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Piracy Attack: Navy orders search/rescue operation for 10 crew members of MT PAKSOY 1; wins landmark case over illegal petroleum dealings at ITLOS, Germany.

Following the abduction of 10 crew members of a cargo vessel, ‘MV PAKSOY 1’ on Saturday July 13, 2019 in Nigerian waters by suspected sea pirates, authorities of the Nigerian Navy have ordered a search and rescue operation to all naval formations in the Niger Delta as well as the nation’s maritime domain to ensure safe rescue of the hostages.

Though investigation is ongoing towards getting a lead to burst the hideout of the criminals involved in the piracy attack, reports have it that the attention of the Nigerian Navy was drawn to the piracy attack 18 hours after the incident occurred off the waters of Brass and the vessel with 7 crew members was 2 hours away to exiting Nigerian waters.

Specifically, naval operatives have been tasked to comb the creeks and back waters of the Niger Delta to ensure safe rescue and return of the abducted 10 crew men.

Director of Naval Information, Commodore Suleman Dahun in a statement disclosed that when the navy received report of the piracy attack, it commenced investigation using its internationally installed platforms and synergy with other navies in the sub-region, leading to the interception of the ship by the Ghanaian navy.

He gave further details, “After thorough investigation, the Naval Headquarters finds it imperative to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the suspected pirate attack on MV PAKSOY 1.

“On 14 July 2019 at about 16.43 hours (4.43pm), the Naval Headquarters received a report of a suspected pirate attack on MV PAKSOY 1 at about 124 nautical miles off the coast of Brass.

“MV PAKSOY 1 is a Turkish flagged general cargo vessel that reportedly sailed from Cameroon and was heading to Abidjan when she came under attack on Saturday 13 July 2019 at position: Latitude 020 58’N Longitude 0040 40’E, about 124 nautical miles South West of Brass.
“It is pertinent to note that according to International Maritime Bureau report (IMB), the incident occurred around 22.50 hours (10.50pm) on the 13 July 2019, but the NHQ Operations Room was alerted around 16.43 hours (4.43pm) on the 14 July 2019, which is about 18 hours after the incident occurred.

“In accordance with the NN operational procedures, the position of the vessel was plotted on the Nigerian Navy Maritime Domain Awareness system and the vessel was spotted at Latitude 030 53’ 14”N Longitude 0030 03’ 26”E which is about 152nm due South of Lagos Fair Way Buoy and about 21 nautical miles from the Nigerian/Republic of Benin International Maritime Boundary.

“The Commander Task Group (CTG) of Operation TSARE TEKU was informed of the incident. Regrettably, the CTG could not do much as the vessel was almost heading out of Nigerian waters.

“In view of the fact that the vessel would be out of Nigerian waters in about 2 hours with the speed of 11.4knots, the Naval Headquarters alerted HQ Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre (MMCC) Zone E Cotonou, Republic of Benin.

“On receipt of the information, the Commander MMCC informed other member countries in Zone E and also Zone F Headquarters as the vessel seemed to be headed westerly at the time.

“The vessel was later intercepted around 0831 hours (8.31 am) on Monday 15 July 2019 by the Ghana Navy Ship ‘EHWOR’ and escorted to Tema Port, Ghana.

“Preliminary reports from Ghana Navy and IMB conveyed that the suspected pirates abducted 10 crew members of MV PAKSOY 1. The report further stated that the 7 crew members left onboard by the attackers sailed the vessel to Tema Port, Ghana.

Commodore Dahun said “The Nigerian Navy is already interfacing with Ghana Navy to obtain further details on the circumstances surrounding the pirate attack on MV PAKSOY 1.”.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy and stakeholders including NIMASA, UNODC, the Nigerian Police, EFCC, Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and NGOs on Thursday at Naval headquarters held a meeting on the operationalization of the new act signed into law which stipulates laws of punishment for piracy and sea crimes including illegal oil bunkering, and other maritime crimes.

Known as the ‘Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offenses Act’, it stipulates punishments and sanctions ranging from Life Imprisonment, to a fine of N50million and even forfeiture of assets, equipment and properly depending on the gravity of the offence.

Speaking during the session, Chairman of the committee, Rear Admiral Tariworio Dick, who is the Chief of Training and Operations at Naval headquarters, noted that with the new act in place, perpetrators of sea robberies and other maritime crimes have no escape route.

“Prior to this time, there was no statute or legal authority to diligently prosecute persons arrested for piracy and so many other maritime offenses. This act not spells out ideal sanctions because the crime of piracy has now been defined.

Shedding more light on the act, Dr. Omotayo Oni, Assistant Director, International and Comparative law department, Ministry of Justice, disclosed that a situation whereby maritime criminals including pirates were prosecuted for mere armed robbery no matter the magnitude of crime perpetrated has been addressed as appropriate punishment to deter maritime theft is now in place.

In a similar vein, the Director of Legal Services, Nigerian Navy, Commodore Jemila Malafa disclosed that the Nigerian Navy, supported by combined efforts of the ministry of foreign Affairs, the ministry of Justice and the EFCC recently won a landmark case involving some crew members of a foreign cargo vessel arrested in Nigerian waters over maritime infractions.

She said, “MT SAN PADRE PIO was arrested by the Navy on January 23, 2018 for operating in Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone EEZ without license. The vessel and her crew were subsequently charged for illegally dealing in petroleum products and forgery at the federal high court, Port Harcourt division.

“Nevertheless, Switzerland initiated an action against Nigeria at the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS) pursuant to Annex VII UNCLOS.

“Parties were heard on 21 and 22 June 2019. At the ruling held on 6th July 2019, Switzerland was asked to post a bond or other financial security, in the amount of $14million with Nigeria in form of a bank guarantee, issued by a bank in Nigeria or a bank having corresponding arrangements with a bank in Nigeria” Malafa said.

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