By DAPO OLAWUNI
Globally, oil bunkering is regarded as a legitimate business that involves the process of supplying a ship with fuel. It is a process of transferring fuel from one vessel to another. This process sometimes is called ship to ship transfer of fuel.
Fuels to be supplied include Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) or diesel, Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
Even though Nigeria is the biggest market for petroleum products in the whole of West Africa, it is a shame that the country has not taken full advantage of the opportunities in the bunkering business.
In the Nigerian lexicon, the word “illegal bunkering” has become so popular, especially with the Nigerian Navy impounding vessels and arresting shipowners for dealing in stolen crude oil, but unfortunately all these offenses are sometimes described as illegal bunkering.
This stance of the federal government and the Nigerian Navy has driven away 60 per cent of vessels calling at Nigerian ports to divert their attention to neighboring port of Lome, Togo for bunkering of their vessels.
Some of these shipping companies and ship owners have said that apart from the constant harassment by security agents and lack of expertise, insecurity on the waterways is another factor that has driven them out of Nigerian waters to bunker in Togo.
Meanwhile, Nigeria is losing remarkably in terms of revenue generation from bunkering services as licensing of bunkers including licence renewals, registrations of vessels for bunkering business by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) is expected to generate about N250 million yearly.
It was reported that Nigerian maritime industry and dealers in bunker fuels are losing out on an estimated $20 billion market as vessels calling at Nigeria’s ports choose to procure their bunkers from sources outside the country.
Investigations revealed that Nigerian bound ships seek solace in Togo for bunkering because the Togolese Government created a Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) for ship bunkering.
Also, a Blue Economy expert at Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr Mrs Felicia Chinwe Mogo has lamented that it was because Nigeria lacks platforms for bunkering, this has necessitated shipowners going to Lome in Togo.
She identified that there are lots of investments and job opportunities in the bunkering business which Nigeria is loosing to neighboring ports.
Speaking on this, Capt Tajudeen Alao, President of Nigerian Association of Master Mariners told DAILY TREND NEWS that government of coastal states must provide safe waters for all ships at no extra cost.
He said that depending on the volume trade, and transit time of ship, a Special Anchorage Area may be designated for bunkering of ships and other stores.
He however warned that “Aside for reasons of safe passage and manoeuvring of ships and quarrantine of ships , it is criminal and illegal to create a secure anchorage for purpose of providing security and collecting dues”
“In line with IMO goal on safer shipping, cleaner ocean and secured marine environment, it is the responsibility of member states to put into effect, the provisions of all Conventions that have been adopted and ascended to, as far as all ships under its flag to which it has jurisdiction. And compliance by ships calling in its ports or operating Offshore or under innocent passage”
“The port authority must designate certain areas for specific purposes , safe Anchorage for short or long stay , quarantine, dumping ground, waiting for clearance, pilot boarding , special purposes clear of the channels and these must be so marked on the charts of each port”
A frontline freight forwarder and former president of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Dr. Eugene Nweke on his part called for a specialized deep seaport which should be designated by the federal government for bunkering of ships and other ship logistics.
Dr. Eugene argued that there is no need for the creation of any special anchorage for ship bunkering in Nigeria.
He told DAILY TREND NEWS that “Whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well. Government should rather designate any of the deep sea ports under making to bunker, cum cold logistics port. It is more definitive doing so, in order to compete effectively in bunkering business within the subregion, and record an appreciable patronages”
“So, there is no need for the creation of any special anchorage for ship bunkering. But, the big question is, does the Federal government has the tenacity and effective administration of FOREX exchange fluctuation with consideration to BAF & CAF implications?
“Let’s face the deep sea ports concept with desired national aspirations and build solid capacity. We must let go the idea of ‘business for the boys’ mentality of some industry administrators” he said
On his part, a maritime and tourism expert, Mr Frank Meke believes that billions of Nigeria could be generated from creation of special anchorage for ship bunkering.
“When people hear about bunkering they think it is illegal, there is nothing like illegal bunkering anywhere, if you go and vandalize a pipeline, that is oil theft, it has nothing to do with bunkering”
“Bunkering is like having a filling station where you go and get your fuel. You also need to bunker these big ships, and you cannot give them unrefined oil, it is still the refined products that the ships take. But in Nigeria, they consider it all as illegal bunkering”
“If we have a zone in Lagos or Port Harcourt in form of an anchorage for bunkering, billions of Naira jobs would be created from there”
“It is the Navy that would be in charge of such an area, if we can map out a bunkering anchorage, the Navy would know the ships that are coming in there to bunker, other downstream services would also be going on there, by so doing, you are creating an economic zone and employment” he said
The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala Usman recently cancelled a Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) security contract awarded by the Nigerian Navy Navy a private firm, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited, describing the contract as illegal and alleging that the firm was ripping off shipowners by collecting as high as $1,500 up to $2,500 per day in order to stay secure at Lagos anchorage area.
Even as controversy lingers over the SAA contract, the maritime operators have called for the need for NPA, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Navy to expedite action towards the establishment of a Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) to encourage bunkering activities in Nigerian waters and for the security of petroleum product vessels awaiting berthing space at the ports.