By Ejiofor Alike
As part of efforts to make Nigeria the hub of oil and gas business, as well as marine activities, the federal government has approved the resuscitation of bunkering operations in Nigerian territorial waters, a few years after the operations were suspended.
Bunkering is the downstream business in the maritime sector, including fueling of ships of all kinds in the high seas, inland water ways and within the ports.
Speaking yesterday at a one-day sensitisation forum held in Lagos, the Director of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mr. George Osahon, who conveyed the approval of President Goodluck Jonathan to stakeholders, said the resumption of bunkering operations in Nigeria would generate revenue for the government and create employment opportunities for the growth of the economy.
He stated that performing the operations in Nigeria would also save oil, gas and marine operators the current stress of going to Senegal, Cape Verde and Cote D‚Äô Ivoire to fuel vessels that operate in the Nigerian territorial waters.
‚ÄúIt is unfortunate that we called for bunkering the last time but it did not take place. We are grateful to the President for approving the operations. Issues of the past will continue to be discuused,‚Äù he said.
Also speaking, the Director in charge of the Directorate of Marine Services, Nigerian Navy, Navy Captain SO Ayeni, said for ships to bunker within the Nigerian territorial waters, it must fulfill the requirements of the Nigerian Navy.
‚ÄúThe operator will be expected to present to the Nigerian Navy Headquarters an application for bunkering clearance, detailing: the vessel involved; location of bunkering operation or discharge point; quantity of bunker fuel and duration of the operation,‚Äù he said.
Ayeni also stated that the operator must disclose the source of his bunker fuel, adding that in view of the poor state of the refineries, the product must not come from Nigeria, unless it is stolen oil product.
He also said the operator must obtain licence and certifications from the DPR and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on the quality of the products and the vessels.
‚ÄúAll these will be verified at the Directorate of Marine Services in Lagos for validity; correctedness and if they are in order, recommendation is made to the Naval Headquarters for prompt approval of a particular bunkering operation as captured in the application,‚Äù he said.
Deputy Comptroller of Nigerian Customs in charge of Operations, Eastern Marine Command, Port Harcourt, Mr. Edorhe Elton, said the organisation was going to be concerned with the vessels and the storage tanks.
He said the vessels to be used for bunkering must meet certain obligations required by the Customs.
For vessels meant for home-use, which must be Nigerian-flagged, Elton said the operator must show proof that the duty is fully paid.
According to him, vessels leased from abroad must obtain temporary importation permit from the Customs.
He noted that the bunkering vessels must not leave the Nigerian territorial waters, whether they are home-used or leased vessels.
Elton also noted that for vessels to move from one part of Nigeria‚Äôs territorial waters to another, they must obtain approval from the nearest Area Command.