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Royal Dutch Shell has asked ship owners exporting its Nigerian oil to sign a “letter of comfort” (LoC) to guarantee it is not stolen.

In July, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp (NNPC) banned more than 100 tankers from Nigeria’s waters, citing a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari, who wants to trace and recover what he calls “mind-boggling” sums stolen from the oil sector.

Last month, the NNPC lifted the ban but asked ship owners to sign a letter of comfort to “guarantee to indemnify” it against any illicit use of their vessel. This led some owners to reject pending bookings.

“Please be informed we expect LPG & Products ship owners to sign the NNPC LoC for any future Shell loading voyages.

“Shell (is) putting (its) reputation on the table that warrants the cargo is NOT stolen and this should remove any concerns ship-owners have around bad title down the oil chain,” an email from the company said.

Shell said it was looking to mitigate any negative impact that the requirement to provide the letter might have.

“What we are doing is to ensure that our business is not adversely affected by working with our own vessel owners to provide this letter in the legal language that everyone can live with,” Shell Nigeria country chair Osagie Okunbor said at a press briefing last week.

Traders said the email showed that oil companies, trading houses and tanker owners were ensuring actions taken by Nigeria to prevent oil theft did not affect the market.

They said other companies and trading houses had drafted similar letters to ensure trading continued without disruption.

“I’ve not seen any vessels waiting around (outside oil loading terminals) because of the measures,” one trader said.

Meanhwile, SPDC on Sunday confirmed that its flow station in Bayelsa was attacked by suspected gunmen on Friday.

Confirming the incident, the company in a statement issued by its spokesman, Joseph Obari, said that investigation into the incident was underway.

“There was an armed attack on a Joint Task Force (JTF) sentry post at Kolo Creek Flow Station on October 9, 2015, in the Eastern Niger Delta.

“Regrettably, a community guard at the flow station lost his life in the incident.

“We are saddened at this loss of life and our thoughts are with the bereaved family.

“The security agencies are investigating the incident,” it said.

The guard who was killed by the gunmen was on duty when they struck.

It was gathered that much havoc would have been done to the facility and personnel but for the prompt response by the JTF.

The sound of gunshots fired by the suspected militants reportedly alerted the security team stationed to guard the oil installation, which repelled the gunmen, forcing them to run away.

By Pita Ochai


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