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Ports & Ships Maritime News

7 April 2015
Author: Terry Hutson

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

TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS

Click on headline to go direct to story – use the BACK key to return

SEND NEWS REPORTS AND PRESS RELEASES TO info@ports.co.za

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FIRST VIEW – AMAZON WARRIOR

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The seismic survey vessel AMAZON WARRIOR (21,195-gt, built 2014) made a call at Durban last week to take bunkers and supplies. Here the specialist ship, which is owned and managed by the UK-registered firm of Western Geco, is seen sailing from port on 3 April. Picture: Trevor Jones

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SUEZ AND RED SEA UNAFFECTED BY YEMEN CRISIS

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Image: NASA

The fighting taking place in Aden and other parts of Yemen is not affecting shipping traffic in the Suez Canal, according to a statement issued on Friday by Mahmoud Rizk, director of the department of planning at the Suez Canal Authority.

“Since the military operation in Yemen was launched last week, revenues from the Suez Canal, along with marine traffic, has been normal compared to the same period last year,” Rizk told the state-run Al Ahram.

The military operations taking place in Yemen raised concerns that shipping passing through the Gulf of Aden and in particular the narrow Bab al-Mandeb Strait, a shipping chokepoint, could be caught up in the fighting. So far this had not occurred.

Almost 4 million barrels of oil pass through this strait each day. Meanwhile, naval ships from India and China have been deployed to take off nationals of each country should the need arrive. According to reports a Chinese ship came under fire from Houthi rebels in Aden as it approached with the intention of uplifting Chinese and other citizens trapped by the fighting. The ship left the port without evacuating its nationals.

An Indian Navy patrol ship INS SUMITRA which has been engaged in counter-piracy patrols in the Horn of Africa region, managed to enter the port of Aden despite also coming under fire and successfully took of 349 Indian citizens. The ship then departed for Djibouti to disembark the passengers after which it was to return to Aden to help evacuate more Indian citizens trapped by the fighting, if required.

There are approximately 3,700 Indian citizens in Yemen.

India has set several other ships to help evacuate people from Yemen. These include the navy ships INS MUMBAI and INS TARKASH which sailed from Mumbai on 30 March, and two passenger ships, CORALS and KAVARATTI. The passenger ships departed from the port of Kochi for Djibouti to be available if needed.

The situation in Aden is confusing but it appears the city is largely in the hands of the rebels. Saudi Arabian tanks and soldiers were last week moving along the coast towards Aden. In the port itself some of the oil installations are reported to be working but a lack of stevedores, who have understandingly not reported for work, means that little can be achieved in the general port.

Most reports indicate that other Yemeni ports remain open to shipping, including those on the Red Sea coast where there are no hostilities.

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DEA REACTS TO DURBAN BAY OIL SPILL

Africa Sun Oil refinery fire pollution control,
Picture: enca.com

The Department of Environmental Affairs has reacted to the recent fire at a Durban edible oil refinery that resulted in a large oil spill in the Bayhead region of Durban Harbour, with a directive to the affected company.

The fire was at an edible oil refinery in the industrial area of Mobeni and a substantial amount of oil went into a nearby canal that drains into Durban harbour, even though the bay is some distance away. The fire burned for about five hours before being brought under control.

Transnet National Ports Authority responded quickly by erecting booms across the entrance into the Silt Canal, which is where the canal lead However, sudden rains and a spring high tide saw oil escaping beyond the booms until officials were able to extend the booms.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has meanwhile issued an urgent directive to the firm involved, Africa Sun Oil Refineries directing the company to adhere to the provisions of the Act and to undertake measures within a specific time to fulfil their obligations in terms of the Act.

Among the measures that had to be taken were an explanation of the nature of the incident, in particular the root cause of the incident, an immediate estimate of how much oil was spilled and an immediate estimate of how much oil has been recovered so far.

The company also has to report on the risks posed by the accident, the toxicity of substances or by-products released by the fire, and what steps have been taken to avoid or minimise the effects on public health and environment.

Africa Sun Oil Refineries is also directed to take full responsibility for the containment, mitigation and management of the current emergency incident, and put maximum effort in ensuring that the following areas are protected; the sandbanks, in particular the central sandbank, the mangroves, and the Natural Heritage Site within Durban Bay.

