Ejiofor Alike ¬®with agency report¬®
Nigeria‚Äôs export of gas has suffered a major setback as the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) said yesterday it had declared force majeure on its exports of liquefied natural gas as a blockade by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) over a tax dispute, which entered its second week.
The blockade, which has prevented LNG tankers from accessing the company‚Äôs loading terminal in Bonny Island of Rivers State, is due to a long-standing dispute between the company and the maritime regulator over the payment of duties on freight and exports.
NLNG said in a statement emailed to the Wall Street Journal that it had declared force majeure effective from June 28.
A force majeure is declared when a company is unable to fulfil its contractual obligations to deliver exports due to circumstances beyond its control.
On June 21, two NIMASA boats with 15 naval officers on board ordered that one NLNG vessel – LNG Imo, and one chartered vessel, Torm Thames, should remain at NLNG‚Äôs loading bay, while another NLNG vessel- LNG Oyo, should remain outside the Bonny Channel until further notice.
NIMASA subsequently issued ship detention orders on June 22, detaining three NLNG ships – LNG Enugu, LNG Oyo, and LNG Imo.
The maritime regulator also barred the three vessels from accessing or leaving the NLNG‚Äôs loading bay.
A Federal High Court in Lagos in¬† a suit presided over by Justice M.B. Idris, had issued an injunction on June 18, ‚Äúagainst the Attorney General of the Federation, Global West, and any other parties, including¬† NIMASA, from imposing any charges or taking any steps to block, detain or prevent access by the company‚Äôs owned or chartered vessels, whether inbound or outbound from Bonny Channel or elsewhere in Nigeria.‚Äù
NIMASA had on May 3, blocked the Bonny Channel preventing entry and exit of NLNG vessels.
NIMASA‚Äôs acting Director in charge of Shipping Development, Capt. Warride Enesuoh, had insisted that the agency embarked on the blockade due to NLNG‚Äôs disregard and unwillingness to abide by the country‚Äôs maritime laws, especially the section of the NIMASA Act that mandates payment of levies based on the gross tonnage on exports and imports and the cabotage law.
NLNG is owned by four shareholders, namely, the federal government , represented by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) (49 per cent),¬† Shell Gas BV, SGBV, (25.6 per cent), Total LNG Nigeria Limited (15 per cent), and Eni International (N.A,) N. V. S. a. r. l (10.4 per cent).