Surveillance personnel of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and anti-piracy operatives of the Nigerian Navy have located the chemical tanker, MT Sampatiki, recently hijacked off shore Niger Delta in Lome, Togo.
However, the five-man crew abducted is still missing as the abductors are yet to open any line of communication.
Speaking at a news conference in Lagos the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside said the Navy, Police, Air Force, Interpol and other relevant agencies have intensified the search for the missing crew members.
The NIMASA boss said that MT Sampatiki arrived in Port Harcourt port on March 21, 2016 loaded with Gas Oil.
“In fact it was even detained by our surveyors for some deficiencies before being allowed to sail out of the Port Harcourt Port on March 24, 2016.
“Our government was informed of the piracy incidence on March 26, 2016 and the Transportation Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi immediately directed the Agency to investigate the incident with a view to recovering both the abducted crew and the vessel,l” he explained.
Peterside said they immediately contacted the Nigerian Navy informing them of the incident and requested the deployment of the personnel and vessels in search of the crew and the vessel.
“We have also used our satellite surveillance facility in conjunction with intelligence from the Nigerian Navy and tracked the vessel which is currently off shore Lome,” he stated.
He said while the search for the abducted crew members has been intensified, they have also made contacts with the Maritime Administrations of the Republic of Benin and that of Togo to ensure safe return of the vessel.
” We are also in touch with the flag state and the owners of MT Sampatiki. We have also contacted Interpol Regional Bureau and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to reach their respective bureaus in Togo with any useful information that may lead to the rescue of the vessel and crew”
“We can confirm that this morning the Togolese Maritime police were about to board the vessel to interview the crew”, he explained.
Peterside said the agency had deployed some of its operational vessels manned by military personnel of the Maritime Guard Command (MGC) to enforce security and guarantee 24 hours patrol of the nation’s territorial waters, especially off the coast of Qua Iboe and Brass in the Niger Delta where pirates attacks are rampant.
According to him, We will commit more resources into intelligence gathering and engender greater collaboration with other Agencies in the maritime sector to rid our waters of criminality.
He assured that the Agency will continue to work with the Ministry of Transportation, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the Federal Ministry of Justice, the National Assembly, the Nigerian Navy, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the INTERPOL and other stakeholders to pass an anti-piracy bill into law that will ensure the necessary framework to counter this menace.
“Our collaboration with some arms of the Nigerian military has been most useful. We have commenced the process of reviewing our MoU with the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Air Force respectively for continued coastal patrol and air surveillance to deter criminals and ensure quicker response time when incidents do occur,” he added.