Nigeria’s petroleum regulator has given a directive to oil and gas firms to reduce their offshore personnel and adopt 28-day staff rotations in a bid to rein in the further advance of COVID-19 across the country’s most critical revenue generating sector, Reuters said on Sunday.
The new regulation was released in the aftermath of the discovery by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) that “six oil workers on board an offshore rig support vessel tested positive for coronavirus last week.”
It said the six positive cases, announced by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, “were all aboard the Siem Marlin, a support ship for oil rigs that was sitting offshore Lagos.”
Worries are deepening among health workers regarding the prospect of the plague spreading on a large scale across Africa’s most populous country, where around 200 million people live.
Government is enthusiastic about safeguarding oil output, which accounts for 90% of foreign exchange earnings and around 65% of its revenue.
Employees on essential duties only are permitted to commute to offshore or remote locations, Sarki Auwalu, director of the Department of Petroleum Resources said.
“Non-essential staff currently at offshore/remote locations should be withdrawn with immediate effect.”
The NPA disclosed that health workers accessed the ship via helicopter.
Reuters investigation revealed that the vessel departed the Onne Port Complex on the Bonne River Estuary on 15th March, having called at the offshore terminals in February for Bonga and Bonga Light crude, both Nigeria’s principal export grades.
The visits were however outside the 14-day COVID-19 incubation period.
Nigeria has taken hard actions in a bid to limit mobility including closure of its borders, shutdown of its international airports, and “imposed curbs on cargo vessels allowed to dock at its ports in an effort to contain the outbreak.”
According to industry experts, some oil firms have migrated from 14-day migration to 28 days while a couple of them are adopting 14-day quarantine for employees before they go to the rigs.
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