Nigeria loses $1.9 billion every to foreign ship owners, Hassan Bello, the chief executive of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and chairman, Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee (NFIC) has said.

The NSC chief gave the revelation during a recent working visit to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)’s headquarters, according to a statement released in Abuja on Friday by Kennie Obateru, the corporation’s group general manager of public affairs.

Bello enjoined the subsidiaries of the NNPC to patronise local shipping firms in their businesses, noting that the Federal Ministry of Transportation established NFIC three years back to advance ownership of vessels by Nigerians.

According to the NSC CEO, the intervention will empower Nigerian shipping businesses to take control of the market in accordance with the diversification push of the Nigerian government.

Granting Nigerian shipping companies the right of first refusal in oil lifting contracts would expedite economic growth and business continuity, the NSC boss told NNPC Group Managing Director Mele Kyari.

“We believe in this process, we will ensure that Nigerian ships enjoy a greater patronage in the business henceforth,” Kyari said, promising that his firm would back domestic fleet owners in getting more involved in the oil and gas maritime business in the country.

Kyari also assured the NSC head that considering the size of NNPC’s operations in the maritime industry, the corporation would have more engagement in the activities of the fleet management committee in order to consolidate the partnership between the NNPC and the private sector.