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Russia-Ukraine conflict may lead to seafarers shortage, hike in wages—Experts

 

Shipping experts have expressed concerns over the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine which they said may lead to a crisis in the supply chain of seafarers.
Their worries were predicated on the large numbers of both the Russian and Ukrainian seafarers which make up a large chunk of seafarers worldwide and which the conflict may affect.

According to analysts, nearly 1.9 million seafarers are currently operating over 74,000 vessels in the global merchant fleet.

They said with the Russia Ukraine conflict showing no signs of easing and all focus on humanitarian logistics and aid, one key component of the supply chain – as usual – is being ignored and they are the seafarers.

Nearly 1.9 million seafarers are currently operating over 74,000 vessels in the global merchant fleet, according to the Seafarer Workforce Report published in 2021 by BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

“Of this total workforce, 198,123 (10.5 percent) of seafarers are Russian of which 71,652 are officers and 126,471 are ratings.

 Ukraine accounts for 76,442 (4 percent) of seafarers of which 47,058 are officers and 29,383 are ratings.

 Combined they represent 14.5 percent of the global workforce.

“Shipping is currently responsible for the movement of nearly 90 percent of global trade.

“Seafarers have been at the forefront of the response to the Covid Pandemic, ensuring essential supplies of food, fuel and medicine continue to reach their destinations,” ICS said in a statement.

Guy Platten, Secretary-General, ICS, added: “To maintain this unfettered trade, seafarers must be able to join and disembark ships (crew change) freely across the world.

 “With flights canceled in the region, this will become increasingly difficult.
“The ability to pay seafarers also needs to be maintained via international banking systems.
“The safety of our seafarers is our absolute priority. We call on all parties to ensure that seafarers do not become collateral damage in any actions that governments or others may take.

“Seafarers have been at the forefront of keeping trade flowing through the pandemic and we hope that all parties will continue to facilitate free passage of goods and these key workers at this time.”

Research by ICS shows that an average ship has a mix of at least three nationalities on board, and sometimes as many as 30.

“Three languages were the minimum spoken on the average ship.”

ICS has also called on governments around the world to ensure access to medical care for seafarers after it emerged that crews continue to be refused urgent treatment at ports during the pandemic.

Given this background, the International Maritime Organization held an Extraordinary Council Session on Mach 10 and 11, and the agenda was on addressing the impacts on shipping and seafarers of the situation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

“We anticipate we will receive specific submissions from Member-States as well as from NGOs in consultative status but mostly it will allow for States to make statements as to their views,” an official told The STAT Media Group.

The IMO Council consists of 40 Member States, elected by the IMO Assembly.

The International Group of P&I Clubs (marine insurance providers) personnel sub-committee has issued a contract addendum to assist owners and crew, especially Ukrainian crew, who would like to alter their contracts.

The last container ship in Ukraine – Joseph Schulte, capable of carrying 9,400 20-foot containers – arrived on the eve of Russia’s invasion and has not moved in 12 days, its crew and cargo safe but caught in a war zone, Bloomberg reported.

Seafarers and the ship are “safe and well,” according to a statement from a crisis PR agency that responded to an email request sent to Germany-based Bernhard Schulte that is listed as the ship’s owner, the report added.

Russian/Ukrainian seafarers more on tankers

“Russian and Ukrainian officers are employed in high numbers on tanker vessels, both oil and gas, which already have the tightest supply of qualified and experienced officers.

” Hence it is on these trades that the main effects will be felt,” Drewry said in an update.

“A reasonable proportion of Russian and Ukrainian seafarers will already have foreign homes, and will therefore be less restricted in their travel to or from vessels during crew changes.

“But Drewry estimates these to represent less than 20 percent of the available pool and visa implications could arise if the free movement of Russian citizens is limited by the international community.

“Hence, a large number will therefore be directly affected now.”

Ukrainian seafarers currently at sea will find repatriation very difficult with a best case that they travel to a nearby country by air and then onward home via whatever means is available, Drewry added.

“This obviously carries considerable danger but with family possibly still in situation and a desire to defend their country some may return.
For Ukrainian seafarers off duty at home when the conflict started, the situation will be even more difficult.

 For a range of reasons, it is thought that they will find it very difficult or impossible to travel to join a vessel for their next scheduled tour.”

Given the fast-changing situation, employers may think twice about employing Russian seafarers if they cannot reliably get them to vessels as planned.

 “Banking restrictions imposed on Russia may also make payment of seafarers problematic, adding to reasons companies may look to other nationalities to crew their vessels.
Indian seafarers are likely to be the prime option, although there are also other alternative nationalities.
 Indian wage rates are similar to Russian and Ukrainian and supply numbers are high.