Further, the company was told to ensure that the placement of booms had to be applied in a staggered approach in order to control the seepage of oil under the booms that were already in place. This included the placement of an extra boom in the bay in order to protect and ensure that the current leaked oil did not reach the mangroves, the sandbanks and the natural heritage site.

It stipulated that the speed of the skimming process had to be escalated and the company had to ensure that adequate tankers were on site to assist in the timeous collection and transportation of skimmed oil off-site. This was to be done bearing in mind the change of tide patterns from neap to spring over the Easter Weekend and forecasts of wind and swells.

Monitoring of the incident was to be immediately put in place, with multiple points at which to monitor the water quality in order to measure the following parameters; a) Hydrocarbons, b) Toxicity, c) PH levels, d) Oil and grease and e) the total suspended solids.

Immediate testing of oxygen and temperature levels at the channels next to the sandbanks and next to the mangroves was to be undertaken at the following levels: a) Half-a-metre above the bottom, b) In mid-water and c) Half-a-metre below the surface.

In addition, immediate testing of the sediment quality at three sites on the central sandbanks and at three sites on the mangroves was to be undertaken. The above sampling had to be followed up every second day afterwards and should be aligned with Transnet’s sediment quality testing protocol.

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RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH - I WAS ON HER LAST VOYAGE TO NEW YORK!

PIC 1 bqe2480 For her day, RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH was a massive vessel. It is beyond imagination to consider that this ocean giant, and her sister QUEEN MARY, could so easily have been sunk by German U-boats in World War 2? Fortuitously, they both survived and lived on to enter the pantheon of the greatest ocean liners every built. Your correspondent Vernon Buxton was aboard on her penultimate transatlantic voyage!

Sometimes when we look back on our lives, we recall moments that were actually way more significant than we could possibly ever have acknowledged at the time.

One such completely unforgettable situation for me was opting to take the last-but-one transatlantic voyage of the old RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, sailing from Southampton to New York. She had only to return to the Solent after that, and an era in trans-ocean sea travel was well and truly brought to an end. Remember, these were purely passenger ships, without the cruise liner accoutrement that would grace their successors.

It was October, 1968, and my friend David Vincent (from Durban) and I, both 26-year-olds, had previously been booked to fly from London to New York. However, walking through Trafalgar Square one sunny morn we spotted a sign outside a travel agency…

CUNARD
Sail to New York
From 90 Pounds!

That was it, with just two minutes of discussion, we entered the travel outlet immediately and signed up to cross the Pond in third class…immediately cancelling our cheap forward ticket on LOFTLEIDER, an Icelandic airline, then using the famous ‘Whispering Giant’, Bristol Britannia, a 4-engined propeller-driven aircraft.

From cheap digs in Earl’s Court, London, we duly made our way to Southampton by train…and there, looming large above us, was the decidedly imposing black hull of the famous 80,000-ton liner. We were beyond excited…beside ourselves at the very thought of actually sailing on a legendary Cunard Queen. I’ve always been a ship lover, and this really was something for me.

Our shared cabin quite far down the decks was entirely modest, with two unused berths above us. What else to expect in third? We were young and singularly undiscerning, so that suited David and I just fine.

In the event, after lots of balloons and streamers and honking of horns…and a band ashore playing ‘Wish Me Luck as you Wave Me Goodbye (Vera Lynn ought to have been there, I thought, to see us off, but she was obviously otherwise engaged?) the old Queen set off down the famous Solent on that grey, austere October afternoon and headed for the French port of Le Havre (whereas Cherbourg had been her traditional call). There, a considerable number of French and other European passengers were ushered aboard as we cast our eyes around a bland, industrial harbour sprawl.

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Late evening, the giant liner (seen in an exquisite profile view reflecting British ship building at its zenith) eased out of Le Havre into a cool, brisk autumn breeze, accelerated elegantly into the English Channel and then set a course for New York, across the wild Atlantic Ocean, a distance of more than 3,600 nautical miles. This was October, a time of the year when Atlantic weather could be considerably more than just inclement. I couldn’t wait for a storm.

The Atlantic did not disappoint. On the second night out a voice on the internal Tannoy announced that “ropes will be erected in passageways in anticipation of approaching weather.” Within hours that weather approached indeed, in the shape of a Force 10 gale…and waves began to whip themselves up in an entirely obtrusive way. But RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH stayed steady.

Next morning, to port I suddenly spotted a small freighter, with a long deck for’ard and its main superstructure completely aft…rocking and rolling like a cork. And here we were, cutting through the giant waves like a knife through butter. I felt for those in the ‘cork’…for they were in for one hell of a day.

