Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 9, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson














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TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

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  • First View – SAN ALESSIO

  • Four-step plan to help Africa during the global crisis

  • Railways and Harbours Conference and Exhibition – one month to go

  • Trade News – Satamatics announce successful LRIT testing

  • Piracy update : ships and crew released

  • Premier Fishing the one to catch

  • Port opens client centre

  • Pics of the day – STOLT PONDO and CHEMTRANS WESER




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    First View – SAN ALESSIO



    The newly built German-owned container ship SAN ALESSIO (22,914-gt, built 2008), operating on charter to French line CMA CGM, arrived in Cape Town in February when this piturewas taken in glorious Cape summer sunshine. Picture by Ian Shiffman



    Four-step plan to help Africa during the global crisis

    The African Development Bank has developed a four-step plan to minimise the burden of the global financial crisis on African countries, writes Bathandwa Mbola.

    The bank, which promotes economic and social development in Africa, has only in the last six years begun tasting success after two decades of structural adjustment. However, the global financial crisis is threatening to upset it.

    Speaking to BuaNews at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Tuesday, bank's President Donald Kaberuka said: “Now suddenly we are suffering from the effects of this crisis and Africa is the victim.”

    He said the bank had taken four major steps to minimise the burden, including setting up a $1.5 billion emergency liquidity facility and $ 1 billion trade financing facility. In addition, the bank has set up an African Bond initiative to mobilise resources.

    “We also plan to accelerate the finance system in order to make short and fast loan receiving procedures,” said Mr Kaberuka, adding that they had set up a board to push for closer regional economic integration and reduce the red tape that slows funds from reaching low-income countries.

    At the summit last Tuesday (3 February), African leaders discussed ways to ride out the global economic downturn, fearful that 2009 would see trade reduced and more reductions in much-needed aid and development finance.

    The African Development Bank warned that many projects risked losing financing due to tightening global credit.

    “We are concerned at the amount of infrastructure projects being cancelled, Mr Kaberuka said, indicating that the bank was keen to come in and ensure the completion of those projects.

    This follows projections that the current global economy will affect Africa's economic growth. It is expected to slow to 3.5 percent this year, from an annual average of 5.8 percent over the last decade. It may even drop to 2.5 percent in 2010.

    “Signals are not very encouraging. The demand for commodities is declining dramatically, both hard and soft. Investment is quickly slowing down, even in extractive industries. Sectors which are dependent on international demand are contracting quickly.”

    This in turn means that Africa runs the risk of rising social tension, the rollback of economic reforms, unwise financial regulations and an erosion of global competitiveness, not only because of shrinking revenues and rising budget deficits, but also because of cuts in foreign investment and aid.

    The president of the only multilateral development body devoted specifically to Africa, cautioned against hasty decisions that were not anchored on sound confidence in light of governments attempting to recapitalise banks faced with a credit crunch.

    Apart from recapitalising banks, dealing with bad assets and getting credit moved, Mr Kaberuka said the issue of confidence was yet to be resolved. “There is still doubt as to whether the entire stimulus package will actually succeed.”

    Despite some assurances that the minor role African financial institutions play in global economies had cushioned them against the crisis, the bank's chief warned that the continent could be exposed to deflation, a reverse of inflation that follows an economic recession as commodity prices plunge.

    “It was a matter of time before the real economy began to suffer. But even then, residual risk to our banking system cannot be excluded in countries where domestic banks have built up significant negative foreign positions.”

    He said that in Africa, which has not experienced any serious banking failure or currency run, economies have been contracting in reaction to the gloomy situation in the West. This has affected the demand of African exports and reduced remittances to Africa as well as led to the scaling down of tourism.

    “Our ability to withstand a prolonged crisis is limited, Africa's total reserves are less than those of Norway at $ 370 billion with only 4.7 million people,” Mr Kaberuka said.

    On Monday last week, World Bank President Robert Zoellick called for rich countries to donate 0.7 percent of the stimulus packages they approve for their own economies to a fund for developing countries which would be managed by international lenders.

