Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 15, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • COMMENT: Still time to make Coega world class

  • First SA-built Hummers exported

  • SA, France strengthen transport cooperation

  • Local shipping news

  • Energy decision may bring Coega smelter a step closer

  • Picture of the day

    EMAIL: jhughes@hugheship.com
    WEB SITE: www.hugheship.com

    COMMENT: Still time to make Coega world class

    Alec Erwin has told the National Assembly that cranes for a new container terminal at the port of Ngqura (Coega) have not been ordered “because the detailed design of specifications for the cranes are not finalised.”

    The Minister of Public Enterprises was responding to a written question by DA member of parliament Eddie Trent. According to Erwin Transnet has appointed a capital projects team to manage all large capital projects and was also responsible for the design and implementation of any project costing more than R300 million.

    Trent’s written questions came amidst a growing concern at an apparent lack of urgency with bringing the multi billion rand port in the Eastern Cape to completion. Recently however it was revealed that the container terminal is to be doubled to four berths and have increased stacking space, requiring an additional time consuming environmental impact assessment.

    While SA Port Operations has said that it has been appointed to operate the port’s terminals, there is little clarity over what Transnet and SAPO mean when they talk of possible partnerships with private operators. Whether this suggests that a joint venture type operation will be entered into is not clear although some sources within SAPO have indicated that the parastatal intends starting and going the operation alone.

    Which brings us to the question of infrastructure, outlined in general in the minister’s response to questions in parliament.

    Earlier this year Ports & Ships put the question to the chief executive of SA Port Operations, Mr Tau Morwe and asked him whether there was a possibility of installing fully computerised container handling equipment at Coega from the outset to allow for super-efficient discharge and loading of ships.

    The response was an emphatic no. Ports & Ships was reminded that SAPO has a social responsibility to create employment in the Eastern Cape and at Coega in particular. A computerised system that avoided the necessity of large work gangs, as they are known in South African ports, was out of the question, we were informed.

    Any thought of introducing in a port the most modern and efficient means available of handling containers, which could result in the port becoming a beacon for transshipment cargo in the Indian Ocean, thereby attracting additional business far beyond what is likely for Coega as a port servicing purely South African destinations, is apparently not being entertained. The suggestion that such a busy port would create far more employment ‘downstream’ of the terminal than could be employed within that terminal is apparently not being considered either.

    It may not be politically correct to say this, but the ongoing problem of productivity at South Africa’s ports is not merely a lack of infrastructure, but is and will remain predominantly a factor of labour’s influence. Regardless of equipment, the rate of container handling at the terminals has remained under the control and influence of labour.

    It was also this control that halted the intended privatisation of the railways (Spoornet), and it is the influence of labour (exercised through the strength of the unions) that has prevented any meaningful concessioning of the ports and port terminals. The only exceptions within Transnet have been those parastatal entities where there is little labour influence and these, the so-called ‘non-core businesses’ have significantly already been disposed of.

    The new port at Coega presents a once-only opportunity of breaking the mould and at the same time creating such a successful operation that additional business is drawn to the region. It is this additional business in the region, both in the adjacent industrial development zone and elsewhere in the Eastern Cape and downstream of the port that has the potential of providing the large-scale employment which has always been the motivating factor for having a port at Coega.

    Unfortunately that door of opportunity will soon close, as soon as that committee appointed by Transnet makes its mind up on infrastructure and systems for the new port referred to in Mr Trent’s questionnaire.

    First SA-built Hummers exported

    The first batch of Port Elizabeth-built Hummers has left East London bound for the showrooms of Israel and Europe.

    This initial consignment consisted of only 20 left-hand drive vehicles – all intended as showroom demonstration use, but are the forerunners of what General Motors expects will rise to 10,000 Hummer 3 vehicles being built each year at the Eastern Cape plant. The consignment were driven on board the car carrier Maersk Willow at East London.

    The next shipment, the first full shipment of Hummers for sale in the Middle East and Europe will consist of 330 vehicles, is scheduled to leave Port Elizabeth harbour on 5 December, to be followed by further exports.

    The contract with General Motors South Africa to build the Hummer 3 series in South Africa was revealed in April 2005, with actual production beginning in early October this year at a rate of between 36 and 40 per day.

    Some modification of the Port Elizabeth Car Terminal has been necessary to handle the 12m cubed containers used with imported Hummer components and to accommodate the fully assembled vehicles for export.

    SA, France strengthen transport cooperation

    by Themba Gadebe, BuaNews

    South Africa has signed an agreement with France, to further strengthen the two countries' cooperation in the field of transport.

