Ports & Ships Maritime News

Aug 24, 2007
Author: P&S








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TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

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  • Durban trade port gets green light

  • Somali pirates free Danish ship and crew as another vessel goes missing

  • Good times for Saldanha’s oil tank farm

  • SA – Mozambique border post stays open longer

  • Second significant oil strike for Ghana

  • Pic of the day – XU CHANG HAI




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    Durban trade port gets green light

    by Themba Gadebe (BuaNews)

    The development of a trade port at La Mercy, north of Durban, including the King Shaka International Airport has been approved by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

    The department's Director-General Pam Yako officially authorised the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) to develop a trade port when the Record of Decision was signed in Cape Town on Thursday (23 August 2007).

    "Having seriously considered the scientific studies and reports on the environmental impact of the proposed development and the input and concerns from the general public and concerned stakeholders, we are satisfied that the impact to the environment is at an acceptable level," said Ms Yako.

    She said her department's decision had considered the economic spin off the project would have for the country and it was clear the construction of the trade port would lead to socio-economic development not only in KwaZulu-Natal but in the whole country.

    In 2005 Dube Trade Port Company on behalf of the Provincial Government of KwaZulu-Natal and ACSA lodged an application with the department to develop a Trade Port at La Mercy.

    The development will be approximately 2 060 hectares and will consist of the King Shaka International Airport and the Trade Zone, Support Zone and an Agricultural Zone.

    Talking about the process of determining the Record of Decision, the Ms Yako said the process included a thorough ongoing and intricate exercise that required both insight and strict attention to detail.

    "There are scientific studies and divergent inputs from stakeholders and members of the public which need serious consideration to ensure inclusiveness and transparency.

    "This is for public good and we must ensure that we satisfy both the scientific world and the need for sustainable economic development," she said.

    However, she also outlined strict conditions attached to the granting of permission to proceed with the development.

    "We have prescribed certain conditions and we insist on appointing an environmental control officer whose duty it is to ensure that periodic environmental performance audits are undertaken on the project implementation," she said.

    Conditions attached include but are not limited to:

    * issues of access to the construction from the N2,
    * a water management regime that complies with the prescripts of the water affairs department,
    * strict precautions on the management of hazardous waste, and
    * management plans that will take care of fuel spillages and issues relating to noise and compliance with other legislation.

    The department also considered the impact of the development on the fauna and flora prevalent in the area.

    "The specialist study concluded that the barn swallows will not migrate to another area either during construction or operation of the proposed development.

    "As long as the wetland habitat is not impacted upon, the birds will keep on utilising the wetland as a habitat," she said.



    Somali pirates free Danish ship and crew as another vessel goes missing

    Denmark’s government disclosed yesterday that the Danish ship DANICA WHITE and its crew of five, seized by Somali pirates in June this year, has been released following payment of a ransom.

    The ship was handed over to a French naval corvette FNS COMMANDANT BLAISON on Wednesday, the communiqué stated, adding that the crew were undergoing medical evaluation. All five were reported to be in good health and uninjured.

    “It has been a terrible experience for the hostages, who have been held for more than 80 days not knowing what was going on,” said Lars Thuesen, head of the Danish Foreign Ministry's consular department in Nairobi.

    Thuesen confirmed that a ransom had been paid, saying it had “been necessary”, but declined to say how much had been paid. There have been unconfirmed reports that US$1.5 million was being negotiated.

    Danica White was en route from Dubai to Mombasa when pirates operating from the Somali coast seized the vessel on 1 June. Before the captured ship reached the Somali coastline a US warship intercepted and reportedly opened fire, sinking several small boats being towed behind the Danish ship. The boats had been used by the pirates when capturing the larger vessel.

    However once the pirates entered Somali territorial waters the US ship broke off the engagement.

    Following the freeing of the ship the Danish embassy in Nairobi issued another statement saying there was a need for international cooperation in combating piracy.

    “We have to co-operate with other countries and the relevant international organisations. The focus for future Danish activities consequently has to be on international co-operation. A working group comprising the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Maritime Authority, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence has been established to identify possibilities for strengthening international co-operation in combating piracy,” the embassy statement said.

    Meanwhile PORTS & SHIPS has received a number of appeals for information from families of crew on board two ships that went missing off the Horn of Africa in June. The two vessels, REEF AZANIA and INFINITY MARINE 1 each sailed from Dubai but contact with both was later lost by which time it is estimated the ships should have been off the northern Somali coast.

    It was initially speculated that piracy was involved but no reports of the ships having been seized and held for ransom have subsequently surfaced. There is also speculation in some quarters of an insurance scam but this can also not be confirmed.

    Crew on the two ships come from Pakistan, India and Tanzania plus at least one Iraqi. See report in PORTS & SHIPS News Bulletin dated 18 July 2007.



    Good times for Saldanha’s oil tank farm

    Times have changed at Saldanha. A huge government installation, which was threatening to become a ‘white elephant’ of the apartheid era, has been turned around and is now highly profitable.

    The massive Saldanha tank farm on the shores of the bay, which used to be one of the most secret installations in the country, has now become a big foreign exchange earner for South Africa. For the first time in some fifteen years the installation is being used to its full capacity. Oil traders from overseas have contracted in and are now paying big money to store their oil supplies for speculation in the international market.

    This is a complete turnaround of the earlier situation where the tank farm operators were battling to find overseas customers to hire the facility.

