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Migrant crisis: Hundreds dead after capsize, say survivors

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  • As One Shot and Four Kidnapped from Indonesian Tug and Barge

Hundreds of migrants drowned when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean, survivors have told the BBC – although there is no official confirmation.

The 41 survivors say they were transferred to another vessel when it sank in the middle of the night.

They said that up to 500 people died, but coastguards in the region have been unable to confirm their accounts.

Numbers of migrants making the dangerous sea route from Libya to Italy have surged this year.

The survivors, from Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Egypt, spoke to the BBC from the southern Greek city of Kalamata, where they are being held after their rescue.

According to the group, about 240 migrants left the Libyan port city of Tobruk heading for Italy.

“My wife and my baby drowned in front of me,” is the first thing Muaz from Ethiopia tells me, before insisting that at least 500 others died.

“Two hundred and forty of us set off from Libya but then the traffickers made us get on to a bigger wooden boat around 30m in length that already had at least 300 people in it,” said Abdul Kadir, a Somali.

“I was one of the few who managed to swim back to the smaller boat,” added Muaz.

Once out in the Mediterranean, they said they were transferred to a larger boat already packed with more than 300 people, which then capsized.

The survivors were then picked up by a cargo ship, whose crew told the BBC that the migrants initially refused to be handed over to the Greek coastguard as they were determined to get to Italy.

A Somali woman living in Egypt told the BBC Somali service that three of her relatives, whom she had not heard from since they set out for Europe on Thursday, had died.

The presidents of both Somalia and the self-declared Republic of Somaliland offered their condolences over the incident. The Somali embassy in Cairo put the death toll at almost 400.

But the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has cast doubt, tweeting that the information hundreds had died appeared “inaccurate”.

The fact that the boat capsized at night in open sea may well have contributed to the lack of clear information available, correspondents say.ers

In a separate incident, six bodies were recovered and 108 migrants rescued when a rubber dinghy sank off the coast of Libya, according to the organisation SOS Mediterranean.

The boat was partially deflated, taking on water and its engine was out of use, the rescue group said.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy from Libya has surged recently – about 6,000 made the journey alone over a three-day period last week, the International Organisation for Migration said.

The deaths come on the eve of the first anniversary of the sinking of a migrant boat in the waters between Libya and Lampedusa in which up to 800 people may have drowned.

About 180,000 people have attempted to reach Europe by sea this year, with nearly 800 lives lost, the UN says.

In the meantime, one crew member was shot and four were kidnapped from Indonesian flagged tug and barge on April 15 in the international waters between Malaysia and the Philippines, according to Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The injured crew member was transported to Malaysia for treatment and is reported to be in a stable condition.

The two vessels involved in the incident, which occurred in the evening hours on Friday, were en route from Cebu, Philippines to Tarakan.

The vessels, identified as the tug boat Henry and the barge Cristi, were carrying a total of ten crew at the time of the incident.

Five remaining crew members aboard the two ships were brought by the Malaysian Maritime Police to Lahad Datu Port, Malaysia.

This is the third pirate attack on an Indonesian tug in the area.

On March 26 the Indonesian tug Brahma 12 and barge Anand 12 were hijacked by pirates in the Philippine waters, while they were on their way from Sungai Puting, South Kalimatan to Batangas, South Philippines.

Brahma 12 was released soon after, however, the vessels’ 10 crew members are still being held by the hijackers, with their whereabouts unknown.

In another incident, four Malaysian crew members were kidnapped from the tug Massive 6 off Pulau Sipadan, Sabah, Malaysia, on April 1 by eight armed pirates.

The hijacked tug was returned to its owner, Highline Shipping Sdn. Bhd on April 12, while the taken crew members are reportedly still held captive by the pirates, believed to be Filipino Muslim militants, members of the Abu Sayyaf group.

BBC with additional report from 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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