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FOREX Failure: STOAN May Sack More, As Empty Berths Soar

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  • MILITARY WARNS: We’ll treat pro-Biafran ship hijackers as criminals

Empty ships berthing space in the Lagos Pilotage District increased this week, from 20 to over 25, as the adverse effects of the Central Bank Of Nigeria CBN forex restrictions bite harder, on the nation’s maritime industry.

A critical maritime operator and member Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) in Port Harcourt lamenting the dearth of ships in Lagos, grieved that what they were experiencing was gradually creeping into Lagos.

A documented evidence of ships in port

A documented evidence of ships in port

“Nobody wants to retrench workers. Nobody can sack workers you have developed cordial relationships with without a sense of loss. But then, it doesn’t also make any economic sense, keeping idle workers in pool or offices, knowing you must pay, at month’s end”, the member stated, on conditions of anonymity, hinting that STOAN may have no options than to sack worker, in a bid to cushion dwindling patronage.

A visit to Apapa Port showed the ever vibrant mother port was gradually shrinking, with the usual hullabaloo associated with optimal cargo discharges, genuinely waning.

An importer, Boye Oladele told Maritime First it had become more hecullian a task to import now, as the procedures have drastically changed, blaming the CBN forex restrictions policy.

“This is not forex restriction. This is forex failure. This policy has failed. The CBN has failed us. It is good Mr. President has retained the CBN Governor, in spite of all the complaints. At the right time, we will hold the President accountable for it” he indicated further.

Princess Vicky Haastrup, C.E.O ENL Consultium

Princess Vicky Haastrup, C.E.O ENL Consultium

Speaking in the same vein, a maritime industry watcher, Anthony Emeordi urged President Muhammadu Buhari, to adopt a more proactive measures, starting with the removal of the CBN Governor, noting that life was getting harder, for Nigerians.

Corroborating his view a copy of the Shipping Position, a documented evidence of ships in port (copy attached) the industry watcher wondered how the seaport terminal operators would break even, after paying the NPA’s statutory charges, levies and royalties, in additions to paying wages and bank loans.

Efforts to obtain the official position of STOAN through its image maker and media consultant, Bolaji Akinola was inconclusive, as the time of filing this report.

Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters on Tuesday vowed that some suspected Pro-Biafran militants, who hijacked a merchant vessel off the coast of Nigeria on Friday would be treated as criminals and saboteurs.

The ship, believed to be an oil tanker, was said to have been hijacked by some militants, who issued a 31-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to release the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.

While some maritime industry sources claimed that the vessel was an oil tanker seized about 160 kilometres off the Bakassi Peninsula near the border with Cameroon, the Defence Headquarters told theThe PUNCH on Tuesday that the ship was seized about 7.5 nautical miles off the Port of Cotonou.

The suspected pro-Biafran militants had hijacked the foreign merchant ship and threatened to blow it up with its crew if the Federal Government failed to release Kanu.

It was learnt that the 31-day ultimatum by the militants was given at the weekend by one ‘General Ben.’

Kanu is being prosecuted by the Department of State Services for running an illegal organisation (IPOB), threatening to break away from Nigeria to create an independent country; importing radio transmitters and making inciting and seditious statements, while his co-accused persons had been charged with possession of firearms.

Defence sources, who claimed knowledge of the hijacking on Tuesday, explained that the operatives of the Nigerian Navy were on the trail of the captured vessel and the hijackers.

One of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the hijackers had threatened to blow up the ship and its crew members if the government refused to release Kanu, who is currently being detained and undergoing prosecution for treasonable felony, after 31 days.

The Director of Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, confirmed on Tuesday that some militants hijacked a vessel on Friday off the Nigerian coast, but threatened that the military would deal decisively with those he called criminals and saboteurs.

He said the vessel, named MT LEON DIAS, was hijacked outside Nigeria’s territorial waters about 7.5 nautical miles off the Port of Cotonou, adding that the vessel was under the watch of the Navy of Benin Republic.

Abubakar added, “Well, I can confirm to you that a vessel, a tanker with the name MT LEON DIAS with number 9279927, was hijacked 7.5 nautical miles off Cotonou port. The ship is presently in Benin Republic. It is a merchant ship.

“I must add that on this issue of militancy, there are no more militants now, what we have are criminals. The Amnesty programme has taken care of the militants.

“The military will treat those behind such acts as criminal and saboteurs; the law will take its course; the security agencies will do their job.

“The country’s interest is above any other person’s interest. We have to work towards the enthronement of peace and stability because development can only take place in an atmosphere of peace.”

He said the military would treat those behind such crimes in the nation’s maritime domain as criminals and saboteurs.

Abubakar admitted that there “were some sort of threats,” but he was not specific on the 31-day ultimatum issued by the hijackers.

A Bulgarian-based Maritime News had said, “The group boarded the tanker from two fast boats and took control of the vessel and locked the crew in the mess room before heading for the Niger Delta,” reports AP.

A factional leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra, Uchenna Madu, had also explained that the said ‘General Ben’ was one of the Niger Delta militants, who had volunteered to join forces with the secessionists groups.

“Ben is not a separatist but some Niger Delta militants have shown interest in working with us,” said Madu.

Additional report from Punch

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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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