Oil theft: Why we are unable to detect vessels – NPA Boss

Our reporter| Rogue vessels engaged in crude oil theft on Nigerian waters go undetected because they turn off their Automatic Identification System (AIS), the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello-Koko said on Tuesday.

Koko, who made the disclosure while briefing State House reporters in Abuja, explained that such ships evade arrest because they switch off their onboard automated identification system which displays the vessel’s position in the vicinity.

He further stated that the authority does not have the required technology to detect their origin or destination.

Speaking against the backdrop of a recent incident where an oil tanker evaded arrest in Nigeria after illegally lifting crude oil, Koko said the NPA is now in the process of procuring the technology called the Vessel Tracking Service (VTS) to enable it to identify, locate and monitor all vessels in the nation’s waters.

“This is what is needed in terms of transmission for you to even know when the vessel comes in and the location they to go to, he said.

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“They come in legally but then they go by the left-hand side to commit illegal activities after switching off their AIS. We are going ahead to deploy the vessel traffic service (VTS) and to also have information in terms of vessel movement.”

According to him, the agency has been trying to acquire the VTS for about 10 years now and has just identified a certified consultant, while also working with the Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas (NLNG) Company to help with critical detection.

He further assured that the technology will be procured before the end of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking further, Bello-Koko expressed worry about the theft of buoys on shipping routes.

“Each of the buoys which serve as navigational route signs costs between N12 million and N20 million, whereas no fewer than 25 of these maritime safety equipment have been stolen from Nigerians waters this year alone,” he said.

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“Apart from the cost of the buoys, it is even costly to install and deploy them on waters.’’

Bello-Koko explained that the absence of the buoys puts ships at risk of running aground.

He said as a result of the anxiety, many foreign ships’ captains choose to avoid certain areas of Nigerian waterways.

To checkmate the activities of the vandals, the NPA boss said the management had been interacting with the locals and their leaders in communities where the theft occurs.

Bello-Koko said the stolen buoys are often turned to scrap, with the perpetrators vandalising the sensors.

“And to also be fair to the communities, we have had some instances where the buoys were naturally taken away by nature, they went adrift, they ended up on the shores of some communities,” he said.

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