Ports & Ships Maritime News

Sep 9, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – SELI 1

  • Table Bay drama as Turkish ship SELI 1 as goes aground

  • Piracy – German Navy kills suspect during firefight

  • Transnet Freight Rail struggling with coal deliveries - report

  • Vale looks at other Beira export options

  • Vintage US tug to be deployed on US – West Africa run

  • SARS offices open despite protest action

  • News clips – Keeping it brief

  • Recommended Reads – why do Africans shun going to sea?

  • Pic of the day – FAIRPARTNER


    First View – SELI 1

    The Turkish bulker SELI 1, carrying a cargo of South African coal to Gibraltar, ran aground in Table Bay late on Monday night, causing marine rescue teams to mobilise in a successful attempt at ensuring the safety of the 25 crew on board. Cape Town ship photographer Ian Shiffman was on hand yesterday to record the scene, with the vessel leftfirmly aground on a sandbank opposite Sunset Beach. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Table Bay drama as Turkish ship SELI 1 as goes aground

    Pictures by Steve McCurrach

    High drama at night in Table Bay as a Turkish bulker, SELI 1 (19,031-gt, built 1980), operated by TEB Maritime of Istanbul, lost engine power and the safety of her anchors while riding in Table Bay and went aground along Bloubergstrand, not too far from the scene of another grounding of recent years, the SEALAND EXPRESS.

    The 177m long vessel (not 77m as given in several television and radio broadcasts) sailed earlier from Durban with a cargo of 30,000 tonnes of coal for Gibraltar. Shortly before midnight the ship’s master advised that he had lost engine power and that the vessel, with a crew of 25 on board, was in danger of going ashore. Strong westerly winds gusting to 45 knots and high swells of up to 5 metres were being experienced in Table Bay at the time. Soon afterward he advised that his ship was now aground.

    According to the NSRI the vessel appeared to have gone aground a half kilometre off-shore on soft sand after the anchor chain snapped. The position was opposite Sunset Beach near Dolphin Beach. The salvage tug SMIT Amandla immediately left Cape Town to render assistance although the master advised that his crew remained on board and were in no immediate danger.

    However that changed shortly afterward at midnight with waves beginning to break over the bows of the vessel, while the ship rolled and listed in a rising tide. The crew reported that water was being admitted to the engine room and the ship’s master issued a mayday asking for immediate evacuation.

    Rescue services which had mobilised and set up a command post at the Blouberg beachfront arranged for the NSRI rescue crafts Spirit of Vodacom and Spirit of Rotary-Blouberg to be dispatched while a South African Air Force Oryx helicopter was placed on high alert. Other emergency services were also readied, including ambulance service paramedics on the beachfront.

    “On the rescue craft’s arrival on-scene attempts were investigated to have the crew climb down their Jacobs Ladder but with the 5-metre breaking swells and strong winds the task was deemed to be life threatening to the crew and was aborted,” reported the NSRI.

    “The ASR SAAF Oryx helicopter was scrambled to effect a helicopter winch evacuation of the crew but while waiting for the helicopter the casualty ship appeared to be turned broadside to the beach by the incoming waves and wind, and the NSRI coxswains on the two rescue craft (on the scene) spotted an opportunity on the lee side of the ship and NSRI rescue swimmer Kobus Meyer was put up against the rolling ship from Spirit of Rotary – Blouberg and climbed the ships Jacobs Ladder and found the 25 crew in life-jackets and anxious to abandon ship.

    “Meyer coached the crew, one by one, to go over the side of the ship each climbing down the Jacobs Ladder and Ian Gross, our NSRI Table Bay deputy station commander at the helm of Spirit of Vodacom brought the 12 metre rescue craft alongside the ship, sheltered by the lee, and the crew climbed safely down the side of the ship, on their Jacobs Ladder, and onto the waiting rescue vessel.

    “Initially seven crew were rescued safely before pounding waves caused a suspension in the rescue effort but again an opportunity presented itself to get the rescue craft safely alongside the ship and a further 10 crew were brought safely down the side of the ships Jacobs Ladder onto the waiting rescue craft.

    “Conditions again prevented the remaining eight crew and Kobus Meyer from being brought off the ship and conditions worsened, due to the lie of the ship, and it was decided that the remaining eight crew would be hoisted off the ship by the helicopter.

    “However, in a last ditch attempt by Ian Gross, the Spirit of Vodacom was again brought alongside the ship, and Meyer coached the final eight crew off the deck, down the Jacobs Ladder and safely into the hands of the rescue vessel.”

    The helicopter was stood down prior to it having arrived on-scene and by 01h42 all crew including the master were taken to safety at the NSRI Table Bay rescue base where their conditions were assessed by Metro paramedics. One man was treated for mild hypothermia but required no further assistance following treatment. There were no injuries sustained during the rescue.

    Subsequently the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has issued instructions to salvors to prioritise the removal of approximately 660 tonnes of bunker fuel on board the ship. During the day weather conditions remained difficult with waves crashing over the vessel.