And, was the old girl ever belching black smoke? Because of the fierce winds, thick clouds of it swept down on the deck, revealing no doubt that engine maintenance was no longer a high priority. Few of us were out on deck, the place to feel one of the more memorable storms at sea…and I still recall the exciting moment with absolute clarity.

In the event, the Queen Elizabeth was not even half full. The end of an era clearly did not capture the imagination of the sailing public, given that the old queens were passengers ships…essentially transport from point A to point B, and if this was the end of the road, the public must have felt...then so be it. That surprised me, because I expected something more from the end of an era. Did I hear a Boeing 707 passing overhead?...the cause of the death knell to conventional passenger ships.

Seated at our table was an elderly lady, clearly alcoholic, who called herself ‘Cleopatra, Trollip of the Underground’. Ja well, no fine, you know! All ‘Cleopatra’ wanted from David and I was for us to carry her excess duty-free liquour ashore and, being young, innocent and kind, we duly obliged. She was amusing, and did leave one wondering what kind of life she had lived? A full one, to be sure.

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As days three and four at sea progressed, I discovered I was able to go exploring in Second and First class, without challenge. That was weird, but it enabled me to discover that second class was about half full, and no more than a sprinkling of passengers had opted for first class…with its soaring wood-panelled public rooms (note the wall portrait of Queen Elizabeth), sweeping staircases and, in one space, opulent chandeliers. It was positively spooky up there, so I repaired to familiar ground, where there was at least some atmosphere…and the black smoke belched and belched out into the freezing Atlantic air.

As I recall, the British dining stewards were anything but upbeat. Indeed, they complained bitterly about losing their jobs. So their services were somewhat robotic, if dutiful, so the dining experience could hardly be described as memorable. I have no memory of the food, for in those days I ate to live and not lived to eat. That hasn’t changed! Though, I am more discerning now, considerably so!

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Putting one’s watch back an hour every evening was novel…and, so ‘day five’ suddenly turned into the morning of ‘day six’…with the fierce Atlantic weather now having improved quite markedly. Over the Tannoy it was announced that the famous Ambrose Light Ship was about to come into view, so we rushed topside to see the old floating facility positioned not that far off shore. The sentinel beacon, marking New York’s main shipping channel, was hit by a tanker in 2007 and was later replaced by flashing buoys in 2008. If you hadn’t ever seen it, then you’ve missed it forever!

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The ship was now at ‘SLOW’, entering the Hudson River. Ahead lay the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, a magnificent suspension masterpiece across the Hudson River. Then, beyond that – how totally exciting – stood Lady Liberty and Ellis Island, with the famous Manhattan skyline evolving progressively into view beyond that. What a place to make a grand entrance. Scenes you’ll never forget.

To port, we observed, there were two New York tugs (no, Barbra Streisand was not singing ‘Oh my man, I love him so’ from one of them) both spewing a watery welcome to mark the vessel’s last-ever visit to the historic port. There were one or two other little boats present, but it was no flotilla, if that is what was expected?...and, while no-one spoke of it, we felt a touch let down. Perhaps her final departure a few days later was far more of a ra-ra affair?...but my friend and I were well on our way to Chicago by then.

Anyway, we were soon enough ashore, with ‘Cleopatra’s hooch to hand. Standing down on the wharf, in line with the bow, I looked up at the giant mass of this incredible old vessel. I felt the historic moment keenly, pondering on it for only a while, before David and I headed off to a waiting bus, where the driver took one look at us and took us to the cleaners by grossly over-charging. Green-horns from Darkest Africa, you see, what could we do?

After two months of touring a vast swathe of both America and Canada on Greyhound buses, we made our way back to London on our return LOFTLEIDER tickets, having not the vaguest idea then that the story of the QUEEN ELIZABETH had anything but played itself out.

PIC 6 aqe6480 RMS Queen Elizabeth, with her running mate QUEEN MARY, had provided comfortable liner service between Southampton and New York, mainly via Cherbourg in France, for more than two decades. She had been constructed at Clydebank, Scotland, and in 1938 was named in honour of Queen Elizabeth, who was then Queen Consort to King George Vl…and who in 1952 became the Queen Mother…one of the most splendid characters in all of history.

