Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jun 8, 2006
Author: P&S

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TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

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  • Legal setback for Sheltam over East African railway

  • China Shipping to opt for Mombasa

  • Russian sailing ship Kruzenshtern due at Cape Town

  • Africa lines up for cheaper telecommunications system

  • Norwegian Crown cruise ship goes aground

  • FEATURE : Investment boost for African growth





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    Legal setback for Sheltam over East African railway

    Two former minority shareholders in the Rift Valley Railway consortium that successfully bid for the concession to operate Kenya Railways and Uganda Railways last year have sought a court order to have themselves reinstated after a dispute over alleged non-performance.

    Mirambo Holdings and Primefuels Group withdrew from the consortium after a dispute with the contract, leaving South African-based Sheltam Rail in virtual control of the 25-year concession to operate the combined railways of the two East African countries. Mirambo and Primefuels originally held a 25 percent stake in the consortium, with Sheltam having 61 percent, Comazar Ltd (in which Sheltam has an interest) holds 10 percent and the Africa Development Trust of South Africa 4 percent.

    In February Mirambo and Primefuels appealed the matter in the Kampala Commercial Court, at the conclusion of which the judge ordered Sheltam’s CEO Roy Puffet to transfer 25 percent of the shares to the custody of the court, pending a final ruling. The value to be transferred amounts to US$ 70m and the Registrar of the High Court Commercial Court of Uganda has now been declared to be the independent third party in the matter.

    The two East African companies accuse Sheltam of ‘secretly and stealthily’ ejecting them from the deal and the matter has been scheduled for a hearing in the London Court of International Arbitration for mid-September. Meanwhile in terms of this week’s order the Kampala Commercial Court is to take custody of the money involved in the dispute.

    The two former minority shareholders are also seeking a declaration that the incorporation of the Rift Valley Railway is null and void on the grounds that it was formed fraudulently and that there has been a breech of contract in the consortium agreement. They nevertheless seek a reinstatement of their partnerships in the company.

    Sheltam Rail is a joint venture involving Durban-based Grindrod Group and Port Elizabeth-based Sheltham.


    China Shipping to opt for Mombasa

    East African reports indicate that China Shipping Lines, owner of the container major China Shipping Container Line (CSCL), will shortly introduce a direct service linking China and the Far East with East Africa, probably within the next six weeks.

    The East Africa newspaper reported yesterday that Kilindini port in Mombasa has been identified as the probable base for CSCL activities in East Africa. The newspaper said that confirmation of the move had been received from China Shipping Agency MD Capt Kong Bin during a tour of Kenya’s inland container depot.

    According to Capt Bin China Shipping was keen on improving the growing trade between China and East Africa and had identified Mombasa as the most suited base from which to operate, given the port’s adequate facilities and extensive hinterland.

    He also pointed out the extensive number of shipping routes operated by China Shipping, which he said would be advantageous for East Africans. The company operates with a fleet of 160 container ships out of a total of 450 vessels.

    CSCL also maintains a strong and growing presence in South Africa with regular calls on its Far East – East Coast South America service via South Africa. The company is reported to be interested in negotiating a direct call at Maputo for its Far East service.

    - source The East African (Nairobi) http://www.nationmedia.com/eastafrican/current


    Russian sailing ship Kruzenshtern due at Cape Town

    The 4-masted Russian sailing barque Kruzenshtern is due to arrive off the port of Cape Town on Saturday, 19 June for a short visit.


    The Russian sailing barque Kruzenshtern which is due to arrive in Cape Town this weekend for a short visit. The vessel is currently completing a round the world cruise. Picture courtesy of Kruzenshtern website

    The 70-year old vessel, which is reputed to be the second largest sailing ship afloat, is on a training cruise around the world and will arrive after a crossing of the Indian Ocean. On departure her next port of call is Las Palmas en route back home to Russia.

    The vessel last called in South African in June 1996 when she made visits to Durban and Cape Town.

    While in Cape Town the agent caring for the ship is ZA Trans Logistics.


    The route of the 2005/06 Round the World Cruise being undertaken by the sailing barque Kruzenshtern


    Africa lines up for cheaper telecommunications system

    By Edwin Tshivhidzo - BuaNews

    Johannesburg - Africa could soon have a cheaper telecommunications system, which would also enable the continent to communicate or link with European countries at a lesser cost.

