Master Mariners call for law to criminalize non declaration of oil rigs in Nigeria


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 with our correspondent 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 that 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 20 year jail term.

His words, “There must be a law by the Honourable Minister of Marine and Blue Economy directing that in the last five years to ten years and now, every rig movement must be declared within and outside Nigeria. They must be given a minimum of twenty one days, otherwise, it amounts to economic sabotage which will be punishable with twenty 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 that this was so because the oil industry in Nigeria operated like a closed shop.

According to him, “NIMASA was engaged in commercial shipping, the oil and gas was a no go area, rig was not declared a vessel, they don’t make ship entry declaration. So, they tow them, the oil companies employ them, the NNPC gives papers, the DPR approves them and they pump and drill oil and take away every thing.

“So, it’s a development that is necessary for now. Maybe it should have happened twenty years ago so that everybody knows. You should be able to know everything that is in your water but it has been under NNPC and DPR not under NIMASA nor the then Ministry of Transportation.

“Even now, there are still more but if they make it illegal for people to operate a rig without approvals, from 1999 till date every operator that has brought a rig into the country should declare it and you give them two to three months. There are some rigs that are overused due to age and because they can’t go anywhere and the owner uses them no more, another local person takes over under a different name but now they are bringing the thing to NIMASA’s certification because an offshore rig, even though it’s not moving, it has radio communication, it has human beings onboard, there could be accident therein, a ship can as well drift and hit it, she also could explode. So, it must be declared.”

On why a rig can 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 we’re 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 fought 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 problem.

“The Minister of Petroleum has given approval and the Minister of Transportation does not know and we were 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 are 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.”

Photo: Captain Tajudeen Alao, President Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, NAMM.

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