    The Department of Environmental Affairs pollution patrol aircraft Kuswag 9 has undertaken overflights of the casualty and reports no visible oil in the water. Initial salvor reports suggest the structural integrity of the Seli 1 is such that any attempts to refloat her may worsen her condition. Additional salvage personnel and equipment were being moved to the ship to help stabilise the position and to prepare for the removal of her fuel oil, which will be subject to improving weather conditions. The tug SMIT Amandla will meanwhile remain in the vicinity.

    Member of the public have been requested to kindly limit their sightseeing activities to demarcated areas and to be aware that that dunes adjacent to the beach are environmentally sensitive. Relevant authorities will remain on duty to assist in this regard and have demarcated areas for this purpose.

    Motorists are also urged not to stop on the beachfront road in order to avoid traffic incidents and congestion, as it is expected that a crowd will gather during the daytime to gaze at the grounded ship – Cape Town’s latest tourist attraction.

    The pictures in this report are by Steve McCurrach

    Piracy – German Navy kills suspect during firefight

    During an engagement involving the German Navy frigate BRANDENBURG and a boat carrying suspected Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, gunshots were exchanged resulting in the death of one of the suspects.

    According to German sources the suspected pirates ignored warning shots fired from the frigate leading to further shots being fired in the direction of the open boat, after which the men on board threw their weapons overboard. It was subsequently discovered that one man had been critically wounded and died despite receiving medical treatment.

    In another pirate-related incident, Somalia’s Puntland government seized two Kenya-bound aircraft which had allegedly transported pirate suspects back to Puntland without the local government being consulted. It appears the pirates were being exchanged for hostages.

    Garowe Online, the Somali news agency reports that the two small aircraft landed at Galkayo, the provincial capital of Mudug region, where most of the Puntland government are in residence. The aircraft had reportedly landed earlier at the coastal town of Gara’ad where the pirate suspects were allowed to get off in exchange for a number of Seychelles fishermen, who had been held hostage by Gara’ad-based pirates. The fishermen boarded the aircraft which then took off.

    Kenya currently holds a number of Somali pirates in its jails on charges of piracy at sea. A number have been found guilty and sentenced while others await trial.

    NATO says its Operation Ocean Shield aims to combat and reduce the incidents of piracy off the Horn of Africa, “…in conjunction with other actors and organisations”. The intention, it says is to reduce piracy to an acceptable level and will continue “until the regional states develop and effectively employ sufficient capacity to assume the counter piracy mission from NATO, or the root causes of piracy off the Horn of Africa are eliminated.”

    NATO said in a statement that its capacity building effort will aim to assist regional states, “upon their request, in developing their own ability to combat piracy activities. This element of the operation is designed to complement existing international efforts and will contribute to a lasting maritime security solution off the Horn of Africa.

    “The NATO Shipping Centre [NSC] will engage with the maritime community to promote increased awareness of schemes to improve the security of commercial shipping and encourage the use of onboard anti-piracy measures to defend against possible pirate attack. Information sharing is key to success and the NSC, as an information hub in its communications with the maritime community as well as with other organisations (eg, Intertanko, Intercargo, BIMCO, IMB, IMO, UN WFP), will establish and maintain a dialogue with these maritime community stakeholders,” said the NATO statement.

    Transnet Freight Rail struggling with coal deliveries - report

    Transnet Freight Rail is having difficulty in meeting demand on the Richards Bay coal line, a conference in Johannesburg heard this week.

    Several speakers said that rail constraints made it unlikely for the Richards Bay Coal Terminal to achieve targeted exports. Dirk Fourie, vice president of Wood Mackenzie Africa said that although the country will produce about 72 million tonnes of export coal in 2009, it is unlikely to be able to actually export more than 65mt owing to constraints along the rail route to Richards Bay.

    He forecast that approximately 7 million tonnes of coal would be exported from South Africa to India in 2009 and that this might increase to 10mt in 2010.

    RBCT has been ramping up its capacity and is expected to be able to handle 91mt of export coal in the near future. This has been achieved partly to accommodate emerging mining companies particularly from the Black Economic Empowerment sector. Transnet Freight Rail has gone on record however saying that it is unable to increase the capacity of the railway without firm contracts from the mining groups, which have not been forthcoming.

    Vale looks at other Beira export options

    Brazilian mining group, which is developing coal mining operations in the Moatize district of Tete Province in Mozambique, appears to be looking for an alternative export route at the port of Beira, based on concerns that the central Mozambique port may not be ready to handle coal exports when the mine goes into production in 2011.

    According to Vale, the mine will be capable of producing 12.7 million tonnes of coal per year when it opens that year. Some of that will be utilised internally with the balance available for export. The intention has been to rail the export coal to the port at Beira along the refurbished Sena railway, which is still under reconstruction. The line is expected to be completed early in 2010 with an annual capacity of 12mt, although this can be increased with an upgrade of the railway at a future date.

    A spokesman for Vale pointed out that there were other coal mining developers in the Moatize area who would also require access to the railway network. These include Australia’s Riversdale.

    Under the present scheme coal is to be lightered out to bulk vessels waiting offshore of the port at Beira, which has severe draught restrictions owing to perpetual silting and moving sandbanks. Mozambique’s state-owned port and railway company CFM is meanwhile contracted to complete a new coal terminal at Beira by 2011, but there are now fears that this will not be ready, leaving Vale to consider other options. These include revamping an existing terminal at the port.

