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Syria strikes kill 25 as another Damascus suburb surrenders

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Syria’s government secured a deal to restore its authority over another rebellious Damascus suburb on Thursday while Syrian rebels captured new ground in a lightning advance on the central city of Hama and suspected government airstrikes killed 25 civilians in the surrounding province.

The Syrian capital’s western suburb of Moadamiyeh, which a U.N. report said was gassed with toxic sarin in 2013, has suffered a three-year government siege that left its estimated 28,000 residents with dwindling food and medical supplies.

On Thursday, Moadamiyeh’s residents agreed to let President Bashar Assad’s government restore its security presence and political institutions in the suburb, according to Hassan Ghadour, a resident and leading negotiator of the deal.

Ghadour said 200 gunmen who did not wish to give up their arms would be allowed safe passage to rebel-held areas in Syria’s northwestern Idlib and Aleppo provinces. The implementation to the agreement is expected to begin on Friday.

A local activist in the suburb, Dani Qappani, said the residents had no desire to negotiate with Assad’s government but that their “circumstances grew too difficult.”

The development came as an uneasy truce continued to hold on Thursday between Turkish troops and Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria, despite Ankara’s vow that it would never negotiate with what it calls a “terror organization.” The United States has called on both sides to stop fighting each other following Turkey’s incursion into the area last week, and instead focus on defeating the Islamic State group.

Elsewhere in Syria on Thursday, at least 25 civilians, including six children, were killed in suspected government airstrikes on Hama province as rebels made new gains there, activists said.

The Hama-based Syrian Press Center, an activist group operated by Ahmed al-Ahmed, said at least 10 people were killed when warplanes struck a crowd of people displaced from Suran, a town north of the city of Hama, which was seized by opposition fighters. Another 15 people were killed further to the west, the center said.

The rebel offensive is led by an ultraconservative Islamic group, Jund al-Aqsa, and several factions from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army. In the past three days, the insurgents have pushed their way from the north of the province, where they are usually based, south toward government-held areas.

Al-Ahmed said the rebels were only 8 kilometers (5 miles) away from the provincial capital, Hama. They have taken over a government military base and control several towns along the highway linking Hama to Damascus, following a “surprising” government retreat, he said.

The advances in Hama are significant because if rebels control the city and the highway they can sever government supply lines and deprive Assad of a traditional stronghold. Fighting is now concentrated around a hill outside the city of Hama, al-Ahmed added.

Al-Ahmed, who spoke from Turkey, said government forces in Hama province may have been weakened because many troops were transferred to the city of Aleppo, where they have gotten bogged down in vicious fighting with advancing rebels.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the insurgents’ advance and said a series of airstrikes since early Thursday killed at least 25 civilians, including six children, in northern Hama province.

Syria’s state news agency, SANA, said government warplanes killed 10 “terrorists” in northern Hama.

At a press conference in Geneva, the U.N. envoy to Syria warned of Syrian government’s use of siege tactics to force evacuations of residents from specific areas, citing the example of Daraya, a neighboring suburb of Moadamiyeh from where residents were evacuated after it was surrendered to the government.

“After Daraya, we may have other Darayas,” Staffan de Mistura said.

Government forces kept Daraya under tight siege for four years after the suburb evicted security forces in 2012, and ultimately secured an agreement for the estimated 6,000 remaining civilians to leave the area last week. De Mistura acknowledged such examples, if repeated, “could be a strategy” that is taking place.

De Mistura’s humanitarian adviser, Jan Egeland, says the U.N. humanitarian task force for Syria had “failed the people of Daraya.” He warned that sieges on al-Waer in Homs and Madaya, near Damascus, could force similar exoduses.

The U.N. envoy also said he was preparing “a quite clear political initiative” to help revive the stalled Syria peace talks aimed at resolving the country’s devastating civil war, now in its sixth year. De Mistura said the “important” initiative will come ahead of a planned Sept. 21 meeting on Syria during the U.N. General Assembly ministerial meeting in New York.

New Zealand’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, whose country holds the Security Council presidency, said members are expected to discuss the “political initiative” that de Mistura is preparing to help revive the stalled talks.

The U.N. envoy had hoped to resume talks between Assad’s government and the main opposition group in August, having set two target dates during the month. He suspended the talks in April amid renewed fighting.

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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