Drilling for oil in Nigeria, twice offshore

Offshore oil drilling on the coast of Nigeria is big business.

But many of the rigs used aren't registered in Nigeria, they sail under foreign flags. Thus, they aren't subject to local law, and they don't have to pay taxes for the wealth they generate.

We show the connections between the companies that own and operate oil rigs, and how they are incorporated as companies in, or working through, maritime tax havens.

From tax haven to your doorstep

The visualizations shows the connections between oil rigs in Nigeria, the countries they are registered in and the companies that own, operate and manage them.

Hover over a box to highlight its connections.

Click on a box to show more information.

The use of tax havens — also known as 'flags of convenience' removes control over the rigs from the host country where oil is being exploited to an unrelated jurisdiction.

These jurisdictions are often maritime tax havens where oil rigs obtain financial exemptions, perks or legal blind-spots. Blind spots such as a lack of labor, environmental or financial control, and other critical aspects of the oil economy.

Double Offshore serves to connect the dots through ordering data in ways that make sense. As a and to provide case studies in ways that show meaning to the data.

Explore the data in detail

Select oil rigs by choosing filtering criteria and clicking Show rigs.

Where does the data come from?


To obtain a close-to-exhaustive list of oil rigs we scrape data from databases owned by FPSO and Rigzone (Rigzone providing the richer information of the two). This provides us with vital information such as rig location, jurisdiction and controlling companies - essentially outlining the network of important entities in the oil and gas industry.


Companies are related to oil rigs in three primary ways: as owners, operators and managers. All three are relevant when analyzing financial flows. The two main sources for this information are FPSO and Rigzone. We scrape the names of companies from their databases, publicly available via their websites, and match them up to company data from other sources.


An important data point for countries is their Financial Secrecy Index or FSI. The index ranks jurisdictions according to the secrecy allowed by their legislation and the scale of their activities. As such it is a useful data point by which to gauge the potential for illicit financial flows.

Other information shown includes the global maritime flag rank, sourced from the CIA World Factbook, and a short expert analysis for a subset of countries.

What did we find?

It is usually recognized that petroleum industries (and extractive industries more generally) require a specialised fiscal regime which takes into account the economic factors peculiar to them. These factors, so the argument goes, would produce unsatisfactory outcomes were general corporate tax regimes simply applied. The distinctive nature of extraction, then, requires distinctive treatment from a tax perspective.

Synthesising from the large literature that is available, the following would appear to be the factors most relevant to oil production in a developing country context:

  • Very high capital outlays at the start, including outlays for a number of years before production commences and/or income is earned
  • Low linkages to the domestic economy
  • High prospecting and exploration costs, with a fairly low success rate
  • The non-renewable nature of the resource, suggesting that the cost of current extraction needs to internalise future depletion
  • The ‘gift of nature’ dimension (economic rent) suggesting that part of income from extraction may be unearned
  • Price volatility of extractive commodities
  • High negative externalities (e.g. environmental impact) in the absence of effective regulation
  • Power asymmetries between companies and the state which change over project life; generalizing somewhat, one may note that power resides initially with producers, swings to states once high sunk costs are incurred, and swings back to producers when reserves near depletion

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