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08 Jan 2018

Piracy breathes last in Nigerian Waters

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"Recently, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) released a report naming Nigeria as one of the hotspots for sea piracy. The IMB in the report said: “Of the 27 seafarers kidnapped worldwide for ransom between January and March 2017, 63 per cent were in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is the main kidnap hotspot with 17 crew taken in three separate incidents, up from 14 in the same period in 2016. “All three vessels – a general cargo ship, a tanker and a bulk carrier were attacked while underway 30-60 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast. Three more ships were fired upon at up to 110 nautical miles from land, and many other attacks are believed to go unreported.” Director of IMB, Pottengal Mukundan, said: “The Gulf of Guinea is a major area of concern, consistently dangerous for seafarers, and signs of kidnappings increasing. IMB has worked closely with the response agencies in the region including the Nigerian Navy, which has provided valuable support, but more needs to be done to crack down on the area’s armed gangs. We urge vessels to report all incidents so that the true level of piracy activity can be assessed.” IMB said guns were used in 18 of the incidents and vessels were underway in 17 of the 20 reported attacks. IMB further stated that 39 of the 49 crew members kidnapped globally occurred off Nigerian waters in seven separate incidents. Other crew kidnappings in 2017 have been reported 60 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria. “In total, 92 vessels were boarded, 13 were fired upon, there were 11 attempted attacks and five vessels were hijacked in the first nine months of 2017, “it stated. The flagship global report noted that, while piracy rates were down compared to the same period in 2016, there is continuing concern over attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and in South East Asia. Who’s Responsibility? Since the report was released a number of attacks have been recorded, showing that government agencies responsible for the monitoring and foiling of attacks are clearly failing in their responsibility. Put simply, Section 22 (P) of the NIMASA Act provides opportunity for the agency to provide maritime security. The obvious question then will be why the agency is not doing what is necessary to put an end to piracy in Nigerian waters. For those who don’t know, the NIMASA only last year awarded a surveillance contract worth billions of naira, a move that was intended to check raising cases of piracy and other vices in Nigerian waters. This has not happened and no one seems to care. Late last year, the United States of America, through its Maritime Administration, warned ships to be wary when approaching Nigerian waters. “Two incidents have been reported in the Gulf of Guinea in the past six days. The first reportedly occurred south of Port Harcourt, Nigeria at 0600 GMT on October 21, 2017. The second reportedly occurred in the vicinity of 03-35.50N 006-49.20E at 1905 GMT on October 25, 2017; both incidents have been confirmed, “it said in a report. “The nature of the first incident was piracy and kidnapping; the nature of the second incident was piracy,” it noted. Quoting the latest quarterly report from the IMB, the US Maritime Administration stated that “the latest quarterly report from the International Maritime Bureau notes that a total of 20 reports of attacks against all vessel types were received from Nigeria, 16 of which occurred off the coast of Brass, Bonny and Bayelsa. In general, all waters in and off Nigeria remain risky, despite intervention in some cases by the Nigerian Navy. We advise vessels to be vigilant, “it concluded. The US advisory report to ship masters and owners further warned that ship transiting Nigerian waters to be cautious and seek further information, even as it stated that the alert subsists until November 2, 2017. Deadly Waters Late last year, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside confirmed the U.S maritime administration report that Nigeria water is deadly and unsafe. Dakuku stated this against the backdrop of Nigeria’s loss of a seat in Category C of the International ?Maritime Organisation (IMO), noting that country’ insecure and unsafe water contributed immensely to the election loss. Speaking ??to Journalists at the end of a meeting of the ‘G7 Friends of Gulf of Guinea Group’ in Lagos?, he ? explained that G7 Friends of the Gulf of the Guinea Group is one of the international initiatives Nigeria is leveraging on to strengthen fight against piracy and other criminal activities on the sea. The NIMASA boss said ?the impression of the international community is that Nigeria was not