Dutch maritime support for oil industry in Niger Delta

Nigeria is a major African military power. Its military is often accused of human rights violations, like recently for using helicopters against civilians. Despite these continuing accusation, Italian Leonardo (partnered with Israeli Elbit) will deliver 6 M346FA jets to Nigeria in 2021. Nigeria’s navy often escapes the scrutiny while oil extraction, pollution and protests happen in and around the waterways and creeks of Niger Delta. There is good reason to have a look at boats and vessels also.

Although Nigeria is a regional power, its navy does not have many major vessels. There are two frigates, one from Germany* and one a former US Coast Guard vessel upgraded and modernised into a frigate. Nigeria does however have a wide range of small boats and vessels. This fits closely to the major role its maritime forces have: anti-piracy operations and the protection of the oil industry.

Dutch companies are major suppliers of this type of vessels. The Dutch government provides financial insurance for the export of protected civil vessels. These are civil vessels sold to providers of services to the world’s major oil companies active in the Niger Delta, such as Shell, Total, Chevron and ExxonMobile.

Nigerian navy

The Nigerian Navy said it had acquired 172 patrol boats, four helicopters, four ships and 14 unmanned aerial vehicles over the last six years to fight crude oil theft and sea piracy within the country’s territorial waters. The Nigerian Navy incorporated a total of 378 platforms, including the 172 patrol boats, and also 114 rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), two Seaward Defence Boats, 12 Manta-class boats, three Whaler boats, three tugs and two barges.

And there is the large acquisition of a amphibian transport vessel. In a video clip this Landing Ship Transport 120 can be watched while ramps unfold and weapon systems are boarded. The ship is developed by the Dutch Damen conglomerate of ship wharfs. Tanks (up to 70 tons), vessels and armoured vehicles can be brought aboard in several ways at different spots of the ship, for transport to remote places of conflict. See also earlier Stop Wapenhandel blog about this deliverance.

Stop Wapenhandel also published about a Dutch export of fast boats to Nigeria, an order that drowned in a quackmire of corruption. To Parliamentary questions about deployability of these boats against civil protest in the Niger Delta this sale was defended by the Dutch government as important for the protection of oil platforms of Shell in the Niger Delta.

At its Vietnamese ship wharfs the Damen company is also building for the Nigerian navy. It is constructing two 40 meters patrol boats also known as the Stan Patrol 4207. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these vessel are trapped in Vietnam and cannot be delivered. They can be armed with various type of armament included a remotely operated weapons station mounted with a 12.7 mm naval machine gun, according to the Military Africa website.

Oil industry service vessels

Outside the scope of the navy, the Damen company is providing a range of vessels for the network of companies that serve the oil industry with personnel transport and offshore activities like building platforms and pipe laying. Atradius Dutch State Business is due to report the individual policies it issued and thus give an overview of all vessels using the financial support by the Dutch government. It turns out Damen exported (armoured) fast crew suppliers, work boats and patrol vessels to an amount of € 202 million from 2013 to 2020 (see table). These are for civilian use, although often painted in grey which gives them a military appearance. It can not be ruled out they are sometimes used to embark armed (military) personnel. Proof of this did not surface yet, but in the militarised Niger Delta situation it is hard to exclude such use.

View table here: Damen exports with Dutch export credit facility to Nigeria 2010-2021

Security vessels

Several programs of other Dutch ship and boat builders stay under the radar. The Abuja and Lagos survey vessels were build buy Dutch wharf De Hoop situated in Lobith. They have been recently deployed in a integrated sea, air and land military operation: “what we seek to do … to ‘snove’ the bandits out of the creeks,” said Rotimi Fashakin, head of operations NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency). He was joined by Murtala Bashir, the Nigerian naval forces to explain the operation. During the same operation also Fast Interceptor Boats were used during the same operation. This might have included a number – up to seventeen in 2020 – of fast interceptor TDHM1050 boats by Dutch shipbuilder De Haas from Maassluis to NIMASA.

This was not the first sale of De Haas to Nigeria. In 2012 two patrol vessels for security operations were shipped to Nigeria to protect ships from piracy by Nigerian Sea Trucks, active in the oil business, and created by Jacques Roomans. This Nigerian with Dutch heritage was also involved in another business, the West African Ventures (WAV). Both companies ran into internal turmoil and a retired naval admiraltried to forcefully take one of WAV’s vessels, Jascon 55, out of Nigeria. The Nigerian navy, however, promptly intervened and stopped the attempted theft.” His business would sour soon after. It is one more example of how Nigeria is a Bonanza for loosely organised security constructions.

Neglect of the people

Nigerian democratic political system is inherent with military features whereby every side of it is militarised in one way or the other,” as a Nigerian scholar on international relations argues. He explains how the situation in the Niger Delta was repressed by the government mainly focusing on the use of military and paramilitary forces. This has deteriorated the security situation and the needs of the people are neglected. Dutch vessels are good for big oil, but not for a secure Niger Delta.

* a 1980’s MEKO-frigate with Oto Melara guns and Thales Netherlands fire control radar.

Martin Broek – May 2021

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