From Left: The Consular General, Republic of Korea, Mr. Kim Ln-taek, Commander, NIMASA Maritime Guard Command, Commodore Aniette Ibok and the Second Secretary Consular of the Ghana High Commission, Nigeria, Mr. David Ako Sowah at the official hand over of suspected vessel Marine 707 and 51 crew members to their respective authorities in Lagos recently.

The Federal Government of Nigeria has handed over a fishing vessel; Marine 707 suspected to be carrying out illegal fishing activities in the Gulf of Guinea to the Ghanaian authorities for further investigation and possible prosecution. The country also handed 51 crew members comprising 48 Ghanaians and three South Koreans to the Governments of Ghana and South Korea respectively.

The vessel which is only authoriised to fish in Ghana and the Republic of Benin waters, was arrested by the Nigerian Navy on May 18, 2020 around the Southwest of Lagos waters  with her Automatic Identification System AIS switched off after being suspected to be used for piracy or being used as a mother ship  to perpetrate criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea was handed over to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA by the Nigeria Navy, having carried out preliminary investigations

Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, while speaking during the official hand over of the Ghanaian flagged vessel and the crew to the respective authorities, said that the Navy- NIMASA partnership, which is now hinged on intelligence gathering and sharing has put Nigeria on a pedestal to win the war against piracy and other illegal acts at sea within the Gulf of Guinea region.

Represented by the agency’s commander, Maritime Guard Command GMC, Commodore Aniete Ibok , the DG disclosed that though preliminary investigations could not establish that the vessel and her crew were directly linked to piracy,  the vessel violated international laws for shutting down its AIS 36 times in the last six months, three of which were done on Nigerian waters. This is an indication that it had some sinister motives by shutting its AIS so that the vessel would not be identified.

 “We are handing over this vessel to the Ghanaian authorities in the spirit of bilateral cooperation both countries enjoy. We have done our preliminary investigations and we are yet to establish any concrete evidence against the vessel but again, we would not know what she would be doing whenever she turns off her AIS which occurred 36 times without being logged in her record book in line with international protocols and three of these were in our domain. However in the spirit of brotherhood that Ghana and Nigeria enjoy, we are handing over the vessel to Ghana for further investigations”, the DG said.

Dr. Jamoh further warned that individuals or organisations thinking of perpetuating any form of illegalities in the Gulf of Guinea should be ready to face the full wrath of the law with the Antipiracy law in place along with the NAVY and NIMASA partnership that is waxing stronger with major focus on security in Nigeria’s maritime domain and the entire Gulf of Guinea region.

 “we will not condone any act of illegality in our maritime space, we have improved on our intelligence gathering and sharing with relevant agencies and with what we are doing now in no distant time piracy will be a thing of the past in the Gulf of Guinea because we have a robust antipiracy law that will deal with perpetrators of illegalities on our waters”, he also said.

While receiving the vessel and the crew on behalf of the Ghana Maritime Authority, the Second Secretary Consular of Ghana in Nigeria, David Ako sowah commended the Nigerian authorities for being professional in handling the case. He said what Nigeria is doing is for the benefit of the entire countries in the Gulf Guinea.

In his words: “As the big brother in this region, Nigeria has done well in showing a lot of maturity in handling this case and I want to assure you that Ghana would also look into more collaborations in Nigeria to ensure that the Gulf of Guinea remains safe for maritime activities”.

Meanwhile, the Consular General of the Republic of Korea in Nigeria, Kim Ln-taek, who spoke during the hand over, also commended both parties involved in handling the case. He said his findings from the Captain of the Ship who is a Korean showed that the AIS was faulty. He noted that the vessel and her crew erred by not following the protocols of logging it in the record books when the AIS was down but he was happy that the case has been resolved up till this point.

The Ghana flagged vessel with International Maritime Organisation’s IMO number 7419755 and registration number 316880 is owned and operated by World Marine Company Limited, Japan and as at the time of arrest it had 51 crew on board with all being Ghanaians except three who are from the Republic of Korea.

This case also brings to the fore the efforts of NIMASA and Navy in the battle against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. It would be recalled that the Navy recently arrested 10 pirates on a Chinese fishing vessel and handed them over for prosecution under the newly signed anti-piracy law.