Fuel-smuggling appears to be rife, as two vessels were apprehended last Saturday near Tema engaging in the illegal activity in Ghanaian territorial waters. One of the vessels is purported to be a Nigerian-registered vessel with a Nigerian crew – caught by the Ghana Navy transferring fuel to another vessel, Matrix I.
According to the Navy, preliminary investigations reveal the crew of Nigerian nationality had no documentation covering the crude oil consignment and also could not provide a name for the cargo or its owners.
Firstly, the Ghana Navy, National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and BNI together with the Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority (GHPA) need to be commended for their vigilance and collaboration in bringing to book this criminal activity in our waters.
The very fact that a transfer took place at sea means the country is being denied revenue in taxes; and added to that, the crew possessed no required protocol to enable the ship carry out a ship-to-ship transfer of crude oil.
The NPA is leaving no stone unturned and has sent samples of the product for independent inspection to determine its type and specification by laboratory analysis. This process will determine whether the crude was procured legally or not.
This only goes to reinforce the fact that the country needs to intensify border monitoring patrols and clamp down on all such activities that sabotage economic activity. We urge a thorough investigation into the activity, since there is inference that without the ‘right connections’ such activities cannot take place.
All should be named and shamed, be they politically-connected persons or not. Such activities need wads of cash – and that can only come from people with the right connections. We need to be vigilant and expose all illegal profiteers of our oil and gas industry so that the country is not short-changed and our oil resource becomes a ‘resource curse’ because of the preponderance of underhand dealings.
Lessons from oil-producing countries in Africa are enough for us to be extra-careful and ensure that such practices are nipped in the bud before they take root in our nascent industry. We will be keeping our ears and eyes open to observe how the culprits will be dealt with. That will determine whether we really want to eliminate the canker or we are just playing to the gallery.