By OBAFEMI OREDEIN
IBADAN, Nigeria -- Nigeria's maritime regulator has agreed to immediately lift the blockade of ships belonging to Nigeria LNG Ltd., or NLNG, after the company agreed to pay various levies that the regulator claimed were overdue, the company confirmed this week.
NLNG spokeswoman Kudo Eresia-Eke said in a statement that NLNG agreed to pay the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency a total of $140 million to cover arrears in these levies.
The company had earlier made an initial payment of $20 million, she said.
She said the levies were being paid "under protest" as they become due pending a judicial ruling on whether these payments are justified and can be obtained.
The regulator on June 21 barred NLNG ships from entering or departing Bonny Island Terminal on the coast of Nigeria, according to the company, as a longstanding dispute over maritime taxes and levies escalated.
Ms. Eresia-Eke said the blockade, which caused production to cease "in spite of a court order," has resulted in a loss of more than $475 million in revenue by the company.
"We feel we have no other option than to now make these payments under protest," NLNG managing director Babs Omotowa said, adding "in doing this, we have taken into account the overriding national interest; in particular to stem the huge financial and reputation loss the country has suffered as a reliable LNG supplier, a destination for foreign investment and a nation of the rule of law."
Mr. Omotowa said NLNG "as a law abiding company" has always paid its taxes, including those due after a 10-year tax holiday ended in 2009.
NLNG on July 1 said it had declared force majeure on its liquefied natural gas exports, effective from June 28, due to the blockade. Force majeure is declared when a company is unable to fulfill its contractual obligations to deliver exports due to circumstance beyond its control.
NLNG is a joint venture between Nigeria's state oil company, Royal Dutch Shell, France's Total and Italy's Eni.
Dow Jones Newswires