Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 8, 2005
Author: P&S







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Kenya says its waters are safe from piracy

The Kenyan minister of tourism and wildlife says the coastal territorial waters off Kenya are safe and free from piracy, despite the recent events off neighbouring Somalia.

He accused local and foreign media of blowing the recent events out of proportion and said he wanted to assure investors and tourists that Kenya’s security machinery was on high alert and was monitoring the situation to ensure everyone’s safety at all points of the country.

His comments come in the face of a spurt of piracy off the coast of Somalia, which reached a pinnacle this weekend with the attempted seizure of the American cruise ship Seabourn Spirit. Since March this year nearly 30 attacks on ships have been reported, not merely by the media but to the IMB, an official reporting body of the international chambers of commerce.

In September the United States State Department issued an alert to its citizens from traveling in the region, saying there was evidence that terrorist activity in the region was likely. “Supporters of Al-Qaeda and other extremists are active in East Africa. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, kidnappings or targeting maritime vessels.’


Now the IMO wants action

It took an attack on a US passenger ship for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to wake up to what is going on along the Horn of Africa.

Earlier when ship after ship was seized, including vessels carrying food aid for the United Nations’ World Food Programme, little or nothing was said or done. But now, following this weekend’s failed attack the IMO Assembly will be asked to call on the United Nations Security Council to address the matter of persistent acts of piracy on the high seas off the Somali coast.

Yesterday the International Transport Federation (ITF) congratulated the IMO for responding to the latest attack and said it had made a personal plea to IMO secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos to ‘bring in the Security Council, since it is capable of making the kind of necessary naval intervention that the IMO, for very understandable reasons, cannot.’

John Bainbridge of the ITF said the latest attack, which ‘comes hard on the heels of the shameful theft of two relief vessels, proves that the situation is almost beyond control. Even 100 miles offshore are unsafe. We must bite the bullet and admit that as a unified nation, Somalia has ceased to exist. That may mean that other countries will have to enter its waters and take over the duties that it can no longer carry out.’

He added that piracy is a world problem and a growing plague on global trade, which goes beyond this one area. ‘However this latest incident may just act as the necessary catalyst by proving that enough is enough. It’s time for decisive action against piracy and armed robbery of ships wherever they happen. …As a result it appears that the IMO is to take the necessary next step to up the ante.’


Cruise ship used new weapon against pirates

The British maritime newspaper Fairplay reports that a sonic defence device was used by the US cruise ship Seabourn Spirit to help ward off pirates who attacked the ship at the weekend.

The weapon, a long range acoustic device (LRAD) was first developed following the attack on the USS Cole in Aden harbour in 2000 and was installed on the Seabourn Spirit (and possibly other US-owned cruise ships).

The report said the device worked by focusing a long range verbal challenge from a distance of 275m and follows this up with further challenges made in a warning tone, designed to cause behavioural change. Recorded messages in multiple languages can be selected and used.

Sounds like electronic yelling to us.


Weather delays port work

Strong winds and rain along the South African coast have hampered cargo working at several ports in recent days causing delays and bunching, with a result that this morning (Tuesday) 19 ships were at anchor outside Durban harbour. Ten of these were container ships waiting to berth at the Durban Container Terminal.

In Cape Town this morning eight ships were lying at anchor in Table Bay awaiting vacant berths or the wind to abate. The strong wind has hampered both docking and sailings and among those vessels delayed yesterday was the US Navy pre-positioning ship USNS Seay, which called at Cape Town for bunkers. When she eventually sailed she was replaced by another US Navy supply ship, USNS Brittin.


MCLI sets the record straight with the Maputo Corridor

By Brenda Horne
Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI)


There has been a lot of speculation in the media since the Mozambique Government cancelled the concession of the crucial Ressano Garcia Rail Line (see our News Bulletin dated 3 November 2005).

It should be noted that New Limpopo Bridge Project Investments (Pty) Ltd, was the principal shareholder and main concession signatory. Spoornet was the only preferred sub contractor to operate and maintain the train service.

The good news is that the Mozambique Government and CFM are committed to ensure we get the required capacity to and from the port of Maputo and that they put the action there with their commitment, by starting the rehabilitation process themselves.

Since both CFM and Spoornet are active participants in the MCLI Rail Focus Workgroup, I thought it prudent to advise you that we remain optimistic that the line will in the near future be rehabilitated in order to carry the committed tonnages by the rail partners, Spoornet and CFM.

The cross border operational agreement in place between CFM and Spoornet is working well and the cooperation between these two parties have never been better – with Spoornet assisting CFM to obtain very much needed sleepers as an example!

