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Russia, Turkey, Iran discuss Syria ceasefire implementation in Astana

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  • As Philippine president Duterte warns rebels after peace talks collapse

Experts from Russia, Turkey, Iran and the United Nations have started a technical meeting in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, to discuss in detail the implementation of the Syrian ceasefire agreement, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

“Representatives of Jordan are expected to take part for the first time,” a ministry spokesman said of the talks.

He said the agenda included reviewing the implementation of the cessation of hostilities, discussing a proposal from the Syrian armed opposition about the ceasefire, and determining options about how to implement it.

“This is about creating a mechanism to control the implementation of the ceasefire,” the ministry spokesman said.

The ministry gave no information about the line-up of the delegations, who were meeting behind closed doors.

In the meantime, the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, has warned the military is ready to respond with airstrikes and new offensives if Maoist rebels launch attacks, after both sides lifted separate ceasefires and he announced he was scrapping peace talks with the guerrillas.

Duterte, speaking at a news conference, called the rebels “terrorists”, as months of steady progress in talks brokered by Norway rapidly fell apart after members of the New People’s Army killed six soldiers and kidnapped two others in renewed violence.

One of the world’s longest running insurgencies, which began in the 1960s, it is estimated to have claimed as many as 40,000 lives.

“It seems to me that these terrorists want another 50 years of war, of killing of Filipinos,” Duterte told reporters after attending the wake of three of the dead soldiers in the southern city of Cagayan de Oro.

“I don’t want a bloody thing, but if they choose to do it, fine,” the president said. “With my lifting of the ceasefire, they can begin their attacks and we are prepared and I will use the assets. We have so many planes now, we have jets, I will drop all [the bombs].”

Duterte lifted the government’s six-month-old ceasefire with the rebels on Friday and ordered troops to prepare for fresh fighting after the guerrillas abandoned their own truce two days earlier and killed six soldiers. He said some of the soldiers were killed like pigs and raked with gunfire.

On Saturday, Duterte said he was scrapping the talks with the rebels and would order government negotiators not to participate in negotiations for a joint ceasefire accord scheduled this month in Norway, adding: “Peace with the communists might not come in this generation.”

The rebels have yet to react to Duterte’s moves.

Despite his tough talk, the president asked thousands of guerrillas to abandon nearly half a century of bloody rebellion in the countryside with an offer of land reform and housing.

“I’m offering you peace,” he said. “You should just come down and I will look for money to place you in settlements and I will proceed with the land reform.”

Duterte said several rebel leaders who were temporarily freed to join the peace talks in Europe should immediately return to the Philippines and go back to prison, warning that he would cancel their passports and order them to be arrested. They could also apply for asylum in Europe and opt to die far from their homeland, he said.

Duterte saidhe may reconsider his decision if there was a compelling reason, but he did not elaborate. His adviser on the peace talks, Jesus Dureza, suggested on Sunday that the president’s decision may still change.

“At the moment, he has clearly spoken on the directions we all in government should take,” Dureza said in a statement. “The road to just and lasting peace is not easy to traverse. There are humps and bumps, and curves and detours along the way. What is important is that we all stay the course.”

The collapse of the talks is the latest setback for Duterte, whose crackdown on illegal drugs, which has killed thousands of people since he took office in June, has also hit a dilemma.

Duterte prohibited the 170,000-strong national police force and the National Bureau of Investigation, another key law enforcement agency, from enforcing his campaign amid an extortion scandal that was sparked by the killing of a South Korean businessman by police officers involved in the anti-drug fight.

Duterte has said he would enlist the military to support the crackdown, now in the hands of a small anti-narcotics agency. That would put more pressure on government forces, who are carrying out an offensive against Muslim extremist groups in three battlefronts in the south and now have to prepare for a possible resumption of fighting with the communist rebels.

MSN with additional report from Guardian

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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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