Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 24, 2006
Author: P&S





TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS


  • Single customs tariff shapes up for SADC


  • Mozambique turns away from returning to COMESA


  • US reinstates Liberia’s trade preference benefits


  • SA welcomes maritime labour convention


  • Joint SA - Mozambique investment seminar


  • US Hysteria over DP World’s entry into US continues






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    Single customs tariff shapes up for SADC

    A single customs tariff among SADC (Southern African Development Community) members is now on the cards for 2010.

    This was one of the results coming out of a meeting among trade and industry ministers held in Luanda this week.

    However, all is not just enthusiasm and euphoria, and some analysts are voicing reservations over the readiness of some member states to implement these measures.

    One of the strategies aims at allowing regional products smooth access to the European Community (EU).

    Another looks toward establishing an economic partnership with the EU that will, for the first time, allow the private sector access to European Investment Banks funds without having first to resort to a state cover or guarantee.

    This strategy aims at stimulating regional and international investment, strengthening the capacities of local financial institutions and encouraging foreign investment.

    SADC consists of Mozambique, Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Mauritius, Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

    - source CPI/MCLI


    Mozambique turns away from returning to COMESA

    Mozambique appears ready to snub moves by COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) to have the country rejoin the organisation.

    Mozambique effectively left in 1995 by suspending its membership, saying that it wanted clarification of COMESA’s relationship with SADC, the Southern African Development Community). This, it says, has never been received.

    It has always been a matter of choice between one organisation or the other and a technical team appointed by Mozambique to look into the matter has now reported to the Mozambique government that there are no clear advantages in rejoining COMESA.

    According to the technical team, Mozambique can achieve many of the benefits through good relationships with COMESA members without being a part of the organisation, although though there are some drawbacks such as higher duties that now have to be paid. The advantages however are greater for Mozambique remaining a member of SADC - one of these is the building of a free trade area (see story above ‘SINGLE CUSTOMS TARIFF SHAPES UP FOR SADC) that will see fruition by 2010 with a customs union.

    The technical committee pointed out that Mozambique’s trade with COMESA was negligible whereas that with SADC countries was expanding.

    - source CPI/MCLI


    US reinstates Liberia’s trade preference benefits


    US Trade Representative Rob Portman announced this week that President Bush has reinstated duty-free trade benefits for the Republic of Liberia under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme.

    "By reinstating Liberia’s GSP eligibility the United States is providing strong support to recently elected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s efforts to increase employment, diversify exports, and stabilise society," said Ambassador Portman. "Liberia is emerging from nearly two decades of war. GSP will be a useful tool in helping to rebuild Liberia and bring hope to its people.

    The benefits were suspended in 1990 because of worker rights concerns. President Sirleaf has made improving worker rights a high priority. This includes repeal of a decree to prohibit strikes and inviting the International Labor Organization (ILO) to assist Liberia in bringing its laws and practices into conformity with its ILO obligations.

    Liberia 's reinstated benefits under the GSP program will become effective in two stages. Eligibility as a developed beneficiary developing country (BDC) will occur fifteen days from yesterday, allowing Liberia to export a number of products duty-free to the United States. After a 60-day period of Congressional review (which began yesterday), Liberia will become a least developed BDC, which will provide Liberian businesses with the ability to export additional products to the United States free of duty.

    Background

    The GSP programme was created by the Trade Act of 1974 to promote economic development of developing nations. Under the programme, 137 beneficiary developing countries export approximately 3,450 different products duty-free to the United States. Least developed BDCs are eligible to export another 1,400 products duty-free. In the first 11 months of 2005, exports that have entered the United States duty-free under the GSP program have amounted to nearly billion in trade. Almost all textile and apparel products are ineligible for duty-free treatment under the GSP program.

    As a result of the Administration’s reinstatement of Liberia’s GSP benefits, nearly one-quarter of Liberia’s current non-rubber exports will now enter the United States duty-free.
    - source USTR press release


    SA welcomes maritime labour convention

    South Africa’s labour minister Membathisi Mdladlana has welcomed the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) new charter for working conditions in the maritime industry.

    The charter which was adopted yesterday (Thursday) places emphasis on the protection of vulnerable workers and the introduction of globally accepted labour standards and conditions of employment, including suitable accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering.

