The Nigerian Navy has detained local tankship Dandellan Grace for suspected smuggling. It subsequently handed the vessel to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). The ship had switched off its transponder, the Navy said, allegedly with the purpose of remaining hidden from detection by security agencies.
The vessel was granted approval to load diesel from Tonimas Storage and discharge its content at Julius Berger Yard in Port Harcourt. After loading the diesel, it was discovered that the vessel switched off the AIS transponder from September 29th 2020 to the morning of September 30th 2020.
The Navy said that this behaviour aroused suspicion that the vessel might have proceeded in stealth mode to enable it to engage in illicit activities. The suspicion that the vessel might have indulged in illegal bunkering was further confirmed when Julius Berger rejected the petroleum product supplied to it because it did not meet the specification of the Department of Petroleum Resource (DPR).
Consequently, the vessel was detained by the NNS Pathfinder for further investigation. A confirmatory laboratory test conducted by the DPR during the investigation revealed that the petroleum product was within the specified range for diesel.
Although the test result came negative the Dandellan Grace was still found culpable for AIS infractions.
NIMASA will conduct a speedy investigation to determine why the vessel’s AIS transponder was switched off, It said that it would prosecute anyone found culpable of the crime.