Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 1, 2006
Author: P&S


  • Strike cripples Durban and Richards Bay

  • Time for talk, not hard attitudes

  • Somali pirates release three Taiwanese ships

  • Four oil workers released

  • Another former PONL ship renamed

  • New derailment on Richards Bay coal line

  • Sudden optimism for coal exports

  • Clipper Race - the tactical racing begins

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

    Strike cripples Durban and Richards Bay

    As the Transnet strike entered its third day in KwaZulu Natal today large areas of the ports of Durban and Richards Bay remain effectively closed to business.

    While Transnet continues to downplay the effect of the strike, saying that the two ports were ‘working normally, and that more trains are running’ port clients report otherwise and it is clear that the areas under operational control of SA Port Operations are unable to perform a full normal days work. The most telling evidence comes with the closed gates outside Durban Container Terminal (DCT), where inside a handful of people are trying to keep things moving on a skeleton staff basis.

    Eyewitnesses report that three gangs appeared to be in operation yesterday at DCT, compared with the usual 12 or 14 per shift. The three gangs were spread thinly across three berths meaning three ships were able to have limited cargo working – ‘better than nothing,’ as one bemused client described it. On the landside no containers were seen entering the terminal and none leaving.

    A ‘gang’ is the term used for a group of personnel necessary to operate a gantry crane along with its supporting equipment such as straddle carriers.

    According to SA Port Operations (SAPO), clients will be exempted from paying import storage against ships delayed by the strike although boxes already in the terminal remain subject to storage fees.

    The situation at DCT (and including Pier 1 Container Terminal) is expected to remain unchanged today as the final day of the strike in this province runs its course. The action will conclude later today with a march through the streets of Durban and workers may begin returning to duty from the evening shift, although things are only expected to be back to normal by tomorrow (Thursday).

    Elsewhere in Durban the car terminal, which is not particularly labour intensive, was able to continue operations. The ferry crews who drive the vehicles on or off the vessel do not form part of SAPO/Transnet. In other terminals operated by SAPO such as the City, Multi Purpose (Pier 1) and Maydon Wharf breakbulk terminals, there was little or no work being done except that by private stevedores.

    few gantry cranes were in operation yesterday at the Durban Container Terminal as the Transnet strike hit home

    Privately operated terminals on the other hand were working in so far as they had ships. Marine services appeared to be almost back to normal with 23 ship movements – 12 sailings and 11 arrivals, which is a little less than on a normal day

    Operations at the port of Richards Bay were similarly affected at the dry bulk and breakbulk terminals which are operated by SAPO. Over at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) it was work as usual, with vessels on the berths and coal being loaded. Although coal deliveries have been affected by the Spoornet strike, RBCT carries a stockpile of between 2.5 and 3 million tonnes at any given moment.

    Rail services have also suffered although a Spoornet spokesman yesterday was unable or unwilling to quantify how many freight trains had been affected. He said he ‘thought’ that goods trains were running on the KZN main line between Durban and Gauteng, “…in fact I’m sure they must be,” he said.

    Metrorail, the commuter service had only a few trains in service and continued with the hiring of private buses to convey passengers.

    Time for talk, not hard attitudes

    The first two day’s of industrial action taken by Transnet workers against the company comes at an inopportune moment for the economy, the ports and railway, just when things were beginning to gell very nicely and confidence levels were rising.

    Now much of that has been undone and it seems to those sitting on the outside that it all could very easily have been avoided. The warning signs were there for anyone to see, namely that the unions were uneasy with the progression towards hiving off segments of the company and the selling off of others. Concerns over job security and conditions of employment are natural in the circumstances and ought to have been addressed.

    Judging from public utterances from both sides, including the minister of public enterprises, it appears that neither side is really listening to what the other is saying. That is a pity, because the fences are now broken and, once again, it is business and the ordinary man and woman in the street that suffers through inconvenience with their personal traveling and ultimately having to pay the cost by way of higher prices.

