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Tensions rise as Iranians ransack Saudi embassy

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….Iranian diplomats given 48 hours to leave Saudi Arabia

Iran’s supreme leader says Saudi Arabia will face “divine revenge” for executing a top Shia cleric, as 40 arrested for storming Saudi embassy in Tehran

Iran’s supreme leader said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia will face “divine revenge” for executing a top Shia cleric whose death sparked protests in which the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran was firebombed.

“The unjustly spilled blood of this oppressed martyr will no doubt soon show its effect and divine vengeance will befall Saudi politicians,” state TV reported Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying. It said he described the execution as a “political error”.

Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr alongside 46 others including dozens of al-Qaeda members, in the country’s biggest mass execution in three decades.

In Tehran the Saudi embassy was ransacked after protesters threw petrol bombs and stormed the building. The kingdom’s consulate in Mashhad, Iran’s second biggest city, was also set on fire.

Saudi foreign ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki called Iran’s reaction “irresponsible”, and summoned Tehran’s envoy in protest.

The embassy demonstrators were cleared out by police and 40 arrests have been made, Tehran’s prosecutor told the ISNA news agency, adding that more detentions could follow.

Tensions were already rising with Saudi Arabia summoning the Iranian envoy to the kingdom to protest at Tehran’s earlier angry response to the execution.

Nimr was a talismanic figure in protests that broke out in 2011 in the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s east, where the Shia minority complains of marginalisation. His arrest in July 2012 sparked days of protest.

Hundreds of Shias marched through Nimr’s home district of Qatif in protest at the execution, eyewitnesses told Reuters news agency, chanting “down with the Al Saud” in reference to the Saudi ruling family.

Riyadh’s main regional rival Iran and its Shia allies reacted with vigorous condemnation, threatening Saudi Arabia and the Al Saud with severe repercussions, in protests ranging as far afield as India.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman accused Riyadh of hypocrisy. “The Saudi government supports terrorist movements and extremists, but confronts domestic critics with oppression and execution,” said Hossein Jaber Ansari.

Lebanon’s Supreme Islamic Shia Council called the execution a “grave mistake” while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said it would have repercussions on regional security.

Britain’s shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, described the execution as “profoundly wrong”. The Foreign Office said the UK opposed the death penalty “in all circumstances and in every country”.

A German foreign ministry official said Nimr’s execution strengthened “existing concerns about increasing tensions and deepening rifts in the region”.

The executions took place in 12 cities in Saudi Arabia, with four prisons using firing squads and the others beheading.

Describing the executions as acts of “mercy” to prisoners who might have committed crimes on their release, Saudi Arabia’s leading cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, said they were carried out in line with Islamic law and the need to safeguard the kingdom’s security.

The list of people executed included Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda bombings and shootings that killed Saudis and foreigners in the kingdom in 2003 and 2004.

Among the alleged al-Qaeda terrorists executed was Adel al-Dhubaiti, who was convicted of firing the shots that killed Simon Cumber, a freelance cameraman working for the BBC, and severely injured Frank Gardner, its security correspondent, while they were filming a story in 2004.

Another was Nimr Sahaj al-Bougmi, who was convicted of participation in the attack on the Khobar oil complex in the same year which killed 22 people, among them a Briton, Michael Hamilton. The killers later gave harrowing accounts of what they had done, including Bougmi’s personal role in cutting the throats of captives.

The majority of those executed on terrorism-related grounds were al-Qaeda sympathisers, among them a leading cleric, Faris al-Shuwaili. He is regarded as a threat on a par with Sheikh Nimr by the Saudi authorities, for his hold over radicalised Saudi youth, the majority of them Sunni.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph shortly after the conviction, Gardner explained in an astonishingly candid interview that he could never forgive.

“He [Dhubaiti] is completely unrepentant. He has never said sorry,” Gardner told The Telegraph. “He is still in the mindset that he had when he attacked us. So forgiveness is not really an option.”

Notably absent from the list was Nimr’s nephew, Ali al-Nimr, whose arrest at the age of 17 and alleged torture during detention sparked condemnation from rights watchdogs and the United States.

Several Saudi allies offered Riyadh their support. In the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the foreign minister, called the executions a “clear message against terrorism”.

Bahrain, which has faced unrest from its Shia majority population, also backed Riyadh in “all deterrent and needed measures it takes to confront violence and extremism”. Police used tear gas to disperse small demonstrations condemning the executions.

There were also protests in Pakistan and Indian-controlled Kashmir.

In provocative comments posted on Twitter, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, compared Saudi Arabia with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), which has also become famous for its mass executions.

Iranian state media showed rolling coverage of clerics and secular officials eulogising Nimr and predicting the downfall of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family. All Iran’s seminaries will be closed on Sunday in protest of Nimr’s execution.

There were also fears that the executions of the al-Qaeda militants might provoke revenge attacks from their associates. The extremist group’s branch in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, threatened violence against Saudi security forces last month if they carried out executions of members of the global network.

Under Saudi Arabia’s kingdom’s strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery and apostasy are all punishable by death. Rights groups have long criticised the system for its ambiguous nature and a lack of due process.

The kingdom is among the world’s most prolific executioners, consistently featuring in the top five countries for capital punishment. The country recently advertised for eight new executioners to cope with the upsurge in work.

Human Rights Watch said the executions “further stains Saudi Arabia’s troubling human rights record.” Sarah Leah Whitson, the group’s Middle East director, said Nimr was convicted in an “unfair” trial and that his execution was “only adding to the existing sectarian discord and unrest.”

The cleric’s brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, said he hoped any response would be peaceful.

He described the cleric as “a humble, religious man who lived a simple life, making him attractive to many youths”. His execution “will spark anger of (Shia) youths” in Saudi Arabia, said Mohammed, calling instead for a “peaceful protest movement”.

The executions, Saudi Arabia’s first in 2016, came as advocacy groups that monitor the death penalty claimed beheadings had reached their highest level in the kingdom in two decades.

At least 157 people were put to death last year, a big increase from the 90 people killed in 2014.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia has given Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country, amid a row over the Saudi execution of a top Shia Muslim cleric.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced on Sunday the country had broken off diplomatic ties with Iran.

Iran said this would not distract from Riyadh’s “big mistake” in executing the cleric, the IRNA agency reported.

The United States has appealed for calm, saying diplomatic engagement is essential to resolve differences.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others were executed on Saturday after being convicted of terror-related offences.

Saudi police were shot at late Sunday in his home village, the country’s official SPA news agency said.

Security forces were looking for the attackers, calling the incident a “terrorist” act, SPA reported citing a police spokesman.

Saudi Arabia announced that it would sever diplomatic relations with Iran after demonstrators stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

It has also recalled its diplomats from Tehran.

Mr Jubeir said Saudi Arabia would not let Iran undermine its security, accusing it of having “distributed weapons and planted terrorist cells in the region”.

“Iran’s history is full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues, and it is always accompanied by destruction,” he told a news conference.

Daily Telegraph with additional report from BBC

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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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