doing enough to tackle the challenge adding that it contributed immensely to Nigeria losing the election.? “I cannot deny the fact that the issue of piracy may have had some impact on the elections. Our colleagues did not have much information about what we were doing to tackle piracy and there was a general impression that Nigeria was not doing enough to tackle the issue of piracy,” he said Also, speaking on the amount spent on the lost election, the DG said a whopping N100million was expended on Nigeria failed election bid. “NIMASA spent less than N100million for the IMO campaign and it was only three delegates that attended the conference from NIMASA, “he said. He explained that countries like Singapore, China, and United Arab Emirates attended the IMO with highest number of delegates. Speaking further on why Nigeria lost out of the IMO Election, Dskuku identified late preparations, delay from the Federal Executive Council and recession as another reason why the country lost. “Also, late preparations and the fact that we did not go round other countries like others did, it would have cost plenty of money but we are not willing to spend such money. We had considered economic factors in context of our political aspirations. “It is Nigeria that ran for IMO category C, and for you to use the name Nigeria, you must get the approval of the man who is managing all the country, the president just got elected, so it would have gone through a process, we have lost some time but the approval eventually came, after we got the approval, there are also budgetary processes to go through, even if the approval was given two years ago, we also need to do the background work to get budgetary provision for it before we begin the campaign, all of these things affected our early preparations. “But now that we know better, we are starting the next preparations immediately, because we deserve a place in the council of the IMO, these are what we meant by late preparations, “he explained. Lasting Solution However, to find a lasting solution to piracy, Dakuku? explained that the G7 Friends of the Gulf of the Guinea Group is one of the international initiatives Nigeria is leveraging on to strengthen the fight against piracy and other criminal activities on the sea. “What you are seeing now is an international dimension of the fight against piracy and maritime crime which is a new strategy. G7 is an initiative of the group towards finding lasting solution to the issues of security in the gulf of guinea. “For the first time, they decided to take the program outside the continent of Europe and the lot fell on Nigeria because they think the gulf of guinea suffers the peculiar problem and criminal activities on sea. Also speaking, Chairman Senate Committee on Navy, Isah Hamma Misau encouraged the group to sustain its intervention beyond the direct anti-piracy policies to ensure that appropriate resources and taxation flow into the region, so that public health, education and employment are equitably offered in the region. He said that this would help address the underlying socio-economic root causes of piracy in the region. He added that to boost maritime development on the Gulf of Guinea, there is also the need to strengthen maritime institutions. Safeguarding Vessels Meanwhile, Nigeria will spend $186 million to combat piracy in a bid to safeguard its waters and vessels moving in and out of the country. Transport Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi revealed this in a speech at Nor-Shipping’s inaugural Africa Podium in Oslo, Norway recently. The fund is meant to acquire three new ready-for-war ships, three aircrafts, 12 vessels and 20 amphibious vehicles to combat the menace of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Amaechi allayed potential investors’ fears of growing security concerns in Nigeria’s seaway amid the rise in attacks by pirates. He revealed that over the next six months, the Nigerian government would give additional training to its navy, while providing technical and further support to patrol vessels in the region. “Rest assured, in six months you will no longer be harassed in our waters,” he told the delegates. Amaechi said piracy is not the only issue currently impacting the progress of the maritime sector in Nigeria. While admitting that eradicating this growing menace was the main priority, Amaechi was keen to point out that Nigeria was also making significant strides in its bid to improve its creaking transport infrastructure. “All you hear about is efforts to stamp out corruption, but we are working extremely hard to develop transport infrastructure,” he added. Whether this be roads or railways, the development of ports, the dredging of inland waterways and coastal regions, he said there was huge investment and resources earmarked for projects now and in the future."

