COLUMN | Heroic Idun Sailors Acquitted in Nigeria – Sing Hallelujah! (offshore accounts) Seafarers News

We wanted to delve deep into corruption in Venezuela and Congo this week, but finally got some good news from Abuja on Friday. Stop the press!

The Long and Unfair Story of the Crew of the 300,000 DWT Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Heroic Idun, detained in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea since last August, seems to be coming to a positive conclusion. Last Friday a Nigerian court approved a settlement with the owners and their insurer, Gard, that will allow the ship manager OSM’s 26 seafarers to leave Nigeria later this month, cleared of all charges.

The release of the seafarers after eight months of unjust imprisonment in Malabo and Port Harcourt, numerous court adjournments and threats of imprisonment is great news. We hope that they will soon be reunited with their loved ones and families in their home countries and that they will not be overly traumatized at being treated as legal hostages by the dysfunctional Nigerian legal system.

Heroic IdunThe crew of , holding up the Philippine, Indian and Sri Lankan flags shortly after their arrest (Photo: All India Seafarers Union)

The tanker’s owners, Idun Maritime, a subsidiary of Norway’s Ray Car Carriers, pleaded guilty to a single maritime offense of illegally entering sovereign Nigerian waters and agreed to pay a fine of NGN 5 million (approximately US$11,000). ) to pay. Furthermore, and this is where classic somber Nigerian politics comes in, the settlement agreement allowed the Nigerian Navy to recover the costs associated with the ship’s detention.

These “costs” (and I’m using the “air quotes” on purpose) are believed to be in the millions of dollars, the Navy claims. As they were not released publicly by the court, no one in Nigeria is likely to know exactly what was paid and why, or where the funds will ultimately end up once they are received from the honest and hard-working naval officers of Nigeria, the Gulf’s most powerful naval force Guinea. We will reserve our opinion on the Nigerian naval officers involved in this case until the tanker and her crew have safely left Nigeria.

Who can we thank?

Hunter Idunlater renamed Heroic Idunin 2021 (Photo: MarineTraffic.com/Jarek Z.)

The Heroic Idun Arrests have highlighted once again how seafarers are being used by coastal states as collateral for multi-million dollar claims; mistreated by seedy legal systems that unjustly criminalize them on fabricated charges. The case had been delayed and adjourned several times without just cause, and Nigerian Navy spokesman Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan refused to concede that the process was likely flawed.

In the run-up to the seafarers’ release, the Nigerian press laid the groundwork for it last week. vanguard Newspaper quoted a confidential source who said there had been “a push for an out-of-court settlement by the ambassadors of the various countries of the ship’s detained crew members”. Many thanks to vanguard And The guard of Lagos for creating a more favorable public atmosphere in which the case should be heard and the plea bargained.

Sixteen of the sailors were arrested Heroic Idun were Indian nationals including the master, a further eight were Sri Lankan nationals, another seaman was Filipino and the chief engineer was a Polish national. The ship was registered in the Marshall Islands. Well done to the diplomats involved in putting pressure on the Nigerian authorities to remind them that the country must not detain seafarers unfairly. Thank you, High Commissioner of India in Nigeria Shri Abhay Thakur and your fellow ambassadors.

Great work Isaac Jolapamo and Tajudeen Alao

Isaac Jolapamo (far right) at an event hosted by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, November 4, 2020 (Photo: NIMASA)

Thanks are also due to the former President of the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association, Isaac Jolapamo, who has spoken out in the local press about the continued detention of the tanker and the threat to Nigeria’s reputation. He rightly pointed out that Nigeria could and should have simply required a deposit from the owners’ insurers to allow the ship to sail and continue trading, as is the case in most other countries in such cases.

“Only in Nigeria are ships being held while the case is ongoing,” Mr Jolapamo said vanguard. “Detaining the ship ties up people’s investments. Detention is no longer en vogue. Only in Nigeria can you keep the ships of the peoples for three years.”

However, only in Nigeria.

Thank you sir for speaking that plain truth and reminding the online xenophobes that holding crew members hostage is not the behavior of a responsible nation these days.

