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Migrant crisis: 22 bodies found on Mediterranean boat – MSF

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  • As Naira sinks to 375/dollar, economists seek policy change

The bodies of 22 people have been found on a migrant dinghy in the Mediterranean, the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said.

The 21 women and one man were found “in a pool of fuel and water” at the bottom of the boat, off the coast of Libya.

They had been on the dinghy “for hours”, the aid group said.

More than 200 survivors who were on the dinghy have been transferred to a boat operated by MSF. There were 50 children among them.

Jens Pagotto of MSF told Reuters news agency: “It is still not entirely clear what happened, but they died a horrible death. It is tragic.

“It seems that water and fuel mixed together and the fumes from this might have been enough for them to lose consciousness.”

Most of the people on board were from western African countries.

The survivors were among more than 2,000 migrants rescued from the water in different operations on Wednesday and taken to Sicily. Vessels from the Spanish and Italian navies and other humanitarian organisations were involved.

Thousands of migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean this year, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.

MSF patrols the Mediterranean in three rescue vessels – the Dignity 1, the Bourbon Argos and the Aquarius. Another group, called SOS Mediterranee, is also involved with the Aquarius, which was the vessel used in Wednesday’s rescue.

In the meantime, economists on Wednesday advised the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria to review their policies and introduce measures that would turn around the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s economy.

They spoke against the backdrop of the persistent fall of the naira against the dollar, with the local currency exchanging for 375 against the greenback at the parallel market on Wednesday; the imminent economic recession; and the spike in inflation to 16.5 per cent in June.

The Chief Executive Officer, Economic Associates, Dr. Ayo Teriba, who noted that the global fall in crude oil prices had made the nation’s oil revenue to nosedive, said there was a need for the Federal Government to seek foreign exchange from alternatives sources in order to cover for the shortfall.

He said Nigeria and its economic managers could not afford to fold their arms and allow the situation to get worsened. Rather, he said efforts must be geared towards implementing policies that would fight negative growth and inadequate liquidity at the interbank market.

Teriba said, “There are a number of things we can do as a country to boost our forex supply. Just the way India did some years ago, we can tap Nigerians in the Diaspora to contribute forex to save the situation at home. We can’t say we have done all when we have not done this.

“Billions of dollar can be raised through this. Saudi Arabia has just raised billions of dollars by issuing an Initial Public Offering on government agencies. Nigeria can raise billions of dollars in Foreign Direct Investment by issuing IPOs on government monopolies in critical infrastructure like rail, power transmission, oil and gas pipelines. There are a whole lot of things we can do to save the economy.”

A professor of Economics at the Olabisi Obabanjo University, Sherriffdeen Tella, who emphasised the need to stop the speculative attack on the naira, said the Federal Government needed to review its policies and boost local production.

He said, “All attempts must be made to increase local production, especially food items, and reduce importation of such. These, coupled with resistance to price hike, will keep prices down as the economy picks up gradually from reflationary economic policies and stable oil and electricity outputs.”

An economic analyst at Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Kunle Ezun, said there was the need to close the gap between the exchange rates at the official and parallel markets.

He said the government must also address the spike in inflation, negative GDP growth and naira depreciation effectively and urgently.

Meanwhile, the naira tumbled further against the dollar at the parallel market on Wednesday and closed at 375, down from 368 on Tuesday.

Foreign exchange dealers said the lingering scarcity of forex at the interbank market was shifting dollar demand to the black market.

The local currency had lingered between 346 and 348 at the parallel market before tumbling to over 360 this week, following the total floating of the naira by the CBN on Friday.

The local currency, however, eased slightly against the dollar at the official interbank market and closed at 294.23 on Wednesday, up from 294.87 on Tuesday.

Dealers said the local currency was stuck at 294.23 after just one transaction was carried out, with the supply of dollars drying up and no intervention by the CBN, Reuters reported.

Highlighting the state of the interbank market, an economist at Exotix, Mr. Alan Cameron, said, “Recent FX reforms have been enough to re-open the investment case for Nigeria, but there is still some uncertainty about the functioning of the market.

“The absence of volatility at N283/$ was interpreted as a sign that administrative controls were still in place; it remains to be seen if those will be fully removed.”

According to some analysts, foreign investors have welcomed the removal of currency controls by the CBN but many are still steering clear of the Nigerian economy until it shows signs of a concrete recovery.

“Most investors would like to see a more liquid FX market before resuming purchases of local assets,” the Head of Africa Strategy at Standard Chartered Bank, Samir Gadio, told Reuters.

He, however, added, “Given the significant discount of naira-settled futures, a number of offshore financial institutions and hedge funds could be tempted to get involved in the foreseeable future.”

The Chief Executive Officer, Cowry Assets Management Limited, Mr. Johnson Chukwu, said the naira was falling at the parallel market because demand had shifted there due to lack of liquidity at the interbank market.

However, the National President, Association of Bureau De Change Operators, Aminu Gwadabe, said the naira was not sustainable at 375 to the dollar at the parallel market.

He described the demand as artificial, saying, “I think the parallel market has been taken over by some forces. Where is this demand coming from? I think this is not sustainable.”

BBC with 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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