Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 22, 2006
Author: P&S


  • Unions issue ultimatum to government

  • German Navy arrives in the Cape

  • 35 wagons derailed in latest Richards Bay accident

  • WFP buys R600 million worth of food aid from South Africa

  • Visit by US pre-positioning ship

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    WEB SITE: www.hugheship.com

    Unions issue ultimatum to government

    Transnet trade unions, in dispute with Transnet and now in the fourth phase of strikes across the country, yesterday issued an ultimatum to the minister of Public Enterprises and threatened to escalate the industrial action if no response is received within 48 hours.

    The unions accuse Transnet of bad faith and ongoing arrogance throughout the dispute that has hurt large segments of the country’s economy and inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people. They say Transnet intends ‘dragging out’ the process until 31 March 2006 at which point Transnet will remove so-called non-core business units and subsidiaries with a stroke of a pen and without any regard for the social consequences affecting employees and their families.

    “We have never argued that every job must be retained within Transnet but we have stated very clearly that every job must be retained with existing conditions of service guaranteed regardless of the restructuring outcome reached through negotiation.’

    Among the demands issued to the minister yesterday, he is required to provide a written guarantee regarding job losses with job security guaranteed for a period of five years regardless of the restructuring process. The demand calls for all retirement benefits to be guaranteed in existing form by any new employer, whether they be state or the private sector.

    The ultimatum also calls on the minister to provide political leadership to bring about an end to what it calls bad faith negotiations and unilateral decision-making by Transnet. It calls for the removal of Pradeep Majaraj, Transnet’s chief negotiating representative, saying that he has ‘proven himself incapable of respecting and engaging labour as a result of a lack of experience.’

    Meanwhile the minister of Public Enterprises, Alec Erwin said yesterday that the unions had missed an opportunity of being involved in Transnet’s restructuring process. He said it was time for moving forward and building and strengthening Transnet instead of needlessly inconveniencing commuters. He described the planned restructuring as an absolute priority for the country’ economy.

    According to Erwin both he and Transnet had held lengthy discussions with the unions concerning the restructuring process, which would not entail large numbers of retrenchments.

    German Navy arrives in the Cape

    Three ships of the German Navy arrived in Simon’s Town yesterday on an official visit to the South African Navy and with whom joint exercises will be held.

    The three ships, the frigates Hamburg (F220), Rheinland-Pfalz (F209) and the combat support ship Berlin (A1411) exchanged gun salutes on arrival at the naval dockyard in False Bay.

    Between 3 and 6 March the task forces of the German and South African Navies will take a break from exercising with a courtesy visit to Cape Town.

    Pictures and details of the three classes of ships will appear on the NAVAL REVIEW page of Ports & Ships later today.

    35 wagons derailed in latest Richards Bay accident

    The latest derailment on the Richards Bay coal export line, which was briefly reported in yesterday’s Bulletin, involved 35 fully loaded wagons that came off the tracks somewhere between Vryheid and Ulundi.

    The line was fully reopened by yesterday but having yet another in a spate of accidents along this line should cause alarm bells to ring at both Spoornet and Transnet head offices as well as the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.

    Although the coal terminal says it holds adequate stockpiles, which it seldom comments on, there have been reports that these have slipped below 2 million tonnes – leaving the terminal exposed with a little more than one week’s suppy.

    Early last year nearly 150 wagons came off the tracks along this line which took close to two weeks to clear. Another accident on this scale could mark an end to the mines, to Spoornet and to RBCT’s plans of achieving record export figures this year.

    Meanwhile this presents an opportunity for a new type of parlour game based on ‘Pin the Donkey. In this case it would entail (pun intended) sticking a pin onto a map indicating where you think next week’s derailment will take place. Unfortunately Spoornet seldom advances any information about accidents believing that this way the public will be none the wiser, so it may prove hard to select a winner – if you think this an exaggeration then count the reports of coal line accidents on Spoornet’s website www.spoornet.co.za.

    Nevertheless the person coming closest to pinning the exact spot of each derailment can be awarded a token prize – perhaps a free copy of Spoornet’s latest in-house magazine advising staffers about how efficient the company is becoming.

    WFP buys R600 million worth of food aid from South Africa

    The UN’s World Food Aid Programme (WFP) spent almost R600 million in South Africa last year, buying food aid for other African countries, it has been disclosed.

    In total over 500,000 tonnes of food aid was acquired in South Africa for distribution to countries in the SADC region, across East Africa and into West Africa. The organisation fed more than 10 million people in nine southern African countries alone, with 63% of that food coming from South Africa.

    The principal benefit of using South African food arises from the lower transport costs involved in shipping elsewhere in Africa. However, rising agricultural prices in South Africa may mean that the organisation has to source its food aid elsewhere, the organisation has warned. In January the WFP said that South African maize farmers were pricing themselves out of this market.

    Other African countries where WFP bought food included Zambia and Tanzania.

    Visit by US pre-positioning ship

    After a lengthy interval another of the impressive US pre-positioning ships has stopped over at Durban for bunkers.

    The latest visitor is the SS Pfc Eugene Obregon (T-AK 3006), one of three Kocak class Marine pre-positioning vessels within the US MSC fleet. The ship displaces 48,754 tons fully loaded and is 250m in length with a beam of 32.2m. As denoted by the SS prefix she is powered by steam turbines producing 30,000 sea hp which is used to drive a single shaft and produce a good speed of 20 knots.

    picture Military Sealift Command (MSC)

    The ship was built as the commercial container vessel SS Tomas Heywood in 1983 and converted for Marine Corps service three years later.

    She forms part of a six-ship squadron called ‘Maritime Pre-positioning Ship Squadron One’ (MPSRON ONE) deployed to the waters around Europe and Africa. Prepositioning is the strategic placement of combat equipment and supplies in various parts of the world. The ships carry general military cargo and supplies, including wheeled and tracked vehicles and supply containers. One ship in the squadron carries supplies for the U.S. Air Force.

    The mission of any pre-positioning program is to deploy military equipment quickly in response to a crisis, either conflict or humanitarian disaster. These ships deployed to the Middle East in early 2003—off-loading their equipment in Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    - source own and US Embassy, Estonia

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