Nigeria seizes 236 ships used for smuggling oil

Nigeria seizes 236 ships used for smuggling oil

LAGOS – The Nigerian navy said yesterday it had seized 236 ships, tugboats and barges used for smuggling crude oil and petroleum products in the high seas and Niger delta.

Navy spokesman Captain Henry Babalola told the local press that the illegal vessels had been arrested over the past three years following increased patrols and deployment of warships to the high seas and the restive region. He said the navy had reduced smuggling activities by 80 per cent, adding that smugglers and their foreign collaborators were using “depot ships” to ferry stolen oil to the high seas.”Without these depot ships, crude oil theft becomes unattractive as barges and canoes cannot make hazardous voyage to the high seas and receiving countries,” he added.The Nigerian navy recently launched a new offensive against the theft of oil, widely referred to locally as “bunkering”, as millions of litres of crude or refined petroleum products are stolen annually by suspected “bunkerers”.Oil accounts for more than 95 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, exporting 2,14 million barrels of crude per day, but the industry is prey to organised gangs of heavily armed criminals who tap pipelines and siphon off tonnes of crude.Smugglers sell an estimated 100 000 barrels per day to unscrupulous foreign refineries.The multi-million dollar profits from the trade have fed an arms race among the pirate gangs and ethnic militias who ply the waterways of the Niger Delta.The region has seen an upsurge in violence since January 2006 as more than 200 foreigners, mostly oil workers, have been kidnapped.Most of those captured were later released while dozens of Nigerians and a few foreigners have been killed by militants.Nampa-AFPHe said the navy had reduced smuggling activities by 80 per cent, adding that smugglers and their foreign collaborators were using “depot ships” to ferry stolen oil to the high seas.”Without these depot ships, crude oil theft becomes unattractive as barges and canoes cannot make hazardous voyage to the high seas and receiving countries,” he added.The Nigerian navy recently launched a new offensive against the theft of oil, widely referred to locally as “bunkering”, as millions of litres of crude or refined petroleum products are stolen annually by suspected “bunkerers”.Oil accounts for more than 95 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, exporting 2,14 million barrels of crude per day, but the industry is prey to organised gangs of heavily armed criminals who tap pipelines and siphon off tonnes of crude.Smugglers sell an estimated 100 000 barrels per day to unscrupulous foreign refineries.The multi-million dollar profits from the trade have fed an arms race among the pirate gangs and ethnic militias who ply the waterways of the Niger Delta.The region has seen an upsurge in violence since January 2006 as more than 200 foreigners, mostly oil workers, have been kidnapped.Most of those captured were later released while dozens of Nigerians and a few foreigners have been killed by militants.Nampa-AFP

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