Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jul 27, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Safmarine Agulhas hull has severe crack

  • Port scanners delayed as Customs goes it alone

  • Arms shipment flown into Mogadishu

  • Dar es Salaam closes port berths for maintenance

  • No respite for people of Niger Delta

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    Safmarine Agulhas hull has severe crack

    Further indication that the grounded container ship Safmarine Agulhas is nothing less than an undeclared total structural loss comes with photographic evidence of a crack extending all the way around the ship, practically breaking the ship in half.

    Picture taken on 25 July shows a crack in the portside hull which runs right around the ship. On the deck plates a hand can be placed within the gap left by this crack – Click on image to enlarge. Picture supplied

    Expert opinion suggests that were it not for the strong hatch coamings the ship would have surely split in two by now.

    A media release issued by the salvage company, Smit Salvage yesterday says merely that a decision as to what to do with the ship will be taken ‘by the end of the week.’

    The statement says that adverse weather and swell conditions have resulted in a temporary suspension of the cargo removal operation. “With the lightened vessel becoming lively in the high swell, it was deemed unsafe for salvage divers to enter the flooded cargo holds where the last of the containerised cargo is still to be removed. As and when conditions allow, the final phase of the cargo removal operation will resume. The vessel was carrying 469 loaded containers containing varied cargo and 112 empty containers when it ran aground. It is estimated that 100 containers are still to be removed from the grounded container ship.”

    Port scanners delayed as Customs goes it alone

    The South African Revenue Services (SARS) says it intends going it alone with the supply and operation of electronic scanners at the country’s ports and main gateways.

    As a result SARS has cancelled a tender process worth R1.5 Billion for which three companies had already been shortlisted from an initial group of five bidders. SARS says it is entitled to cancel the process but will refund the deposits paid by the bidders together with interest.

    The reason for the about-face is that SARS now believes it can do the job just as well with its own people and at a considerable saving – reducing the overall cost by at least half of the estimated R1.5 Billion. SARS now intends sourcing the scanners and training the operators.

    Earlier this year SARS commissioner Pravin Gordhan announced that 18 scanners would be acquired with the first being installed at the Durban Container Terminal by July 2006. He said the scanners would help to better manage the existing CSI (Container Security Initiative) programme run jointly with the US Customs. The 18 scanners would be of the static and mobile variety.

    South Africa currently has a single scanner in service, at the Durban Container Terminal. This was acquired by the then Portnet and donated to SARS. The machine quickly fell into disuse and had to be given a complete overhaul after just a few years. Despite these ‘teething problems’ the scanner has been instrumental in uncovering a large amount of smuggled and undeclared imports, sufficient to have covered the initial cost of the equipment several times over.

    As a result of SARS latest decision a new tender is being prepared and will be issued in due course. The roll-out of the machines has been delayed.

    In Mozambique there has been some controversy over the decision by the private company awarded the contract to operate scanners at the ports and road border crossings to charge a fee each time a container or cargo item is scanned. The proposed fee was in the order of US $ 100 per TEU and this announcement met with outrage from importers and exporters as well as Peter Lowe, CEO of the Maputo Port Development Company, who called the proposal ridiculous and unsustainable. Lowe pointed out that nowhere else were charges made for scanning containers.

    Arms shipment flown into Mogadishu

    Amidst tight security at Mogadishu Airport yesterday (Wednesday) a large aircraft landed carrying what it is believed to be a shipment of arms and military supplies for the Islamist Courts, which recently took control of the capital after successfully evicting several groups of warlords from the city.

    There was no indication as to where the aircraft came from or its identity as the plane’s arrival was shrouded under a strict veil of secrecy with journalists and photographers banned from the airport. However an Islamist officer who declined to be identified said that military supplies were being carried but he gave no further details.

    The Islamist Courts recently assumed political control of much of the country although large pockets still remain in the hands of the warlords, some of which were reported to have had the financial backing of the United States. The US apparently feared that fundamentalist Islamic rule would lead automatically to a toughened anti-US stance and the export of terrorism.

    In another recent development small elements of the Ethiopian Army occupied several towns in the west of Somali, close to the Ethiopian border. The move was said to be to prevent the Islamist Courts from taking occupation of the border region.

    Dar es Salaam closes port berths for maintenance

    Tanzanian Ports Authority has announced the suspension of services at berths 6 and 9 in the port of Dar es Salaam to enable necessary repair work to be carried out.

    The repairs became necessary because of corroded concrete piles supporting the berths. Reconstruction began this month and will take an estimated nine months to complete during which the two berths will be considered as being out of service.

    The port of Dar es Salaam began a modernisation and upgrade programme recently to enable the harbour to handle larger ships. In addition the port will provide improved facilities for oil and bulk cargo handling and will promote the visit of cruise ships.

    - source The Nation

    No respite for people of Niger Delta

    Yenagoa (Nigeria), 26 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - When oil began seeping from pipelines owned by Italian oil company Agip recently, Nigerian newspapers reported that the spill was caused by sabotage.

    Agip denied it had been forced to cut production because of an alleged attack, but acknowledged that its network had been damaged and that repairs were underway.

