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Bombs kill 22 at army checkpoint in Syria’s Homs: state TV

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  • As Rock slide kills one at nuclear waste site in France

At least 22 people were killed in a double suicide bomb attack at an army checkpoint in the central Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday, state media said.

In a breaking news alert, state television said 100 people had also been injured in the blasts in the Al-Zahraa neighbourhood of the city, which has been targeted in bomb attacks multiple times before.

The provincial governor of Homs, Talal Barazi, told AFP at least 19 people had been killed in the attacks.

He said the two bombers appeared to have pulled up at the army checkpoint in a car together, with one exiting the vehicle before the other detonated his explosives while still inside.

In the chaos of the first blast’s aftermath, and as a crowd gathered, the second bomber detonated his explosives, Barazi said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, also reported the blasts, saying at least 21 people had been killed, among them 13 regime forces.

The group’s director Rami Abdel Rahman said the second suicide bomber had been wearing military clothes.

The Al-Zahraa district of Homs has been targeted in multiple bomb attacks in the past, including in late December, when 19 people were killed in several simultaneous blasts.

The residents of Al-Zahraa are mostly Alawites, the minority sect of Syria’s ruling clan, and the Islamic State group has in the past claimed attacks on the district.

Homs city was once dubbed the “capital” of Syria’s uprising, which began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

But after years of devastating fighting and government sieges, most of the city is now back in regime hands, with the exception of the Waer district, which is being gradually turned over to the government under a deal with opposition fighters.

Syrian pro-government forces have captured a strategic southern rebel town close to the Jordanian border after weeks of fighting, the monitoring group said on Tuesday.

Regime troops and allied militia including fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Iranian officers “seized control of Sheikh Miskeen” overnight with the help of Russian and Syrian government air strikes.

The town, in Daraa province, lies on a vital crossroads between Damascus to the north and the government-controlled city of Sweida to the east.

It is 12 kilometres (seven miles) from the rebel stronghold of Nawa, another key target for regime forces.

A security source had told AFP the Sheikh Miskeen was a “launching pad” for rebel operations, and one of the opposition’s “centres of gravity for the whole of Daraa province”.

He said seizing control of the town would sever a rebel supply route to areas under opposition control around Damascus.

Last month, government troops captured the Brigade 82 base outside the town, and they have since been pushing to capture Sheikh Miskeen.

Meanwhile, a rock slide has killed one person and injured another at a site for nuclear waste in north-eastern France.

Both were in a tunnel at the site in Bure, about 138 miles (223 km) east of Paris, when part of a rock face collapsed, emergency officials said.

Workers were evacuated and an investigation is under way. There was no nuclear waste at the location at the time of the rock slide, officials said.

The facility is being tested to store radioactive waste deep underground.

France is heavily dependent on nuclear energy and the site is required to house the most dangerous material.

The underground repository scheme is due to begin in 2025 but is still awaiting the government’s final decision.

MSN with additional report from BBC

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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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