UN: Up to 245 missing after 2 Mediterranean shipwrecks

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  • As Impairment Charges Hurt DHT’s 1Q Profit

Two wrecks of migrant ships in the Mediterranean have claimed as many as 245 lives, including those of at least five children, according to survivor accounts given to U.N. agencies and authorities in Sicily, where dozens of rescued migrants were taken.

Survivors of one wreck, some of them hospitalized in Pozzallo, Sicily, where they were being treated for hypothermia and exhaustion, told authorities who interviewed them that their traffickers had crammed some 130-140 people, apparently all from central African countries, into a motorized rubber dinghy designed to hold at most 20 people.

The dinghy started deflating on one end, the passengers quickly shifted their positions in the boat, and the craft tipped over, authorities said, based on numerous survivors’ descriptions.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity since the shipwreck is being investigated.

The dinghy wasn’t equipped with any distress signaling equipment. The 52 survivors clung for hours to the wreckage of the dinghy until they were spotted by a patrol plane and rescued by a Danish cargo ship, which was dispatched to their aid by the Italian Coast Guard.

One survivor was a Nigerian woman, whose 5-month-old baby died. The infant’s corpse was one of the few bodies so far recovered, authorities said.

“I lost my baby, she drowned, but God didn’t allow me to die,” the woman, who asked to be identified only by her initials, S.J., told The Associated Press in an interview outside the migrant processing center in Pozzallo.

The 22-year-old, from Benin City, in Nigeria, reflected on her journey that begin in March 2016 in her homeland and offered these words for other Nigerians.

“I want to tell my fellow people…to not come, it’s not easy to come here … the sea is not friendly, many things happen.”

Even at the moment that the cargo ship was about to pluck the survivors to safety, the woman recalled, some just couldn’t hold on any longer. “Even as they were rescued, one person died, a baby died.”

In the end, she said, 82 people perished and 52 survived.

Police in Sicily said in a statement that many of the survivors recounted that among those who drowned was one of the smugglers who had been steering the boat.

“They couldn’t even remember who saved them. They were completely shocked and traumatized,” said Carlotta Sami, Rome-based spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency.

Meanwhile, at its Geneva headquarters, the refugee agency said that one of its partner agencies, the International Medical Corps, reported a shipwreck on Sunday off the Libyan coast in which 163 people are missing and feared dead. The U.N. agency said one woman and six men were rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard.

That boat was intercepted by the Libyan coast guard, said the UNHRC’s Sami, who had no other details.

Many of those who brave the risky central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy are migrants from Africa seeking to flee from conflicts, political persecution at home or to find better economic opportunities in Europe.

Overall, UNHCR said Tuesday that more than 1,300 people have disappeared and are believed to have died this year while crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy.

The International Organization for Migration, in separate remarks, gave a lower estimate of the total number of migrant lives lost — 190 — in the two shipwrecks. It estimated about 80 people died from the sinking of the dinghy off Italy, and at least 113 following the shipwreck off the coast near Az Zawiyah, Libya.

Since Friday, some 6,612 people were saved in a dozen operations and brought to Italy.

Afterwinter storms and cold sea temperatures, IOM spokesman Joel Millman, “there is normally pent-up demand. The summer tends to be very, very busy because sea conditions are better.”

In the meantime, Bermuda-based tanker shipping company DHT Holdings posted a net income of USD 14.3 million in the first quarter of 2017, down from a net income of USD 31.5 million reported in the same period last year.

During the quarter, the company’s earnings were dented by an impairment charge of USD 7.5 million related to the sale of DHT Phoenix and DHT Ann.

Shipping revenues for the quarter amounted to USD 92.1 million compared to shipping revenues of USD 107.6 million seen in the three-month period of 2016. As informed, the change was due to lower tanker rates partly offset by an increase in the fleet.

DHT’s VLCCs achieved time charter equivalent (TCE) earnings of USD 40,100 per day in 1Q 2017 of which the company’s VLCCs on time-charter earned USD 38,800 per day and the VLCCs operating in the spot market USD 40,900 per day.

The company took delivery in January of the last of its six VLCC newbuilds ordered from South Korean Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) shipyard in 2013 and 2014. The ship is named DHT Tiger and is trading in the spot market, according to DHT.

Also in January, the company inked a deal with HHI for the construction of two VLCCs of 318,000 dwt.

In March, the company entered into agreements with BW Group to acquire BW’s VLCC fleet which comprises eleven VLCCs including two newbuildings. To date, DHT has taken delivery of seven of the tankers and novated the two newbuilding contracts.

Furthermore, DHT entered in April into a six-year term loan and revolving credit facility agreement worth USD 300 million with ABN Amro, DNB and Nordea for the financing of the cash portion of the acquisition of BW’s VLCC fleet as well as the remaining installments under the two newbuilding contracts. As disclosed, USD 204 million is expected to be drawn in connection with the delivery of the nine vessels in the water and the remaining USD 96 million in connection with the delivery of the two newbuilds in the second quarter of 2018.

Separately, DHT has rejected the latest offer by Frontline to acquire all of the outstanding shares of common stock of DHT at a ration of 0.8 Frontline shares for each DHT share.

Currently, DHT has a fleet of 30 VLCCs, 26 in the water and four under construction, as well as two Aframaxes.

Abc News with additional report from World Maritime News

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