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By NBF News
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As Chevron Nigeria Limited and its partners, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Intels Nigeria Limited, Southern Gas Constructors, and Nigerian Ports Authority gather to celebrate the Escravos Gas to Liquids Project (EGTL) Warri Port Revitalization and Safe Work Achievements, one person that comes strongly to my mind but who will be conspicuously absent at the event, is Chief Wolfgang Hans-Otto.

EGTL with NNPC having 25% of its share capital, was conceived by Chevron, using technology obtained from Sasol of South Africa to obtain high quality diesel and other products from some of the abundant natural gas that was being flared in the Niger Delta axis, and since Chevron already had a gas gathering plant in that vicinity, establishing the gas to liquids plant was a good way of getting more value products from the natural gas.

In the early 2000s, when the EGTL project was still in the conceptual stage, Chief Otto, a German logistics specialist who had spent the better part of 20 years working in Nigeria, and who was then the Managing Director of Overseas Agency Nigeria Limited had identified Warri Ports as ideal for handling the project cargo for the construction of the EGTL seeing that Warri was 60 nautical miles from Escravos.

This was after the city of Warri had been decimated by years of communal crises that resulted in most oil and gas companies and their service providers fleeing to other safe haven and the Warri Ports was therefore left comatose, but Chief Otto was not one to be easily put off having previously worked in Warri, believing that the EGTL was one means of reviving the Warri Ports and in turn reviving the economy of the ancient city of Warri.

Chief Otto then resigned as the managing director of OAN and with their support set up OAN Port Services Limited with the sole objective of taking up space inside of Warri Ports in order to be eligible for using the port for receiving the EGTL project cargo, for storage and warehousing and then for onward movement by barges to Escravos which was the site for the construction of EGTL.

Having leased and paid for stacking areas, warehouses and office spaces from NPA in Warri Ports in 2003, Chief Otto was shocked when NPA turned around and revoked the lease of OAN Port, a company with majority Nigerian shareholding, and awarded the same facilities to Intels Nigeria Limited who already had extensive leases of NPA facilities in Onne, Calabar and Warri Old Port. It turned out that NPA and Intels had an MOU for Intels to have exclusive right to use NPA facilities in Onne, Calabar and Warri for oil and gas logistics purposes, and that Intels had also entered into an agreement with the International Oil Companies and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation represented by NAPIMs fixing tariffs and charges for the services to be rendered by Intels to the IOCs.

Since its main logistics base was in Onne, Intels relying on its exclusivity deal with NPA was at liberty to divert vessels carrying oil and gas related cargo to Onne for discharge, even if these vessels had confirmed Ship Entry Notices indicating that their cargoes were to be discharged either in Calabar or Warri Ports.In the case of the EGTL project cargo, Intels' intention was for the vessels bearing these cargoes to discharge in Onne and then to use barges to transport these cargoes 400 nautical miles to Escravos, and this was why Intels had to go all out to frustrate Chief Otto and OAN Port from taking up shop inside of the Warri New Ports and offering its facilities in Warri for the handling of the EGTL project cargo.

Also, allowing Chief Otto and OAN Port to retain facilities inside Warri New Port would have meant that the contract for the handling of the EGTL project cargo would be decided by a bid and tender process, something which went against the mode of operation of Intels based on its exclusive relationships with NPA (facilities usage for oil and gas logistics purposes) and NAPIMS/IOCs (fixed pricing for logistics services).

Today, Chief Wolfgang Hans-Otto may have retired to live in Germany physically and financially broken, but his sacrifices remain and continued to be watered by other oil and gas logistic companies like LADOL.

Omose writes from Lagos