OSM Marine, owners of the Marshall Islands-flagged very large crude carrier; Heroic Idun has raised an alarm that its 26 crew members were being treated as common criminals for the past three months after they were wrongfully arrested earlier this year by Equatorial Guinea forces over alleged crude oil theft from Nigeria.
The 2020-built 300,000 dwt vessel was supposed to load a cargo of crude oil in Nigeria’s Akpo terminal on August 8 but was delayed, and later that day approached by a ship that did not have its automatic identification systems (AIS) switched on, claiming to be Nigerian Navy.
In a statement by Finn Amund Norbye, Group Chief Executive Officer of OSM Maritime “The Nigerian navy approached the vessel under cover of darkness in a way that caused serious concerns and it was believed to be an attempted piracy attack. The vessel following Best Management Practice escaped from the area and out into international waters.
“A few days later, at the request of the Nigerian navy, the vessel was interdicted in international waters by a navy vessel from Equatorial Guinea and at gunpoint escorted to Malabo where it has been held back since 13 August, allegedly for not displaying the Equatorial Guinean flag. A fine was paid at the end of September against a promise of release of the vessel and its crew. However, both the ship and crew remain in captivity.
“OSM as Ship Manager for the vessel has now been informed that a decision has been made by the authorities of Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria to move the vessel back to Nigeria for further investigations.
OSM Group CEO, Finn Amund Norbye said:
“The vessel and its 26 multinational crew members have now been detained in Equatorial Guinea for more than 80 days. The seafarers have been treated as criminals, without any formal charges or legal process for close to 3 months, it is nothing short of a shocking maritime injustice.”
“OSM together with the Ship Owner, Insurers, Legal advisors, Flag State, Embassies, ITF, and other industry players has worked continuously to bring this to a conclusion. We believe that with this development to move the vessel under neighboring state jurisdiction, the chance of any swift resolution is further diminished.
“We must now see urgent action to resolve this situation! For the sake of our 26 seafarers, OSM and its stakeholders will continue to work tirelessly with all parties able to assist us with this concerning situation.”