Ports & Ships Maritime News

Aug 17, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Four companies bid to remove Safmarine Agulhas wreck

  • Safmarine names NSRI’s latest sea rescue craft

  • End of the road for SS France aka SS Norway

  • SA container tank manufacturer recovers

  • Obasanjo orders crackdown to curb Nigerian oil region hostage taking

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    Four companies bid to remove Safmarine Agulhas wreck

    Four international companies submitted tenders to remove the wreck of the container ship Safmarine Agulhas from the western breakwater of East London harbour.

    Tenders closed yesterday (Wednesday) and according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) bids have been received from two South African-based salvage companies and two foreign-based.

    SAMSA said it would take several weeks for the tenders to be evaluated before one of the bidders is awarded the contract. In terms of the contract the wreck has to be removed right down to seabed level with a February 2007 deadline set for the completion of the contract. This will however be regarded as flexible in the event of adverse weather.

    The four companies bidding for the contract are:

    Cape Town-based Smit Salvage, a division of the Dutch salvage company.
    SvitzerWijsmuller, which is a division of the AP Moller Group with offices in Cape Town.
    US-based Titan Marine.
    Dutch company Mammoet Salvage.

    Safmarine Agulhas has been on the breakwater since 26 June when she ran aground after losing engine power shortly after sailing from harbour. The ship was carrying a cargo of containers and was bound for Durban. All but 80 of the containers were taken off the shipwreck by salvage company Smit Salvage, along with the majority of the fuel oil.

    There has been no serious contamination but 80 containers remained on board the vessel when the salvage effort was curtailed. By that stage heavy seas had caused the ship to break in half and further salvage efforts were deemed to be too dangerous to continue.

    Safmarine names NSRI’s latest sea rescue craft

    Cape Town, 16 Aug. Multi-trade ship owner and operator Safmarine on Tuesday (15 August 2006) officially named the Spirit of Safmarine III, the South African National Sea Rescue Institute’s latest rescue craft.

    Speaking at the naming ceremony, which was held at the NSRI’s Cape Town Victoria & Alfred Waterfront base, Safmarine’s Africa Region Executive, Alan Jones, said:

    “This year Safmarine celebrates its 60th anniversary. By funding this new addition to the NSRI rescue fleet, we hope to continue the Spirit of Safmarine legacy and allow the NSRI to do what it does best; saving lives.”

    The South African National Sea Rescue Institute's newest rescue craft, the Spirit of Safmarine III, was officially launched and named on 15 August by Safmarine's Gail Kelly. NSRI volunteer Robyn Silverstone is pictured on board the craft, which is based at the NSRI's Cape Town Victoria & Alfred Waterfront base. Click image to enlarge. Picture courtesy Safmarine

    NSRI marketing director Meriel Bartlett said, “We are immensely grateful to Safmarine for its ongoing support. Without companies such as Safmarine, the NSRI would be unable to save so many lives.”

    Safmarine previously supported the NSRI with the donation of the Spirit of Safmarine I and II and 10 years ago, to mark Safmarine’s 50th anniversary, the company donated an inflatable rescue craft, the Spirit of Madiba.

    As a Platinum Sponsor, Safmarine also provides annual financial support to the NSRI.

    And as a gesture of further support for the NSRI, Jones said that Safmarine would - in line with its current Corporate Social Investment policy of supporting the upliftment of individuals through education and training – fund Waterwise, an educational programme that teaches safety on and at sea to young persons along South Africa’s coastal communities.

    “Educating our youth about the sea is key to saving lives,” he said. “Statistics provided by the South African Medical Research Council have shown that drownings are the second highest cause of death by injury in this country. Typically, 85 percent of drownings involve people from historically disadvantaged groups and most drownings occur in the 9-14 age group.

    “It is therefore vital that we provide these young people and their communities, many of whom are dependant on the ocean for their living, with the knowledge on how to keep safe, based on a deep respect for the sea.”

    Jones said the relationship between Safmarine and the NSRI dated back to the late 60s when the Institute was co-founded by Captain Arthur Bluett, a former Safmarine director.

    He paid tribute to the memory of the late Captain, who passed away in June this year.

