Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has blamed the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for its continuous engagement of foreign ships for lifting petroleum products on board the nation’s waters.
Recall that over the years NNPC had come under serious criticisms for patronizing foreign ships for coastal shipping services, violating the local content and Cabotage laws in the country.
The objective of the Cabotage regime is primarily to reserve the commercial transportation of goods and services within Nigerian coastal and inland waters to vessels flying the Nigerian flag, owned and crewed by Nigerian citizens and built in Nigeria.
However, in a strange twist recently, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Mele Kyari while speaking on Channels Television, claimed that the Corporation has only engaged shipping companies approved by NIMASA.
Kyari was responding to an onset query by the President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung who criticized the continued jettisoning of Nigerian ships for NNPC coastal contracts.
In his defence, the NNPC boss stated that NIMASA has given waivers to the foreign companies engaged by NIDAS shipping, the shipping logistics arm of NNPC.
According to the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 Revised 2007, a foreign vessel and its company must obtain a Ministerial Cabotage license for registration to operate in coastal services in Nigeria.
A recent contract to foreign vessel owners for coastal shipping of petroleum products in the downstream petroleum sector saw NNPC award the coastal and bunkering vessels service to Messrs UNIBROS Shipping Company with eleven foreign-flagged coastal tanker vessels.
The company has thirteen Liberian flagged vessels, which are; BORA with 46,700 Dead Weight (DWT; CAPT GREGORY – 31,259 DWT; COROMEL – 12,279 DWT; KOWIE – 16,885 DWT; LESTE – 46,803 DWT; LEVANTO -19,117 DWT; MAESTRO – 17,575 DWT; NOTUS – 12,681 DWT; OSTRIA – 40,316 DWT; STELLAR – 40,316 DWT; TORNADO – 40,316 DWT; VARDAR – 40,225 DWT; and ZONDA – 46,803 DWT.
“No Customs import duty has been paid for any of the vessels Unibros is deploying to execute this contract, again in breach of the nation’s monetary and fiscal policies. Nigerian owned, operated and flagged vessels are made to pay full Customs duty and appropriate taxes on earnings which foreign shipping companies have continually evaded,” THE soan President had lamented while contributing to the live television programme.
A peek into the profile of Unibros Shipping as displayed on its website may even spark worry for Nigerian indigenous operators; the Greece based shipping company’s website states: “The African hub of Unibros Shipping is located in the business and economic heart of the continent with offices in the Nigerian cities of Lagos and Abuja. Unibros is active in all aspects of the Nigerian energy market. The company is a trading partner of the NNPC and its shipping arm, NIDAS. Unibros is also involved in bunkering and other offshore services. From our headquarters in Nigeria, we also offer both a wide range of marine fuels (predominantly marine diesel oil and fuel oil) and marine lube oils.” Source- Tribune.