India's state-run refiner HPCL has released a VLCC after the shipowner refused to give a "letter of comfort" sought by the Nigerian government from ships loading crude from the country's oil terminals, market participants said Tuesday.
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The development has once again brought into sharp focus Nigeria's ban on more than 100 tankers from loading oil from its territorial waters in mid-July.
While the ban was lifted earlier this month Nigeria is insisting on a "letter of comfort" stating that ships lifting oil from the country will not be used for any illegal activity.
"HPCL released or 'failed' the VLCC Ridgebury Progress on differences over the 'letter of comfort'," a shipping industry source tracking the development said.
Another source said that HPCL has now placed the 2010-built VLCC, Solana, on subjects for October 9 loading on the Nigeria to Vishakhapatnam route. However, the fixture is still stuck over the letter of comfort, the source added.
HPCL officials declined to comment citing commercial confidentiality. However, several brokers and charterers said that Solana is currently on subjects and Ridgebury Progress has been released.
While the text of this letter has been an issue of dispute between terminal operators, shipowners and charterers for almost two weeks since the ban was lifted, HPCL's fixture is the first specific instance to come into public domain.