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Weenkend Ginger: Playing flutes…as Pirates take over Nigerian waterways!

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Fears are growing, that the Nigerian inland waterways, may continue to attract the wrong kinds of stakeholders’ patronage, in spite of the over N40 billion already sunk on dredging activities to make it attractive.

Hajiya Inna Ciroma, MD, NIWA

Hajiya Inna Ciroma, MD, NIWA

Informed sources told the Maritime First that, not only was the waterways attracting crimes and violence from mainly pirates, the growing threats of attracts from pirates have become so real, that genuine economic activities may soon become paralyzed.

Already, the Bayelsa chapter members of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) had November 1, 2014, a Saturday flagged off an indefinite strike action, reportedly, to draw attention to what they described as an intimidating rise in the number of pirate attacks, against their members and sea travellers.

When hard working men come together to decide that it was better or safer to sleep at home and do nothing, despite their full awareness that they would eat, feed their families and pay school fees, alongside other financial obligations, then, one must understand that there is in deed, fire on the mountain.

A source told the Maritime First that their decision was not because they had lost any confidence in the capacity of the Nigerian Navy to protect them, but the truth was that they had come to believe, even if erroneously, that going by the ease, confidence and increasing waves of the attacks, which sometimes was against even the navy, it was better to take to common sense: after all, only the living fulfils promises!

“It’s not that they don’t want to work; we must understand that these are family men with remarkable sense of responsibility. But, I just wish you will understand that a man must be alive, before he can fend for that family”, explained MWUN member who pleaded for anonymity.

A cursory look at statistics of some recent attacks may help to drive home the basis for the fears of the striking workers. For instance, the pirates on Saturday October 11, attacked a passenger speed boat near Kiberi-bio, on the Ogbia-Nembe brass water ways in Bayelsa East Senatorial district, and briskly seized two women and two children in addition to valuables put at millions of naira and vanished. Ironically, the MWUM had just suspended an earlier strike over the same issue as a result of Government intervention 48 hours earlier, when the boat traveling from Ogbia to Okpoama in Brass local Government area was hijacked.

The pirates also allegedly attacked again on Tuesday, October 14 2014; in the same water ways of Nembe in Nembe Local Government Area , reportedly killing one of the gallant soldiers attached to the Joint Military Task Force ( JTF )  in the Niger Delta Operation Pulo Shield and wounding a few others in the course of their patrol, so as to entrench sanity. This not withstanding, the gun men about the same period reportedly, also attacked some women traders in a wooden boat on their way to the market, and would have inflicted permanent damage but for a timely intervention of the JTF, which frustrated and repelled them.

Lt-Col Mustapha Anka spokes man of the JTF while confirming this to newsmen, especially of how a patrol team successfully repelled some two attacks, also indicated that the two women and two children earlier snatched were later rescued, noting that one soldier however sustain injury during the exchange of fire between the equally armed pirate and the JTF.

Highlighting that the JTF had remained focus and unwavering, Anka also said that the JTF had also intercepted an illegal bunkering Tugboat, the MV Tobester loaded with suspected illegally refined diesel, along Tonmogbene area in Warri South-west Local Government area of Delta State, in addition to the arrest of both the Captain and the Engineer. Subsequently, not fewer than 31 illegal refineries were equally destroyed.

But the pirate had remained undeterred as they resumed another round of deadly attacks beginning from Thursday October 23 into Saturday allegedly killing 3 policemen and abducting about 9 persons, mostly local workers in the oil industry.

“Sea pirates attacked and killed three of our men. They were escorting an Agip (ENI) barge when they were attacked. We have recovered their bodies and the gun boat” indicated the Bayelsa State Police Commissioner, Valentine Ntomchukwu to newsmen.

In a related development, Anka had on Sunday October 19 2014 earlier reassured Nigerians that the JTF is totally committed to protecting the Niger Delta area, particularly the creeks from oil thieves and other criminals in the region; adding that in furtherance of this commitment and determination to entrenched sanity, the JTF had also arrested 6 oil thieves and seized 23 illegal bunkering vessels.

Yet, the MWUM members on Nov. 1 began their strike.

It would however be a great mistake to assume that stealing of oil is an exclusive hobby of adventurers operating in Niger Delta area, as statistics show that the Nigerian law enforcers, particularly the Navy has been recording outstanding successes, especially in the Lokoja area, where on one occasion, a 40 meter length wooden boat was arrested with about 65,000 liters of petroleum products last month. But for the patrol, even that event would also have gone unnoticed.

Navy Commodore, Shuwa Mohammed who confirmed this on Thursday October 16 also stated that officers of the NNS Luguard found the wooden boat while on patrol from Baro, in Niger State to Lokoja and Idah in Kogi State.

Shouldn’t we now ask these questions at this point: Are our inland waterways established for the perpetuation of crimes? Have we dredged the River Niger from Kogi to Warri and Bayelsa merely to hand it over to the wrong stakeholders: the pirates? Have we funded the Navy and other law enforcement outfits to make them strong, formidable and capable to intimidate dare- devil criminals? For how long are we going to fold our hands and watch this deadly orgy of violence? And finally, are we comfortable, to see our inland channels remain this dangerous and deadly despite the huge investment Government has sunk in to it?

If we could fight the Boko Haram on the land and the pirates on the waterways, the way we collectively fought the Ebola Virus Disease, who said the country cannot take their challenges headlong and defeat them too?

But do we actually have the political will to defeat them today, instead of next month?

Perhaps, we need to engage more dancers and prayer warriors to handle the precarious situations more effectively. After all, a king called Jehoshaphat fought his most debilitating war, with melodious flutes, trumpets and dancers!

Until then, let’s keep attracting direct foreign investments, by playing the flutes!

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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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