Acting head, Marine Environment Management (MEM) Department of NIMASA, Isa Mudi (second right), Deputy Director, MEM, Dr. Oma Ofodile (third right); Assistant Director, MEM, Unit Head, Liabilities and Compensation, NIMASA, Mrs Chinyere Azike (third left); Assistant Manager, Operations, Dangote Oil Refinery Company, Engr. Bessie Nabena (second left); Assistant Director & Head, Climate Change Unit, MEM, Kabiru Bello (left); and President, Centre for Marine Surveyors Nigeria, Engr. Akin Olaniyan, during a stakeholders’ meeting with modular refinery operators on availability of 0.5 per cent m/m sulphur compliant bunker fuel in Nigeria  organised by NIMASA in Lagos, Wednesday.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA has said that the country has all it takes to be the bunker fuel hub for Sub-Saharan Africa, dominating the over $2billion bunker fuel market in the region waiting to be exploited by the country’s business men and women with a view to checking ship pollution.

The new sulphur oxide emissions cutting regulations of the International Maritime Organisation IMO mandate a maximum sulphur content of 0.5 per cent in marine fuels globally. The change is driven by the need to reduce air pollution generated in the shipping industry by reducing the Sulphur content of fuels that ships use.

The agency says it  is determined to ensure availability of marine fuels that comply with the regulation by the IMO limiting the sulphur in the fuel oil used on board ships to 0.50 per cent m/m (mass by mass).

Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who made the pledge, spoke on Wednesday in Lagos at the opening of a two-day meeting of the agency with modular and other refinery operators and fuel oil suppliers in the country.

Represented by the acting head, Marine Environment Management MEM department of NIMASA, Isa Mudi, the DG said the agency had made deliberate efforts to conform to the new fuel oil mandate, known as IMO 2020.

“I make bold to say that Nigeria has all it takes to be the bunker fuel hub for Sub-Saharan Africa. There is a $2 billion bunker fuel market in Sub-Saharan Africa waiting to be harnessed by our business men and women.

“As the country’s shipping regulator, we have had interfaces with the relevant stakeholders on how to reach a win-win agreement on Nigeria’s compliance with the IMO sulphur content cap. We are happy to announce that the coast is clear for us to achieve this mandate.

“Nigeria has an advantage ab initio, because we produce low sulphur crude. The challenge for us now is conversion of this advantage to availability of bunker fuels that meet the IMO regulations. 

“Our refineries are not working at full-capacity, and this is an opportunity for the modular and other private refineries to come in to fill a vital gap in the marine fuel supply chain. Bunker fuel is a critical element in the shipping business.

“With the coming into effect of IMO 2020, we assure you as an agency that the country’s shipping community will be galvanised to ensure availability, supply, and, in fact, self-sufficiency in 0.5 per cent sulphur content fuels in line with the IMO standard.”

Meanwhile, representatives of the refineries and fuel oil suppliers in their contributions, pledged their cooperation with NIMASA and other relevant government agencies in the attempt to make the required fuel accessible.

Recall that the IMO 2020 regulation came into force on January 1, 2020, marking a significant milestone in efforts to improve air quality, preserve the environment and protect human health.

The regulation limits the sulphur in the fuel oil used on board ships operating outside designated emission control areas to 0.50 per cent m/m, a significant reduction from the previous limit of 3.5 per cent. Within specifically designated emission control areas, the limits were already stricter (0.10per cent). This new limit was made compulsory following an amendment to Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships MARPOL.

There was a large turnout of refinery operators and industry stakeholders at the meeting. They included representatives of Niger Delta Refinery NDR, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria SOAN, and OPAC Refinery.

The meeting had in attendance representatives of government agencies, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, Nigerian Ports Authority NPA and Standards Organisation of Nigeria SON, among others.