Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 12, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson














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TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

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  • First View – ROZTOCZE

  • Ships divert as Lagos port congestion worsens

  • News from the shipping lines

  • Writing on the wall for Rift Valley Railway?

  • South Africa’s dispute with the EU continues

  • EU predicts service trade boost for ECOWAS

  • Pics of the day – VINNI and KIANGA




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    First View – ROZTOCZE



    The Polish bulk carrier ROZTOCZE (24,109-gt, built 2008) in Cape Town harbour, December 2008. Picture Ian Shiffman



    Ships divert as Lagos port congestion worsens

    Shipping lines are diverting vessels to other regional ports as the congestion crisis in Lagos ports worsens. Earlier this week it was being reported that up to 90 ships were waiting outside Lagos for a berth. The majority of ships delayed are general cargo vessels.

    Compounding the problem is a strike by clearing agents which has been condemned by the Port Industry Anticorruption Standing Committee as ‘acting to worsen the crisis’. The strike which is aimed as a protest against excesses by government agencies at Nigeria’s seaports and airports began on Monday, 9 February. Chairman of the Standing Committee said that instead of strikers taking advantage of large waivers offered to help clear cargo, they were simply adding to the problem.

    The increase in ships delayed by congestion and strikes comes despite efforts by the Federal Government to introduce measures aimed at clearing the backlog of cargo in the port terminals. The Nigerian Ports Authority last month ordered a waiver on containers that have not been transferred to bonded depots while shipping lines have waivered demurrage.

    Port observers said the deteriorating situation at the Lagos ports is sending the wrong message to the international shipping community.



    News from the shipping lines

    Maersk Line has announced an increase in bunker fuel surcharges (BAF) on its Middle East – South Africa service of between $140 and $150 per TEU as from 1 March 2009. The Far East – South Africa services will also experience similar bunker fuel adjustments of between $265 and $295 per TEU from the same date.


    CSAV is including calls at Cape Town and Durban for its Marco Polo service between Brazil and the Middle East, with effect from March. The inclusion of the two South African ports applies in both directions. The line has also announced the commencement of a monthly sailing by its car carrier division linking the Far East with the Middle East and South Africa, the ports of Durban and Port Elizabeth applying locally.


    Faced with a growing number of surplus container ships several shipping companies have begun a novel way of utilising the spare vessels, rather in the same way that oil speculators have begun using surplus tankers as floating storage facilities while waiting for the price of crude to rise.

    A number of ships in the Far East including near Singapore and Hong Kong have been noted loaded with empty containers, after shipping companies calculated that this is cheaper than paying daily storage fees on some land depot.

    Come to think of it, maybe this is a solution for ports like Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and the Lagos ports to consider, of placing those overstays on a couple of surplus super container ships instead of allowing the port terminals to remain permanently congested.



    Writing on the wall for Rift Valley Railway?

    Plans to terminate the 25-year concession held by Rift Valley Railway, of which South Africa’s Sheltam Rail is a major stakeholder and operator, received further impetus this week with the Kenya High Court issuing an order allowing the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) to cancel the concession on grounds of under-performance.

    The concession allows Rift Valley Railway (RVR) to operate the railways in Kenya and Uganda. KRC says it will move immediately to implement the cancellation by way of issuing notification to RVR’s international financiers.

    The operation of RVR came under pressure almost from the moment the concession was awarded in November 2006, with demands for an immediate improvement in services and amid accusations that the concession-holders were too weak financially to fulfill their obligations. The railway suffered further during the political upheaval that swept large parts of Kenya early in 2008, when large sections of the railway were damaged or destroyed by rioters.

    Later in the year further sections of the railway into Uganda were adversely affected by floodwaters, leading to further disruption and delays and adding to the political pressure to have the concession cancelled.



    South Africa’s dispute with the EU continues

    by David Cronin, (Inter Press Service, Brussels)

    Officials from Brussels have rejected calls from three governments in southern Africa for a reassessment of the economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).

    In January, Angola, Namibia and South Africa made a joint appeal to the EU, urging that it delay the formal signature of the trade liberalisation deal with several of their neighbouring countries. Describing the EPA as “seriously flawed”, the governments urged that it set back efforts to boost economic cooperation in southern Africa for “many years”.

    Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland all gave their initial approval to an EPA with the EU at the end of 2007. However, after the agreement was analysed, some of these governments voiced profound unease about the way it could drive a wedge between them and the region’s largest economy South Africa, which had decided against signing an agreement.

    Later in February, the EU’s 27 members will discuss the possibility of giving the European Commission (EC), the EU’s executive arm, a mandate to proceed with signing and ratifying the EPAs it has negotiated with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP).

    Angola, Namibia and SA have called for the temporary stall of this procedure.