    “Captain Bluett truly embodied the ‘spirit of Safmarine’; he was a remarkable individual who represented the values of Safmarine and believed in making a difference. It was therefore fitting that the new rescue craft, the Spirit of Safmarine III, was used to scatter his ashes in Table Bay Harbour shortly after it arrived in Cape Town,” he said.

    End of the road for SS France aka SS Norway

    The long and extended life of that super liner and cruise ship SS France (SS Norway) has come to an inevitable end with the once longest liner in the world being beached at Alang in India, prior to final cutting up and destruction.

    Ending her days under the disguise of ‘Blue Lady’ the 76,049-gt ship was hauled onto the beach on 15 August with the aid of two tugs, Seaways 5 and Intersurf, not without a struggle it might be said.

    Built at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in St Nazaire, France in 1961, SS France was the pride of all France as a trans-Atlantic liner in competition with other famous liners such as the two Queens – Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary and that speedy American competitor SS United States.

    After withdrawal from the trans-Atlantic liner service the ship was sold and converted for cruising as SS Norway in 1979. Then came a disastrous boiler explosion in Miami harbour which rang the final bell in the ship’s extended life. Now on the beach, the ship awaits the cutting torches and steel cables that will reduce her to so many tonnes of scrap, of interest only to the souvenir hunters and those with memories of this once grand old lady of the sea.

    SA container tank manufacturer recovers

    Welfit Oddy of Port Elizabeth, South Africa's last remaining tank container manufacturer, has survived the near-total collapse of the sector and reported a 40 percent growth from June 2005, reports the Cape Business News.

    "We have increased our product range and customer base and created 400 more job opportunities, boosting our staff to 1 100," says MD John Oddy.

    Oddy is also chairperson of the South African Tank Container Association (Satca), which is affiliated to the Southern African Stainless Steel Development Association (Sassda). "From a Sassda point of view this is an important industry, even though it has been going through a difficult period of late. Satca, in continuing to support its main manufacturer and supplier base, obviously remains strongly committed to South Africa, and we stand firmly behind it," comments Sassda executive director Dr Oliver Damm.

    Satca executive director Kevin Ponter explains that the association was launched in 1998 to act as the self-regulatory body for South Africa's R2.8-billion tank container sector. At the time the local sector was one of the largest in the world, accounting for 40 percent of global demand. About 6,000 tank containers were produced yearly in the sector's heyday, generating export earnings of R800-million a year, and making the sector the country's second-largest consumer of stainless steel at about 15,000 t/y.

    "What followed was a major shake-up of the local manufacturing base, with the liquidation of Consani Engineering and the closure of Trencor Containers. This was due to aggressive price competition from such Chinese manufacturers as China International Marine Containers (CIMC)," explains Oddy. Singamas, a rival Chinese tank container manufacturer, is set to begin operations in December this year, adding further pressure on the market.

    This situation went hand-in-hand with a local currency that appreciated strongly against the US dollar. It was also believed that the government took a surprise decision to lump tank containers with sports cars and private airplanes and yachts for tax purposes. In addition, South African owned tank containers were also ring-fenced.

    The cumulative effect was that the investment container market shrunk quickly from 1,000 tank containers a year to its present low of 300. Ponter says that Satca approached the Treasury's tax policy chief directorate through an expert presentation prepared by tax specialists. Satca was informed that consideration would be given to a concession to have the sector excluded from certain of the provisions deeming tank containers owned by South African investors as foreign for tax purposes, but that such a concession has not been granted.

    Department of Trade and Industry secured a concession to have the sector excluded, but there has been no subsequent follow-through.

    With the number of local tank container manufacturers declining from six to the sole presence of Welfit Oddy, and the bottom falling out of the investment market as well, Oddy says that Satca's level of activity has also declined dramatically. "It remains a collective association for sector initiatives and developments, and still represents the single remaining manufacturer and its associated supply base, and the investment management companies, but with the sector essentially in survival mode, it has quietened down."

    Oddy adds though that Satca had been deemed highly successful in the past.

