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One Pinoy seafarer included: Oil tanker MT Heroic Idun, 26-crew detained for over 80 days in Africa; Manager, insurer react

Oil tanker MT Heroic Idun, 26-crew detained for over 80 days in Africa; Manager, insurer react
Sidharth MP Nov 14, 2022

The crew of detained Crude Oil tanker MT Heroic Idun are being questioned by Nigerian authorities, while the ship remains anchored in Bonny, in the West African nation. Those in touch with the ship's crew and their families told WION that 16 of the 26 crew members have been taken ashore for questioning, while the remaining ten are on board the vessel. The very large crude carrier and its crew have been detained in West Africa since August this year, which has caused severe agony for the sailors and their families.

Authorities in Nigeria have levelled serious allegations. They claim that in August of this year, the vessel attempted oil theft in Nigerian waters and that it sailed on without an identifying flag, despite orders from the Nigerian Navy. The vessel is said to have eventually sailed towards Equatorial Guinea, where it was detained by the country's authorities.

Manoj Joy from the Sailors Society has been maintaining contact with the ship's Indian crew and providing moral support for their families in India. The former sailor told WION that the allegations made by the Nigerian side are baseless and that it has become common practice for authorities around the world to treat seafarers as a soft target.

According to OSM Group, the ship manager for Heroic Idun, the vessel was ordered to load a cargo of oil in early August from the Akpo terminal in Nigeria. Whilst waiting for the necessary clearance papers after having tendered notice of readiness (being ready to receive cargo) in line with voyage orders received from charterers, the Nigerian navy approached the vessel under cover of darkness in a way that caused serious concerns and it was believed to be an attempted piracy attack. The vessel following ‘Best Management Practice’ escaped from the area and out into international waters.

The company added that the tanker was interdicted in International waters by the Navy of Equatorial Guinea, for allegedly not displaying the flag of that country. "A fine was paid at the end of September against a promise of release of the vessel and its crew. However, both the ship and crew remain in captivity" OSM said.

OSM Group CEO, Finn Amund Norbye said, “The vessel and its 26 multinational crew members have now been detained in Equatorial Guinea for more than 80 days. The seafarers have been treated as criminals, without any formal charges or legal process for close to 3 months, it is nothing short of a shocking maritime injustice.”
MT Heroic Idun is manned by a 26-member crew, which comprises 16 Indians, eight Sri Lankans, one Filipino and a Polish national. The families of the Indian sailors were hopeful that the crew would be released and could return home from Equatorial Guinea. However, the vessel being taken back to Nigeria increases the families' agonising wait. It is feared that the crew might have to face trial in the West African country, which could pose further challenges to their return home. Some crew members are said to have possessed their mobile phones till the bygone weekend and it is believed that those devices have now been confiscated by Nigerian authorities.

Recently, India's Minister of State for External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan, met the family of one of the sailors in Kerala and assured that the Indian Government was taking earnest efforts to secure the release of the sailors. He added that the Indian Embassy officials in Nigeria, were in constant touch with the Indian crew and that efforts were on to secure the crew, as permitted by International law.

Rolf Thore Roppestad, the CEO of Gard, the ship's insurance firm, said, “the treatment received by the crew shows a blatant disregard for basic human rights and international law. They have been held for more than 80 days, without any charges and without any legal representation locally to protect their interests. The situation is quite frankly outrageous.”

Many of the crew members have suffered from malaria, typhoid fever and other illness requiring hospitalisation, it was added.

Our combined Defence, P&I and H&M teams are working closely with the owners, managers, appointed lawyers, The Norwegian War Risk Association, and other stakeholders to help resolve what is clearly a very volatile and difficult situation, Thore said.