    It is unclear exactly what happened to the Agip pipelines but that is nothing unusual in Nigeria’s troubled delta region, where sabotage, accidents, oil siphoning and deteriorating infrastructure all mean the same thing to millions of local villagers: more pollution.

    “Oil spills have become a great environmental tragedy in Nigeria, polluting streams, farmlands, the air and destroying lives,” said Nnimmo Bassey, head of Environmental Rights Action (ERA), which is affiliated with the international environmental group Friends of the Earth.

    Prior to the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria’s main exports were agricultural products. Although the majority of the population identifies farming as their livelihood, investment in the agricultural sector over the years has been sidelined in favour of oil.

    Since December last year, more than 10 major oil or gas pipelines have been blasted allegedly by militants belonging to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Foreign oil workers are routinely taken hostage, although they are released within days or weeks unharmed.

    Nigeria’s oil output has been slashed about one-quarter because of recent leaks, sabotage and unrest in the delta.

    Royal Dutch Shell, Nigeria's biggest oil producer, said on Tuesday that a leak to an oil pipeline in Rivers State had cut its output there by 180,000 barrels per day. The source of the leak was not immediately clear.

    Militants claim to be fighting for an increased share of oil wealth for the delta’s inhabitants, many of whom live without electricity, running water or access to education. Although the country now has a democratic government after decades of military rule, the people of the Niger Delta complain that little has changed in terms of their standard of living.

    Environmental Damage

    Each pipeline blast has caused a major oil spill, and in one case in December at least eight people were killed when a fire borne by an oil slick swept through their homes.
    In the report “Nigeria: Want in the Midst of Plenty,” the Brussels-based Crisis Group said recently that despite more than US $ 400 billion in oil revenue over the past three decades, nine out of ten Nigerians live on less than US $ 2 a day.

    Crisis Group said growing tensions in the delta were a direct result of decades of environmental harm and political neglect.

    While oil companies blame most of the spills on sabotage and vandalism, activist groups insist that more of the damage and spills come from poorly maintained pipelines.

    “The spillage has been there long before the militants,” said Peter Ajube, spokesman for Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), an influential activist group campaigning for the rights of the delta’s dominant ethnic group, the Ijaw.

    “We don’t like what the militants are doing because we’re non-violent, but we know that most of the spills are caused by aged pipelines,” said Ajube. “And whenever you have a spill it is the communities in the area that suffer, losing their fishing areas, losing their farms and source of drinking water.”

    Inhabitants of Igbomotoro, in Bayelsa state, suffered short- and long-term effects from an oil slick that came from a ruptured pipeline on Nun River in July.

    “I lost my fishing nets used to trap fish in the river along with a night’s catch,” said Inikro Alaowei. “I don’t expect any harvests either later this year from my cassava farm, which was also affected.”

    A communal forest serving Igbomotoro was also swamped by the oil, destroying a source of food and traditional plant medicines.

    Alienated from Land and Resources

    Community members expect no solace since oil companies as a tradition do not pay compensation for ecological damage caused by sabotage. The rationale is to discourage wilful vandalism in expectation of compensation, a practice the companies blame for a larger share of oil spills than the activists and the communities accept.

    In other cases, residents damage pipelines in an effort to siphon oil to sell. The practice, known as ‘bunkering’, is highly dangerous. Scores and sometimes hundreds of people die each year if the gushing fuel catches fire as they scramble to scoop it up.

    The heightened threat to the environmental health of the Niger Delta resulting from oil operations are highlighted in a recent human development study published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria.

    “Oil spills and gas flares in particular have destroyed natural resources central to local livelihoods,” said the report.

    Gas flaring produces greenhouse gases and exposes communities to heat, noise and air pollution.

    The UNDP report said people in the delta have been alienated from their land and resources, leaving them frustrated with both the oil companies and governments that have failed to regulate them.

    Royal Dutch Shell, the biggest international oil operator in Nigeria, accounting for roughly half the country’s exports of 2.5 million barrels daily, also has more onshore operations in the delta than other major oil companies. Figures released by the company show it has more than 1,000 oil wells in the region linked by more than 6,000 km of pipeline network.

    Shell acknowledges the extent of its presence in the delta poses a major environmental challenge, which it says it is working hard to manage.

    “Our environmental programme is geared towards reducing the negative impact of our operations on the environment,” Shell states on its website. In this regard the company has since 1997 made environmental sustainability a key principle to be considered in all business undertakings. This has resulted in increased environmental monitoring and more rapid response to remedy situations created by spillages.

    Lack of Enforcement

    Inyang Duke, an environmental expert from the University of North Carolina visiting Nigeria, said strict enforcement of regulations is key to improving environmental practices in the delta.

    Nigeria recently acquired patrol boats to help monitor the delta. However, observers say it is difficult to affectively monitor much of the region because of dense mangroves.

    “Nigeria has the right (environmental) regulations and policies but lacks the technical capacity to implement and enforce them,” Duke said.

    One major reason for this failure is the government’s awkward position as regulator and primary beneficiary with the majority stake in joint venture operations run by oil multinationals that produce nearly all the country’s oil, said Duke.

    “You have to separate the regulated from the regulator; there must be no conflict of interest,” he said.

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

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