In speaking with sources in Nigeria this week, one thing that has become abundantly clear… the business of fuel theft is the primary driver of piracy in the region, and it’s an issue that appears to have spread throughout many levels of the oil and gas industry.
When fuel prices were low, oil majors operating in the area often overlooked the theft of fuel from the boats that supplied their offshore oil and gas activities. It was standard operating procedure, but now it’s “out of control,” notes a gCaptain source in the region.
How it works
Fuel buyers frequently sign for significantly more fuel than what is actually delivered, the difference is then sold on the black market according to a source working on the Agbami field. These deals however, conducted out of sight of land or other vessels, make the vessels themselves targets because after the “transaction” the pirates come and steal their money back. The AIS track of the C-Retriever shows this deviation to the north, clearly out of sight of the Agbami field.
Regional involvement is extensive, our source writes, including “politicians, navy, marine mid management with the [oil] majors, many of the white guys.” He adds, “Nigerian captains drive expensive cars, Range Rovers and the like.”
The kidnapping of the two Americans this week from the Edison Chouest-owned C-Retriever platform supply vessel is not an isolated case by any means, nor are they the first Americans (or Edison Chouest employees) to be kidnapped and held for ransom by Nigerians. As another source working in the region noted yesterday, upwards of 15 attacks have occurred this year within a 30 mile radius of the Agbami oil field offshore Nigeria.
Recent events show, and our sources indicate, that resisting the fuel theft trade offshore Nigeria could at the very least mean losing one’s job, or perhaps being kidnapped and held for ransom, or even death.
If you play along with the “game,” you may be able to pocket a serious amount of cash, as many have done, but then again, you may also find yourself in 3rd world hole-in-the-ground hoping your employer bails you out.
Note: There’s no indication that the two kidnapped Edison Chouest employees (who must remain anonymous at this point) were involved with the illegal fuel theft trade, and this article is not meant to imply or suggest they were in any way. If anyone has further information to share on this topic, please feel free to email [email protected], we do not disclose our sources.