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Ports & Ships Maritime News

12 October 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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News continues below...

FIRST VIEW – MSC ROMA

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The 9,100-TEU, 336m long container ship MSC ROMA (99,500-gt, built 2006), which was forced by heavy swells to spend a number of days at anchor outside Cape Town recently, and leading to the ship having to ’cut and run’ for Ngqura. The four-metre swell meant that the laden ship with her 14m draft was at risk of hitting the sea bed while entering port, even though being at least two metres within the port draught limitations. The strong swell persisted for several days in Table Bay before sea conditions returned to normal. Picture by Ian Shiffman

News continues below…

WEST AFRICAN CONTAINER TRADE TREBLES

Cargo traffic through West African ports has enjoyed a 364 percent increase in recent years, says Dr Chinelo Amaka Chizea-Koko, director of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping.

Quoted in the Nigerian newspaper Leadership, Dr Chizea-Koko says that a recent survey of ports in Africa covering the past five years showed that West African ports had experienced a far greater increase in containerised cargo over general cargo.

A more recent study of West African ports showed the region was experiencing an unprecedented 364% growth in total cargo traffic through its ports.

News continues below…

PIRACY: MONTECRISTO FREED

Royal Marines yesterday (Tuesday, 11 October) boarded the highjacked Italian cargo ship MONTECRISTO and secured its release from the pirates who captured her the day before.

The crew of 23, consisting of seven Italians, 10 Ukrainians and six Indians had taken refuge in the ship’s citadel when the pirates came on board, and were released unharmed. A total of 11 pirates were taken into custody by the British forces, although another report gave the number of pirates as five. The raid has been confirmed by the Italian defence ministry.

The attack by a single skiff took place on Monday 10 October at 04h44 UTC, about 620 n.miles east of the Somali coast and 240 n.miles north-east of Socotra island.

There have been some reports of an unarmed security detail being on board the Montecristo in addition to the 23 crew. The security guards apparently did not retire into the citadel but remained to fight off the pirates, unsuccessfully as it happened. Early reports suggested that the ship had been captured despite the presence of security personnel.

The reports coincided with news that Italy is to station military forces on Italian-flagged and owned ships to guard them against Somali pirate attacks.

Italy’s defence minister Ignazio La Russa was expected to sign an agreement yesterday afternoon with the confederation of Italian ship owners to place military guards on board ships travelling in the area at risk from Somali pirate attack.


Less navy ships to fight piracy

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FS Nivose investigating a suspicious skiff off Somalia

The number of naval ships available for anti-piracy work in the Somali region may be cut back as military budgets are pruned. With the addition of continuing tension in the Middle East, some of the ships now available for anti-pirate patrols may be withdrawn to bolster existing naval forces elsewhere in the region’s troubled spots.

The British publication Lloyd’s List reported Peter Cook, the founder of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry trade association as saying that he was told at a conference in July that the number of naval ships in the Somali region was to be reduced.

“Every western country has had a defence review and not one has come out with more money for the navy – everyone is having their budget reduced,” he was quoted.

A EU NAVFOR spokesman said that Operation Atalanta currently had six warships on station off Somalia which was, he said, optimum. On average we are one ship down on last year, he admitted to Lloyd List’s sister publication, IFW.

The trade paper quoted NATO as saying there were 18 ships from combined maritime forces conducting anti-piracy patrols this October, the same number as for October last year. In addition however, there were a number of ships from other nations acting independently. The South African Navy frigate in the Mozambique Channel would probably be included as one of these.

A spokesman for BIMCO told IFW that naval forces required 25 ships to be fully effective, and 83 helicopter-capable warships in the high risk area to be able to guarantee helicopter assistance to vessels within an hour of a pirate attack. Source – IFW and Lloyd’s List

News continues below...

PIRACY 2: BIMCO ASKS WHY PIRACY IS SO HARD TO STOP

Why is piracy so hard to stop? asks BIMCO

It often seems quite incongruous that in the 21st century we have seen a resurgence of piracy, with large modern merchant ships being captured by pirates in small skiffs with hand-held weapons, carried off to the coast of Somalia and their crews held hostage against ransoms of many million dollars.

