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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Ghanaian ship goes missing
Kwaku Sakyi-Addo
BBC, Accra

A vessel carrying thousands of barrels of crude oil from one of Ghana's oilfields has mysteriously disappeared from the country's territorial waters.

Officials of the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, GNPC, received an emergency call from the oil rig where the vessel had been operating, saying she was sailing away in an easterly direction.

She left Ghanaian waters before the country's navy could stop her.

A statement from the Information Ministry said Interpol had been informed, and investigations had begun to locate the vessel. The statement said the storage vessel, MV Asterias, carrying nearly 74,000 barrels of crude oil, worth $2m, was last seen on 28 March moored in the Saltpond Oilfields, off the western coast of Ghana.

The MV Asterias is registered in the UK, and owned by a company called Ocean and Oil.

Its crew is Russian.

Bewildered

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 with the GNPC.

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

The crude oil on board the Asterias came from an oil well at the Saltpond Oilfields - which is a joint venture between the GNPC and Lushann Eternit, a Nigerian company.

Officials at the Ministry of Energy are bewildered by the disappearance of the Asterias, and have made no public comment themselves.

They also refused to speculate as to where the vessel might be heading.

Official sources said security at the oil wells would be increased, with the involvement of the Ghana Navy.




SEE ALSO:
Ghana's trapped slaves
08 Feb 01  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Ghana
05 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


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