Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 4, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson


















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TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

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  • First View – FU HAN KOU

  • Beira port upgrade gets financial boost

  • Largest LNG carrier transits Suez Canal

  • Pointe Noire new terminal underway

  • Piracy update – pirates remain active as NATO strengthens its mandate

  • Maersk Alabama master speaks – statement to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee

  • Pic of the day – PALLIETER




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    First View – FU HAN KOU



    The unusual car carrier FU HAN KOU (15,375-gt, built 1986) was called at Durban during the recent long weekend. Picture by Trevor Jones



    Beira port upgrade gets financial boost

    Mozambique has secured further loans for the refurbishment of the railway between the port of Beira and the town of Moatize in Tete Province, site of Mozambique’s developing coalfields. The loan also extends to a dredging project at Beira port.

    The €65 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB), signed last week in Maputo, directs that €42m will go to completing the refurbishment of the railway, which has already received finance to the tune of US$100 million from the World Bank in addition to a further €48m provided by the shareholders of the Beira Railroad Company (CCFB).

    The 665km railway from the junction outside Beira to Moatize was largely destroyed during the civil war and has required extensive rebuilding – a project undertaken by the concession holders, a consortium led by India’s Rites. The line is expected to open to traffic at the end of this year. According to the communiqué the latest loan element relating to the railway is intended for improving existing track and providing telecommunication systems and other operational necessities to enable a minimum speed of operation of 60km per hour once the railway is reopened.

    When completed the line should be capable of carrying 12 million tonnes of coal a year, with Vale, the Brazilian company holding the major concessions at Moatize saying it intends exporting 11mt annually initially. However there are other licence holders who intend exporting coal from the Moatize district and once in full production the railway to Beira is expected to be hard pressed to cope with the total volumes. As a result it is anticipated that a new line will have to be developed to the port of Nacala, where deepwater berths suitable for Capesize ships are possible.

    With regards the port development, the €23m loan from the EIB will be utilised in dredging operations in the Beira port entrance channel. Advance funding to the amount of US$13m for this has already been provided by Denmark and the Netherlands.



    Largest LNG carrier transits Suez Canal

    The largest LNG carrier to have sailed through the Suez Canal, the MOZAH (163,922-gt, built 2008) completed her transit last week.

    The Qatargas-chartered Q-Max LNG carrier, which was carrying a cargo of 135,400m³ of LN destined for the South Hook LNG Terminal in Milford Haven, Wales, was on her maiden voyage to the UK. On arrival in Ismaila, Egypt the ship was greeted by way of a small celebration commemorating the occasion, during which a plaque was presented to the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, Mr Ahmed Fadel.

    Mozah was built at the Samsung Heavy Industries Shipyard on Geoje Island in South Korea.

    The ship is the first of the new generation of 14 planned Q-Max LNG carriers and was delivered in September last year. The Q-Max class has the capacity to carry 266,000m³ of gas fully loaded making them the largest LNG carriers afloat. This is 80% more capacity than conventional LNG carriers with about 40% lower energy requirement due to the economies of scale created by their size and the efficiency of their engines. Q-Max has 80 percent more capacity than
    Owned outright by Nakilat, the vessel is under long term charter to Qatargas for shipping LNG to Europe.



    Pointe Noire new terminal underway

    Work has commenced in Pointe-Noire of the new Congo Terminal – a €570 million, 27-year concession development being undertaken by Bolloré Africa Logistics, with the undertaking made to the Congolese Government for the modernisation of the largest deep water port in the Gulf of Guinea. Plans include expanding the current 17 hectares facility to 38ha with an annual throughput of 300,000 TEU to be doubled within eight years. The new terminal will be able to accommodate vessels as large as 7,000-TEU capacity.

    According to Bolloré the French company intends developing Pointe-Noire as the leading deep sea transshipment port in west Africa for north-south trades and to act as gateway to the Central Africa Republic and the north of Angola. The port has a 15 metre draught.

    AP Moller Terminals (APM Terminals) announced on Friday (1 May) that it will be a member of the Bolloré Africa Logistics consortium developing the new deepwater terminal at Pointe-Noire. It said that APM Terminals and Bolloré Africa Logistics, the largest transportation and logistics network in Africa, have a long and close association which includes facilities at the West African ports of Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Douala, Cameroon and Tema, Ghana.