There are also piratical incidents regularly reported in West African waters, while the waters of South East Asia, including the Malacca Strait, see occasional cases. In March 2010, Somali pirates held captive some 30 ships and upwards of 700 merchant seafarers, and while it may have reduced since this peak, the menace has spread to cover a large part of the Indian Ocean. Piracy out of Somalia flourishes in the absence of any proper law enforcement ashore in what has effectively become a “failed state”. It is now a major “industry” costing shipping billions of dollars.

While naval forces have been deployed and have been effective in the Gulf of Aden in reducing the number of attacks, the pirates have spread out into the wider waters of the western Indian Ocean, as far as the Indian coast and to the east of the Seychelles. Merchant ships operating in this area, which includes a number of vital and important sea lanes, find that they have to lock down their accommodation, wrap their ships in razor wire and often employ armed guards to keep their ship safe, in addition to many other precautions, which are not always successful.

Hunting down the pirates in the huge area of the open ocean has become very difficult for the limited number of warships that are available. In earlier days the problem might have been countered by a “punitive expedition” to destroy the bases from which the pirates operate. Today, there is reluctance to employ means which could result in the deaths of many innocent victims, which might also include the seafaring hostages being held prisoner. Modern jurisprudence demands strict rules of evidence, so even pirates caught in the act have been released ashore in the absence of evidence it was thought might stand up in a court of law. Fear that the pirates would demand asylum in a state prosecuting them, or uncertainty about which jurisdiction might apply has also inhibited the prosecution of pirates.

The pirates’ use of hostage seamen to run captured “motherships”, thus hugely increasing their range and offering them a stable firing platform for their attacks, has also made it difficult to capture them, even when warships have closed the captured vessels. Hostages have been threatened, exposed to violent torture and even killed by pirates who have become increasingly willing to employ violence against their captives. While the International Maritime Organization has taken the pirate problem to the United Nations itself and the Security Council has been alerted to the situation, it awaits firm, co-ordinated action that will address the political situation ashore. source – BIMCO


BIMCO, the abbreviation for Baltic and International Maritime Council, is the world’s largest private shipping organisation representing the majority of shipowners and operators, brokers and P&I Clubs. Shipowner members represent 65% of the total global tonnage afloat and BIMCO today is the world’s principal organisation responsible for the development of maritime contracts and other related forms, with an estimated more than 75% of transactions within the shipping industry taking place using BIMCO approved forms.

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US$ 330 MILLION EXPANSION FOR DJIBOUTI

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Port of Djibouti, to benefit from large investment. Picture Menafm

Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority’s chairman, Aboubaker Omar Hadi, says that the Djibouti government intends spending US$ 330 million on an expansion programme for the country’s port.

According to Hadi the expansion programme, which will increase the port’s capacity to handle more cargo, is expected to be completed by 2014. The work includes a new quay and container handling equipment.

Once completed the port will have the capacity to handle 3 million TEUs annually, an increase from the terminal’s capacity of 800,000 TEU at the end of 2011.

The container terminal at Djibouti is operated by DP World under a concession.

News continues below…

THE DRONE WAR BLOWBACK

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A Predator drone of the US Customs & Border Control flying over the Mexican/US border area. The UAV is flown primarily by the US Air Force and the CIA and can carry two Hellfire missiles. This type of UAV is used by the United States over Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan among other areas of ‘interest’. The Predator is flown also by several other air forces. It can remain airborne for 24 hours and has a range of 1100km. Captions by P&S

With the increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles or ‘drones’ over the areas of the western Indian Ocean under threat by pirates, the following article by Prof Paul Rogers is relevant and may be of interest.

article by Paul Rogers, 29 September 2011

A greater focus on pilotless armed drones as an instrument of war by the United States and its allies raises questions of political cost as well as law and morality.

An analysis of recent developments in the use of armed-drones was the subject of the preceding column in this series (see "America's wars: the logic of escalation", 22 September 2011). It raised two issues: the United States's expansion of drone-specific bases, from where operations are directed at Somalia and Yemen from Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and even the Seychelles; and the debate within the Barack Obama administration over the extent of targeting by drones, especially their use to eliminate individuals or as part of a generalised counter-paramilitary warfare (see Craig Whitlock & Greg Miller, “U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say”, Washington Post, 21 September 2011).

