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Key Libya oil terminals seized by rival government, sparking call for military action

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  • German Shipping Firm Sells Four Post Panamaxes

Libya’s internationally backed government has urged its forces to act after two oil terminals fell to rival troops, raising fears of further violence in a country already gripped by turmoil.

The call came after forces loyal to the unrecognised eastern authority seized two key export facilities on Sunday.

The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord called on all forces loyal to it to “protect and defend” the ports against what it called “flagrant aggression” of Libyan sovereignty.

The two Mediterranean ports are in Libya’s “oil crescent”, and seen as a vital source of income for the GNA which is struggling to assert its authority.

Previously controlled by guards allied to the GNA, the ports of Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf were seized by forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar.

One of the most powerful military figures in Libya, Haftar is allied with a rival authority to the GNA based in the east.

Ahmad Mesmari, a spokesman for Haftar’s forces, told a press conference that another oil terminal at Zuwaytina was not yet under their control.

A colonel with pro-GNA forces, allied to guards defending the facilities, confirmed that Haftar’s fighters were in control of Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf.

Hatem El-Ouraybi, a spokesman for the eastern authority, told AFP the attack was aimed at “regaining full control of the oil crescent”.

“The government calls on all the people of the oil crescent area – including those who were in the oil installations guards – to join the army or return to their homes,” he said.

But the GNA on Facebook urged all “military forces” loyal to the unity government “to protect and defend the oil installations and terminals and to carry out their military and national duties bravely and without hesitation”.

The GNA also called on Haftar’s forces to “immediately withdraw from all the sites they have attacked”.

Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra are together capable of handling 700,000 barrels of oil per day but had been closed for months after jihadist attacks.

In late July, the oil installation guards announced the reopening of the two ports after an agreement with the unity government to resume oil exports.

They had been closed following attacks in January by the Islamic State group, who took advantage of turmoil after the 2011 uprising to gain a foothold in the country.

In recent weeks, pro-GNA forces backed by US air strikes have been pressing a months-long campaign to expel the last Isis jihadists from what was their North African stronghold.

IS took the city of Sirte in June last year, sparking fears they would use the city west of the oil crescent as a launchpad for attacks in Europe.

Haftar’s forces have since 2014 been fighting jihadists in the second city of Benghazi northeast of the oil-rich crescent.

UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler said on Twitter he was worried about the fighting.

“Oil belongs to ALL Libyans,” he tweeted. “Conflicts can only be solved through dialogue, not violence. Urge all parties to sit 2gether.”

Mattia Toaldo, a Libya expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the seizure of the terminals could deal a fatal blow to Libya’s oil sector.

“Unless there is a very quick mediation, this could lead to conflict and a final blow to Libya’s oil industry,” Toaldo said.

Oil is Libya’s main natural resource with reserves estimated at 48bn barrels, the largest in Africa.

But since 2010 the country’s production has plummeted from 1.5m bpd to just 200,000 bpd.

Libya’s oil sector is managed by the National Oil Company which is split into two rival branches, one allied to the GNA and the other to the authority in the east.

Once pro-GNA forces expel Isis from Sirte and there is no buffer between them and Haftar’s army, either side “could easily clash again”, Toaldo said.

The pro-GNA military command is based in the city of Misrata.

The attack on the ports aimed to “take advantage of Misrata’s exhaustion after Sirte” and “undermine any negotiation on the future of the GNA”, Toaldo said.

Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 revolt that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival authorities and militias vying to control the country.

A UN-brokered deal in December led to the unity government starting to work in Tripoli, but it has struggled to assert its authority.

The parliament in the east last month voted no confidence in the GNA in a setback to efforts to end the political chaos.

In the meantime, German shipping company NSC Schifffahrtsgesellschaft has sold four of its Post Panamax dry bulk carriers to an undisclosed European buyer, according to data provided by VesselsValue.

The vessels in question are the 92,500 dwt Tana Sea and Tonda Sea, and the 93,000 dwt Tango Sea and Tonic Sea.

The bulkers were sold for a price of USD 9.5 million each on September 9.

Built in 2011 and 2012 at various Chinese shipyards, the ships feature a length of around 230 meters and a width of 38 meters.

NSC Schifffahrtsgesellschaft operates a fleet of 47 vessels with an average age of 6 years, eight of which are bulk carriers. The company’s fleet features over 850,000 dwt and has a market value of some USD 757 million, VesselsValue data shows.

World Maritime News 

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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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