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Undeclared oil shipment: FG sues Agip, Total for $635m

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The Federal Government is demanding $635 million from two multinational oil companies, Agip and Total, for undeclared crude oil shipped out of the country between 2011 and 2014.

Two cases have been filed at the Federal High court in Lagos by senior lawyer and Senior advocate of Nigeria, Professor Fabian Ajogwu, who had handled several cases for the Federal Government on aviation, defence, energy, and financial services.

Hearing will begin next week before Justice Olatoregun Isola.

And there are indications that Ajogwu will also be filing claims against other multinationals, such as Chevron and Exxon-Mobil

The Nigerian Government in the two cases is claiming $490,517,280 from TOTAL E&P NIGERIA LIMITED and $145,848,102 from NIGERIA AGIP OIL COMPANY LIMITED.

The statements of claim filed before the court are accompanied by the sworn affidavits of three US based professionals.

The Nigerian Government contends that sometime in 2014,it realised a decline in its oil export revenue. This necessitated an intelligent gathering of data, which showed that part of the reasons for the decline was the under-declaration of crude oil shipments made by some major oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria.

Professor David Olowokere, a US citizen who is the lead Analyst at Loumos Group LLC, a technology and oil and gas auditing firm based in United States of America, Jerome Stanley, a counsel in the law firm of Henchy & Hackenberg, a law firm based in United States of America and head of the legal team engaged by Loumo Group LLC, made the court statements.

The third deponent is Michael Kanko a citizen and resident of the State of Arizona United States of America, who is the founder and the current Chief Executive Officer of Trade Data Services Company.

A forensic analysis of export records from Nigeria and the import records from respective ports of entry at the United States of America used by Agip and Total showed discrepancies.

The volume of crude Oil declared to have been exported from Nigeria, was less than what was declared to have been imported into United States of America via the same shipment by the same vessel on the same bill of lading.

Some other shipments were not declared by the defendants to the requisite authorities, particularly the pre-shipment inspection agents. In some instances, the crude oil shipments were completely undeclared.

The plaintiff (Nigerian Government ) alleged further that all crude oil and gas shipments /exports from Nigeria are required to be declared and inspected by pre -shipment Agents appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria of revenue due from the crude oil shipments.

The inspection records are to be deposited with ministry of finance Nigeria .

The Nigerian Government averred that high-technology information technology system including satellite tracking systems were deployed by consultants in gathering the various validated information establishing the shortfalls in the export declarations and the import declaration in the country of destination.

Court documents showed that 57 million barrels of Nigeria crude oil was illegally exported by TOTAL E&P NIGERIA LIMITED, NIGERIA AGIP OIL COMPANY, CHEVRON and other companies and sold to buyers in the United States of America between January 2011 and December 2014. The revenue due to Nigeria as a result of this under-declaration and non-declaration is $12,722,600,327($12.7billionDollars) which translates to N2,493,629,664,092(2.5Trillion Naira) at an official rate of 197 Naira to one US Dollar

In one of the instances cited, TOTAL E&P NIGERIA LIMITED shipped crude oil using a vessel by name TRIATHLON to Tostsa Total oil Trading SA of San Felipe Plaza-Suite 2100,5847 SAN FELIPE, 770557-HOUSTON United States at the port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America with a bill of lading number TCVMTRIATIA 1388. The shipment was not declared to the relevant authorities resulting in the shortfall of 968,784 barrels of crude oil in the value of $106,566240 as revenue to the Government,

Another under-declared crude oil was estimated at 491,850 barrels with a value of $54,103,500. It was shipped aboard a vessel named NORTH STAR and sold to BP Products North America of 501 Westlake Park Boulvard, Houston, TX 77079 United States, at port of Texas City, with bill of lading DROESVD23091101.

On two different occasions 768,990 barrels of crude oil, valued at $84,588,910 was loaded on a vessel named AUTHENTIC. It was Shipped to Socap international limited of Cannon’s court, 22 Victoria Street, Hamilton, HM12.Bermuda at the port of Chester Pennsylvanian, United States bill of lading ALMYSVDM17041101 and17041102

The Nigerian government seeks an order of the court compelling Total E&P Nigeria Limited to pay into the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, $245,258,640 being the total value of the missing revenues from the shortfall /under-declared/undeclared crude oil shipments of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Government also wants the oil firm pay General damages of $245,258,640 and Interest on the said sum at the rate of 21 percent per annum until the entire sum is liquidated.

The case has been adjourned till next week for hearing .

In a separate suit, the Federal Government of Nigeria alleges that NIGERIA AGIP OIL COMPANY LIMITED on 16 June 2014 lifted crude oil on board the vessel named VALUE. The firm shipped the cargo to Philadelphia Energy Solutions of 1735 Market street Philadelphia, PA USA at the port of Wilmington, Delaware, United States of America with Bill of lading number SEUK9HA21304143.

Government claims that the shipment was not declared to relevant authorities resulting in the shortfall of 175,334 barrels of crude oil in the value of $38,573,561as revenue to Federal Government of Nigeria.

On 27 June,2011,Nigerian Agip Oil Company limited lifted crude oil on board a vessel named COSMIC and shipped same to ENI TRADING & SHIPPING B.V. of Strawinskylaan 1641-Tower C/16 1077C XX. Again, government claims that the shipment was not declared to the relevant authorities resulting in a shortfall of 467,614 barrels of crude oil in the value of $107,274,990 as revenue to the Federal Government

Despite letters written by the legal representative of the Federal Government for payment of the shortfall, the company had failed to make any payments to the Federal Government.

The Federal Government of Nigeria now claims against Nigeria Agip Oil company limited:

*An order compelling the company to pay into Federal Government of Nigeria ‘so account with central bank of Nigeria the total sum of $145,848,551being the total value of the missing revenues from the shortfall/under declared/undeclared crude oil of the Federal Government

*Interest at the rate of 21 per cent per annum until the entire sum is liquidated.

*General damages in the sum of $145,848,551.and the cost of this legal action.

There are imminent claims against other Oil exploration companies including Chevron.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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