Ports & Ships Maritime News

Oct 30, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Equipment lines up for Lamu oil drilling

  • Somali pirates found guilty

  • Somalia: Gov't, Islamic Courts to meet amid increasing animosity

  • Tension as Kenya-Uganda railway signature nears

  • DRC: Voting begins, marking completion of long democratic transition

  • Picture of the day

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    Equipment lines up for Lamu oil drilling

    Drilling of the northeastern coast of Kenya near Lamu will be able to get underway following the arrival in Mombasa of drilling equipment for the drill ship Chikyu, which itself is due on site in the next week. Chikyu is too large to enter Mombasa and will go directly to the drill site off Lamu.

    The Kenyan government say the country has the right to be confident about its oil prospects and intends releasing a ‘major statement’ detailing the status of oil exploration in the near future.

    The drilling is to be undertaken by the Chikyu in two blocks on behalf of Australian Woodside Energy which is under contract to the National Oil Corporation of Kenya. These are two of a eries of blocks off the Kenyan northeast coast that have been allocated for oil exploration. Another group awarded three blocks off the Lamu coast is China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). Several other sites have yet to be awarded.

    Somali pirates found guilty

    A Mombasa court has found ten Somali men guilty of piracy after a trial lasting much of the year. The ten were captured by the US Navy destroyer USS Winston S Churchill early this year after they highjacked an Indian ship, the Safinat Biscarat off the coast of Somaliland.

    In her judgement magistrate Jaden ruled that the guilt of the Somalis had been proven beyond all doubt. She described the men as dangerous criminals who had operated in international waters and dismissed their claims that they were simple fishermen who had been taken on board the Indian ship after their own boat developed problems.

    Sentence was deferred until 1 November to give time for the men to consult with their lawyer. Piracy carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment in Kenya and the attorney later indicated his clients’ would appeal the verdict.

    The Somalis were found guilty of having highjacked the Indian motor dhow and using it to hunt and attack other vessels at sea. The vessel was intercepted by the US Navy after a chase at sea in which warning shots were fired in the air, forcing the pirates to surrender. Sixteen Indian sailors on board the small vessel later told the US Navy that their vessel had been seized near Mogadishu five days earlier and used for attacking commercial shipping.

    After taking the Somalis pirates prisoner they were later handed over to Kenyan authorities in Mombasa.

    Somalia: Gov't, Islamic Courts to meet amid increasing animosity

    Nairobi, 27 October 2006 (IRIN) - Reconciliation talks between Somalia's Union of Islamic Courts and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) due in Sudan today (Monday) will go ahead as planned, according to Kenya’s ambassador to Somalia, Mohammed Afey.

    At the same time, the UIC spokesman insisted that alleged Ethiopian and Kenyan bias in the dispute were impeding the peace process.

    "We are committed to the peace process and are keen on going to the meeting [in Khartoum] but there are two obstacles - one is the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, and the other is the idea of Kenya co-chairing the meeting," Ibrahim Hassan Adow, the head of the Foreign Affairs Department of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), said.

    He claimed Kenya was also biased towards the TFG.

    However, Afey denied on Friday that Kenya, which will co-chair the meeting in Khartoum with the League of Arab States, had taken sides in the dispute.

    "Kenya will play a facilitation role," Afey said. "We will do our best to be good mediators. The Arab League has confirmed to Kenyan authorities that both parties in the conflict would attend the meeting in Khartoum."

    The UIC has accused the TFG of being Ethiopia’s stooge, saying the government had sent troops to Somalia's south-central town of Baidoa, where the TFG is based, to prop up the administration.

    The UIC took control of the capital, Mogadishu, in early June and has continued to extend its authority in much of southern and central Somalia, challenging the legitimacy of the TFG, which was set up in 2004 in a bid to restore law and order after 13 years without a national government.

    The third round of reconciliation talks between the TFG and the UIC is expected to take place against the backdrop of deteriorating relations between the two groups.

    "The TFG does not exist," Adow said. "It has no support among the people and does not control any territory. It is a government on artificial life support and that life support is Ethiopia."

    On 20 October, Somalia's interim president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, was scathing of the UIC, saying its armed forces were led by a "jihadist wing ... under the banner of the black flag of the Taliban" and claimed that it was attempting to make Somalia a "safe [haven] for terrorism". The UIC dismissed the allegation as "cheap propaganda".

    Ethiopia and the UIC have also engaged in sabre-rattling, with the Ethiopians saying they would fight the Islamic group whenever they considered the UIC posed a threat to their national security.

    "Ethiopia has declared war against us and we will have no option but to defend the people and the country," Adow said.

    Rivalry between the TFG and the UIC has heightened tensions in Somalia in recent months, forcing thousands to flee to Kenya in fear of a major confrontation.

    About 34,000 Somali refugees have arrived in Kenya since the beginning of 2006, with a dramatic rise in the number of newcomers in the past two months. Another 130,000 Somali refugees have been living in the Dadaab area of eastern Kenya since 1991.

    In the past two weeks, 2,500 Somalis have arrived at the Liboi reception centre on the Kenyan border with Somalia. On Thursday, they were cleared by the Kenyan government to move to the United Nations refugee camps in Dadaab.

