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Nigerian Navy Burns Tanker Caught Stealing Oil

Oily sheen
Routine gas flaring in the Niger Delta (file image)

Published Oct 16, 2022 10:40 PM by Brian Gicheru Kinyua

Days after Nigerian national oil company NNPC revealed details of an extensive seaward pipeline used for oil-theft from private oil companies, the Nigerian Navy set ablaze a small tanker which was allegedly used for oil theft in the Niger Delta.

The 87-meter long vessel, MT Deino (IMO 7210526), was allegedly intercepted on October 6 by a private security firm called Tantita Security Services Limited (TSSL). The company was newly contracted to offer private surveillance for pipeline infrastructure within Niger Delta.

TSSL and a Nigerian Navy unit based in Delta State arrested the ship on the creeks of Escravos River while crude oil was being loaded. Eight crewmembers including the master, Captain Temple Manasseh, were detained in the ambush.

About 650 cubic meters of crude oil had been pumped into the vessel from an illegal connection attached to a pipeline belonging to Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL).

The Nigerian Navy set the vessel on fire after a confession by Captain Manasseh that the ship was indeed laden with stolen crude. However, the captain claimed that some gunmen had hijacked his vessel who led it to Escravos creeks and forcefully loaded the crude oil.

“I was arrested in Escravos by TSSL officers but the alleged stolen crude oil was not loaded by me. My vessel was hijacked by some men who forced the loaded crude into my ship. I do not know the hijackers at all. But when TSSL operatives stormed the scene, they all run away and abandoned their loading operation which had lasted about two and half hours,” said Captain Manasseh.

According to Captain Warren Enisuoh, TSSL Marine Intelligence Consultant, who briefed journalists on the operation, MT Deino lacked credentials for an ocean-going vessel and should  operate as a river vessel.

Captain Enisuoh affirmed that MT Deino’s arrest was as a result of intelligence gathering and use of remote sensing capabilities.

“It is among the list of vessels being monitored constantly and it has been evading the authorities for some time. It was frequenting the Niger Delta and carrying crude illegally to Ghana, precisely the Port of Tema. We have intelligence on other four vessels and our advice is that they should not come near Nigerian waters,” added Enisuoh.

The arrest of MT Deino shows progress in the war against crude oil theft after Nigerian government announced crackdown. In August, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered security agents to intensify operations to halt widespread oil theft in the Niger Delta. The order came within a week after a VLCC was detained in Equatorial Guinea laden with crude oil stolen from Nigeria.