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UN raises alarm that surging freight rates are pushing up import prices

—–as shipping lines are making mega profits
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has raised the alarm that rising freight rates are threatening to push up global import prices by 11% by 2023 while shipping lines post record profits for the third quarter, according to the UN reports.

The report warned that the high freight prices if sustained, will have a knock-on effect on import and consumer price levels.

The report titled the Review of Maritime Transport, says freight rates are expected to remain high, fuelled by continued strong demand against a backdrop of growing supply uncertainty and concerns about the efficiency of transport systems and port operations.

The average price for a 40-foot container stands at US$9,146.41, according to shipping consultancy Drewry’s World Container Index. The benchmark decreased 0.5% last week but remains 238% higher than a year ago. Drewry expects rates to remain steady this week.

The report comes as container lines are booking hefty profits. Last week, French shipping line CMA CGM reported an eye-watering profit of US$5.6bn for the third quarter, up from US$567mn for the same period last year.

It is a similar story at other major carriers; Maersk, for example, notched up a profit of US$5.5bn for Q3 – a five-fold increase on the same period last year.

“Ocean performance was driven by high rates in an exceptional market during which we kept growing our long-term contract business, thus guaranteeing reliable transportation to our customers,” said Maersk CEO Søren Skou in the company’s financial report.

In what they said was an attempt at calming the market and inflation fears, shipping companies moved to freeze spot rate increases earlier this year and shift to longer-term contracts.

However, experts were skeptical of the impact of such measures. “In other words, setting a cap on spot rates is a different way of saying that a higher willingness to pay on spot is not necessarily what gets you space on the ship. And, of course, if the market is at peak anyway there is nothing lost in implementing such a cap,” Lars Jensen, a shipping container specialist, wrote on LinkedIn at the time.

Steve Saxon, a partner at McKinsey, said in a briefing last week that longer-term contracts are likely to become more common and this will help stabilise the market. He added that shipping rates may “normalise” in the first half of 2022: “When we say normalise, we don’t see rates likely to fall back down to the levels seen in 2019.” In a less optimistic scenario in which there is prolonged congestion at ports or further Covid outbreaks, rates will remain elevated next year, he said.

The potential effect of high freight rates on consumer and import prices varies by country groupings. UNCTAD suggests small island developing states or SIDS, and least developed countries (LDCs) are most at risk of higher prices because they depend more on the international trade system for goods.

The research shows SIDS are facing a 24.2% hike in import price levels, while LDCs could be lumped with an 8.7% rise.

Meanwhile, landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) face an import price increase of just over 3%, with the global average standing at nearly 11%.

“The impact is generally greater in smaller economies. Thus, in Estonia consumer prices would rise by 3.7% and in Lithuania by 3.9% compared with only 1.2% in the United States and 1.4 per cent in China,” states the report.

“This partly reflects their greater ‘import openness’ – the ratio of imports to GDP – which is typically higher in smaller economies – 55% in Lithuania and 60% in Estonia, compared with 11% in the United States and 15% in China.”

The findings also indicate that sustained high shipping rates would not only impact exports and imports, as well as production and consumer prices, but also the prospects for short and medium-term economic recovery from the pandemic. Governments including those of China, the US and Vietnam are “worried” about this and have raised concerns about shipping companies, UNCTAD says. An investigation into carriers has also been launched by competition authorities in Australia.

Elsewhere, UNCTAD’s report predicts that annual growth in maritime trade between 2022 and 2026 will slow to 2.4%, compared with 2.9% over the past two decades. It also states the pandemic has accelerated maritime “megatrends” such as digitalisation and sustainability that are set to transform the industry over the longer term.

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House of Reps gives NIMASA green light to disburse CVFF –appoints audit firm to coordinate, monitor  disbursement