    Piracy update – pirates remain active as NATO strengthens its mandate

    Somali pirates struck unsuccessfully at the Italian Ro-Ro vessel JOLLY SMERALDO (29,119-gt, built 1978) on two occasions last week as the vessel sailed along the Somali coast, some 250 n.miles offshore and en route from Mombasa to Jeddah. In the first attack the armed pirates approached in a small boat and although opening fire with automatic rifles the ship was able to make its escape. The following morning the ship came under attack once again, this time a more sustained effort, with grenade launchers being used to try and force the ship to stop and allow the pirates to board. None of the 24 crew on board were injured and once again the Jolly Smeraldo was able to make its escape.

    Other news from the region is that that NATO intends having a stronger mandate in place including new rules of engagement for its warships. One of the key issues facing NATO ships operating in the area is what to do with captured pirates – in several cases after disarming them the men have been simply released.

    The Russian Navy has admitted having this same problem, after capturing a record number of pirates in recent days. In one seizure a week ago the Russian destroyer ADMIRAL PANTELEYEV took 29 suspected pirates off one boat. This was about 1,500 miles from the Somali coast and only a small number of weapons were discovered, making it feasible that some of the men on board the captured boat were innocent fishermen or seamen who themselves had been captured previously.

    The International Bargaining Forum (IMF), a joint negotiating body the combines both employers and the maritime unions, says it has agreed to extend the piracy risk area off Somalia in view of recent attacks taking place much further from the coast than previously. What this means is that warnings will go to ship operators to stay even further from the coast while also assuring seafarers in the danger zone of improved war-risk pay and conditions. The extended zone now stretches 400 n.miles from the Somali coast and crews on ships with IBF and ITF agreements within this area will now receive double pay and a doubling of death and disability compensations. If on ships inside the zone but outside the International Recommended Transit Corridor the crews have the right to refuse to sail and to be repatriated at the employers’ expense.



    Maersk Alabama master speaks – statement to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    The following is the statement as prepared by Richard Phillips, Captain of the Maersk Alabama, for the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 30, 2009 in Washington, DC. Phillips was taken hostage by Somali pirates in early April.

    Mr Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am Captain Richard Phillips. I am a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, I have been a member of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots Union since 1979, and I am a licensed American merchant mariner. I was the captain of the MAERSK ALABAMA when it was attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia on April 8th. Thankfully, that episode ended with the successful return of the ship, its cargo of US food aid for Africa and, most importantly, my crew. All of us have returned home safely and for that my entire crew and I are deeply appreciative of the actions taken by the Administration, the Department of Defense and, most specifically, the US Navy, the Navy SEALS and the crew aboard the USS Bainbridge. All of the US military and government personnel who were involved in this situation are clearly highly trained and motivated professionals and I want to use this opportunity to again say "thank you" to everyone involved in our safe return.

    I want to thank the management of Maersk and Waterman Steamship Corp. who handled the situation, the crew and our families with great care and concern.
    And equally important, I want to publicly commend all the officers and crew aboard the MAERSK ALABAMA who responded with their typical professionalism in response to this incident. The Licensed Deck Officers who are members of the Masters, Mates & Pilots Union, the Licensed Deck Officer and Licensed Engineers who are members of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, and the unlicensed crew who belong to the Seafarers International Union are dedicated merchant mariners, typical of America’s merchant seamen who are well-trained and who are ready and able to respond when necessary to protect the interests of our country.

    I am honored to come before this Committee today to discuss my views on making commercial shipping safer, and worldwide sea lanes more secure from the threat of piracy.

    I need to make clear at the outset that I am unable to discuss the incident itself because of the ongoing investigation and pending legal action against one of the pirates. But I’ve had a lot of time to think about the difficult and complex issues of protecting vessel, cargo and crew in crime-ridden waters. So instead of a recount of the MAERSK ALABAMA incident, the focus of my comments will be my beliefs, based on my years of experience at sea, as to what can or should be done to respond to piracy and to protect American vessels and crews.
    I should also say at the outset that I realize that my opinions may differ in some ways from other recommendations you have heard before and may hear today from others on the panel. Nevertheless, I do believe that all of us in the maritime industry understand that it is imperative that we work together to address this complex problem, and I believe we are in general agreement on the main principles of keeping crew, cargo and vessel safe.

