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Bermuda Triangle: Ship Reappears 100 Years After Reported Missing

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  • Femi Otedola loses $400m in 9 weeks

The Cuban Coast Guard announced this morning, that they had intercepted an unmanned ship heading for the island, which is presumed to be the SS Cotopaxi, a tramp steamer which vanished in March 1916 and has since been connected to the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.

The Cuban authorities spotted the ship for the first time on Jan 11th, near a restricted military zone, west of Havana. They made many unsuccessful attempts to communicate with the crew, and finally mobilized three patrol boats to intercept it.

When they reached it, they were surprised to find that the ship was actually a nearly 100-year old steamer identified as the Cotopaxi, a name famously associated with the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. There was no one on board and the ship seemed to have been abandoned for decades, suggesting that this could actually be the tramp freighter that disappeared in 1916.

An exhaustive search of the ship led to the discovery of the captain’s logbook. It was, indeed, associated with the Clinchfield Navigation Company, the owners of the SS Cotopaxi, but hasn’t brought any clue concerning what happened to the ship over the last 100 years.

Cuban expert, Rodolfo Salvador Cruz, believes that the captain’s logbook is authentic. This document is full of precious information concerning the life of the crew before the ship’s disappearance, but the entries stop suddenly on March 1, 1916.

On 29 Febury 1916, the SS Cotopaxi departed Charleston, South Carolina, and headed towards Havana, Cuba. The ship had a crew of 32 men, under the command of Captain W. J. Meyer, and was carrying a cargo of 2340 tons of coal. It was reported missing two days later, and was unheard of for almost 100 years.

The Vice President of Council of Ministers, General Abelardo Colomé, announced that the Cuban authorities were going to conduct a thorough investigation to elucidate the mystery of the ship’s disappearance and reappearance.

“It is very important for us to understand what happened” says General Colomé. “Such incidents could be really bad for our economy, so  want to make sure that this kind of disappearance doesn’t happen again. The time has come to solve the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, once and for all.”

The Bermuda Triangle is a loosely defined region covering the area between Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda, where dozens of ships and planes have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Popular culture has attributed many of the disappearances to paranormal and supernatural phenomena, or to the activity of extraterrestrial beings.  One explanation, even pins the blame on leftover technology from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis.

Despite the popularity of all these strange theories, most scientists don’t even recognize the existence of the Bermuda Triangle, and blame human mistakes and natural phenomena for the disappearances.

The mysterious reappearance of the SS Cotopaxi has, however, already generated a lot of interest in the scientific community and could push some experts to change their mind on the subject.

In the meantime, Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola has lost more than $400 million of his personal fortune over the last 9 weeks as the stock price of Forte Oil, the Nigerian-listed energy behemoth he controls, shed off 43.5% in value within that period.  In late February the share price of Forte Oil hit an all-time high of N342 per share after the Lagos-based utilities and petroleum marketing company released its impressive 2015 FY results and declared an attractive dividend of N3.45 per share.

However, as at close of trading today (Tuesday), its share price has dropped to N193.46 after recording consistent daily losses over the past few weeks. Otedola, who is the company’s controlling shareholder, has seen his paper net worth drop from $1.6 billion when FORBES published its annual ranking of the World’s Billionaires in March, to $1.2 billion today, according to the FORBES’ real-time billionaire scorecard.

A source at Forte Oil says that the drop in the company’s share price is not unconnected to massive sell-offs of bonus shares from some of the company’s retail investors. Last year, Forte Oil offered investors a bonus of 1 new share for every 5 ordinary shares they held. In total, Forte Oil declared roughly 216 million bonus shares for the 2014 business year. The bonus shares were only issued to investors a couple of weeks ago and they have been scrabbling to sell off their bonus shares on the market to cash in.

This mass sell-off has precipitated the drop in the share price. “This is only temporary. As you’ll see, even though investors are selling off their bonus shares, there are institutional investors who are buying up all the shares on offer as evidenced by the volume of the transactions in the last few days. When all those bonus shares are cleared up by institutional investors, you’ll see the share price rising again,” the source said. Of the 216 million bonus shares which have been issued, Femi Otedola received approximately 170 million.

Forte Oil PLC is primarily engaged in the distribution of petroleum products such as diesel, aviation fuel and Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
The company has over 500 company-owned, dealer-assisted and dealer-developed gas stations spread across the country, oil storage depots in Lagos and Rivers states, a Power plant and a Joint User Hydrant Installation facility in Lagos. The company also sells its own range of automobile lubricants. In 2014 the company was included in the Morgan Stanley Capital International Frontier Market 100 Index.

Now88News with additional report from Upshot

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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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