A Palau flagged Tanker, MT APECUS, hijacked off the coast of Bonny, Nigeria last month has been conducting trading activities in Nigerian waters since 2014 without permit, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said Monday.
Nevertheless, the agency said it was committed to rescuing the abducted seven crew, comprising five Indian nationals and two other individuals of unspecified nationality.
This it said is being done in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, the Indian High Commission in Nigeria and other security agencies.
The hijack of the vessel, with IMO no.7333810 and call sign no. T8WU, occurred on the 19th of April, 2019.
The DG of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside while condemning the hijack and sympathizing with the victims, pledged the Agency’s commitment to the rescue, working with other relevant government security organisations.
But he also disclosed that: “Preliminary investigations carried out by NIMASA into the vessel involved has thrown up several unresolved facts. Firstly, the MT APECUS has been conducting trading activities in Nigerian waters since 2014 without any valid permits or documentation”.
It was further found that the vessel has changed name and the flag under which she operates on no fewer than a combined fifteen (15) recorded instances with an additional five changes in call sign since 1993 and four MMSI changes, which all point to her suspected involvement in illegal activities.
Before the vessel was hijacked, it was spotted in Lome, Togo on the 26th of February, 2019 for an hour, Tema, Ghana for two hours on the 27th of February, 2019 and Lagos anchorage for twenty nine minutes on 2nd April 2019 until her eventual hijack on the 19th of April.
Reports also indicate the vessel was in the habit of switching off her Automatic Identification System (AIS) in order to avoid detection and had done the same thing prior to being attacked which had made locating her whereabouts extremely difficult. There is no clarity on her business in Bonny area where the incident occurred.
Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, facilitated by NIMASA, has been passed by the House of Representatives and had undergone the second reading at the Senate, which NIMASA believe will help fight issue of Piracy in our waters.
NIMASA remains optimistic that the Bill, when passed into law will give the Agency along with the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies the necessary impetus and framework to further fight all forms of maritime insecurity in Nigerian territorial waters and the greater Gulf of Guinea maritime domain.