Despite a letter issued by state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp (NNPC), which has been interpreted as a lifting of the ban on the 113 tankers calling at Nigeria, INTERTANKO has advised its members not to sail any vessel on the list, either into Nigeria or into its EEZ.
According to Platts, the letter said; “The President has graciously approved the consideration of all incoming vessels into the Nigerian territorial waters subject to receipt of a Letter of Comfort from all terminal operators and off-takers of Nigerian Oil and Gas as guarantee that nominated ships are free and will not be utilised for any illegal activity whatsoever.”
INTERTANKO said; “We continue to advise members who have ships on the banned list to exercise extreme caution with their whole fleet. Any member who decides to trade to Nigeria should follow the practical advice we have given and make use of the INTERTANKO Nigeria Trade Clause in their fixtures.
“NNPC has sent a follow up to its letter of 15th July, 2015. We understand that this letter, dated 8th September, 2015, has been sent to local terminal operators and oil and gas traders.
“While some are interpreting this latest letter as a lifting of the ban, we continue to advise against trading to Nigeria any ship on the banned list. The penalties for any alleged contraventions of Nigerian law by these ships are draconian, including forfeiture of the ship and life imprisonment of the crew,” the organisation warned.
It further explained that the language contained in the letter was vague and INTERTANKO did not believe that it could be relied on by owners to clear the vessels on the banned list for trade to Nigeria.
NNPC officials indicated that the second paragraph of this letter ‘implies’ that the ban has been lifted, provided a satisfactory letter of comfort is received. However the letter goes on to say that the authorities will be reviewing the activities of those banned ships.
“We will endeavour to clarify this point with NNPC but in the meantime we believe that there is currently no mechanism whereby a ship can be removed from the list of banned ships or whereby an assurance can be given, eg for a ship in the same ownership. Unless and until the ban is actually lifted, we continue to strongly advise that any vessel on the list of banned ships should not trade Nigeria or sail into Nigeria’s EEZ. Nigeria should also be excluded from trading limits,” INTERTANKO stressed.
For other vessels not on the list of banned ships, the letter appears to require the terminal operator/shipper to submit a ‘letter of comfort’ to NNPC that the ship will not be used in any illegal activity. However, it is not clear what that letter of comfort might say; neither is it clear whether an owner might also be required to provide ‘comfort’ to the Nigerian authorities and/or to the terminal operator that it will not engage in any illegal activity in Nigerian waters.
INTERTANKO’s letters to the various Nigerian Authorities have thus far remained unanswered. It said that it will follow up with NNPC to achieve absolute certainty whether or not a banned ship may now trade there.
“In addition we will continue to press the Nigerian Authorities for information on the alleged contraventions committed by members’ banned ships,” the organisation concluded.