Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 7, 2005
Author: P&S

EMAIL: jhughes@hugheship.com
WEB SITE: www.hugheship.com

Cruise ship latest Somali pirate victim

The American cruise ship Seabourn Spirit became the highest profile victim of Somali pirates at the weekend when the luxury ship came under attack while cruising 100 n.miles off the Somali coast.

At the time the ship had cleared the Red Sea and was making for her next port of call of Mombasa. She had about 150 passengers on board, including six South Africans. The cruise segment was scheduled to end in the Seychelles.

The attack came from a number of small speed boats with armed men who chased the ship and opened fire with automatics rifles and rocket launchers. Several projectiles from the latter struck the ship, lodging in a cabin and elsewhere on the vessel but fortunately not causing any great damage or fatalities among the passengers or crew.

The master of the ship immediately began evasive manoeuvering at full speed which included, according to some accounts, an attempt to run down one of the pursuing boats, and eventually outrun the attackers. Passengers had been asked to move to a restaurant area in the centre of the ship where they would be most safe during the attack.

An American warship in the area later escorted the Seabourn Spirit into harbour in the Seychelles after the visit to Mombasa was curtailed.


As commendable as the action was on the part of the officers and crew of the ship, one has to ask what on earth they were doing sailing so close to the Somali coast despite all the publicity and warnings in recent weeks.

This publicity follows a spate of attacks of other ships, some of which remain in captivity while ransom demands are negotiated. Within the past two weeks the IMB issued warnings to all shipping to remain a long distance from the Somali coast - a call that apparently was not heeded by the latest victim.

It is also clear that the pirates are remarkably well equipped and informed and have no compunction about attacking any type of ship. In fact a cruise ship must appear wealthy pickings to such buccaneers. There is also some evidence that they may be operating from a ‘mother ship,’ a vessel which is capable of launching the small boats used to attack passing ships far from the coast.

While we remain grateful that the latest attack was foiled and no-one injured or captured, perhaps the latest attack will bring home to other more sophisticated maritime nations that the time for issuing warnings to innocent ships is past and the time for some action against the perpetrators has arrived.

Had the Seabourn Spirit filled with wealthy American and European passengers been captured and taken for ransom, would the reaction have been different from that when several Kenyan ships carrying food aid cargo were taken at gun point, or when an Egyptian cement carrier was seized?

An appeal has already been made by the interim Somali government for neighbouring countries to send their navies to patrol the waters off Somalia. Has this appeal fallen on deaf ears or is it simply that neighbouring countries, even those as far away as South Africa, lack the ability to undertake such patrols?

Pirates attack another two ships at weekend

Another two ships, a bulk vessel and a Ro-Ro ship came under attack from pirates off the Somali coast at the weekend in the wake of the much publicised attack on the American cruise ship Seabourn Spirit.

This brings to about 30 the number of attacks on ships in these waters since mid March. The unnamed Ro-Ro ship reported to the IMB reporting centre at the weekend that it was fired upon by pirates armed with automatic weapons and rocket launchers, damaging the wheelhouse windows – an attack reminiscent of the Seabourn Spirit. Fortunately the ship was able to outflank the attackers and make its escape.

The other attack occurred on a Hong Kong flagged bulk carrier which reported a drifting vessel that ‘came suddenly to life’ as the bulker approached and then took up the chase after the Hong Kong ship. The mystery vessel was fitted with a derrick which gave rise to speculation that this is a ‘mother ship’ which is used by pirates as a launching pad to attack passing ships far out to sea off the Somali coast.

LPG Carrier in collision

Maersk Holyhead, a 20,900-cbm LPG carrier owned by AP Moller-Maersk, was in collision with the Liberian bulker Pequot about 55 n.miles off the Maracaibo Lake channel in Venezuela yesterday (Sunday, 6 November).

Maersk Holyhead was carrying 11,200 tonnes of propane at the time. The collision left a gaping hole in the starboard side of the LPG carrier and a leak in a bunker tank, from which a quantity of bunker oil escaped into the sea. There was no immediate explanation how the collision came to occur. There are no reports of any injuries on either vessel. Maersk Holyhead has gone alongside a berth at the discharge port of El Tablazo.

Scoop for Walvis Bay

The Namibian port of Walvis Bay is celebrating the first large bulk cargo shipment for Zambia to be transported from the port along the Trans Caprivi Corridor.

The 3,000 tonne cargo was discharged recently at the port before being road transported to Zambia along the newly opened corridor, which was facilitated last year with the opening of a bridge over the Zambezi at Kulilo Mutilo in the Caprivi, which also forms the border between the two countries.

