated the Navy to invoke the collaboration of neighbouring Equatorial Guinea through the Yaounde architecture to arrest the vessel.

“I must state that the Nigerian Navy surveillance facility was used to track and constantly update the Equatorial Guinea Navy on the location of the rogue vessel,” he said.

The CNS said the vessel was arrested on August 12, 2022.

“While inside Akpo oil field, MT Heroic Idun approached the single Buoy Mooring between 1143 and 1208 at slow speed of about 3Kn, suggesting likelihood of commencing mooring operations but later aborted that motive and retreated outside the field.

“Clearly, she had not commenced taking products from the oilfield as being falsely alleged in some quarters,” he further explained.

The naval boss explained further that it was not a crime for vessels to come into Nigerian waters ahead of time without clearance pending same from authorities.

“It is worthy to note that it has been the Nigerian Navy’s modus operandi to monitor crude oil tankers that approach loading terminals without necessary clearance and effect arrest until the relevant agency approves their legitimate operation in order to avert crude oil losses adduced to theft,” he said.