Shell Ask for Letters of Comfort
Shell has asked tanker operators transporting its cargoes from Nigerian to sign Letters of Comfort (LoCs), which will guarantee that oil and gas is not stolen.
Shell’s guarantee request comes after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) lifted a ban on 113 tankers from operating from its waters. NNPC imposed the ban on the tankers in July to curb the illegal shipments of crude out of the country. The named tankers were prohibited from entering the nation’s territorial waters.
After lifting the ban, the NNPC requested operators sign letters of comfort to guarantee the illegal lifting of petroleum their vessels. Most operators rejected this caveat.
INTERTANKO also advised its members against signing such agreements. In a statement it recommended: “While some are interpreting this latest letter as a lifting of the ban, we continue to advise against trading to Nigeria any ship on the banned list. The penalties for any alleged contraventions of Nigerian law by these ships are draconian, including forfeiture of the ship and life imprisonment of the crew.”
The Nigerian military seized the M/T Askj last week on suspicion it was transporting stolen crude oil. The tanker was anchored when the Niger Delta’s Joint Task Force raided the ship. Local authorities arrested eight suspects onboard the ship.
Over the last year, Nigeria has destroyed 200 illegal refineries, about 58 oil barges and arrested more than 80 vessels in its push against piracy and oil theft.