06 Jan 2018

President Sirleaf Dedicates Modern State of the Art John G. Bestman Maritime Training Institute

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"President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has officially performed the dedicatory ceremony of a modern State of the art John G. Bestman Maritime Training Institute (LMTI) in Marshall City Lower Margibi. According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader described the moment as the day we have all been waiting for. She thanked members of the 53rdNational Legislature for passing the amendment to the Agency Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Liberia and the Liberia International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR) in 2015. She paid tribute to the partnership with LISCR, which according to her has translated into the transformation of a modern Liberia Maritime Training Institute (LMTI). President Sirleaf also recognized the significant contributions of former Commissioners Mr. Gerald Cooper, Joe Keller and Binyah Kesselly. The President also made special recognition of Mrs. Leona Dennis – who particularly served the Maritime dutifully for 43 years. She acknowledged that Mrs. Leona Dennis remained committed and devoted in spite of some of the most difficult moments the Bureau of Maritime faced. President Sirleaf thanked stakeholders of the Liberia Maritime Authority and Liberia Maritime Training Institute for putting in place a rigorous recruiting process, which gave way to the meticulous recruitment of 20 males and 4 females. She expressed delight in light of the professional content that would characterize the recruits upon their two-year training process. She pointed out that the inclusive selection from Liberia’s 15 counties is a demonstration of national participation. Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony by the Liberian leader, she then performed the unveiling of the plaque in honor of former Finance Minister and Governor of what was formerly the National Bank of Liberia, named and styled the John G. Bestman Maritime Training Institute. In brief reference to Hon. John G. Bestman, President Sirleaf said: “John we owe you; It is honorable to give honor to whom it is due.” President Sirleaf was later taken on a guided tour of the modernized facility at the John G. Bestman Maritime Training Institute. Earlier, Mr. Abraham Avi Zaidenberg, Managing Director of the Liberia International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR) in Monrovia AND Chairman of the Board of the Liberia Maritime Training Institute welcomed all and sundry to the epoch-making ceremony and noted the individual and collective role of all stakeholders. He recalled LISCR’s partnership with the with the Government of Liberia which began more than 18 years ago and informed the gathering that under President Sirleaf’s leadership, the Liberian Shipping Registry has increased the size of its fleet three times. Avi, as he is commonly called, also mentioned that today, 30% of oil cargo shipped to the United States are carried by Liberian flagged vessels. In separate remarks, Commissioner James F. Kollie; Board Chair, Cllr. Juah Lawson; and Senate Committee, Chairperson, Dallas Gueh of Rivercess lauded President Sirleaf for her hindsight in ensuring the project came to fruition. They acknowledged the significant interventions of the various actors who worked so diligently towards such realization. It can be recalled that as part of the 2015 amendments to the agency agreement between the Government of Liberia and the Liberia International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR) based in Virginia, USA, the Government decided to turn over the management of the Liberia Management Training Institute to LISCR. The agreement calls for Government to provide the funding but also provided that LISCR will use its experience in maritime training to upgrade and manage the facility so that it is internationally recognized and accredited. The first batch of 24 cadets commenced training on August 1, 2017. The LMTI can look ahead to becoming a truly world-class center of excellence for maritime training. "

03 Jan 2018

Nigerian stakeholders seek complete reforms in shipping sector

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"Concerned Nigerian stakeholders, including clearing agents and industrialists in the country have called for complete reforms in the maritime sector in order to restore its lost glory. The National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), in a letter to the Presidency, complained that there are too many obstacles to the ease of doing business that have resulted in lengthy, cumbersome procedure and high cost of doing business in the ports. This is coming as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), also urged the Federal Government to introduce reforms that will bring about efficiency and productivity at the ports. The letter signed by its President, Lucky Amiwero, said the collapse of the cargo scanners made physical inspection/customs examination laborious, thereby constituting delays and attendant high cost, destruction of goods.Besides, the absence of the scanners exposed the ports to the influx of arms, ammunition, and unwholesome goods as well as the introduction of the pallet policy. He said government agencies’ intervention in cargo clearance such that the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and the Maritime Police block and stop containers outside the ports resulted in double handling of imports, and detrimental to the ease of doing business. On the collapsed ports access roads, he said the situation resulted to additional transportation costs of almost 500 per cent as a result of inaccessibility to the ports, which warranted demurrage/rent on both empty and loaded containers. The access roads, he said, required palliative measures to make for easy evacuation of cargoes, saying this could be covered from part of the seven per cent collected for the development of the port as provided in section 32(a) of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Act. Besides, he said the charges of storage and the duplication of charges by shipping companies highly increase the cost of doing business, delays, increase demurrage and rent, where demurrage is almost N20,000 per container per day for shipping company and 12,000 for rent by terminal per day. This, among other numerous charges makes our port the most expensive in the world. “In line with global best practice, there is no agency that is responsible for coordinating and resolving disputes, as procedures and processes, local laws, and trade conventions are not complied with, which is associated with delays impunity and imposition of process and procedure by various government agencies. “Also, all government agencies operate independently on cost and procedures, which necessitate the increase of cost and delays in the release of cargo, their procedures are independent of each other in contrast to one stop shop methodology,” he said.Considering the effects of these anomalies on the economy, Amiwero said: “We request for total reforms to address the multi-layers of problems by engaging experts vast in policy of maritime and international trade with the mandate to enforce the operation procedural laws, regulations and total removal of obstacles to trading across borders in our ports.” The Director-General of LCCI, Muda Yusuf, said research on Maritime Ports Reform reveals that billions of naira is lost annually due to inefficiencies and shortcomings in the nation’s ports.He noted that port users and operators faced major challenges and bottlenecks due to the deplorable state of roads leading to the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports as well as other infrastructure and technology breakdown. To enhance efficiency at the ports, he said there was a need to adopt and enforce an Integrated Advance Cargo and Customs Clearance System with scanning, and tracking (SST) capabilities.Yusuf also urged the government to implement the National Trade Data Centre project that would be readily accessible to all agencies, operators and stakeholders at all times to eliminate inherent abuses. The LCCI boss also argued that the full implementation of a Single Window Platform is a vital reform measure with the potential to create immediate positive impact in the ports.He called for improved private sector investment toward building and managing ports infrastructure such as roads, rail and truck parks with online call-up systems. Yusuf further appealed to shipping companies to establish adequate holding bay for empty containers to decongest the ports.He noted that from the Chamber’s research, the port could double its 2016 non-oil volume of 1.1 million 20-foot equivalent unit container transit over the period of 2018 and 2019, if the reform measures were implemented."