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

    Tension as Kenya-Uganda railway signature nears

    Negotiations are still underway only hours ahead of tonight’s planned signing of a concession giving Rift Valley Railway, headed by South Africa’s Sheltam Rail, the management and operation of both Kenya and Uganda Railways

    The final agreements are due to be signed tonight in Kampala, the capital of Uganda but the lateness of the hour is raising concerns about whether the deal will be finally concluded, after having already been deferred for three months.

    Kenya’s government spokesman, Transport permanent secretary Dr Gerishon Ikiara says the Kenya government has met all requirements as agreed in the original concessioning document. These included the retrenchment of an agreed number of workers which was carried out last week. Those retrenched had to be compensated according to a formula agreed with trade unions and the railway authority.

    Ikiara said he remained optimistic despite the lateness of the hour. The respective parties involved in the signing are the new managers and operators of the two countries railways, Rift Valley Railway, which is a subsidiary of Sheltam Rail of South Africa, the financiers International Finance Corporation and KfW of Germany, and the governments of Uganda and Kenya.

    DRC: Voting begins, marking completion of long democratic transition

    Kinshasa, 29 October2006 (IRIN) - Voting began on Sunday (yesterday) in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a presidential run-off marking the official completion of a transition from war to peace that began in 2003.

    Incumbent President Joseph Kabila, 35, and Jean-Pierre Bemba, 44, had swept aside a field of 33 candidates in the first round on 30 July. Kabila won 44.8 percent of the vote and Bemba 20 percent. A candidate needed to garner 51 percent plus one vote to be declared the outright winner in the first round. The winner of the second round will be decided by a simple majority.

    There are 50,045 polling stations open, according to the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, Apollinaire Malumalu. Each office will count their ballots, then the voting papers will be transported to compilation centres and the provisional results announced.

    In the run-up to this round, the country has been tense and there have been several incidents of violence between Kabila’s and Bemba’s bodyguards. The most sensitive area of contention is the capital, Kinshasa, where on 20 August two days of fighting broke out between Kabila's guards and those of Bemba. International institutions supporting the transition to democracy in the DRC intervened to reduce tensions.

    The DRC, endowed with considerable mineral resources, making it potentially Africa's wealthiest nation, has had a turbulent political history. For five years, it experienced a civil war that eventually involved several African countries, some fighting against the government of the time.

    The war, in which Kabila and Bemba took part as combatants, killed four million people, mostly through hunger and disease, and displaced five million. This has presented the country with a huge humanitarian challenge. During their 15-day campaign to the run-off, both presidential candidates expressed their determination to end this tragedy by restoring order to the country.

    "There are five priorities for the rectification of the country after the elections, but the priority of priorities is security," Kabila told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

    In a separate news conference on Thursday, Bemba said: "Without safety we will not be able to do anything. If elected, our first action will be to restore security."

    Bemba and his aides have said that if elected, he would first disband the remaining Congolese militias and expel all foreign fighters from the country.

    "If obliged to help them return to their countries he will utilise robust methods," Moise Musangana, the spokesman for Bemba's Mouvement de libération du Congo, said.

    Bemba has said the presence of armed Congolese and foreigners has been the main reason for the continued displacement of at least one million people in the country.

    The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the DRC has said that four million of the five million people displaced during the war had been resettled. The majority of them are in the east of the country.

    Since 2002, nearly 17,000 primarily Rwandan fighters and their dependents have been repatriated voluntarily, under a scheme supervised by the UN Mission to the DRC. Despite this, nearly 15,000 foreign armed combatants are still present in the east and northeast of the country. A small number are Ugandan and Burundian rebels but most are former Rwandan army troops. Known as the ex-FAR, they and their Interahamwe militia allies are accused of instigating the 1994 Rwandan genocide. They have been operating in the east of the country where they have been accused of violence, theft and rape.

    Kabila said during his news conference that this problem had almost been solved and the government controlled 99.9 percent of the country. However, he said, it was necessary to build a republican army - one that represented all peoples of the country.

    Efforts to achieve this have been slow. Since the beginning of this initiative in June, only 14 brigades - each comprising 3,500 men - have been formed. It was hoped to have 18 brigades ready before the elections.

    Kabila and Bemba said if elected they would complete the process speedily.

    The brigades, comprising former rival factions, have been deployed to the troublesome Ituri District in the northeast where an armed group created in June 2005, called the Mouvement des Volontaires Congolais, formed from an alliance of various militiamen who refused to disband and be integrated into the national army, have maintained hostilities. At least 16,500 combatants of six armed groups and militia - transformed into political parties or disarmed - are awaiting integration into the regular army.

    These Ituri militia have been fighting since 1999, leading to the deaths of at least 50,000 and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more, according to NGOs.

    In the southeastern province of Katanga, militia previously supported by the government have resisted government disarmament efforts. The militias have continued to attack civilians, causing hundreds of thousands to flee. The army this year launched an operation to disarm and disband them.

    Kabila and Bemba have both said that apart from integrating the military they would rebuild dilapidated barracks and other military infrastructure dating to the colonial period 46 years ago. In 1960, the police numbered 50,000 men but today this has tripled without a corresponding increase in facilities.

    Both have also said they would fight against impunity, corruption and bad governance. They said fighting poverty would remain a priority by creating jobs.

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

    Picture of the day
    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The Jebsen-managed Gearbulk-owned general freighter Sharpnes heading down the Esplanade Channel in Durban Bay towards Durban’s Maydon Wharf. The ship is currently named Aspen Arrow. Picture Terry Hutson

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