    This comes after the signing of a Declaration of Intent by the African Information and Communications Technology (ICT) ministers at the end of a two-day Ministerial meeting in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

    About 20 ministers from various African countries attended the meeting.

    In an attempt to bridge the digital divide, the ministers approved and adopted NEPAD's Broadband ICT network, including the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy).

    Nepad identified EASSy as a priority project for the enhancement of ICT infrastructure in the region.

    The ministers agreed to speed up the construction of EASSy, which is to provide a digital link between the east of the continent to the rest of the world.

    The construction process is expected to cost about 300 million US dollars. If all goes well, construction could start during the fourth quarter of this year and is expected to be completed by 2008.

    The cable project will ensure that all African countries are connected to one another through the broadband fibre optic cable systems. These systems would in turn link Africa to the rest of the world through existing or planned sub-marine cable systems.

    Once in place, the link would cover about 9,900km, connecting the port city of Durban to Port Sudan.

    Briefing the media at the end of the meeting, Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri said the meeting had demonstrated that Africans could achieve a lot by working together.

    "Particularly, we want to make sure that an improvement is made in addressing poverty in our continent."

    Responding to questions as to where funding for the project would come from, Minister Matsepe-Casaburri said there were many private sector companies willing to fund the project.

    Executive Deputy Chairperson of Nepad e-Africa Commission, Henry Chasia told BuaNews that once the project was completed, people on the continent would spend less on communication.

    "We will need more partners in the private sector to assist with funding and that will ensure that people enjoy cheaper prices on communications," said Dr Chasia.

    "Tariffs will constantly be regulated to keep costs low," he said.


    Norwegian Crown cruise ship goes aground

    The cruise ship Norwegian Crown of NCL went aground on a sandbank in the Dundonald Channel at Bermuda early yesterday morning(Wednesday).

    Initial indications were that the ship had not suffered severe damage and was not taking water. Passengers were however being ferried ashore to Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda, in the midst of heavy rain falling across the island.

    There were also no reports of pollution from the ship and officials said they were hopeful of pulling the 34,000-gt vessel clear at the next high tide. Three harbour tugs are on duty to assist the cruise ship. The spectacle of the cruise ship aground has created a sudden new attraction for tourists and locals alike who are crowding all vantage points and causing traffic congestion.

    Norwegian Crown is the former Crown Odyssey of Orient Lines which made a cruise to South Africa a few years back. She was again in the news recently with the report that the ship has been sold to Fred Olsen Lines and will be leaving NCL service in 2007.

    See our News Report dated 29 May 2006.


    FEATURE : Investment boost for African growth


    Cape Town - Investment in Africa stands to benefit from the optimism of over 700 senior business and government leaders attending this year's World Economic Forum on Africa that was harnessed to launch a high-level public-private partnership to boost economic growth on the continent, writes Shaun Benton (BuaNews).

    Day two of the World Economic Forum - whose theme this year was "Going for growth" - saw the launch of the Investment Climate Facility (ICF), a public-private partnership aimed at boosting investment in Africa as it tackles barriers to doing business on the continent.

    The ICF received the full backing of the continent's premier gathering of business and political leaders and kicked off with over USD 80 million in funding, out of a target of USD 550 million.

    It received financial backing from a number of companies and governments, including the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank, which made a USD 30 million grant toward the ICF and which will also contribute expertise to the investment facility.

    The British government is another key contributor, investing USD 30 million in the facility and Netherlands will contribute 15 million euros over three years.

    The European Commission and Ireland will also make contributions.

    Elements of the private sector weighed in as well, with multinationals Shell, Unilever, Anglo American and SAB Miller making contributions.

    According to Reuters chairperson Niall Fitzgerald, who is a co-chair of the ICF along with former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, the facility "is a unique fund, highly accountable and focused, with a clear mandate to make a difference".

    And with the support of NEPAD (the New Partnership for Africa's Development), the African Union, British prime minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa, the G8 leading industrialised countries which committed themselves to aid and debt relief for Africa last year and the multilateral organisation Business Action for Africa, the investment facility has powerful backing.

    Mr Mkapa, Tanzanian president from 1995 to 2005, said: "Africa must achieve a sustained annual growth rate of seven per cent if it is to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people living on less than one dollar (US) a day by 2015."

    "Improving the investment climate is a central catalyst in fulfilling this objective," he added.

