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Shipping warned on Iran action against Maersk

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Maersk Shipping-related businesses could be at risk while operating in the Persian Gulf, a maritime analyst has warned.

His warning comes as the United States has sent navy ships to escort US-flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz.

Box ship Maersk Tigris was arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard while transiting the Strait of Hormuz on 28 April. However, Maersk says no official documents that would normally accompany the arrest of a ship have been issued, and the ship does not belong to the group, which had it on timecharter. Maersk has confirmed that Iran’s port authority claims the arrest is due to an ongoing legal dispute – a commercial case – between Maersk and an Iranian company.

Speaking to IHS Maritime, Hans Tino Hansen, CEO and founder of maritime risk assessment company Risk Intelligence, said that the event obscured certainty about what to expect in the region in the future, and could point to internal clashes within Iran.

Weighing up the first scenario – that the arrest occurred because of the court case, Hansen said: “If we believe [the arrest was a result of] the civilian court case, then the problem is quite big, because you have a situation where any company or any vessel that is connected directly or indirectly to a court case or potential court case or commercial dispute in Iran could face arrest in the Persian Gulf. That could be the conclusion and that has potential for a lot of problems.”

IHS Maritime obtained a comment from a representative of Iran’s foreign ministry, who confirmed, “Taking the ship into custody was based on an earlier court ruling and was a demand by the private (non-state) plaintiff.” However, she did not disclose any further information on this court order, or who the plaintiff is.

The other assumption that analysts will feel free to draw, said Hansen, is that the arrest is “a smokescreen” created by one of two factions in Iran – hardliners, who do not believe in international negotiation.

The Revolutionary Guard (also known as the Army of the Guards of the Islamic Revolution) is generally considered to be the army of the hardliners, said Hansen. It is not the national navy or coastguard. It is a separate entity, established in 1979 to protect the country’s Islamic system. The guard reports to a different structure to the army or navy – directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran.

Hansen said the industry should ask why the ship arrest was carried out by the Revolutionary Guard and not by the navy or coastguard.

“If [the arrest was not actually carried out on the basis of a commercial claim], then it might be a smokescreen – the result of a game between hardliners and those, in Iran, who want negotiations with the international community,” said Hansen.

To create an international incident by arresting Maersk Tigris could have effectively stopped negotiations. “If the Americans had sent in a destroyer and something had happened – that would be the end of the negotiations,” he said, adding that a civil lawsuit gave the hardliners a “loophole” – a way out of the situation.

This would also explain the first aborted aggressive approach from the Revolutionary Guard on Maersk Kensington on 24 April – a ship that is owned by Maersk and is flagged by the US.

“It is a US-flagged ship, and that is most likely why they did not take it, because they did not want to cross that red line,” he said.

He urged ship operators to be cautious in the area. Maersk Tigris, as well as not being a Maersk ship, is also not painted in the Maersk livery but in the colours of Rickmers Shipmanagement.

“So, I would be careful – if it is correct, that the arrest was due to a commercial claim, then you actually don’t know what is going to be the rule going forward,” said Hansen.

The question of whether the ship was in international waters is key.

Iran’s maritime regulation, the 1993 Law of Marine Areas of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, recognises innocent passage through territorial waters, but also that this will be suspended and ships be diverted or arrested under certain conditions, including issues that have no “direct bearing on the passage” of the ship.

IHS analysis of the ship’s movements reveals several gradual turns, off its original course and into Iranian waters, and then deeper into Iranian waters. IHS principal analyst Richard Hurley said the speed during the turns taken by the ship were constant (13 kt), suggesting they were routine changes of course to avoid a vessel collision. This, said Hurley, could suggest that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had blocked Tigris and were forcing the ship into Iranian waters. The ship then reduced its speed to 6.5 kt, suggesting the vessel had been seized, said Hurley.

—IHS MARITIME 360 

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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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