Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jun 12, 2006
Author: P&S

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TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

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  • Ramos second term is welcome news


  • Hopeful signs that security strike may end today


  • UK and EU step up with patrol craft


  • Namport makes its mark with ship repair


  • Madagascar faces uneasy runup to December elections






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    Ramos second term is welcome news

    The announcement that Maria Ramos’ contract with Transnet as the group’s chief executive has been renewed for a further two years from October 2006 has been welcomed.

    Transnet chairman Fred Phaswana recently announced that Maria Ramos had agreed to renew her contract as chief executive officer of Transnet for a further two years once the current contract ends in October 2006.

    “This means that she will continue in her role as chief executive until October 2008,” said Phaswana.

    He said that Ramos had taken over the helm of the group at a particularly difficult time in its history, when the very survival of Transnet was in doubt and needed a committed leader of her calibre.

    “Over the past two years, she has assembled and led a team of consummate executives to assist her in the task of stabilising this public asset and putting it on a new growth path. Her contribution is evident in the group’s financial and non-financial results during her stint in the organisation, and in the increasingly positive customer feedback which we are receiving.

    “Let me take this opportunity to congratulate her and thank her for accepting the challenge of transforming Transnet into an efficient freight transport company that delivers a reliable service to all its customers.”

    Phaswana said that her acceptance of the challenge gave Transnet the opportunity to consolidate the progress it has made under her stewardship in the last two years.

    He assured her of his personal and the Transnet Board’s continued support in her efforts to transform Transnet into a world-class institution “that we can all be proud of.”

    A spokesman for one of the country’s largest port users said he welcomed the news because, in his words, “it provides continuity in senior management that has long been absent from both Transnet and its associate companies – in particular the people running the ports and those in charge at Spoornet. Hopefully that stability will now become a factor at those companies as well.”


    Hopeful signs that security strike may end today

    There is mounting confidence that more than two months of striking among South African security guards will come to an end this week, possibly as early as today.

    This follows an announcement on Friday from the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) that a compromise offer had been made and favourably received at negotiations last week.

    “SATAWU is hopeful that a resolution may be on the horizon but at this point is unwilling to disclose the full contents of the offer before all members know about it and make recommendations on it,” said Satawu’s Ronnie Mamba.

    The strike among security guards led to a number of deaths and violence on several occasions. Violent action during several street marches eroded any sympathy towards the security guards, who rank among the lowest paid jobs in the country.

    According to weekend reports the union’s negotiators have accepted an offer of
    lower than the 11 percent the members had held out for, but above the 8 percent offered by employers. If this is so then a bemused public may be left to wonder what it was really all about and whether this compromise, assuming it is accepted, couldn’t have been reached long before people had to die. Neither side will come out of this with any glory or much respect.


    UK and EU step up with patrol boats

    According to the US Maritime Security Council, Yemen took delivery recently of five UK patrol boats, supplied in terms of a Yemen-British bilateral co-operation agreement.

    The boats, which were not described or identified are to be used for counter-terrorism purposes by the Yemeni Coastguard but are also likely to be used in dealing with mounting numbers of refugees landing on Yemeni soil by illegal means.

    The agreement between the UK and Yemen includes training and necessary hardware to go with the vessels.

    Meanwhile on the other side of Africa it is reported that nine EU nations will provide aircraft and patrol craft to assist Spain in its efforts at stemming the tide of African migrants coming ashore on the Canary Islands and seeking passage to Europe.

    The migrants arrive by boat and have flooded ashore – last year alone more than 7,500 arrived on the Canary Islands using this as a stepping stone to Europe, and the numbers have been increasing so far in 2006.

    Spain says that to stem the tide it will need five additional patrol ships, five helicopters plus a surveillance aircraft.


    Namport makes its mark with ship repair

    The Namibian port of Walvis Bay, which recently took possession of its first floating dock, is currently undertaking the repair and maintenance of its first oil rig, Transocean’s Sedneth 701.

    According to a spokesman at Elgin Brown & Hamer in Durban, the co-operation from Namport has been excellent and an example of how a port should go about attracting business. He said that when the contract to repair the oil rig was first discussed, Namport agreed without hesitation to dredge the channel for the safe passage of the rig into port.

    If Namport markets itself in the ship repair arena as successfully as it has with attracting general business to the port then South African ports, who for too long have regarded themselves as having the monopoly in the region, may have to sit up and take urgent notice.