    Real and perceived obstacles to investment are to be tackled by the ICF over the next seven years - it is set to dissolve in 2012.

    The facility has been billed as a proactive change agent that will track performance against the key indicators of reform achieved and new economic activity generated.

    Success, however, will be measured solely against the extent of new economic activity - observable increases in productive investment, company start-ups, jobs created, increased levels of trade and production and, above all, increased economic growth.

    But before that a number of obstacles have to be confronted and the ICF will be using its muscle to speed up regulatory and other reforms that impact on investment inflows.

    Eight priority areas have been identified for action: property rights, taxation and customs, infrastructure facilitation, increased competition, business registration and reducing red tape, financial markets, labour markets and corruption and crime.

    According to Britain's Secretary for International Development, Hilary Benn, "it currently costs about the same to clear a container through Dakar port without moving it at all, as it does to ship the container from Dakar to the UK".

    "And it takes on average 18 signatures to clear goods for export in Africa, compared with an average of three in European countries. These are the sort of real obstacles that companies face in doing business in Africa."

    Also included among identified obstacles are perceptions.

    For Firmino Mucavele, the new chief executive of the NEPAD secretariat, perceptions among many in the global business community that Africa is now a better place to do business will go a long way to increasing investment on the continent, and thus growth.

    At a press conference, the Mozambican NEPAD chief said that countries bordering Zimbabwe, particularly Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia, would "benefit from improvements in Zimbabwe".

    For neighbouring Botswana, though, it is another year of unprecedented economic growth. The country's Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Baledzi Gaolathe, said Botswana was one of the world's 25 poorest countries at independence in 1966. It has now had eight per cent economic growth for several years.

    Mr Gaolathe said the growth was not simply because of natural resources - it was how these resources were used to improve the country's physical and social infrastructure.

    And at a closing press conference reporters were reminded of how Nigeria's overall economic growth did not match the growth in its oil production, which remained stable or even declined while gross domestic product grew.

    Charles Soludo, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said countries that prospered were those that had learned to do a few things right and which then had progressively added to these.

    Nigeria's liberalisation of its legal and institutional framework had boosted growth, he said, as had changes to mining laws in Tanzania.

    Overall, Africa's economic outlook is the best it has been in 30 years, with economic growth averaging 5.5 percent to 5.8 percent across the continent.

    "The story that we should be telling the world about the continent is indeed a story of great success," said President Thabo Mbeki, while President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique believed that one of the reasons behind Africa's improved economic performance "has to do with the political factor - Africa is, with some exceptions, at peace".

    At the closing panel discussion, President Mbeki outlined a number of areas of improvement, including, greater cohesion among the private sector on the continent, which had yet to match the cohesion achieved by governments through instruments like NEPAD.

    Interaction across borders by and between African businesses need to be scaled up, he said, as does regional cooperation in resource development that could include, for example, using a teaching hospital in a neighbouring country rather than building from scratch, and then utilising elsewhere the resources that would have been needed to build it.

    Strengthening regional economic communities were also key to Africa's economic development, said the president, while, politically, the African Peer Review Mechanism needed to work better and faster.

    The continent's capacity to intervene quickly to prevent conflicts also needs to be improved, while solutions can be found further afield by seeing less resistance from certain countries to a successful outcome in World Trade Organisation negotiations that would see African countries gaining easier access to markets.

    In other developments, the NEPAD e-schools initiative received a boost to its plans to reach 600,000 African schools over the next 10 years.

    A demonstration model is so far operating in 20 countries each with six schools in the programme, and two companies involved in each country.

    President Mbeki cited in the closing plenary how information and communications technology could be used in Africa to leapfrog development, by, for example, a rural clinic overcoming the logistical difficulties of remoteness and poor infrastructure to source advice electronically from an urban teaching hospital.

    Health received a particular focus, as the World Economic Forum's Global Health Initiative brought together a range of stakeholders to identify how business could partner with the public sector to improve healthcare systems in Africa.

    The Global Health Initiative identified a number of specific areas where businesses could use skills and resources in partnership with the public sector to quickly affect change, and went on to lobby participants to get involved in public-private partnerships.

    Overall, the message that emerged from this year's World Economic Forum on Africa was one of success and some celebration as Africa enters a new era of sustained economic growth with global support.

    As Peter Torreele, the managing director of the World Economic Forum, which has been engaged in Africa since 1991, put it, "The glass is more than half full".


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