Namport, the state-owned port operator of Namibia has been active in promoting the values of both the Trans Kalahari Corridor – which crosses Botswana to link Walvis Bay with Johannesburg and the Gauteng province of South Africa - and the Trans Caprivi which is the northerly corridor linking the port with Central Africa.

Both corridors are being promoted as alternatives to South African ports for landlocked southern African countries.

The use of the corridors will come under a microscope in the Netherlands on 15 November when they are promoted at the Southern African-Netherlands Chamber of Commerce Namibian Forum. Dutch businessmen will be told of the advantages of using Walvis Bay as the closest route from Europe into both Gauteng and southern and Central Africa.

India’s exports to Africa climb the ladder

India’s exports into Africa are booming and have grown by 63% over the second quarter of 2005, reports the Economic Times Online.

The publication says that India is doing better than China, which increased its exports to Africa by 48% for the same period. Africa is now India’s fastest growing trade destination for Indian manufactured goods, comprising 6.8% of India’s total exports.

The article concludes by saying that India could have been in an even stronger position with its African trade had it taken what it called the ‘first mover advantage.’ It said that most Indian businessmen did not realize that a number of African economies enjoyed a higher sovereign credit rating putting them in the same league as Brazil and higher than many other emerging economies such as Turkey and Indonesia.

Read the full article at http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1285276.cms

Clipper Race update 3 November

Sunday 6 November

The fleet continues to advance in three main groups on a north/south axis. Cardiff, Jersey, Durban and Victoria in the north. Liverpool, New York, Qingdao and Singapore in the middle and Glasgow newly joined by Westernaustralia in the south. In some ways we can almost look at this as three different races. Although on a two dimensional chart the boats all look pretty much the same distance from the southern tip of Africa the reality is somewhat different. As has been mentioned before, the Great Circle route is the shortest distance between two points on a sphere and when one takes this into account the southern boats have a definite edge. The rest all have to sail further south to clear the African coast.

One commonly mistaken fact is that the southernmost tip of Africa is actually Cape Agulhas and not the Cape of Good Hope as is often thought. The latter being instead the tip of the slightly curved promontory to the south of Cape Town which actually has no navigational significance on the race to Durban. And to prove that PR and spin are far from new inventions it was originally known as the Cape of Storms until rechristened several centuries ago on the orders of a European King who wanted to give it a more positive image so as to inspire his sailors whilst sailing round it.

At the moment the wind is still forecast to ease off over the next couple of days. On receipt of Saturday’s forecast several of the skippers asked if it was possible to return it in exchange for a new one that fitted better. It does still depend on the movement of the high pressure mentioned yesterday, and these are not the easiest to predict so we still need to wait and see. Certainly progress over the last 24 hours has remained good. Jersey have had a few problems with some rigging slackening off which has not helped their boat speed, but they have kept on top of it and are heartened that they have managed to fix the problem with their email system so are now back in full contact. After lots of technical advice concerning software, hardware and so on it turned out to be nothing more than a slightly loose power connection. Thanks to Chris Walton of Seawave for suggesting that one.

Monday 7 November

Since leaving Salvador on race three to Durban further problems have emerged with the rig on Jersey Clipper. The Race Team has been monitoring the situation and has informed the rest of the fleet. None of the other boats has reported problems with their rigs since leaving Brazil.

Clipper Ventures Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston says: ‘Jersey Clipper is experiencing an unusual amount of stretch in her stays. This is leading to the mast moving at its head. The backstays have been tightened but the problem continues and at present no obvious reason for it has been discovered.’

‘Clearly the worry is that something within the rig is slipping as there appears to be no movement in the chain plates. Whilst the crew continue to try to discover the cause of the problem, they are considering diverting the boat to Cape Town where a full investigation can be made,’ he added.

Jersey Clipper Skipper Mark Taylor is in regular contact with members of the Race Team who have been passing on advice from the riggers in the UK and the rigging manufacturers in South Africa. He has also been speaking directly to the rigging manufacturer to ascertain the source of the unexplained movements in the rigging. In the meantime, Mark and his crew have reinforced the backstay as a safety precaution.

Due to the weather conditions, Mark has not climbed the mast to investigate further, but with the wind set to subside over the coming days, he will be in a better position to carry out a more thorough investigation.

Two representatives from the rigging manufacturers flew out to Brazil to assess the rigging on the fleet of Clipper 68s after problems with the forestays on four of the yachts on the first Atlantic crossing from Cascais to Salvador.

Spare fittings were couriered in and after a full assessment the team from South Africa replaced the fittings on all the boats and passed them fit to set sail towards Durban.

Further investigations will be carried out when the fleet arrives in South Africa, where the rigging manufacturer is based and where representatives will be standing by to assess the fleet.

For a detailed leader board please go to http://www.clipper-ventures.co.uk/n05_06/homepage.php

- this report courtesy Clipper Ventures

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