Equatorial Guinea’s navy has arrested a VLCC that had fled from Nigeria, after an alleged attempted loading at the Akpo field.
Ship tracking sites report the MV Heroic Idun arrived at Nigeria’s Akpo field on August 8.
On August 9, the tanker issued an alarm saying there had been an attempted boarding, the West Africa Regional Maritime Security Centre (CRESMAO) said. The Marshall Islands-registered tanker said it was 10-15 nautical miles off Akpo.
The alleged pirate attack was actually the Nigerian Navy seeking clarification on the Heroic Idun’s authority to load, CRESMAO continued.
The Nigerian Navy ordered the vessel to head to the Bonny Fairway Buoy for further checks. The vessel does not appear to have the required loading permit from the Nigerian authorities or permission to be in Nigerian waters.
“The captain of the tanker refused to co-operate and rather altered course towards Sao Tome and Principe,” the agency noted. “The tanker deliberately raised a false alarm to [International Maritime Bureau] IMB that she was under pirate attack.”
Laid up at Luba
Equatorial Guinea stopped the MV Heroic Idun on the afternoon of August 12, offshore the island of Annobon, according to Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue. The navy escorted the vessel to Luba, arriving on August 13.
The vice president said the VLCC was trading in “illegal fuel”. The Nigerian Navy alerted Equatorial Guinea to the tanker’s escape. Equatorial Guinea’s detention of the vessel “is a sign that the only weapon to protect the coasts of the Gulf of Guinea is collaboration between the countries”, he said.
According to Marine Traffic, the ship remains offshore Bioko.
A TotalEnergies representative said the company was not involved. The Heroic Idun did not offload oil at Akpo but was within 10 nautical miles of the FPSO, they confirmed.
The MV Heroic Idun visited Singapore in June, arriving in South Africa in mid-July before heading on to Nigeria.
Norway’s Hunter Group sold the Hunter Idun on July 22. The company did not disclose the identity of the buyer. A report from Splash 247 named DAO Shipping as the owner.
The company and Anglo Eastern, which manages the vessel, have not yet responded to a request for comment. Trader Mercuria has been asked for comment.
According to IMB, offshore crime in the Gulf of Guinea has receded. The agency reported in July that there were 58 incidents in the first half of the year, with 12 in the Gulf of Guinea.
Dr Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood, an academic at St Andrews focused on maritime security, said the false report was damaging for the region and the attempts to combat piracy.
Currently, vessels entering the region must pay the War Risk Insurance Premium. Nigeria, and other states, have invested in offshore security in an attempt to have this premium withdrawn.
“I still think that insurance companies should reconsider the premium. One year is enough to make a decision based on the current realities,” said Okafor-Yarwood.
Updated with TotalEnergies’ comment.