Source: Moran Security Group
Moscow and London
In September 2012, Moscow-based crew members of the MV Myre Seadiver were conducting professional and legitimate counter-piracy operations along Africa's western coast when, in October, their anchorage in Nigeria's Port of Lagos took a fateful turn.
Ignoring the fact that all permits, licenses and clearances were in place, the Nigerian Navy captured the Master and crew of fifteen Russian sailors on the eve of their departure from the Port of Lagos. Held for months in a bleak Lagos prison without charge or trial, until recently when they were falsely accused of "illegal entry into the country" and "arms smuggling", the sailors are now threatened with life imprisonment by Nigerian prosecutors.
The behavior of the MV Myre Seadiver's personnel throughout this horrendous experience has been nothing short of exemplary. The vessel's parent company, Moran Security Group, her Master and her crew offered transparency and meticulously complied with Nigeria's regulations for private maritime security providers.
Alexey Maximov, of Moscow-based Moran Security Group, said: "The fact that our crew was forcibly removed from our ship at gunpoint in Lagos by the Nigerian authorities - the very people you should be able to trust - and held for months without charge is a total outrage."
He continued: "I can clarify that the vessel called at the Port of Lagos with all Customs paperwork in place and I possess all the appropriate documentation for presentation. A declaration of the weaponry onboard was made clear in that paperwork in advance of arriving at the Port of Lagos and the crew had valid Nigerian visas. It is a fact that the crew boarded the ship at the Port of Lagos AFTER flying into Nigeria through Lagos and entering the country through the airport's border control which they could not have done without visas!"
Moran Security Group respectfully conducts all international maritime security operations in compliance with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Mine Action Standard, and the Code of Conduct for International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The plight of the crew of the MV Myre Seadiver, as well as the broader issue of Nigeria's place in the international maritime community, are being evaluated by government officials in Russia and other concerned nations, as well as the International Maritime Organization.
Following are irrefutable facts in this compelling case:
June 4, 2012: The MV Myre Seadiver's operator, Moscow-based Moran Security Group, was granted Nigeria's Registration Certificate providing for legal "Carriage of arms and ammunition for maritime security purposes."
August 31, 2012: Moran Security Group engaged the local Nigerian shipping agent, Blueseas Maritime Services, as the party responsible for securing port authorizations permitting the MV Myre Seadiver's scheduled arrival in Nigeria's Port of Lagos on September 19, 2012. All fees associated with the agent's services were paid in full on a timely basis.
September 19, 2012: Blueseas Maritime Services applied for, and obtained, all requisite authorizations for the MV Myre Seadiver to enter the Port of Lagos with a small stock of arms.
The agent provided written confirmation to Moran Security Group that "The naval authorities are duly informed of Seadiver's arrival tomorrow. There'll be no issues." The agent added: "Further to below, we received a call from the naval base informing us that while Seadiver is at the anchorage, the Navy patrol boat on routine surveillance may likely alongside for routine check."
The MV Myre Seadiver's Master recorded, "Permission is granted, proceeding to the road of Lagos in accordance with instructions received from the agent."
September 20, 2012: The MV Myre Seadiver anchored in the Port of Lagos.
September 20 - October 18, 2012: The crew of the MV Myre Seadiver conducted routine activities while stationed - substituting the relief crew, performing basic ship maintenance and replenishing provisions and bunkering supplies.
October 19, 2012: In a surprise attack, seizing the MV Myre Seadiver, the Nigerian Navy patrol apprehended and arrested the Master and the entire crew as they were preparing to sail from the Port of Lagos.
October 23, 2012: A Nigerian Navy spokesperson, Lieutenant Commander Jerry Omodara, claimed that "Preliminary investigations show that the MV Myre Seadiver was laden with assorted weapons… There is no indication that the vessel was authorized to come into Nigeria, and worse still, to carry arms."
January 7, 2013: After several months of imprisonment without charges, in harsh conditions (including lack of drinking water), all crewmembers of the MV Myre Seadiver were obliged to appear in Nigerian court. During this court appearance, no charges were leveled by Nigerian prosecutors.
February 18, 2013: Despite being in possession of visas duly issued by the Nigerian Embassy in Moscow, the crew was charged with "illegal entry to the country."
Despite being in possession of written approval by the Flag Administration to carry weaponry specific to the professional maritime security objectives and itinerary, the crew was charged with "illegal possession of arms & ammunition." The inventory of materials declared and approved precisely matched the inventory later seized during the arrest.
Despite full compliance with International Maritime Organization (IMO) resolutions governing the declaration of arms & ammunition (notably the Master's control of weaponry and safekeeping inside the vessel), the crew was charged with "illegal importation of arms & ammunition."
Nigerian prosecutors stated that "Although an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty… We submit that the presumption of innocence is not absolute or a magic wand"… and "the human right or individual right must be suspended until the national security can be protected or well taken care of."
February 25, 2013: All fifteen MV Myre Seadiver crewmembers have been temporarily released on bail to Russia's ambassador in Nigeria.
The bond for the release of the MV Myre Seadiver vessel was set at $500,000 but the vessel is still in the custody of the Nigerian Navy.
Nigerian prosecutors have called for life imprisonment for the entire fifteen crewmembers.
The case was adjourned until April 10, 2013.