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Queen Elizabeth (pictured at Clydebank soon after construction began) was the largest passenger liner ever built at that time and for 56 years thereafter. She also has the distinction of being the largest-ever riveted ship by gross tonnage.

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Finally in the water, just after launching, she first entered service in February 1940 as a troopship in World War 2, and it was not until late 1946 that she served in her intended role as an ocean liner.


At the start of World War II, it was decided that as Queen Elizabeth was so vital to the war effort that she could not have her movements tracked by German spies operating in the Clydebank area. Therefore, an elaborate ruse was fabricated involving her “sailing to Southampton” to complete her fitting out. In fact, she raced across the Atlantic to New York.

One major factor that limited the ship's secret departure date was that there were only two spring tides that year that would see the water level high enough for Queen Elizabeth to leave the Clydebank shipyard, and German intelligence was patently aware of this fact. A minimal crew of 400 was assigned for the trip…meanwhile names of James Brown's shipyard (the builder) employees were booked to local hotels in Southampton, directly to give a false trail of information.

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By the beginning of March 1940, Queen Elizabeth was ready for her secret voyage. Her Cunard colours were painted over with battleship grey, and on the morning of 3 March, she quietly left her moorings in the Clyde where she proceeded out of the river and sailed further on down the coast where she was met by the King’s Messenger, who presented sealed orders directly to the captain. Whilst waiting for the messenger, and before she sailed to her secret destination, the ship was refuelled, adjustments to the ships compass and some final testing of the ship equipment was carried out. One can hardly imagine the emotions of those on board? Later that day, at the time when she was due to arrive at Southampton, the city was bombed by the Luftwaffe.

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After a crossing taking six days, Queen Elizabeth had zigzagged her way across the Atlantic at an average speed of 26 knots, avoiding Germany's U-boats, where she arrived safely at New York and found herself (right) moored alongside both Queen Mary and the French Line's Normandie (left). This would be the only time all three of the world's largest liners would be berthed together. Soon after arrival in New York for war duties, Captain Townley received a telegram from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, thanking him for safe delivery of the ship that was named for her.

As a troopship, Queen Elizabeth left Singapore on 11 February, and initially she carried Australian troops to operating theatres in Asia and Africa. After 1942, the two Queens were relocated to the North Atlantic for the transportation of American troops to Europe. Their high speeds allowed them to outrun hazards, mostly German U-boats, allowing them to typically travel without a convoy. During her war service the ship carried more than 750,000 troops, and she also sailed some 800,000kms.

Following the end of World War II, Queen Elizabeth was refitted and furnished as an ocean liner at the Firth of Clyde Drydock in Greenock by the John Brown Shipyard. Six years of war service had never permitted the formal sea trials to take place, and these were now finally undertaken.

Under the command of Commodore Sir James Bisset the ship travelled to the Isle of Arran and her trials were carried out. Onboard was the ship's namesake, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth and her two daughters, the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. During the trials, Her Majesty took the wheel for a brief time.

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After her successful trials, the ship finally entered Cunard White Star's two ship weekly service to New York. Despite similar specifications to her older sister Queen Mary, Elizabeth never held the Blue Riband, as Cunard White Star chairman Sir Percy Bates had requested that the two ships not try to compete against one another.

In 1955, during an annual overhaul at Southampton, Queen Elizabeth was fitted with underwater fin stabilisers. The fins were retractable into the hull to save fuel in smooth seas and for docking. The ship ran aground on a sandbank off Southampton in 1947, and was re-floated the following day. In 1959, she was in a collision with the American cargo ship AMERICAN HUNTER in foggy conditions and was holed above the waterline.

Together with the <>Queen Mary, and in competition with SS UNITED STATES, the Queen Elizabeth dominated the transatlantic passenger trade until their fortunes began to decline with the advent of the faster and more economical jet airliner.

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RMS Queen Elizabeth was sold to a Hong Kong businessmen who intended to convert her into a floating university cruise ship. In 1972, while undergoing refurbishment in Hong Kong harbour, she caught fire under mysterious circumstances and was capsized by the water used to fight the fire. In 1973, her wreck was deemed an obstruction, and she was partially scrapped where she lay. The late John G Foggitt, father of the Foggitt family at MSC Cruises South Africa, was on a TFC tour (his company) in Hong Kong when the old Queen was burning, and he wrote home with great emotion about what he had personally witnessed. Your correspondent was just as appalled when images like this came down the wires. Many years later it was claimed that the new owner had bought the hull for US$2,3 million, but insured it for $8 million…which sounds more than suspicious, given that fires reportedly broke out all over the vessel, not just in one place. ‘Anathema’ is one word that comes to mind.

