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Ports & Ships Maritime News

14-15 July 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 – TOISA PEGASUS

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The offshore support vessel TOISA PEGASUS (9,494-gt, built 2009) in Piraeus, Greece. Picture by Henk Jansen, courtesy Robert de Lange

News continues below...

NIGERIAN PORTS BRACE FOR MAJOR STRIKE

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Port terminals like Apapa in the port of Lagos face shut downs from an impending nationwide port strike

The Maritime Workers' Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has advised operators and other port users to conclude all business before the start of a potential strike.

If the talk ahead of the confrontation is correct, then the country’s ports all face major disruption that could close most of them for an undetermined period. The strike is in support of demands for the implementation of the new minimum wage.

“As an affiliate of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), maritime workers will comply totally with the strike once it begins and the ports will remain shut until national leaders of NLC and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) say otherwise,” MWUN’s President-General of MWUN, Anthony Nted told journalists this week.

He criticised local state governors who swore to defend the country’s constitution and its laws yet refused to observe the minimum wage Act passed by the Federal Government and signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan in late march,

“The governors were part of the processes that brought about the N18,000 minimum wage. They do not have any excuse not to implement. Whatever problem they have, they must implement the wage increase,” he said.

The unions are demanding that the minimum wage of N.18,000 (R805) be implemented. The Act was passed by the Nigerian National Assembly and signed into law by President Jonathan on 15 March 2011.

Nted said that he wanted to warn all port operators that once the NLC declares the minimum wage strike, it will begin and all port operations will be shut down. “They will remain shut till national leaders of NLC and TUC say otherwise. As an affiliate of NLC, there will total compliance to any NLC directive on the minimum wage issue. We call on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the state governors to implement the wage and save the nation from an avoidable industrial unrest that will do nobody any good.” – source Daily Independent, GAC and others.

Meanwhile, the State of an Emergency, which was placed across Lagos after devastating rains earlier this week that led to widespread flooding, has been lifted as conditions continue to improve.

News continues below…

JUDGE FOR YOURSELF: FIRE ON THE GREEK TANKER

On 7 July we reported a fire on board a supertanker off the Yemeni coast, which was said to have been caused by Somali pirates frustrated because the crew had locked themselves in a citadel on board the ship. See that report HERE - use your Back Button to return to this page.

While all appeared to make sense with the initial reports, a sense of mystery developed afterwards, especially with what seemed like contradictory reporting by naval and other forces operating in the area, who one might have assumed would have been highly interested in a giant, fully-loaded oil tanker that had come under attack by pirates and then set on fire.

The environmental and humanitarian agency Ectoterra Intl however has had questions about this matter from the beginning, and hasn’t been shy in sharing them. Here is their latest report – we make no further comment, our readers can judge for themselves. (We have made little attempt to alter the report – please accept that English is not the first language of the organisation known as Ecoterra.)


Scandal of joint naval mess

Mystery widens on Greek tanker fire and pirates off Somalia (ecop-marine)

At 00h23 UTC (03h23 local time) on 6 July 2011 in position Latitude: 12 29N and Longitude: 04444Em around 20nm SW of Aden, the bridge and crew quarters of an oil tanker were on fire, and the captain and crew abandoned the ship - leaving the vessel dead in the water.

While the all-Filipino crew of 26 sailors from the Liberian-flagged oil tanker MT BRILLANTE VIRTUOSO, carrying about 1 million barrels of fuel oil, had jumped into the life boats and the seamen were then taken on board of US American warship USS PHILIPPINE SEA (CG 58), operating under Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), the piracy reporting centre of the NGO IMB sent - with reference to the shipowner - an alert, which stated:

“The 149,601-dwt Suez Max oil tanker was attacked at 0006 hrs UTC, only 20 miles the Port of Aden, the company said. The vessel was en-route from Kerch, Ukraine to Qingdao, China, carrying 141,404.941 MT of fuel oil.”

