Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jul 7, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Outlook for Safmarine Agulhas begins to look bleak

  • Second tug sent to Tristan da Cunha to assist with Petrobas XXI salvage

  • Transnet injects more money into Coega

  • Another foreign Nigerian oil worker kidnapped

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    Outlook for Safmarine Agulhas begins to look bleak

    Nine days into the grounding of the container ship Safmarine Agulhas outside East London harbour, ominous signs are appearing that the sea is beginning to take its course on the shipwreck.

    Two of the ships holds and the engine room are partially flooded by seawater, the result of cracks and fractures caused by the movement of the ship against the seabed and possibly the breakwater wall.

    But of more pressing concern is the latest weather forecast (at time of writing) which indicates deteriorating conditions along the Eastern Cape coast after more than a week of calm seas and with little wind.

    The forecast issued yesterday (Thursday) for today was for very rough seas with total sea (swells) in excess of 5m for the region between Port Elizabeth and Coffee Bay (north of East London). Gale force south-westerly winds are expected between Port Elizabeth and Richards Bay.

    In its communiqué yesterday afternoon, SMIT Salvage said “the grounding forces acting on the vessel combined with the effect of the continuous action of the sea on the casualty in this exposed location is beginning to have a detrimental effect on the vessel's structural integrity. There is water ingress in two of the cargo holds and the engine room. The structural integrity of the vessel continues to be monitored and should it deteriorate any further, future refloating attempts may be delayed in order to ensure that the fuel and cargo removal operations are completed. The impact of water ingress on cargo will be determined by surveyors and salvors continue to monitor the situation in the cargo holds and engine room, utilising submersible pumps as and when necessary. Both the fuel removal operation and the cargo removal operation continue on a 24 hour basis, as and when operational conditions allow.”

    Second tug sent to Tristan da Cunha to assist with Petrobas XXI salvage

    A second tug, the Fairmount Sherpa has been summoned from Cape Town to assist the tug Zouros Hellas with the salvage operation on the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha, where the oil platform Petrobas XXI has gone aground.

    Fairmount Sherpa, which is one of three tugs that arrived in Cape Town with the giant FPSO Dalia in tow, sailed from Table Bay earlier this week and is expected at Tristan da Cunha on Monday or Tuesday next week.

    Meanwhile the salvage team which arrived with the Zouros Hellas have had mixed fortunes with regards the weather and sea conditions. 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.

    Petrobas XXI went missing in mid Atlantic after being released by her tug Mighty Deliverer during a patch of excessively strong seas. The tug and tow had sailed from Brazil in March bound for Cape Town and Singapore. After releasing the tow the tug kept the platform in sight waiting for improved weather conditions; however during mid May contact was lost as conditions deteriorated.

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

    Like all good islanders the men took time off from their chores to go fishing in their boat and while approaching isolated Trypot Bay were surprised to come across an unexpected sight – a giant oil platform seemingly at anchor peacefully in the bay, several hundred metres from the rocky coastline. It was the missing Petrobas XXI, now firmly aground and wandering no more.

    Authorities were notified and a salvage operation was set up with Smit Salvage of Cape Town being awarded a contract to round up the errant platform and take it to Cape Town. This involved chartering the tug Zouros Hellas and setting off from Cape Town for the island, arriving on 22 June 2006. Now reinforcements are on their way.

    Transnet injects more money into Coega

    Transnet has agreed to a further investment of R2.5 Billion for infrastructure development for the fledgling port of Ngqura near Port Elizabeth.

    While some of the money is to be spent on acquiring cargo handling infrastructure, a large chunk will also go into extending the container terminal by another two berths, bringing the total to four.

    The intention is to have the port operating by December 2008 – much of the construction phase is complete or close to completion but so far no cargo handling equipment has been ordered.

    At a meeting in Cape Town recently Tau Morwe, CEO of SA Port Operations made it clear that SAPO had a social obligation to provide employment in the Eastern Cape and as a result the port would be equipped to work containers and other cargo in much the same fashion as in other older ports. There would be no attempt to make use of available automated container handling equipment with the potential of setting new benchmarks for productivity in South Africa.

    In response to a question from Ports & Ships Morwe said SAPO was obligated to provide employment and the new container terminal at Ngqura would therefore be equipped with standard gantry cranes and other equipment such as straddle carriers, all of which are labour intensive.

    The new port will also have two dry bulk and one liquid bulk berths. It is anticipated that manganese exports will transfer form Port Elizabeth to Ngqura as will petroleum product imports.

    Another foreign Nigerian oil worker kidnapped

    Armed men have seized yet another oil worker off an offshore oil rig in Nigerian waters.

    The latest raid occurred on Wednesday afternoon (5 July) when armed gunmen arrived in several motor boats at a rig drilling for oil on behalf of a Nigerian prospector, Consolidated Oil. A retired naval officer of Dutch origin who was acting as a security guard was seized and taken into captivity.

    The raiders accused Consolidated Oil of not honouring an agreement which they claimed had been made in respect of job creation and assistance for the local community.

    The armed men said they were from this local community. There is no indication this latest raid was the work of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which has carried out most of the previous raids in the Delta region.

    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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