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Aviation workers ground Arik flights over N12.5bn debt

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  • As Heat wave kills more than 160 in southern, eastern India

Local flight operations of Arik Air in Abuja and Lagos were halted on Wednesday by aviation workers over a debt of N12.5bn the airline reportedly owed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

Over 200 domestic passengers of Arik Air were prevented from entering the departure hall of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja by the aviation union members.

The action, which was meant to put pressure on Arik to clear the debt, forced the airline to suspend its early Wednesday’s flights.

Members of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, FAAN branch, also stopped the carrier from carrying out its operations at the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

Some of the union members, who had waited at the departure hall of the Abuja airport as early as 6.30am, checked the tickets of all travellers and turned back those with the Arik Air tickets.

The situation, which lasted several hours, forced the carrier to suspend its flight services.

Most of the affected passengers felt dejected, as some of them were seen trying to use other flights/airlines, while others returned to their respective locations.

“This is painful. Must we suffer this much in Nigeria? Can’t unions and businesses in their sphere of operations settle amicably without putting innocent citizens through untold hardships for once in this country? This is sad,” said an affected traveller, who gave his name simply as Greg.

The airline’s spokesperson, Mr. Banji Ola, confirmed the development, stating that FAAN workers’ union blocked the operations of Arik Air at the GAT, Lagos.

He said workers of the airline were prevented from resuming at their duty posts, thereby disrupting the day’s operations.

Ola said, “The action by the workers’ union was connected with the longstanding and unsubstantiated claim by FAAN of spurious indebtedness of the airline to the agency, which is now before a federal high court in Lagos at the instance of FAAN.”

For several months, the management of Arik Air and FAAN had been meeting to reconcile payment accounts between the two institutions.

The Arik spokesman said the reconciliation process was still ongoing until the latest action by the union.

The General Secretary, NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, also confirmed the grounding of Arik Air’s operations, stressing that it was due to the N12.5bn, which the airline owed FAAN.

In the meantime, weeks of sweltering temperatures have caused more than 160 deaths in southern and eastern India, officials said this week, warning that any relief from monsoon rains was still probably weeks away.

Most of the heat-wave victims were laborers and farmers in the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, though temperatures elsewhere in India also have hit 113 degrees.

Schools were closed last week in Odisha until at least April 26. Officials in Andhra Pradesh were giving out free water and buttermilk to help people stay hydrated. And people everywhere have been urged to stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day.

Y.K. Reddy, a meteorological official, said the temperatures were about eight to 10 degrees hotter than normal for April. “Normally, such high temperatures are recorded in the month of May,” he said.

Police have reported 55 heat-related deaths in Odisha and at least 45 in Andhra Pradesh. Sixty-six were reported in Telangana, though the state’s deputy chief minister, Mohammed Mahmood Ali, said the causes of death were still being verified.

Meanwhile, a 12-year-old girl in the drought-stricken western state of Maharashtra died from the heat while fetching water, Indian broadcaster NDTV said Wednesday.

Making matters worse, India is grappling with severe water shortages and drought affecting more than 300 million people — a quarter of the country’s population. Thousands of distressed farmers have committed suicide, tens of thousands of farm animals have died, and crops have perished, with rivers, lakes and ponds drying up and groundwater tables sinking.

Scrambling to deal with the crisis, officials have sent tankers of water to parched farming communities in Maharashtra, banned people from drilling deep wells and ordered farmers to shift away from growing water-guzzling sugarcane crops.

The heat wave in India coincides with record-high temperatures across the globe. In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday said March’s average global temperature of 54.9 degrees was not only the hottest recorded in March but continues a record 11-month-long streak that started in May.

For southern India, this is the second consecutive year marred by a deadly heat wave. Last year, about 2,500 people died in scorching temperatures before the monsoon rains began in the Indian subcontinent in early June.

Punch with additional report from MSN

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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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