    For instance, Transnet did themselves no favour yesterday morning when they declined to take part in a radio phone-in programme involving a union representative and an outside analyst and instead fell back on that same tired old South African excuse: “We’re in discussion and anything we say here might be detrimental” – shades of the old regime’s ‘sub judice’ ploy every time it needed to avoid answering embarrassing questions.

    Much has been made in the media and via the minister’s statement at the weekend about the effect on thousands of workers after the so-called non-core companies are sold off. The unions have continued to make it clear the issue if not about job losses, but it is about workers keeping their bargaining rights once the non-core units are disposed of. Most people faced with suddenly acquiring a new employer would feel he or she has the right to be similarly concerned.

    These disputes are usually resolved with some form of compromise. Transnet and the four unions should have looked for that compromise before this week’s drastic action became necessary. Now that it has and before it goes much further we must remind both Transnet and the unions that they owe it to the country and the economy to find solutions instead of disputes.

    Somali pirates release three Taiwanese ships

    Somali pirates have released the three Taiwanese fishing vessels they highjacked several months ago off the coast of Somalia. According to reports they were paid a ransom of US0,000 by the owner.

    The three fishing vessels and their crews became the almost forgotten players in the human drama that keeps unfolding in the waters of the troubled Horn of Africa country. In between pirates attacked and captured several other cargo ships which were similarly ransomed, adding fuel to the likelihood of yet further attacks.

    Four oil workers released

    The four oil workers captured by Nigerian militants on 11 January were released on Monday, according to spokesmen from the Nigerian government and the British High Commission.

    The four men one each from the USA, Britain, Honduras and Bulgaria were seized while working on a support vessel near one of the Shell oil platforms. They were whisked away and a group identifying themselves as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) later claimed responsibility.

    At about the same time other attacks on oil installations took place including the blowing up of an important pipeline, which effectively reduced the amount of oil that Nigeria was able to export. It is estimated that Shell has been losing 221,000 barrels of oil each day since the attacks began.

    The militants have threatened more attacks and the taking of more hostages.

    Another ex PONL ship renamed

    Further to our report yesterday about the renaming of several P&O Nedlloyd ships following the takeover of the company by AP Moller-Maersk, and the disposal of the PONL interest in the SA Europe Container Services (SAECS service), the remaining P&O Nedlloyd ship, PONL Livingstone is to be renamed MOL Caledon, after the region in the Western Cape.

    Other renamings so far are:

    PONL Portbury – MOL Springbok
    PONL Susana – Maersk Normanville
    PONL Heemskerck – MOL Cullinan
    PONL Livingstone – MOL Caledon

    New derailment on Richards Bay coal line

    A Spoornet spokesman confirmed to Ports & Ships yesterday that another derailment had taken place on the Richards Bay Coal Line during the past week.

    He said the derailment involved about ten wagons but was not considered a major mishap and the line had been cleared up and returned to service the next day.

    Sudden optimism for coal exports

    According to Platts International Coal Report there are strong indications that South African coal mines are gearing up for increased production including exports. It says many coal miners are reporting expansion plans including Anglo-American subsidiary Kumba Coal, which it says is planning to more than double its production of 18 million tonnes a year to 43Mt through additional operations in the Waterberg.

    Meanwhile at a conference held in Cape Town it was revealed that India’s Sandro Power Supply plans to list on the JSE and will be building a terminal at an unnamed port to export coal and iron ore to India and China. It said the terminal would be capable of handling up to 15Mt of coal annually from South Africa.

    Clipper Race - the tactical racing begins

    As the yachts spread out away from their former bunched position, so the lead has changed several times, with Westernaustralia.com going back into the lead closely followed by a flying Singapore and Durban now in third position.

    The race position at 05.00 this morning was (with distance to finish)

    Westernaustralia.com (1736)
    Singapore (1738)
    Durban (1741)
    Jersey (1743)
    New York (1745)
    Liverpool (1746)
    Victoria (1747)
    Qingdao (1753)
    Glasgow (1770)
    Cardiff (1793)

    - source http://www.clipper-ventures.co.uk

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