Nigerian Shipowners Slam NNPC over Irregularities in Ship Vetting

 Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru (left) and constitutional lawyer, Femi Falana at the  40th Anniversary Ceremony of PENGASSAN held in Abuja, last week.

Nigerian shipowners under the aegis of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) has accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of looking the other way while foreign-owned mother vessels discriminate against Nigerian vessels while trying to lift petroleum products belonging to the NNPC.

While speaking at the celebration of the World Maritime Day 2018 in Lagos last week, President of NISA, Alhaji Aminu Umar lamented that foreign mother vessels have taken it upon themselves to determine compliance of Nigerian vessels in terms of documentation to see if it meets their own standard.

According to him, majority of people parading themselves around as shipowners are not genuine shipowners, he said most of them are either commission agents or brokers who do not own ships, and that NNPC should not base most of his assessment by them.

He added that the environment of NNPC actually makes it impossible for a Nigerian ship owner to participate in their tender processes.

Aminu argued that Nigerian vessels carrying out literage services are far better than their foreign counterparts.

Speaking further, he said “We are struggling, Nigerian shipowners find it very uncomfortable particularly when a mother vessel comes around with NNPC cargo and tries to ‘lighter’, and they take it upon themselves to be the ones to determine whether your documentation or your vetting processes in your company or your certification meets their own standard, this has been affecting most of the shipowners in Nigeria, but they still go with this narrative that Nigerian flagged ships do not have the required certification; which is not true”

“Nigerian vessels actually have better certification than the international ships, we have seen photographs that some of our ships take, comparing our own ships and their own ships and we see that we are fairly better than them but they still try to use that discrimination so that Nigerian flagged vessels are not given a chance at all”, he argued.

Continuing, Aminu noted that, “there is need to change the thinking of NNPC a little bit, they should be more of supportive to the Nigerian Shipowners and not trying to push them away, the environment of NNPC actually makes it impossible for a Nigerian ship owner to participate in their tender processes, when I say shipowners ,  I am talking about the real ones and not commission agents, majority of people around today are either commission agents and brokers who do not own ships,  I have seen the real Nigerian shipowners that have participated in NNPC tenders and they ended up with a lot of issues because the processes in NNPC in terms of the charter clauses, the payment timing, it is not supportive and it breeds a lot of problems for the Nigerian shipowners”

Also speaking at the event, another member of the association and Chairman of Integrated Oil and Gas, Capt Emmanuel Iheanacho advised that in cases where vessel classification is in doubt, NNPC should invite a third party which is the classification society, to vet both the Nigerian vessel and the foreign vessel and give a report so that NNPC can now take a decision as to whether to accept the ship or not.

The front line master mariner stated that “in a situation where we have a Nigerian vessel trying to fit in for a job, if we have any difficulty, you could call a third party such as the classification society to come and have a look at the paperwork of the Nigerian vessel”

“If I am going to have a rendezvous with a Greek vessel, and the master of the Greek vessel is the one vetting my ship, at the end of the day he rejects me and the next thing you know is that another Greek vessel will come into our Cabotage range to do the job that I am supposed to do”,  he said.