Nigeria detains two maritime security guards

Gulf of Guinea has become a high risk area for maritime crime Gulf of Guinea has become a high risk area for maritime crime Graphic: Dryad Maritime Intelligence

MARCH 31, 2014 — Two maritime security guards have been detained since March 21 when they were waiting with Nigerian Government security in Warri, Nigeria, to embark the MV Crete to provide maritime risk management services for a Gulf of Guinea voyage.

The two men Vincent Haywood (32) and Piers Eastwood (39), both U.K, nationals were contracted by the Nigerian subsidiary of Port2Port maritime security of the U.K.

In a statement, Port2Port West Africa confirmed that the two were arrested March 28 by the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, following a detainment of 7 days as part of an investigation into a third party, who was suspected of crude oil theft.

"Port2Port West Africa vehemently denies that its contractors were or ever have been involved in crude oil theft or illegal activity of any kind," says the statement. "We made the British High Commission in Abuja aware of this very serious incident on Saturday, March  22, and we remain in constant communication with the them and the families of our security contractors, who are clearly extremely concerned.

"Port2Port West Africa was recently contracted by Nimex Petroleum (a Swiss/ Dubai-based oil trading company) to provide maritime security services to their vessel the MV Crete for a voyage from Warri across the Gulf of Guinea. Haywood and Eastwood, UK nationals and private security contractors for Port2Port Maritime Security Ltd, were assigned to the Port2Port West Africa task of protecting the Nimex chartered vessel with seven Maritime Police Force Officers. The evening prior to embarkation, Haywood and Eastwood were detained by the JTF whilst at a hotel in Warri.

"Port2Port West Africa, at all times, provided legitimate commercial services to its client, an international oil company, Nimex Petroleum, involving the provision of maritime security services to a vessel in Nigerian coastal waters. At all times these services were provided in accordance with the full and prior permission of the Nigerian authorities pursuant to licenses issued by them to allow the company to do so. Port2Port West Africa is one of very few companies who have such licenses.

"Azmat Mahmood, Chairman/CEO of Nimex Petroleum Group said: 'Port2Port West Africa was contracted by Nimex Petroleum to provide maritime security services to our chartered vessel, MT Crete which was officially granted Nigerian Naval Clearance to load evacuated petroleum products based on an agreement between Fenix Impex (as seller) and Nimex Petroleum (as buyer) for a trans Gulf of Guinea voyage. As the vessel was previously attacked by a pirate gang just a few days earlier, we chose to engage P2P as they are one of only a select few companies licensed to conduct maritime operations in Nigerian waters. Through no fault of either of Port2Port West Africa or Nimex Petroleum, Port2Port personnel were subsequently arrested and falsely and incorrectly accused of wrongdoing.'

"Piers Eastwood and Vincent Haywood are both former Royal Marines with exemplary military history and are two of our finest and most respected senior team leaders with a wealth of experience of maritime operations in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. Having been seized by the JTF on the evening of 21st March, they were detained for a week without charge and denied any consular or legal access, however, this has now been granted and the BHC and our legal team have visited them and we can confirm that despite their ordeal, they are in good health.   

"Ambassador Edward Aina, Chairman of Port2Port West Africa said, “The arrest of our personnel is completely unjustifiable. The allegations against them are patently untrue and we will utilize every legal process at our disposal to prove as such and get these dedicated, highly professional and totally innocent contractors released urgently.”

"Andrew Varney, Managing Director, Port2Port Maritime Ltd said, 'This entire episode has been a very traumatic experience for Piers and Vincent and their families, we are working closely with all the relevant authorities to maintain consular and legal access in accordance with Nigerian and international law . We will take legal action in the High Court to contest their seizure and detention, and the unjustified allegations against them, for which no evidence of any kind has been presented.' "