The Nigerian Navy in Lagos on Friday said it had arrested over 80 vessels within the last three years for various maritime offences.

The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Ibok-Ette Ibas disclosed this in his address at the closing ceremony of the sea exercise Obangame Express 2019 at the Naval Dockyard Limited in Lagos.

He said the vessels were arrested for various acts of maritime illegalities.

“Within the past 3 years, over 80 errant vessels have been arrested for various acts of illegality. MT TECNE and MT NIPAL were caught in the act of stealing crude oil loading facilities in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

“Suffice it to state that the navy arrested a total of 30 vessels in 2018 for involvement in various forms of illegality in the nation’s maritime domain.

“This indicates on the face value, a downward trend when compared with 37 and 45 arrests recorded in 2016 and 2017 respectively,” he said.

He said the arrests had served as deterrent and helped to support the huge national dependence on the maritime economy.

“With the benefit of this exercise now, which has further sharpened our skills, we look forward to even greater achievements over the past efforts,” he said.

On the exercise, Ibas said it was organised to foster regional cooperation and information sharing amongst the Gulf of Guinea (GOG) navies as well as other friendly navies towards tackling cross border banditry and other maritime criminalities.

“In this regard, the exercise aims at working out each participating country’s capabilities in maritime domain awareness, implementation of regional maritime agreements and interoperability of African, European, Atlantic, and US militaries and agencies towards improving maritime safety and security in the GOG.

“It also creates a platform for the navy to practice the operationalisation of the Harmonised Standard Operation Procedures for arrest, detention and prosecution of criminal vessel in our waters,” he said.

Ibas expressed the hope that each participating country would build on the experiences gained during the 2019 exercise ‘Obangame Express XPRESS’ and sustain the tempo for subsequent exercise and operations within the region.

He appreciated the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, Head of Navies and Coast Guards and other dignitaries present at the closing ceremony of the sea exercise. (NAN)