05 Nov 2017

India, Ethiopia sign agreements on trade, communication

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"The government today gave its ex- post facto approval to the trade agreement between India and Ethiopia to strengthen economic ties between the two countries, an official statement said. The decision was taken by the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi here. The trade agreement will replace the existing pact signed in 1982. The Cabinet ""has given its ex-post facto approval for the trade agreement between India and Ethiopia for strengthening and promoting trade and economic co-operation"", the statement read. The pact was signed on October 5 during the state visit of the President of India Ram Nath Kovind to Ethiopia. ""The trade agreement will provide for all necessary measures to encourage trade, economic cooperation, investment and technical co-operation,"" it added. The bilateral trade between India and Ethiopia declined to USD 840.5 million in 2016-17, from USD 854.6 million in the previous fiscal. India and Ethiopia signed agreements on October 5 on trade, communication and media to boost bilateral ties as President Ram Nath Kovind held talks with his Ethiopian counterpart Mulatu Teshome. Kovind and Teshome discussed economic relations, with the agreements on trade, communication and media signed in their presence, according to the president's Twitter page. India also thanked Ethiopia for its participation in the International Solar Alliance (ISA), established in 2015. The aim of the ISA is to provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar resource rich countries and promote the use of solar energy. The president discussed Indian support to Ethiopia in the power sector, healthcare, and education. He referred to India as among the top three sources of foreign direct investment for Ethiopia. Later, Kovind and Teshome also addressed the India- Ethiopia Business Dialogue and released a book titled 'India- Ethiopia: 70 Years of Diplomatic Relations'. The India Business Forum is the first partner-country forum of its kind in Ethiopia and represents more than 100 Indian companies. Kovind said India has created jobs and contributed to the prosperity of Ethiopia. Indian investment has had a significant presence in manufacturing in Ethiopia and value addition to local resources, he said. Ethiopia has been the largest recipient of Indian concessional lines of credit in Africa, with over USD 1 billion committed. Kovind arrived here from Djibouti yesterday on the second leg of his maiden visit abroad. His visit is the first by an Indian president to Ethiopia in 45 years since President V V Giri's trip in 1972. Last night, the president addressed the Indian community at an event in Addis Ababa, noting that it has been at the centre of India-Ethiopia relations. As teachers and educators, Indians have given a helping hand to nation building in their host country. As entrepreneurs, they have created economic opportunities and imparted skills to local people, he said."

31 Oct 2017

The London P&I Club News Alert: Madagascar - Plague outbreak

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"An outbreak of plague is reported in Madagascar. This infectious disease causes fever, chills, head and body aches, vomiting and nausea, and can be fatal. ETIC/Africa P&I Services, a local correspondent, reports that the outbreak is severe and fast spreading, affecting the whole island of Madagascar, including ports. In particular, an outbreak of pneumonic plague has been reported in the port city of Tamatave/Toamasina and the US authorities have issued a Maritime Alert urging vessels calling in Madagascar to exercise caution. The disease is spread by bites of infected fleas, inhalation of respiratory droplets/small particles from persons with pneumonic plague, and unprotected contact with infectious bodily fluids or contaminated materials. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travellers to Madagascar take the following steps to help prevent being infected: · “Use EPA-registered insect repellent that lists protection against fleas on the label and contains at least 25% DEET. · Avoid close contact with sick or dead animals. · Avoid close contact with seriously ill people, especially people who are coughing up blood.” Those calling at Madagascan ports should be alert to the plague risks and take appropriate precautions to avoid infection. This may include considering limiting contact on shore, refraining from travelling in-land, and seeking prompt medical assistance in the event of suspected plague symptoms and/or after close contact with those who are infected."