After having sent statements claiming an alleged piracy attack by 7 pirates, the shipowner later stated:

“The Brillante Virtuoso is presently safely adrift and two tugs have arrived from Aden and having secured the vessel, are proceeding with fire-fighting measures,” the ship’s manager, Athens-based Central Mare Inc, said in a statement. “The Master, Chief Engineer and Electrician are on board the tugs to assist in the salvage operation. No pollution or injury to crew members has been reported.”

BUT, while most already stated that Somalis had set an oil tanker ablaze with a rocket propelled granade (RPG), NATO stated clearly:

“No confirmation of piracy.”

and also the US American Navy could not find any evidence of a piracy attack, which was summarized by the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) headquarters with the sentence:

“The [USS] Philippine Sea found no evidence of pirates and concentrated their efforts on assisting the crew members.”

Interestingly, also EU NAVFOR headquarters in Northwood was “not so sure” about a pirate attack.

Reportedly the crews of the two tugboats which the Greek owner had sent from Aden to tow the vessel to safety were able to extinguish the fire.

So far we had already reported (see our last two CPU issues), but many questions remained unanswered.

New Developments

Then, on 8 July 2011, two days after the incident off Aden, the Deputy Director of the Berbera Port in the breakaway Republic of Somaliland, Mr Omar Abukar Jama (Cumar Abokor Jaamac), and the Harbour Master of Berbera Aden Hussein Hussein (Aadan Xussen Cilmi) (nicknamed Aadan Daved) received strange calls via HF radio-tranceiver from EU NAVFOR announcing that a Russian warship was steaming towards Berbera to hand over seven alleged pirates who had been nabbed by the navies and the EU NAVFOR officer said the Russians also wanted to offload three bodies of Somalis, who had been killed in a fight with anti-piracy forces off the Yemen coast.

Soon after, a Russian signals officer informed the port officials at Berbera via ship-radio that the Russian warship was actually on her way to the Somaliland harbour and had seven Somali “fishermen” on board whom they “had rescued from their destroyed boats” and three corpses of Somalis deceased during their mishap.

The officers of the Russian warship ship insisted that they had “rescued” these people.

With now two different stories at hand, the Somaliland officials insisted to speak to those Somalis which the Russians had on their ship.

Thereby it turned out that the group of the survivors consisted of six Somali nationals, who hail from the semi-autonomous regional state of Puntland, which is part of the Federal Republic of Somalia under its present Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The seventh man was said to also be a Somali national but hailed from the Jareer ethnic group of Somali Bantu. All apparently had ventured from Alula (Calawla) in Puntland onto the Gulf of Aden.

The identity of the Somalis detained on the Russian warship were:
1- Maxamed Ismaciil Salaad - 14 years
2- Jaamaca Maxamed Faarax - 21 years
3- Xuseen Maxamed Siraad -21 years
4- Cabdiraasaq Shire - 26 years
5- Axamed Cumar - 22 years
6- Cabdo Cali Sahiir - 29 years
7- Maxamed Siciid Cali - 26 years

With 29 years the oldest survivor, Abdo confirmed to the Somaliland officials that they had been taken on board at position 12 degrees 49 minutes North and 047degrees 53 minutes East, which is not far from where the incident of the burning oil supertanker happened.

Due to the contradictory stories of the navies and the fact that the persons hailed from Alula in Puntland the Somali officials at Berbera harbour decided that they would not allow the Russian warship to approach Berbera and advised the Russian captain to bring his human cargo to Bosasso, Puntland's harbour town at the Gulf of Aden.

Then again EU NAVFOR demanded over the radio that Somaliland should accept the docking of the Russian warship and promised “that a deal would be struck”.

During the night the communications and the haggling continued and also a British Navy ship which was scheduled to come to Berbera for a training session with the Somaliland marine corps tried to convince Somaliland to accept the delivery.

But the Somaliland officials had already made up their mind, and at 02h36 instructed the port security forces to not allow the Russian warship close to or into the harbour. The harbour master communicated these instructions also to the Russian navy vessel. But with first light the Russian warship approached at 06h00 the outer moorings of Berbera harbour.