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Both ships were replaced by QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 in 1969. I had the chance to do a short cruise from Durban to Cape Town on this ship shortly before Cunard was taken over by the giant Carnival Corporation. Perhaps a story for another day, but I was really disappointed by the state of this otherwise very famous ship. “A tired old crate,” was how one fellow passenger described her, and I had to concur. However, after a full stem-to-stern refurbishment (with a big Carnival budget), with even the bow being scraped down to its original plates, the ‘new’ QE 2 looked like a desert flower that had been rained upon…as I discovered on a lunch invite in Durban harbour…and during the ship tour I found myself beginning to run out of superlatives. It was wonderful to see her so magnificently restored…and she went on to generate big revenues for Cunard and Carnival. QE2 is now also relegated to the annals of maritime history! Would not a cruise from Cape Town to Southampton have been nice! If you miss it, you see, you miss it.

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QE2’s successor is the 90,900gt QUEEN ELIZABETH, which entered service in late 2010. The red ensign continues, as does the instantly recognisable red funnel. Queen Elizabeth, named in the company’s 170th (now 175th) year, is the second-largest Cunarder ordered in that long history. According to the famous Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships guide, the “ship is a pretend ocean liner and, with its Vista-class hull design, is susceptible to rolling and pitching, like sister ship Queen Victoria.” There are the traditional three-class grades in Queens Grill, Princess Grill and Britannia, all trading on location, location, location, with much leeway for inherent snob value. Most regrettably, the latest edition (March/April 2015) of the American Cruise Travel magazine, carries a letter from one Leonard Stuart, Aurora, CO, who wrote thus under a heading: No More Cunard for Us. “We agree with recent Cruise Travel letter-writers that have noted how the quality of a Cunard-Line cruise has slipped while the company has been under the Carnival Corporation umbrella,” wrote Mr. Stuart. “We sailed twice on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 when she first entered service a decade ago and thoroughly enjoyed the food, the service and the cabins. So, we decided to sail on the Queen Elizabeth last year, from Southampton to the Baltic and back. We were very disappointed in everything, from the food to the cabin service. We found the pursers not helpful and even rude. We received the best service from our waiter and his assistant. The ship is beautiful, like all of Cunard’s Queens, but the entertainment and the cruise director and her staff should all be replaced. Later, we sailed the Queen Victoria trans-Atlantic, Southampton to Fort Lauderdale. Once again, a beautiful ship, but everything was just as bad as on the Queen Elizabeth. None of the crew and staff seemed to care. Such a shame. We have given Cunard two chances, but no more. Goodbye, our once-favourite cruise line. We hope Carnival Corp. will wake up and start treating the Queens better, rather than bringing them down to the same level of the ships in its other lines,” concluded Mr Stuart from Colorado.

Correspondent’s Note: Whilst this is the subjective view of one correspondent, it’s to be remembered that Cruise Travel enjoys a vast international readership (though mainly in America) and one can’t imagine that Carnival Corporation will be enamoured of letters such as this. We hope someone, somewhere, is listening?...because don’t we all want Cunard – given such an extraordinary history - to remain proud, exclusive and leading the pack! I’m not sure Cunard should be in the Carnival stable at all?...after all it’s, you know…so…AMERICAN! It’s the British who created and sustained Cunard traditions for way over a century and a half!

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After several years of decreased profits for Cunard Line, RMS QUEEN MARY, with three very obtrusive funnels, was officially retired from service in 1967. She left Southampton for the last time on 31, October 1967 and sailed to the port of Long Beach, California, where she remains permanently moored. Travelling friend David and I went aboard her here a few weeks after disembarking from the QUEEN ELIZABETH in 1968. Much of the machinery, including one of the two engine rooms, three of the four propellers, and all of the boilers, were removed. The ship still serves as a tourist attraction, featuring restaurants, a museum and hotel. We much preferred the real deal..but our personal encounter with both vessels was deeply affecting!

And hence, David and I were there at the very end of an astonishing era in maritime history. I shall go to my grave treasuring the memory of an historic ‘Pond’ voyage and being on two of the greatest-ever passenger ships. I’ll never forget the grand arrival in fabulous New York…or never not recall our second night there when we saw Pearl Bailey in Hello Dolly on Broadway, and the following night we attended a performance of Mame, with Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur (later of ‘Golden Girls’ fame). It doesn’t get much better than that!

