Archive for May 2019

Troops arrest 32 sea robbers, oil thieves   Leave a comment

The Nigerian Army Tuesday said no fewer than 32 sea robbers, oil thieves and other criminal gangs have been arrested in different sting operations by troops in the Niger/Delta region.

According to its spokesman, Col Sagir Musa, more than 100 illegal oil refineries and dump sites were also discovered and destroyed during the operations.

Col Musa said in a statement that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, lauded the troops for the feat, saying oil production activities have increased following the vigilance and measures taken by the military to restore peace and order in the areas.

The statement reads:”in line with the Constitutional mandate of the Nigerian Army (NA) to curb economic sabotage and associated insecurities across Nigeria, troops of 6 Division have intensified coordinated anti-illegal oil bunkering and sea piracy operations within the Division’s Area of Responsibility (AOR), thereby tightening the noose on economic Saboteurs and sea pirates which led to an increase in oil production by multinational oil companies as indicated in their reports.

Read also: ‘Why Wike must stop war against GOC, Nigerian Army’

“A look at the anti-illegal oil bunkering and anti-sea piracy operations conducted across the Division’s AOR between 16 April – 26 May 2019 indicated that troops of 16 Brigade (Bde) successfully conducted many anti-illegal oil bunkering operations within Asitobo/Tumbo Creek and Ukparatobu in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area (LGA) of Bayelsa State, Obiafu in ONLGA, Ubeta, Oyakama and Obodi in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State, Ebelebiri in Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa State and Ogbotobo in Ekeremor LGA of Bayelsa State.

“During the operations, 46 illegal oil refining sites were located and destroyed along with 85 sacks/cellophane bags, 10 drums and 4 Cotonou boats all containing illegally refined products.

“Additionally, 10 suspects were arrested while 2 motorcycles and 10 mobile phones were recovered. The vigilant troops also arrested 3 suspected sea robbers at Foropa in Southern Ijaw LGA of Bayelsa State on 26 April 2019 with one locally made gun and 3 live cartridges. All suspects and exhibits have since been handed over to relevant authorities for prosecution.

“Additionally, similar operations were concurrently launched in 63 Bde AOR. Hence, troops of 3 Battalion in conjunction with troops of Sector 1 Joint Task Force Operation DELTA SAFE (JTF OPDS) carefully planned and successfully executed massive anti-illegal oil bunkering operations covering Jones, Yeye and Otumara creeks, as well as Beneth Island and Otumara general area of Warri South-West LGA of Delta State.

“Similar operations were also conducted in Ozoro, Otor-Igho communities and Ozoro-Kwale road in Isoko North LGA of Delta State. Uguangwe, Ubeji, Ogbokodo-Itsekiri, Okogho, Okerisa/Ugboritseduwa Creeks and Makaraba in Warri South LGA of Delta State.

“The gallant troops also operated along the Benin River in Warri North LGA, Uvwie LGA, Yorki in Burutu LGA, Sapele LGA, Ejekota, Ewu general area and Orere Waterside all in Ughelli LGA of Delta State among others.

“Consequently, a total of 35 sting operations were conducted during the period under review, in which 65 illegal oil refineries were located and destroyed in addition to 150 cellophane bags, 120 drums and 15 Cotonou boats containing illegally acquired products.

“Additionally, 7 suspects were arrested and handed over to relevant authorities for prosecution.

“Similarly, operations are routinely conducted by the Division’s Special Company (SC) in Rivers State. Troops of the SC patriotically patrolled the entire Rivers State including Abonnema Wharf, Total Elf, Trans Amadi Layout, East-West Road, Aluu, Marine Base, Aboloma, Mbodo and Makoba all in Obio-Akpor LGA among others.
This action denied criminals and saboteurs freedom of action with a boost to Nigeria’s economic fortunes.

“Other achievements of the operations are the identification and subsequent destruction of 28 illegal oil refineries along with 1000 sacks/cellophane bags, 760 drums of illegally refined products, 25 dump sites and 6 loaded Cotonou boats containing illegally acquired products.

“Additionally, 12 suspects were arrested along with 60 Tankers/Trucks as well as 26 four-wheel vehicles used in the criminal act of economic sabotage. The arrested suspects and exhibits have been handed over to relevant security agencies for prosecution.

“Consequently, the Chief of Army Staff(COAS) Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai through the General Officer Commanding 6 Division Major General Jamil Sarham, commended the troops for their  dedication and selfless service to the nation and urge them to redouble the efforts in checkmating illegal oil bunkering, sea piracy and pipeline vandalisation in 6 Division AOR.”