    "By the present statement, France and South Africa underline their common will to strengthen their cooperation in the fields of transport," the two countries said in a joint communiqué on Monday.

    Transport Minister Jeff Radebe signed the agreement with his French counterpart Christine Lagarde in Johannesburg.

    Ms Lagarde is in the country for a three-day visit during which she will meet with Cabinet ministers including Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa and Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin and members of the local business sector.

    On arrival on Sunday, Ms Lagarde opened the first France-South Africa Business Forum in Johannesburg.

    Air transport, public transport, ports and roads and safety have been identified as possible areas of further cooperation.

    The Ministers noted that since the two countries signed a civil aviation technical agreement in 2001 several actions of cooperation had successfully been conducted.

    This include the agreement concluded recently, allowing an increase of air traffic between the two countries.

    France has also "positively" responded to the request by South Africa regarding training for pilots.

    For this reason, a feasibility study for the establishment of a national pilot academy in South Africa has been completed, complying with international standards to address this country's needs.

    "The implementation of the study recommendations could be launched by a joint cooperation if the South African authorities decide to implement the project," the department said.

    The two ministers further agreed to intensify exchanges between their administrations regarding concessions and road safety.

    Further discussions in this regard will be held during the 23rd Road Worldwide Congress to be held in Paris in September 2007.

    With regard to public transport, Mr Radebe and Ms Lagarde noted the country's needs and projects relating to public transport ahead of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.

    "France is willing to share its experience with South Africa to increase the efficiency of public transport, particularly on the occasion of the 2010 Soccer World Cup," the department said.

    France hosted a similar tournament in 1998 during which Bafana Bafana made their debut appearance.

    In terms of trade relations between the two countries, South Africa is France's first trade partner in the south of the Sahara.

    "A French business interest in South Africa has shown a clear increase over the past decade, from R6.6 billion in 1996 to R15 billion in 2005.

    "France is currently the seventh supplier of imported goods to South Africa," the embassy said.

    It is also the sixth largest foreign investor in South Africa, with increasing inflows in 2005, mainly in the manufacturing industry.

    Almost 150 French companies are operating in South Africa in all strategic sectors such as aeronautics, energy, transport, as well as in the fields of ICT, public works, pharmaceutical products and consumer goods.

    "These companies are deeply committed to economic empowerment and corporate social responsibility and many of them have signed Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

    Local shipping news

    There is still no sign of the missing utility boat Hawk which disappeared somewhere between the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal, where a life raft from the vessel was discovered a few days ago, and Port St Johns on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast.

    Hawk had a crew of four people on board and was en route from Richards Bay for Cape Town when she mysteriously disappeared. After an extensive air and sea search proved fruitless thought naturally has turned towards something catastrophic having happened to the little vessel. Suggestions have been made that either a freak wave swamped the vessel or it was possibly run down by a passing ship.

    In Hout Bay the chief engineer of a fishing vessel has died after receiving severe injuries when his clothes were caught up in machinery in the vessel’s engine room, which pulled him onto the propeller shaft crushing his body.

    The fishing vessel was several hours out from Hout Bay harbour at the time and although the NSRI sent a rescue craft out immediately the seaman had already died.

    In Cape Town police are investigating the circumstances surrounding a stowaway on board the reefer Lyra who jumped overboard while the ship was in Table Bay approaching harbour. He was rescued from the water suffering from hypothermia and taken to hospital for treatment. Five other stowaways were arrested on board the ship as soon as she docked. Lyra’s previous port of call is reported to have been Matadi.

    Also in Cape Town, the Royal Navy Type 42 destroyer HMS Edinburgh is currently visiting the Mother City and is berthed at No 2 jetty along with the South African Navy frigate SAS Spioenkop. Adding to the attraction nearby is the cruise ship Amadeo.

    Energy decision may bring Coega smelter a step closer

    South Africa’s electricity supply utility Eskom and Canadian aluminium manufacturer Alcan have reached agreement on the supply of electricity for a proposed aluminium smelter at Coega in the Eastern Cape.

    This has been disclosed by Trade & Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa who says that all unresolved issues appear to have been settled after extensive meetings.

    The settling of these issues may also have cleared the way for a decision on whether Alcan will invest in a smelter at Coega – a decision that has dragged on since 2003 with little positive indication one way or the other.

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

    Amber Lagoon of MACS’s Line, deployed on the company’s Southern Africa – Northern Europe service. Picture Terry Hutson

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