Oil Company Donates 50 Security Boats to the Nigerian Navy

A group of the newly-transferred patrol boats at a delivery ceremony in Port Harcourt (Aiteo)

Published Aug 16, 2021 10:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Nigerian oil and pipeline company Aiteo has taken the unusual step of donating 50 brand new gunboats, patrol craft and other vessels to the Nigerian Navy, hoping to tamp down piracy and oil theft in its own backyard. 

The Nigerian Navy often deploys aboard privately-owned escort boats to provide for-hire security services, but this donatipon will see the vessels transferred as a permanent gift. They will be used on the Niger River Delta's creeks and waterways to combat illegal activity, according to Nigerian Navy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo. 

"This is a milestone in our collaborative engagement with corporate maritime stakeholders to rid the nation’s maritime environment of criminal elements and economic saboteurs," Gambo told The News Nigeria. "These platforms will enhance the navy maritime security architecture and bolster our maritime security operations effort."

Unauthorized pipeline tapping and oil theft have been a persistent problem in the Niger Delta for decades, resulting in loss of revenue and extensive environmental damage. Aiteo Group's Nembe Creek Trunk Line, built and formerly owned by Shell, has been a frequent target. As early as 2012, Shell estimated that oil thieves were stealing 140,000 barrels per day from the line, and the oil major was forced to repeatedly shut down the flow in order to conduct repairs. Shell sold its interest in the line to Aiteo in 2016, along with the oil field OPL 29. 

Nigerian Navy officers have periodically been accused of taking bribes to protect oil theft rings and illegal refining operations in the Niger River Delta. The proceeds from selling stolen oil and "artisanal" refined products are large enough to underwrite ample payments to navy officials, securing safe passage for illegal bunkering vessels, according to The Guardian. Upon taking command earlier this year, Vice Adm. Gambo vowed to crack down on officers who are involved in oil theft, drug trafficking and kidnapping operations. 

Overall, the Nigerian government estimates that maritime crime costs the nation about $26 billion per year, along with additional expenses for foreign vessel owners, operators and insurers. Nigeria's international partners, notably the governments of the United States, Italy and Spain, have taken an interest in providing Nigeria with maritime security assistance. Last week, the U.S. Navy expeditionary mobile base USS Hershel "Woody" Williams concluded an extended anti-piracy exercise with the Nigerian Navy, the Ghanaian Navy and the Spanish Navy.  The participating vessels included Nigerian Navy ships Prosperity, Nguru, Ekulu, Osun and Ose, along with the Spanish Navy patrol ship SPS Vigia and the Nigerian Navy’s Regional Maritime Awareness Center.