Blackford Dolphin rig; Source: Dolphin Drilling

Rig staying in Nigeria as court upholds interim order until arbitrator decides otherwise

The plot in the ongoing rig saga between Lagos-based General Hydrocarbons Limited (GHL) and Dolphin Drilling, a Norway-headquartered offshore drilling contractor, is continuing to thicken further in the aftermath of a court hearing, which ended up keeping the previous interim injunction order in place, stopping a semi-submersible rig from leaving Nigeria until a recently appointed arbitrator orders a different course of action.

Blackford Dolphin rig; Source: Dolphin Drilling

Following Dolphin Drilling’s notice of termination of a drilling contract, sent to General Hydrocarbons Limited, for the Blackford Dolphin rig, both players made requests to start arbitration proceedings albeit for different reasons.

While the Norwegian rig owner decided to make this move to pursue what it claims to be the recovery of unpaid sums owned by GHL, the Nigerian oil and gas player took this step to dispute the termination of the rig contract and made an application to the African country’s courts for an interim injunction seeking to maintain status quo, pending the appointment of an arbitrator.

Once GHL obtained an interim injunction against Dolphin Drilling’s plan to break off the semi-submersible rig’s deal off the coast of Nigeria and move the rig to another destination, the offshore drilling contractor set out to stop the Nigerian oil and gas player from achieving its goal.

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While confirming the appointment of a sole arbitrator in this case, the Norwegian offshore drilling contractor underlined on May 15 that the Nigerian court made no new decision concerning the alleged restraining order for the Blackford Dolphin rig. However, the court was expected to hear arguments on May 20 on the discharge of the status quo orders granted earlier.

Based on the ruling from Monday, May 20, which Offshore Energy has reviewed, the arbitration proceedings are slated to begin on Tuesday, May 21. In the ruling, Judge Akintayo Aluko wrote: “Since the purpose and essence of the interim order made on May 8 is to preserve the res in litigation, I order that the said order shall remain extant and be in force pending when the arbitrator shall make the appropriate and necessary orders.”

With the interim injunction order firmly in place, GHL, which operates OMLs 120 and 121 in Nigeria, told Offshore Energy that it saw the ruling as a win in the Federal High Court since the injunction against Dolphin Drilling from demobilizing or removing the Blackford Dolphin rig remains in force, pending arbitration orders.

Once its assignment with GHL was over, the semi-sub was expected to depart Nigeria and go to India to embark on its new drilling campaign with Oil India Limited, which was scheduled to start in the second half of 2024.

At the moment, Dolphin Drilling has not provided any information on whether and to what extent the issues in Nigeria will affect the commencement of the rig’s job in India.

The 1974-built Blackford Dolphin is a semi-submersible drilling rig of an enhanced Aker H-3 design and can accommodate 120 people.