    Although EC President José Manuel Barroso gave an undertaking in late 2007 that provisions in trade deals which African countries view as contentious could be renegotiated, his officials have now declined to accept the appeal.

    The Commission stated in a document that re-opening an EPA with countries in southern Africa would not be “practical” because it would “ignore” the decision of other governments in the region to accept the agreement.

    The agreement with southern Africa has been called ‘interim’ as it relates primarily to trade in goods. The EU is now hoping to widen its scope to a ‘full’ accord which would include the opening of Africa’s services markets as well as containing clauses on investment, public procurement, and competition.

    According to Paul Goodison from the European Research Office, which monitors EU-Africa economic relations, the “one way forward” could be to use a technique trade negotiators call ‘bracketing’. This would entail placing brackets around provisions in the EPA that Angola, Namibia and SA consider detrimental to the interests of the region. It would allow that the agreement be signed by both European and African governments with the exclusion of the contentious clauses.

    Peter Mandelson, Europe’s trade commissioner from 2004 to 2008, had refused the use of bracketing. However, his successor Catherine Ashton has undertaken to demonstrate greater flexibility in the handling of the EPAs. She will be visiting southern Africa in the coming week.

    “The hope is that with a new hand at the helm, substantive changes in the European Commission position could become possible”, Goodison said. “It remains to be seen if at the beginning of next [this] week Commissioner Ashton will have given substance to her rhetoric.”

    When interviewed by the publication Trade Negotiations Insight recently, Ashton stated that there is a need to “replace controversy over interim agreements with a positive debate on full EPAs”.

    She did, however, defend the Commission’s stance on some of the proposals that have most rankled with African countries. A number of African nations have raised concern over a demand by the EC that they eliminate taxes imposed on the export of raw materials, arguing that such fiscal measures are vital to nurture infant industries by encouraging the processing of basic resources at home.

    While recognising the legitimacy of the concerns, Ashton stated: “The commitment to removing trade barriers like export taxes must be a cornerstone of EU trade policy. I am a firm believer in the benefits of open markets and the opportunities they can deliver to businesses and individuals.”

    Angola was able to take a different approach to the EPAs due to its ‘least developed country’ (LDC) status. The Commission never threatened to impose higher duties on its exports to the EU if it decided against signing an agreement.

    Although Angola has remained outside a regional EPA, it has complained that the Commission provided it with “little clarity” on the implications of signing a deal. Too little information was provided on what financial assistance would be made available to compensate for the revenue losses once it has to reduce tariffs on imported goods, for instance.

    The EU agreed in 2007 as part of an ‘aid for trade’ strategy to make 2 billion Euros (US$2.6 billion) available to poor countries each year by 2010. Yet the pledge was made before several EU member states decided to slash their development budgets in response to the financial crisis. In recent months, Ireland has had to cut is allocations by 10 percent, Italy by a massive 56 percent, and Latvia has taken steps to abolish its aid budget entirely.

    According to Glenys Kinnock, a Socialist member of the European Parliament, there is “nothing legally binding” in an EPA recently concluded with the Caribbean region, the most comprehensive agreement reached with the almost 80 counties in the ACP bloc to date.

    “Aid for trade is the elephant in the room”, Kinnock added. “Nobody wants to talk about how much (EU) member states are going to contribute.” - source TRALAC



    EU predicts service trade boost for ECOWAS

    The European Union (EU) is optimistic that trade in infrastructure services among members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will boost economic growth and development in the region.

    The statement was made by Pauline Weinzieri of the EU Trade Department during a two-day seminar on Trade in Services and Investments in the Framework of the EC-West Africa Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in Dakar, Senegal.

    Her paper, entitled “The Economics of Trade in Services”, stated that trade in services such as transport, logistics, energy distribution, and telecommunications would also promote development in West Africa. This would further attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the region.

    “It will also attract transfer of expertise and of know-how of foreign services suppliers”, she added.

    Weinzieri noted that such development would also create employment for locals, improve service quality, ease the costs of services, provide more choices for consumers, and reduce the cost of doing business for local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

    During the seminar, Abdoulaye Ndiaye, an expert in trade and services, said that ECOWAS should establish a regional database on services.

    “ECOWAS should put in place accompanying measures, aimed at raising the competitiveness of the services sector in member states”, he said.

    “Member states should undertake reforms for the progressive and regulated liberalisation of various service sectors with high export potential. This is relevant for the competitiveness of their economies.” – source TRALAC



    Pics of the day – VINNI and KIANGA



    Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s VINNI (23,409-gt, built 1994), is one of the earlier Ro-Ro car carriers in service but looked resplendent in her red livery while at Cape Town during December 2008. Picture Ian Shiffman




    Little information is to hand about this smart looking Luderitz-registered vessel, KIANGA and any input from readers would be welcome. Picture by Ian Shiffman






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