Worried by the worsening crude oil theft and the attendant revenue loss, the Federal Government has adopted a policy framework that will reduce the carriage of crude to local refineries through the pipelines to mitigate the losses incurred through pipeline vandalism.
The government is therefore working on a scheme that would create an enabling environment for Nigerianowned shipping companies to build indigenous tonnage that would launch them in the mainstream of lifting of the nation’s crude oil.
This is sequel to the recent launching of two Nigerian ocean going vessels MT Abiola and MT Igbinosa of 45,000 metric tonnes each owned by Ocean Marine Tankers Limited, a fully indigenous firm.
Senior Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on maritime services, Mr. Leke Oyewole, who spoke in a telephone interview, hinted that the two ocean going vessels would be dedicated to the carriage of crude oil to the Warri Refinery.
According to him, the government will continue to encourage more indigenous shipping firms to acquire more standard vessels that would launch them into main stream deep sea shipping by creating the much needed enabling environment for the private sector operators to thrive.
According to him, over the years it has been established that transporting crude through the pipelines is no longer safe and viable, which requires that another approach to the issue is considered to mitigate the losses suffered by the government through crude oil theft.
He stated that the acquisition of the two mother vessels which will also call at other international harbours is a demonstration of the fact that there is light at the tunnel.
He said: “The acquisition of these vessels is an indication that the government is not relenting in its efforts at creating an enabling environment for the private sector operators to thrive.”
He noted that the government is working on a scheme that would enable more Nigerians to acquire ocean going vessels that would partake in the lifting of crude oil across international boundaries.
“The transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan has provided the enabling environment for effective implementation of the Cabotage regime in Nigeria, part of which is evident in the participation of indigenous players in the lifting of crude oil”, he said.
This development would also begin to correct some trade imbalances in Nigeria’s international trade records, which show that as the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the world, she has been rated as the only member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), whose citizens do not participate in the lifting of crude, which portends a huge financial loss to the economy.
Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi had while commenting on the development, assured all indigenous operators in the maritime industry that the agency is fully committed to protecting the rights and interests of the indigenous operators.
According to him, NIMASA is also more than ever before committed to the enforcement of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003, which gives indigenous shipping firms exclusive right to lift petroleum within the coastal and inland areas.
He noted that the commencement of lifting of crude by Ocean Marine Tankers is an indication that there are better days for indigenous shipping firms who have over the years seem to have been schemed out of the lucrative trade.
Information from National Mirror was used in this report.