Eat your hearts out…on all counts!

Vernon Buxton

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DP WORLD SIGNS MOU WITH MALDIVIAN GOVERNMENT

Maldive signing

by Paul Ridgway
London

In a strengthening of ties between the UAE and the Maldives, global marine terminal operator DP World has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Maldivian government officials in Dubai for the development of the archipelago’s ports and logistics industry, it was reported from Dubai on 22 March.

This meeting, which was attended by a Maldivian government delegation including Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb, Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed and Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, and DP World Chairman HE Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem with other key company officials, provided an opportunity to highlight DP World’s global portfolio and expertise in assisting partners with the development of their infrastructure and transport networks.

“The Maldives has been growing rapidly, driven largely by its tourism development,” said DP World Chairman, HE Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem. “We are working with them to help diversify the economy through building infrastructure, logistics and transport links needed to make this happen. The UAE has much experience and expertise in this area thanks to the vision of our leaders to explore new growth strategies. We are proud to share our expertise with the Maldives as they develop their capabilities in the global supply chain industry.”

The signing of the MoU is a result of several meetings over the last few months between DP World and the Maldivian government. These include discussions between HE Bin Sulayem and the President of the Maldives HE Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in July and September 2014.

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WHARF TALK – FAREWELL, CAPTAIN GEORGE FOULIS

by Terry Hutson

FAREWELL, LONG-SERVING CAPTAIN

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George Foulis on board the research ship, Meiring Naude with Durban’s Bluff in the background

George Foulis, the former master of the South African research ship Meiring Naude and a well-loved shipping personality of the Durban port, has passed away.

A well-attended memorial ‘celebration’ of his eventful life was held at St Olav’s Church in Durban where the large congregation served as an indication of the high esteem in which he was held by his peers and friends.

Foulis was a product of the South African Nautical College, also known as the ‘General Botha Training Ship’ at Gordon’s Bay, which he joined at the end of his Standard 7 in 1949.

In just his second year he became Chief Cadet, and received the King’s Gold Medal, pinned on his chest by Vice-Admiral Sir Herbert Packer, the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic.

He joined Safmarine in 1951 as a cadet and studied hard, seldom taking leave and as a result of his endeavours to become an excellent seaman, George Foulis became the youngest Master Mariner ever to be appointed in command of a ship in South Africa while at the age of 23.

He continued with his studies while at sea, joining other shipping companies in the process and serving on coasters along the South African coast before obtaining his Foreign Going Masters Certificate. He later joined the harbour service working on tugs and the bucket dredger SILIRUS in Durban and another dredger at East London.

One morning, he was contacted by Bill Mitcehll, Director of Marine Diamonds, insisting that he join his company.

He was made Master of the EMMERSON K and placed in charge of Marine Operations, and said later that he found the pioneering of marine diamonds to be challenging and an exciting experience, often dangerous as the South West African (Namibian) coast is notorious for fog and foul weather.

When the company was sold, Foulis moved on to other ventures.

Then in 1967 he was offered a unique opportunity of supervising the building of the research ship MEIRING NAUDE in the Durban Barens Shipyards.

He was master of this vessel for the next 23 years.

He later described how he found working with all the different scientists on board his ship to be very fascinating, and said that these were the happiest and most satisfying of his whole career.

He felt deeply honoured when one day at sea, divers brought up a crab, one that had never been found before, which was later named after him, Uroptychus Foulisi – which was described as “having hairy appendages”. Foulis wore a beard.

Later a shell, also not found before, was named after him.

The Meiring Naude was also instrumental in acting as guard ship to three Beachcomber Yacht races, helping install electric shark barriers off Margate and searching for the sunken liner Waratah off the Wild Coast. This proved to be a World War 2 freighter.

In his latter days George Foulis showed a keen interest in the activities of the Friends of the Maritime Museum although ill health prevented him from taking an active role.

He is survived by his wife Wendy and three sons, two daughters and eight grandchildren plus many, many friends.

PROGRESS AT THE MARITIME MUSEUM

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Repairs being carried out to the hull of the minesweeper, SAS Durban. Picture: Terry Hutson

It’s been a while since there was an update on progress at the Port Natal Maritime Museum in Durban, where a programme aimed at restoring exhibits to their former glory is underway.