This time serious warnings were issued to the officer on the Russian ship, who had identified himself as Alexander Zakharov.

While the Somaliland forces got ready to avert the berthing of the vessel by all means, the Russian warship finally complied and cleared the zone, but continued to sail only about one or two miles off the shores to the East.

Though rumours in Somalia spoke already on 6 June 2011 of an actual attack by a known group of 12 pirates operating close to Aden, whereby seven boarded the gigantic oil tanker, the naval forces remained mum, denied any piracy case and so far did not provide any official clarification on a piracy attack.

At least EU NAVFOR appears thereby very dodgy, but also the Russian and the Yemeni navy haven't been cleared, because it is fact that the Russians already had the Somalis on board at that time. Earlier reports from Somalia also spoke of an involvement of the Yemeni coastguard and navy, who might have fired the RPG (most likely RPG29), which according to the written statement of the vessel’s manager, Central Mare Inc., set the accommodation block of the vessel ablaze, thus nearly creating a major maritime and environmental disaster.

With the now revealed mop-up operation off Somaliland, it already has become clear that at least EU NAVFOR clearly lied to Bloomberg journalists, who reported:

‘If it were an attack by pirates and they started the fire, it would be the first such incident, said Harrie Harrison, a spokesman for European Union Naval Force, or EU Navfor. The group has yet to confirm pirates were involved, he said.’

Meanwhile observers in Somalia reported that the Russians had actually set the seven surviving Somalis free at a beach east of Berbera and, while they tried to walk off, they where found by local officials and arrested. It is said that the seven are at present in Somaliland detention awaiting further questioning.

Where the corpses of the three killed Somalis are is not yet clear. It can not be ruled out that the Russians dumped the bodies into the sea or that the approach of a British naval vessel with Somaliland navy officials on board at the coast near Laasqorey, which was repulsed by the Puntland forces who fired on the British contingent as we reported earlier, is not connected.

Unless the navies could prove otherwise, it must be assumed that these Somalis stem from the incident with the oil tanker, which was the only one officially reported incident since 26 June 2011. Thereby the conspiracy by navies and governments is already clear concerning the shielding of the truth from the public as well as from the Somali government and the UN.

The mainstream media like Reuters with all their direct pirate and insurgent contacts or naval megaphone Associated Press seem to collude and have like the Russian media themselves not reported. They couldn't because the navies try kept the real developments secret, but the media obviously also didn't make an effort.

Now it remains to be seen if this conspiracy actually had developed into a situation whereby a navy could rightfully be accused of having become an accessory to commit maybe even insurance fraud. As accomplices to commit unlawful acts and to jointly cover up the navies must be seen already.

Since IMO, the maritime authorities of Yemen and the flag-state Liberia as well as the naval command centres and the insurance company of the vessel itself or the owner have not come up with a clear post incident report, it is now the turn of the UN, who has to launch a full and independent investigation.

This is specifically warranted, because the UN let the navies off the leash in the Somali waters and based on the UNSC resolutions and global-governance arrangements, the UN also has the responsibility to hold its members accountable. Even the involved states themselves, whose judges preside over piracy cases must come clean for their own interest and in order to maintain the truly higher moral ground - necessary to justly prosecute true pirates.

Finally, and because fire on such a huge oil-tanker could have caused an environmental disaster of unprecedented magnitude for the marine ecosystem, the whole area and especially the coastal state of Yemen, it must also become clear who or what caused the fire on the tanker. If it turns out that it was caused by a naval attack, the rules of engagement certainly have to be rewritten to avert a future occurrence of similar incidences involving such a dangerous tanker.

The rule-book on lying certainly has to be revised by the involved navies. Otherwise we will soon see the picture of the burning bridge of such tanker develop into a gigantic fireball and a major oil-spill.

News continues below...

