The Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, and Chairman, Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee, Hassan Bello, has revealed that Nigeria is losing $1.9bn to foreign ship owners annually.

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Bello disclosed this when he led members of the NFIC on a working visit to the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Friday by the spokesperson of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Kennie Obateru, the shippers’ council boss appealed to NNPC’s Group Managing Director, Mele Kyari, to encourage subsidiaries of the oil firm to always engage indigenous shipping companies in their businesses.

He urged NNPC to grant local shipping companies the right of first refusal in crude oil lifting contracts, saying it would help grow the economy and sustain their businesses.

Bello told Kyari that the committee was set up three years ago by the Federal Ministry of Transportation with a mandate to promote Nigerian ownership of ships and vessels.

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This, he said, would enable local companies to take control of the shipping business which was in line with the economic diversification policy of the Federal Government.

On his part, Kyari said NNPC would support indigenous fleet owners to enjoy greater patronage and participation in the oil and gas maritime business in Nigeria.

He noted that with the scale of the corporation’s activities in the maritime sector, NNPC would get more active in the affairs of the fleet management committee with a view to strengthening the synergy between the oil firm and the private sector.

Kyari was quoted as saying, “We believe in this process, we will ensure that Nigerian ships enjoy a greater patronage in the business henceforth.”

As the major importer of refined petroleum products such as petrol, diesel and kerosene into Nigeria, many NNPC subsidiaries are involved in large scale shipping operations.