Source: The Nation Nigeria
Author: Precious Igbonwelundu
Operatives of the Nigerian Navy (NN) have arrested four trawlers belonging to a Chinese Company and 79 suspects for Illegal and Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing.
Also arrested were a Motor Tanker, MT DA-CHRIS and Merchant Vessel, MV SISI COMFORT 1 for various illegality within the nation’s water.
Handing over the vessels and their contents to the Federal Department of Fisheries (FDF), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Naval Command (WNC) Rear Admiral Sylvanus Abbah appealed to the agencies to do due diligence.
Abbah reiterated that the NN was averse to corruption and illegality within the maritime domain, warning perpetrators to keep off.
He said the trawlers were arrested less than 30 nautical miles from shore, contrary to the permit granted them, which enabled them to trawl in the high seas.
According to the navy chief, the trawlers by their actions were robbing the nation of resources, depriving local fishermen opportunity to ply their trade and also endangering fingerlings.
Abbah said: “In line with the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas’ directives to rid Nigeria’s maritime environment of criminalities, personnel of the WNC while on routine patrol arrested two tanker vessels and four fishing trawlers for various maritime offences.
“The four trawlers were arrested on August 27, fishing in prohibited areas with catches totaling 154,280kg and several kilograms of loose fish.
“At the time of the arrest, the vessels had a total of 79 crew members comprising of 28 Chinese nationals, seven onboard each vessel, three Ghanians and 48 Nigerians.
“On interrogation, it was discovered that the vessels were not listed on the July to August bi-monthly edition of the navy code word for fishing/trawling vessel at sea.”
Continuing, Abbah said: “On July 2, at about 11:30pm, MT DA-CHRIS was intercepted and boarded by naval personnel on routine patrol. Upon boarding, the vessel was discovered to be imballast. This raised further doubt on the activities of the vessel and prompted further investigation to ascertain its dealings at sea.
“The ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) was found to be constantly off constituting a navigational and safety offense. During the investigation, it was discovered that the vessel was operating with invalid documents.
“Again on July 20 at about 05:48am, our personnel sighted MV SISI COMFORT 1 lurking around ABO oilfield. At first, the Captain identified the ship as ALPHA SIERRA but upon interrogation, he said the vessel’s name was MV SISI COMFORT 1.
“Investigation revealed the vessel had about 34,000litres of Automated Gas Oil (AGO) in its storage tank which they claimed they pumped from their bunker tank to the storage tank to balance the ship which was taking in water from its rudder.
“The vessel was asked to produce documents, which they were unable to and this raised suspicion on the activities of the vessel within the oilfield.”
“The four fishing trawlers are being handed over to the Federal Department of Fisheries for further action. The two other vessels are being handed over to the EFCC, DPR and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) respectively for further investigation and possible prosecution.
“The command has zero tolerance for every form of criminality in its area of responsibility and advises defaulters to desist from such acts or face the wrath of the law.”
One of the crew members of the fishing trawlers, Peter Effiom, 34, told The Nation they were arrested around Badagry.
Effiom, who spoke on behalf of the Chinese Captain, said they were aware their permit didn’t allow them to fish ashore, adding that the company they worked for asked them to do it.