SAFMARINE INTRODUCES NEW WEEKLY SERVICE FROM INDIA TO EAST COAST SOUTH AMERICA

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Jan Scheck, Safmarine’s COO

Safmarine Container Lines says it intends introducing a direct, weekly service between the Indian Subcontinent, Middle East and East Coast of South America. The new ‘Rumba/Prime 4’ service is the combination of a new Prime string with its existing L Class service which runs from East Coast South America to West Mediterranean and will complement Safmarine’s existing Prime and Latin American services.

“The Rumba/Prime 4, a direct, weekly service in the market, will ensure smooth sailing all the way from Latin America to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent,” says Jan Scheck, Safmarine’s Chief Operating Officer.

“This service will be of great benefit to our Middle East and Latin America customers, especially those shipping refrigerated commodities, as it offers one of the fastest transit times in the market. Our transit time from Santos to Jeddah is now 18 days and from Santos to Jebel Ali in 24 days.

“The service will also provide our European customers with additional service opportunities between Europe, Middle East/ISC, for example, direct port coverage is offered via the port of Genoa (Italy) and Barcelona (Spain) out of the Indian Subcontinent (ISC) and Middle East. Our Spanish customers of refrigerated cargo (eg citrus and stone fruit) will also benefit from the short transit time from Spain to the Middle East with the direct call in Valencia.”

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Safmarine Nokwanda (50,657-gt, built 2005), one of the vessels deployed on the new service

’Rumba/Prime 4’ port rotation is as follows: Jebel Ali (UAE) – Jawaharlal Nehru (India) – Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) - Suez Canal (Egypt) – Genoa (Italy) – Barcelona (Spain) – Algeciras (Spain) – Tangier (Morocco) - Santos (Brazil) – Itajai (Brazil) – Paranagua (Brazil) – Montevideo (Uruguay) - Rio Grande (Brazil) – Santos (Brazil) - Algeciras (Spain) – Valencia (Spain) – Suez Canal (Egypt) – Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) – Salalah (Oman) – Jebel Ali (UAE).

The service will deploy 11 vessels. The first southbound/westbound sailing of the Rumba/Prime 4 service will be the Maersk Danville (voyage 1113) in Jebel Ali on 31 July 2011 and on the northbound/eastbound sailing, the Laust Maersk (voyage 1112) in Brazil on 7 August 2011.

The service is being operated together with Safmarine’s sister company Maersk Line.

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FORD TO START EXPORTING UP TO 110,000 RANGERS A YEAR FROM SOUTH AFRICA

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Ford Ranger

Ford in South Africa is planning to export each year up to 110,000 Ranger bakkie (pickup trucks) manufactured in its Pretoria plant.

The South African Ranger is one of the last-remaining compact pickups still available and is highly popular in the UK and in Thailand. Now, according to a statement issued recently by its executive vice president and chief financial officer, Lewis Booth, Ford intends selling the Ranger into 148 countries and the parent company has allocated US $500 million to develop the export programme.

“I am pleased to announce today that this All-New Ford Ranger will be exported from South Africa to 148 markets around the world, solidifying South Africa's role as a key operation in Ford's global manufacturing footprint.” The Ford Ranger manufactured in South Africa will possibly replace the outdated US version of the same name, of which Ford announced it will be stopping production at the end of this year. The South African version is said to be a far more advanced design, not only in appearance but in things like having four doors, diesel engines and more modern drive chains.

In 2010 Ford sold approximately 48,000 vehicles into southern Africa that were manufactured in its two plants in South Africa, at Pretoria and at Port Elizabeth. Ford has an approximately 10% market share in South Africa, but the company’s Struandale, Port Elizabeth engine plant has also been extensively upgraded giving it a capability of producing 75,000 engines and 220,000 engine component kits a year. “The new Duratorq TDCi engines will be equipped in the Ranger pick-ups, built at [Ford's Silverton, Pretoria] vehicle assembly plant, which has also been expanded and is now capable of producing 110,000 vehicles a year,” Automotive Business Review recently reported.

