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Pirates Demand $1m To Free Five Indian Sailors

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The Nigerian pirates who took five Indian seafarers hostage last month have demanded $1 million to release them. They made a ransom call to one of the victim’s families in Haryana’s Jind district three days ago.
“At first I thought they said $1,000 and thought we could manage the amount and get them released. But one of the pirates repeated his demand as $1 million,” Bharat Deshwal, cousin of Ankit Hooda, one of the abducted seamen, told TOI over phone from Rohtak.
Ankit was a seaman on Greek motor tanker ship MT Apecus when the pirates struck on the outer anchorage of Bonny Island of Nigeria on April 19. Captain and six other crew members were taken hostage. Five of them are from India.
Bharat said the pirates used a satellite phone to speak to them. One of them spoke in English. “The pirates reportedly kept the five seamen at an undisclosed location. We were allowed to speak to four of them on the phone. At least, we know that they are with them,” Bharat said, adding that he could not speak to the fifth sailor, who is possibly from Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam.
The pirates allowed Ankit to speak to his family, while giving the impression that time was running out. “The pirate told us that neither the owner of the ship (from Greece), nor the Indian embassy tried contacting them on behalf of the families,” Bharat said.
Later in the conversation, the pirate who demanded a ransom of $1 million said they were even willing to accept half a million dollars. However, they did not give any details on how the transaction could take place. Bharat said they are yet to get any intimation from the Indian high commission in Abuja, Nigeria.
Ankit’s family has been desperately trying to get in touch with the government to get him and others released. They also conveyed details of the phone call to the office of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and expressed an interest to meet her personally.
Meanwhile, the high commission has informed Swaraj that it is following it up with the Nigerian government to get the seafarers released. “We have reiterated vigorously to the presidency, foreign minister and interior minister. Security forces are deployed, while ensuring safety of hostages in southern Nigeria. Other parties are also in touch. We are hopeful and will follow up,” the high commission tweeted in response to Swaraj asking for a report on the situation.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, on May 20, said it is making efforts to get the Indian seamen released.

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Maritime

‘Lekki Port Has Potentials To Bridge Maritime Infrastructure Gap’

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The Managing Director, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited, Mr. Du Ruogang, says the delivery of the Lekki Deep Sea Port project would go a long way in helping the nation to bridge the gap in the Nigeria’s maritime infrastructure in the shortest time.
Ruogang stated this during the Ehingbeti-Lagos Economic Summit organised by the Lagos State Government, last week.
“We are very pleased with how well things are going with the construction despite the challenges being encountered all over the world with the Covid-19 pandemic, which is also being felt in Lagos State, and all over the country.
“While Lagos is not immune from the economic challenges that are being tackled globally, the uniqueness of Lagos State is the willingness of the leadership to go the extra mile to live up to its characteristic of an investor friendly state.
“Lagos makes a significant contribution to the Nigerian economy. It contributes 30% to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product. This is remarkable considering that Lagos is home to only 10% of the population of Nigeria.
“Majority of Nigeria’s manufacturing is based in Lagos as well as many service industries such as finance. All of these factors combine to encourage industry to locate in Lagos, and that is the reason we are here to look forward to the future possibilities”, Ruogang said.
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Nigerian Ports Recorded Low Container Traffic In 2020 – NPA Boss

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The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) says Delta Port suffered a dip in container traffic in 2020 with 1,224 TEUs compared to the 6,827 TEUs recorded in 2019.
It said the volumes of cargo handled at Nigeria’s seaports dropped to 78.4 million metric tonnes in 2020 from 80.2 million metric tonnes recorded in 2019, representing a decline of 2.24 per cent.
According to the Authority, the nation’s ports also recorded a decline in ship traffic from a total of 4,251 in 2019 to 3,972 ships in 2020.
The Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, gave the figures during a media parley in Lagos, recently, attributing the drop to the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged the global economy.
“In year 2020, the nation’s busiest Port, Apapa Port received 632,148 TEUs of container traffic compared to 668,672 TEUs received in 2019.”
“For the nation’s second busiest port, Tin Can Island Port, 650,365 TEUs of containers arrived at the port in 2020 compared to 820,942 TEUs of containers in 2019.
“For Onne Port, 266,109 TEUs of containers arrived in 2020 compared to 247,528 TEUs in 2019, while In Rivers Port, 91,971 TEUs of containers arrived in 2020 compared to 71,020 TEUs in 2019”, he said.
He said 1,561TEUs of containers arrived Calabar Port in 2020 compared to 174 in 2019.
According to him, the total number of container traffic that came to Nigerian ports was 1,643,378 TEUs compared to the 1,815,163 TEUs received in 2019.
“For a number of vessel calls at the Apapa Port, 986 ships called in 2020 compared to 1,034 vessels in 2019. At Tin Can port, 1,127 ships called in 2020 while 1,311 vessels called in 2019.
“In total, Nigerian ports received 3,972 ships with a Gross Registered Tonnage of 125,133,912 compared to the 4,251 ships that called in 2019 with a Gross Registered Tonnage of 138,577,463.
“In terms of cargos, we had 78.4 million metric tonnes in 2020 while the nation recorded 80.2 million metric tonnes in 2019.”
He explained that the improvement in container traffic at Onne Port was as a result of the deepening of the port channel and huge investment in cargo handling equipment by the West Africa Container Terminal (WACT).
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MWUN Wants FG To Deploy Helicopters To Curb Piracy

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The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Rivers State chapter, has urged the Federal Government to deploy military helicopters to waterways in the Niger Delta region to curb the menace of sea pirates.
Rivers State Chairman of MWUN, Comrade John Jonah, made the call at the weekend against the backdrop of the hijack and abduction of 11 passenger boat in the state, last Tuesday.
Comrade Jonah said the deployment of military helicopters to waterways would help in fishing out sea robbers and end their campaigns in the riverine communities.
The chairman who regretted that the state waterways were no longer safe for travellers, appealed to the  Nigerian Navy and Marine police to intensify their patrols across the communities to save lives.
He  also called on the Federal Government, and Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA to deploy more gunboats to the creeks of the state to end sea robbery.
Jonah, in a telephone interview with The Tide, said that the act of piracy in Bonny and Bille waterways had scared away investors in the area.
Comrade Jonah urged the security agencies to rescue the 11 kidnapped passengers and their driver who were kidnapped last Tuesday by pirates.
The MWUN boss appealed to sea travellers and community youths to report act of piracy to the security agencies for prompt actions.
By: Chinedu Wosu
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