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Ports & Ships Maritime News

18 April, 2011
author: Terry Hutson

 

Bringing you shipping, freight, trade and transport related news of interest for Africa since 2002

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TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

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FIRST VIEW – HOUMA BELLE

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The American owned but Philippines-flagged bulk carrier HOUMA BELLE (42,219-dwt, built 1985) which was in Durban last week. Picture by Trevor Jones

 

News continues below...

BACKLOG CLEARED OR NOT, DELAYS CONTINUE

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Durban Container Terminal Pier 2

The backlog of ships at Durban Container Terminal has been completely cleared, according to Transnet spokesman Mteteleli Memani, who told East Coast Radio that a total of 13 ships had been backlogged since the operations system changeover from Cosmos to the Navis system took place at the end of last month.

Last week he said the last ship was being ‘processed’. The delay was a result of operations having to be shut down for a day in order to transfer data from the Cosmos system to Navis. This, he said, caused delays with the offloading of cargo which then resulted in trucking companies and shipping lines losing millions of rands

Readers will recall that ahead of the changeover the plan was that all terminals at Durban, Cape Town, Ngqura and Port Elizabeth faced a 12-hour shut down during the night of Saturday, 26 March, to facilitate the switchover from the old system to the new.

“Obviously DCT will be an entirely different ball game because of the size and significance of the terminal,” said Transnet Port Terminals’ Business Terminal Executive Moshe Motlohi. “We have learned valuable lessons since Navis was introduced at other terminals. The main thing is that we have contingency plans in place but require the understanding and cooperation of our customers and all our stakeholders in ensuring a smooth changeover,” he said.

That was then, and in the event things didn’t go well and problems persisted, with ultra poor productivity being experienced at Durban Container Terminal Pier 2. One ship, the MSC charter vessel Bunga Seroja Dua was at one stage working containers at a rate of 8 an hour and the ship spent an incredible 16 days in port at the container terminal.

Memani told East Coast Radio in a subsequent quote that while productivity was not at the level it had been before the changeover, TPT was getting back on track.

A crash of the Navis system last week mid week obviously didn’t help things either and although Navis was down for most of the morning only it was enough to cause a huge traffic build-up outside the terminal gates and extending for kilometres along the roads leading to the terminal, inconveniencing thousands of motorists let alone those who do their business in the port.

Meanwhile, the ships are continuing to queue outside Durban harbour. On Sunday afternoon (17 April) there were ten container ships working cargo in Durban, with another 11 outside waiting for a berth. Backlog cleared? Judge for yourself.

 

News continues below…

TRANSNET FREIGHT RAIL TO SHUT DOWN THE COAL LINE FOR THREE WEEKS

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Richards Bay Coal Terminal faces 20 days of no deliveries next month. Picture courtesy Transnet National Ports Authority, Port of Richards Bay. The Capesize vessel is Full Beauty

The embattled Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) coal line from Ermelo to the port at Richards Bay will be shut down for a 20-day period so that planned maintenance can take place.

“The line will be shut from 23 May to 11 June 2011 as part of its planned maintenance,” Transnet spokesperson Sandile Simelane said on Friday.

Richards Bay Coal Terminal last year increased its annual capacity to 91 million tonnes, an empty figure given that TFR is unable at achieve anything like this figure. This year TFR indicated it was hoping to rail about 65 million tonnes of coal to the port, well below its own claimed capacity, but after experiencing two derailments this year and now facing a 20-day shutdown for maintenance it is unlikely that the rail company will come anywhere close.

In January a major derailment was reported when wagons derailed between Intshamanzi and Enqolothi near Ermelo. No injuries were reported at the time and on that occasion one of the two closed lines was reopened three days later. Nevertheless the shutdown then lasting half a week resulted in 90 export coal trains being cancelled. In early April another derailment occurred leading to further delays, during which Richards Bay Coal Terminal made use of its stockpile to maintain its export programme. This would however have resulted in a considerable amount of the stockpile being used up, which has to be replaced in addition to normal exports.

Commenting on the January derailment, TFR’s then acting CEO Tau Morwe said that trying to make up for lost capacity was difficult in an environment that is already under strain.

