ICS Calls for Nigeria to Release Crew of Heroic Idun
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is the latest organization to call for an immediate release from detention of the crew of the oil tanker Heroic Idun who are now being held in Nigeria and scheduled to go on trial in January. The All India Seafarers Union has been calling attention to the case while the vessel’s owners and operators including BP have all asserted that the tanker was operating legally. The vessel’s Flag State, the Marshal Islands, has also filed legal appeals for the vessel and its crew.
The seafarers are currently being held in Nigeria and face charges for alleged involvement in oil theft and “faking a piracy attack” in breach of Nigeria’s Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act. The crew of 26, mostly consisting of Indian and Sri Lankan seafarers, were arraigned by Nigeria on the charges in mid-November after the incident which took place at the beginning of August. They had been detained at the request of Nigeria in Equatorial Guinea for nearly three months before the tanker was ordered to return to Nigeria despite efforts by the Flag State and others to prevent their return to Nigeria to face the charges.
The ICS is urging for a swift and appropriate resolution to ensure the well-being and safety of all the crew. They are emphasizing that the treatment and welfare of the 26 crew members is of utmost importance with several of the crew suffering from typhoid fever and malaria.
They are citing the shipping companies’ statements that no unlawful activity was taking place and that vessel had the appropriate clearances to load oil from the Akpo offshore terminal in Nigeria. It has also been pointed out that the Nigerians only charged the tanker and its crew and not anyone from the oil platform or the oilfield's operating owner, the Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC.
“This unacceptable detention of the Heroic Idun crew must be resolved as quickly as possible,” said Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping. “It is essential that this situation is de-escalated, and that the seafarers and ship are released,” he said while calling for the Nigerian authorities to urgently review the case rather than waiting until next year.
The ICS is saying that the physical and mental well-being of the crew has suffered significantly as a consequence of the three-month ordeal. Their trial is currently scheduled for January 10, 2023.
“Failure to pragmatically end this situation now will see it drag on into the next year, with no benefit to anyone, and so we urge its swift resolution,” said John Stawpert, Senior Manager Environment and Trade of the International Chamber of Shipping with speaking at the Shared Awareness and De-Confliction (SHADE) Gulf of Guinea (GoG) meeting on November 23.
Stawpert highlighted the strong progress made in the region to combat piracy. “However, the Heroic Idun case highlights areas for significant improvement which if unresolved could undermine the progress to date,” he told the conference.
The ICS reports it has also engaged with the International Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organization, along with the International Group of P&I Clubs and the International Transport Workers Federation, calling on the IMO and ILO to provide urgent assistance by reminding the governments of both Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria of their legal obligations under international law.