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Syria conflict: Children’s hospital hit in deadly Aleppo strikes



  • As Russia quits International Criminal Court

A hospital, blood bank and ambulances are reported to have been hit as Syrian government aircraft and artillery bombarded rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

The director of the Bayan Children’s Hospital was forced to take shelter in the facility’s basement.

Activists say at least 32 people, including children, have been killed in Aleppo over the past two days.

The air strikes resumed on Tuesday after a three-week moratorium declared by the government’s ally Russia ended.

Activists confirmed the resumption of government air strikes, amid reports by state media of large troop deployments on several fronts ahead of a major ground assault.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory, a monitoring group, said missiles fired by jets, barrel bombs dropped from helicopters and artillery targeted several areas of eastern Aleppo on Wednesday, including Shaar, Sukkari, Sakhour and Karam al-Beik.

At least 21 people, including five children and an emergency worker, were killed, the group said.

The Independent Doctors Association, which supports several facilities in Syria, reported that the Bayan Children’s Hospital had been badly damaged.

It quoted the hospital’s director, Dr Hatem, as saying he was trapped in the basement. “The planes are up above. We can’t get out. Maybe we can protect ourselves in this room,” he added.

Rescue workers from the Syria Civil Defence, who are also known as the White Helmets, meanwhile confirmed a paramedic had been killed in Karam al-Beik.

“The helicopters won’t stop for a single moment,” spokesman Bebars Mishal told the Reuters news agency. “Right now, the bombing won’t let up.”

Air raids also reportedly continued in the countryside west of Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory said 19 people were killed in the village of Batbo on Wednesday.

Russia also announced the start of a major operation against jihadist militants elsewhere in western Syria that saw the country’s only aircraft carrier used in combat for the first time.

Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial and industrial hub, has been divided in roughly two since 2012, with the government controlling the west and rebels the east.

In the past year, Syrian troops have broken the deadlock with the help of Iranian-backed militias and Russian air strikes.

On 22 September, two weeks after encircling the east and imposing a siege on its 275,000 residents, they launched an all-out offensive to take full control of the city.

The government and its ally Russia halted air strikes on 18 October to allow civilians and rebels to leave, but few took up the offer.

By the end of the month, air strikes and shelling had killed more than 700 civilians in the east, while rocket-fire had left scores dead in the west, according to the UN.

In the meantime, Russia said Wednesday it is formally withdrawing its signature from the founding statute of the International Criminal Court, saying the tribunal has failed to live up to the hopes of the international community.

Russia in 2000 signed the Rome Statute setting up the ICC, the world’s first permanent war crimes court, but never ratified the treaty.

“The court did not live up to the hopes associated with it and did not become truly independent,” Russia’s foreign ministry said, describing its work as “one-sided and inefficient”.

Moscow said it is unhappy with the ICC’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s brief 2008 war with neighbouring Georgia, saying the court ignored aggression by Tbilisi against civilians in South Ossetia — a pro-Moscow separatist region of Georgia.

“In these conditions one cannot speak of trust in the International Criminal Court,” the ministry said, adding that the decision “not to be a participant in the ICC statute” was taken by President Vladimir Putin and entails “withdrawing the signature from this document”.

Putin on Wednesday signed the decree, published in the official database, ordering the government to communicate the decision to the UN Secretary General.

“We have withdrawn the signature, so all obligations associated with the signature are lifted,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “There are no longer any obligations.”

The ICC is currently conducting a preliminary investigation of alleged crimes committed in Ukraine during street protests in late 2013 as well as events after February 2014 including the annexation of Crimea and the downing of the MH17 flight over eastern Ukraine.

In a report published Monday, the ICC’s office of the prosecutor said that information already available suggests the situation in Crimea “amounts to an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation” despite lack of major violence.

It said the office is examining allegations against Russia to determine whether the conflict in east Ukraine between pro-Russia separatists and government forces “could be actually international in character” and would fall under the relevant articles in the Rome Statute.

Western leaders have accused Moscow of war crimes in Syria, where it has been conducting air strikes to aid the Bashar al-Assad government and bombing the city of Aleppo as well as attacking rebels.

The ICC opened its annual meeting on Wednesday with several African nations formally withdrawing from the court.

BBC with additional report from Upshot


WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners



…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



The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured



…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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