Equatorial Guinea Detains a VLCC Accused of Oil Theft by Nigeria

VLCC detained in West Africa
VLCC is being detained in the Gulf of Guinea in a dispute with Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea (file photo)

Published Aug 16, 2022 4:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

A 300,000 dwt VLCC got into a dispute with the Nigerian authorities last week and was ultimately chased down and detained by the navy of neighboring Equatorial Guinea while the dispute is being investigated. Reports coming from the West African countries said that Equatorial Guinea has separately arrested the vessel contending that it illegally entered its water without permission as it sought to evade the Nigerian forces.

Built in 2020, the VLCC is named Heroic Idun and according to the AIS signal, she remains anchored at the port of Luba, which is used mostly as a logging port on the island Bioko in the Gulf of Guinea. She has a crew of 26 aboard, 16 Indians, eight Sri Lankans, one Pole, and one Filipino, and is being held while the situation is under investigation.

Equatorial Guinea Vice President Teodoro Nguema acknowledged on his Twitter account that the authorities have detained the Heroic Idun. He wrote, “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 offenses; first, entering our waters without prior authorization and second, navigating without an identifying flag.”

The local media is reporting 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. They reported the vessel for suspicious activity saying that they did not believe the vessel had permits from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), nor other valid documents to be at the offshore field. Despite that, they believed the vessel was loading oil.

After the tanker departed the terminal, the Nigerian Navy ship Gongola tried to establish communication with the tanker. They were attempting to question the vessel on its activity and inspect its papers.

According to the media reports, the tanker resisted the contract and at one point issued a warning of an attempted boarding that was recorded by the International Maritime Bureau. The media is calling the report a false alarm but says that when the vessel was ordered 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 neighboring Equatorial Guinea in the pursuit of the crude oil tanker. Nguema reports that the vessel was stopped on the afternoon of August 12 and ordered to sail to Equatorial Guinea.