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Posted May 30, 2019 by rrts in -NEWS

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Posted May 29, 2019 by rrts in -NEWS

Houthi rebels are holding a ‘floating bomb’ oil tanker hostage off Yemen’s coast   Leave a comment

The unmaintained FSO Safer off Yemen's Red Sea coast has been described as a "floating bomb", pictured in March 2005. Getty
The unmaintained FSO Safer off Yemen’s Red Sea coast has been described as a “floating bomb”, pictured in March 2005. Getty

Houthi rebels are blocking UN access to an unmaintained oil tanker described as a “floating bomb” off of Yemen’s Red Sea coast, which officials say is an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen.

The chief of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels is demanding a share of revenue from the sale of about one million barrels of oil aboard the FSO Safer.

The UN warned almost a month ago that the ship was at risk of exploding, possibly causing a disastrous oilspill in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

It is a dangerous bargaining chip worth tens of millions of dollars.

The Safer, once Yemen’s main oil export facility, is a floating storage and offloading vessel moored about 50 kilometres north-west of Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah, the entry point for most of the war-racked country’s humanitarian aid and imports.

The Safer has had no maintenance since it fell under Houthi control in 2015, allowing explosive gases to build up in its storage tanks.

Experts and Yemeni ministers have been warning for more than a year that the vessel needs urgent maintenance, with a report by the US think tank the Atlantic Council calling it a floating bomb.

A rupture could unleash a catastrophe four times larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oilspill that poured 260,000 barrels of crude into Prince William Sound Alaska.

“Without maintenance, we fear that it will rupture or even explode, unleashing an environmental disaster,” the UN’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council on April 15.

Mr Lowcock said that Houthi approval to carry out an assessment of the vessel have been pending since last September.

In 1988, Yemen’s national Safer Exploration and Production Operations Company (Sepoc) moored a former Japanese oil tanker 9km off the coast at Ras Isa, a Red Sea port, linking it by pipeline to the Marib oil field in central Yemen. Described by the company that installed it as the largest FSO system in the world, the Safer has a capacity of three million barrels of oil and until 2015 served as Yemen’s main export route for light crude.

The ageing vessel is susceptible to corrosion and needs about $10 million (Dh3.6m) in annual maintenance.

Inert gas must be regularly injected into the storage tanks to prevent the accumulation of explosive gases. Without fuel to run its generators, this has not happened in years.

A stray spark, collision or sabotage attack could cause the vessel to explode.

In March last year, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalik Al Mekhlafi wrote to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, warning that the Safer was in a “bad and deteriorating situation” that threatened an “imminent environmental and humanitarian catastrophe”.

On April 29, Col Turki Al Malki, spokesman for the Arab Coalition against the Houthis, warned that the Safer posed a serious risk of oilspill to the Red Sea.

The Houthis agree the vessel poses a threat but they have asked the UN to arrange the sale of oil so they can use the revenues to pay for fuel imports and public salaries.

The head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, Mohammed Al Houthi, warned on Twitter on April 22 of the risk to the environment and marine transport posed by the Safer.

On April 30, he wrote: “We call on the UN and the Security Council to put in place a mechanism to sell Yemeni crude oil, including the oil in the Safer.

But a Yemeni oil expert told The National that the condition of the vessel meant it was now unlikely that it could safely offload the oil from where it is moored.

“The solution is to tow the Safer to Bahrain” where the vessel can be safely repaired, Yemeni economist Abdulwahed Al Obaly said.

Both Houthi and government areas of Yemen are suffering from a lack of fuel and cash, with24.1 million Yemenis in need of aid and 13 million on the brink of famine.

The fuel aboard could be worth $80m at current prices.

“Fuel shortages in Yemen continue to add to the appalling humanitarian cost of the conflict,” said Doug Weir, a director at the Conflict and Environment Observatory, which wrote a report into the environmental risks of the Safer.

“However, the use of the FSO Safer as a bargaining chip carries with it a serious risk of miscalculation.

“All of the indications suggest that it poses a grave and imminent threat to the marine environment, and it is critical for parties to the conflict to reach agreement on an independent UN-led assessment as a first step in mitigating the risks that it poses.

The UN contracted a company to carry out an initial technical assessment of the vessel last August, but this work is yet to be done. The UN did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

But the company contracted to carry out the assessment, Asia Offshore Solutions, said it hoped to begin work shortly.

“We’ve been waiting for the Hodeidah area to be safe enough for our people to go in,” Petter Nilsen, the company’s managing director, told The National.

The delays preventing the UN from accessing the ship also threaten to undermine the Hodeidah agreement, reached in Stockholm in December between the Yemeni government and the Houthis.

The two agreed to “a strengthened UN presence in the city of Hodeidah and Ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa” and “committed to facilitate and support the work of the UN”.

