Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jul 17, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Not looking good for Safmarine Agulhas

  • ’New’ SAECS ships now well established

  • Further setback for Tristan da Cunha Petrobas XXI salvage

  • Mogadishu port in Islamic Court hands

  • US tightens up on ship crew information

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    Not looking good for Safmarine Agulhas

    Signs that the Safmarine Agulhas is beginning to break up comes in the form of large fish swimming around in the container vessel’s engine room, which has been flooded for over a week.

    Divers operating inside the vessel to inspect damage in the flooded engine room and other sections of the vessel (two holds are also flooded) reported seeing large fish swimming freely, indicating that large fractures open to the sea have occurred.

    According to SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) this indicates that there is no pollution in the compartment, but that’s the only blessing to be taken from this revelation.

    It’s been clear to most observers that the ship is unlikely to come off the rocks or sand or whatever it is supposed to be resting on (there’s even talk of an old harbour dredger) while lying within metres and at time even touching the port’s western breakwater, without either breaking up in the process or suffering further damage.

    Any likelihood of the ship being returned to serviceable condition is rapidly receding and this has become obvious from the statements of the salvors and other officials when they say that there will be no further attempts at refloating the ship in the immediate future.

    The salvage tug Smit Amandla continues to hold the vessel away from the breakwater, which it has been doing for more than a week. Salvors have focused on removing the cargo and fuel on board but about 200 containers remain in the ship’s flooded holds 2 and 3. A small amount of fuel also remains on board the doomed vessel.

    ’New’ SAECS ships now well established

    It’s now a little over 18 months since the South Africa Europe Container Service (SAECS) began phasing in new tonnage on the North-South service – the first complete changeover in its history.

    Among the six newbuildings to enter service are four similar ships all built at the Odense Shipyard in Denmark – the post-panamax Lars Maersk, Safmarine Nokwanda, Safmarine Nomazwe and DAL Kalahari. P&O Nedlloyd introduced two 293m 53,453-gt newbuilds onto the service – P&O Nedlloyd Heemskerck and P&O Nedlloyd Livingstone, whose charters have subsequently been taken over by MOL and renamed MOL Cullinan and MOL Caledon. Both are panamax vessels but with larger capacity than their other four thanks to their greater length - 4,900-TEU each compared with 3,950-TEU for the others.

    MOL Cullinan at Cape Town – picture courtesy MOL. Click image to enlarge

    Safmarine and Maersk transferred the earlier ‘Big Whites’ SA Sederberg, SA Winterberg, SA Helderberg and Maersk Constantia to their SAFARI service between South Africa and the Far East while the two P&O Nedlloyd vessels City of Cape Town and Heemskerck were moved to other services, becoming Nedlloyd Muscat and Nedlloyd Dubai respectively.

    Both ships have since been sold and will be going to China for scrapping later this year.

    Safmarine’s Southern Africa Trades Executive Alex de Bruyn points out that the new vessels were phased in during the peak reefer season period of December to March.

    “Because the new vessels could accommodate only integral reefer containers - and the original vessels, porthole boxes - reefer shippers had to alternate their packing to accommodate the combination of old and new Big Whites calling during the phase-in period.

    “Despite these challenges, the conversion from porthole to integrals was accomplished smoothly, thanks to careful planning preceding the phase-in period and the incredible cooperation of the reefer shippers,” he says.

    Further setback for Tristan da Cunha Petrobas XXI salvage

    The salvage of the oil platform Petrobas XXI, which is aground off the South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha, is another that is not going well and has run into further complications with the unavailability of yet another Cape Town tug, Sea Tiger.

    The tug was supposed to have sailed last week for the South Atlantic but for ‘technical reasons’ will not be going. Earlier one of the tugs involved with the towing of the FPSO Dalia, Fairmount Sherpa was also withdrawn from availability.

    Smit Salvage is now understood to be trying to obtain the services of another tug currently working off Cameroon in West Africa. This vessel was supposed to be available from the immediate past weekend.

    Meanwhile salvors at Tristan da Cunha report further damage to the platform, following a period of poor weather.

    Petrobas XXI went missing in mid May after being released by her towing tug Mighty Deliverer during a patch of very poor weather and strong seas. The tug and tow had sailed from Brazil in March bound for Singapore but weather conditions forced the tow to be released. Mighty Deliverer kept the platform in sight for several weeks, hoping for improved conditions. However on 16 May contact was lost as conditions deteriorated even further.

    A second tug, Ruby Deliverer joined Mighty Deliverer in the search but to no avail. The platform had disappeared into one of the world’s loneliest oceans and that’s how things remained until 7 June when a group of islanders on Tristan da Cunha left the little town of Edinburgh to round up cattle from the southern part of the island.

    Like all good workmen the world over, the islanders took time off from their chores to do a little fishing and while approaching the isolated Trypot Bay by boat they were surprised by an unexpected sight – a giant oil platform resting in the bay several hundred metres from the rocky coastline. It was the missing Petrobas XXI, now firmly aground and abandoned.

    Authorities were notified and a salvage operation set up with Smit Salvage of Cape Town requested to refloat the errant platform and deliver it to Cape Town. This involved chartering the tug Zouros Hellas which was on station along the South African coast. The powerful tug set off from Cape Town for Tristan da Cunha where it arrived on 22 June.

    Mixed weather and other considerations since then have seen little success achieved and the platform remains firmly aground. On some days diving and other salvage activities have been hampered by weather and sea conditions but on others the team has been able to undertake repairs to damaged ballast tanks and to pump water from one of the platform’s columns. Then comes more bad weather and more damage.

    The latest report says that further damage to the platform has been noted and this was followed by a call for a second tug to assist.

    The place where the platform has gone aground is remote and seldom visited because of its inaccessibility, but is the home in spring to rockhopper penguins which use it for nesting. There is some concern whether the salvage operations will be over before these creatures begin arriving in August.

    Mogadishu port in Islamic Court hands

    The Islamic Courts political movement that has seized much of Mogadishu in Somalia from the hands of the warring warlords, now has control of the port of Mogadishu, according to first-hand reports.

    Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the Islamic Courts’ chairman called the taking of the port a piece of monumental history.

    A number of maritime operators of the East African coast have welcomed the developments in Somalia, which signal an approaching end to the savage reign of the warlords, who have encouraged piracy off the country’s long and strategic coastline and which has been carried out with impunity.

    The US is reported to have backed groups of the warlords with finance and with arms in an effort to prevent the fundamentalist Islamic group from taking power. If this has been the case it will have been another sad and mistaken indictment of US foreign policy in the troubled region, an error in judgement that may come back to haunt America.

    US tightens up on ship crew information

    According to reliable sources the US intends making it obligatory for ships’ masters to submit lists of all crew and passengers to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) services prior to departing any foreign port bound for a US port.

    The CBP was due to publish the decree in the US Federal Register last week, a decree that replaces the existing Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) that requires such information to be sent to US officials 96 hours prior to arrival in a US port.

    According to the US the new plan gives ships masters time to remove anyone on board his vessel before sailing should the US find that person to be an undesirable.

    There is no apparent provision as to what a ship’s master should do if his vessel is diverted to a US port.

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