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Germany Struggles Under Weight of Open-Arms Refugee Policy

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….China Sea tensions surge as China lands plane on artificial island

Surrounded by hundreds of people huddled in sleeping bags on the sidewalk, Ibrahim Almoreed shivered in the December chill.

Several months after fleeing war-ravaged Syria with his father, the 16-year-old told NBC News he was happy to now be enjoying a “good life” as he waited outside Berlin’s state office for health and social services. But life in Germany hasn’t been easy for Almoreed — with the “very cold” winter weather just a small part of his struggles.

“I come here because I don’t take money for four months and there are too much people here, and problems, problems, problems,” Almoreed said. “I don’t have money to buy anything. I don’t have anything.”

The chaotic scene outside the office on a recent morning is an example of the challenges Germany is facing following the arrival of about 1 million asylum-seekers this year. At times more than 10,000 refugees and migrants arrived daily in the country with a population of around 81 million.

Most of the newcomers arrived via the Balkan route after taking often-treacherous journeys on rubber boats from Turkey to Greek islands. Many were fleeing the war in Syria. Others left troubled countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia to seek better lives in the West.

In September, Germany announced it would spend around $6.6 billion to cope with the 800,000 migrants and refugees who at that point were expected to cross into the country by the end of 2015. Last week, the Die Welt newspaper reported that Germany’s federal states were budgeting more than $18 billion) to deal with the refugee crisis in 2016.

German authorities have re-purposed abandoned hardware stores and opened up school gymnasiums to house the asylum-seekers. They have even built tent cities, something that would have been unimaginable in the spring.

In Berlin, officials are struggling. After waiting in line for more than four hours, Almoreed said he was told they were unable to help him. “They tell to me, ‘Go, come tomorrow,'” he said. “I want help.”

Migrants said they’ve been waiting several weeks to register for welfare, and then have to return and wait again for any kind of assistance.

“There are too many people pushing and fighting and shouting,” Almoreed said. Still, his message to his mother and four siblings who remain in Syria is that life in Germany is good.

Abdul Samad, a 22-year-old Afghan national, cowered in his sleeping bag on a nearby sidewalk next to a busy street with buses rumbling by. He and dozens of other refugees leaned against a wall hoping to be at the front of the line the next morning when they would be let inside.

In the meantime, China’s first landing of a plane on one of its new island runways in the South China Sea shows Beijing’s facilities in the disputed region are being completed on schedule and military flights will inevitably follow, foreign officials and analysts said.

China’s increasing military presence in the disputed sea could effectively lead to a Beijing-controlled air defence zone, they said, ratcheting up tensions with other claimants and with the United States in one of the world’s most volatile areas.

Chinese foreign ministry officials confirmed on Saturday that a test flight by a civilian plane landed on an artificial island built in the Spratlys, the first time Beijing has used a runway in the area.

Vietnam launched a formal diplomatic protest while Philippines Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose said Manila was planning to do the same. Both have claims to the area that overlap with China.

“That’s the fear, that China will be able take control of the South China Sea and it will affect the freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight,” Jose told reporters.

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said China’s landing of the plane “raises tensions and threatens regional stability.”

Senator John McCain, the chairman of the influential U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, criticised the Obama administration for delaying further “freedom of navigation” patrols within 12 nautical miles of the islands built by China.

China has been building runways on the artificial islands for over a year, and the plane’s landing was not a surprise.

The runway at the Fiery Cross Reef is 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) long and is one of three China was constructing on artificial islands built up from seven reefs and atolls in the Spratlys archipelago.

The runways would be long enough to handle long-range bombers and transport craft as well as China’s best jet fighters, giving them a presence deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia that they have lacked until now.

Chinese officials have repeatedly stressed that the new islands would be mostly for civilian use, such as coast guard activity and fishing research.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at the weekend that the test flight was intended to check whether the runway met civilian aviation standards and fell “completely within China’s sovereignty”.

However, military landings on the islands were now “inevitable”, said Leszek Buszynski, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.

An air defence zone, while unlikely soon, was feasible and possible in future once China’s built up its air strength, he said.

“The next step will be, once they’ve tested it with several flights, they will bring down some of their fighter air power – SU-27s and SU-33’s – and they will station them there permanently. That’s what they’re likely to do.”

Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore’s ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, said he expected tensions to worsen as China used its new facilities to project power deeper into the South China Sea.

Even if China stopped short of formally declaring an Air Defence Identification Zone, known as an ADIZ, Beijing’s need to protect its new airstrips and other facilities could see it effectively operating one.

Work is well underway to complete a range of port, storage and personnel facilities on the new islands, U.S. and regional officials have said.

Fiery Cross is also expected to house advanced early warning radars and military communications facilities, they said.

“As these facilities become operational, Chinese warnings to both military and civilian aircraft will become routine,” Storey said.

“These events are a precursor to an ADIZ, or an undeclared but de facto ADIZ, and one has to expect tensions to rise.”

China sparked condemnation from the United States and Japan in late 2013 when it declared an ADIZ over the East China Sea, covering uninhabited islands disputed with Tokyo.

Hua, the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said on Monday that there were no immediate plans for an ADIZ in the South China Sea.

“The decision will be based on our judgment of the situation and our needs,” she aid, adding that Beijing respected other nations’ rights to international freedoms of navigation and overflight.

However, regional military officials say they are logging increased warnings to aircraft from Chinese radio operators, including some from ground stations on Fiery Cross reef.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade ships every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

The United States has no claim in the South China Sea, but has been highly critical of China’s assertiveness and says it will protect freedom of navigation.

In Washington, McCain said that the lack of U.S. action after a navy patrol near the islands in October was allowing China to continue to “pursue its territorial ambitions” in the region.

U.S. officials remain committed to carrying out further “freedom of navigation” patrols near the disputed islands, but are still debating the timing of another patrol, said one U.S. defense official, who was not authorised to speak publicly.

NBC with additional report from MSN

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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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