While the identity of the owners of the contentious crude oil supertanker, MV HEROIC IDUN, with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number 9858058, carrying allegedly stolen crude oil from Nigeria, remains unknown, major parties alleged to be involved in the illegal oil trade have denied involvement.
EnergyDay gathered that the vessel which is under investigation has been impounded by local authorities and is currently anchored off the coast of Luba, Equatorial Guinea for more than 10 days.
MV Heroic IDUM allegedly fled to Equatorial Guinea the moment she was accosted by Nigerian Naval authorities on suspicion of illegal oil lifting and has since remained on the West African coast of Equatorial Guinea while diplomatic efforts are ongoing to facilitate proper investigations.
Meanwhile, TotalEnergies, Mercuria, and BP Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, who are major parties fingered in the deal, have altogether denied complicity in the allegations of involvement in stealing crude oil from Nigeria.
EnergyDay gathered that the names of the multinationals are directly mentioned because of their business affiliations with the Super Tanker vessel involved in what could emerge as Nigeria’s single largest oil theft.
According to a story from Bloomberg acquired by EnergyDay on Friday, the Nigerian Navy is present, applying diplomatic techniques to try and seize control of the tanker that is currently under arrest off the coast by local officials in Equatorial Guinea.
The Nigerian navy said that its counterparts in Equatorial Guinea arrested the Heroic Idun on August 12, four days after the same vessel allegedly tried to load a cargo of crude unlawfully from the deep-water Akpo field operated by TotalEnergies SE.
The most probable explanation remains that the ship lacked the necessary clearance and left Nigerian waters before being intercepted by the Equatorial Guinean military, the navy said on Aug. 19, 2022.
The Nigerian navy said that the ship was on hire to trading giant Trafigura Group, but that appears to not be the case, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The tanker was on lease to BP Plc from Mercuria Group at around the time the Navy tried to seize it on April 8, according to another person with knowledge of the situation.
For its part, BP Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, told Bloomberg that it hired the Heroic Idun to collect an Akpo cargo ten(10) days after the Nigerian navy interrogated the ship but booked another carrier after the Idun was “unable to perform the lifting.”
One potential explanation for the controversy is that the ship didn’t have the right paperwork at the time it arrived.
Loading programs show the cargo belonged to Prime Oil & Gas Cooperatief UA, which owns a 16% interest in the Total-operated license that contains the Akpo field. Prime declined to comment.
Total “is not involved,” a spokesman said by email. “At no time were crude volumes transferred” to the vessel, the company told Bloomberg.
THE NIGERIAN NAVY’S INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
The Nigerian Navy has issued a statement explaining that the government of Equatorial Guinea is conducting its investigation and that Nigeria has started diplomatic procedures to take control of the tanker, which is currently anchored off the coast of Luba, the Nigerian Navy said.
Nigerian authorities are under pressure to stem rampant crude theft from the country’s onshore pipelines. It would be highly unusual for such activity to occur in deep water permits 200 kilometers off the coast.
Norway’s Hunter Group ASA announced the sale of the Heroic Idun last month but didn’t respond to an email asking who bought the tanker.
WHAT THE PRESIDENCY SAYS ABOUT THE VESSEL
In a major twist to the story, the office of the Nigerian President said that its knowledge of what seems to be going on is sketchy but confirmed that the Nigerian Navy couldn’t have been wrong in its report concerning the alleged activities of the said vessel.
Tolu Ogunlesi, Special Assistant on Digital/New media to President Muhammadu Buhari, said that the Nigerian Navy checks with the NNPC revealed that the supertanker was not cleared or authorized to load crude oil from the Akpo field located within OML 133.
He said some vessels commence their voyages without advance authorization from NNPC or other regulatory/clearance authorities, in the hope that by the time they approach the loading point, the authorization will have been released.
ENERGYDAY INVESTIGATION REVEALED A DIFFERENT SCENARIO
An industry source in an exclusive chat with EnergyDay said, “Vessels are allowed to sail into the country’s crude oil export terminals on the pretext of awaiting formal authorization to load crude cargoes.
However, they usually proceed and load crude cargo while still waiting for formal clearance. All kinds of excuses are allowed in the circumstance by the culprits involved in this scam. The vessel is allowed to load and sail off into the international waters where the crude cargoes are either sold off or transferred into a receiver vessel.
“The rogue vessel will then make a quick return into the country and collect the authorisation that was previously pending and move on.
EnergyDay’s source confirmed authoritatively that this scam wouldn’t be achievable without the active involvement of NNPC personnel, thus corroborating the earlier submission by the Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director of the NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari that ” Crude oil thefts are carried out by members of the Nigerian elites”