    Globally some 1.2 million seafarers stand to gain from the charter with better working conditions, particularly those sailing in ships flying the flag of convenience.

    The new Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 was adopted by a vote of 314 in favour to none against at the ILO (Maritime) meeting which ended in Geneva yesterday. The vote marked overwhelming support by delegates from more than 100 countries representing seafarers, shipowners and governments.

    ILO director-general Juan Somavia described its adoption as a landmark development in the field of work.

    “We have made maritime labour history today. We have adopted a Convention that spans continents and oceans providing a comprehensive labour charter for the world’s 1.2 million or more seafarers and addressing the evolving realities and needs of a sector that handles 90 percent of the world’s trade.”

    He said he foresaw the initiative providing the impetus and support for similar innovative approaches in other sectors of work.

    The Convention sets out in clear language a ‘Bill of Rights’ for seafarers while allowing a national discretion to deliver those rights with transparency and accountability. It also contains provisions allowing it to keep in step with the needs of the industry and to help secure universal application and enforcement, while meeting the need for quality shipping, which it says is crucial to the global economy.

    The only vessels excluded from the Convention are fishing vessels and traditional ships, such as dhows and junks. All vessels larger than 500-gt and engaged in international voyages or between foreign ports will now be required to carry a ‘Maritime Labour Certificate’ and a ‘Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance’, which sets out shipowners’ plans for ensuring that applicable laws, regulations or other measures required to implement the Convention are complied with on an ongoing basis.

    Shipmasters will be responsible for carrying out the ship-owners’ stated plans and keeping proper records to provide evidence of compliance with the Convention. The flag state will review the shipowners’ plans and verify that they are in place and being implemented. This will put pressure on shipowners that disregard the law, but will remove pressure from those that comply.

    - the full text of the ILO announcement can be found in Ports & Ships’ LEGAL NEWS & OPINION go to http://ports.co.za/legalnews/articles.php or use the navigational bar on the right of the Home (index) Pages


    Joint SA - Mozambique investment seminar

    A Mozambique-South Africa investment seminar that aims at boosting growth in the two neighbouring states is to be held in the Mpumalanga province on 14 March 2006.
    According to the organisers the conference should create an ideal awareness platform to promote cross border trade in terms of identifying investment opportunities and highlighting risks and processes that can be used by investors in a practical fashion when considering ventures.

    Those who stand to benefit from the conference are:

  • parties looking for potential investing opportunities

  • those seeking assistance with investment opportunities

  • parties seeking an understanding of the process to be followed when setting up businesses


  • For enquiries please contact Anel Potgieter on tel (+27) 13 752 5444 or fax (+27) 13 755 3809. To register please go to http://www.connectingpeople.pwc.com/invite/index.php

    - source CPI/MCLI


    US Hysteria over DP World’s entry into US continues

    The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert has written to President Bush asking for a moratorium on the takeover of P&O Ports terminals at six major US ports by a Dubai-based company, DP World.

    He said the moratorium would allow a further examination to be made of the effects on port security.

    President Bush has meanwhile defended his administration’s stance in allowing DP World to operate in the USA. “People don’t need to worry about security,” he told journalists yesterday ahead of a cabinet meeting. “This deal wouldn’t go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America…. port security will be run by US Customs and the US Coast Guard.”

    Bush questioned the double standards being applied. “I find it interesting that it’s okay for a British company to manage ports, but not okay for a company that’s also a valuable partner in the war on terror. It’s really important that we not send mixed messages to allies.” (see PORTS & SHIPS News Bulletin for 21 February on this subject)

    Meanwhile a spokesman for DP World, chief operating officer Ted Bilkey (now there’s an Arab-sounding name!) said the company would co-operate fully with authorities in putting adequate security measures in place. He pointed out that in Dubai US Customs officials have been given the sovereign right to examine any containers going to the United States as part of the joint port Container Security Initiative (CSI) programme.

    In a CNN news broadcast a professor at UAE University, Abdel Khaleq Abdullah said that double standards were being applied along with a ‘bit of bigotry.’

    “If it was an African country or a European country or an Asian country, it would not have been subjected to this kind of scrutiny.”

    In the same CNN report the executive director of the Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey (which are affected by the takeover) called the matter scare tactics and said the business community had no problem with the deal going through. However in contrast the State of New Jersey yesterday filed a suit to halt the transaction on grounds of national security.


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