Local shipowners have concluded plans to engage the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to discuss their participation in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry.
The President of the Shipowners Association of Nigeria, Dr Mkgeorge Onyung, who disclosed this to our correspondent on the sidelines of a maritime conference in Lagos, said, “I plan to get my team to go sit with the NNPC and try to look at innovative ways to solve this problem. It is not an insurmountable problem; it is something that I feel we will do our best to try and correct.”
Onyung acknowledged that the corporation was trying to fill a gap with its decision to be the sole importer of petrol.
He said, “The NNPC is trying to meet a need because we don’t have very large crude carriers. They are trying to cover the gap.
“But you see, the gap they are trying to cover has to start somewhere. There is a need for them to hire Nigerian shipowners in the downstream sector.
“We invest money in shipping; we owe banks and we are trying to improve the economy. We are training students to become seafarers. It does not make sense that we are not harnessing the resources in a collaborative and cohesive manner.”
He said a situation where the industry was not ready for local participation even when the Maritime Academy of Nigeria was training students to become seafarers was strange.
He said, “The students cannot come out and wander in the streets. So there must be a meeting point. We plan to have an issue-focused group that will engage NNPC.
“We have written to them, getting them to be familiar with members of my executive council and we will be able to have meaningful dialogue in a collaborative non-confrontational manner so as to address the situation. “
He said the association was also planning a major event, an inclusive and innovative dialogue with all industry stakeholders.
Asked about the current fate of the operators, he simply responded, “Our members are hurting. We went through a recession, now they are hopeful that the Federal Government will address the challenge in the sector.”
Our correspondent gathered that in the past, independent oil marketers and the NNPC imported petrol on a 60-40 per cent basis.
It was gathered that local shipowners were usually employed by the oil marketers to evacuate petroleum products but this changed recently when the NNPC became the sole importer and distributor of petroleum products. As a result of this, the business had been dull for the local operators.