However, as mentioned earlier, given pre-existing tight officer availability, there will only be limited skilled labour available to fill any gaps.”

Drewry is expecting the conflict’s impacts on seafarer availability to lead to wage inflation, particularly for officers where supply conditions were already tight.

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I was never in charge of maritime industry —Saraki

Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation in a hearty discussion with Amaechi when the going was good

 

Eyewitness reporter

For three years after she was named the Minister of State for Transportation in 2019, Senator Gbemisola Saraki said she was never in charge of the maritime sector.
Her assertion contradicted the gentleman’s agreement between her and Rotimi Amaechi, who until his resignation from Mohammed Buhari’s cabinet to pursue his failed presidential ambition, was the Minister of transportation.
Amaechi,  as the then supervising Minister, in 2019, had delineated the duties of the two heads of the ministry to avoid any possible clash of interests.
At one of the public functions held in Lagos in 2019 at the beginning of his second term in office as the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi publicly declared that while he would focus his attention on railways due to the enormity of the project and its importance to the national economy, Saraki will be in charge of the maritime industry with his occasional supervision, especially as it concerns maritime security.
Ameachi had then acknowledged that he had abandoned the maritime industry for the rail sector when he first served as transportation minister from 2015 to 2019 but said his minister of state, Senator Gbemisola Saraki,  will fill the gap during his second term in office.
“In my first term as minister, I completely abandoned the maritime sector to the heads of agencies.
“This time around, that won’t be happening again as I have instructed that the Hon. Minister of Transportation for State should personally supervise the maritime agencies, while I just oversee what is happening” Ameachi had declared.
However, Senator Saraki subtly debunked the claim three years after when she said that she was never in charge of the sector.
The minister was reacting to an inquiry from the curious journalists last week Friday why it took her one year to the end of her four-year tenure to come on a familiarisation tour of the sector she was supposed to be superintending.
“I was never in charge of the maritime sector. I was asked to supervise road transport”  the Kwara State-born politician declared.
Her revelation confirmed the widely held belief among the stakeholders that there was a repressed and smouldering animosity between the two Ministers.
Though Saraki tried to downplay the cat and mouse relationship with her former boss, stakeholders however believed that the two Ministers never got along well with each other.
Sources pointed to instances when the two Ministers were tactically avoiding joint attendance at maritime events.
Impeccable sources whispered to our reporter that the festering feud became noticeable when Saraki began to boycott events in the industry with her former boss.
It was further learnt that the boycott of events in the industry by the Minister of state may be a subtle protest against the apparent arrogation by Amaechi of official duties of the junior Minister which has led to the redundancy of Saraki.
It was gathered that throughout 2019 and the better part of 2021, Amaechi allowed Saraki to take charge of events in the maritime industry.
Sources claimed that towards the end of last year and since the beginning of 2022 up till his resignation as the Minister, Amaechi may have reneged on the gentleman’s agreement between him and his minister of state.
“During this period, the Minister took over the functions hitherto reserved for the Minister of state.
”This development seems to have irked Saraki who felt the Minister was trying to make her reductant.
“That was when she started to boycott functions at the maritime industry where she and her principal were likely to meet” a source who was in the know confided in our reporter.The absence of the minister of State at major maritime events became noticeable during landmark events such as  NIMASA’s unveiling of wreck removal in 2021,  the World Maritime Day, 2021,  and the inspection of the Lekki deep seaport by President Muhammadu Buhari.

It could also be recalled that Amaechi had made a couple of visits to the Lekki deep seaport, even on a Sunday, before the presidential visit, none of which Saraki attended.

Concerned maritime stakeholders claimed that the recent action of Ameachi, who is widely regarded as the ”Lion of the Niger Delta” may appear bossy to Gbemisola Saraki, who is also a strong-willed woman.
“The two Ministers are of strong-willed personalities who don’t brood nonsense.
“We all know the political antecedents of Amaechi who has a domineering posture.

” Gbemi is also made of sterner stuff given her role in the “Otoge” political tsunami in Kwara which eventually swept off  Bukola Saraki, her blood brother, from the political dominance in Kwara politics, a role which earned her the present position in the present dispensation.
“So, I don’t see how Amaechi, who has domineering posture could lord it over Gbemi, who is equally a woman of strong character, without skirmishes” a knowledgeable analyst declared.
However, stakeholders were skeptical if Senator Saraki could achieve much of the promises she made during her week-long tours of Lagos ports last week given barely one year she has as a member of the Buhari Administration before it is wound up.
The Minister came on the tour in the company of some Directors in the ministry.

“Today is my fifth week of assuming the leadership of the Ministry of Transportation”, she declared last week Friday in Lagos.

“We came to take stock of the sector. We had taken the stock of the Road sector,” she said.

