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Buhari Reverses Self On Tanker Ban

President Muhammadu Buhari Has Reversed Himself Over The Ban Of 113 Oil Lifting Tankers Who Now Return For Business 

Federal government has voluntarily lifted the ban slammed on 113 crude oil tankers from operating in Nigeria’s coasts in July, but maintained that investigation of their activities would remain ongoing until the vessels are finally cleared to operate in the country.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) on yesterday announced lifting of the embargo would now allow the 113 Vessels to engage in crude oil and gas loading activities in any of the terminals within Nigerian Territorial waters.

According to a letter, dated on July 15th and signed by the Gbenga O. Komolafe, who was Group General Manager of NNPC’s crude oil marketing division, the ban on the ocean going tankers was ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, but reasons behind the decision have not been disclosed.

The move was however believed to be a measure against vessels suspected to be involved in illegal oil trading. There were also allegations of outturn figures following differences between the loading and discharge figures, especially with certain countries.

The letter had stated that the 113 tankers were banned “from engaging in crude oil and gas loading activities in any of the terminals within the Nigerian territorial waters until further notice.” The list of tankers attached to the letter consists of mostly Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs), with some ship names appearing twice and others that have been absent from Nigerian waters for quite some time like the Happiness, the Huge and the Diona, operated by Iranian group NITC.

The banning of the vessels just one month after President Muhammadu Buhari took over the reins of the government was also widely interpreted as hasty reaction to a deluge of allegations that portrayed the petroleum industry as a hall of corruption.

Consequently, the ban contended with a backlash of international industry protest that threatened the confidence of the global shipping community in Nigeria. Various international shipping associations, including INTERTANKO, involved in co-ordinating a collective response that included seeking confirmation from the NNPC of what steps shippers needed to walk out of the blanket ban.

Intertanko had rapidly issued a strong protest against the ban. In a letter to NNPC, Intertanko general counsel Michael White wrote, “Intertanko protests in the strongest possible way that these bans should be lifted with immediate effect until grounds and evidence for the ban have been given to each vessel and vessel owner/operator, and the owner/operator has had an opportunity to respond.”

Michael White had in the protest questioned NNPC why particular ships had been banned, with many on the list having never even traded to Nigeria before.

The protest letter noted that no reference was given to policies and requirements relating to the ban or evidence of why individual vessels had been banned. The letter added: “Many of these vessels have not traded to Nigeria for a number of years; some have never been there. So their owners/operators find it difficult to understand what policies/requirements they have infringed.”

Following international consternation against the shoddy processes that led to the ban, NNPC which slammed the ban on the vessels in July clarified yesterday that lifting the ban does not allow the tankers to involve in illegal activity in the country.

Spokesman of NNPC, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, stated “that the lifting of the ban is subject to the receipt of Letters of Comfort from all Terminal Operators, Oil Companies and Off-takers of Nigerian Oil and Gas as guarantee that nominated vessels, pending the outcome of detailed investigation, are unencumbered and would not be utilized for any illegal activity whatsoever.”

He said an inter-agency committee made up of the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Navy, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and NNPC would now monitor the activities of the vessels. Mr. Alegbe stated that the committee has the mandate to collect data and investigate the activities of the unbanned vessels within Nigerian territorial waters.

“The Inter-Agency Committee will appraise the culpability or otherwise of each of the vessels in the time past and advise appropriately,’’ the NNPC stated. An industry captain whose company plays in the upstream sector said that the anger of the international shipping community might have compelled the government to start too late to do what it would have done initially.


– Sopuruchi Onwuka


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