The Nigerian Navy has impounded five ships with about 1.913 million litres of suspected stolen diesel worth N240 million in Rivers State.
The Flag Officer Commanding the Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Atiku Abdulkadir, announced the seizure on Tuesday while inspecting one of the ships at Onne, near Port Harcourt.
Abdulkadir said three of the ships – MT Mona, MT Alice and MT Purity – had 911,520, 600,000 and 400,000 litres of illegally refined diesel respectively at the time of the seizure.
He added: “MV Solution III, MT Trader and two barges, Atlantic I and Atlantic II, with varying tonnage capacities, were all empty at the time of arrest.
“The ships and barges were arrested for various offences, which included lifting and transportation of illegally refined products, non approval to operate in the area and competency, among others.
“For example, MT Purity had product which laboratory test revealed was a mixture of adulterated Automotive Gas Oil and cooked oil, which is illegally refined.
“Similarly, the ship is carrying AIS identification that is not its own or converted, which ultimately creates multiple identification aimed at deceiving unsuspecting security personnel.
“Also, Captain of the ship neither has approval or certificate to operate a merchant tanker ship, while his crew members lacked competency to justify them serving onboard the ship.”
Abdulkadir said several crew members on board the five ships had been taken into custody, adding that crew members on the barges fled their platforms on sighting advancing naval troops.
He said the suspects were currently being interrogated to determine their sponsors and sources of the illegal petroleum products.
The FOC said they would be handed over to relevant security agencies at the conclusion of investigation.
He said: “We are also currently deploying troops to strategic areas on sea and waterways to checkmate activities of pirates and criminals to enable travelers enjoy their Christmas and New Year celebrations.”
Abdulkadir urged the public to continue to provide the Navy and other security agencies with information to make the celebrations hitch-free.