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Up to 500 Migrants Feared Drowned Off Libya: UNHCR



  • As Customs Revenue Drops By N2.7bn At Tin-Can Port

Up to 500 migrants trying to reach Europe may have drowned off north Africa last week, the United Nations’ refugee agency and an aid organization said Wednesday, although exact details of the tragedy remained unclear.

“If confirmed, as many as 500 people may have lost their lives when a large ship went down in the Mediterranean Sea at an unknown location between Libya and Italy,” UNHCR said in a statement.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said survivors had given similar accounts to its workers and that the wreck may have “caused the deaths of upwards of 400 migrants and refugees.”

It came almost exactly a year after more than 800 migrants — including children — drowned when their crowded ship capsized during an attempt to reach Italy from Libya. Only 28 people were known to have survived that incident — the worst maritime disaster the agency has ever recorded in the Mediterranean.

A UNHCR team on Tuesday interviewed some of the 41 survivors of last week’s sinking, who were rescued and taken to Kalamata in Greece, its statement added. Those rescued include 23 Somalis, 11 Ethiopians, 6 Egyptians and a Sudanese, according to the agency.

The survivors told the UNHCR they had been part of a group of between 100 and 200 who departed Tobruk, Libya last week.

After a few hours, smugglers tried to transfer the passengers onto a larger ship carrying hundreds more people in terribly overcrowded conditions, the witnesses said,told the UNHCR and the IOM.

The larger boat — now with around 500 on board, survivors told IOM — started to take on water, capsize and then sank.

“I saw my wife and my two-month old child die at sea, together with my brother-in-law,” one of the survivors, Mohamed, told the IOM. “The boat was going down…down…, all the people died in a matter of minutes. After the shipwreck we were drifted at sea for a few days, without food, without anything, I [thought] I was going to die.”

The survivors told the UNHCR they had drifted at sea around three days before being spotted and rescued Saturday.

A spokesman for the Hellenic Coastguard in Greece told NBC News Wednesday that it had no information on the incident.

In the meantime, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Tin-Can Island Command, had a revenue shortfall of N2.7 billion in the first quarter of 2016, compared with the corresponding period of 2015.

The Public Relations Officer of the command, Mr Chris Osunkwo, made the disclosure in an interview with journalists on Tuesday in Lagos. Osunkwo, in a breakdown, said that the command generated N58.9 billion in the first quarter of 2016, adding that it generated N61.6 billion in the corresponding period of 2015.

The Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Retired Col. Hameed Ali, had on April 4, at a Consultative Forum between Customs and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), decried the revenue shortfall.

Ali attributed the shortfall in Customs revenue to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) policies, He said that the service, as a whole, had a revenue shortfall of N230 billion in the last quarter of 2015.

Osunkwo, however, said that the command made some seizures along with the revenue collected in the period under review. He said that in January the command seized 60 cartons of centre tables, 30 cartons of cooking oil, 60 cartons of fruit juice, and 25 cartons of spaghetti, all with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N3.6million.

Osunkwo said that the seizures in February included: 50 bundles of used tyres, 15 cartons of table water and 10 cartons of vegetable oil, 11 bags of used clothes and three bags of used shoes, all with a DPV of N600,000.

He said that in March, the command seized 70 cartons of tissue paper, 70 cartons of nylon, 24 bags of fruit juice, 21 bags of used shoes and a woman’s bag, all with a DPV of N571, 000.

NBC with additional report from Shipping Position


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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