Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 22, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Nigerian dockworkers threaten to make Nigerian ports unmanageable

  • South African economy booms while labour protests job losses

  • Illegal abalone processing plants uncovered

  • Unidentified object seen crashing into sea off Port Shepstone

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    Nigerian dockworkers threaten to make Nigerian ports unmanageable

    Dockworkers across Nigeria’s privatised port terminals say they will bring all port operations to a halt unless they are paid acceptable severance packages within the next seven days.

    They are protesting what they call the ‘pittance’ offered as severance packages following the concessioning of most of the country’s port terminals.

    Representatives from Apapa Port, Tin Can Island, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Delta and Onne Ports warned at the weekend that unless their grievances were addressed within the seven day period they would bring port operations to a standstill. They said they did not intend sitting by idly while suffering blatant infringements of their rights to fair treatment and equity.

    “Therefore, if after seven days from the release of this letter no action is taken on our resolves, Nigerian dockworkers will act independently and evict all terminal operators from our ports," they warned.

    The dockworkers have appealed for support from other trade unions and labour movements within Nigeria.

    South African economy booms while labour protests job losses

    News Analysis

    Johannesburg, 19 May 2006 (IRIN) - Several thousand South African workers took to the streets to protest against unemployment and poverty last week, while a research think-tank forecast a brighter outlook for the economy.

    After a round of strikes by various members of its federation in the past few weeks, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) called a general protest action on Thursday against the loss of more than 100,000 jobs over the past three years, with the textile and mining sectors bearing the brunt. The country's official unemployment rate is 26.5 percent, but analysts say it is as high as 40 percent.

    The general strike, which followed almost two months of industrial action by security workers, that twice turned violent, is being perceived as more than just labour flexing its muscles against business, but rather a show of strength by left-leaning allies as the succession battle heats up in the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Last week, the ANC's other ally, the South African Communist Party, attacked president Thabo Mbeki in a public document.

    COSATU and the SACP have chosen to put their support behind ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma, who was cleared of rape charges earlier this month. Zuma's supporters believe the rape charges were part of a ploy to remove him from running for president when Mbeki steps down in 2009. The succession battle is believed to be split between the Zuma and Mbeki camps.

    "At a time when we are told the economy is booming, it is disgusting that so many of our citizens are living in abject poverty, primarily because they cannot find work, or have to survive in low-paid, insecure, temporary jobs," said COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven.

    The Bureau for Economic Research (BER) at the University of Stellenbosch predicted that after recording strong growth of 4.9 percent last year, the South African economy would continue to grow at 4.5 percent in 2006/07.

    Pieter Laubscher, BER's chief economist, disputed labour's contention that the economy was not creating jobs. "The formal sector is creating jobs at the rate of 2.5 percent per year. According to the recent Labour Force Survey, between September 2004 and September 2005, 300,000 new jobs were created in the formal sector. Strikes do not help the economy - in fact, it could have a destabilising effect and help no one in the long run."

    COSATU's Craven maintained that most of these jobs were in the construction and retail sectors, poorly paid and temporary, and despite improvement in South Africa's growth rate, it was still too low to stimulate the economy to create jobs.

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects a required annual growth of at least seven percent to meet the UN's Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015. Mozambique is the only country in the region to have achieved this target.

    Laubscher acknowledged that there has not been "adequate job creation", but blamed stringent labour legislation, which makes hiring an expensive proposition for small-scale companies, and suggested that government relax legislation to enable small firms to employ more people.

    Yunus Mohamed, an industrial relations and human resources lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand, said the government had shifted its focus from stimulating manufacturing, which is labour-intensive, to high-tech industries. "COSATU is doing what it has to do to highlight their problem."

    The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said the mining sector had laid off between 40,000 and 50,000 workers over the past two to three years under the pretext of a strong rand currency and a weak United States dollar price for gold. In the same period, according to the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union, more than 62,000 clothing, textile and footwear jobs were lost because local employers were unable to compete with cheap imports from China and either had to close shop or downscale their operations.

    "The clothing and textile sector is an exception, but with the prices of commodities [like gold] up, the mining sector should be able to turn around," said Laubscher.

