Navy deploys 6 warships, two helicopters to protect oil installations

By Eugene Agha

The Nigerian Navy on Sunday deployed six of its warships and two helicopters to protect key critical oil facilities at sea. It was gathered that the move was to prevent sea robbers from taking advantage of the spread of Coronavirus to attack key installations.

The six warships along with other sister agencies embarked on the operation tagged ‘Treasure Guard 11’ targeted at putting a stop to activities of pirates and crude oil thieves operating around the country’s territorial waters.

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Covid-19 and the threat to maritime and port security

As the UK becomes the latest country to adopt a policy of restricted movement for its citizens, following (at least two metres behind) France, Spain and Italy in Europe, it’s important that we do not lose sight of the risks this presents.

Criminals and non-state threat actors do not necessarily follow health warnings and lockdown measures. If anything, they thrive in an environment like that. One example would be during WWII in the UK, where the German bombing of London turned the city into a criminals’ playground. During the four months of the London Blitz from September to December 1941, a total of 4,584 cases of looting were heard by the Old Bailey court, for example.

Organised crime and the black market flourished, and we should expect something similar to occur in maritime crime hot spots and High Risk Areas.

Over the weekend, seven crew were kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea, which underlines the risk. In the coming weeks, we should expect further incidents and, should food and energy supply lines be further affected by the pandemic, port and terminal security should be stepped up to mitigate any risk at ports from criminal gangs. It is likely that oil theft will increase in the Delta, although the Nigerian Navy is already making efforts to mitigate this.

In the Indian Ocean, the risks presented by Somali pirates remain low, but still present. An increase in Covid-19 cases in the country could potentially lead to further economic issues which will then drive criminals on to the water to look for ‘easy’ money. Combine this with the current issues being experienced by maritime security companies trying to embark armed security teams and it’s easy to see just how badly wrong things could go.

Organised criminal gangs will be aware that regional and international naval forces will have difficulties with crew rotations, bunkering etc. and may choose to exploit the situation by increasing smuggling operations in the Arabian Sea.

In Yemen, Houthi rebels, already making their presence felt in recent weeks with SVBIEDs (boat bombs), may attempt to disrupt crucial shipping lanes in order to focus world attention on their plight.

It’s a long list of maybes. But mitigation and prevention should be a paramount concern for anyone involved in maritime security.

Finally, thank you all for continuing to support the blog. We’ve had a sharp increase in readers from around the world, and I appreciate your support, even if I’m not in a position to earn any money from this (and that would be rather useful at the moment, as I’ve also lost earnings due to the virus).

Keep well, keep apart and stay safe.

In a first, India, France conduct joint patrols from Reunion Island

File image of US Navy P-8A Poseidon

Dinakar Peri

India and France, For the first time, have conducted joint patrols from the Reunion Island, signalling New Delhi’s intent to engage with friendly foreign partners in expanding its footprint in the Indian Ocean, focusing on the stretch between the East African coastline and the Malacca straits.

India has so far carried out Coordinated Patrols (CORPAT) only with maritime neighbours and had rejected a similar offer by the US.

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Pirates kidnap seven crew from MSC boxship off Gabon

Seven crew members onboard container vessel MSC Talia F have been kidnapped by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of Libreville, Gabon.

The 2015-built, 957-teu MSC Talia F, carrying 17 seafarers, is believed to have been en-route from Lome, Togo to Port Libreville, Gabon at the time of the pirates’ boarding, according to Dryad Global Maritime Security.

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COVID-19 impacting maritime security

The COVID-19 coronavirus will have a profound impact on commercial and security trends within shipping this year, and efforts to mitigate maritime crime in West Africa will be hampered if the virus continues to spread.

This is according to Dryad Global, which said the emergence of COVID-19 as a severe global public health issue has created significant ramifications, including economic disruption and the threat of a global recession, logistical complexities, geopolitical considerations, and security issues.

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Court Jails 11 Oil Thieves in Lagos to One Year Each

The Economic and Financial Crimes, EFCC, Lagos Zonal office, today, March 19, 2020 secured the conviction of eleven oil thieves alongside their Vessel, MT Jonko , before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.

The convicts are Umoh Akaninyene Clement, Moses Ogbodu, Ignatius Okereke, Valentine Amaegberi, Victor Egbowon, Emmanuel Bassey, Ademola Olasode, Sule Godwin Anyebe, Oyelami Akeem Oloyede, Otuagoma Emmanuel and Anthony Orhieoghenebruru.

Justice Aikawa found them guilty on all three counts and sentenced each one to one year Imprisonment on each count. The sentence is to take effect from their day of arrest. The judge also ordered the forfeiture of a vessel, MT Jonko, laden with 450 Metric tons of Crude Oil to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The Judge also imposed a fine of Six Hundred Thousand Naira (N600, 000. 00) on each of the convicts.

The convicts were first arraigned on three counts of illegal oil dealing on March 4, 2020 and they pleaded not guilty to the charge.

However, at today’s sitting, the defence counsel, O.J Aruwayo informed the court that his clients will like to change their plea.

The charge was read to them and they all pleaded guilty.

In view of their plea, the prosecution counsel, Bilkisu Buhari called a witness to review the facts of the case before the court.

Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Moses Awolusi, an operative with the EFCC, told the court that on the 24th of December 2019, the commission received a letter of notification from the Nigerian Navy, NNS Beecroft notifying them of the arrest of eleven oil thieves and a vessel, MT Jonko. He said that they were arrested on December 12, 2019 with 450 metric tons of crude oil on board the vessel.

Moses also narrated to the court that on the 3rd of January, 2020, his team proceeded to the vessel with officials of Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR and some naval personnel to take samples of the products on the vessel in the presence of the convicts and same was forwarded to the laboratory for analysis.

He then told the court that letters of investigation activities were sent to the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR and Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA to ascertain if the vessel had a license to deal in petroleum products and if they had a permit to sail on Nigerian Waters and responses were received.

Awolusi revealed that the responses showed that the convicts did not have a license to deal in petroleum products.

One of count reads: “That you MT Jonko, Umoh Akaninyene Clement, Moses Ogbodu, Ignatius Okereke, Valentine Amaegberi, Victor Egbowon, Emmanuel Bassey, Ademola Olasode, Sule Godwin Anyebe, Oyelami Akeem Oloyede, Otuagoma Emmanuel and Anthony Orhieoghenebruru on the 21st of December, 2019 within the jurisdiction of his Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit: dealing in 450 Metric Tonnes of petroleum product without appropriate license and you thereby commited an offence contrary to Section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 1(17) of the same Act.”

Tony Orilade Acting Head, Media & Publicity


Yemen security forces seize weapons onboard UAE aid ship

Yemeni security services in Socotra have seized an Emirati humanitarian ship carrying weapons and armoured vehicles, local sources said.

According to the sources, the “aid” ship belonged to the Khalifa Foundation for Humanitarian Affairs which is run by the UAE delegate in Socotra, Brigadier Khalfan Al-Mazroui.

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