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Last Updated: Friday, 4 April, 2003, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Ghana ship mystery deepens
Kwaku Sakyi-Addo
BBC, Accra

A Nigerian energy company has been blamed for the mysterious disappearance of a ship carrying thousands of barrels of crude oil from one of Ghana's oilfields last week.

Ghana's Minister of Energy , Albert Kan-Dapaah, blamed Lushann Eternit for the disappearance of the crude oil worth $2m.

He said the attorney-general would begin action to temporarily impound the company's assets.

Over the past three years, Ghana has stepped up its search for crude oil.

There are international oil companies, exploring off the coast of the Volta Region in the east, as well as off the western shores in joint-venture agreements.

But so far only one of them is actually producing oil.

Bad faith

Lushann Eternit and the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) jointly own the crude oil test production project in the Saltpond Oilfields, in western Ghana, from where the vessel, the MT Asterias, went missing on 28 March.

Though the missing crude oil was the joint property of Lushann Eternit and GNPC, Mr Kan-Dapaah said the government held the Nigerian partners responsible because they were the technical managers.

We completely dissociate ourselves from this act, and we condemn it
Lushann Eternit

Lushann Eternit have rejected the charge and have instead, and have in turn pointed the finger on another firm - Ocean and Oil, the company which owns the missing vessel.

Ocean & Oil is registered in the Isle of Man, but its management is Nigerian.

A Reuters news agency report from Nigeria, quoted the managing director of the company, Paul Okoloko, as saying that Ocean and Oil had impounded the tanker, because they were owed $1.9m in arrears, by Lushann Eternit and GNPC.

An official statement issued by Lushann Eternit described the behaviour of Ocean and Oil as "illegal and in bad faith."

Interpol search

The statement said: "We completely dissociate ourselves from this act, and we condemn it."

A spokesman for Lushann-Eternit in Ghana told the BBC that he suspected that the MT Asterias was in Nigerian waters.

The Ghanaian authorities have contacted Interpol to help track down the vessel which was carrying 74,000 barrels of crude oil and its Russian crew.

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