The president of Nigeria has issued a directive suggesting a ban on certain tankers trading in the country may have been lifted, IHS Maritime has learned.
The ban followed a directive by the president on July 15 preventing in excess of 100 vessels from lifting crude and entering Nigerian territorial waters, on suspicion of illegal activity.
A letter sent to energy trader Hyde Energy in Nigeria by the Nigerian National Petroleum Council (NNPC) advises that its client’s vessels could enter Nigerian territorial waters subject to the issuance of a ‘letter of comfort’.
“Mr President has graciously approved the consideration of incoming vessels into Nigerian territorial waters subject to receipt of a letter of comfort from all terminal operators,” the letter stated.
It further said that the president was reviewing ‘all activities of all the affected vessels to determine culpability of illegal operations’. It suggests the ban could now be lifted for all vessels on the original banned list.
It is not clear as to who will issue the letter of comfort to individual operators.
“We would not advise operators that were on the list to re-enter Nigeria at this stage,” Tunde Adesokan of law firm Holman Fenwick Willan told IHS Maritime.
Speaking to other lawyers in London, one told IHS Maritime, “The issuance of this new letter appears to be a face-saving exercise for the NNPC and the Nigerian government, given the inconsistency, inaccuracy and errors in the original list.”
Safely re-trading in Nigeria may require direct intervention. “This is not a legal matter; it is a case of who you know and [the reliability of] who you have on the ground,” IHS Maritime was told.
In April, the Nigerian government introduced a requirement that all tankers loading crude at its terminals complete an out-turn verification exercise (OVE) at discharge ports, indicating the amount of crude lifted.
Adesokan advised owners to reduce their risk by initiating self-reporting and informing the department of petroleum resources of amounts loaded. Holman Fenwick Willan is also advising owners to consider bespoke charterparty clauses to directly address compliance.