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Truck drivers, NPA security men paralyse port, over ‘egunje’!

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Port business was temporarily paralyzed, while operators scampered for dear life, as security operatives short sporadically into air, following a disagreement among truck drivers, who on Wednesday blocked the Lagos Apapa Port gate.

Apapa Port Gate, after the truck drivers' crisis

Apapa Port Gate, after the truck drivers’ crisis

The development whIch came, less than 24 hours after the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Managing Director, Mallam Habib Abdullahi had declared the ports’ environment corruption-free,  while delivering his account of two-year stewardship, reportedly developed because some of the truckers said they could no longer endure extortion.

Apapa Port Gate, after the truck drivers' crisis

Apapa Port Gate, after the truck drivers’ crisis

Trouble, according to eye witnesses began, after a trucker who had allegedly paid varying sums of money before arriving at the Port’s  Main Gate was asked to further pay another N500 and he refused, resulting in his colleagues backing him up, even as the ports security officers, backed by men of the police, on ground also refused to open the gate or allow entrance.

Apapa Port Gate, after the truck drivers' crisis

Apapa Port Gate, after the truck drivers’ crisis

Consequently, tension soared, as parked trucks ignited a traffic gridlock which stretched from Apapa Wharf to neighbouring Ijora,  creating a “mother of all gridlock”, which took severe toll on easy movements at Ojuelegba and Igaanmu, at Orile,.

The truck drivers, who weree under the auspices of Association of  Maritime Truck Owners Operators(AMARTO) operating within the nation’s premier ports in Apapa, subsequently down tools, with many of them calling for total strike, just as some of them who had jobs on hand ttried to build bridges of understanding.

The eye witnesses who spoke on conditions of anonymity also said the sporadic gun shootings came to be after an OP MESSA Unit got tired of talking to beligerent truck drivers who appeared to be more interested in escalating the crisis.

An agent who spoke in the same said when they started, it cost about N5,000 to get a truck inside the Apapa Port, until  the demand for settlements gradually grew to become N20,000.

“The collection of fees at the Lagos port gate has become a regular occurrence at the gate of entry”, he stated, stressing that successive NPA Managements had kept a blond eye, while the decay festered.

However, when the Lagos Ports Manager, Mallam Nasir Mohammed was notified,  he denied being aware of any allegation of fee collection by his men.

“I am not aware of any fee collection by my officers, although there has been complains of delays from the AP Moller Terminals”, he posited, cautioning against listening to drivers and their assistants who were mostly unread.

“You should also know that many of these people are touts and motor boys who capitalize on any little thing to cause chaos but we have been able to put all situation under control”, he said..

Similarly, the leadership of the two truck drivers’ association resident in the port also denied knowledge of the protest.

The Chairman Apapa chapter of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners, (AMATO), Onyeka Emechebe, said he was not aware of the protest; just as the National president and the General Secretary of the association were equally not aware, because they were all “outside the state”.

“I don’t know what is happening and I don’t think the National President, Chief Remi Ogungbemi is aware because we are all ouside the state.”

When asked whether they planned the protest before leaving Lagos, he said no and explained further that he could not give details of what was happening in Apapa since  he was not on ground to know the reasons for the protest.

Similarly, a high ranking member of the National Association Of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) also indicated that his association was not aware of the protest.

“Am in the office now and I don’t have any report of our members going on protest. There’s nothing like that for now,” he said.

The Executive Secretary of NARTO, Barr. Emmanuel Gowon also said he was not aware of the protest because he was not in Lagos but assured he would try to find out from field officers.

The NARTO ES was however, yet to confirm the position of the association on the protest, as at the time of going to press.

Efforts to obtain the official position of the NPA management on the crisis and the alleged reason behind it also proved abortive as the image maker, Assistant General Manager, Musa Iliya said he was also not aware, when his view was sought at 5.25pm; when text messages sent to the Managing Director was not responded to.

However, the Divisional Police Officer of the Apapa Port Police command, Adeleke Smith confirmed the protest, affirming that the situation was also under police control

The senior police officer said his men were on top of the situation, adding that the truckers were actually going about the protest in a peaceful way.

“There was protest by the truckers at the Apapa gate and they were going about it peacefully with no cause for alarm. It is under our control and the truckers are also cooperating with the police”, he indicated.

Peace however returned, when at about 12:30pm, a worker at one of the terminals confirmed that the strike had been called off and the gate of the port had been opened.

“The strike has been called off and the (port’s) gate opened”, he stated.

Ironically  even after the crisis lifted, commuters who were caught in the middle of the protest still had to trek long distances before they could get to their various destinations as traffic remained at standstill while the protest lasted.

A freight forwarder, Austine Nwakpa said he had trekked a long distance to get to Apapa after seeing the heavy traffic jam which was occasioned by the protesting truckers.

“Gridlock on Apapa road was nothing new but that of today was too much . I will say the last time I experienced something like this was about three months ago, I have to trek from Ijora to Apapa just because I want to clear a job, this is really annoying,” he said.

Speaking in the same vein,  a journalist, Folashade Alli said she had to trek from Iganmu to Apapa when she could no longer bear the traffic anymore.

“I had an appointment to catch up with the director of a leading company in Apapa; but when I got to Iganmu, the road was blocked and I was told that it was from Apapa. So, I had no other option than to start trekking because I just couldn’t go back home”,’she explained, further affirming that the crisis was felt, far beyond Apapa area.

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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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