Heroic Idun Crew Scheduled for Court as Pressure Continues for Release
The crew of the VLCC Heroic Idun is scheduled for their next court appearance at the end of this week on April 28 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Reports in the Nigerian media indicate that pressure is building on the government to release the 26 crewmembers who have been detained in Nigeria since November and aboard their vessel since the incident at the beginning of August 2022.
International representatives continue to press the Nigerian government to resolve the case and release the crew with media reports saying that ambassadors of the countries for the crew have been continuing to appeal to the government. At the same time, the vessel’s owners Ray Carrier Carriers, and operators OSM Ship Management and charter BP, as well as the Marshall Islands as the flag state, and various unions have all been working with the international community including the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, for the release of the crew.
The 26 crewmembers along with their vessel were brought back to Nigeria in November and are being accused of illegally removing oil without a permit and entering a Nigerian oil terminal without authority. In addition, the vessel departed Nigeria and according to the Nigerian authorities made a false report that it was being pursued by pirates while the Nigerian Navy says it was seeking to stop the vessel to inspect its papers. The tanker proceeded to neighboring Equatorial Guinea where it was initially detained before the extradition back to Nigeria.
The crew made its last appearance in court on April 10 and according to reports in the Nigerian newspaper The Vanguard, another hearing is set for April 28. The first hearings took place on January 10 and 11 but were adjourned with later dates in February and March, which were also adjourned.
“We are in court and the owners came and said ‘we want an out-of-court settlement,’ but the process is yet to be firmed up,” the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMSA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh told The Vanguard. The newspaper reports that there is a push to reach a settlement that would involve a plea bargain for the release of the crew. There was no mention of what type of fine the shipping companies might face or if the vessel would also be released.
ISM Shipping is posting regular updates on social media to remind the maritime community of the fate of the seafarers. CEO Maria Dixon on LinkedIn expressed the continuing frustration writing “What are the Nigerians thinking or waiting for…” Dixon on April 22 wrote, “Next Week we should have news.”
The Nigerian authorities noted that the crewmembers are mostly Indian, Sri Lankan, and Polish nationals, acknowledging the pressure to resolve the case. The Vanguard quotes a naval spokesperson saying the push is on for a plea bargain, “but not yet has been firmed up.”