The former is controversial because it can be regarded as assassination without the possibility of trial and punishment, but the latter carries even greater implications because of the escalation involved. Moreover, this type of campaign is being conducted with a range of tools that includes special-forces raids and cruise-missile attacks as well as drones. The current division of opinion in Washington essentially pits the state department's argument for a degree of caution against the Pentagon's emphasis on the need for wider action against small and dispersed yet potentially dangerous paramilitary groups (see Charlie Savage, "At White House, Weighing Limits of Terror Fight", New York Times, 15 September 2011).

The debate can also be regarded as largely theoretical in that the administration is primarily concerned with high-value targets and not yet spread drone-warfare too far. But this situation could change. Pakistan shows the way, for here tactics have already moved beyond the specific targeting of individuals towards "signature strikes": that is, attacks aimed at "killing clusters of people whose identities are not known, but who are deemed likely members of a militant group based on patterns like training in terrorist camps".

Such attacks can on occasion kill significant leaders. This was the case with the death on 3 June 2011 of Ilyas Kashmiri, who was presumed to have been the leader of the group that planned the attack on Pakistan's naval base at Mehran; though he had not been specifically identified before the attack that killed him (see Dexter Filkins, "The Journalist and the Spies", New Yorker, 19 September 2011).

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Drones are no longer small hand-launched radio-controlled aircraft but highly sophisticated and large weapons of war and mass destruction. Here is the American carrier-based Northrup Grumman X-47B unmanned armed aerial weapons system – still a drone despite its fancy name, which first flew in February this year. The above UAV has a range said to be 2000 miles and a capacity for 6 hours flying time. She can carry 2 tons of ordnance. Other unmanned aircraft can remain airborne much longer, far beyond the endurance of a human pilot.

This kind of "signature strike" may be attractive to the CIA and other parts of the US security industry, but it can also be singularly indiscriminate. An attack by four drone-fired missiles on a marketplace in the village of Datta Khel in North Waziristan on 17 March 2011, for example, killed as many as forty-four people, quite probably including some members of Pakistan's elite Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). Many attacks of this type have fuelled a bitter anti-Americanism that now stretches across large sectors of Pakistani society, yet the counsels in Washington include active consideration of whether to extend the "signature raid" concept to other current theatres of war such as Yemen and Somalia - with a possible extension in future to the likes of Libya and Nigeria.

So if the use of drones in individual assassinations directed at individuals is already problematic, the trend in Pakistan and potentially elsewhere is more of a generic phenomenon whereby profiling that identifies a group of people with the characteristics of active paramilitaries is regarded as sufficient legitimacy for them to be attacked and killed.

The reverse lens

Here too, the implications in terms of the laws of war are substantial. But there is also a political aspect to consider. As the United States finds drone-warfare ever more attractive and moves further away from placing large numbers of "boots on the ground" and the use of drones becomes more attractive, the likelihood of greater civilian deaths among the target population increases. Such "collateral damage" assuredly will provoke intense anger and resentment among survivors, and empower those who can best weave the experience into a convincing political narrative (see "Drone warfare: cost and challenge", 23 June 2011).

US drones are "piloted" principally from bases in the American mid-west. The Royal Air Forces's Reaper drones are also managed from there, though the operational centre is moving to RAF Waddington near Lincoln in eastern England. For the radical groups and their sympathisers on the receiving end, the distant bases from where the drones are flown are very much part of the frontline of their war. At some stage in the months or years to come, there will be retaliation: perhaps not against the heavily protected bases themselves, but much more likely against "soft" targets such as a local bowling-alley or fast-food outlet.

There is still a disconnect in the western public mind between those distant wars and what happens at home. True, there may be rare if appalling attacks such as those in Madrid (2004) or London (2005), but for the most part the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan count mainly in terms of fallen young soldiers or particularly deadly bombs in Kabul or Peshawar.

That could change. As and when "remote war" becomes routine, not least in the increasing use of drones, a real prospect exists of "remote war" in reverse.


About the author

Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 28 September 2001, and writes an international-security monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group. His books include Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: @ProfPRogers

This article is published in openDemocracy and can be found HERE

It is republished here with permission.

PICS OF THE DAY – AS VALERIA

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The Ahrenkiel bulker AS VALERIA (56,808-dwt, built 2011) sailing from Cape Town harbour during the past week. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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