    Although the scenario had changed in the past 18 months, said NUM, with platinum climbing to a record high of USD 1,340 an ounce and gold reaching a 26-year high of USD 730,30 per fine ounce, none of the companies had opened closed shafts or rehired retrenched workers.

    To help the textile and clothing sector, COSATU has asked retailers to source products locally. The federation also called for an end to the casualisation and outsourcing of jobs. "We want more jobs in the essential services sector, which will not only employ more people but will also help improve services, like the provision of water and electricity, to all the corners of the country," said Craven.

    The government is pushing a similar idea with the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of SA (ASGI-SA), a programme that aims to halve unemployment and poverty by 2014, and achieve a growth rate of six percent between 2010 and 2014. The programme intends to kill two birds with one stone: improve and build new infrastructure, which will stimulate job creation.

    But the major stumbling block is the lack of skills. The Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) was launched earlier this year to address the shortage of skilled labour.

    COSATU supports ASGI-SA, said Craven, "but the question is not just about skills shortage - we have nurses and teachers without jobs." COSATU announced on Friday that it would continue to support the strike by security workers.

    Politically, COSATU needed to pace itself, Mohamed cautioned. "Strike action is the only weapon labour has - it should be used sparingly." He said the violent turn in the security workers' protest, in which bystanders were attacked, shops looted and cars smashed in the streets of Cape Town, South Africa's legislative capital, had affected the sympathy their cause enjoyed initially.

    A senior ANC member said COSATU's decision to hold a strike soon after the Zuma judgment had created a perception that "the left allies mean business". The ANC's presidency is up for grabs next year.

    (This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations)

    Illegal abalone processing plants uncovered

    The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism' Special Investigations Unit together with the Department of Special Operations (Scorpions) cracked down on one of the biggest illegal abalone processing factories thus far.

    On Thursday, 18 May 2006, officials from both Departments clamped down on two farms in the Rustenburg/Marikane area in North West and arrested six people, four of whom are Chinese nationals. Another person linked to the same syndicate was also arrested in Bedfordview .

    On both farms investigators found fully equipped abalone processing plants and confiscated more than 50,000 wet and dry abalone. They also confiscated two vehicles, a firearm, a large sum of cash, large quantity of salt and chemicals, as well as all the processing equipment that are used in the abalone drying process. The vehicles and equipment are valued at an estimated R900,000.

    The accused appeared in the Rustenburg court on Friday 19 May 2006. The case was postponed to 30 May 2006.

    In a separate incident on Friday morning (19 May 2006), officials from the South African Police Service' Organised Crime Unit reacted on a tip-off and confiscated nearly 14,000 abalone (1 ton) at the Cape Town International Airport. No arrests were made. The case is being investigated.

    The breakthrough in the North West syndicate follows after a recent clamp down on a small holding between Stanford and Hermanus in the Western Cape on 8 March 2006 when three vehicles, approximately 3 tons of abalone, two alleged illegal firearms, and various drying equipment were confiscated. Five men were arrested, one a Chinese national. This raid followed after information was received from members of the community. The vehicles and equipment confiscated were valued at R800,000. The case is on the roll at the Hermanus Environmental Court.

    source - the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism

    Unidentified object seen crashing into sea off Port Shepstone

    Rescue boats and an aircraft have been used to search the sea off the KZN South Coast at the weekend after a number of eyewitness reported they’d seen an ‘unidentified object’ falling into the sea opposite Port Shepstone.

    Authorities and the NSRI based at Shelley Beach south of Port Shepstone who conducted the search said there have been no reports of an aircraft missing.

    Most of the eyewitnesses were attending a sports function at the local high school in Port Shepstone. They said the object they saw resembled an aircraft crashing but sceptics say they believe the strange weather patterns of the past few days along the KwaZulu Natal coast were playing tricks.

    Off Durban at the weekend several waterspouts were reported and photographed. The Durban Sunday newspaper Sunday Tribune carried a large front page picture of several waterspouts off the Durban beachfront, beyond the line of ships lying at anchor in the outer anchorage.

    There were no reports of ships being in any danger or even having experienced the waterspout. The KZN coast was hit by heavy storms over several days beginning Friday which were accompanied by hail as large as golf balls – an unusual but not unknown occurrence for the coast.

    Did you know that Ports & Ships lists ship movements for all ports between Walvis Bay on the West Coast and Beira on the East Coast?

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