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BY: Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu
A maritime security operation to crack down on illegal oil bunkering along the coast of the Western and the Central regions of Ghana has led to the seizure of 10 large-size canoes.
The operation, which took place last Friday, involved the Marine Police Unit (MPU), the Ghana Navy and the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA).
The Director-General of the GMA, Mr Thomas Kofi Alonsi, who led the operation to impound the canoes, said one of the canoes contained fuel that could fill three road fuel tankers that carry 18,000 litres each.
He also said that 20 people who were arrested on board the canoes had been granted police enquiry bail.
The impounded canoes are currently at the Navy quayside at the home port of the Western Naval Command in Sekondi, while the GMA has indicated that it is seeking legal backing to destroy them.
Mr Alonsi said the source of the petroleum products, mostly diesel, was the merchant vessels at the anchorage.
On reaching the shore, he said, the fuel was transported to filling stations in the communities for sale to the public.
He said the GMA had resorted to engaging the MPU and the Ghana Navy to combat the illegal activity.
He said the operation would continue without fear or favour, adding that the Legal Department of the GMA had been instructed to obtain the necessary legal orders that would allow the regulator to lawfully destroy all boats seized.
At a meeting with security chiefs in the Western Region, Mr Alonsi said, it was found that the illegal fuel trade along the coast of the Western/Central enclave had assumed alarming proportions.
“The fuel, which is usually of low quality, end up on the market, having escaped the regulatory scrutiny and quality assurance of the National Petroleum Authority, posing serious risks to vehicles,” he said.
The Western Naval Commander, Commodore E.A. Kwafo, said: “If not stopped, the owners of the canoes may become emboldened and start carting other illicit products, such as weapons and drugs”.