    United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed the call for rich countries to consider poor nations’ needs as they seek to keep their economies afloat.

    However, both leaders warned that the downturn would likely hurt Africa’s growth, trade and financial flows, but also the fight against poverty and the likelihood of reduced development assistance.

    Even before the global downturn, Africa was not expected to meet all of the Millennium Development Goals, a series of targets aimed at reducing poverty and raising living standards around the globe, Mr Ban noted.

    “In responding to this crisis, the international community must take into account the needs of poor countries, and stimulus packages must take this appropriately into consideration,” Mr Ban said.

    African leaders who gathered for the AU summit last Tuesday called for its member states to enhance their economic cooperation in a bid to harmonise their tax and macroeconomic policies to withstand the global financial crisis.

    In a working paper, leaders said this would help speed up the implementation of economic integration programmes by strengthening the African financial market through regulation mechanisms.

    The summit urged the member countries where the African financial institutions will be sited, to speed up and facilitate the set-up procedures. These institutions are the Central Bank, the Monetary Fund and the Investment Bank which were created by Article 19 of the Constituent Treaty.

    According to a draft document submitted for approval to the summit by the AU Executive Council, the Heads of State have reminded the commitment to promote the development and the integration of African economies through the creation of these three financial institutions.

    About 30 Heads of State attended the 12th AU Summit in the Ethiopian capital, which was extended until Wednesday on the theme “Infrastructure Development in Africa.” - BuaNews



    Railways and Harbours Conference and Exhibition – one month to go

    There’s now less than a month to go to the Railways and Harbours Conference and Exhibition at the Cape Town ICC. The date is 4 – 6 March 2009 and the conference and exhibition is lining up to be one of the premier events of the year, highlighting among other features the synergies between ports and harbours and those of railways.

    For Industry by industry – that’s where it started – The Railways and Harbours Conference and Exhibition has been created for the Railways and Harbour industries by individuals from industry who are involved, dedicated and passionate about Africa’s future, continued improvement, progress and growth.

    This new event offers unprecedented opportunity for experts and officials working in both disciplines, and for related and dependent industries, to come together and exchange their wisdom, experience and operational excellence.

    The extent of international investment evident in Africa is greatly encouraging, the challenge being to maximise the useful employment of capital that is made available. Only by these means can the African continent unlock the opportunity, and its undoubted capability, to become globally competitive.

    How it should go about this, which fundamentals have been identified, and what should be prioritised? – these are some of the daunting questions that the experts confront. We need to learn from history, from experience here and elsewhere; we need to develop what already exists to its fullest potential, and create vital new transport infrastructure.

    The underpinning theme for this new conference and exhibition is to learn, create, develop – and grow

    Bimodal and intermodal integration are to feature prominently, both on the exhibition floor and at the conference. In South Africa, the topicality of the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup will be approaching a climax in 2009, transport interests both here and in the rest of the continent will necessarily be looking further ahead – to the second decade of the new century, and all the forethought and planning this implies and needs.

    The conference takes place from 4 – 6 March at the Cape Town ICC. Full details of the Railways and Harbours Conference 2009 including details of the speakers, how to make a reservation, hotel accommodation etc can be found HERE

    You can also contact Sue at tel +27 72 777 0092
    sue@railwaysandharbours.com
    www.railwaysandharbours.com



    Trade News – Satamatics announce successful LRIT testing

    Satamatics, the global provider of satellite telematics, asset tracking and monitoring services has announced the successful conformance testing of their SAT-201i-LRIT terminal and the hybrid Ocean Alert/LRIT upgrade.

    The Ocean Alert/LRIT software has been developed to allow shipowners who have already invested in this product to easily upgrade their equipment to full comply with the Long Range Identification & Tracking (LRIT) SOLAS regulation V/19-1 whilst continuing to comply with SOLAS regulation XI-2/6 (SSAS).