17 Oct 2017

Liberian Registry launches cyber and ship security computer-based training programme

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"The Liberian Registry has launched a Cyber and Ship Security Computer-Based Training (CBT) programme that provides a comprehensive overview of cyber-security issues, including concepts such as malware, network security, identity theft, risk management, and other common threats to maritime security. Jorgen Palmbak, Director of Maritime Security for the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR), the US-based manager of the Liberian Registry, says, “Cyber-attacks have been identified as among the most serious emerging threats to the security of today’s shipping industry. Over 40% of crew members have reportedly sailed on a vessel that has become infected with a virus or malware - and only 1 in 8 crew members have received cyber-security training. “In recent years, it has become apparent that maritime companies, ships, and ports are not adequately protected against what is clearly a rapidly evolving threat. Furthermore, IMO has issued a resolution giving shipowners and managers until 2021 to incorporate cyber-risk management into their ship safety plans. The Liberian Registry believes that there is an immediate need for both crew and shore-based staff to receive cyber security training as part of an overall security skill-set update and has accordingly taken a proactive approach to the issue. “The CBT program also provides a comprehensive overview of common maritime security threats, including the risk of criminal activity, threats to ship security, port-based drug-trafficking risks, security roles and responsibilities on board, and an introduction to the ISPS code. It further covers issues relating to stowaways, about 2,000 of whom are discovered each year hiding on ships, and piracy attacks, of which there have been an average of more than 300 per year since 2009.” The two-hour computer-based training program is divided into four modules, with ongoing evaluation through a series of questions. On successful completion, a certificate is awarded. The Cyber and Ship Security Computer-Based Training fulfills the requirements of STCW security awareness training. Additionally, the Liberian Registry’s Seafarer Certification and Documentation Department will accept completion of the training for its security awareness special qualification. The training is recommended for all individuals, at all levels of seniority, who require enhanced training to deal with the threats faced by all companies, vessels, and crew. "

17 Oct 2017

African unions demand Madagascar act on Malagasy 43 as ITF tells ICTSI to back up statements with actions

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"The Madagascan Government will be the target of a protest at 08:30 tomorrow (18 October) at the African Ports Evolution conference in Durban, South Africa. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and its affiliate the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), will demand that the government immediately take all necessary steps to reinstate 43 dock workers sacked at the ICTSI-operated Port of Toamasina. Ahead of tomorrow’s protest, Edga Mbina Mbina, SATAWU Provincial Secretary said: “South African unions stand shoulder to shoulder with these Madagascan dock workers. The Madagascan Government must ensure that they are reinstated, and that their right to join a union to fight for decent work is recognised and respected. Democratic countries respect workers’ rights – this is not what we are seeing in Madagascar."" International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) President, Paddy Crumlin, said that the Madagascan Government’s refusal to enforce a court order recognising these workers’ right to organise – and failure to observe the basic human rights for their own citizens – is damaging Madagascar’s image not only across the region but around the world. “The ITF stands in solidarity with COSATU and SATAWU with a clear message for the Madagascan government – the Malagasy 43 must go back to work. ""The Madagascan Government can solve this problem right now by showing real leadership and stopping this exploitation. The government should enforce its own labour laws and abide by international labour conventions. They must reinstate the Malagassy 43 immediately and allow SYGMMA to organise for all workers at the Port of Toamasina.” The Malagasy 43 were employed by labour-hire company SMMC when fired in 2012 following legitimate union activity. None of the workers have been reinstated, and the workers’ union SYGMMA has not been recognised by SMMC. The protest in Durban forms part of global week of lawful actions by ITF affiliates within ICTSI’s global terminals and shipping routes, in a renewed international push against the emerging pattern of labour violations across ICTSI’s global network. ICTSI’s Senior Vice President, Christian Gonzalez claimed this week that ‘ICTSI remains committed to the safety and welfare of our equipment operators’ and it’s time the company back up statements with actions. “In outsourcing work to labour-hire companies, ICTSI believes it can avoid proper scrutiny and criticism for the wages and conditions of casual workers at its terminals. But everyone knows that ICTSI carries the ultimate responsibility for the working conditions of all workers at its terminals. “These workers in Madagascar deserve the right to be recognised as the bona fide workforce by ICTSI. All workers employed in stevedoring activities need to be treated as direct employees. It’s time ICTSI stopped taking shortcuts on these workers’ lives, on their families’ lives,” said Crumlin. The ITF is attending the Ports Evolution conference to present its latest report – ICTSI’s global expansion: a risky proposition? – on the emerging pattern of labour violations across ICTSI terminals. Madagascar is currently a member of the South African Development Community (SADC). In 2009, Madagascar was suspended from the SADC. This suspension was lifted in 2014, recognising the steps taken by the Government of Madagascar to return the country to democracy. The failure to reinstate the Malagasy 43, despite court orders recognising the union’s right to organise at the port, indicates that there is still more work to do to ensure respect for the rule of law and for the rights of workers and all citizens."

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