TFR recently announced tariff increases for the coal line that will average between 26% and 30%. These became effective from 26 March this year.

By the end of March TFR had delivered 15.866 million tonnes of coal to RBCT, which at an annualised rate was equal to 64mt for the year.

 

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PIRATES RENEGE ON RANSOM DEAL, HOLD 7 INDIANS HOSTAGE FOR PRISONER SWAP

Asphalt Venture released but half the crew forced to stay behind

The pirated bitumen tanker ASPHALT VENTURE (3,884-dwt, built 1991) has been released on Friday after its owners, a Sharjah-based company negotiated a ransom for the ship and crew of 15 worth a reported US$3.6 million.

There is however some doubt about the size of the ransom paid, given the age and size of the vessel. It was also reported that once the ransom had been paid over the pirates announced they intended holding seven of the crew of 15 as hostage for 120 pirates in custody in India.

Since then the ship has apparently sailed but only got a short distance before either running out of fuel or experienced engine problems, leaving the vessel to drift helplessly off the Somali coast.

Much of this is speculation because the true facts are not clear even though the apparent reneging of the ransom deal has been widely publicised. If true it means a departure from any dealings the pirates have had with ship owners – what shipowner will ever trust a pirate negotiator again?

“It was a done deal. Fifteen were supposed to be released. We are taking all steps but as of now we haven’t been able to re-establish contact with the pirates,” Sunil Puri is quoted as saying on behalf of Sharjah shipowner, Bitumen Invest AS and the Indian ship manager, OMCI Ship Management.

One of the pirates, identified only as Ahmed is reported as saying: “We have taken some of its Indian crew back because the Indian government is currently holding our men. We need the Indian government to free our men so that we can release their citizens.”

However, Ecoterra International suggests that the reason why half the crew have been held in Somalia lies with an amateurish negotiation followed by a smaller amount of ransom money than agreed being dropped onto the ship.

Asphalt Venture was bound for Durban when it was seized on 29 September 2010 about 100 n.miles south-east of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The protracted ransom negotiation led to speculation whether the owners intended paying any money for the release of the ship and crew.

If the reports prove true and seven of the crew have been kept in captivity, then the latest action by the pirates may lead to a re-evaluation of tactics involving pirated ships – India has adopted an aggressive approach to piracy almost akin to shoot first, ask questions later, which has led to the deaths of a number of innocent seafarers caught up in the crossfire. Several other nations, including the US, the UAE and South Korea have also taken hard approaches to their ships and crew being captured. Pirates that have been prosecuted have received heavy jail terms.

As a result of these approaches the pirates appear to be treating the seafarers much more roughly, with instances where crew have been locked in freezers, or beaten up on deck when warships approach and in some cases thrown overboard and keel-hauled. Spokesmen for EU Navfor, the European Union naval force on anti piracy patrol in the region as well as for NATO have confirmed these developments, which they say could be a result of frustration over negotiations taking longer to conclude due to higher amounts of money being demanded. Pirates have also warned that they will seek retribution from Indian seafarers in future in response to actions by the Indian Navy.


Arctic Sea highjackers sentenced

Six members of a gang involved in highjacking the cargo ship ARCTIC SEA (4,700-ton) in 2009 have been sentenced to prison terms of between seven and 12 years in a Russian court.

When the ship disappeared during its voyage a massive search ensued involving some of Russia’s largest and most powerful naval vessels. The hunt for Arctic Sea was almost a case of overkill. The ship was subsequently found near Cape Verde but then the mystery deepened with the Russian Navy taking charge of the ship which remained at sea for some months before finally arriving in Malta. It has been speculated that the cargo of missiles were removed at sea but this was never proven.

The six men convicted were a Russian, a Latvian, and Estonian, and three others described as stateless. Their trial follows that of another three men who were also convicted and sentenced to terms in prison.


Beluga Nomination released by pirates

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Beluga Nomination while in the hands of the pirates. Picture from Der Spiegel

The general cargo ship MV BELUGA NOMINATION was released from pirate control on 13 April 2011 after being held for 81 days, reports EU Navfor.