News continues below…

AFRICA’S COOPERATION WITH MAJOR EMERGING ECONOMIES: THE CASE OF THE BRICS

by Taku Fundira (researcher with tralac)

Since the beginning of the new millennium a new world order has risen where we are increasingly noticing the influence on the structure of the world economy by some major emerging markets, namely Brazil, India and China from a developing country perspective, but also the rise of Russia (since the collapse of the Soviet Union).

Their role in the global arena, from an economic and political perspective, has raised concern among the developed world in the manner in which their influence is shaping or shifting the balance of power. Concerns around the impact on the environment and governance issues have also been raised. However, in Africa the role of some of these countries under the auspices of the so-called South–South alliances can be viewed as an opportunity to enhance cooperation with other developing countries, playing a significant role in the economic and social development of the region.

Poverty, poor infrastructure, development of productive capacity and transfer of technology, notwithstanding the emerging threats associated with climate change as well as the food, energy, financial and economic crises have been identified as challenges that Africa can enhance its capacity to manage through cooperation with other developing countries.

Furthermore, the increased bargaining power of developing countries in multilateral negotiations, as reflected in the current Doha negotiations of the WTO, has been cited as another reason for cooperation. It is against this notion that since 2000, African countries have entered into new partnerships and arrangements with the South, driven primarily by economic rather than political considerations. The new partnerships are often based on formal frameworks with dialogue forums and action plans.

A relook at the global economy’s engagement with Africa, one can ponder the agenda behind the renewed and increased interest in Africa, a continent that was once dubbed ‘hopeless.’ Historically representations of Africa have been regarded as under-developed and poor, but of late representations have regarded Africa as a continent full of potential with a lot of opportunities. The appetite for raw materials of boom economies, like China and India, is generating valuable new opportunities. Can this be a new scramble for Africa in a post colonial era? Some analysts are certainly convinced that if this increased interest goes unchecked, it is no different to the manner in which Africa was previously colonised for its resources.

This argument is certainly plausible if one looks at the majority of investments in Africa from the so-called emerging markets. They are concentrated in the traditional resource rich primary sectors. The difference however, is that this new scramble is enabling African countries to add terms and conditions into the mix such as concessions attached with infrastructure development projects. For example, according to Holslag (2007), in Mozambique, Indian contractors were allowed to exploit the coal mines there only after the Indian government had promised to invest in public infrastructure. Furthermore, the new scramble has provided a front line for competition between the traditional investors –the US and the European Union on the one hand and other emerging players, such as China, India, Brazil, Russia and South Africa.

Africa’s cooperation with especially the emerging markets such as the BRICS offers new options that can be turned into opportunities which cannot be overlooked. It is important to note that the opportunities are not automatic and African countries need to create an enabling environment conducive to tap into the benefits that accrue. In this regard, there is need for a proactive approach that allows for the development of cooperation strategies that are in line with national and regional development goals.

In line with this, tralac has prepared a series of “trade at a glance” notes for the BRICS and Japan, providing a snapshot overview of their engagement with Africa. The first in the series to be highlighted here is http://www.tralac.org Brazil trade at a glance with Africa

Note: The tralac (Trade Law Centre for southern Africa) website can be accessed at http://www.tralac.org

News continues below…

PICS OF THE DAY – DURBAN INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW

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The Durban International Boat & Lifestyle Show is being held this weekend at the Durban Marina, right in the heart of the city when it runs from Friday 15 until 6pm on Sunday, 17 July. Exhibitors from boat companies and manufacturers from all over South Africa and further afield are taking part in one of the highlights of the South African boating scene. In the picture above is a yacht built in Knysna by the Knysna Yacht Co and seen here sailing past one of the famous Heads.

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The Durban Marina on the yacht mole is the scene for this weekend’s fun and excitement as boat and boating manufacturers and companies operating within this sphere show off their wares. In this picture is one of the giant catamarans built in Durban by Royal Cape Cats.

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