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Weekend ginger: NSC- STOAN imbroglio: Did the Minister perform to expection?

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…As bungled peace initiative opens room for further loss

From a failure of dialogue at the Lagos round table, to the law court, and back to another futile peace table at Abuja, the Nigerian maritime stakeholders meetings have remained inconclusive, confirming that what was involved was not just money, but billions!

Princess Vicky Haastrup, C.E.O ENL Consultium

Princess Vicky Haastrup, C.E.O ENL Consultium

The Maritime First learnt that in the 12-day strike action, embarked by the embattled freight forwarders at the Lagos Port Complex,  Apap, the nation lost over N60 billions. Ironically, the crisis is yet to be resolved!

Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council

Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council

Sadly enough, the Federal Government who ought to feel more concerned, that a most important part of its on-going Port reforms had finally come under threat, had decided to pretend that all was well.

Prince Shittu

Prince Shittu

The Yoruba believes that the “chain is as strong, as its weakest point”. Only God knows, if the Yoruba is right or wrong. But, when a Government that scored 80 percent in Port Reforms, and moved upwards to hit 90 percent in Customs Reforms, suddenly chickens out, instead of following through with Port Stakeholders Reforms; then the public must be forgiven, if they begin to see the Government as remarkably unserious.

The President gave the Nigerian Shippers  Council (NSC), the powers, under which it was vibrating anew: the power of an Economic Regulator. Yet, the same Government went to bed, snoring, when it was incarcerated by court injunctions. Which is a good reason, why the wise, do not beat the rich-man’s dog; because, they know, it might be considered a slap, on the big man.

The Maritime First learnt, that the only reason why the Federal Ministry of Transport got involved, and invited the Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN), the NSC, and the Freight Forwarders to Abuja, was because Government was LOOSING revenues!

The freight forwarders believed they were right, to take the view of the NSC,
as expressed in the controversial advert, slashing storage and other charges as good, simply because, it favoured them .

Thus, they decided, to lift the letters off the page, and commence immediate implementation. Perhaps, beyond self righteousness, they could also hide under the notion of trade “fairness”, “trade reality”, or “economic reality”. They had moral justification.

Yet, they failed to realize that, Magna Carter agrees that if a man has enjoyed a privilege for a while, he also has the legal justification to defend it as right!

They also seemingly forgot, that Seaport operators had existed precariously, functioning without the desired or relevant legal framework.

They forgot, that for this category of people, trading with bank loans, sourced sometimes, at compound interest rates; with an equally attendant vigor, to recoup as soon as one could possibly can.

They also forgot, that the STOAN might enjoy some peculiar advantages, if the whole issue, is about going legalistic. What with the several options of injunctions, from interlocutory, interim, Ex parte, etc, to unending adjournment! With “status quo ante”, continually remaining favourable to its members.
Now, who go tire first?!

Would the inclusion of the Shippers Association be considered specifically strategic?
Yes, in the sense that it may re-invigorate the NSC impetus to go the extra miles. No, in the sense that it makes settling out of court, more complex, rigorous and daunting.

Thank God the Council did not encourage the Supervisory Ministry, the Ministry of Transport to wade into the issue, as co respondents. The main platform for amicable settlement would then have been foreclosed.

In order words, even as things stand, there is still room, for amicable settlement, especially an out of court. But, it must not be under a situation where a Minister of Transport, who knows how strategic the industry is, to the national economy, would call a Peace Meeting, ran it half way, and abandoned it, handing it over, to one of the “interested parties”.
The Minister, at this point must accept blame, for the in inconclusiveness, inconveniences, inaccuracies and the unacceptableness of the “communique”, that emerged, from the Abuja peace meeting.

He must also guide against a recurrence. The excuse that he was summoned by Aso Rock, must be considered untenable, because, he in actual fact, initiated the meeting. Why didn’t he call for a break, be it tea, lunch etc, etc.

He must therefore, re-initiate another Peace Meeting, before the controversial “communique” or “recommendations”, begins to heat up the industry.

Meanwhile, both the STOAN and NSC may also begin now, to reconsider the degree of ground to give or take, in a bid to finally evolve an agreeable Compromise! All the parties may thereafter approach the court, to indicate that in the country’s overall interest, they have sought a functional alternative dispute resolution.

The parties, in the interest of billions that the Government, nay the country would further lose, in the event of another avoidable strike action; should also avoid issue “sub judice”; they must keep talking.

The Yoruba would say: Eni ti o ni ede ngbona, to sa lo si Ede…o si mpadaa bo wa si ede, bi o ba kuro ni Ede”. He who run to Ede, because the home is hot, he would still come home whenever he leaves Ede.

The Minister bungled the first peace initiative. The Minister must re-initiate another. And timely too!

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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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