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Players Bemused Over Ban On 113 Crude Tankers

Sopuruchi Onwuka, With Agency Report

Oil and shipping players in the country are confused over a document that said that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has banned 113 oil tankers from entering Nigerian oil facilities and territorial waters, expressing concerns over the fate of crude lifting contracts that might be affected in the measure.

The document was signed by Gbenga O. Komolafe, the group general manager of NNPC’s crude oil marketing division. It stated that NNPC has prohibited 113 tankers “from engaging in crude oil/gas loading activities in any of the terminals within the Nigerian territorial waters until further notice.” The letter dated July 15 was addressed to terminal operators in Nigeria. The tankers were listed in an attached spreadsheet.

“The affected vessels have also been barred from movements within the Nigerian territorial waters forthwith,” it said. “Finally, enforcement of the above directives takes immediate effect pending a notice to the contrary by Government, please.” Sources at NNPC did not respond when approached for comment.

There was initial skepticism from some quarters about the veracity of the document, and oil and shipping companies were gathering information throughout the afternoon to try and verify it. “We have been informed about [the ban] and it seems terminal operators will have to take that into account,” said an active buyer and seller of Nigerian crude oil. Shipping and trading sources said the NNPC’s grievance with the shipping companies stems from issues surrounding outturns figures related to the crude oil exports at the port of discharge. Sources said there have been a few incidents between Nigerian authorities and their crude oil buyers on differences between the volume of crude that was discharged, compared to the volume on the bill of lading.

“We hear it is about the outturn figures, as there are sometimes differences between the loading and discharge figures, especially with certain countries,” said a trader active in the West African crude oil market. “We are currently gathering information,” said a source with a shipowner that would be impacted by the potential ban. “A lot of market players have received the document and we have to take it seriously.

The NNPC are asking for outturn figures but the receivers of the cargoes have this information, not the shipowners. They need to approach the cargo receivers, not the vessel owners,” he added. Other sources said the ban could be related to “settling dues” such as port and maritime fees. The majority of Nigerian crude cargoes are lifted on Suezmax and VLCC tankers. “We suspect it is part of a fallout from the level of scrutiny that NNPC is currently under,” a Nigerian crude oil trader said.

He added this may be part of the new government’s drive to target “vessels that have not paid dues or have been involved in incidents with the Navy.”

“In this new administration such lapses are being corrected,” he added. Some sources said the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), had previously issued advice to vessel operators and owners to comply with International Maritime Organization directives to countries to phase out vessels that do not meet international standards. They said some of the vessels in the list might fall into the category of tankers that did not meet the IMO standards.

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