The oil aboard belongs to Yemen’s Ministry of Oil. Even after an assessment is carried out, all parties would need to agree to a salvage operation.

“There’s legal, technical, and business obstacles,” Mr Al Obaly said. “They all need to agree on managing the insurance, what to do with the vessel and the oil, and they need to pay the company that would carry it out.”

But a spill would cause untold environmental damage and the need for a clean-up that could cost $1 billion.

“We must empty the vessel as soon as possible,” Mr Al Obaly said. “It could explode any time just because of the weather and the circumstances.

“It would be a marine catastrophe. The crude would reach the other coast of [Eritrea]. We’ve seen many cases like this, We don’t need to do the same in the Red Sea.”

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Posted May 13, 2019 by rrts in -NEWS

Spanish Navy Rescues Heavy Lift Ship from Pirates   Leave a comment

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Spanish and Equatorial Guinea forces secure the Blue Marlin (Estado Mayor de la Defensa)

BY MAREX

On Sunday, the heavy lift ship Blue Marlin was hijacked off the coast of Equatorial Guinea. The Spanish Navy and forces from Equatorial Guinea boarded the vessel and secured it early on Monday morning.

After unloading her cargo in the waters of Equatorial Guinea, the Blue Marlin departed Sunday, bound for Malta. On Sunday afternoon, the ship was approached by a zodiac and forcibly boarded by seven armed pirates. All twenty of the Marlin’s crew members were able to secure themselves in the ship’s citadel, which is equipped with communications gear and emergency rations.

After the crew alerted the authorities in Equatorial Guinea and at the NATO-led organization Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea, two helicopters were mobilized from Equatorial Guinea. The authorities also dispatched the Serviola, a Spanish Navy vessel assigned to patrol the region, and an unnamed frigate from Equatorial Guinea.

At daylight Monday, a team of seven Spanish marines boarded the Marlin and secured the vessel, according to Spain’s defense ministry. A larger team of Spanish and Equatorial Guinea forces followed shortly after. No pirates were found, and the crew were unharmed. However, the attackers had fired off weapons during their boarding, and they badly damaged the Marlin’s bridge, rendering her unsuitable for navigation until repairs are completed.

Both naval vessels have since departed, but Equatorial Guinea’s navy left five armed guards aboard theMarlin to ensure her security. Boskalis says that it has made arrangements for an oceangoing tug to tow theBlue Marlin to a suitable location.

All images courtesy Estado Mayor de la Defensa

“I want to express my compliments to our crew for their extremely professional and adequate actions in this life threatening situation. I am extremely grateful  and in particular thankful to the navy of Equatorial Guinea for their quick and decisive response, as well as to the Spanish navy for their assistance via MDAT-GoG. Because of their actions, this hijacking could be ended quickly and our colleagues were brought into safety,” said Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski in a statement Monday.

The incident was the second successful anti-piracy intervention that the Serviola has conducted off West Africa this year. In April, the crew of the Serviola detected a hijacking in progress aboard a Nigerian merchant vessel, and the pirate boarding party fled as she approached. The attackers had stolen the crew’s money and possessions while they were aboard, but no seafarers were kidnapped.

The Blue Marlin may be best known for her service to the U.S. Navy: she is the ship that brought home the damaged destroyer USS Cole after a terrorist attack in the port of Aden in 2000.

Posted May 13, 2019 by rrts in -NEWS

Kidnapped Product Tanker Crewmembers Still in Captivity   Leave a comment

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File image

BY MAREX 

The six seafarers who were kidnapped at the Bonny Outer Anchorage last month are still missing. Five were Indian nationals, and their families are calling upon the Indian government to intervene.

At 1330 hours in the afternoon of April 19, Nigerian pirates boarded the product tanker Apecus while she lay at anchor just off the coast of Bonny Island, a well-defended oil and gas complex in the Niger River Delta. In broad daylight, the attackers abducted six seafarers and departed. The remaining crewmembers were unharmed, and they navigated their vessel to the Bonny Inner Anchorage.

Relative to areas further offshore, the Bonny anchorage has a more established security presence. The Nigerian Navy maintains a forward operating base on Bonny Island to defend the Bonny Oil Terminal, and the service’s Regional Maritime Awareness Center is located near the Bonny Island approach channel.

The victims, all Indian nationals, have been missing for nearly two weeks. India’s embassy in Nigeria says that it is working closely with the Nigerian Navy and police forces to recover the seafarers.

“Concerned parties have made initial contact. Caution is of utmost importance for everyone’s safety,” said the High Commission of India in Abuja.

According to the Times of India, the seafarers’ families have not yet been able to speak to the abductees and have not received updates on their condition.

Posted May 13, 2019 by rrts in -NEWS