    The Saldanha tank farm is managed by SFF, the Strategic Fuel Fund, on behalf of the government.

    Chief operating officer of SFF Sizwe Madondo says medium–term contracts have been concluded with a number of international oil dealers to use the facilities at Saldanha. The dealers are mainly based in London and Switzerland.

    The tank farm at Saldanha consists of six huge concrete containers, which hold 7.5 million barrels of oil each. Built partly underground, it has a total capacity of 45 million barrels of oil, making it by far the biggest installation of its kind in Africa, and most likely one of the very biggest in the world. A measure of its size is that it would take between 20 and 22 oil ships, or Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC’s) of some 300,000 DWT each to discharge their oil cargoes before the tanks are full to the brim.

    Overseas contractors are using about 35 million barrels of the storage capacity, while the remainder is used by South Africa. Caltex/Chevron bought some of the capacity four years ago when the storage was completely underutilised. South Africa still stores 10.8 million barrels of the country’s strategic fuel stocks at Saldanha.

    South Africa drastically reduced its strategic fuel stocks in the early nineties by selling off supplies. At that stage the country held some 170 million barrels of strategic fuel as a buffer against the threat of an oil embargo. With the change of government that threat disappeared and the strategic fuel stock was reduced to 10.8 million barrels, and the reason for still holding strategic stock was to cope with any interruption of supply from any of the major oil producers.

    In the process, South Africa also sold off and closed down the oil storage facilities at eight mines around Ogies in Gauteng. The strategic oil was stored in the disused mine shafts at a depth of about sixty metres below ground.

    The tank farms just outside Cape Town also fell into disuse. The twenty tanks at Killarney, holding 4 million barrels, were sold to Caltex, and the 39 tanks at Milnerton are still standing empty. These tanks are not as attractive a proposition to foreign traders as Saldanha, because smaller ships would have to be used to offload in Cape Town.

    The Strategic Fuel Fund’s first attempts at finding overseas contractors to rent the underutilised facilities at Saldanha were not successful. In 1995 the veil of secrecy was lifted and the huge, partly underground installation at Saldanha was shown to the media. It was announced with great fanfare that oil traders from Iran were interested. Iran was producing more oil than the market needed. Surplus oil was being stored in ships afloat all over the world, and Saldanha would have been a much better solution.

    But this project never materialised. If the tank farm was rented out to foreigners it would lead to a substantial increase in the number of oil tankers calling at Saldanha port, and this was subject to a proper environment impact study. The study took more than two years to complete, and the Iranians lost interest.

    After many years the international oil dealers are back at Saldanha, trading on the prospect of an ever increasing oil price. South Africa is earning good foreign exchange and there is also a spin off for the local economy of Saldanha.

    The Strategic Fuel Fund generated net profits of R83 million during the previous financial year. Chief operating officer Madondo says the current financial statements are still being processed by accountants, but he is confident that this year’s returns will be far in excess of the previous year.

    It’s anticipated that the Strategic Fuel Fund could return profits in the region of R140 million.

    The six massive tanks at the Saldanha Tank Farm were built at a cost of R108 million between 1978 and 1982. Twenty six years have gone by and the tanks are still in perfect condition

    Source – Cape Business News (CBN)



    SA – Mozambique border post stays open longer

    With effect from Monday, 13 August opening times at the Lebombo / Ressano Garcia border post have been extended to 18 hours and the post will remain open between the hours of 6am and midnight, advises Maputo Corridor Liaison Initiative’s (MCLI) Brenda Horne.

    “This means that passengers can cross from 6am till midnight and is widely seen as a move in the right direction towards an eventual 24 hour border post,” she said.

    Trade documents for exports are being accepted till 8pm and imports till 9pm and the trucks also have until midnight to exit through the border, Horne advises.

    The Lebombo / Ressano Garcia border post sits on the major crossing point between South Africa and Mozambique and the port of Maputo.



    Second significant oil strike for Ghana

    Independent oil and gas exploration and production group Tullow announced on Wednesday a significant discovery of oil in the Dano Deepwater blocks off the coast of Ghana.

    According to the report initial data from the well indicates that the Hyedua 1 and Mahogany 1 wells are likely to represent a continuous trap extending across the West Cape Three Points and Deepwater Tano blocks.

    Hyedua 1 is being drilled as the initial exploration well on the Deepwater Tano licence by the BELFORD DOLPHIN deepwater drillship in water depths of 1,530m and has been drilled to a total depth of 4,002m.

    Tullow says that suitable ships have been identified to carry out a 910 sq km high-resolution 3D seismic survey and a programme of up to three additional appraisal wells in late 2007.

    “The discovery of oil in Hyedua-1, and the confirmation of its communication with the recent Mahogany discovery, represents a major step forward for the Republic of Ghana and for Tullow and its partners,” said Aidan Heavey, chief executive of Tullow on Wednesday.

    The latest report comes barely a month after news of the first discovery of substantial oil deposits in Ghana’s offshore waters and has great significance for the economy of the West African country that was previously better known for its export of palm oil.



    Pic of the day – XU CHANG HAI

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice



    With two harbour tugs fussing busily over her, the Chinese bulker XU CHANG HAI (18,074-gt) heads out from Durban’s Maydon Wharf towards the open sea on 22 August 2007. Although registered to a Panamian company and flying the Central American flag, the ship is both owned and managed by Chinese interests. Picture Terry Hutson


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