Hon. Legor Idagbo
The eyewitness reporter
The House of Representatives has given the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) a clean bill of health over the controversial Cabotage Vessels Financing Funds(CVFF) and consequently directed the agency to disburse the funds.
It would be recalled that the lawmakers, a few weeks ago, halted the planned disbursement after long and painstaking groundwork made by the Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA towards the disbursement process.
The House had raised concerns over the funds, said to be about #700m, and decided to ask its committee on Nigerian Contents Development and Monitoring to investigate the funds.
This followed a motion during its sitting last month on the matter and subsequently directed the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to stop the planned disbursement of the fund.
However, after concluding its investigation, the House found tenable the need to disburse the funds to the eligible indigenous ship owners.
Addressing journalists in Abuja Thursday, the Chairman of the committee, Hon. Legor Idagbo said that its investigations indicated that due process was followed, informing that the disbursement can now be made.
“The House of Representatives at its sitting on Tuesday, 4 May 2023, deliberated on a motion on the Planned Disbursement of $700 Million Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund, and investigate the Total Accrual of the Fund, and referred same to the House Committee on Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring to, amongst other resolutions, investigate and urge the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to immediately stop the planned disbursement of $700 million to Nigerian citizens and companies and to lay before the floor of the House, an audited statement of account showing all monies that have accrued to the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund not later than fourteen (14) days from the date of this resolution.
“The Committee requested the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and the Ministry of Transportation to provide detailed information on the total amount accrued to the Fund and disbursements since inception.
“The Committee met with the Minister of Transportation and the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency ({NIMASA) on Thursday, 11 May 2023 to find out about the details concerning the matter.
” After a thorough analysis of the various submissions on the matter coupled with the explanations given by the Ministry and NIMASA, the Committee discovered that due process was followed in the planned disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund.
“The Committee notes that the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) is a fund that was set up in 2003 by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act.
” The Fund was established for the purpose of developing indigenous ship acquisition capacity, and to provide financial assistance to indigenous shipping operators.
“The Committee further notes that there is a lack of Capacity amongst indigenous/ Domestic Coastal operators in Nigeria, thus the reason Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC) still awards contracts to foreign shipping Companies in contravention of the Cabotage and Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act.
“Some of these awards have been previously investigated by the Committee which led to their cancellation.
“It was also discovered that the total funds of $360m in the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) represents 50%, while the remaining counterpart funds of 50% is from stakeholders and Banks which is 15% and 35% respectively.
“NIMASA should go ahead with the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) in compliance with the extant laws and laid down guidelines for the said disbursement.
“To ensure the disbursement does not violate any of the extant laws made by the National Assembly, the following persons were nominated to supervise the disbursement process:
“Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Legor Idagbo  – Chairman ii. Hon. Henry Nwawuba – Member iii. | Mrs. Kehinde Bolade Olaiya – Committee Clerk.
“An Audit firm, Stratford Hill and Co. was appointed by the committee as the coordinating enforcement auditor for the CVFF.
“The Committee applauds NNPC for its commitment to awarding the shipping contracts to indigenous companies that have built capacity to the level where they can successfully execute these contracts.
“The Committee is grateful to the leadership of the House for the confidence bestowed on it to carry out the investigation”.
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President Tinubu appoints Gbajabiamila Chief of Staff

Gbajabiamila , Tinubu
 President Bola Tinubu has appointed Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as his Chief of Staff.

An authoritative source in the Presidency confirmed the development on Thursday.

The source said the president finally made the decision after wide consultations on the contending candidates.

Gbajabiamila has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2012 and has just been re-elected to the House in the last elections.

The choice of Gbajabiamila by the president is not a surprise to many political pundits as he has been a very close ally to the president.

They are part of the brains behind the formation of the All-Progressives Party (APC).

He will now have to forgo his seat in the House of Representatives if he accepts the appointment.

Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila CFR, is a Nigerian lawyer and foundation member of the APC.

He has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2019.

Gbajabiamila was born in Lagos in 1962 and attended Igbobi College for his secondary education and the University of Lagos as part of his education.

He is married to Salamatu Gbajabiamila.

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Maritime media, NUJ mourn as Ray Ugochukwu passes on to glory

Ray Ugochukwu
The eyewitness reporter
The media confraternity of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council and the maritime media, was thrown into a deep shock and mourning Thursday at the sudden demise of Mr Ray Ugochukwu, a crack journalist of international repute.
The entire members of the NUJ and the maritime media, his immediate constituency, received the news of his death, which was broken by Mr Leye Ajayi, the Chairman of the NUJ Lagos council, in a terse message posted on the council’s WhatsApp platform, with mixed emotion of sadness, shock and disbelief.
Shell-shocked, most colleagues of the deceased, who thought the announcement was a joke taken too far, make frantic calls to the NUJ council officials who confirmed the unfortunate incident.
As the rude reality of the death of the erudite maritime journalist sank in, many of them paid glowing tributes to the man widely regarded as the encyclopedia of the maritime press and a repository of wise sayings.
In its statement on the death of Mr Ugochukwu, Leye Ajayi eulogised the huge reportorial qualities of the deceased who has practised journalism for over 30 years
“With heavy hearts, we mourn the death of a media giant, a versatile Unionist and a brilliant journalist, Mr Ray Ugochukwu who passed on on Thursday.

“The death of Ray came as a big shock to the union.

“We are going to miss his courageous attributes and mentorship.

“He was also one of the pillars of the Lagos Council of NUJ and served the union meritoriously in his capacities as the Chairman of, the Seminar Committee; and as a Member, the Committee on Milestone Recognition of Media Icons In Nigeria.

“He spent most of his life in ensuring the advancement of Maritime Reporting as well as the welfare of Journalists.

“He worked in several media houses.

“Among his giant strides, he was a former President of the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN); President, Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN); and a former Chairman of the Daily Times Chapel of NUJ.

“The legacies of Ray are indelible and will exist forever.

“May God grant his soul eternal rest” the Lagos NUJ said in a statement signed by Leye Ajayi, the Council Chairman and Tunde Olalere, the Council Secretary.

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