    "Basically Satca had achieved all that it could in terms of the development and promotion of the sector, having gone so far as standardising steel requirements among the various manufacturers in order to secure more competitive prices from Columbus Stainless.

    It also undertook R&D into such diverse areas as different steel grades and insulation material, as well as regulatory codes and prototype design and testing. Satca was also instrumental in setting up local supply of certain components that had traditionally been imported.

    Despite the problems plaguing the local sector, Oddy says that the international tank container market remains very buoyant. "The global utilisation rate is being quoted at about 80 percent to 90 percent, which is very high when taking into consideration that there are always tank containers in for repair, for example. Thus there is strong growth internationally, with quite a rosy outlook."

    The main driver of this growth has been using tank containers as an alternative to the 45-gallon drum for transporting hazardous materials, in addition to the cost benefits, says Oddy. This proliferation of end users has also seen an increased use of tank containers for food-grade products.

    "With South Africa's share of the global pie diminishing from 65 percent in 2002 to 35 percent, and the Chinese progressing from a zero base to 35 percent global market share in the same period, Satca resisted closing down, and decided instead to present a united front to the global market. The company is still a member of the International Tank Container Association (ITCO), and its decision to battle on has been well vindicated by its current growth in difficult circumstances," concludes Oddy. Satca itself is an independent member of ITCO.

    Welfit Oddy is a member of Burg Industries BV of The Netherlands, which in February 2006 reached agreement with CIMC regarding the establishment of a new joint venture company called Newco, in which Burg Industries would hold a 25 percent stake and CIMC a 75 percent stake. This agreement still has to be approved by the European Union Competition Board, says Oddy.

    "Since January 2000 Burg Industries has also supported the company to embark on an extensive capital development programme to ensure we have the latest technology in strategic areas of the manufacturing process. This continues undaunted by the present market weakness, and reflects the group's commitment to the staff and future of the local company," concludes Oddy.

    - source Cape Business News http:// www.cbn.co.za/index.php

    Obasanjo orders crackdown to curb Nigerian oil region hostage taking

    Abuja, 16 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - President Olusegun Obasanjo has ordered an immediate security crackdown on armed gangs in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta region after hostage takers seized 14 expatriate oil workers in the past fortnight.

    “We are going to be firm and say ‘no’ to violence and hostage-taking,” Obasanjo said after a top-level national security meeting in the capital Abuja on Tuesday. “Wherever we find hostage-takers now, we will hunt them down. We will not accept this any longer,” he was quoted as saying in an official statement.

    Governors of the key oil region states of Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta attended the meeting along with military and police chiefs as well as representatives of oil multinationals operating in the Niger Delta.

    Despite the Niger Delta’s massive oil reserves the 70,000 sq km region’s more than 20 million inhabitants remain largely impoverished, fuelling widespread resentment against the Nigerian government and oil companies. Hostage-takers often demand ransom or jobs and amenities for their communities in return for the release of their captives.

    Obasanjo said as Nigeria is a signatory to international conventions categorising seizure of hostages in non-conflict situations as terrorism, Nigeria was ready to hunt down those responsible for the recent attacks and meet them “force for force”.

    He ordered the setting up of joint military and police operations at strategic locations in the delta region as well as round-the-clock patrol of the country’s coastal waters to enable rapid response to attacks by militants and armed gangs.

    Four foreign oil workers seized from a supply vessel offshore Bayelsa state last week were freed by their captors on Tuesday. The two Ukrainians and two Norwegians are employees of Norwegian oil service company Trico Supply.

    Bayelsa police commissioner Hafiz Ringim said no ransom had been paid to secure their release. However, hostage taking has become big business as the hostage taking gangs believe ransoms will be paid.

    Two British nationals, an Irish and a Polish citizen seized by gunmen from a nightclub in the oil industry hub of Port Harcourt on Sunday night are yet to be released. Also being held is a German abducted in the same city last week.

    In recent years some armed militia groups in the delta have resorted to political demands, seeking local control of the oil wealth that is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy.

    Attacks since the beginning of the year on oil installations claimed by the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) have cut a quarter of Nigeria’s daily exports of 2.5 million barrels. MEND has distanced itself from the recent spate of kidnappings.

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

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