The most notable item receiving attention is the mine sweeper SAS Durban, which fell into a very dilapidated condition and was at great risk of sinking a couple of years ago. Urgent steps were taken and with the support of the Durban Local History Museum authorities and the Local History Museum Trust, a group of volunteers from the Friends of the Museum has undertaken to put the 1957-built ship to rights.

Her outer decks have since been completely replaced and visitors are welcome on board once more. Her inner decks and cabins and compartments are in the process of being restored with several areas reopened to the public. Management of the Durban Local History Museums has appointed a contractor to repair and where necessary replace poor condition timber along her upper portside hull and it is hoped that the starboard side will be similarly treated in the coming financial year. The hull below the waterline was made safe about two years ago.

SAS Durban now receives numerous visitors, most of whom are impressed at the steps being taken to restore her – this includes a surprising number of visitors who once served on either this ship or one of her sisters in years gone by. As the news of her restoration spreads, comment and support is also being received from overseas – SAS Durban, which was the first naval ship to be built and delivered as new for the South African Navy, is now believed to be the sole surviving member of the once extensive ‘Ton’ class of mine sweepers anywhere in the world capable of receiving visitors.

The museum authorities are also introducing plans for the restoration of the tug JR More which lies in the water alongside SAS Durban. These are becoming urgent but they require the big tug going into a dry dock facility to have the hull inspected. Those working on her are confident this will be possible in the not too distant future.

Similarly, the museum authorities are also looking at ways of having all the small craft exhibits, yachts, motor boats, ski boats, lifeboats etc repaired and restored in the not too distant future and placed in public view.

Other good news is that most of the ships’ models have been moved from storage and are now on view in the museum’s Britannia Room, where they prove to be popular with the public and of great interest to visiting schools.

The Friends of the Maritime Museum continues to look for new members who are willing and able to provide support in various ways, be it with their hands or their moral support. The group meets every Saturday morning at the museum but come in work clothes and be prepared to get your hands dirty. There are usually a few members at work on most days of the week. Visitors are always welcome, even if it is just for a chat.

NAVY TO WIND DOWN OPERATION COPPER?

The continued use of South African Navy ships in the northern Mozambique Channel on Operation Copper, the counter-piracy patrols - is in doubt because the navy is finding that the exercise is overstretching its resources.

Flag Officer Fleet, Rear Admiral Bravo Mhlana said this recently, saying that the exercise in which a South African naval ship has an ongoing presence in the Channel, is proving extremely demanding in terms of logistical support and sustainment.

There were reports recently that the South African Air Force has withdrawn its aircraft from Pemba, a port in the north of Mozambique lying approximately opposite the Comoros group of islands. From here the aircraft, usually a C-47TP coastal reconnaissance aircraft, undertook regular patrols keeping an eye on shipping in the area and for possible pirate activity in particular.

The air force also maintained a helicopter which operated either from Pemba or from one of the Valour class frigates whenever they were being deployed. In more recent months the navy has switched to using its smaller patrol ships – the Durban-based former missile strike craft – in place of the frigates which were more expensive to operate during which several experienced serious engine problems while on these patrols.

One of those frigates, SAS Amatola is currently in Durban undergoing a major refit in which her engines have been replaced. The patrol ships, SAS Galashewe, SAS Isaac Dyobha and SAS Makhanda spend six weeks on patrol before being replaced while the frigates were on station for up to four months at a time. Admiral Mhlana said that having the offshore patrol ships came as a big relief because it left the frigates to focus on other deployments – for example one has been engaged in exercising with the German Navy off the Cape coast.

He said the navy’s ships were now spending more time at sea than previously, with Operation Copper accounting for the bulk of this. Although the exercise is a joint one involving South Africa, Mozambique and originally Tanzania, South Africa has had to carry the brunt of it.

With piracy now at its lowest level in years, the navy is expected to follow the air force in withdrawing from Operation Copper, effectively shutting it down.

* These articles first appeared in The Mercury Network Shipping Page on 1 April 2015.

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Combi-Lift’s general cargo heavylift ship PALABORA (11,473-gt, built 2010) called at Durban briefly on 26 February this year to take on bunkers and supplies. The ship is German-owned and managed by the German firm Harren & Partner of Bremen. She is flagged in Antigua and Barbuda. Pictures: Keith Betts

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