FG releases MT Heroic Idun vessel after plea bargain

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By Tina Amanda

The Motor Tanker Heroic Idun has officially been handed over to the owners, Idun Maritime Limited, by the federal government after a successful court prosecution and plea bargain agreement were reached.

The large motor tanker with 26 foreign crew on board had resisted arrests by the Nigerian Navy Ship Gongola near the Akpo oilfield offshore Nigeria. It was eventually arrested in Equatorial Guinea on August 2022 and brought back to Nigeria for prosecution in November 2022 on three-count charges.

MT Heroic Idun and her 26 foreign crew, located 30 nautical miles offshore of Bonny, pleaded guilty and voluntarily entered into a plea bargain agreement with the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as make restitution to the Federal Government for the interest of justice, the public and public policy interest in line with Section 270 (5) (a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.

However, the MT Heroic Idun and its owners were to pay conviction fines and restitution to the federal government and make an apology to the Federal Republic of Nigeria in print and electronic media as well as Llyod’s List, after which the Federal Government agreed not to further criminal prosecute and investigate the vessel, her owners, charterers or her crew in the matter of her crime against the State.

Accordingly, the vessel’s owners apologized to the federal government on Lloyd’s List on 12 May 2023; the same apology was published in the Punch Newspaper.

Commanding Officer, Forward Operating Base, Bonny Navy, Captain Mohammed Adamu, speaking at the official handover of the vessel on 27 May 2023, explained that the federal government released MT Heroic Idun has fulfilled all the conditions above of the plea bargain to the satisfaction with the consent of the court.

‘The vessel regretted the false pirate attack alarm she raised on 7 August 2023, which was in apparent defiance of the State, being that she disobeyed the orders of Nigerian Navy Ship Gongola after an attempt to load crude oil without appropriate approvals from NNPCL and the necessary security clearance.

“The subsequent transfer of the ship from Equatorial Guinea after she had escaped Nigerian waters and her prosecution under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, 2019 further demonstrates the Nigerian Navys practical commitment to ensure that only valid and authorized vessels are allowed to carry out export of crude oil or gas at the various oil terminals and this is to enhance energy security governance in the country for improved national prosperity as directed by the FGN.

“Pertinently, MT Heroic Idun, having fulfilled all the conditions above of the plea bargain to the satisfaction of the Federal High Court, has been released today, Saturday, 27 May 2023, to its owners, Idun Maritime Limited, with the consent of the court and approval of the FGN”.

Captain Adamu warned maritime stakeholders and seafarers operating within Nigerian waters to carefully conduct their operations and maritime-related activities within the due observance of the law.

“Key players and seafarers operating within Nigerian waters are enjoined and warned to carefully conduct their operations and maritime-related activities within extant regulations and with due observance of the law.

“The Nigerian Navy will not fail to bring to book those whose operation infringes on the provisions of the SPOMO Act and all maritime laws and conventions acceded to by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The Navy under the able leadership of the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo CFR, shall continue to work in synergy with other Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies, navies of the Gulf of Guinea states and strategic partners of Nigeria to ensure that Nigeria derives the maximum benefit from its natural resources in her vast maritime area”.

In an interview with journalist, Captain of the MT Heroic Idun, Tanuj Mehta, thanked the Nigerian Navy and the general public for the extreme professional treatment accorded to them all through the Court prosecution process.

“We were treated exceptionally professionally by the Nigerian Navy. We are thankful to the Nigerian Navy and the people of Nigeria for treating us well.

“Yes, we are aware of the arrangement between the Navy and the vessel owners and the plea bargain agreement. We are more than happy and relieved to return to our country and to our families”.