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Free Internet Press: Shell Suspends Exports Of 380,000 Barrels A Day Of Nigerian Oil

Posted on Sunday, February 19 2006 00:16:49 PST by Intellpuke
Guerillas launched multiple attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta on Saturday, kidnapping nine foreign workers and forcing Shell to suspend exports from a major terminal.
Heavily-armed rebels stormed a pipeline laying barge working off the energy giant's 380,000-barrel-a-day Forcados terminal, abducted expatriate staff and set fire to an offshore platform used to load crude onto tankers.
The firm said that it had been forced to suspend exports from Forcados – which could cut Nigeria's supply of crude to the world market by 15 per cent – and confirmed that one of its pipelines had also been blown up.
Captain Obiara Medani, spokesman for the Nigerian navy, said there was an exchange of fire between government security forces and the militants.
In a statement, Shell said: “A barge belonging to an SPDC contractor in the Forcados Estuary was attacked this morning. We understand that nine expatriates have been taken hostage but are unable to make further comments.”
U.S. oil services contractor Willbros Group confirmed that nine employees, including three Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais and one Filipino, were kidnapped.
Willbros “has not, at this time, been contacted by the group which has claimed responsibility,” it said. The company said it had a crisis management team “working closely with the appropriate parties and authorities to seek an early and safe resolution of the situation.”
A U.S. State Department spokesman called for the “unconditional release” of the U.S. citizens.
The kidnappers said they also had abducted a Briton. The British Foreign Office confirmed that one of its nationals, John Hudspith, was among those kidnapped.
The kidnappers warned that they planned to step up their war on the oil industry in retaliation for government airstrikes.
The hostages were seized from a barge operated by their employer, at around 5 a.m. (0600 GMT).
“There was shooting on the barge and there have been some casualties. At the moment this appears to be a couple of navy personnel, one badly injured,” said an internal oil industry security report that was passed to the Agence France Presse. “Four speedboats attacked Forcados Crude Loading Platform and set it on fire,” the report said, adding “there is a large hole in the CLP export line”.
Nigeria's Information Minister Frank Nweke, speaking on behalf of President Olusegun Obasanjo, condemned the hostage taking and said that the government would seek to release the hostages through negotiation.
“There can be absolutely no justification for what amounts to a criminal attempt to prevent people from going about their lawful business … and create further room for some persons to criminally enrich themselves,” he said.
The crude loading platform which was attacked lies 20 kilometers (10 miles) offshore and is used to supply super-tankers with crude oil for export.

Shell said that the fire had been put out but that it was not clear when exports would resume. Following the attack, the firm evacuated its EA offshore field, slashing production by 115,000 barrels per day.

The militants quickly claimed responsibility for the attacks and kidnapping.
“These individuals and facilities were well guarded by a large number of soldiers who resisted for an embarrassingly short period before escaping to ensure their personal safeties,” the militants' statement said.
Saturday's attack followed a week in which the Nigerian military carried out two helicopter gunship strikes against barges used by the militants to smuggle crude stolen from illegally trapped pipelines to tankers lying offshore.
Last month, the same gang kidnapped four foreign oil workers and held them for 19 days, demanding that two ethnic Ijaw leaders be released from jail and that Shell pay US$1.5 billion to the tribe.
“Our demands have not changed,” the militants' statement said.
The hostages were eventually released unharmed, but in the meantime the group and its allies also attacked a number of oil facilities, killing at least 22 soldiers and police in two assaults, and blew up a major pipeline.
Shell's production was already down by 106,000 barrels per day when the latest violence broke out and the company has closed four of its oil flow stations in the western delta because of security fears.
The Niger Delta – a 70,000 square kilometer swathe of swampland and mangrove forest – is home to Africa's biggest oil industry and to the 14-million-strong Ijaw tribe, many of whom dream of independence.
Intellpuke: “I sincerely hope the hostages are released unharmed. And look for the price of oil to go up when the markets open on Monday. You can read this Agence France Presse article in context here.

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