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Migrant crisis: EU patrol ship saves 900 migrants off Greece

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  •  EU and Turkey to hold special summit in March

About 900 migrants have been rescued near the Greek island of Lesbos, the EU border agency Frontex has said.

They were taken aboard a Bulgarian ship on patrol between Lesbos’s port of Mytilene and the Turkish coast.

Frontex said it was picking up all the migrants it encountered at sea because bad weather made the crossing more dangerous during the winter.

More than 1m people arrived in the EU in 2015, making it Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

Frontex announced Thursday’s rescue in a tweet, posting a photo of some of the migrants who later disembarked from the Bulgarian ship at Mytilene.

The migrants’ nationalities were not immediately known.

Earlier this week, Greek started to register asylum seekers at four new reception centres on islands near Turkey, including Lesbos. This is being done in line with a demand from the EU.

Converted shipping containers and prefab shelters are being used to house thousands of people. The EU says they must all be registered there and fingerprinted before going anywhere else.

Last year more than 850,000 migrants – mostly refugees fleeing war and abuses in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – entered Greece as a gateway to the EU.

During the summer months, some 7,000 migrants were arriving in Greece every day after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey.

More than 700 died during their perilous journeys last year, and at least another 100 this year.

The EU has pledged €3bn (£2.3bn; $3.3bn) to Turkey in return for housing refugees and strengthening the country’s borders.

Turkey is home to nearly three million refugees, most of them from Syria.

Many of them pay smugglers thousands of dollars to make the crossing to Greece. They then head north, trying to reach Germany and Scandinavia.

Meanwhile, the EU is to hold a special summit with Turkey on the migration crisis in early March, officials have announced.

“The EU-Turkey action plan is our priority,” European Council President Donald Tusk said after late-night talks at an EU gathering in Brussels.

The EU has pledged €3bn (£2.3bn; $3.3bn) to Turkey in return for housing refugees on its territory.

More than a million people arrived in the EU in 2015, creating Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

On Thursday, about 900 migrants were rescuednear the Greek island of Lesbos, the EU border agency Frontex said.

In a separate development at the Brussels summit, talks on reform of the UK’s place in the EU continued into the early hours after London said there was “real hard work to do overnight”.

Mr Tusk said although there had been progress, “a lot still remains to be done”.

Speaking in Brussels well after midnight, Mr Tusk said a “European consensus” on how to tackle the refugee crisis was needed.

“We must do all we can to succeed. This is why we have the intention to organise a special meeting with Turkey at the beginning of March,” he said.

Mr Tusk said he would now hold a series of bilateral meetings with EU leaders to further discuss the issue.

He said decisions must ultimately be made by each EU member – but stressed that such moves must be guided by common EU laws.

Echoing his words, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU-Turkey action plan “is something we will be concentrating on”.

She said the number of migrants trying to reach Europe had dropped in recent months, but warned that there was a “clear danger” of a new influx in the spring because of warmer weather.

Ms Merkel pointed out that Austria also backed the EU-Turkey plan, despite Vienna’s decision on the eve of the summit to impose a daily quota on asylum claims.

Officials in Vienna said that 80 asylum applications would be accepted each day, and a maximum of 3,200 people would be allowed to travel through Austria.

Correspondents say there are signs of serious divisions between EU members on the migrant issue.

The Czech Minister for European Affairs, Tomas Prouza, tweeted that “well balanced and direct draft conclusions on #migration being taken apart over the last two hours”.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had been expected to take part in the Brussels’ summit on Thursday – but he had to cancel his trip due to a deadly bomb attack in Ankara.

Turkey is home to nearly three million refugees, most of them from Syria.

Many of them pay smugglers thousands of dollars to make the crossing to Greece. They then head north, trying to reach Germany and Scandinavia.

BBC

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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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