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ANLCA: ‘Fantastically’ corrupt agencies now killing cargo facilitation

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  • Italian navy saves 550 refugees as smugglers’ trawler capsizes in Med

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) on Wednesday raised the alarm that a new wave of resistant-corruption has swooped on the nation’s maritime industry and which if not timely controlled by Government, would damage international trade, particularly cargo facilitation beyond any repair.

In a message made available to the Maritime First, captioned “State of the Nation”, the body also lamented how some Government agencies had developed, shared and perfected their port folios like fiefdom, for the purpose of extortion, with the Nigerian Police, taking the lead, followed by the Standard Organization of Nigeria; while the Nigeria Customs Service which should protect the stakeholders as terrain-authorising generals was also subtly, seemingly encouraging it.

Analysing the industry as being absolutely and ‘fantastically’ corruption ridden, despite the bold anti-corruption stance of the President Muhammadu Buhari regime, the body warned that if the Government fails to timely intervene, the ANLCA would be forced to withhold their services, as a ‘self-protection’ measure; because their members are now cleverly and continuously extorted by a system which sees the Nigeria Police alone dividing into six parts; namely the Maritime Police Command, Ports Criminal and Intelligence police (PCIP), the X-Squared of NPF; the SFU; the Commissioner of Police Monitoring Unit and the Area ‘B’ Police Apapa.

“We were delighted when the current Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Rtd. Hammed Ali was appointed, thinking that the level of corruption and extortion of our members, if not stopped, will be reduced to its nearest minimum. It is however saddening to see that there is “NO EUREKA”. In the last eight months, our members are extorted at will; and when agents complained there has not been any intervention, or correction (only) cases of setting of scape goats by the management of Nigeria customs!” the umbrella body of freight forwarders and Customs brokers cried out.

 

“Agents, unlike before now, cannot state precisely how much they can use to clear cargoes from the ports, because of preponderance rate of extortion and interventions by various units of Customs viz-a-viz valuation, query and amendments’, CIU etc that raises unnecessary queries and alerts, many of which are frivolous. The rate of extortion at each stage of this intervention cannot be overlooked”, the body stated in a 10-paragraph statement signed by ANLCA’s National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Farinto Kayode, looking back at PAAR, with nostalgia.

 

“The Pre-Arrival Assessment Reports (PAAR), which was a good innovation by the last administration of Nigeria Customs Service, has been bastardized. We now have situation where more than one PAAR are issued on one consignment. The service now ignores the initial PAAR obtained by the consignee/agents and issues another and another one which values has been arbitrarily jacked up. We want to believe that this method is being resorted to by the service to generate more revenue to the government coffers through another means (i.e ‘arm twisting’ Nigerian importers). We have too many issues to contend with, in the course of cargo clearance which are unorthodox and non-procedural”, the body stated, before zeroing on other security agencies.

 

“The last administration has succeeded in pruning down the number of security agencies in our ports but recently there has been a ministerial directive that brought back quarantine into the ports to be involved in exportation documentation only. Surprisingly, quarantine now stops release of import consignment under the pretext, that, the means of package of the contents (palletized consignments) need to be examined. Our members are now coerced to make payment to this agency before their cargoes are release.

 

“The Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) may be taking Nigerian back to import permit era and unfortunately, the Federal Ministry of Finance saddled with the responsibility of controlling imports procedure looks the other way at the detriment of Nigeria importers. We now have a situation where most of the agencies now turning themselves into revenue generating agencies S.O.N that is supposed to control quality of imports on regulated item has jettison this for money that accrues to her. Nigerian importers now find it difficult to open form M, of regulated items due to bureaucracies and impediments cause by this agency. The trade portal that was created to warehouse all important agencies and make documentations of imports a “one stop shop” has been monopolized by S.O.N.

“The last G I B reports and federal ministry of finance directives gives Nigerian Police an observer status at the “EXAMINATION BAY”. Despite this, agents still involve them during cargo clearance to the extent that they sign examination form in some terminals; the modus operandi of Nigerian Police lately is a cause for concern. We now have situation where different departments of police writes to stop the release of cargoes, under the pretext that, they are investigating cases of stealing, falsification, false declaration and forgery etc. The under listed police units/departments write to shipping agents and terminals operators that consignment should not be released for the consignee/agent. These are 1. The Maritime Police Command, 2.The Ports Criminal and Intelligence police (PCIP); 3.The X-Squared of NPF; 4. SFU; 5.Commissioner of Police Monitoring Unit and 6. Area B Police, Apapa.

“The unfortunate part of this is that our members are extorted and are force to part with money before another letters of release to the various terminals are written.This has become a disturbing scenario because we have written series of letters to the office of the Inspector General of Police and up till now, nothing has being done about it.

“We have however notice a recent dangerous trend where one Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) from PCIP has been insisting that agents should reposition containers that have been “JOINTLY EXAMINED” and released by the Nigeria Custom Service, for him to re-examine such containers. We have demanded where such officer has derived such power from. And each time he disrupts the free flow of cargo clearance, agents are compelled to part with money and pay demurrages for this misdemeanour.

