16 Indian crew members detained for alleged oil theft released by Nigeria after 9 months
The Indian government took steps for early resolution of the issue and repatriation of the Indian crew members
Nigeria has released 26 crew members, 16 of whom are Indians, from the MT Heroic Idun, an oil tanker seized by the African country, it was learnt on Sunday (June 11, 2023). The Indian crew members have now returned to India.
The ship and crew were accused of various crimes, including oil theft and falsely accusing the Nigerian Navy of piracy. The crew members had been in detention since August 2022, initially in Equatorial Guinea and subsequently in Nigeria.
Their release was preceded by lengthy negotiations following which all charges against the crew were dropped and the ship was released on May 27 after payment of fines, people in the know of the developments said.
Since the matter came to light, the Indian government took up the matter with the respective foreign authorities at various levels through its Missions in Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria as well as in bilateral meetings. "They were pressed for early resolution of the issue and repatriation of the Indian crew members," a person familiar with the discussions said.
According available information, the Indian Mission worked with the shipping company for legal representation to be arranged for the crew. It was highlighted to the Nigerian authorities that there had been no oil theft; necessary permissions had apparently been accorded; and that the crew was not privy to the decisions of operations. Humanitarian issues of some of the crew members were also highlighted.
The crew were allowed to remain on board the ship with provision of regular food, instead of being taken to a detention centre on land, following interventions with the Nigerian government. They were also allowed periodic contact with their families. According to sources, Indian Mission officials remained in regular touch with the crew and also undertook consular access on numerous occasions.