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S Korea, US and Japan in first ever joint missile drill

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  • As 26 Countries Gather In Hawaii For Massive War Game

South Korea, the US and Japan have conducted their first joint missile-tracking drill, in the waters off the US state of Hawaii.

The move follows North Korea’s repeated tests in recent months of mid-range ballistic missiles.

Most tests have ended in failure, but the apparent success of the sixth last week alarmed the region.

North Korea, which has also conducted four nuclear weapon tests, said the drills were “military provocation”.

State media said the US and other “hostile forces” were a “constant threat” to North Korean security and reinforced its commitment to pursuing ballistic and nuclear weapons.

The US military said the drills, called Pacific Dragon, would enhance the “already strong relationship of all three nations participating”.

No missiles were fired, said the US Third Fleet, but each country tested its Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System and tested communications and data collection.

The Aegis system allows warships to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles while they are still in space, before there is any danger of causing any damage.

North Korea is banned by UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology.

But it launched two missiles within hours of each other on 22 June, with one flying about 400km (250 miles) and reaching an altitude of 1,000km.

Both launches are thought to have been intermediate-range Musudan missiles, whose range of about 3,000km is enough to hit South Korea, Japan and the US territory of Guam in the Western Pacific.

The move was seen as significant progress for North Korea’s weapons programme, with Japan saying it posed “a serious threat”.

In the meantime, as summer visitors flock to Hawaii for sun, sand and surf, the militaries of more than two dozen nations will be in and around the islands for five weeks of war games. The Rim of the Pacific exercise, hosted every two years by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, claims to be the world’s largest international maritime maneuvers. The Navy says the exercise, best known as RIMPAC, provides a unique training opportunity that fosters relationships vital to “ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.”

The massive exercise also comes with controversy, drawing fire from Hawaii residents and environmental groups who say the games harm the ocean and marine life. Many of the activities will be far offshore, and won’t noticeably affect tourists.

This year’s exercise — the 25th since its inception in 1971 and the largest yet — kicks off Thursday and continues until Aug. 4. It will include 26 nations, 45 ships, more than 200 aircraft, five submarines and 25,000 personnel in and around the Hawaiian islands and in Southern California.

Rochelle Rieger, a Navy spokeswoman, told The Huffington Post that RIMPAC 2016 includes for the first time Denmark, Germany and Italy, an advanced submarine rescue exercise, and a harpoon missile launch from a U.S. Navy littoral combat ship. (Brazil, facing multiple crises as it prepares to host the Olympics later this summer, was supposed to join, but backed out due to “unforeseen scheduling commitments.”)

Participants will practice disaster relief, maritime security operations, sea control and complex war-fighting, the Navy said in a statement. Two drills will involve sending a pair of retired U.S. ships — the former USS Thach and former USS Crommelin — to a watery grave at the bottom of the Pacific. The exercise, which the military calls SINKEX, involves towing decommissioned vessels out to sea and shooting at them with missiles and torpedoes until they sink.

Rieger noted that 70 percent of the planet is covered by water, 80 percent of the world’s population lives on or near a coast, and 90 percent of international commerce travels by sea. “The global maritime environment is too large and too complex for any one nation to safeguard,” Rieger wrote in an email.

The war-gaming comes at a price for whales, dolphins and other mammals.

David Henkin, an attorney at Earthjustice who represented environmental groups in the organization’s 2013 lawsuit against the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service, told HuffPost there is “no longer any scientific debate” about whether RIMPAC and similar Navy trainings harm whales and dolphins.

“They do,” Henkin said, citing the Navy’s own estimates that trainings off the coasts of Hawaii and Southern California over a five-year period may inadvertently kill 155 marine mammals and injure approximately 2,000.

In a historic settlement last year, the Navy agreed to limit its use of sonar and explosives in critical habitats for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. The agreement came several months after a federal judge ruled that the Navy severely underestimated the threat of its trainings.

Henkin called it a “compromise.” The Navy limits activities in sensitive areas, but not in others, including RIMPAC, which he said continues to threaten marine life.  Earthjustice will continue pushing the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service to do away with war games altogether.

“We have specific concerns about RIMPAC,” Henkin said. The exercise in 2004 likely caused a mass stranding of 150 to 200 melon-headed whales on Kauai, he said. “The only way to prevent similar tragedies in the future is for the Navy to keep its deadly activities out of sensitive marine mammal habitat.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was unable to conclusively determine if the stranding was a result of RIMPAC. “While causation of this stranding event may never be unequivocally determined, we consider the active sonar transmissions of July 2-3, 2004, a plausible, if not likely, contributing factor in what may have been a confluence of events,” the federal agency wrote in a report.

In addition to the Earthjustice lawsuit over RIMPAC, conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and Basel Action Network, filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, alleging the agency failed to prevent the SINKEX program from polluting the sea with toxic materials.

To minimize the potential impact of RIMPAC exercises on marine life, Rieger said participants receive training and are required to follow protective measures. Those measures, she said, include posting trained lookouts, monitoring for marine life before and during the use of sonar and explosives, establishing safety and exclusion zones, and “reducing or ceasing sonar transmissions when marine mammals are detected within prescribed distances.”

This year’s exercise, themed “Capable, Adaptive, Partners,” also includes forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom.

China’s return to RIMPAC — its second time participating — comes amid growing tension in the South China Sea. In March, Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii) called on Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to bar China from participating in RIMPAC, saying the country’s behavior is “polar opposite of U.S. objectives in the region.”

BBC with additional report from MSN

 

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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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