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Oil slumps to $30, OPEC splits over meeting

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… As Naira crashes to 300 against dollar

The suggestion on Tuesday by Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, for an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries amid the sustained oil price slump met with opposition from another member of the cartel, the United Arab Emirates.

The global benchmark Brent crude extended its decline on Tuesday, slipping towards $30 per barrel for the first time since April 2004, before rising slightly above $31 per barrel. But the pick-up was short-lived as Brent later fell below $31.

Kachikwu, who briefly served as OPEC president last year before Nigeria’s tenure expired on December 31, was quoted as saying that OPEC would soon make efforts to convene before the next scheduled meeting in June as the slump in oil prices was hurting producers, including the world’s biggest exporter, Saudi Arabia.

The 13 members of the OPEC will work toward meeting in early March, Kachikwu said in an interview in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

Bloomberg quoted him to have said that members were already engaged in informal discussions with some non-OPEC producers, including Russia, to join any future production cut to shore up prices, he said.

“We are definitely looking at a time frame in very early March. You will very necessarily have to have an OPEC meeting because the group first has to meet and decide on its position before having formal meetings with other producers to coordinate a cut,” he said.

Brent crude closed at $43 per barrel on the day of the last OPEC meeting on December 4, and was trading at $30.54 per barrel at 6.10pm Nigerian time on Tuesday.

OPEC, which supplies about 40 per cent of the world’s oil, decided not to cut production in December, potentially worsening a glut created after producers from the US to Russia and Saudi Arabia pumped more than demand warranted.

The UAE, one of the Gulf nations in OPEC, has moved to quash the talk of a potential emergency meeting, with its Energy Minister, Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazrou, saying the current strategy by the cartel was working.

“I’m not convinced OPEC alone can change or can solely unilaterally change this strategy just because we have seen a low in the market,” Mazroui was quoted by Reuters as saying.

He stated that while the first half of 2016 would be tough for the oil market, there would be a gradual recovery later in the year, aided by an expected drop in non-OPEC production.

“I think all the members, including Iran, have the right to increase their production. I don’t think we are going to restrict anyone,” Mazroui said.

A former Director of Research at OPEC, Chief Mike Olorunfemi, said in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, “If the price should go below $30, there is likelihood that OPEC will want to meet. But the Iran and Saudi Arabia tension has added a new dimension to the problem.

“So, Saudi Arabia will not really want to come and meet because the fall in oil price affects Iran more than Saudi Arabia. And wherever Saudi Arabia moves to, that is where you will find the UAE and Kuwait.”

The Head of energy Research, Ecobank Capital, Mr. Dolapo Oni, is of the view that OPEC is really not somewhere where Nigeria has a lot of clout.”

Meanwhile, Monday’s stoppage of foreign exchange sales to Bureau De Change operators by the Central Bank of Nigeria failed to lift the naira on Tuesday as the currency exchanged for N300 against the United States dollar in Kano, N290 in Lagos and N292 in Abuja.

Financial experts said the naira would decline further, while private sector operators described the move as a welcome development.

The ban was announced on Monday, when naira trading at 285 against the dollar at the parallel market from 278 on Friday.

The Acting President, Association of Bureau De Change Operators, Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, told one of correspondents in a telephone interview that the currency traded against the greenback at 300, 290 and 292 in Kano, Lagos and Abuja a day after the CBN announcement.

“There is cut of (dollar) supply to the market. The BDC sub-sector has been murdered. We are not coping. The naira is going to head northwards. There is no solution in sight,” Gwadabe lamented.

The Head of Investment Research, Afrinvest West Africa Limited, Mr. Ayodeji Ebo, said the stoppage of forex sale to the BDCs meant that the CBN wanted everybody to apply to the banks for dollars.

He stated, “But we feel the pressure now will move from the BDCs to the parallel market. We will see significant spike in the value of the naira at the parallel market because the little supply to the BDCs have also helped to cushion the demand at the parallel market.

“It will further compound or increase the spread between the parallel market and the interbank market. So, it will also increase round-tripping and unethical practices within the financial system.”

On the lifting of the ban on cash deposits into domiciliary accounts, Ebo said, “I am still sceptical about how this will work except they are also assuring us that if you deposit it, you can consummate business with it.”

A professor of financial economics at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Leo Ukpong, said, “I don’t think the stoppage of dollar sale to the BDCs will solve the problem. The currency will depreciate some more.

“This move will make the naira to weaken more as demand for dollar will skyrocket because of the short supply.”

Members of the organised private sector, however, applauded the CBN for the stopping the sale of dollars to the BDCs and lifting the ban on cash deposits into domiciliary accounts.

The President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Frank Jacobs, said industrialists had earlier kicked against the funding of the BDCs by the central bank, adding that with the development, the forex could be channelled towards funding the real sector in terms of importation of raw materials.

On the removal of the restriction of cash deposits into domiciliary accounts, Jacobs said manufacturers were still waiting for more clarification as to how the money deposited could be utilised by the customers.

The Director-General, the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Mr. Emmanuel Cobham, said the forex sale ban was a welcome development. According to him, although the BDCs are necessary in the economy, they are licensed entities and should, therefore, source for their own funds.

Also speaking on the matter, the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, lauded the forex policy review, noting that it had addressed the concerns of economic operators. According to him, it is a source of worry that the CBN continues to maintain its official exchange rate at N199 to the dollar at a time of dwindling forex inflow.

“The pressure on the official window will persist. The risk of round-tripping and distortions in the foreign exchange market will consequently remain high,” he said.

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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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