News Update

Master Mariners Demand Law to criminalize Non Declaration of Oil Rigs in Nigeria

By Jude Atupulazi

The Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, NAMM, has called on the Federal Government to enact a law that will make it an offence for operators of oil rigs in the country not to declare it to the appropriate maritime authority, in this case, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.

The President of the association, Captain Tajudeen Alao, who made this call in an interview in Lagos on Tuesday, was reacting to a recent incident involving the Majestic Rig belonging to Depthwize Nigeria Limited, which capsized at Ovhor in Warri, Delta State.

NIMASA had earlier in a statement signed by its Head, Public Relations Unit, Mr. Osagie Edward, claimed that the ill-fated Panama Flagged Rig had been operating on Nigerian waters since 2016 without requisite approvals from the Agency.

Reacting to the claim by NIMASA, Capt. Alao said it was embarrassing for a rig to operate without requisite approvals from NIMASA if Nigeria was a serious country, insisting that there should be a law in place to compel every rig owner to declare the same to the designated authority or risk a 20-year jail term.

Acknowledging that it may be very possible for rigs to operate in Nigeria without requisite approvals from NIMASA, the NAMM President who cited an example with the two oil rigs operated by Ibori in the country undetected for seven years in the past until there was a crisis in the creeks, said this was so because the Oil Industry in Nigeria operated like a closed shop.

On why a rig could operate in the country without necessary approvals in the first place, he explained that no one could patrol the ocean, noting that the Nigerian Navy who could do so were handicapped; even as he maintained that the deep blue project was a new creation which came into operation about ten years ago.

Blaming the development on the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, and the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Capt. Alao said, ‘NNPC is guilty and DPR is guilty and until we fight that, we must be part of it, it was a confidential thing. Lifting of oil in Nigeria is a confidential thing, big ships coming into Nigeria and loading oil and going is confidential.

‘Agu championed it between 2001 and 2003 for DPR to cooperate with NMA that time from the commercial angle, then the GIS joined NMA, then it became safety issue and DPR was in charge of fire onboard, lifeboat onboard, life change appliances which is not supposed to be so because they are only in charge of measurement of cargo produced but they were even in charge of plan approval, conversion of ships to FPSO, FSO and so, it’s not today’s problem.

‘The Minister of Petroleum has given approval and the Minister of Transportation does not know and we we’re bringing the Minister of Transport to go and launch ships in Dubai and elsewhere but they were not aware of anything. It took the intervention of NMA to bring it to the attention of the Minister of Transport that these things were going on. Everything was operated from the Presidency, of course, the Minister of Petroleum is the President, who will go and query him?’

On what happened to the revenue that was supposed to accrue to the government from the operation of the rigs within the territory of Nigeria, Alao said, ‘Whatever they are paying is between NNPC and DPR.’

Culled from prime time reporters.