Navy Intercepts 2 Vessels, 4 Fishing Trawlers

The Nigerian Navy on Tuesday in Lagos said it had intercepted and arrested two tanker vessels and four fishing trawlers with 79 crew members on-board for various maritime offences.The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command (WNC), Rear Adm. Sylvanus Abbah, told newsmen of the arrests at the command’s headquarters in Lagos.He explained that: “In line with the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Ibok Ibas’ directives to rid Nigeria’s maritime environment of criminals, personnel of the WNC while on routine patrol arrested two tanker vessels and four fishing trawlers for various maritime related offences.“On July 2, at about 11:30 pm, MT DA-CHRIS was intercepted and boarded by naval personnel on routine patrol.“Upon boarding, the vessel was discovered to be imballast.“This raised further doubt on the activities of the vessel and prompted further investigation to ascertain the vessel’s dealings at sea,’’ he said.Abba said the ship’s Automatic Identification System was found to be constantly off, constituting a navigational and safety offence.“During the investigation, it was discovered that the vessel was operating with invalid documents”, he added.Aba told journalists that:“Again, on July 20 at about 05:48 am, our personnel sighted MV SISI COMFORT 1 lurking around ABO oilfield,’’ he said.Abbah said that the captain of the ship during interrogation earlier identified the vessel as ALPHA SIERRA.“Investigation revealed that vessel had about 34, 000 litres of Automated Gas Oil (AGO) in its storage tank, which they claimed they pumped from their bunker tank to the storage tank to balance the ship which was taking in water from its rudder.“The vessel was asked to produce documents, which they were unable to, and this raised suspicion on the activities of the vessel within the oilfield,’’ he said.Abbah also said that naval personnel, on Aug. 27 while on routine patrol, intercepted and arrested four fishing trawlers.“The four trawlers were arrested fishing in prohibited areas with catches totaling 154,280kg and several kilograms of loose fish.“At the time of arrest, the vessel had a total of 79 crew members, comprising of 28 Chinese nationals – seven on board each vessel -, three Ghanaians and 48 Nigerians.“On interrogation, it was discovered that the vessels were not listed on the July to August bi-monthly edition of the navy code word for fishing/trawling vessel at sea,’’ he said.The FOC said that vessels that could not produce relevant operating documents as requested were clear indication of their being engaged in Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Nigerian waters.“The four fishing trawlers are being handed over to the Federal Department of Fisheries.“The two other vessels are being handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) respectively for further investigation and possible prosecution,’’ he said.Abbah reiterated that the navy, in its renewed efforts to curb maritime domain of illegalities, would not tolerate any fraudulent activities in the nation’s maritime environment.“The command has zero tolerance for every form of criminality in its area of responsibility and advises defaulters to desist from such act or face the wrath of the law,’’ Abbah warned.