As Charles Darwin advised, “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change”. In these unprecedented and uncertain times, these words come to mind, and “responsiveness” is the key trait in the measures addressing and managing the impact of the pandemic, not only in individuals but also in organizations.
As previously noted here, the DPR has taken responsive steps since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country to ensure business and operational continuity in the Nigerian oil and gas industry (the “Industry”). In an effort to remain responsive, the DPR recently issued a further update on the management of COVID-19 outbreak on offshore/remote locations. In the Industry circular issued, the DPR noted that despite the stringent measures implemented by Industry operators to contain the spread of COVID-19 in their immediate environment and areas of operations, offshore and remote locations have recorded COVID-19 cases.
According to the DPR, many of the COVID-19 cases are linked to the non-adherence to established protocols. In this regard, the DPR noted the worrying practice by some government personnel of not adhering to the required protocol of observing the “controlled isolation period” (as previously directed by the DPR) prior to embarking on offshore and remote locations.
Therefore, to manage the COVID-19 outbreak on remote and offshore locations and shield the Industry from further disruption, the DPR has directed operators to ensure the immediate and strict implementation of the following practices:
Adherence to Established Protocols: The DPR has directed that no personnel (including personel of government authorities) shall be permitted to proceed to offshore/remote locations without being fully subjected to established protocols. This is in line with the provisions of Paragraph 45 of the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) Regulations, 1969 (as amended) (the “PDPR”), which mandates licensees and lessees to “comply with all existing safety regulations and all such instructions as may, from time to time, be given in writing by the Director of Petroleum Resources for securing the health and safety of persons engaged on or in connection with operations under his licence or lease”.
Documentation Obligation: All operators are required to ensure that evidence of compliance with the protocols by personnel travelling to offshore/remote locations are duly documented. In this regard, we should note that in accordance with its statutory powers and given its position as the regulator of the Industry, the DPR may request for copies of the documentation evidencing compliance in order to ensure and/or enforce compliance by operators.
No Exception Obligation: To buttress the importance of complying with the requirement to adhere to established protocols and maintain adequate documentation, the DPR noted that no personnel shall be granted waivers of any sort. As such, all operators and personnel are mandatorily required to comply with the directives.
It is important to note that non-compliance with the directives may lead to severe penalties. In this regard, it is relevant to comment that pursuant to the 2019 amendment to the PDPR reflected in the Petroleum (Drilling and Production) (Amendment) Regulations, 2019, any person who makes a false declaration or willfully furnishes false or insufficient information to the Director of Petroleum Resources (the “Director”); or fails to comply with any provisions of the PDPR or any directives given under the PDPR is liable to a penalty issued by the Director. The penalty shall not exceed two hundred and fifty thousand United States Dollars (US$250,000). In addition, any permit, licence or lease granted to the offender may be withdrawn or cancelled by the Director.
The regulatory consequences for non-compliance are no doubt strict and the health consequences on the Nigerian populace would be devastating - it is therefore important for operators to adhere to the DPR’s directives. As remarked by a former U.S. Deputy Attorney General, “the cost of non-compliance is great. If you think compliance is expensive, try non-compliance”.
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