The Ghana Maritime Authority in collaboration with the Marine Police and the Western Naval Command has arrested eight persons suspected to be engaged in illegal oil bunkering along the coast of the Western Region.
They were arrested by a patrol team on Wednesday dawn while returning to their base after their daily routine.
But the patrol team spotted a wooden boat in an unusual position, approached it and saw eight persons on board.
Upon a search, they discovered that the specially made wooden boat had thousands of litters of oil – referred to as “remaining on board” – beneath it.
They were then escorted to the Sekondi Naval Base, where the product and the wooden boat were confiscated with the eight suspects handed over to the police.
Marine Police Commander ACP Seidu Iddi told 3news.com that all the eight suspects are Ghanaians and are believed to be residents of Sekondi-Takoradi.
“The eight young men are being held in our office. We will immediately commence investigations and process them for court. At the same time, we are going to hand over the product to the appropriate state agency.”
Since March this year, the Ghana Maritime Authority together with the Marine Police and the Western Police Command have been patrolling the coast of the Western and Central regions to clamp down on illegal activities including oil bunkering and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Western Region Director of the Ghana Maritime Authority Captain William Esson Thompson explained that since the operation began, they have made significant arrests.
“We have made several arrests on many illegalities committed at sea since we combined forces for the patrols. But with specific reference to the oil bunkering, only last week we made an arrest. On top of my head, I can count more than six arrests.”
He added: “These boats are used for smuggling; they are not registered in any form and so we cannot account for them. The product is definitely stolen from somewhere. So, the question is where was it stolen from and is it suitable for our local market? If it is not, it means it ends up at pump stations and in your car and my car and they start to malfunction. We are also worried about our environment as well because of the haste with which they are discharged both at sea and on land.”
Some supply vessels that call at the Takoradi Port to supply petroleum products are suspected to be the trade-off point for the illegal oil bunkering.
They normally sell off their remaining petroleum products referred to as “remaining on board” after they have supplied to the original customers.
The petroleum products, mostly diesel, are pumped from the supply ships at the anchorage using specially made canoes designed for that purpose, with the inside lined with plastic to avoid contamination and leakage.
The fuel is then transported to filling stations in the Takoradi metropolis and subsequently sold to the public.
The Ghana Maritime Authority is working on a law that will give it the power to burn boats caught engaging in illegal oil bunkering.
By Eric Yaw Adjei|3news.com|Ghana