The Nigerian Navy has said that it set ablaze the Merchant Vessel CECELIA in accordance with extant procedure regarding seized vessels with stolen oil.
The move was also informed due to serious navigational hazards, huge financial cost, and serious national security problems caused by abandoned ships, Navy’s spokesperson, Ayo-Vaughan, said in a statement yesterday.
The vessel was arrested by the Naval component of Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) on 15 August 2023 with 250,000 liters of product suspected to be illegally refined Automated Gas Oil (AGO), popularly called diesel, at Meco Jetty in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
According to, Vaughan, upon the arrest, the sample of the products onboard the vessel was taken for laboratory analysis and was discovered to be illicit AGO, but “the owners of the vessel were at large and did not present themselves to witness the test in line with extant procedure.”
He said: “The behaviour of the alleged owner is not surprising, as it has been the practice among oil thieves. In some cases where vessels involved in oil theft are arrested, the owners abscond leaving the Nigerian Navy to bear the cost of keeping and sustaining the vessels. This has cost the nation huge sums of money and has constituted serious national security problems.
“Most of the vessels either sink alongside the jetty or within the channel constituting serious navigational hazards. These abandoned vessels have been the major reason why the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in the past, declared the nation’s ports/waterways as the most unsafe ports in the region.
“This has been a contributing factor to the high insurance premium on ships operating in Nigerian waters with a negative impact on the nation’s economy.
“Suffice to state that the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), and the Nigerian Navy have expended huge sums of money in the clearing of wrecks in the waterways that resulted from abandoned vessels engaged in oil theft.”
Vaughan said so far three suspects have been arrested and have made useful statements, while the alleged owners remained at large.
“One of the suspects revealed that they usually bring illegally refined AGO in ‘Cotonou’ (large wooden) boats and Geepee tanks and offload into MV CECELIA pending when it will be sold to unsuspecting members of the public.”