Nigerian Navy has said Motor Tanker (MT) Heroic Idun and its 26 foreign crew have pleaded guilty and voluntarily elected to enter into a plea bargain with the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The director of information Naval Headquarters Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan disclosed this in an update on MT Heroic Idun’s trial at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He said the release of the vessel is subject to the fulfilment of all the conditions of the plea bargain to the satisfaction of the court.
According to the Navy, the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) had entered the Nigerian Maritime Environment (NME) on 7th August, 2022 and headed for Akpo Field without any form of authorisation or clearance. The vessel with IMO number 9858058 is registered in Marshall Island and has an overall length of 336-metres, 60 metres breadth (nearly the size of three football fields) and a carrying capacity of three million barrels.
The vessel’s captain having duly responded to Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) GONGOLA refused Navy ship’s order to proceed to Bonny Anchorage to await her NNPCL papers but rather proceeded at top speed towards the Nigeria/Sao Tome Joint Development Zone. The vessel also raised a false pirate attack by reporting its encounter with NNS GONGOLA to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB),a claim that was refuted.
MT Heroic Idun was tracked by the Nigerian Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness system and the ship was eventually arrested by the Equatorial Guinean authorities based on a formal request by the Nigerian Navy under the Yaoundé code of conduct.The vessel was afterwards transferred back to Nigeria on 12th November, 2022.
The Nigerian Navy approached the attorney-general of the federation/minister of justice and the ship and crew were charged to court at the Federal High Court on 10th January 2023 in Port Harcourt.