Thanks are also due to the President of the National Association of Master Mariners, Captain Tajudeen Alao, who publicly argued that seafarers should not be punished for crimes they are not guilty of. :

“We are players in the international market,” Captain Alao told journalist Godwin Oritse, “and there is a general understanding of the International Labor Organization and the International Maritime Organization that seafarers should not be punished for such crimes. They don’t own the ships, they should act for the owners, they shouldn’t look at seafarers as criminals…they can track the cargo instead of punishing seafarers and stopping seafarers from going to sea, which is not good.

“By now Nigeria should have established a standard procedure for handling this type of matter.”

Exactly our thoughts.

Outside Nigeria, the maritime community has pulled together. Thanks to Maria Dixon from ISM Shipping Solutions in the UK for tirelessly highlighting this case within her on social media almost every day “VLCC Heroic Idun: The Diaries” series of posts. Ms Dixon kept the spotlight on the case throughout, reaching large audiences both in Nigeria and abroad with her patient reminders on social media that without seafarers there is no shipping and ultimately no shopping for consumers around the world. Well done Maria!

Credit also goes to Gard and all the work behind the scenes that the P&I Clubs do for shipowners and seafarers in such cases. The International Group of Protection and Indemnity Clubs does an excellent job in the industry as insurance of last resort for damage caused by major pollution and in the event of ship breakdowns.

Thanks also to trade winds for their editorial policy of maintaining their cover of Heroic Idun Case free for everyone outside of the paywall. Cases like this depend on the wider maritime community keeping an eye on the plight of the seafarers affected lest they be forgotten, and on the authorities involved being reminded of their responsibilities and not treating seafarers in this way.

Never again?

Let’s hope there are no more surprises in this long and bitter case. We pray that the seafarers of Heroic Idun soon be home, that the ship will be released and that the Nigerian Navy will never again be reckless about seafarers’ rights.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation. To be treated as a serious regional power, it must act responsibly and stop efforts by civil servants and military officers to collect fines and “costs” for false claims. Reforms start at the top. We are reminded of Nigerian poet Nkwachukwu Ogbuagu’s quote: “There are legislators elsewhere in the world. There are legislatures in Nigeria.”

That needs to change. Such a case should never happen again Heroic Idun.

What exactly happened?

As we highlighted in January, the facts of the case have never been disputed. The tanker, operating its AIS, was struck by an unidentified vessel on August 7, 2022 at night (local time) as it approached the Akpo deep-water oil field operated by TotalEnergies, 200 kilometers from Port Harcourt. Heroic Idun was there to load crude oil lawfully purchased from its charterer BP. Terminal operator TotalEnergies had expected to discharge oil into the VLCC.

The interceptor ordered the tanker to stop and allow personnel on board. The personnel on it claimed to be from the Nigerian Navy, but the AIS was not switched on on this ship. The master of Heroic Idun was concerned about the lack of a clear identification of the interceptor in an area notorious for piracy. He consulted Inchcape Shipping, the ship’s agents in Nigeria, who could not confirm it was a legitimate naval patrol.

The tanker captain sent the crew to the ship’s citadel for safety, and heeded the advice of war risk insurer DNK and coastal managers OSM to steam his ship out of Nigerian waters at full speed. A mayday was given and this alerted the flag state and the IMB Piracy Reporting Center of the possible attack. The tanker made it into international waters and eluded pursuers, but was promptly arrested by the Equatorial Guinean Navy. The crew were later transferred to a seedy immigration detention center and then they and the ship were forcibly returned to Nigeria with a naval escort.

Upon arrival in front of Bonny, the Heroic Idun Sailors on board were arrested for illegally entering the Akpo oil field, setting off a false pirate alarm to avoid arrest and attempting to lift crude oil without a permit. Then her case was repeatedly adjourned and postponed by Nigeria’s failing court system before finally being heard on March 28.

read background

In case you don’t know the shocking case of the tanker Hebei spiritwhich was at anchor when hit by a barge in South Korea in 2007, the summary Here is worth your time.

The depressing case of Seaman Guard Ohio is in India Here.

Hieronymus Bosch

This anonymous commenter is our insider on the world of offshore oil and gas operations. With decades of experience in the business and a multitude of contacts, this is the go-to source for what’s happening behind the scenes of the volatile offshore market.

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