Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jul 12, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Damen favoured to build new harbour tugs in Durban

  • Slow but steady progress clearing Safmarine Agulhas’ cargo

  • Nigeria plans to sack one in five civil servants

  • Somalia: Mogadishu calm as death toll rises to 97

  • Second tug for Tristan da Cunha delayed in Cape Town

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    Damen favoured to build new harbour tugs in Durban

    Shipbuilding in Durban is about to receive more than a fillip if reports prove true that a Dutch shipbuilder has been awarded the contract to build two vessels in Durban.

    Ports & Ships understands that Damen has been identified as the preferred bidder and all that remains before the contract is signed and sealed is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

    The contract, worth an estimated R120 million for two tractor tugs, has been pending since November 2003 when an earlier tender was unexpectedly cancelled.

    Following that cancellation the Durban-based Safbuild shipyard went out of business, placing many skilled people out of work and sending the local shipbuilding industry, never in a strong secure position and already reeling from repeated disappointments, feeling less certain that Durban had a future as a centre of shipbuilding.

    Since 2003 the shipyard area at Bayhead has nevertheless remained basically intact although in limbo. In January however a new enterprise took over the lease and is currently developing the concept of a marine industrial park, which would include ship and boat builders among its tenants.

    But now the indications are that the well-known Dutch shipbuilder, Damen has secured the contract for two Voith Schneider propulsion tugs and will build them locally at the Southern African Shipyards site at Bayhead in partnership with a black economic empowered company.

    The two tugs were originally intended for the new port of Ngqura near Port Elizabeth, although a Durban port official told Ports & Ships that they may enter service in Durban when completed.

    There is also good news pending for another Durban shipbuilder who stands to win the contract to build one or two bunker barges for Durban-based KZN Bunkers. This follows the disappointment of a locally-based shipping company placing orders for up to four similar barges with a Chinese shipyard.

    KZN Bunkers CEO Rajen Reddy said that he was committed to building the barges in Durban and all that remained was to await the outcome of the tender process which would indicate whether his company had been successfully reappointed as a bunker supplier in Durban and Cape Town.

    The shipyard at Southern African Shipyards came to a sudden end in November 2003 when a tender for two tugs was postponed indefinitely. The shipyard had gotten itself into the unfortunate position of relying on tug orders from the NPA to keep going and when they were not forthcoming was forced to close, placing many skilled people out of work.

    Southern African Shipyards had already completed five Voith Schneider propelled tugs for the NPA, all to a similar design. The tugs have successfully entered service in the ports of Durban, Richards Bay and Cape Town.

    “The NPA did not owe us a living but we had every right to think that after having completed five tugs, on time and to the highest possible international standards, that a fully South African company with the necessary BEE content would be favourably treated. Sadly that doesn’t seem to matter any more – as with the sea fishery patrol boats and naval vessels the authorities would seem to prefer spending the South African public’s money with foreign builders,” an out of work shipyard employee told Ports & Ships at the time.

    Hopefully that scenario has now changed once again and the tugs will be built locally.

    The history of the Durban shipyard extends back to 1963 when the firm of ES Barens & Co was granted a lease at the former swampland area of the Bayhead. A 13.5 hectare site was developed with two slipways and a massive shipbuilding hall (hangar) measuring 6,503 square metres.

    Barens Shipbuilding & Engineering Co and subsequent derivatives of the company (Sandock Austral Shipyard and Dorbyl Shipbuilders, later Dorbyl Marine) went on to build a number of ocean going ships, including six fast patrol strike craft for the South African Navy and the 146m long logistics support vessel SAS Drakensberg, which remains active in service. Another naval ship built at the Bayhead site is SAS Fleur, the torpedo recovery and diving ship.

    Dorbyl, which operated from two sites at Bayhead, also built trawlers as well as an earlier series of tractor tugs for the then SA Transport Services (now NPA), in addition to several container ships.

    Elgin Brown & Hamer is another company that has played a prominent role in shipbuilding during the ‘glory’ years in Durban as a shipbuilding port, which included the then most powerful salvage tug in the world, John Ross, which is still in operation on the South African coast although renamed Smit Amandla.

    The Durban yards also built vessels for local shipowner Unicorn Shipping.

    Damen, which is likely to be the company that will build the two new tugs, is one of Europe’s last remaining successful shipyards and operates from a number of yards including in Eastern Europe. The company recently completed four coastal patrol boats for the South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, three of which were built in Cape Town at the Farocean yard.

    Slow but steady progress clearing Safmarine Agulhas’ cargo

    By yesterday close to half of the containers on board the grounded container ship Safmarine Agulhas had been cleared, leaving the decks clear.

    The team discharging the cargo will now concentrate on holds 1 and 4 which are dry – 2 and 3 being flooded as is the ship’s engine room. Salvors still had about 100 tonnes of heavy fuel oil to discharge of the original 660 tonnes the ship was carrying when she lost power off East London and went aground.

    East London is approaching spring tides during which it was expected that the salvors would make another attempt at pulling the vessel clear of the sandbank. The ship is wedged metres from the port’s western breakwater.

    However the focus appears to have switched to removing all fuel oil and containers before any further attempt is made. There is also strong evidence that the ship is receiving severe damage from the action of the waves and swell, despite the weather conditions having remained generally favourable and kind.

    Meanwhile the salvage tug Smit Amandla remains connected to the container ship preventing the vessel from being thrown against the breakwater.

