Oil tanker detained in Equatorial Guinea must return to Nigeria – officials

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LAGOS, Nov 10 (Reuters) – A supertanker accused by Nigerian authorities of attempting to illegally load crude oil before leaving its territorial waters is on its way back to the country, a spokesman for Nigeria told Reuters on Friday. the Nigerian Navy.

At the request of Nigerian authorities, Equatorial Guinea arrested the Heroic Idun, a ship capable of carrying 2 million barrels of oil, on August 17 for sailing without an identifying flag, fleeing the Nigerian Navy and sailing in the waters Equatoguineans without prior authorization. .

Nigerian officials said Messrs. Idun Maritime Ltd, a company based in the Marshall Islands, owned the vessel. Reuters could not reach Idun Martime.

Nigerian Navy spokesman Commodore Kayode Ayo-Vaughan told Reuters that two Nigerian Navy ships began escorting the ship to Nigeria on Friday afternoon.

Refinitiv ship tracking on Friday showed the ship’s destination was Bonny, Nigeria.

A spokesperson for the Equatoguinean government did not immediately respond to request for comment. On November 7, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, vice president of Equatorial Guinea and head of defense and security, said on Twitter that he had authorized the ship to return to Nigeria.

The oil theft has taken more than 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Nigeria’s oil production, crippled state finances and propelled it from Africa’s top exporter to number two, according to Nigeria’s state-owned oil company.

Nigeria said the ship did not load oil before the navy approached it, but said the ship made a false claim of a piracy attack, entered a restricted area without permission and attempted to illegally load crude oil.

The ship’s manager, OSM Maritime, said in a statement that when the Navy approached it was waiting for clearance documents, that the crew sincerely believed they were facing a piracy attack and that leaving the area for international waters followed best management practices.

He said they had paid a fine to Equatorial Guinea in September, on the promise that they would release the ship and its crew, and called its continued detention “a shocking maritime injustice”.

In a fact sheet shared with Reuters, the Nigerian government said the vessel must return to answer charges or otherwise clear its name.

“It would indeed send a strong message to all collaborators involved in the theft of crude oil in Nigeria, and to the international community as a whole,” the fact sheet states.

On November 8, the ship’s 26-man crew filed a petition with a Federal High Court in Abuja asking it to block efforts to “illegally return” them to Nigeria, arguing that Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea did not have an extradition or mutual legal assistance treaty. OK. A judgment date has not yet been set for the case.

Additional reporting By Bate Felix in Dakar; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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