Nigerian authorities accuse Danish bunker company Monjasa along with a total 14 seafarers of engaging in illegal bunker oil trading due to missing or insufficient permits, according to a an indictment published Wednesday alongside the arraignment of the suspects in front of a judge in Lagos, Nigeria.
In a comment to ShippingWatch, Monjasa Holding CEO Anders Østergaard denies that the Nigerian authorities have anything on which to base their case.
According to the indictment, the 14 named foreign seafarers, from Ukraine, Russia and the Philippines, stand charged on four counts bordering on conspiracy and illegal trading of bunker products.
The indictment also names three companies, tanker vessel MT Anuket Emerald, Monjasa DMCC and Glencore Energy UK Limited, for being involved in the case, according to the charges laid out in the indictment published by the Nigerian authority EFCC, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, as reported by tv-station Channels Television.
All 14 accused seafarers plead not guilty to the charges. The preliminary court hearings are scheduled for June 17-19.
"The important thing for me is to stress that there is nothing to this. Our ship was boarded by the Nigerian navy as they wanted to see whether we were carrying Nigerian crude oil on board. All cargo is tested and the results confirm that the oil is, firs of all, not crude, but fuel and diesel oil (bunkers), and that the oil is not Nigerian," says Anders Østergaard (photo).
Leased by Monjasa
The ship MT Anuket Emerald was boarded by the Nigerian navy on a routine patrol in Nigerian waters on March 8th this year, suspected of illegal oil trading. The tanker vessel was subsequently handed over to authorities.
The authorities' investigation showed that the registered owner of the ship is company Combe Shipping Limited, with Alliance Tankers Incorporated serving as co-owner. It later turned out that the Panama-flagged tanker vessel with IMO registration number 9393644 was leased by Monjasa DMCC in Dubai, according to the indictment.
And tanker MT Anuket Emerald does feature on Monjasa's fleet list.
Ship arrested in Angola
Earlier this year, in January, another Monjasa tanker vessel was arrested for months by authorities in Angola.
The Angolan authorities arrested vessel M/T San Padre Pio (photo) on January 21st for having transferred fuel to another ship 40 nautical miles off of Angola's coast. Bunker deliveries are, according to Angolan authorities, not allowed within the 200 nautical mile limit off the Angolan coast, and according to Anders Østergaard, Monjasa had to pay USD 40,000 for the release of the ship.
Ship in international waters
"Unfortunately the authorities (in Nigeria) are now trying to charge us with operating in Nigerian territory without permission, even though the ship was beyond the 12 nautical mile radius, thus located in international waters (EEZ). But this case, along with the recent one in Angola, unfortunately illustrates clearly that several sovereign states are trying to claim rights to the EEZ zone," explains Anders Østergaard, adding that ships, crew and cargo are of course insured:
"Right now this is just a matter of getting our ship and crew out sailing safely again. And of course I should mention that both shipowner and forwarder, as well as our respective P&I clubs, are on the same side in this event."
Monjasa is the biggest bunker supplier off the coast of West Africa, with a total 17 vessels operating in the region.