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North Korea missile test fails, says South

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  • As Powerful 6.5-Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Japan, Killing at Least 9

North Korea conducted a missile test off its east coast on Friday morning, but the launch appears to have failed, say US and South Korean officials.

The rocket has not yet been identified but is suspected to have been a previously untested “Musudan” medium-range ballistic missile.

The launch coincided with the birthday of North Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il-sung.

It also comes amid particularly high tension on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea’s Yonhap national news agency quoted government sources as saying that the missile was a type of intermediate-range ballistic missile known as a Musudan, also called the BM-25.

North Korean forces were seen recently moving two such missiles.

The report said it would be the North’s first Musudan test, and that it may have at least 50 more.

The Musudan is named after the village in North Korea’s northeast where a launch pad is sited.

It has a range of about 3,000 km (1,800 miles), which extends to the US Army base on the Pacific island of Guam, but not as far as the mainland US.

The US said it had tracked the latest launch, but could also not confirm details,

“We call again on North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations,” a State Department official said.

China also criticised what it called “the latest in a string of sabre-rattling that, if unchecked, will lead the country to nowhere,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The BBC’s Stephen Evans in Seoul says that even though it failed, the test illustrates the determination of current leader Kim Jong-un to get the ability to strike the United States, but also the North’s technological limitations.

The North has made a series of threats against the South and the US since the UN imposed some of its toughest ever sanctions on the country.

The move was a response to the North’s fourth nuclear test in January and its launching of a satellite in February, both of which broke existing sanctions.

The North has also been angered by South Korea and the US conducting their largest ever joint military exercises, which wrap up next week.

In March, North Korea said it had developed nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles. However, experts cast doubt on the claims.

The birthday of North Korea’s founder – Mr Kim’s grandfather – is significant. Four years ago, the North tried to celebrate it with a similar missile launch, but that too failed.

In the meantime, at least nine people were killed Thursday night and hundreds of others were injured, at least 53 of them seriously, as a magnitude-6.5 earthquake knocked down houses and buckled roads in southern Japan, police and fire officials said.

All of the dead — four dead and five women — and nearly all of the at least 900 people who were injured were in Kumamoto city and the town of Mashiki in Kumamoto prefecture, police said, according to national broadcaster NHK. More than 44,000 people in the prefecture had fled to shelters overnight, fire officials told NBC News.

The quake struck at 9:26 p.m. (8:26 a.m. ET) at a depth of 7 miles near Kumamoto city on the island of Kyushu, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. There was no tsunami risk.

“The shaking was so violent I couldn’t stand still,” said Hironobu Kosaki, a Kumamoto police official.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said at least 19 houses collapsed, and hundreds of calls came in reporting building damage and people buried under debris or trapped inside. Nearly half of the 650-foot-long wall surrounding Kumamoto Castle was damaged, NHK reported.

“Because of the night darkness, the extent of damage is still unclear,” he said.

The damage and calls for help are concentrated in the town of Mashiki, about 800 miles southwest of Tokyo, Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.

One of the victims in Mashiki died after being pulled from some rubble, and the other was killed in a fire, Matsushita said. A third person rescued from under a collapsed building is in a state of heart and lung failure.

Matsushita said rescue operations were repeatedly disrupted by aftershocks.

“There was a ka-boom, and the whole house shook violently sideways,” Takahiko Morita, a Mashiki resident, said in a telephone interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK. “Furniture and bookshelves fell down, and books were all over the floor.”

Morita said that some houses and walls collapsed in his neighborhood and that water supply had been cut off.

Dozens of people evacuated their homes and gathered outside Mashiki town hall, sitting on tarps well after midnight. Some wrapped blankets around their shoulders against the springtime chill.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that the government has mobilized police, firefighters and self-defense troops for the rescue operation.

“We’ll carry out relief operations through the night,” he said.

Suga said there were no abnormalities at nearby nuclear facilities. The epicenter was 74 miles northeast of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant, the only one operating in the country.

Most of Japan’s nuclear reactors remain offline following the meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant in 2011 after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake triggered a huge tsunami.

Television video showed fires breaking out in some places, with firefighters battling an orange blaze.

Keisukei Urata, an official in nearby Uki city who was driving home when the quake struck, told NHK that parts of the ceiling at Uki City Hall collapsed, windows broke and cabinets fell to the ground.

Kasumi Nakamura, an official in the village of Nishihara, said the rattling started modestly and grew violent, lasting about 30 seconds.

“Papers, files, flower vases and everything fell on the floor,” he told NHK.

There were multiple aftershocks, the largest one with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 shortly after midnight (11 a.m. ET), according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the initial quake’s preliminary magnitude at 6.2. It upgraded its damage assessment to red, meaning extensive damage is probable and the disaster is likely widespread.

Video from an NHK bureau in the area showed books, files and papers raining down to the floor. One employee appeared to have fallen off a chair, while others slid under their desks to protect their heads.

BBC with additional report from NBC

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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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