Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 9, 2007
Author: P&S




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TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

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  • Time for the facts about coal exports

  • Stronger links forged between Grain SA and Dept of Agriculture

  • BEE partnership ensures boat builder’s expansion

  • COASTWATCH: Piracy strikes and US steps in to assist

  • Sierra Leone clamps down on timber and granite exports

  • Pic of the day – TITUS




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    Time for the facts about coal exports

    Spoornet intends disclosing how it will meet demand on the export ore lines and other rail corridors at a meeting in Richards Bay later today (Wednesday).

    The meeting is expected to hear a reiteration of Transnet/Spoornet plans to improve efficiency levels and regain some of the traffic lost to road hauliers. Among the plans is a massive capital expenditure programme that will result in new locomotives and other rolling stock and hopefully improved maintenance of the railway network.

    Rail’s share of export and import traffic from the ports has steadily decreased with road benefiting – and while statistics reveal this, any casual observation of road traffic buildup around the ports advertises the reality in a painful manner.

    But as the rail company comes under attack for its part in restraining the export drive, question marks remain as to the will and intent of local producers to attain increased volumes in coal in particular.

    The Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT), which is undergoing an expansion ahead of plans to increase capacity from 72 to 91 million tonnes, frequently has empty berths alongside. Yesterday morning the terminal had a single ship at work, while across the water in Australia there are reports of up to 60 ships lining up outside the port of Newcastle, waiting for a berth.

    Clearly the low rate of coal exports is not only because of poor delivery by the rail system. Nor is it necessarily being replaced by road traffic on the long haul sections. There are obviously other reasons.

    In a report in the Business Report of 8 May Maria Ramos, Transnet chief executive claimed that Spoornet was redirecting trains from the coal line to other businesses because there is no product to rail. She pointed out that Transnet and its constituent companies receives no subsidies and has, as with any other business, to ‘rely on the strength of our balance sheet to fund our expansion’.

    Recently Spoornet’s Mac van der Merwe disclosed that Spoornet was unable to meet the proposed expansion of the terminal by the year 2009 not because of poor planning but because the rail company has not entered into any contracts with producers for the increased demand (see Ports & Ships News Bulletin 20 April 2007). It would increase the capacity when such contracts were signed, he said.

    Meanwhile Spoornet is committed to acquiring 374 new electric locomotives of which 110 are for the coal line, along with hundreds of new rail wagons. Another 212 locomotives are intended for the general freight lines and still others for the Sishen-Saldanha ore line. In addition hundreds of older locomotives are in the process of being refurbished.

    While these numbers are impressive, and are no doubt required if Spoornet is to come anywhere close to achieving the desired results, there is still no clarity over the intentions of the coal producers themselves regarding their export ambitions and whether the mines can actually produce the quantities being bandied about.



    Stronger links forged between Grain SA and Dept of Agriculture

    by Bongani Mlangeni, BuaNews

    Grain South Africa has committed itself to work together with government to address constraints in the grain industry.

    Chairman of Grain SA Neels Ferreira said on Monday that a new approach was needed to address problems in the grain industry.

    Such a new approach would entail getting all role players involved.

    "It is in keeping with this approach that Grain SA wishes to establish a stronger partnership with the Department of Agriculture, to address constraints in the grain industry", said Mr Ferreira.

    This follows a meeting between Grain SA and senior management of the Department of Agriculture at Nampo Park near Bothaville last Friday (4 May 2007).

    The department's Director General, Masiphula Mbongwa, said there was a need to improve working relationships and communications with stakeholders.

    "It is specifically with regard to the revision of legislation, such as Act 36 of 1947 and the development of new policy on agricultural trade and tariffs that Grain SA can assist in developing legislation that is in line with changed circumstances," he said.

    General Manager of Grain SA, John Purchase said a number of major constraints hampering growth in the grain industry have been identified.