Because of this fact it is important that the cancellation of the concession must not be seen as a setback in the drive to ensure we increase the available capacity on the Maputo Corridor Line – it must be viewed as a tool to expedite the progress of the line rehabilitation in order to increase the rail capacity. According to a spokesperson of CFM, the current climate makes provision for cooperation with Spoornet and or other third parties.

The rehabilitation project of the line is under way and CFM will use all available cooperation and resources as far as technical capacity, assistance and repair services are concerned to ensure the carrying capacity of the line is increased.

Both CFM and Spoornet are convinced that the current commitment to goodwill and equipment will increase the volume flows of the rail to the port which will be facilitated by having a common approach to the rail clients.

While both Spoornet and CFM cooperates to rehabilitate the Ressano Garcia section of the corridor line, Spoornet has also started to address the constraints on the SA rail section at Waterval Boven.

MCLI appreciates the transparency of both Spoornet and CFM and wish them well during this very critical rehabilitation phase.

It is through a process of cooperation and working together of all related parties that we will see the culmination of our rail service to the port as an integral part of the rehabilitation of infrastructure strategy on the Maputo Development Corridor.


Coal prices soften

The price of thermal coal ex Richards Bay fell below US to reach its lowest level in two years last week, achieving .98 a tonne, as European markets reacted to warmer weather.

About 80% of South Africa’s coal exports are shipped to Europe, including Turkey.


Clipper Race update 3 November

Tuesday 8 November

With the fleet now well on its way to Durban and Jersey Clipper experiencing further rigging problems, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston considers the challenges the ten crews have faced during their first two Atlantic crossings. Now, 36 years after becoming the first person to sail solo non stop around the world in Suhaili, he concludes that running repairs are still very much part of life at sea.

Judging by messages received at the office, family and friends may not completely understand the situation aboard a yacht in the middle of the ocean. Obviously there are no shops or repair facilities available in mid ocean and what this means is that crew have to learn to carry out running repairs themselves. That has always been a part of a sailor’s life. It has grown more complicated as more technical equipment has appeared and been installed. A knife and a marline spike may have been the square rig seaman's tools, but these days you have to add spanners, plumbing, a knowledge of engines and electric meters.

One huge problem on any vessel is that amps and sea water do not mix. Electrical equipment is very vulnerable to salt sea water and breakdowns are frequent.

This is not an excuse for some of the generic problems that have occurred in the Clipper fleet so far, but many of them are problems that would only develop with usage. We all know that when you buy a new car you expect to be given an ignition key, turn it and drive away. Unfortunately few industries manage to be so organised, just look at the problems with computers!

The forestay problem should have been identified by the specialists. One boat had been in commission for nearly a year by the time the race started and had not noticed the problem of lack of articulation in the rigging. Newer boats in the fleet developed the problem quite quickly once they were at sea for prolonged periods. They should all have been the same, but boatbuilding is a bit of a custom industry and no two boats are ever quite alike, even if they come from the same mould.

The WCs will be replaced in Durban, well half of them will, one per boat. The ones fitted, meant to be a good and well tried product, have proved totally inadequate to the usage on an ocean going racing yacht with a large crew. Something that could not have been fully anticipated and at some point you rely on the manufacturers to supply what they advertise. The reason for replacing just half is to make sure we have the right product this time before we go the whole hog.

Air being sucked into the water cooling lines was something that no one anticipated. It led to a heavy run on cooling water impellors until solved in Cascais. It also affected the water makers which had developed another interesting problem. When the boats were trialed in China everything was run and checked. Unfortunately the yard did not flush through the water makers afterwards. This only came to light when water maker pumps began to fail just before the start. The reason it was so late being identified was that water makers should not be used in coastal waters as there tends to be sediment around which blocks the filters. As the fleet has spent most of its time training in coastal waters the watermakers had not been used. When we came to want to use them we found that the pumps had become corroded because they had not been properly treated. Finding replacements was not easy but this has now been done.

Communications should have worked from day one but anyone who has tried to get a computer expert to say the same as another one will perhaps understand the problems of getting equipment like this commissioned. ‘It’s getting better’, is about all one can say.

It’s not a happy story. At Clipper we are pretty fed up with buying good equipment and then having it fail. After-sales service isn’t easy when the customer and product is in the middle of an ocean, but the manufacturers know that when things fail they have to step in.

But look on the bright side. When I sailed around the world 35 years ago I did not have a radio after two months, I lost all my fresh water at the same time and had to live off what I caught in the rain squalls for eight months. The WC was connected to avoid a potential leak when I was asleep (for those worrying about it I had a black bucket!), rigging had to be made up aboard and fitted hauling oneself aloft without back-up, the engine seized up after two months, there was no GPS, no weather forecasts, no satellite safety systems; you can survive on remarkably little when push comes to shove!’

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston


- this report courtesy Clipper Ventures


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