“In conclusion, in order for all of us to imbibe the spirit of ZERO TOLERANCE to corruption as espouse by President BUHARI, the Commander-in-Chief, that it is surprising that those that are supposed to enforce the law are the beneficiary of the corrupt tendencies.

“In view of all the above we want to inform the general public that ANCLA MAY SEEK “SELF HELP”. By withdrawing our service from the ports until all the above listed anomalies are corrected”, the body concluded displaying two of such letters written by the Police.

In the meantime, more than 500 people narrowly escaped drowning on Wednesday after their smugglers’ boat capsized in the southern Mediterranean, a series of dramatic photographs have revealed.

 People jump out of the boat before it overturns off the Libyan coast.

People jump out of the boat before it overturns off the Libyan coast.

As Italian naval ships approached to rescue the stricken asylum-seekers, their boat – a repurposed trawler – tipped over, throwing those on deck into the water.

At least five people drowned when the boat capsized “due to overcrowding and instability caused by the high number of people on board”, the Italian navy said in a statement.

The navy said 500 people had been pulled to safety and seven bodies recovered.

The navy said 500 people had been pulled to safety and seven bodies recovered.

But the sailors managed to save about 550 lives, in a mission that migration experts described as miraculous.

Boats of this size are usually crammed with around 600 people, which suggests that the majority of those stuck below decks were largely saved.

“It is a miracle,” said Flavio di Giacomo, a spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). “You would expect them to save the people on the deck. But if they’ve saved 500 people, that means they’ve saved even the people who were inside. And that is very impressive.”

Survivors of previous disasters have described how it is virtually impossible for people to escape if they are below deck when their vessel sinks.

Ibrahim Mbalo, a Gambian who was one of just 28 survivors when a shipwreck claimed the lives of around 800 people last April, has described how passengers pull each other down when the water rushes below decks, since many cannot swim and need something to hold onto in order to stay buoyant.

“Someone grabbed my trousers because they couldn’t swim, so I had to remove my trousers [to get free],” said Mbalo. “I was underwater for three or four minutes.”

Photographs taken by the Italian navy during Wednesday’s rescue operation show passengers – some with lifejackets, others without – clinging onto the ship, or thrashing desperately in the water.

The boat is the latest of at least 38 smuggling vessels to be rescued in the southern Mediterranean since the start of the week. More than 6,000 lives have been saved since Monday, 11,000 since the start of the month, and 39,000 since the start of the year, according to the IOM.

This puts the rate of arrivals to Italy at roughly the same level as last year, when 39,000 had arrived by 26 May, and 47,000 by the end of the month. While the fragile EU-Turkey deportation deal has – for now – drastically reduced migration numbers to Greece, this has not yet sparked an increase in people trying to reach Europe via Libya and Italy.

The nationalities of this week’s arrivals is not yet known, but since January Syrians have not constituted a meaningful proportion of those reaching Italian shores. The majority of people travelling to Italy are from sub-Saharan Africa – with wars and poverty in Nigeria and Somalia, and repressive regimes in Gambia and Eritrea, proving the biggest “push factors” along this route.

Syrians were the largest national group along the Libya-Italy route in 2014, flying straight into the Libyan capital of Tripoli, or making their way from Egypt and Sudan before taking the boats to Italy. But migration experts say it will take time, planning and money for Syrians to return to the Libyan route in large numbers.

“Libya is also perceived as more dangerous than it was in 2014,” said di Giacomo.

Survivors from Wednesday’s wreck have yet to be interviewed, but it is suspected that their boat is one known to have set out from the Egyptian coast eight days ago.

At the moment, Egypt is proving to be marginally more popular as a departure point than usual. Egyptian smugglers typically account for 10-15% of those who later arrive in Italy – but typically they arrive later in the summer, whereas this year they have been more active during the spring.

This is partly because refugees from countries such as Eritrea and Somalia say they are more aware of the dangers of Libya, where asylum seekers are often kidnapped or get caught up in the civil war.

“We are talking to migrants, and people coming from east Africa seem to know that Libya is now very dangerous,” said di Giacomo. “So if they can, they are trying to come through Egypt.”

Egyptian smugglers exclusively use repurposed fishing boats, whereas Libyan smugglers are increasingly reliant on huge inflatable dinghies.

This may partly be the result of Operation Sophia, the EU’s anti-smuggling mission. Operation Sophia has had negligible impact on migration levels, but its constituent navies are destroying smugglers’ fishing boats once they are abandoned in the high seas, potentially creating a shortage on the Libyan coast.

“But there might be other reasons,” said Di Giacomo. “It is much more complicated for fishing boats to depart – whereas the rubber boats you can inflate on the beach. This give you much more flexibility, and allow you to change the date of departure and the departure points much more easily.”

After being rescued in the southern Mediterranean, people are taken to Italy and then usually told to leave within seven days. In order to stop their onward movement through Europe, Austria, Italy’s northern neighbour, recently changed its laws so that people can no longer apply for asylum at the border.

Other European politicians, including David Cameron, have suggested sending asylum seekers straight back to Libya – even though it is a war zone where many refugees are subject to what amounts to modern-day slavery.

Additional report from Guardian

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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