* Port operations at a standstill
* Offshore oil terminals operating
(Adds comment from Maersk's oil tanker unit)
By Jonathan Saul
LONDON, Jan 12 Container group Maersk
Line's ships carrying food and consumer goods are stuck outside
Nigeria's ports as a fourth day of nationwide strikes have
brought terminals to a standstill, a senior company official
said on Thursday.
Nigerians have taken to the streets across the country to
protest against the government's decision to remove popular fuel
subsidies, which more than doubled the price of petrol, shutting
banks, shops and schools.
Sonny Dahl, director, West Africa Services at Maersk Line,
the world's biggest container shipping company, said its
container ships were unable to enter Nigeria's ports.
"Everything is at a standstill - there are no operations
going on and everything is at a general strike level," Dahl told
Container ships normally bring in much of Nigeria's consumer
goods and also transport foodstuffs.
Dahl said eight of the company's container ships were
affected by disruptions at ports across the country.
"They are carrying consumer goods of various kinds and
foodstuffs," he said.
He said some of the vessels were already anchored outside
ports, while others would arrive in one to two days.
"We are consistently evaluating whether we should divert any
of them to other ports (outside of Nigeria)," he said.
"For now, we have made a plan until early next week that we
wait outside. It's anyone's guess when the strike will end."
Maersk Line, a unit of Danish shipping and oil group A.P.
Moller-Maersk, said the Nigerian market represented
60 percent of its container ship imports into West Africa.
Nigeria's main oil union said on Thursday it would aim to
shut down the country's oil and gas production from Sunday.
Oil industry officials doubted unions would be able to stop
crude exports completely, but even a minor outage could have a
significant impact on the economy.
Shipping sources told Reuters offshore oil terminals were
operating as normal on Thursday.
Africa's largest oil producer relies on crude exports for
more than 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings.
"We expect a potential strike in Nigeria and stop for crude
oil exports to have an overall negative effect on crude oil
transportation - possibly mitigated somewhat by increased export
from other producers," said Klaus Rud Sejling, chief commercial
officer with Maersk's oil tanker division.
"However, we do not expect the effects to be long lasting."
Sejling said Maersk Tankers did not have any of its vessels
in Nigeria at the moment and none were on the way.
(Editing by Sophie Hares)