The German owned vessel, which is Antigua & Barbudan flagged, had been pirated on 22 January 2011 approximately 390 nautical miles north of the Seychelles. She was on route to Port Victoria in the Seychelles when she was attacked.

The vessel is believed to be making for a safe port.

 

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IVORY COAST PORTS TO REOPEN

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Port of Abidjan, largest in West Africa. Picture courtesy OTAL

Ivory Coast ports are expected to begin reopening this week, following the final overthrow of former President Laurent Gbagbo.

The incoming president Alassane Ouattara’s spokesman said he expected economic activity to return to normal, including the critical cocoa exports, Ivory Coast’s main source of export income.

Ivory Coast produces about a third of the world’s cocoa.

“Port activity will start this week and we expect the first boats to arrive starting next week, with exports proceeding normally,” Patrick Achi, Ouattara's spokesman, said.

United Nations forces are reported to be assisting Ouattara’s army to patrol the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro while other parts of the city and towns are still being secured.

“At the port of Abidjan, we're working jointly with the Licorne (French military) forces, and in San Pedro it is jointly with UNOCI (the United Nations mission in Ivory Coast),” Achi said, adding some 500,000 tonnes of cocoa and cocoa products were stockpiled at the two ports awaiting shipment.

There is no indication when foreign banks operating in the Ivory Coast will recommence trading. - source defenceWeb

 

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MAILBAG: SAMTRA’S NEW CADET TRAINING PROGRAMME

Why no mention of Unicorn?

Great news to read about Samtra's new cadet training programme, funded by the government (Ports & Ships 11 Apri1 2011 SAMTRA launches SAMSA national cadet training project.

This is exactly what South Africa needs to stimulate growth in the seagoing maritime industry.

I was a little surprised that in the below paragraph Unicorn failed to get a mention. Surely they must hold a reasonable percentage of South African Employed seafarers? It would be interesting to determine from SAMSA just how many qualified officers there are, who are still actively working at sea.

“Work ethic - South Africans are generally regarded as having a good work ethic with a culture of 'making a plan' when required and a sense of responsibility. Companies that currently employ SA officers include - Maersk, Safmarine, Smit, Swire, BP, Stolt, Posh Semco, Stena, Tidewater, Sanko, and with respect to hotel staff - various cruise ship companies”

Brgds
Capt Hugo Schuitemaker

 

News continues below…
 

SAMSA AWARDED FOR NEWSWORTHY 2010

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The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) last week was awarded the Maritime Newsmaker of the Year Award for 2010 at a breakfast held at the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town.

The award is presented annually by Maritime Southern Africa, a trade magazine aimed at all sectors of the maritime industry, and aims to recognise those companies or individuals who have promoted the industry in a positive light in the media.

During a difficult year for the South African maritime industry and in the official Year of the Seafarer, SAMSA succeeded in elevating the role of the seafarer under challenging circumstances. The resulting press coverage established a positive environment for the future recruitment of maritime skills and talent.

“In 2010 SAMSA launched the Centre for Seafarers; they anchored the SAMSA Seafarer of the Year Awards and created more media headlines when they organised the Sisters of the Sea voyage on board the SA Agulhas,” said CEO of SAMSA, Commander Tsietsi Mokhele.

“These three significant milestones in the maritime industry secured positive media coverage and promoted careers at sea as a noble, challenging and above all rewarding opportunity to South Africans from all walks of life,” he added.

Accepting the award on behalf of his team, Commander Mokhele was once again vocal in his determination to see South Africa claim its place as a maritime nation.

He once again resolved to see seafarers, shipping and all those involved in the maritime industry acknowledged for their contribution to the country’s ability to engage in international trade – and he emphasised the need to develop the sector in terms of its ability to provide careers and employment to a new generation of South Africans.

 

PICS OF THE DAY – ARV 1

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One of the more interesting and unusual vessels to enter Cape Town recently is the Singapore-owned offshore support and accommodation ship, ARV 1 (17,955-gt, built 1979) and seen here at Landing Wharf #4. Pictures by Aad Noorland

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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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