Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), yesterday, revealed that rogue vessels used for stealing crude oil in the Niger Delta turn off their Automatic Identification System (AIS) to evade detection and tracking by officials in the country’s waters.
NPA Managing Director, Mohammed Koko, made the disclosure while answering questions at the Ministerial Media Briefing anchored by the Presidential Communications Team, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Koko was responding, specifically, to a question on why NPA could do nothing, following a recent incident of an oil tanker evading arrest in Nigeria after it illegally carted away crude oil.
He explained that the ships go off the radar, evading arrest by switching off their onboard tracking system, which helps to locate vessels’ position.
He, however, noted that NPA has begun a process that would culminate in the procurement of a Vessel Tracking Service (VTS), to help authorities identify, locate and monitor all ships in the nation’s waters.
NPA had been trying to acquire the system for about 10 years, Koko said, noting that a certified consultant has now been identified to take up the process, even as he expressed optimism that the equipment could be procured before the end of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He explained: “The intelligence persons bringing in vessels to steal crude; one of the things they do is shut down the AIS. This is what is needed in terms of transmission, for you to know when the vessels come in and the location they go to.
“They come in legally but then they go by the left-hand side to commit illegal activities after switching their AIS. We are going ahead to deploy the VTS and also have information in terms of vessel movement.”
The NPA helmsman also disclosed that the authority generated N172.28 billion in revenue in the first half of 2022.
He further bemoaned the ongoing theft of buoys worth millions of naira, which, according to him, has made navigation more dangerous and discouraged international cargo ships from using Nigeria’s eastern maritime corridor.
Major ports along the Eastern waterways are Calabar, Port Harcourt, Onne, and Warri.
Koko also provided updates on strides by NPA, in line with delivering efficient port services in a safe, secure and customer-friendly environment.
He said each of the buoys, which serve as navigational route signs, cost between N12 million and N20 million, and that about 25 of this safety equipment has been stolen from Nigerians waters in year 2022 alone.
He said the absence of buoys put ships at risk of running aground. And as a result, many foreign ship captains avoid certain areas of the waterways, diminishing revenue at affected ports.