African to lead Nigerian oil operations**
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell has named a Nigerian to head the firm's biggest African subsidiary for the first time, in what industry analysts called a bid to appease unions and ethnic groups threatening production shutdowns.

Basil Omiyi becomes the first African to hold such a senior post for an oil multinational -- at a time when multinationals increasingly are turning to oil-rich West Africa as an alternative supplier to the Middle East.Omiyi, 58, becomes managing director of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd. on September 1, the company said in a statement Tuesday. Shell is the biggest oil company in Nigeria, accounting for half of the 2.5 million barrels pumped daily here. Nigeria is Africa's largest oil exporter and it's the world's seventh-largest. Nigeria is also the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports. Omiyi, a 34-year Shell veteran who joined the multinational as a petroleum engineer in 1970, said he was "honored to be the first of what I expect will be many Nigerians to hold the post."

Nigerian labor guilds and ethnic leaders immediately welcomed the appointment, saying they hoped it was the start of real change. The Nigerian groups have repeatedly threatened to shut down oil production in protest over the relative absence of Nigerians in top management positions. Industrial disputes, ethnic clashes, sabotage of wells and kidnappings of oil workers by militants have at times in the past year shut down nearly 40 percent of Nigeria's oil production. "That's cheering news. That's exactly what we've been fighting for 40-something years, that a Nigerian should head the operations of a major multinational here," said Brown Ogbeifun, president of the nation's main white-collar oil workers' union."It's a victory for all of us," Ogbeifun added. Bello Oboko, leader of an ethnic militant group called the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities, called Omiyi's appointment a "good omen."

"But they should also allow host communities of oil-producing areas to have important jobs. They should give us our own fair share," Oboko told The Associated Press. Omiyi is from Edo state, where relatively little oil is drilled. Some industry analysts called the appointment part of a long-term attempt to calm restive labor and ethnic groups in Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta, where most of the nation's oil is drilled. Shell stock and oil prices did not appear to move following the appointment." It is a positive for the company ... to try to temper the volatile nature of that local ethnic clash potential," said Jason Kenney, head of oil and gas equities research at ING Financial Markets in Edinburgh, Scotland. "It is a consoling move in some ways." Omiyi's appointment could also "improve the perception of the company" by Nigerians as a whole, including disgruntled residents of impoverished communities in the oil-producing delta, said oil analyst Kunle Osinuga of the Lagos-based Center for Petroleum Information.

Yet Shell and other companies would continue to import specialist workers from Europe, Asia and North America in cases where such skills could not be found in Nigeria, said Kenney. Nigeria's oil industry faces other challenges. Ogbeifun, the union leader, did not rule out a national oil workers strike threatened next week over unrelated issues -- pensions and demands for Nigeria's government-owned oil refineries to be repaired.A threatened strike by workers of Franco-Belgian oil giant Total's Nigerian subsidiary forced the company to stop oil and gas production for a week earlier this month. Omiyi will succeed 48-year-old Briton Chris Finlayson, who will retain the role of country chair for Nigeria and also assume the role of chief executive officer of Shell Exploration and Production in Africa. Finlayson will remain in Lagos, sub-Saharan Africa's largest city, assuming his new duties from Netherlands-based chief executive Brian Ward, 57, who is retiring.

Oil: Prices end lower, led by petrol

NEW YORK - Oil prices ended lower on Tuesday after volatile trading linked to the August contract expiry, but traders said the market overall was still supported by concerns world demand is stretching supplies to the limit. The August contract of US light crude, which went off the board at the end of Tuesday's trade, settled 78 cents lower at US$40.86 a barrel, after jumping as high as US$42.30 earlier in the day. The wide intraday trading range was mostly due to heavy position adjustments ahead of its expiry, traders said. The near-month contract's high of US$42.30 was just below its 21-year peak of US$42.45 hit on June 2, which was the highest price since crude futures were launched on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1983. In London, benchmark Brent futures closed 89 cents lower at US$37.01 a barrel, after hitting a high of US$38.15.

"There's not much open positions left on August crude and not much resistance on the upside ... trading focus is shifting to the September contract," a NYMEX floor trader said. Selling of petrol futures was especially active, with the price ending 3.5 per cent, or 4.55 cents a gallon, lower to end at US$1.2462, its third straight trading day of declines. "Petrol has been getting smacked in the last couple of days, it's the weakest thing on the board," said Tom Bentz, analyst at BNP Paribas. The selling was mostly due to technical buy signals and the narrowing of the August-September spread, he added. There was caution in the market ahead of the latest US weekly supply data on Wednesday, and the testimony to the Senate by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on Tuesday, which was scheduled after the NYMEX close, traders said. Greenspan said the weaker US dollar has not prompted Opec to raise oil prices to offset the reduced value of the currency, even though there was an incentive for them do so. "They are certainly not doing that now. They essentially have opened up the tap as best as one can judge, but overall demand is increasing more." Greenspan said in answer to questions from the Senate Banking Committee. Oil stockpiles in the United States, the world's leading consumer, have been building, but traders are concerned that supplies, especially of refined products, are inadequate. Analysts expect Wednesday's data to show crude inventories rose last week, but petrol stocks fell in response to heavy demand. "There is a genuine worry if there's enough capacity to supply both crude oil and oil products," said Nigel Saperia, an oil trader at Glencore.

RISING DEMAND

In its first forecast for 2005, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Monday said it saw demand for its crude up 340,000 barrels per day (bpd) to an average 27.36 million bpd, from 27.02 million bpd in 2004, and following an increase of 590,000 bpd this year. World oil demand in 2005 is projected to climb by 1.66 million bpd to 82.56 million bpd, up two per cent, after unusually sharp growth of 2.1 million bpd, 2.7 per cent this year, the Opec report said. Economic growth in key leading oil consumer the United States and also China, which has overtaken Japan as the world's second largest oil consumer, has shown signs of slowing, potentially reducing oil demand.In an attempt to calm prices, Opec has implemented a series of production increases and has said it is adding a further 500,000 bpd from August. Analysts say the change to the formal production ceiling effectively makes little difference because the cartel is already pumping well in excess of official quotas. Opec's latest estimate for its own output was 28.92 million bpd for June, compared with its new formal ceiling of 26 million bpd from August 1. A Gulf industry source said on Tuesday that leading oil exporter Saudi Arabia might boost production close to 9.5 million bpd) in August, a 400,000 bpd rise on this month.

Panamanian-flagged Cargo Vessel Runs Aground In Canakkale Strait

CANAKKALE - A Panamanian-flagged cargo ship ran aground in the Canakkale Strait on Tuesday. Officials from Coast Guard and Vessel Rescue Administration told the A.A correspondent that 41,940 gross-ton cargo ship ''Jovzal Duckling'', which was carrying iron ore from Singapore to Bulgaria's Burgas port ran aground off Alcitepe shortly after it entered the Canakkale Strait. Officials said the captain had not requested help but they had sent tug boats to the area as precautionary measure.