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10-02-2016

Gard Alert on Revised Nigerian "Letter of Comfort"

Latest letter from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation regarding banned tankers still vague.

Norwegian maritime insurer Assuranceforeningen Gard (Gard) Tuesday released an alert over a revised "Letter of Comfort" regarding the banning of tankers in Nigerian waters, which has been issued by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Gard says the revised letter "addresses some earlier concerns" but suggests "problems remain."

Issues cited by Gard include confusion over who is required to sign a Letter of Comfort and what activity would be considered a breach of a Letter of Comfort.

"The Letters of Comfort may go well beyond what Nigerian law would otherwise impose," Gard says, and what owners on the list of banned vessels need to do to remove ships from the list still remains unclear.

Gard recommends that owners of previously banned tankers be "extremely cautious about those vessels calling to Nigeria or sailing to the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone."

The provision of a Letter of Comfort has not been made mandatory under the Nigerian law according to the notice; owners refusing a charterer's request "should seek legal advice."

Gard also noted the company is not currently "aware of any fines, penalties, prosecutions or detentions in relation to NNPC directives."

In September of 2015 Ship & Bunker reported that Nigeria had lifted the tanker ban preventing around 100 tankers from operating in Nigeria's territorial waters.


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