Ports & Ships Maritime News

Apr 7, 2006
Author: P&S



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TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

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  • Richards Bay celebrates 30 years as leading bulk port

  • Mombasa faces congestion from uncleared containers

  • Walvis Bay Corridor opens office in Zambia

  • Panama Canal to be widened

  • MPDC promises to pay outstanding amount




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    Richards Bay celebrates 30 years as top bulk port

    If only Henry Cloete had the blessing of hindsight, he would never have written in his official government report that the estuary at the mouth of the Mhlatuze River had failed to impress him and would never amount to anything of importance.

    Cloete, a practicing barrister from the Cape, was appointed in 1843 to be Her Majesty’s Commissioner for what was then the new colony of Natal and included in his duties was an inspection of Zululand. This included examining Lake St Lucia and the Mhlatuze River mouth as possible future harbours.

    Cloete certainly had his reasons but they were fortunately not shared by others, and over the next century a number of other surveys were held along the Zululand coast, looking for that elusive place along an otherwise inhospitable coast that could become a safe harbour.

    But harbours in the present era are no longer built for the purpose of ‘opening up a country’ but require sound economic reasons as their justification. When in 1972 the South African government announced its decision in parliament to build a new port in the Mhlatuze estuary, by then known as Richards Bay despite being little more than a sleepy holiday and fishing village, the port was intended specifically for the export of coal to Japan.

    A dedicated heavy-haul railway line would also be built to transport coal from the mines in Northern Natal and the then Eastern Transvaal to the new port.

    On 1 April 1976, thirty years ago this month, the new port was officially opened with the arrival in the deepwater harbour of the Safmarine mailship SA Vaal bearing prime minister John Vorster and his accompanying dignitaries, and preceded in ceremonial fashion by the South African Navy frigate SAS President Kruger.

    A new port had been born, until then an all too rare event in South Africa although it would soon be repeated with the development of Saldanha Bay for the export of iron ore.

    Richards Bay as a bulk port was quickly to exceed all expectations. Within three years it was handling almost 7 million tonnes of cargo, making use of five berths with a combined quay length of 1500 metres. By the end of the century there were 20 berths and 80 million tonnes of cargo was being moved annually. In the fiscal year 2005/06 ended 31 March this had increased to a record 89 million tonnes of all cargo, of which 95% was for export.

    Today the port, built on the estuary which would ‘never amount to anything’, handles more than 1700 ships annually with a gross tonnage of 58 million tonnes. In addition to coal the port handles a wide range of other export minerals as well as the import and export of breakbulk cargo, and the surrounding town has developed into a modern thriving industrial centre.

    On the horizon for the port lies a R2 billion dry dock and ship repair facility, scheduled to commence in 2008, and beyond that is the development of a container terminal that logic says will take Richards Bay to new heights. Richards Bay as a port has truly made its place in the sun of southern Africa.


    Mombasa faces congestion from uncleared containers

    The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has appealed to importers to assist with the clearance of cargo from a congested Mombasa Container Terminal.

    According to a report in yesterday’s The Nation, KPA’s public relations officer Haji Masemo is appealing to importers to lodge their relevant import documents timeously. He said that only 1344 from a total of 12,000 containers had been documented and that the number of boxes at the port was almost double the terminal’s design capacity of 6,500 TEU.

    He indicated that the port had avoided reaching congestion status only because the KPA had recently converted several general cargo areas for container handling thus increasing the stacking area.

    Masemo said that KPA planned to convert more general cargo berthing areas for container handling, which would bring the number of container berths from three to seven. Berths 11 to 14 were among the berths earmarked for this project and there would also be improvements to the road and rail network within the port.

    Once the project was complete Mombasa would have a design capacity to handle 720,000 TEU annually, he said.

    - source The Nation (Nairobi)

    Walvis Bay Corridor opens office in Zambia

    As part of its continued expansion drive, the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) has opened an office in Lusaka, Zambia to promote and market the north-western corridor as an alternate to ports on the South African east coast.

    The Trans Caprivi corridor became a reality about a year ago with the opening of a bridge across the Zambezi River linking Namibia with Zambia in the extreme eastern tip of the Caprivi Strip. According to the promoters, Walvis Bay offers a viable alternative for freight intended for North and South America and for Europe, when compared with ports such as Durban or Maputo on the east coast. Up to four or more days sailing time can be avoided, say the promoters.

    To facilitate the corridor, the customs office previously at Livingstone has been relocated to Katima Mulilo. WBCG hopes to also introduce the Single Administration Document for the Trans Caprivi Corridor similar to that introduced successfully on the Trans Kalahari Corridor connecting Walvis Bay with Gauteng in South Africa via Botswana.


    Panama Canal to be widened

    According to the BBC the Panama Canal is to undergo extensive widening at a cost of USD 7.5 billion in order to accommodate the increased number of post-panamax ships now entering service.

    The canal currently handles about 5 percent of the world’s sea trade and to accommodate the larger ships plus the increasing trade with China the canal authority will have to build two new three-chamber locks at either end of the canal. The result of this will be to create a ‘third lane’ for ships of a wider beam than the current 32.2m (100ft).

    The report said new approach channels would also be required – the project is anticipated to take seven years to complete and will create employment for up to 8,000 workers.

    According to Jorge Quijano, director of maritime operations for the Panama Canal Authority, which has operated the canal since the US withdrew in 1999, "As soon as China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001 the final flag went up for us to do something."

    Approval by President Torrijos' Cabinet and by the National Assembly is expected to be a formality. The cost of construction will be partly covered by increases in canal fees and the remainder by borrowings.


    MPDC promises to pay outstanding amount

    In a report in yesterday’s edition of Mozambique’s weekly newspaper Zambeze the Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC) is reported to have agreed to pay the outstanding amount of USD 10 million owed to CFM, the Mozambique port and railway company, within the next three months (see our report Mozambique transport parastatal expresses unhappiness with port operators in the news bulletin dated 4 April).


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