Lagos — There are indications that Nigerian shipowners in the maritime industry and dealers in bunker fuels are losing out as far as the operations are concerned, even as they lamented that the regulations put in place by the regulatory authorities have edged indigenous practitioners out of the business, leaving room for foreign domination.
Bunkers are fuels consumed by the engines of a ship or fuel used to power a ship, therefore, bunkering is the act of supplying or replenishing a ship with fuel including but not limited to Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, Fuel Oil, Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG, and Lubricating oils.
Speaking to our correspondent, a ship-owner and member of the Nigerian Shipowners Association, NISA, Capt Deji Abegunde said that vessels less than 5,000 tonnes have been banned from bunker activities, while indigenous practitioners who were still trying to survive with 3,000 tonnes are now out of jobs.
According to him, not less than 50,000 dollars is required for any investor to come into the business, he said 10,000 dollars is paid to Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) for registration and this is renewable yearly.
He also alleged that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, on its part demands N25million share Capital Company for new entrants.
Even though 60 percent of vessels calling in the West African region are destined for Nigerian ports which should result in steady demand for marine fuels, issues bordering on insecurity and expertise drive them to seek bunkers elsewhere.
With increasing trade in sub-Saharan Africa and lots of vessel activities along the Gulf of Guinea, the demand for bunker fuel in the region is growing with a lot of opportunities for suppliers and providers of support services.
However, this has not reflected positively in the Nigerian market as the country continues to battle huge competition from established bunker trade locations offshore Lome and as far as Dakar, Senegal.
Capt Abegunde said “Nigerians were trying to come up by doing bunker supply, but no one is doing it any longer, how can you use 5,000 tonnes vessel for bunkering? We were converting fishing trawlers to bunker vessels, we have 1,000 tonnes and 3,000 tonnes but it’s not working again, for more than six years now they have been idle.
“What is the system of bunkering in Nigeria that is established today, how many Nigerians are into it, we were all doing it in the shadow, either in the shadow or legally, now it is no longer possible, and there is nothing even offshore to supply, so if you have any vessel less than 5,000 tonnes, you are on your own.
“Let’s say that I want to become a bunkerer, how do I start when if you go to the bank they cannot give loans, and if you go to NIMASA, they are not ready to cooperate with you, and now you want to start in a smaller way, how would you start? For you to even start a bunkering company, you need to have 50,000 dollars, 10,000 dollars to DPR for registration and this is what you would be paying every year, NIMASA on its part would demand 25million share capital company. The bunkering business in Nigeria is completely paralyzed,”