Nigeria Lifts Ban On 113 Tankers From Operating In Its Water 

Nigeria has lifted the almost two-month old ban on 113 tankers from operating in its territorial waters, shipping brokers, owners and charterers said Thursday.
Although the notice referred to 113 tankers on the banned list, an analysis by Platts showed that the number of vessels actually totaled 102 when duplicate vessels were removed
The ban has been lifted, several shipping industry officials told Platts citing an official communique dated Tuesday.
“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 utilized for any illegal activity whatsoever,” the letter, issued by state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. and seen by Platts, said.
The ban was imposed by NNPC on July 15 without citing any reasons. The ban was interpreted by market participants as having been imposed to curb illegal shipping of crude out of the country.
“It is a welcome move because many ships were not calling at Nigerian ports due to the ban,” a dirty tankers broker in North Asia said.
Many members of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) were not sending any of their ships to Nigeria because of fears they could be impounded, a VLCC broker in Singapore said.
These included even those ships, which had not on the list of those prohibited by the Nigerian authorities.
Intertanko is one of the largest groupings in the shipping industry, with 207 full members and 285 associate members, and a registered fleet of over 3,000 tankers of over 270 million dwt.
The shipowners were concerned about becoming embroiled in legal complications.
Last month, deputy comptroller-general of Nigeria Customs Service Adewuyi A. Akinade told Platts his department had the list of prohibited tankers, no temporary permit would be granted to them and they would be impounded if found in the country’s territorial waters.
When asked about some of the ships on the list that appear to have never called at Nigerian ports or have not done so in several years, customs spokesman Adewale Adeniyi said these might belong to companies that either own tainted tankers or had associates that did.
Market participants said that this prompted some shipowners whose vessels were on the list to keep their entire fleet out of Nigerian ports. “We have identified the ships on the list that are in our membership, 46 in total,” Intertanko’s General Counsel Michele White told Platts last month and added that these were mostly Suezmaxes.
With the number of ships ready to lift crude from Nigeria falling, there were concerns that the country’s efforts to curb smuggling might be starting to hit legal crude exports too, a source with a VLCC owner said. Shipping industry officials said that this could be one of the reasons for the decision to lift the ban altogether.
However, they said that uncertainty would prevail until ships that were on the list were able to undertake at least one voyage to load crude from Nigerian ports successfully.
“President has directed the review of activities of all the affected ships to determine the culpability or otherwise in illegal operations within our territorial waters,” the NNPC letter signed by Mele K. Kyari, group general manager with the company’s crude oil marketing division said.
Request for vessel clearances and documentary instructions must be accompanied by the “Letter of Comfort” indicating that these ships would not be involved in illegal activity, Kyari said in the letter.

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