Ports & Ships Maritime News

Dec 1, 2005
Author: P&S







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INTERNATIONAL – questions over reports that US security company will go to war with pirates

According to reports on the BBC and other news stations, a US company known as Top Cat Marine Security has been awarded a US million contract by the Somalia Transitional Government to ‘put a stop’ to piracy along the Somali coastline.

According to the BBC report, Somalia’s transitional prime minister Mohamed Ali Gedi said: ‘The agreement signed today (25 November 2005) will defend Somalia’s territorial waters, defeat the pirates and put an end to the illegal fishing and poaching of our precious natural marine resources. The government wishes to express its dismay at these abhorrent actions.”

Top Cat would provide all the necessary equipment and personnel plus training to equip Somalia’s coastguard (?) and ‘special forces’ (?) to take over coastal security duties in the future (Ports & Ships’ question marks). Top Cat’s Mr Peter Casini was quoted as saying “We will end the piracy very quickly, there is no question about that.”

On its website (http://www.topcatmarinesecurity.com/) Top Cat carries a ‘press release’ consisting of a headline and a picture with the caption ‘Top Cat Marine Security and President Abdullahi Yusuf of Somalia establish new Somalia Coast Guard and Security Forces.’ However that is all it says and there is no further substance to the headline and no backup story.

Elsewhere in the United States doubts have been expressed about the authenticity of the reports, with questions being asked as to the truth of the claim and even speculating whether a scam is not perhaps involved. The question as to where the transitional Somalia government would get 50 million dollars to pay a US firm is also at issue. Another question concerns whether such an appointment is contrary to US foreign policy regarding mercenary armed forces operating elsewhere in the world.

There is also the suggestion that that this may be a cover for ‘regional operations of the US armed forces or intelligence services, using the anti-piracy angle as a cover for a secondary mission.’

No one can doubt that Somalia is firmly on the map of world news these days. Watch this space.


NIGERIA – Obasanjo spells out railway requirements

Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday that his country would have to spend at least US billion to rehabilitate Nigeria’s railway system.

When the money became available, he said, it would be used on a comprehensive refurbishment programme aimed at restoring rail services under a 25-year plan. However he made it clear that other capital projects were also in the pipeline and required attention, including the ports and the generation of electrical power. He pointed out that Nigeria’s decision to invest a portion of the revenue from the sale of crude oil on power generation would help ensure the nationwide generation of 15,000 megawatts by 2010.


SOUTH AFRICA – Road share of transport increases

According to the second annual State of Logistics survey conducted by the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), the single biggest logistics cost driver in South Africa remains that of freight transport, having risen by 11% since the previous survey one year ago.

As a percentage of the GDP, total logistics costs remained flat at 15.2% of the GDP.

"This figure is high compared to that of our trading partners such as the USA, where the logistics costs were 8.6% of the GDP for 2004," says Jan Havenga of Stellenbosch University. Transport costs are rising globally, but unfortunately South Africa has a more transport intensive economy than the rest of the world, caused by poor spatial planning.

"This spatial problem is exacerbated by chronic underinvestment in transport infrastructure, an unsustainable modal structure and inefficient service levels," Havenga said. He indicated that there are concerted efforts to correct the situation, although the impact of this will take time.

"In order to implement the National Freight Logistics Strategy, it will have to be translated into development projects and appropriate champions for delivery will have to be identified," said Hans Ittmann, manager of Logistics, CSIR Built Environment.
"We also need to develop a national transport and logistics database to measure delivery, its impact, and to direct investment."

According to the CSIR, South Africa's 2004 production and import tonnage increased by 7.4% on the 2003 volumes. The gap between road and rail corridor freight transport has widened even further during the past year, compounding the structural inefficiency in the South African economy.

The report says that fortunately the declines experienced by rail from 1997 to 2003 have been halted, with rail maintaining similar tonnage levels over the past two years. However, the challenge facing the economy remains that while rail focuses on reversing historic trends, growth in tonnage available for transport is still captured by road.

