FG lifts ban on oil bunkering operations

The Federal Government has given a nod for the resuscitation of oil bunkering operations in the nation’s territorial waters.

According to experts, bunkering is like running a gas station on the sea. It provides fuel such as marine diesel, low pour fuel oil, lubricants and others to vessels operating in the country’s territorial waters.

Sometimes, bunkering companies also provide fresh water to vessels on the sea.

The Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, Mr. George Osahon, informed stakeholders in Lagos on Tuesday of President Goodluck Jonathan’s approval for the return of bunkering operators to the nation’s territorial waters.

But because of illegal bunkering activities, which became rampant at a time, the Federal Government suspended bunkering operations in Nigerian territorial waters pending a review of the policy.

Osahon said the resumption of bunkering operations in the country would generate revenue for the government and create employment opportunities that would buoy the economy.

According to him, the resumption of bunkering services in the country will save oil, gas and marine operators the stress of going to Senegal, Cape Verde and Cote D’Ivoire to fuel vessels operating in Nigerian territorial waters.

“It is unfortunate that we called for bunkering the last time but it did not take place. We are grateful to Mr. President for approving the operations. Issues of the past will continue to be discussed,” the DPR boss said.

Following government’s approval of the resumption of bunkering operations, the Director in charge, Directorate of Marine Services, Nigerian Navy, Navy Captain S. O. Ayeni, warned that any ship that must bunker in the country’s territorial waters must fulfil the requirements of the Navy.

“The operator will be expected to present to the Nigerian Navy headquarters an application for bunkering clearance detailing the vessel involved, location of bunkering operation or discharge point, quantity of bunker fuel and duration of the operation,” he said.

Ayeni further explained that the operator must disclose the source of his bunker fuel, adding that in view of the poor state of the refineries, the product must not come from the country, otherwise it would be regarded as stolen oil.

He also said the operators must obtain licences and certifications from the DPR and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on the quality of the products and the vessels.

“All these conditions will be verified at the Directorate of Marine Services in Lagos for validity and correctness; and if they are in order, recommendation is made to the Naval Headquarters for prompt approval of a particular bunkering operation as captured in the application,” Ayeni added.

Similarly, the Nigeria Customs Service outlined certain obligations that must be met by vessels that must be used for bunkering.

The Deputy Controller, Operations, Eastern Marine Command, NCS, Port Harcourt, Mr. Edorhe Elton, said operators of Nigerian-flagged vessels involved in bunkering business must show proof that appropriate duty was fully paid, while vessels leased from abroad must obtain temporary importation permit from the Customs.

He also said bunkering vessels must not leave the Nigerian territorial waters, whether they were home-used or leased.