    In a statement the company says Satamatics is committed to providing cost effective fully compliant solutions to both the ship owner and the Flag State for LRIT.

    Their strategy of providing software upgrades for Ocean Alert and developing the SAT-201i-LRIT, a low-cost LRIT terminal for vessels with non-compliant hardware, is offered as evidence of that commitment.

    Fulcrum Maritime System, a recognised tester to over 24 flags, has supplied Satamatics with the Conformance Test Report for SAT-201i-LRIT demonstrating LRIT conformance. Ships with LRIT installed must have completed a successful Conformance Test and have the report on board.

    According to SMD Telecommunications, the longest-established company specialising in marine electronics in South Africa and which represents Satamatics locally, this complete solution is the most economical stand-alone product available today. “It is ideal for vessels that either do not have compliant equipment or the cost of upgrading existing hardware is prohibitive. IT is sold as a complete solution, everything required for a full installation is included from the core out-of-the-box ready terminal to the required cable.”

    SMD Telecommunications can be contacted at the Cape Town head office (021 511 0556), Durban branch (031 205 1122) and Richards Bay (035 789 4696) or by email at sales@smd-marine.co.za



    Piracy update : ships and crew released

    The Egyptian-owned cargo ship BLUE STAR and her crew of 28 is about to be released after the vessel’s owners agreed to pay over a ransom. The ship was carrying a cargo of 5,400 tonnes of fertilizer and was seized in the Gulf of Aden on New Year’s Day.

    Other goods news from the Somali front concerns the release of the Ukraine Ro-Ro vessel FAINA which has been finally released after a ransom, reported to be worth US $ 3.2 million, was paid over to the Somali pirates. Taking no chances of losing the money from mishap at sea, as happened with the VLCC tanker SIRIUS STAR recently, the pirates arranged for the cash to be parachuted into Somali territory on the coast. Earlier a helicopter, said to be of South African origin, had taken off from Nairobi airport with the ransom money on board.

    The seizure of the Faina attracted worldwide headlines and helped create a much wider interest in pirate activity off the Somali coast when it was revealed that the ship was carrying Russian-made T72 tanks and ammunition. These were said to be destined for the Kenya Army but others including the US claimed the rams were intended for forces fighting in South Sudan.

    Shortly after pirates went onboard the ship’s master died from what is believed to have been a heart attack. The vessels was seized on 25 September 2008 and during its period in custody off the Somali coast up to a hundred pirates remained on board, guarding both the crew and the ship and its cargo - sufficient numbers to deter any thought of a sudden attack by coalition naval forces concerned about the weapons on board.

    It is reported that Faina has since arrived safely in the port of Mombasa.


    US Navy Pic



    Premier Fishing the one to catch

    With local fish catches improving substantially in the past year there looks to be a good chance that the industry could undergo significant consolidation in 2009.

    With fuel costs dropping and the rand weakening against hard currencies, the larger local fishing groups – notwithstanding the global economic turmoil – are in a strong position to generate bumper revenues.

    The tough industry years between 2002 and 2006 have also seen fishing companies tighten up operational efficiencies, which means trading margins can be tweaked up considerably in buoyant trading conditions.

    So any consolidation initiated by the so-called big four fishing groups – Oceana, Sea Harvest, I&J and Premier Fishing – will be from a position of strength.

    Already the first tentative steps have been taken with Tiger Brands selling off its controlling 71% stake in hake catching specialist Sea Harvest to a Brimstone led consortium in a deal worth around R540 million.

    The reason Tiger Brands sold its stake in Sea Harvest probably revolves around the food giant’s hostile bid for rival food group AVI.

    If Tiger was successful in its endeavour to gain control at AVI there could be some unwanted attention from the competition authorities, and the one area of obvious dominance would be fishing.

    Besides Sea Harvest, Tiger also owns the controlling stake in sprawling fishing business Oceana. AVI, on the other hand controls fishing and frozen sea food specialist I&J.

