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FG to earn ₦800bn from ship pollution charges

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By Usman Oladimeji

Over 10,000 vessels, oil rigs, FPSO are active in Nigeria's waters each year.

The Nigerian government is set to implement regulations to minimize ship pollution in Nigerian waters starting this year, which is expected to generate an annual revenue of ₦800 billion (equivalent to $500 million). To prevent pollution during bunkering, ships in Nigerian waters will be required to pay charges of $50,000 per m2 for significant pollution incidents and $16,000 per m2 for minor incidents. Research results showed that over 10,000 vessels, oil rigs, Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO), and various other watercraft were active in Nigeria’s waters each year.

Furthermore, ship agents must cover the expenses for cleaning up and restoring the environment. Once they provide proof of payment, port managers will grant them permission and distribute copies to the harbour master/traffic manager, security, fire service, and environmental authorities. In addition to the fees, it was discovered that they need various documents including a navy permit, a request from the ship’s master for bunkering, an allocation from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), approval from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), a pollution-free certificate, and a report on pollution incidents.

Nigeria is missing out on legitimate bunkering business.

This strategic move taken by the government aimed to enforce the Offshore Waste Reception Facility (OWRF) in order to prevent the disposal of harmful waste, both toxic and human, in Nigeria’s marine waters. One of the requirements is that any Nigerian vessel, except for tankers over eighty tonnes gross tonnage that utilize their bunker fuel tanks for ballast water, must have an oily-water separator installed as per the regulations. As per the regulation, loading should commence slowly and tanks must be inspected once the loading process has begun, as well as the water surrounding the ship’s hull.

Capt. Tajudeen Alao, President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), expressed concerns about certain maritime policies, such as bunkering, which are causing stakeholders to look towards other countries like Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Alao highlighted that due to government procedures, Nigeria is missing out on the opportunity to participate in the legitimate bunkering business that neighbouring countries are benefiting from. He explained that while there is an increase in bunkering operations in Nigeria, government regulations have deemed certain actions as unacceptable. As a result, those involved in the operations have shifted their focus to Lome, Accra, and Cotonou.

IOCs, NOCs used to discard waste in the sea before the project.

Alao highlighted how the need for security agencies to provide clearance papers can lead to unprofitable delays for a major international shipping company. He suggested that registering operators in compliance with Port State Control (PSC) regulations could be one solution to this issue, as it is a significant business and employer of many individuals. He proposed that by having accredited bunker suppliers, the country could better meet the needs of ships. On the other hand, the government’s recent concession agreement with XPO Marine Services Limited aimed to address long-standing issues of waste disposal in the Eastern waters caused by ships and rig platforms.

Mr. Kabiru Diso, Deputy Director/Head of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), mentioned that before the project was put into action the International Oil Companies (IOCs) and Nigerian Oil Companies (NOCs) used to discard their waste in the sea because there was no waste collection system in the country. He detailed how the transition of the OWRF project followed the guidelines set forth by the MARPOL Convention, a protocol designed to curb pollution from ships in the maritime industry.

Related Article: UNCTAD mobilizes for shipping decarbonisation

With NIMASA teaming up with XPO Marine, Diso emphasized that our waters will no longer be a dumping site for ship and platform waste. Through this partnership, waste collection and disposal in our waters will be done efficiently and promptly. This is a huge feat as it represents a new beginning for a project that has brought together the public and private sectors to work towards a shared objective. This partnership will play a vital role in bolstering Nigeria’s economy, particularly given the current challenges posed by economic hardships.

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