    The possibility of extending the rail network to connect with the Nacala – Malawi railway and the deepwater port of Nacala was rejected earlier this year, but must remain a future option.

    Vintage US tug to be deployed on US – West Africa run

    A 65-year old American tug that was sold at judicial auction recently in the United States is to be deployed on towing large oil barges from the United States to West Africa.

    The 3,900BHP twin-screw tug WILBUR R CLARK (574-gt, built 1944), ex-Pacific Victory, Petro Challenger, Marine Challenger, Polar Explorer, LT-789, was sold by the US Marshall for the Southern District of Alabama recently to private interests for the amount of US$1.5 million.

    The tug which has an interesting history was built as a single-screw US Army tug named LT-789, and underwent comprehensive repowereing and rebuilding in 1975-76 by Marine Power & Equipment of Seattle, creating what was virtually a new vessel powered by a pair of EMD 16-645E2 diesels, Lufkin 4.39:1 gears, 115 inch Coolidge fixed pitch stainless steel props and triple rudders. This gave the ‘Marine Challenger’ a light running speed of about 16 knots, a 24,000 mile cruising range at 14kn and bollard pull of about 41 short tons.

    Towing gear consists of a single drum Almon Johnson winch with a capacity of 2,000 ft of 2 inch wire, hydraulic tow pins and two Patterson 65 ton electric face winches.

    After operating for several years between the Puget Sound and Alaska for Forty-Niner Transportation as the ‘Petro Challenger’ and Victory Marine/Jore Corp. as the ‘Pacific Victory’, the tug sailed to the US Gulf Coast to tow Jore's 400ft x 105ft double deck, ocean ro/ro barge ‘American Trader, previously purchased through the sales firm of Marcon.

    Hannah Marine purchased the ‘Pacific Victory’ in the Spring of 2007, renaming her ‘Wilbur R Clark’, with the firm of Marcon acting as sole broker in the purchase. After delivery, the sixty-five year old tug spent the next eight months undergoing a total refit at a cost of approximately $2 million dollars.

    The new Buyers, who were awarded the tug at the auction, intend to use her to tow large oil barges from the US to West Africa.

    SARS offices open despite protest action

    Pretoria (BuaNews) - The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has given an assurance that all its offices across the country remain open for business, despite the current industrial action.

    Operations continued at a reduced level on Monday with the biggest impact experienced around lunch time between 10am and 12pm.

    “Branch offices in Bellville and Cape Town, were the most affected in the morning by an attendance rate of about 20 percent,” said SARS in a statement. However, many of the protesting staff members returned to their offices after issuing management with memorandums.

    The Durban branch office was closed temporarily for a short period during protest actions but later resumed operations.

    While offices operated within the contingency plans, the reduced numbers of staff resulted in longer queues. “For those taxpayers who were not able to remain in queues for prolonged periods a ticketing system was introduced,” said SARS.

    At OR Tambo International Airport, 95% of staff reported for duty in the morning. However, 50% left at about 10am. Management deployed skeleton staff to manage critical functions.

    SARS said that the strike's impact on customs services was minimal, with the exception of Durban harbour and the Lebombo border post, but did not elaborate.

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    Several clearing and forwarding groups and associations have challenged the Ugandan government’s action of allocating the Tororo Inland Dry Port to Great Lakes Ports Ltd (GLP). They say this gives a monopoly to GLP allowing it to use the shorter Mombasa route while others will be forced to use the longer cross lake and Dar es Salaam alternative. A petition has been delivered calling on the government to cancel the agreement with GLP.

    The operator of the Turkish bulk ship GULSER ANA which went aground off the coast of Madagascar (see our news report yesterday) has denied that any whales have been harmed through coming into contact with leaking fuel oil. This follows unofficial local reports that the ship had been banned from EU waters because of a poor port state control record, having been detained there several times. Ship’s operator Mardeniz said the protection of the local environment remains the priority and it is continuing to arrange beach clean-up operations with the local Madagascan authority. The vessel lies partly submerged near the Cap Ste Marie Marine Reserve. A spokesman for Mardeniz said that no whales had been sighted near the shipwreck. Svitzer Salvage has been appointed to manage the salvage of the vessel.

    Recommended Reads – why do Africans shun going to sea?

    In today’s recommended read, James Hall takes asks why so few African’s take to a life at sea as mariners. Read on HERE.

    If you come across something that strikes as interesting, or controversial, or just something you’d like to share, send us the link – email to info@ports.co.za and place GOOD READ in the subject line.

    There is no pattern to the topics we choose – just anything we think is relevant and of interest to our maritime industry. Nor do we necessarily endorse or agree with what is written either.

    Pic of the day – FAIRPARTNER

    Jumbo Shipping’s heavylift vessel FAIRPARTNER (15,024-gt, built 2004) visited Cape Town this week, where Ian Shiffman took the picture.

    Don’t forget to send us your news and press releases for inclusion in the News Bulletins. Shipping related pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – please email to info@ports.co.za

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