    A combined fishing entity comprising Oceana, Sea Harvest and I&J would simply create an entity too dominant in the local fishing sector, where smaller operators constantly (and perhaps justifiably) complain about skewed economies of scale in quota awards.

    Putting Sea Harvest in the hands of astute empowerment operators like Brimstone could really cause some waves in the industry.

    With Brimstone’s strong empowerment credentials behind it, Sea Harvest will have considerable scope to pursue joint ventures, partnerships and takeovers of smaller fishing operators.

    Currently Sea Harvest’s main business is deep sea trawling for Cape Hake species, and then the processing of this catch into frozen and chilled seafood products for local and export markets.

    While Brimstone is securing a well maintained fleet of 14 fresh fish trawlers and a factory freezer ship as well as the Saldanha factory and cold storage facility, there will undoubtedly be a desire to broaden the fishing business into new areas.

    It’s not only that Sea Harvest’s factory and cold storage could accommodate other catches for processing and packaging, but also that branding new products (say pilchards or tuna) under the Sea Harvest label could mean big advantages in the local and offshore markets.
    But it’s not only Brimstone/Sea Harvest that will be on the front foot.

    Oceana – which has over R200 million in free cash - has also indicated a willingness to look for opportunities amongst small to medium sized enterprises.

    If Tiger Brands does manage to takeover AVI then Oceana and I&J will no doubt be merged in order to effect sizeable cost savings.

    Oceana is by far the most diversified fishing business, incorporating pilchards, horse mackerel, hake, squid and lobster.

    Even without I&J on board, there may be a considerable attraction for smaller fishing enterprises – which are often experiencing feast or famine business cycles – to link up with Oceana.

    That brings us to Premier Fishing, which is controlled by Cape-based empowerment group Sekunjalo Investments.

    Premier also wants to take advantage of consolidation opportunities in the fishing sector – probably in order to lessen the group’s reliance on its lobster businesses.

    Recently endeavours in the pelagic sector have not yielded great results for Premier, but fortunes could change if the group is able to bulk up this segment through partnerships, joint ventures or takeovers.

    Premier itself has been a bit of surprise package, managing to push profits to close to the R38 million mark in the year to end August after a slow first half.

    Sekunjalo has managed to take a chunk of costs out of the business, and there is talk that the medium term goal is to secure profits of between R60 million to R70 million at Premier.
    Gut feel is that both Sea Harvest and Oceana might be keen to make a move on Premier. Sekunjalo, however, would probably prefer to squeeze more profits out of Premier and bulk up operations with new fishing enterprises to ensure that the business can be sold at an attractive price.

    If Sekunjalo’s abalone farming operations (see our “What’s in store for 09” article) are added to the mix then Premier really does become an asset worth fighting over. – source Cape Business News



    Port opens client centre

    Good news for Durban port users, a Customer Service Centre is in the process of being opened which will facilitate a lot of the queries needing attention.

    It’s still early days but the initial functions of the centre include a Switchboard to address general queries, call routing, complaints and receiving of suggestions. This may sound elementary and basic for any business but until now if you did not know the number of the person you wanted to contact at the port there was simply no other way to ask or find out. Even if you were armed with the correct number but the person you sought was unavailable, that was it! There was no switchboard to come to your assistance, so this development will be more than welcomed. The Switchboard number for the Port of Durban is 031 361 3755.

    The other innovation is a Call Centre, for Ports On-line information (cargo dues) and registration and queries. The telephone number for the Call Centre is 086 010 9330.

    There is even a general email address at last – CustomerCare@transnet.net and a general fax number which is 086 639 3048.

    Port clients will welcome these developments.


    Pic of the day – STOLT PONDO and CHEMTRANS WESER



    The Stolt/Unicorn pool products tanker STOLT PONDO (19,380-gt, built 2007) made an unusual call in Cape Town recently. Note the Unicorn livery on the ship’s funnel. Picture by Ian Shiffman




    The chemical products tanker CHEMTRANS WESER (8,500-gt, built 2008) in Cape Town harbour during January 2009. Picture by Trevor Jones






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