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China restricts North Korea trade over nuclear tests

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China has banned most imports of North Korean coal and iron ore, the country’s main exports, in a significant increase in pressure on the North under U.N. sanctions against its nuclear and missile tests.

China buys an estimated two-thirds of impoverished North Korea’s exports, making Beijing’s cooperation essential for trade penalties approved by the U.N. Security Council last month to succeed.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has intensified nuclear activities in defiance of U.N. sanctions, conducting his country’s fourth nuclear test in January and test-firing missiles.

In a sign of frustration with its ally, China signed onto Security Council sanctions last month that include mandatory inspections of cargo bound to and from North Korea. The council called on all countries to “redouble their efforts” to enforce the sanctions.

The latest Chinese restrictions announced Tuesday ban most imports of North Korean coal, iron ore, gold, titanium, vanadium and rare earths — a key revenue source for the mineral-rich North. The CIA estimated North Korea’s 2013 exports at $4.4 billion, with 65 percent of that going to China and the bulk of it made up of mineral sales.

Some imports for civilian use will be allowed so long as they are not connected to nuclear or missile programs, the Ministry of Commerce said. It gave no indication how large such purchases might be.

The announcement also banned sales of jet fuel to North Korea, but said civilian aircraft would be allowed to refuel during flights to China.

President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, promised to cooperate to promote denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during a nuclear security conference last week in Washington.

In a statement Wednesday, the U.S. government welcomed Beijing’s trade restrictions as part of efforts to enforce U.N. sanctions.

“We will continue to urge China to do more until we see concrete signs that Kim Jong Un has come to the realization that the only viable path forward for his country is denuclearization,” said the statement released by the American Embassy in Beijing.

Beijing balked at previous demands by Washington and other governments to use trade as leverage against North Korea. Chinese diplomats said the potential humanitarian impact of sanctions had to be considered.

Beijing is North Korea’s only major ally and aid donor but says its influence over Kim’s government is limited.

Chinese leaders are reluctant to lean too hard on North Korea for fear the collapse of Kim’s government could set off a flood of refugees and possibly lead to U.S. and South Korean troops being stationed in the North near China’s border.

In February, a Chinese diplomat told reporters the United States should offer North Korea incentives to return to negotiations, such as progress on a peace agreement. The two countries are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

Despite such reservations, Beijing went along with the Security Council sanctions last month that also restrict operations of North Korean banks and ban trade in dual-use nuclear and missile-related items. China is one of five permanent Security Council members with power to veto U.N. action.

Security Council resolutions prohibit nuclear weapons development by North Korea and all ballistic missile activity.

A defiant North Korea carried out a nuclear bomb test in January and called it a “H-bomb of justice.” It launched a long-range rocket in February, and in March fired a missile that flew about 800 kilometers (500 miles) before crashing into the sea off the country’s east coast.

Kim has ordered tests of a nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles capable of carrying it. Last month’s missile launch came during annual South Korean-U.S. military drills which North Korea has criticized as a rehearsal for an invasion.

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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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