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US Backs Lebanon On High-Speed Railway

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A high-speed national rail network is being advanced by leading government figures as the solution to Lebanon‘s enduring congestion crisis.

   United States Transport Secretary, Mr. Ray LaHood told reporters on Friday on the inaugural part of his three-day visit, our correspondent  reported on Monday.

     LaHood – a frequent visitor to the region and the only Arab-American member of President Barack Obama‘s cabinet, met with President Michel Sleiman on Friday and Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Saturday to discuss cooperation on transportation and road safety. “We know that rail transportation will ease congestion in the country and so we are going to continue to work with (Sleiman and Hariri) as we make our plans for rail transportation,” LaHood said. “The fact that the prime minister and president talked to me about transportation issues and safety, I think, shows (that) there should be a big ray of hope,” he said.The question of how to ease traffic congestion is one of the biggest infrastructure challenges facing the country. It is well thought that only some 10 percent of Lebanese use public transport, while the most recent statistics-last available for 2004-show that Lebanon has the world‘s second-highest person-car ratio, falling only behind the US.The national rail system, which runs along the coast and connects Lebanon with Syria, has not functioned since the start of the 1975-90 Civil War and vast stretches of track are in a state of irreversible disrepair. LaHood has begun advising the government on how to optimise private-public partnerships, which would see foreign engineering firms specialised in high-speed rail collaborate with the government on joint infrastructure-building projects. The expansion of Rafik Hariri International Airport and Kleyate Airport, alongside the ongoing renovation of Tripoli port, are also seen as vital measures for easing congestion and featured prominently in LaHood‘s discussions with Transport Minister, Mr. Ghazi Aridi. The pair met on Friday and again on Saturday when they toured construction works under way at Beirut port. The introduction of a passenger water-taxi service was not discussed, LaHood explained. While promising to cooperate on transportation issues, the US has few concrete plans to help Lebanon address the challenges. “If you read any of the press accounts, you will know that we have very limited resources in the US right now,” LaHood said. “We‘re having trouble finding the money to finance our own transportation issues,” he added. A $50,000 US Agency for International Development grant was issued on Friday to Lebanese NGO Kunhadi, which runs road safety awareness campaigns tackling issues of seatbelt use as well as drunk and careless driving practices, such as cell phone use while motoring.”Safety has to become one of the top priorities for the country if automobile accidents and injuries can be prevented,” he said, adding that, “Seatbelts save lives.””We‘re going to work very closely with the interior minister, Ziyad Baroud, on the best practices in all three areas, taking what we have done and what has been successful,” he noted. Traffic accidents are thought to be the number one cause of death among the young in Lebanon, with government statistics showing that 80 percent of passengers, involved in fatal car accidents in 2008, were not wearing seatbelts.Declining to comment about the allegations of Scud missile transfers from Syria to Hizbullah, LaHood went on to stress his close relationship with the Lebanese government.”We believe in the sovereignty of Lebanon and we know that it is very important that we continue to have a very strong relationship,” he said. “I think that Lebanon is a very, very strong friend of the United States and it represents the kind of friendship that the US really cherishes.”

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Transport

Immigration Steps Up Anti-Touting Vigilance

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The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Passports Command, Ikoyi, has increased its surveillance  on touting in a bid to check extortion within its jurisdiction.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with The Tide in Lagos, last Friday, the Immigration Comptroller, Passports Office, Ikoyi, Lagos, Deputy Comptroller Liman A.I , said the negative impact of touting on the nation’s economy would not be allowed to continue under his watch.
He said ,”we are applying persuasion, dialogue and seeking the support of all well meaning stakeholders in this area to spread the anti-touting message and dissuade people from unlawful acts. However, we could apply coercive power as the need arises.
“With the selfless leadership shown by the Comptroller General, Alhaji Mohammed Babandede, we at the PCO, Ikoyi, Lagos, have decided to re-dedicate ourselves to duty and complement the efforts of the CGIS. 
“We are prepared more than ever to wage the anti-miscreants war relentlessly.
Liman assured the general public of friendly environment for legitimate transaction in an effort to strengthen the national economy, warning deviants to shun touting and other related vices.
According to him, “the command has keyed into the various strategies including the use of ICT in gathering of intelligence, among others.
“The service believes that the fight against miscreants within its corridor cannot be undertaken by the service alone, hence our call on Nigerians to partner with us in ensuring that the passport seekers do not patronise touts to defraud them. Our resolve is unshaken and our commitment is total”. 
On her part, the Public Relations Officer of the command, a Deputy Superintendent of Immigration (DSI), Mrs Adetoun Shiyindemi, commended the Deputy Comptroller Liman, for his selfless service, pointing out that he has really given the officers and men of the command a sense of belonging. 
“Since the Comptroller came in, it has been a servant-leader relationship here at Ikoyi PCO and we are all motivated to put in our best with what the CGIS has given us, you will see a new immigration service”, she assured. 

By: NkpemenyieMcdominic, Lagos

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Maritime

Union Urges NIMASA, RSG To Dredge PH/Bonny Jetty

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The Bonny Maritime Transport Association (BMTA) has called on the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Rivers State Government to dredge the Port Harcourt/Bonny Jetty to enhance marine operations.
The union said the low shore of the river hampers its operations and grounds boats.
The Marine Safety Officer, BMTA, Comrade Kings Don, who made the call, said the low shore of the jetty was not helpful to marine operations.
According to him, drivers and passengers find it difficult to ply the route whenever the tide is low, thus wasting man hours.
“Sometimes, we push the boat to a level it would afloat due to low tide suffered in the jetty. We are appealing to NIMASA and the state government to assist and dredge the jetty for more efficiency”, he pleaded. 
Don described the Port Harcourt/Bonny Jetty as the gateway to Bonny Island and other riverine communities, and called on NIMASA and the state government to intervene and make the marine sector viable in the area. 
He said that the prompt dredging of the jetty would enhance water transportation in the state and improve its revenue generation.
He, however, commended the security agents, especially the Nigerian Navy and the marine police, for rescuing the waterways and creeks from all forms of criminality.
Comrade Don appealed to the security agents to engage in 24-hour patrol of the routes and other channels to save lives and property.

By: Chinedu Wosu

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Maritime

Boat Mishaps: Ship Owner Blames Absence Of Safety Regulations

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A renowned ship owner in the country, Alhaji Aminu Umar, has decried lack of standardisation and enforcement of safety measures on the nation’s inland waterways by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
He also blamed lack of will to enforce regulations, safety, standard and regulations on overloading, night voyage, rickety and old craft as causes of mishap on the inland waterways.
Alhaji Umar, who is a former president, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), said in Minna, Niger State, recently that enforcement of safety and standard on the nation’s inland waterways was weak.
Reacting to incessant boat mishaps in the country, Umar said, “there is no standard applied on movement of people, as all kinds of boat are being used. It is important that we standardise, because lack of safety and standard will increase accident.
“I think, the task of NIWA is to standardise conditions and procedures on the nation’s waterways”.
He also called for the regulation of movement of badges and passenger boats across the port environment.
“It’s a huge risk allowing badges moving containers around the port area side by side with boats carrying passengers.
“Moving people and containers at the same time is a huge risk, and a safety concern.
“NIWA and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should see to this and tackle the menace”, he said.

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