Fresh facts on the atrocities of MT Vinnalaris in Nigeria waters have emerged as the Federal Government dig deep into the activities of the ship.
Apart from a change in its name to conceal its true identity, the ship has been embroiled in several illegalities in Nigeria’s waters culminating in its arrest on more than one occasion.
These were revealed by the Head of Technical and Operations, Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, Captain Warredi Enisuoh in a television interview monitored by our correspondent recently.
According to Enisuoh who was hitherto, a Deputy Director in the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the 77 meters motor tanker (MT), was arrested by the Nigerian Navy on December 7, 2023, stating that the ship has been operating on Nigeria’s waters since 2018. It also successfully changed its name four times in the last five years of its operation in Nigeria flagging first as Sierra Leonean in 2018.
He disclosed that Tantita had gotten intelligence on 10th of November that the ship was departing Ghana into Nigeria with the intention to steal oil.
His words: “The ship started stealing oil from Nigeria in 2018. We were not present at that time. It departed Ghana with the intention to come and steal crude oil in Nigeria. This was around 10th of November this year. We knew about it. We knew the ship is well-connected. And we followed the ship till it switched off its electronic signature about three weeks ago.
“We had to create an umbrella over the Niger Delta region. And we kept monitoring. And let me tell you the history of the ship. First, as Sierra Leonean flag stealing from Nigeria. Nobody could catch it. We were not here at the time. Second, it came closer to Nigeria, possibly scared of the previous administration’s stand against this oil theft. It kept its flag as to believe. But see something very ironic, May this year it changed its flag to Nigeria. How ironic. It must be connected to somebody who thinks he has won and can steal now. When we caught this particular ship, we followed it for over a month till we got intelligence that yes, it is illegal.”
The maritime expert stated that Tantita has shared its reports with the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC), including the names of persons involved in the arrested vessel just as it is awaiting further instructions before making its public.
According to him, we left in the morning to make sure that we secure the ship. We got there but on our way there, we got further intelligence that it has got four AK-47 with banks of ammunition on board. They are becoming smarter.
He disclosed that the oil which was tapped from an oil well suspected to be from Consolidated Oil was facilitated by a Nigerian male whose phone number is known by Tantita and who is currently on the run.
He also revealed that the ship’s management is registered at Odessa, Ukraine adding that there are layers to the story which TSSNL is still investigating.
“The fellow is on the run. He is a Nigerian. He lives in Benin. If we reveal him here, he won’t come. He is on the run. We have his phone number and we have everything. He is an expert in connecting these hoses. And this is not the first time in that area. That area is notorious and well known for ships coming to do this. So, he just went straight to the platform, hooks on to the supply couple and load”, he added.