Nigerian oil production vessel explodes

Tanker was engulfed in flames and sank in Delta region off coast of southern Nigeria

An oil tanker that was capable of carrying two million barrels has exploded off the Nigerian coast.

The oil production ship, the Trinity Spirit, could process up to 22,000 barrels of oil a day, according to local reports. It was not clear if there were any fatalities or what caused the explosion, which happened on Wednesday.

Videos posted to social media on Thursday showed flames and huge clouds of black smoke rising into the air, and the ship then sinking.

The explosion is believed to have happened at the Ukpokiti oil field in southern Nigeria’s Delta region. The ship was owned by Shebah Exploration & Production Company Ltd (Sepcol), a company in receivership.


"At this time there are no reported fatalities, but we can confirm that there were 10 crew men on board the vessel prior to the incident and we are prioritising investigations with respect to their safety and security," said the company's chief executive Ikemefuna Okafor. The company did not respond to a request for further comment.

Investigation team

"We got information of the fire incident yesterday and we immediately ordered our field officers to commence investigation. Investigations are still ongoing," Gbenga Komolafe, chief executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, told Reuters. "It is only after, when we have received the report of this investigation from our team, that we will issue a comprehensive statement devoid of speculation."

Nigeria is the largest crude oil producer in Africa, and the Niger Delta is the centre of the country's oil production industry. Proceeds from oil account for aroundbout 70 per cent of Nigeria's revenue and 90 per cent of its exports and foreign exchange. But recently there has been an increasing focus on the environmental cost.

Pollution and danger

Last year, the UN children's agency, Unicef, said Nigeria has the highest number of overall air pollution-related pneumonia deaths of children under- five in the world.

In November, an oil well blew up in southern Nigeria and spewed gas and oil into the air and an adjacent river for five weeks.

Nigerian oil installations have also been attacked by militants, while the Gulf of Guinea has been described as a global hotspot for piracy, with most attacks, including raids on oil tankers, occurring in Nigerian waters. In 2021, 57 crew were kidnapped in seven different incidents, according to a report by the International Maritime Bureau.

Also last year, there were 34 incidents of armed robbery and maritime piracy reported in the Gulf of Guinea, which was a significant drop from 81 in 2020.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa