Ports & Ships Maritime News

Aug 1, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Erwin says no to privatisation

  • Angola to improve ship repair facilities at Lobito

  • Opposition says drug units at SA ports are understaffed

  • US company offers to supply Angola with locomotives

  • Why the Rich Won't Budge On 'Farm' Subsidies

    EMAIL: jhughes@hugheship.com
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    Erwin says no to privatisation

    South Africa’s minister of Public Enterprises, Alex Erwin gave an assurance that parastatals would not be sold off to private enterprise when he addressed the 85th South African Communist Party (SACP) anniversary dinner in Durban at the weekend.

    Erwin said that multinationals did not have the same ideas as government about parastatals such as the ports and Eskom.

    Erwin has said all this before but the government has also made several about faces over concessioning in recent years leaving a number of mixed messages coming from official circles, often dependent on whoever was being addressed at the time.

    Nor does his latest statement exclude the possibility of concessionaires taking over the operation of certain parastatal activities, such as port terminals on a public/private partnership or joint venture basis, with government retaining ownership of the terminal but an outside operator being brought in to handle the day to day side of the business. But said bluntly the way it was at the SACP dinner was probably what those present wanted to hear.

    Erwin also gave an assurance that smaller South African companies would be permitted to participate in the operation of the major parastatals, even where it meant overhauling existing contracts to allow SMMEs to participate. This would be done however in a way that did not compromise safety and quality.

    Angola to improve ship repair facilities at Lobito

    Luanda, 31 July 2006. The Lobito-based ship repair company Lobinave is to be modernised and expanded in a major drive towards attracting ship repair back to the port of Lobito.

    This was announced in Luanda this weekend by Lobinave’s director-general, Domingos Jose Tomas when he said at an international fair being held in Luanda that the refurbishment of the company’s ship repair facilities, including its floating dock, would commence in 2007.

    The shareholders of Lobinave are the Angolan government and the state oil company Sonangol.

    Tomas said that the company’s floating dock was capable of lifting ships of up to 10,000 tonnes and possessed a variety of equipment including generators, reach stackers, cranes and dampers.

    Angola has no doubt been watching with keen interest and some envy the success of the ship repair industry at Walvis Bay in neighbouring Namibia, where Durban-based Elgin Brown & Hamer recently went into a joint venture partnership with Namport and imported an 8,500-tonne lift floating dock that has enjoyed constant occupancy since its arrival.

    Situated in the calm waters of the Bay of Lobito in southern Angola, Lobinave, which went into service in 1997, is strategically placed to attract ship repair form the fishing and oil industries. The floating dock can lift ships up to 10,000 tonnes and has a length of 170m and a width of 28m. Lobinave currently employs about 250 people.

    Opposition says drug units at SA ports are understaffed

    South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said at the weekend that the country’s entry ports were at risk because of a shortage of manpower among key narcotic drug units.

    The DA said this had become obvious from responses to parliamentary questions. Fourteen of the country’s 22 points of entry lacked management personnel and 10 of the units did not have a group manager to organise the offices, which the DA said clearly hampered the country’s ability to fight against illegal drug smuggling.

    “It is vital that these vacancies be filled to ensure that the narcotic units are managed effectively and to prevent illegal drugs being trafficked across the country’s borders. The DA will be submitting questions asking the Department how it plans to address these vacancies,” said Mike Waters, DA spokesman on Social Development.

    “In 1999 the Government launched a National Drug Master Plan which defines its priorities for drug control. One of the key priorities is the interception of illegal drugs at ports of entry. Quite clearly South Africa cannot properly monitor, detect or intercept illegal drugs if the relevant offices are not adequately staffed,” he said.

    Waters commented that a 2005 report released by the International Control Narcotics Board, an independent body established by the United Nations to implement its international drug conventions report also noted that drug traffickers have increasingly begun taking advantage of Africa having limited resources to control drug smuggling.

    US offers to supply Angola with locomotives

    US locomotive suppliers are keen to sell diesel-electric locomotives to Angola’s railways systems, says the US ambassador to Angola, Cynthia Grissom Efird. She was attending a meeting with the board of CFB – Caminho de Ferro de Benguela otherwise known as Benguela Railway.

    Ambassador Efird said that US firms were keen to participate in the refurbishment of the CFB which she said could assist with a rapid recovery of the railway.

    CFB director Carlos Bras responded that CFB was keen to find partners to help facilitate the rehabilitation of the railway – both with the restoration of existing locomotives and the acquiring of new rolling stock. He said that following the armed conflict in Angola CFB had been left with eight serviceable locomotives from a fleet of 34 during the 1970s and 1980s.

    It was announced earlier that China had offered to assist Angola to rehabilitate its railway network. The 1,347km long Benguela Railway was once the longest railway in Angola and the only one connected to the rest of southern Africa’s railway network. It reached from the ports of Lobito and Benguela on the Atlantic coast to the eastern border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and from there to Zambia, but since the Angolan civil war only a much shorter stretch has been available.

    - source Angola Press Agency and own resources

    Why the Rich Won't Budge On 'Farm' Subsidies


    by John Madeley

    London, 28 July 2006: They employ less than two per cent of the workforce in their industrialised countries and their contribution to the national economies is rapidly declining. Yet, they receive a level of government support which verges on the bizarre and is causing no end of annoyance to the governments and people of the poorest countries of the world.

    Indeed, some say, it is a protection racket that was chiefly responsible for the recent collapse of the world trade talks.

    Welcome to the world of Northern 'farming', a phrase used loosely to describe the whole of the agricultural sector - from small farmers to the largest agricultural multinationals - in the world's richest countries.

    Government support to farmers in the so-called 'rich countries club' - the 30 who belong to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - totalled an astounding Eur 225 billion (US $ 283 billion) in 2005, some 29 per cent of farm income.

    An OECD study on the agricultural policies of member-states shows that the most heavily protected farmers in 2005 were in Switzerland, where 68 per cent of farmers' income came in government support, Norway (64 per cent), Korea (63 per cent), Japan (56 per cent) and European Union (EU) countries (32 per cent).

    Most of the support - more than half - was in the form of measures to boost the prices of farm products. These include import tariffs, export subsidies and domestic output subsidies, which "badly distort production, markets and trade", says the study.

    And it's not the small Northern farmer who is the main beneficiary - the support goes mostly to those who have the largest farms. In the European Union, 80 per cent of the money goes to 20 per cent of enterprises, often large agri-businesses. The day the Doha talks broke down the US agriculture secretary admitted 60 per cent of US farmers receive "virtually nothing" from the US Farm Bill.

    In Europe much of the money is channelled through the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The single biggest gainer is the British dairy trading company, Fayrefield Foods, which received support totalling more than £ 22 million ($ 40.7m) over 2004 and 2005, according to data obtained by the campaign group farmsubsidy.org.

    The £ 10 million claimed by Fayrefield Foods in 2004 was worth almost 10 per cent of its turnover - and dwarfed its profits, which were less than £ 1 million.

    The export arm of Dairy Crest, another well-known British brand, received a similar amount from CAP.

    Nestle, the Swiss food giant whose practices over marketing baby milk substitutes in the developing world have long been controversial, received more than £ 7 million.

    Some farm supports even find their way to those who are not the intended beneficiaries - such as large banks that service the agricultural sector.

    And some of the support to farmers and agribusiness in the North encourages overproduction and dumping - selling below the cost of production - on the world market. This can ruin the livelihoods of countless small-scale farmers in developing counties.

    Why do governments of Northern countries protect agriculture so heavily? And why are they so reluctant to change? Why does the sector, which accounts for a tiny percentage of their national earnings, have such hold over governments?

    "Agricultural policy reform is difficult to achieve, perhaps in part because those who fear they would lose are able to block or water down reform initiatives," says the OECD study.

    In Britain groups such as the Countryside Alliance and the National Farmers Union - which consists mostly of large-scale farmers - have often had considerable influence in government circles.

    Farmers score well with the public and this in turn influences policy. Popular radio programmes portray British farmers as guardians of the environment.

    "The strong European farming lobby has successfully tapped into an emotional strain among the public," says Christopher Stevens of the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank.

    Many people in Europe therefore go along with the view that a high level of government support for farming is necessary.

    The gainers naturally oppose any changes to the hand that feeds them. When EU governments announced reforms in CAP in June 2003, large-scale farmers strongly opposed a proposal for a ceiling on payments.

    The reforms de-linked a certain percentage of farm subsides from production. So EU farmers receive direct payments - de-linked from how much they produce, or whether they produce at all. The reforms were about the way farmers are paid, not lowering levels of overall support.

    They are most unlikely to stop over-production and dumping, say international aid and development agencies who have examined the reform proposals. And three years on, some EU governments at least seem to recognise that the reforms they hailed as sweeping are nothing of the kind. The UK government has spoken of the need "to urgently tackle the scandal and waste of the CAP". Yet real reduction in levels of EU support has failed to materialise.

    EU ministers did agree in December 2005 to start a review of CAP in 2008, five years earlier than previously agreed, but France made it clear that it did favour any change before 2013.

    Farmers in countries with large rural areas such as France and Ireland are especially vocal in their defence of CAP, and have forced their governments not to yield to calls for reforms. Yet even in France, agriculture employs only 4 per cent of the workforce and contributes just 3 per cent to national income.

    Some say culture, history and tradition are powerful obstacles to change: "fundamental to our identity" is how the French trade minister Christine Lagarde describes farming.

    Michael Hart of the Britain-based Small and Family Farms Alliance points out that while agriculture in Britain contributes only about 1 per cent to national income, farms cover almost 80 per cent of Britain's land.

    "The tourist industry rides on the back of the agricultural landscape," says Hart. "If land is not farmed it will return to wilderness."

    But the OECD study argues that high levels of support are not necessary to ensure the quality of the environment and prosperity in rural areas.

    CAP, and other Northern government support programmes like the US Farm Act, have thwarted progress in WTO talks on ending subsidies.

    The failure of the US and EU to make significant concessions on farm supports was largely responsible for the suspension of the WTO's Doha round in July. Along with continued international pressure, it will take a radical shift in domestic public opinion in the North to get them to change their position.

    John Madeley is a UK-based author, journalist and broadcaster specialising in international trade, food and agriculture

    Source http://www.panos.org.uk/index.asp

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