Captain Tajudeen Alao (President, Master Mariners Association)
This incident has international exposure and has involved diplomatic engagements. It has been resolved amicably among the parties involved. We would have to reach out to the Navy to get the whole facts of what transpired. However, one thing is sure, from all the investigations carried out on the issue, I am sure a lot of intelligence ingredients, especially as regards the modus operandi of illegal oil lifting, have been gathered by the Nigeria Navy.
Barr. Osuala Nwagbara (Maritime Lawyer)
Nigeria saw the case as an opportunity to assert its Sovereign authority over its territorial waters as defined under the Nigerian Territorial Waters Act, and as delimited under the law of the seas. For a long time, the impression has been created that the Nigerian territorial waters space is ungoverned, such that any foreign vessel could come into the territorial waters illegally without consequences. So, Nigeria used the opportunity to send a strong message to foreign vessels that the Nigerian Navy is watching over Nigerian waters within the remit of her jurisdictional powers. It was also a litmus test of the effectiveness of the agreement on the collaboration of the national Navies of the member States of the regional maritime organisation, under MOWCA’s Yaounde Agreement of 2013 on the repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships, and illicit Maritime activities in West and Central Africa. From the outcome of the case, it is doubtful if the charge was justified in the first instance, considering that offences committed against the provisions of the SPOMO Act attract heavy penalties for the offender. In my considered view, the effectiveness of the SPOMO Act was not put to test. From the facts in the public space, the case qualified for one which should have been resolved without involving the court at all.
Captain Williams Ogunsakin ( Master Mariner)
The Navy did well by arresting the ship at last. On the issue of ship arrest, we are complaining about the indiscriminate arrest of ships. Not only that but also indiscriminate detention of the crew. The only person they can hold is the Captain or the Chief Officer. Arresting the whole crew is an injustice. I don’t know the part of the Convention that supports that but under MLC, you cannot subject the crew to that inhumane treatment. IMO and the MLC 2006 do not permit that. For them to have released the vessel now is a good thing but it was too long. Justice was delayed and justice delayed is justice denied. The owner of the vessel or the charterer should have the impact and not the crew. That is what we have been facing in this part of the world.
Dr. Chris Ebare (Maritime Lawyer)
First and foremost, as a chartered sea broker and maritime lawyer, I have a bias for the crew. We don’t know if the manifest or document that was issued for them to load has been approved by the government. We would need to first of all authenticate the documentation with the Captain and crew members of that vessel. Was it duly issued by the relevant authorities? If it was duly issued by them, then the crew and vessel should have been set free immediately without any delay even with apology. If knowingly to the Captain and the Crew that the voyage they were coming for looking at what is happening in Nigeria today in the oil industry was orchestrated by an illegal or unauthorised body, I would subscribe that the crew should even be detained the more. So in essence, I rely my submission solely on the originating document for those crew and the vessel to enter our territorial waters to load the crude oil products. Thank God the crew and the vessel have been released already.
Engr. Matthew Alalade (Former President, Merchant Navy)
I would say the Nigerian Navy can just detain for some time. It is the Judiciary or Government that can ask them to stay in custody of the Navy based on legal grounds. The Nigerian Navy has tried their best to handle the situation.. Since it is a foreign flagged vessel, everybody will soft pedal somehow and to keep everything safe, I think the Navy has done their part. The Navy can just keep them in their Custody, they cannot detain them for safety purposes until negotiations are concluded and they are totally released.
Barr. Mike Igbokwe SAN (Maritime Lawyer)
After the arrest of the ship and her crew, the NN caused criminal charges to be filed against them in the Federal High court under our SPOMO Act, thereby giving them an opportunity to be heard and to defend themselves. This is according to Nigerian laws.
Captain Segun Akanbi (President of Maritime Professionals Forum)
The MT Heroic Idun’s case is seeming like an act of criminalizing seafarers. This is unacceptable. Nigerian seafarers have been experiencing similar unlawful long detentions, undue intimidation and bullying from various law enforcement agencies in Nigeria without much concern to the general public, now they have extended the same to the international trade. The aftermath of the ongoing tension could have a downturn effect on our economy if care is not taken. We can adopt a more transparent and civilized approach to diplomatic and commercial interface rather than creating an ambiguous process and subjecting seafarers to long detention.
I do not have enough details to establish my professional perspective of the case, it has been left for the Court which has taken a decision already and the vessel and crew have been released. However, I can tell you categorically that seafarers are always the most vulnerable resource of the industry.
Engr. Wale George (Vice President, Nigerian Merchant Navy)
The Navy has a limited time they can keep the crew for investigation. After investigation is carried out and it is discovered that the crew are not aware of the problem, they should release and grant them bail while they are still investigating further. They are not expected to keep the crew for more than 21 days. If there is a need for them to come for questioning, then you invite them. The Master and the Chief Engineer should be invited to come and present the crew to defend the job. So it is wrong for the Navy to keep the crew who are not aware of the nature of the job they are told to do. But they can arrest the vessel and prosecute. If they find them guilty, then they can be handed over to the EFCC or the court to make a decision. The owner has sent them on an errand and the owner is liable. Our country should be careful on how they arrest a vessel. This may discourage ship owners who may start selling their vessels and seafarers will not have jobs to do.