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Ports & Ships Maritime News

September 30, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

Due to travel this particular news bulletin has been considerably shortened and is not illustrated

Shipping, freight, trade and transport related news of interest for Africa

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News continues below...

Pirates seize Durban-bound bitumen tanker ASHPHALT VENTURE

Pirates have attacked and seized a bitumen tanker ASPHALT VENTURE (3,884-dwt) which was en route from Mombasa to Durban where the ship was due to load cargo.

The attack took place in darkness early on Wednesday morning while Asphalt Venture was sailing south off the coast of Tanzania. This brings the number of ships attacked off the East Africa country to at least three in the past week.

Asphalt Venture was sailing in ballast, having discharged a cargo of bitumen loaded at Durban. Latest indications are that the ship has been ‘turned round’ and was heading north towards Somalia, with Haradheere as its reported likely destination.

Asphalt Venture is crewed by 15 Indian seafarers and is owned by a Norwegian company, Bitumen Invest AS while being managed and operated by Interglobal Shipping of the UAE. EU NAVFOR reports that the tanker was pirated some 100 n.miles south-east of Dar es Salaam.

In other act of piracy the Italian warship LIBECCIO was able to free an Iranian dhow which had been captured by Somali pirates off the coast of Tanzania also on Wednesday. This was after a French maritime reconnaissance aircraft on patrol duty for the European Naval force EU NAVFOR had noticed that the dhow was accompanied by a whaler and two skiffs – usual indications of pirate involvement. The aircraft maintained surveillance until the arrival of the Italian frigate which then launched its helicopter.

Pirates on the dhow initially refused to stop despite warning shots being fired, leaving the Italian warship to shadow the dhow and pirate vessels throughout the night, before the pirates eventually agreed to surrender themselves and the dhow on Wednesday morning. Ten pirates were found on board the dhow in addition to the Iranian crew of seven.

EU NAVFOR has not indicated whether the pirates have been taken into custody or allowed to flee the area.

Meanwhile it is also reported that another Norwegian ship, the seismic survey vessel GEO BARENTS came under attack from pirates off the Kenyan coast earlier this week but was able to evade capture.

And in Puntland, the autonomous state in northern Somalia, a court has sentenced a pirate, Salah Mohamed Gelle to death for his involvement in the killing of the master of the captured merchant ship QSM DUBAI (15,220-dwt) in June this year. Seven of his accomplices were sentenced to prison terms of between 10 and 17 years. The court found that the QSM Dubai’s master had been killed when armed forces from Puntland stormed on board the ship to free it of pirates.

NATO has warned that pirate activity in the Somali Basin is set to increase and says that dhows and fishing vessels are likely to be targeted for use as potential ‘mother ships’ and to extend the range of pirates into the Indian Ocean.

“The pirated Taiwanese fishing vessel Tai Yuan 227 remains unlocated and has the potential to conduct pirate operations east of 65 East. The Tai Yuan 227 is a white hulled fishing vessel, approximately 50 metres long, with the registration numbers BH3Z87 painted in large black letters on the hull,” says NATO.

“These vessels represent an active threat to merchant shipping and any small boat observed in the open ocean more than 300nm from the Somali coast should be considered to be a potential pirate vessel.”

NATO has also warned that the VLCC SAMHO DREAM (319,000-dwt), which was captured earlier by pirates is being used as a mother ship near the shipping lanes and is approximately 190 n.miles South-East of Socotra (approximately 10:38N, 056:44E). The 333m long supertanker with an orange and white hull and superstructure has been observed tracking eastbound and, says NATO, should be regarded as an active threat to merchant shipping nearby. Any small boat observed in the vicinity of Samho Dream should be regarded as a potential pirate vessel.

News continues below…

Left or right for Botswana’s coal exports?

An air of intrigue is developing over plans to handle the export of large volumes of coal from new mining ventures in Botswana.

Namibia appears to be confident that the construction of a new trans-Kalahari railway linking southern Namibia with the vast coal fields that are being developed in Botswana is drawing closer, judging by recent reports coming from Namibia.

On 15 September this year Windhoek’s The Namibian wrote: “The construction of a trans-Kalahari rail link through southern Namibia due to the envisaged exploitation of vast coal deposits in Botswana is moving closer to reality with both countries aiming to sign an agreement by the end of next month [October].”