    The owners of the vessel, FA Vinnen of Germany declared General Average about a week ago but Safmarine, who is the charterer of the vessel has advised customers that it intends providing both salvage and General Average security on their behalf, relieving customers of any further risk or outlay.

    Nigeria plans to sack one in five civil servants

    Abuja, 10 July 2006 (IRIN) - Nigeria plans to lay off one out of five civil servants by the end of the year, a move condemned by trade unions as likely to cause more poverty but described as necessary by the government to trim the bloated workforce.

    The 33,000 employees to be shed from the 160,000-strong civil service under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government reforms “are people who in the first place should not have found their way into the service,” said Nasir el-Rufai, a minister and member of the reform team.

    Under military rulers who held sway in Nigeria for long periods, the tenets of civil service employment were ignored, El-Rufai said. The result was that “ministers just went to their villages and packed everybody (into public service),” he added, creating a “bottom-heavy” service with 70 percent of its workers in the lower cadres.

    Those to be laid off either have disciplinary issues, were in poor health or have voluntarily accepted retirement, the minister told reporters in Abuja.

    The public service is also plagued by the problem of “ghost workers,” whose names are placed on the payroll by corrupt officials to illegally enrich themselves. El-Rufai said a new integrated payroll system is being created to check the practice and forms of “double-dipping and credentials falsification”.

    However, the country’s labour unions have condemned the planned job cuts as likely to worsen growing poverty in Nigeria and vowed to oppose it.

    “The impact on family welfare will be predictably negative while it will worsen the poverty profile of the country, which is already alarming even by government’s admission,” said John Odah, secretary general of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) grouping 29 blue-collar unions.

    “Offloading such a large number of workers into the unemployment market also has grave implications for the crime rate and is bound to aggravate social tension,” Odah added.

    While acknowledging that reforms will bring hardships, Obasanjo has often warned that Nigeria’s civil service was taking up a disproportionate share of government budget through salaries and other administration costs, and was therefore unsustainable without job cuts.

    “There is no doubt that the civil service has many more people than should be there,” said Nigerian analyst and newspaper commentator Ike Onyekwere. “To keep them there or not was always a question for the government to answer, sooner or later.”

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

    Somalia: Mogadishu calm as death toll rises to 97

    Nairobi, 11 July 2006 (IRIN) - Calm returned to Mogadishu, the Somali capital, on Tuesday after two days of fighting between the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and militia loyal to two faction leaders left 97 dead.

    "The situation is calm, with Qeybdid's [warlord Abdi Hassan Awale] forces handing over their weapons to the courts," said Hassan Ade of Mogadishu-based HornAfrik Radio.

    He said UIC forces were now in control of areas previously held by Qeybdid. "They [Qeybdid's forces] surrendered last night," after initially refusing to do so, he added. Ade said Qeybdid had disappeared, and "his current whereabouts are not known".

    There are reports that "he is wounded and has been taken to a hotel in north Mogadishu, for safety reasons", another source said.

    The latest fighting, concentrated in the K6 area and the district of Medina, south and southwest of Mogadishu respectively, was the UIC's last push to dislodge Qeybdid from his final outpost.

    The fighting also targeted militiamen loyal to Hussein Aideed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior in the Transitional Federal Government.

    Qeybdid was the only member of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter Terrorism, which was defeated by the UIC on 4 June, to remain in Mogadishu.

    Hospital sources told IRIN the death toll was "now over 90" after two days of fighting.

    "We confirmed 43 yesterday [Monday] and 54 Sunday, a total of 97 deaths," said a doctor in Medina hospital. However, he cautioned: "These numbers are only the ones we have seen. We have reports that both sides had buried many of their dead in the battle-field."

    He said various hospitals in the city were treating 449 people injured in the two days of fighting.

    Thousands of people have fled their homes. "More people fled yesterday's fighting, which was [more intense] than Sunday's," said Dahir Muhammad Dheere, a resident in Buulo Hubey of Medina district.

    He said the most affected areas were "parts of Hodan district, Waberi, [all in south Mogadishu] and Medina, including Buulo Hubey. In some areas you will be lucky to find anyone. The streets are empty."

    He said even though there was no fighting on Tuesday, no one had yet returned to his neighbourhood.

    "It is very quiet today but my family has not returned and no one else has," Dahir Dheere said. "I think people are waiting to see what happens next before venturing back. They may return if this holds for another day."

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

    Second tug for Tristan da Cunha delayed in Cape Town

    Smit Salvage advises that the tug contracted to assist in the salvage of the grounded oil platform Petrobas XXI off the island of Tristan da Cunha, has been forced to remain in Cape Town due to technical problems.

    The tug, Sea Tiger (not the Fairmount Sherpa as per our report dated 7 July) was due to sail from Cape Town at the weekend to join the Smit Salvage team aboard the Zouros Hellas, which is already on station at Tristan da Cunha.

    Sea Tiger will only be available to leave for the island once repairs have been carried out.

    The tug Zouros Hellas, seen here in the Durban entrance channel in 2004, is currently off Tristan da Cunha assisting with the attempted refloating of the grounded oil platform Petrobas XXI. Click image to enlarge. Picture by Terry Hutson

    For earlier news of the events at Tristan da Cunha see our News Bulletins dated 23 and 29 June and 7 and 11 July.

    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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