BP said that the vessel Heroic Idun had been cleared by the AKPO terminal “before she arrived to load the cargo” As has been reported in the press, the charterer said that the vessel Heroic Idun had been cleared by the AKPO terminal before she arrived to load the cargo.
The Heroic Idun was approved, vetted, and cleared by the AKPO Terminal towards the end of July to load the cargo of oil at the centre of this case. On August 8 when the vessel arrived, the Terminal had not yet received confirmation of the final quantity of cargo to be loaded (cargo quantity instructions were passing up and down the supply chain) from NNPC which is required to allow the oil to be loaded. The vessel was asked to stand off and to come back a few days later. It was during this period that the Master of the Heroic Idun was made aware of an unknown and unannounced patrol boat which turned out to be the Navy, but which had not switched on its AIS (Automatic Identification System). It was mistakenly thought to be trying to board the tanker some 200 miles out from Bonny on the Nigerian Coast. The Master, following Best Management Practice, when faced with a possible attack, sent the crew to the citadel and took the advice of war risk insurers DNK and Managers to get the ship some 250 miles offshore with all possible speed. A mayday was given which alerted the authorities to the possible attack. This was picked up by the piracy reporting service. It was assumed that it was a piracy attack.
Between 9-12 August Heroic Idun re-tendered “Notice of Readiness” daily to charterers who were requesting vessel readiness to load at AKPO if called at short notice, although at that time it was considered unsafe to do so after what had transpired earlier. On August 11 the Terminal advised the vessel that it now had the NNPC, (Nigerian National Oil Company) clearances for the vessel to proceed to the Terminal for loading on August 17. However, on August 12 the Terminal countermanded the order and advised the vessel not to enter the AKPO Maritime Identification Zone (MIZ) – no reason was given.
The Heroic Idun was then seized by an Equatorial Guinea naval vessel at gun point, at the request of its Nigerian counterpart, on August 12 and ordered to sail to the Port of Luba, arriving on August 13. This has been justified by the obligations between the two countries under the Yaounde Code of Conduct although that does not usurp international law particularly as set out in UNCLOS. There is no extradition treaty between the countries and the crew have done nothing to justify their detention since 13th August and the charges they now face.
All 26 crew and the vessel were illegally removed from Equatorial Guinea on 10 November by the Nigerian Navy and now face charges under the Piracy Suppression Act and in respect of the unauthorized loading of oil which if guilty would mean long prison sentences in Nigeria. The crew and owners deny any wrongdoing. The owners are grateful for the charterer’s support and the fact that they are now making it clear that this was an authorized cargo. Government agencies, Embassies and industry bodies around the world are coming to terms with the ramifications and significance of this case. Sadly, it seriously detracts from the success that the Nigerian Navy have had in suppressing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Source: Idun Maritime Limited