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UN says 9,333 killed since Ukraine conflict began



  • As at least,  27 are killed in airstrike on Syria hospital

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed and more than 20,000 injured since the Ukraine conflict began in April 2014, a top U.N. official said Thursday.

Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun told the Security Council that the total number of casualties now stands at 30,729 including 9,333 people killed and 21,396 injured.

He said the latest incident occurred on April 27 when shelling killed at least four civilians and injured at least eight people in Olenivka near the city of Donetsk.

Zerihoun said that fighting has escalated in recent weeks to levels not seen since August 2014, when it was at its most intense and he called on all parties to cease hostilities.

He criticized both sides for hindering access to an international monitoring mission put in place under the Minsk ceasefire agreement ironed out by the Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany on Feb. 14, 2015, but said that according to statistics provided by the monitors restrictions were more common in rebel-held areas.

Thursday’s Security Council meeting was the first to address the situation in Ukraine since December 2015.

During the meeting representatives from Russia and Ukraine traded bitter accusations over who was to blame for the flare-up in hostilities.

“Russia has organized and deployed in Donbas a 34,000-strong hybrid military force consisting of the regular Russian troops as well as of foreign and local militants. Russian generals and military officers provide direct command-and-control of this illegal military entity impressively heavily armed,” Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, told the council.

He claimed this force is better armed than most NATO members despite the Russians’ claims that the weapons were acquired in local hardware stores.

“Last time I checked you will hardly be able to buy a decent knife in Ukrainian hardware stores not to mention the multiple launch rocket systems and jet flamethrowers,” Prystaiko said.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin denounced the U.N. session as a play for time while Ukraine’s army occupies towns “in the neutral strip” stipulated by the Minsk agreement.

“Over the entire crisis the U.N. has been used as a propaganda platform,” Churkin said, dismissing the Ukraine statement before the Security Council as “very disappointing,” and “a lot of rhetoric.”

Russia tried to circulate a press statement that would reaffirm the U.N.’s commitment to the Minsk agreement, but failed to gain consensus approval because it also called for an investigation into the killing of Russian protesters in Odessa, without mentioning violations of the ceasefire by rebel forces.

The U.S., France and Britain all denounced Russian aggression for igniting the conflict.

“What is happening today is the result of Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity which began with its occupation of Crimea more than two years ago and expanded with substantial military on the ground and weapons support for armed separatists in Eastern Ukraine,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the council.

Meanwhile, an airstrike on a hospital in the rebel-held Syrian city of Aleppo Thursday killed at least 27 people, the latest in what Amnesty International calls a recurring tactic in the Syrian civil war.

Days of airstrikes and shelling in Aleppo, which is split between President Bashar Assad’s government forces and rebels, have killed about 200 people in Syria in the past week, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Doctors Without Borders, which supports the hospital, expects the death toll to rise. The international aid organization said the facility in Aleppo was hit by a direct airstrike and among the dead are at least three doctors, including one of the last pediatricians in the city.

It wasn’t immediately clear who was responsible for the strike.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the airstrike “appalling,” saying the attack “fits the Assad regime’s abhorrent pattern of striking first responders.”

He also said the strikes put pressure on the already fragile peace talks in Geneva.

Najib al-Ansar, a Syrian Civil Defense official in Aleppo, said the hospital was hit by Russian airstrikes, according to Turkey’s Andalou Agency. The Syrian opposition accused the government of Damascus and Russia for the bombings. But Russia denied it was responsible. The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Russian aircraft have not flown any missions in the region in the past several days, the Associated Press reported.

Greg Archetto, a former Defense Department official who worked with members of the Syrian armed opposition in Jordan, said the Russians and Syrians are fighting to win the war in Syria, and have little regard for how it looks to outsiders.

“The Russians don’t care about international public opinion and neither does Assad,” Archetto said. “Destroying the enemy is the goal and they are doing that from their perspective. Whether or not it is morally right is inconsequential. They have their strategic objectives and they are achieving them.”

Chris Harmer, a Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, said it’s unclear if the hospital was deliberately targeted, but the airstrike “is consistent with the Assad regime strategy of killing or depopulating any civilian population opposed to his rule.”

“It is beyond dispute that the Assad regime has deliberately targeted hospitals in the past,” Harmer said. “The Syrian strategy of killing or depopulating civilians has been relatively effective at preserving the Assad regime and gradually attriting and degrading the human and geographical terrain controlled by the rebels.”

Amnesty International said in a statement last month that Syrian and Russian forces have been deliberately attacking health facilities as “part of their military strategy.”

Charles Lister, a Syria analyst at the Middle East Institute, agreed, saying that “targeted destruction of key sources of civilian services, like hospitals, schools, markets and IDP camps, has been commonplace.”

“Destroying such targets prior to a major ground operation acts to fundamentally undermine the capacity for the opposition to present a viable alternative,” Lister said.”It also helps to encourage mass displacement of civilians, which further destabilizes the eventual target of attack.”

The attack highlights the deterioration of a cease-fire agreement that had been agreed to in February. Russia and the Assad regime have ramped up attacks in recent days. “It is not being completely abided by, especially by Syrian regime,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in congressional testimony Thursday.

MSN with additional report from USA Today


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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