…releases vessel to continue operation
Nathan Tamarapreye, Yenagoa
The Joint Task Force (JTF) deployed to protect oil facilities 8n the Niger Delta, Operation Delta Safe, (OPDS) on Sunday absolved the impounded vessel MT Praisel of involvement in oil theft and cleared her to continue its operations.
It was learnt that the clearance of the vessel by Tantita security services, a 0ipel8ne surveillance company operated by ‘Tompolo’ an ex-militant leader follows the discovery that the vessel’s operation was legitimate and received extant approvals.
Rear Admiral Olusegun Ferreira, the Commander of JTF who stated these, during a press briefing at the JTF Headquarters in Yenagoa said the vessel met the standards to operate legally.
He explained that MT Praisel was granted approval by the Nigerian Mid-Stream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to load 1,114,721 litres of High Pour Fuel Oil (HPFO) from Greenmac Energy Storage at Tarus Jetty Koko in Delta from 26 July -8 Aug. 2023.
“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 Aug. 2, 2023, Tantita Security Services Ltd, reportedly acting on intelligence, suspected the vessel to be laden with crude oil and approached an element of Operation Delta Safe 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.
“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.
“It was also necessary to display transparency and synergy in any investigation bordering on COT. Accordingly, 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 operations to intercept or arrest any vessel,” he said.
The commander of the joint military force explained that in this case, Tantita did not intercept or arrest MT Praisel but the vessel was directed to proceed to Anchorage for investigation.
He said on August 3 and 4 2023 samples of the product were taken for tests by the Nigerian Navy, Tantita and the NMDPRA which is the regulatory authority on matters relating to mid and downstream petroleum products in Nigeria.
“This is also in line with the harmonised Standard Operating Procedures on the arrest, detention and prosecution of vessels and persons in Nigeria’s Maritime Environment 2016.
“The results of the tests 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 results 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.
The commander said that the Headquarters OPDS under the direction and command of the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. C.G. Musa, will continue to display a high sense of diligence, transparency, synergy and professionalism in pursuance of the mandate to checkmate COT and other associated crimes in the Joint Operations Area.
He said that the OPDS remains ready to work with all partners, stakeholders and credible industry players to protect oil and gas infrastructure and our common patrimony for the economic prosperity of Nigeria.