    "Grain SA and the department will look into establishing a Memorandum of Understanding in order to bring greater urgency into effectively addressing the constraining problems," the statement said.

    The parties have also agreed to look at establishing and training emerging commercial grain producers and to explore ways of complementing each institution's substantial efforts.

    Later today (Wednesday), the department will meet with South African Agri-exporters as well as with the agribusiness Kaap Agri, as part of engaging stakeholders in the industry.



    BEE partnership ensures boat builder’s expansion

    Cape-based international boat builder Robertson & Caine (R&C), one of the top three cruising catamaran manufacturers, has reached agreement with an equity partner to ensure its expansion programme in Atlantis outside Cape Town.

    Plans to build a new boatyard at Atlantis which is pending a Western Cape government tender process received a fillip when Cape Town mayor Helen Zille pledged to cut through red tape to ensure the project goes ahead. Now it has secured the partnership of equity investor and black economic empowerment company Treacle Private Equity, which will take a 30 percent share in the business.

    Some 650 new boat-building jobs are expected to be created from the Atlantis venture, according to R&C.

    source – Cape Business News



    COASTWATCH: Piracy strikes and US steps in to assist

    Several instances of attacks on shipping around the African coast have been reported by the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre, based in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

    On Saturday (5 May) a British worker on board the Transocean oil rig TRIDENT-VIII was kidnapped and taken hostage by gunmen. This followed within days of an attack on another oil installation, the FPSO MYSTRAS which is operating at the Okono terminal off Port Harcourt. In that incident pirates ignored eight security officers on board the FPSO and seized five workers as hostages as they made their escape (see Ports & Ships News report dated 4 May 2007).

    Other attacks by militants have been reported for the Niger Delta region during the past week, including a Byelorussian woman married to a Nigerian. None of the other kidnappings involved ships or shipping.

    On Thursday 3 May armed Somali pirates attacked and boarded a general cargo ship which was underway 12 miles off Mogadishu. They managed to seize the ship, which has not been named, and have taken it to an anchorage at Hobyo on the Somali coast. The owners are thought to be negotiating with the pirates for the release of the ship and crew.

    In another incident dated 30 April pirates in a black-hulled boat tried to board a general cargo ship that was drifting some 27 miles east-northeast of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The ship’s alarm was sounded and the crew mustered resulting in the pirates abandoning the attack and making off towards another vessel nearby. There were no reports from the other vessel.

    The IMB asks that all pirate attacks be reported to the Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur at tel + 60 3 207 85763 and urges all shipping to maintain anti-piracy watches.

    Meanwhile the US will provide financial assistance to Kenya to maintain a guard on terrorist activity in its waters. Kenya borders with Somalia where the US has fears of a resurgence of terrorist activity.

    The assistance in the form of US $ 14 million is to be used in establishing maritime training facilities and to equip and crew four patrol boats at undisclosed bases. In recent years Kenya has been the target of several terrorist attacks and the US has maintained a strong influence with the East African country ever since.



    Sierra Leone clamps down on timber and granite exports

    The government of Sierra Leone has imposed a ban of the illegal exploitation and export of timber and granite from the West African country.

    In a statement issued late last week the office of the president said that government’s attention had been drawn to the illegal exploitation and export of timber, dimension stones and granite.

    “It is obvious that the deforestation in the Freetown peninsula is destroying the catchment areas, which could eventually lead to a severe shortage of water, whilst the uncontrolled removal of granite from the hills surrounding populated areas could expose settlements at the bottom of the hills to severe land slides in the future. As these activities are destructive to the environment and bring only minimal benefits to the state, Government has decided to stop the exploitation and export of these two commodities with immediate effect," the release stated.

    The statement also indicated that police and customs officers have been instructed to take action to prevent further activity.

    source – Concord Times



    Pic of the day – TITUS

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    The pure car carrier TITUS of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Line departs Durban one December afternoon in 2003. Picture Terry Hutson

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