By Ronald Mutum
The Nigerian Navy has intercepted a Greek owned merchant tanker, MT KERALA allegedly hijacked off the coast of Luanda after a four day search in the Gulf of Guinea.
The ship was intercepted with the use Nigerian Navy’s remote surveillance system and search patrols. MT KERALA is currently under Ghanaian custody in the Port of Tema and Interpol operatives are investigating the circumstances of the hijack of the ship, a statement by Navy Spokesman Commodore Aliyu Kabiru said.
He explained that, “On 23 January 2014, the Nigerian Navy received a report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) that MT KERALA had been hijacked off Luanda in Angola. Subsequent report from IMB on 25 Jan 14 located her about 50nm south west of Pennington Oil Terminal in Nigeria.”
Commodore Aliyu said three Navy patrol vessels were deployed to search for MT KERALA. Two other vessels, MT ITRI and a tug boat GARE were reportedly in the vicinity of MT KERALA conducting ship-to-ship transfer of products with KERALA in gross violation of existing regulations in Nigeria.
He explained that in a twist of events, the ship owners, who were initially cooperating, later refused to divulge information as requested by the Nigerian Navy towards locating the ship. Likewise, the Angolan Navy in a public notification on 26 Jan 14, contended that the ship was not hijacked. Rather, it was an internal conspiracy and dispute among the crew and the ship-owners.
” On 28 Jan 14, however, the NN was able to locate MT KERALA in the vicinity of Tema Port in Ghana through the use of its remote surveillance system. Ghana Navy was subsequently notified to intercept via the existing common information sharing mechanism,” Commodore Aliyu noted.
He warned that the conduct of illegal Ship-to Ship transfer, if proven constitutes a violation of existing regulations in Nigeria.