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JTF Orders Immediate Release of Vessel Accused of Carrying Stolen Crude

By Moses Patience Chat

The Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) has ordered the immediate release of MT Praisel Vessel to continue it operations in line with extant approvals, after it was arrested for allegedly carrying stolen crude.

The Commander of Joint Task Force, OPDS, Rear Admiral Olusegun Ferreira, disclosed this on Sunday, during a press briefing, stating that the vessel has met all standards of operations.

He noted that MT Praisel was granted approval by the Nigerian Mid-Stream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to load 1,114,721L of High Pour Fuel Oil (HPFO) from Greenmac Energy Storage at Tarus Jetty Koko from 26 July -8 Aug. 2023.

His words: “This approval was subsequently amplified by the Nigerian Navy for compliance. Accordingly, in line with extant procedures, Nigerian Navy personnel were deployed on board MT Praisel to monitor the vessel’s loading and discharge to ensure strict compliance with the approval by NMDPRA and the Nigerian Navy.

“However, on August 2, 2023 Tantita Security Services Ltd, (reportedly acting on intelligence), suspected the vessel to be laden with crude oil and approached an element of OPDS to accompany their operatives to board the vessel to confirm the product on board.

“It is pertinent to note that Tantita and other pipeline surveillance companies do not embark on independent operations. The Operations are conducted in conjunction with OPDS units and troops based on intelligence provided by sources.

“Subsequently, the vessel was taken to Escravos Anchorage in the early hours of August 3, 2023 for verification of the product on board and other investigations due to the weighty suspicion and zero tolerance for Crude Oil Theft (COT) by the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

He added that it was also necessary to display transparency and synergy in any investigation bordering on COT and that “it is necessary to clarify that Pipeline Surveillance Contractors including Tantita are only to provide credible intelligence to the OPDS elements working with them and are not permitted to independently carry out operation to intercept or arrest any vessel.

“It is noteworthy that in this case, Tantita did not intercept or arrest MT Praisel but the vessel was directed to proceed to Anchorage for investigation.”

He stated further that on the August 3 and 4 2023 samples of the product were taken for tests by the Nigerian Navy, Tantita and the NMDPRA who is the regulatory authority on matters relating to mid and downstream petroleum products in Nigeria.

“This is also in line with the harmonized Standard Operating Procedures on the arrest, detention and prosecution of vessels and persons in Nigeria’s Maritime Environment 2016.

“The result of the test have been received and confirmed the product on board TM Praisel to be HPFO as approved by NMDPRA and not crude oil as suspected.

“I have with me here a copy of the test result and certificate of quality from NMDPRA confirming the product on board TM Praisel to be consistent with Nigerian Industrial Standard Specification for HPFO,” he said.