The report said that Namibia’s cabinet had approved the joint appointment of a consultant by the Namibian and Botswana governments to prepare terms of reference for the railway line and that a World Bank-funded pre-feasibility study was expected to be completed by the end of October.

Earlier there had been talk of developing a new deepwater port in Namibia to handle the export of the coal from the Mmamabula mine north of Gaberone, where reserves of 2.8 billion tonnes are reported. But at the same time that Namibia is gearing itself to becoming a major export gateway on behalf of its landlocked neighbour, Mozambique on the other side of Africa considers that a similar rail and port project is all but signed and sealed.

Mozambique and Botswana have gone so far as signing a Memorandum of Understanding on the matter on 12 July this year – see that report HERE.

On Wednesday this week Mr Eusebio Saide, Mozambique’s Deputy Minister of Transport spoke in Maputo of the proposed new deepwater port of Techonanine south of Maputo and the railway link with Botswana to handle coal exports, which he appeared to regard as all but a done deal.

Earlier this week PORTS & SHIPS reported on the Mozambique government having approved a decree that established a state-reserved area in the Techonanine region of the Matutuine district of Maputo Province south of the port and city of Maputo, where a deepwater port would be built. Read the article Mozambique reserves land and presses ahead….

This followed advertisements in the past week calling for Expression of Interest to consult over the building of the new Mozambique port, not far from the KZN border, along with a timeline of having the infrastructure underway or completed between 2012 and 2015.

Clearly Mozambique is moving fast to secure what it sees as the logical gateway for Botswana’s coal, which added to its own coal exports from the Tete Province could turn Mozambique into one of the world’s major coal exporting centres. Looking at the issues from a neutral standpoint it is hard not to lean in favour of the shorter and easier Techonanine proposal, which makes use of existing railway infrastructure in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and short extensions having to be built at either end – a far cry from the nearly 1,500 kilometres of new railway line that will have to be built across difficult desert country to link Botswana with its Atlantic-coast neighbour.

The pre-feasibility study for the trans-Kalahari line is being funded by a World Bank grant. One wonders such an august banking institution really makes of each proposal

News continues below...

Another safety accolade for South Africa’s busiest car terminal

Ahead of World Standards Day on 14 October 2010, the Durban RoRo Terminal’s recent attainment of the rigorous OHSAS 18001:2007 certification should come as great news for the automotive industry, which imports and exports around 450,000 units of wheeled cargo through the facility each year.

According to Phumi Ndlovu, risk and compliance manager at the busy port facility located along Durban’s Victoria Embankment, the certification was very important to the industry.

“Our clients demand superior safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) systems, considering the millions of rands worth of vehicles being shipped through our facility by major customers including Toyota, BMW, AMH, Ford and Nissan,” she said.

Formerly known as the Durban Car Terminal, Durban RoRo Terminal is today one of only three port-related entities – and the first state-owned port facility – in South Africa to boast this internationally aligned standard of safety and risk management from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

The Port Elizabeth terminal recently became Transnet Port Terminals’ second OHSAS 18001 certified unit.

Ndlovu said that the Durban RoRo Terminal also has around 242 employees interacting with everything from massive ships to heavy machinery. “The potential for occupational health and safety incidents is huge and needs to be minimised every step of the way. This will ensure we don’t lose this certification after each annual audit, or more importantly that we don’t fall prey to largely preventable SHEQ incidents.”

Management at the terminal have achieved various SHEQ benchmarks including the ISO 9001 and 14001 quality management systems.

The terminal also holds the coveted NOSCAR status awarded by the National Occupational Safety Association (NOSA) to entities demonstrating the highest standards of SHEQ management. It also placed sixth in the recent NOSA Eastern Regional Awards for top companies.

The OHSAS 18001 system is an international occupational health and safety management system specification created by a number of the world’s leading national standards and certification bodies, and specialist consultancies.

It took the terminal two years to achieve this certification. First and second stage audits as well as risk assessments were carried out by the SABS and contraventions had to be addressed systematically.

“The SABS auditors left no stone unturned,” Ndlovu said. “Management and employees had to ensure we complied with new health and safety legislation and that issues like contractor management were conducted systematically. Compliance to procedures is another critical issue that requires constant attention.”

The Durban RoRo Terminal was presented with a symbolic flag and certificate from Cedric Hlongwa, certification manager at the SABS, on Monday, 27 September to acknowledge its achievements.

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