The structural changes required and indicated for developmental logistics are still South Africa’s biggest challenge. Efficient long haul corridors are required, alongside a focus on greater access for the second economy through focused investments.

"Collaboration between the various role players, including government, rail, road, industry and other service providers, is key to success in the logistics arena," says Ittmann.

"Improved performance of the national logistics system is rooted in research that considers a variety of perspectives, ranging from a macroeconomic view to the reduction of the logistics divide between the first and second economy. We believe that research should focus on the structural inefficiencies in the logistics system; logistics modelling; strategies for improved supply chain efficiency and for reducing the logistics divide; and logistics for improved government service delivery," he said.


SOUTH AFRICA – East London in need of attention

According to an article in the Daily Dispatch, East London’s daily newspaper, the port of East London will continue to decline unless immediate attention is given to improving the port’s status as an automotive hub.

The warning is attributed to the port manager Thami Ntshingila, who is leaving to take up a post as port manager at Richards Bay. Ntshingila said that while East London port volumes were down, income and volumes at the Eastern Cape’s other port, Port Elizabeth, were up.

He claimed that East London was being overlooked and suggested the answer lay in turning East London into the automotive hub for both the local and Gauteng-based car manufacturing business. Durban and Port Elizabeth, he said, had their own locally-based manufacturing centres to concentrate on – referring to Toyota in Durban and VW and General Motors in Port Elizabeth.

There was a need to activate the so-called East London – Gauteng Business Corridor.

Comment:

This is not the first time that the port of East London has faced a downturn in volume and income. In fact it was only a few short years ago that the port came extremely close to losing its status as one of the seven commercial ports operated by the then Portnet, and it was only the deregulation of the motor industry and the decision by DaimlerChrysler plant to manufacture Mercedes Benz C Class models at East London for export, that ‘saved’ the port from such an ignominy. Today the port remains largely reliant on DaimlerChrysler for its continued existence. However there is some light on the horizon with the advent of an industrial development zone on the West Bank that promises to recreate a stronger and more viable industrial base for the city and surrounding area. It is to this and other market forces that the port and city should be focused, not on appeals to government or its parastatals to coerce private enterprise into using East London as its port of choice.


SOUTH AFRICA – Coega road opens

The N-2 highway between Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) and Grahamstown was reopened in both lanes where it runs through the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) earlier today (Thursday 1 December 2005).

“We have been constricted to one lane for some time due to the extensive upgrade of that section of the N-2 and the construction of the main interchange serving the Coega IDZ,” said Achilles Limbouris, the person responsible for implementing infrastructure projects in the IDZ.

The interchange became necessary with the development of both the IDZ and the new port of Ngqura, about 20km northeast of Port Elizabeth.


CLIPPER RACE UPDATE – race speeds up

After a fast 262 miles run over the past 24 hours Durban Clipper remains in the lead on the leg between Durban and Fremantle. Wind speeds have increased to 25 knots and all ten boats in the race recorded average speeds in excess of ten knots.

However a high pressure ridge extending out from Africa south across the Indian Ocean indicates a patch of lighter variable winds which could catch up on the fleet and slow them down considerably. If this happens the conditions would obviously first affect the yachts at the rear of the pack, helping to widen the gap between them and the front runners before the conditions overtake the latter. But with stronger winds lying ahead of them everyone is hoping they will be able to outrun the weather on this occasion.

At 17.00 GMT today (1 December) the race position was as follows: Durban, Glasgow, Westernaustralia, Liverpool, Qingdao, Victoria, Cardiff, Singapore, New York, Jersey. Durban Clipper and Glasgow are sailing in a more southerly direction whereas Westernaustralia holds a central position on a north/south axis but in terms of actual position there’s still very little in it at this stage.

Race details courtesy of Clipper Ventures Plc


Ports & Ships lists ship movements for all ports between Walvis Bay on the West Coast and Beira on the East Coast.

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