Giving her summation of her findings at the end of the tour, she declared” Apapa and Tin Can ports are in terrible need of repairs.

“We will go and come back for repairs.

“We have the short, medium, and long-term plans for this. We need to start with rehabilitation here. Another problem here is power”

The  Minister met various groups who are stakeholders in the industry.

Among them are women groups in maritime, terminal operators, stevedores, maritime workers union groups, haulage, and transport operators, maritime lawyers, freight forwarders, and maritime press.

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We have political will to ensure CVFF is disbursed—-Saraki

Senator Gbemosola Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation
—- expresses sadness over unending delay
Eyewitness reporter

The Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Rukayyat Gbemisola Saraki has expressed willingness to muster the necessary political will to ensure the controversial Cabotage Vessels Financing Funds (CVFF) are disbursed before she leaves office.

She expressed sadness over the delay in the disbursement of the interventionist funds, 19 years after it was set up which she said was critical to the empowerment of the struggling indigenous ship owners.
The Minister made this commitment Friday during the interactive media parley she held in Lagos to round up her week-long tours of Lagos ports.
The Minister, who was fielding questions from journalists, declared that her ministry would work with the National Assembly to expedite action of the disbursement process.
She disclosed that she was part of the senators who passed the Cabotage Act in 2003 which gave birth to the CVFF and it was disheartening that 19 years later the funds are yet to be disbursed.
 “It is really very disheartening that the fund has not been disbursed but we will work with the National Assembly to ensure its disbursement.
“Just watch, it has to be disbursed, especially with the coming on stream of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“In the course of this visit, I have also interacted with so many stakeholders, including the indigenous ship owners.

“I know the number of vessels that Nigerians had 10 years ago and I know how many they have now.
“The funds is very critical for the empowerment of indigenous ship owners and we know many of them have gone under”

“It is really a shame that this fund has not been disbursed, I learnt the value is $350 million now and I am not sure any part of it is missing.

” We will work with the National Assembly to pass the guidelines. It is not really about the Federal Ministry of Finance but I think it is more of the political will to disburse it and I think we have the political will to do so.”
The Minister disclosed that the guidelines for the disbursement of the fund have been formulated and awaiting the approval of the  National Assembly.

She added that the disbursement would follow the approval by the National Assembly after beneficiaries must have been shortlisted.

According to her, the approval would soon be secured and the fund disbursed in no distant time.
She regarded the non-disbursement of the CVFF as a national shame and embarrassment.
CVFF is a two percent contribution by indigenous ship owners on every Cabotage contract executed and is meant for fleet expansion and empowerment of the shipping capacity of indigenous ship owners.
Since 2003 when the Cabotage Act was enacted and 2006 when the CVFF guidelines were enacted, no disbursement was made as the funds have become a subject of controversy and subject to serial abuse.
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P&ID fraud : Court convicts, winds up Marqott Nigeria Limited.

Owolola Adebola

Justice D.U Okorowo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has convicted and wound up Marqott Nigeria Limited,  one of the 30 companies associated with the  Process and Industrial Development Limited, P & ID,  for money laundering.

The company was convicted on Thursday,  June 16, 2022, after being found guilty of four-count charges bordering on money laundering preferred against it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Count one of the charges read: “That you, Marqott Nigeria Limited, being a designated Non-financial Institution; and Giovanni Beccarelli, Valentina Fantoli, and Dimitri Duca, being directors of and signatories to the bank account of Marqott Nigeria Limited, sometime in September 2014, in Abuja, within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, failed to comply with the requirements of submitting to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, a declaration of activities of Marqott Nigeria Limited contrary to Section 16(1) (f) read together with Section 5(1)(a)(ii) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011(as amended and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.”

Count two read:  “That you, Marqott Nigeria Limited, being a designated Non-financial Institution; and Giovanni Beccarelli, Valentina Fantoli, and Dimitri Duca, being directors of and signatories to the bank account of Marqott Nigeria Limited, sometime in September 2014, in Abuja, within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, failed to develop programs to combat money laundering and other illegal acts, to wit: failure to designate at management level a compliance officer within any strata of Marqott Nigeria Limited, contrary to Section 16(1)(f) read together with Section 9(1)(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act”.

At the point of the first arraignment on February 7, 2022,  the defendant pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, setting the stage for a full trial.

In the course of the trial, the EFCC presented many witnesses and tendered many documents as exhibits.

In his judgment,  Justice Okorowo found Marqott Nigeria Limited guilty of all the four-count charges and convicted it accordingly.   He also ordered that the company be wound up  and its entire assets forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Marqott was first arraigned on Monday,  February 7, 2022, for being an accomplice in the $9.6bn Gas Supply and Processing Agreement between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and  P&ID.

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