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Breakthrough in Asian migrant crisis as Indonesia and Malaysia agree to help

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... As Tokyo MoU Finds 16 Knackered Crews

Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to provide temporary shelter to thousands of migrants stranded at sea in the first breakthrough in the humanitarian crisis confronting south-east Asia.

The announcement was made on Wednesday by the Malaysian foreign minister, Anifah Aman, after a meeting with his counterpart from Indonesia and Thailandto address the plight of the migrants.

Most of them are the long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and others are Bangladeshis fleeing poverty.

Anifah said the two countries agreed to give the estimated 7,000 stranded migrants temporary shelter “provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community”.

“I urge all NGOs, of all races and religions to step forward to volunteer to help these Rohingya migrants,” Malaysia’s home minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, said.

“Even though they are a migrant community that is trying to enter the country illegally, and breaking immigration laws, their wellbeing should not be ignored.”

The breakthrough came as hundreds more starving people were rescued off the Indonesian coast on Wednesday and Burma for the first time offered to help in the crisis which has been blamed in part on its treatment of the ethnic Rohingya minority.

Following appeals by the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, and Washington last week for the Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants to be rescued, Pope Francis also issued his first comments on the issue on Tuesday, likening the plight of the “poor Rohingya” to that of Christian and ethnic Yazidi people brutalised by the Islamic State group.

About 3,000 people have already swum to shore or been rescued off Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand over the past 10 days after a Thai crackdown disrupted long-established smuggling routes, prompting some of the gangs responsible to abandon their human cargo at sea.

A total of 426 migrants believed to be from Burma were rescued in the early hours of Wednesday off Aceh in Indonesia, local officials said.

“Their condition is very weak. Many are sick, they told me that some of their friends died from starvation,” said Teuku Nyak Idrus, a local fishermen involved in the rescue.

Those saved in the Malacca strait between Malaysia and Indonesia’s Sumatra island included 30 children and 26 women, he added.

With food and water supplies running low, some boats have drifted back and forth as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand refused to accept them, drawing international condemnation.

Burma also has come under growing pressure to help stem the outflow of Muslim Rohingya, who are fleeing their homes in the country’s western Rakhine state after years of violence and discrimination at the hands of the Buddhist majority. Most head for Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Burma state media quoted a foreign ministry statement on Wednesday saying the government “shares concerns” expressed by the international community and is “ready to provide humanitarian assistance to anyone who suffered in the sea”.

That marked the most conciliatory statement yet from the Burmese government, which considers Rohingya to be foreigners from neighbouring Bangladesh and disavows all responsibility for them.

Burma has previously said it may snub Thailand’s call for a regional summit on the issue, and was not present at Wednesday’s meeting of foreign ministers in Malaysia.

In a mass at the Vatican, Pope Francis compared the Rohingya to those victimised in the Islamic State group’s brutal jihad in Syria and Iraq.

“We think of the poor Rohingya of Myanmar. As they leave their land to escape persecution they do not know what will happen to them,” he said.

The UN’s refugee agency told AFP on Tuesday it had received reports that at least 2,000 migrants had been stranded at sea for weeks on boats near the Burma-Bangladesh coasts.

They are being held on board amid horrid conditions by human traffickers who are demanding payment from the passengers to release them, a spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Tokyo MoU inspectors has detained 16 ships on deficiencies related to hours of rest between September 1 and November 30, 2014.

Preliminary results from the Concentrated Inspection Campaign (CIC) on STCW Hours of Rest for the 3 month period show that the hours of rest deficiencies constituted 7.77% of all detentions during CIC.

Main areas of concern are hours of rest not being recorded properly and watch-keeping personnel without sufficient rest.

Investigations into a number of recent incidents throughout the Asia-Pacific region have identified fatigue and insufficient rest of watch-keeping personal as key contributing factors in these incidents. There has been a significant loss of human life and damage to the marine environmental resulting from many of these incidents.

During the campaign most inspections occurred on bulk carriers with 2,206 (35%) inspections, followed by general cargo/multi-purpose ships with 1,361 (21%) inspections, container ships with 1,154 (18%) inspections and chemical tankers with 436 (7%) inspections.

Five of the detained ships were general cargo/multi-purpose ships, three were container ships, two bulk carriers and two vehicle carriers and four on other ship types.

Analysis of the recorded deficiencies shows that most deficiencies relate to hours of rest not being recorded correctly, vessel manning not in accordance with the minimum safe manning document, and shipboard working arrangements.

The flag with the highest number of CIC-topic related detentions was Panama with five CIC-topic related detentions.

The Guardian With additional reports from WMN

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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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ADEBAYO SARUMI: Doyen of Maritime Industry Marks 80th Anniversary, Saturday 

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