Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 10, 2006
Author: P&S

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TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

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  • Calls to safeguard East London as a port

  • Plans to expand East London car terminal

  • Gale delays sailing of cruise ship Prinsendam

  • Coega blames media for high legal costs

  • No third time lucky for Grindrod

  • NAMIBIA: Walvis Bay harbour gives HIV an international passport

  • Picture of the day


    Ports & Ships now features a column called The Shipping World which will carry comment and analysis, as well as a collection of interesting facts, figures and explanations about shipping and transport in general and of the people who make it tick. In fact anything that influences the Shipping World. The topics will not be news as such, more the background to the news.
    The column can also be utilised to highlight companies that have made their mark in this industry, or who do things differently from the rest. Get in touch with us if you have an interesting story to tell or your company has a success to share. Contact us at info@ports.co.za





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    Calls to safeguard East London as a port

    Opinion

    There’s a story – its hard to vouch for its authenticity but it was told to me many years ago and has since been repeated by others on several occasions, which says that soon after World War II the East London city fathers turned their noses up at the opportunity of attracting industry because they preferred to maintain the city’s status as an attractive garden city. That was long before the advent of what we now call ‘greenies’ and even the word ‘environment’ was seldom used, but in any event industry, particularly in the form of American motor assembly plants, was enticed instead to Port Elizabeth.

    Over the ensuing years I’ve often wondered how different East London might have been had the offer of factories and assembly plants had been taken up all those years ago.

    Whether or not this little anecdote of East London’s past is true, in yesterday’s News Bulletin Ports & Ships reported on proposals aimed at enlarging East London’s car terminal, despite the port handling the smallest number of motor vehicles of all three ports – Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London.

    Now, according to a report in yesterday’s Daily Dispatch, ‘major players’ in the Eastern Cape say they intend taking steps to safeguard the future of the country’s only river port. The newspaper says that a high-profile task team has been appointed to take the matter up with government and lobby for a R5 Billion port expansion programme.

    The Dispatch quotes municipal manager Gaster Sharply as saying the port needs to accommodate larger ships and that the port is ‘critical’ to the city’s future. In that Mr Sharply is certainly correct – all South Africa’s coastal cities are highly reliant on their respective ports, and nowhere in this country can a port shrink or lose shipping activities without adversely affecting its immediate region.

    East London’s latest crop of city fathers and their advisors are also correct in being concerned over their port’s lack of progress. The sad fact is that East London port is stagnant and without the fluctuating activity of the car terminal, which is solely dependent on the DaimlerChrysler motor plant, the port might well have closed as a commercial working harbour several years ago.

    During the 1990s there were strong indications that Transnet and the then Portnet were seriously considering shutting down commercial operations at East London and it was only the timely deregulation of the motor industry and its subsequent drive into import and exports that reversed the port’s fortunes.

    But it’s also said that when DaimlerChrysler catches a cold all of East London reaches for the medicine chest, which, keeping to our metaphor is not a healthy condition for anyone to be in, let alone an entire city.

    During the last financial year the Port of East London handled a total of 399 ships and the total volume of cargo handled was a mere 1.82 million tonnes (including containers). That was less than half the cargo handled by Port Elizabeth and a tiny fraction of Durban’s cargo. Containers counted as TEUs amounted to 42,500 for the year while motor car units came to 55,480.

    Figures like this probably have some at Transnet wondering if they shouldn’t revisit the decision to keep open the port, although the parastatal also understands that socio economic responsibilities would make such a move impossible.

    East London’s R5 Bn wish list is shown as having the harbour deepened to allow 14m draught vessels, along with an upgrade of the container terminal with additional stacking area and handling equipment. In addition to the above, there are calls for the electrification of the railway between East London and Gauteng (much of the railway is already electrified leaving a small section south of the Free State border which is diesel-hauled).

    It is hard to imagine Transnet acceding to this wish list at present, a move that would be tantamount to placing the cart before the horse. Instead East London may be better served by focusing its energies on getting the stalled Industrial Development Zone going as a means of attracting some of those factories it turned away fifty or so years ago.


    Somalis explain freeing of captured ship

    Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts executive council , the de facto ruling ‘government’ on central and southern Somalia, has explained how its militia stormed UAE-owned ship Vishaam 1 and freed the master and crew who had been held by pirates off the Somali coast (see yesterday’s News Bulletin).

    Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, Somalia's Union of Islamic Courts leader, claimed there were political motives behind the pirates attack on the ship, which had been made to embarrass the Islamic Courts. He called it a political conspiracy but declined to name those who were behind the episode.

    He said that after a short but fierce firefight in which several of the eight pirates were injured, the militia took control of the ship and freed the crew. The ship was then taken to a location near Haradhere where the pirates have been taken into custody ashore to appear before an Islamic court.


    Gale delays sailing of cruise ship Prinsendam

    Ian Shiffman reports that the cruise ship Prinsendam, which arrived in Cape Town harbour on 7 November, had its departure delayed yesterday by strong gale force winds.

    The ship was scheduled to move across from its V&A Waterfront berth at 02.00 yesterday morning (Thursday) to a bunker berth in Duncan Dock, ahead of the ship’s departure for Walvis Bay. Strong winds delayed this move until 06.00 when the ship berthed at the eastern Mole alongside the crane barge DB101 (see Picture of the Day) – with the intention being to shift the barge from its berth to Table Bay anchorage at 09.00.

    As a result of these delays the Prinsendam’s departure for Walvis Bay was postponed until 18.00 yesterday, assuming that the wind had died down sufficiently for a safe departure.

    From Walvis Bay the ship will be heading for Fort Lauderdale in the USA.


    Coega blames media for high legal costs

    Bad publicity caused by a biased and unfair media resulted in the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) having to spend close to R1 million on legal costs to defend its good name before the Pillay Commission.

    That’s according to Pepi Silinga, chief executive of the DCD in response to questions posed at an Eastern Cape Government Oversight Committee this week.

    Silinga said that Coega’s image had taken a beating from the media during the commission’s hearings which probed the finances of the Eastern Cape Province, including the CDC, which has been largely financed by the local government.

    He blamed in particular the SABC and said that too much publicity was given to statements made to the commission against the CDC but very little about the CDC’s response when it had its turn. This left a very one-sided impression of events, so much so that he had to fly overseas to explain to would-be foreign investors who were becoming concerned by the reports.

    It was reported in various media including Ports & Ships that the CDC had written off large amounts of a R800 million grant.


    No third time lucky for Grindrod

    It hasn’t proved to be three times lucky for Durban-based shipping and logistics group Grindrod, which this week was adjudged 2nd best in the list of Top 100 companies in South Africa at the annual Business Times Top 100 awards.

    Grindrod took the title two years running in 2004/05 and 2005/06 but has to settle for second best behind Mittal Steel South Africa this time round – the steel manufacturer becoming the 2006 Top 100 Companies Award winner.

    The awards reward companies that have over a period of years achieved significant and sustainable growth and have contributed the most return to their shareholders.

    Mittal Steel SA earned its shareholders the princely sum of R244,871 for their initial investment.


    NAMIBIA: Walvis Bay harbour gives HIV an international passport

    Walvis Bay, 9 Nov 2006 (IRIN) - When fishermen arrive in the port city of Walvis Bay in Namibia, flush with money after months at sea, they don't have to go far to spend it. The small town's harbour area is littered with discos and nightclubs catering to the foreign trawler men who sustain the entertainment and commercial sex industries.

    Strategically located halfway down the coast of Namibia, with direct access to principal shipping routes, the deep-sea port of Walvis Bay is dominated by the fishing industry. Commercial fishing and fish processing is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the Namibian economy.

    The Trans-Caprivi and Trans-Kalahari highways also link Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe - countries with HIV infection rates that are among the world's highest - to Walvis Bay, which has an estimated HIV prevalence rate of between 25 and 30 percent, making fishermen and truck drivers particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

    October is a quiet month in Walvis Bay: the government has declared it a 'no fishing' month - or 'downtime' as the locals call it - so that fish stocks can recover. Fewer vessels arrive in the harbour, and trucks do not pull up to the gates as frequently.

    The Manica Group of companies, with its headquarters in Walvis Bay, takes advantage of the lull in business to conduct AIDS education among its local workers. The Walvis Bay Multi-Purpose Centre (MPC), a local community-based NGO, is often invited to discuss HIV testing. Bernhard Kamatoto, who is HIV-positive and the MPC's community mobiliser, spoke to a group of over 20 men about living positively with the virus.

    Kamatoto received a lukewarm response, with most of the men only interested in the free condoms and the attractive female counsellor from the Multi-Purpose Centre. It was lunchtime in the deserted harbour, and the workers had just finished unloading cargo from a large vessel, so an hour-long discussion on HIV/AIDS was not uppermost in their minds.