    First, I believe it is the responsibility of our government to protect the United States, including US-flag vessels that are by definition an extension of the United States, their US citizen crews, and our nation’s worldwide commercial assets. So, it follows then that the most desirable and appropriate solution to piracy is for the United States government to provide protection, through military escorts and/or military detachments aboard US vessels. That said, I am well aware that some will argue that there is a limit to any government’s resources - even America’s. In fact, due to the vastness of the area to be covered – and the areas of threat are continually growing larger - our Navy and the coalition of other navies currently positioned in the Gulf of Aden region may simply not have the resources to provide all the protection necessary to prevent and stop the attacks.

    So what other things can be done?

    In my opinion, the targets – the vessels – can be “hardened” even beyond what’s being done today and made even more structurally resistant to pirates. In addition, more can be done in terms of developing specific anti-piracy procedures, tools and training for American crews. I do however want to emphasize that contrary to some reports that I’ve heard recently, American mariners are highly trained and do receive up-to-date training and upgrading at the private educational training facilities jointly run by the maritime unions and their contracted shipping companies. I believe that discussions are underway now between the industry and government on the details of specific proposals to harden the vessels (the specifics of which should remain secret) and I am confident that we will soon have additional methods for protecting vessel and crew. And while they will be an improvement, there is no way they can be foolproof.

    I’ve also heard the suggestion that all we have to do to counter piracy is “just arm the crews”. In my opinion, arming the crew cannot and should not be viewed as the best or ultimate solution to the problem. At most, arming the crew should be only one component of a comprehensive plan and approach to combat piracy. To the extent we go forward in this direction, it would be my personal preference that only the four most senior ranking officers aboard the vessel have access to effective weaponry and that these individuals receive special training on a regular basis. I realize that even this limited approach to arming the crew opens up a very thorny set of issues. I’ll let others sort out the legal and liability issues but we all must understand that having weapons on board merchant ships fundamentally changes the model of commercial shipping and we must be very cautious about how it is done. Nevertheless, I do believe that arming the crew, as part of an overall strategy, could provide an effective deterrent under certain circumstances and I believe that a measured capability in this respect should be part of the overall debate about how to defend ourselves against criminals on the sea.

    As for armed security details put aboard vessels, I believe, as I indicated earlier, that this idea could certainly be developed into an effective deterrent. My preference would be government protection forces. However, as long as they are adequately trained I would not be opposed to private security onboard. Of course, I realize that very clear protocols would have to be established and followed. For example, as a captain, I am responsible for the vessel, cargo and crew at all times. And I am not comfortable giving up command authority to others... including the commander of a protection force. In the heat of an attack, there can be only one final decision maker.

    So command is only one of many issues that would have to be worked out in for security forces to operate effectively. While there are many new ideas and much discussion going on about how to deal with piracy, I would respectfully ask the Committee to be mindful that the seafarers I’ve met and worked with over my career are resourceful, hardworking, adventurous, courageous, patriotic and independent. They want whatever help you can offer to make the sea lanes more secure and their work environment safer. But we realize that while preparation is absolutely critical, not every situation can be anticipated. And we accept that as a part of the seafarer’s life. So, I will just close with a request for you to please proceed carefully and to please continue to include us in your discussions and debates.

    Thank you for this opportunity to speak and I look forward to answering your questions.



    Pic of the day – PALLIETER



    The hopper dredger PALLIETER (5,005-gt, built 2004) is one of several dredging vessels at work in Durban and other Southern African harbours at present. Pallieter, which is owned by Dredging International, the principally dredging contractor on site, is involved with the deepening and widening of the Durban entrance channel which is nearing completion – ships have begun using the newly created northern section of the channel while work has commenced on deepening the older southern section. On completion both sections will be opened as the future entrance channel of 220m width – a considerable improvement on the original channel that was just 122m wide. Picture by Trevor Jones



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