    Madagascar faces uneasy runup to December elections

    Johannesburg, 9 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - Tension is rising in Madagascar ahead of elections scheduled for December, after talks between the government and opposition fizzled out.

    In a bid to ease the political situation, President Marc Ravalomanana held talks with various parties last month, but the overture was boycotted by the main opposition coalition, 3FN, which includes toppled former president Didier Ratsiraka's AREMA party.

    Stephen Ellis, a researcher at the African Studies Centre in Leiden in the Netherlands, and former director of the Africa programme at the International Crisis Group, told IRIN: "You can expect argument to sharpen in the runup to the election," particularly because "the last election in 2001 was extremely controversial".

    Both Ravalomanana and incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka claimed victory in 2001, and Ratsiraka supporters tried to blockade the capital, Antananarivo, which was pro-Ravalomanana. After a recount in April 2002, the High Constitutional Court pronounced Ravalomanana president but it was not until July that Ratsiraka fled and Ravalomanana gained control of the country.

    "It [the contested 2001 election] actually led to a low-intensity civil war," Ellis said.

    Although few believe a repeat of 2002 is likely, there have been protests over worsening standards of living, despite a government drive to erase poverty.

    "Ravalomanana does face a threat arising from his own policies. These are seen to have increased the cost of rice as well as petroleum (and the resultant electricity cuts), which have brought significant resentment, even in Ravalomanana's Antananarivo base," said the last risk assessment conducted by FAST, an early warning programme funded by an international consortium of development agencies.

    Richard Marcus, Assistant Professor of Political Science at The University of Alabama who is finalising an update of the FAST risk assessment, said low salaries in the civil service were also causing dissatisfaction. Civil servants were given a 12 percent rise but that barely keeps up with rising prices.

    According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) inflation in Madagascar reached 30 percent in 2005. "Ravalomanana has become more tarnished over recent years - he is facing more problems, mainly of his own making."

    The military was also disgruntled, Marcus said, although there was no real threat of a coup. "Pay has been low and irregular, and the military believes they deserve more after supporting him [Ravalomanana] in 2002."

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the government and opposition to enter into dialogue ahead of the elections during his visit to Madagascar last month.

    Ravalomanana's "absolutely non-negotiable" attitude towards the issues considered important by the opposition would make it difficult for the parties to come together, said Marcus. "His unwillingness to do that makes it impossible to build relationships." Opposition demands range from amnesty for crimes committed in 2002 to the drafting of a new constitution.

    Since Ravalomanana secured office in 2002, "by common consent the economy has revived and he has gained considerable international support", Ellis noted. And with that support came significant economic pledges. According to the FAST risk assessment, Madagascar has seen massive aid inflows and substantial debt relief since 2002.

    As a result of Ravalomanana's economic reforms, "more money is coming into the country but distribution is still a problem - those in elite positions benefit the most", Marcus commented. "It will take time to trickle down" to the poor.

    "Ravalomanana has become a favourite of the Americans - he is a born-again Christian, encourages economic liberalisation and is a businessman," Ellis said.

    But his business interests have also become cause for concern. In a 'rags to riches' climb, Ravalomanana started out by selling homemade yoghurt from the back of his bicycle on the streets of the capital and now owns the largest domestically owned company on the island. Opponents argue that there is a clear conflict of interest between his personal corporate activities and his role as president.

    "He comes from humble origins and one of the problems now is that he is starting to own just about everything - he personally dominates the economy," Ellis said.

    Marcus pointed out that "there is a perception that [Ravalomanana's businesses] are benefiting from his presidency", winning lucrative government contracts ahead of competitors, and people were starting to say, "if he is getting richer why aren't we? What about us?"

    "The close relationship between Ravalomanana's public and private responsibilities, as evidenced in ... [the] preferential treatment of his own Tiko and Magro company, has long drawn the ire of his detractors," the FAST risk assessment noted. Madagascan Broadcasting Systems, a Tiko subsidiary directed by the president's daughter, has been accused of "acting with a heavy hand to quell opposition press".

    Marcus warned that "opposition leaders will try to call people to the streets during the elections, but this won't really happen if elections run smoothly and transparently".

    As vice-president of the Protestant Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar, a powerful actor in Madagascar's civil society, Ravalomanana has secured further vital support. "He has managed to command economic, political, media and civil society - it will be hard for the opposition to unseat a president like that," Marcus commented.

    (This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations)

    Source - http://www.IRINnews.org


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