    Manica employee Erastus (last name withheld) told IRIN/PlusNews that although this was his first AIDS awareness meeting, he didn't need the information - it was the "sea-farers with all the money" who should be receiving these messages.

    THE RED-LIGHT DISTRICT


    Foreign fishermen are not always properly informed about HIV/AIDS. Image Kanya Ndaki/IRIN

    Just outside the harbour gates, the Mission to Seafarers building offers recreational facilities to up to 200 foreign fishermen a day. According to a staff member who asked not to be named, the mission hands out condoms "like sweeties", but because they usually came from countries with low prevalence, foreign fishermen were not properly informed about HIV/AIDS and not always receptive to practising safer sex.

    According to a report by Namibia's Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) on the dynamics of HIV risk behaviour in Walvis Bay, trawler men were the bridge linking high- and low-risk regions of the world, potentially connecting Chinese housewives with commercial sex workers and her clients in Walvis Bay.

    Having received no HIV/AIDS education prior to their arrival or during their stay in Namibia, most of these fishermen have low levels of HIV/AIDS knowledge, and local AIDS educators are unlikely to use their limited funds on foreign nationals or obtain permission to board international ships, the report said.

    When the mission closes its doors in the evenings, the next stop for seafarers, who have spent months prohibited from drinking alcohol and with little to do, is the 'red-light district', a strip of clubs and 'back rooms' lining a street just a short walk from the harbour.

    Club Lokolos, one of the more popular hangouts, is busy despite the fishing 'downtime'. As the dance floor slowly fills and the music gets louder, a group of Chinese men at a table in a quiet room in the club watch a young sex worker dancing suggestively with a Ukrainian trawler man. None of the men speak English, but according to a group of commercial sex-workers who are regulars at the club, language is not really a barrier and hand gestures provide enough communication. Negotiating condom use, however, was difficult, and they admitted it was easier to agree to not use condoms.

    "The foreign fishermen simply tell them that HIV/AIDS is not a problem for them because they don't have HIV in their country," said Lisias Kashati, coordinator of the Social Marketing Association's Corridor of Hope project in the Erongo Region, one of Namibia's 13 administrative districts and where Walvis Bay is located.

    Kashati told IRIN/PlusNews that as part of the Corridors of Hope project, which targets sex workers and truck drivers, he conducts regular workshops and has struck up a good relationship with many of the women. Sex workers were generally better informed about the pandemic, he said, as they were not as mobile and could be reached by prevention efforts, but they were still vulnerable to violence, and alcohol and drug abuse.

    LOCAL FISHERMEN ALSO AT RISK

    Although local fishermen have had much greater exposure to HIV education and awareness campaigns, they were still at risk, as the interventions were irregular and often inadequate, Kashati pointed out.

    Distrust of vessel owners and management also caused Namibian trawler men to be wary of such initiatives, the IPPR report said. Local fishermen often have negative attitudes toward safe sex, despite being well informed about HIV/AIDS. Some are of the opinion that paid sex is unprotected sex, the report commented.

    High levels of alcohol abuse in local communities, and their risky lifestyles, have contributed to high HIV prevalence rates among local fishermen, who are usually permanent residents of Walvis Bay. They tend to spend more time onshore than foreign fishermen, and prefer to visit some of the 400 shebeens (unlicensed bars) estimated to be operating in the local township of Kuisebmund.

    MPC conducts regular shebeen outreach campaigns in the township. Doris, the Zimbabwean owner of the 'Why Not Pa-Centre Bar', had invited the NGO's Bernhard Kamatoto and another colleague to give a short talk on HIV/AIDS prevention but a banner advertising VCT services outside the pub was deterring many regulars.

    Her clientele is mixed: locals, Angolans seeking work, truck drivers and the "big spenders" - local fishermen. "I like these guys [fishermen] because they don't have to wait for end of the month to spend money. As soon as the ship comes in, they are here at my place," she told IRIN/PlusNews.

    Besides a few young girls and a group of boys playing pool, very few customers were coming in. "They don't want to hear about condoms when they are drinking," Doris said, shrugging her shoulders.

    "I always advise everybody who comes in here to use condoms but, in a poor place like this, if a girl can find someone who will take care of her and he doesn't want to use a condom, what can you do?"

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


    Picture of the day
    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice


    The cruise ship Prinsendam berthed in front of the crane barge DB101 in Cape Town yesterday morning. Picture Ian Shiffman



    Did you know that 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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