Four persons have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the use of a vessel to siphon 3,500 metric tonnes of crude oil from a pirated vessel from Gabon.
The piracy was carried out on MT-COTTON, a Gabon registered vessel, on July 14, 2013, by yet-to-be identified pirates.
Those arrested included the one who chartered the vessel, the agent of the vessel in Tema, a cargo surveyor and one other person.
A Ghana-based company was said to have chartered another vessel, MT-MUSTARD, to siphon the crude oil from MT-COTTON on July 20, 2013.
A deputy minister of Information and Media Relations, Mr Felix Ofosu Kwakye, told journalists in Accra yesterday that after siphoning the fuel, MT-MUSTARD headed for Ghanaian waters.
Mr Ofosu Kwakye declined to give the names of the four for security reasons, but indicated that the person who chartered the vessel and the agent of the vessel were the two main suspects.
He said INTERPOL collaborated with national security, leading to the interception of MT-MUSTARD at Saltpond by the Ghana Navy on August 1, 2013.
Thirteen crew members were arrested by the Ghana Navy.
Meanwhile, he said, MT-MUSTARD, had been escorted to the Tema Port, where it anchored.
The deputy minister said as far as the MT-MUSTARD was concerned, the national security was only privy to information which indicated that it was a Ghana-based firm that chartered it to go and rendezvous with MT-COTTON in Gabon’s waters.
That, he said, was the information that the government was crosschecking with the Registrar General’s Department to ensure that it was indeed a Ghanaian entity.
He said MT-COTTON was currently in Côte d’Ivoire, and indicated that national security was yet to find out in which country it was registered.
”We want to be absolutely certain that these are Ghanaian companies and the individuals involved are Ghanaians,” he said.
Mr Ofosu Kwakye said in view of the increasing rate of piracy in the West Africa sub-region, the government had increased support to the Ghana Navy in terms of vessels and equipment.
Besides, he said, the marine unit of the Ghana Police Service had intensified its work to assist the Ghana Navy to protect the country’s territorial waters against piracy.
International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB’s) global piracy report for 2013 revealed that there was increased piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
According to the report, armed pirates in the Gulf of Guinea took 56 sailors hostage and were responsible for all 30 crew kidnappings reported so far in 2013.
One person was reported killed and at least another five injured. Attacks off Nigeria accounted for 22 of the region’s 31 incidents and 28 of the crew kidnappings.