Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 28, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • COMMENT: Piracy story is over-sensationalized

  • Now DNV wants to be close to GL

  • Spanish ice breaker to the rescue of cruise ship

  • Maersk names VL Large Container Ship

  • SOMALIA: People flee as military movements create fear

  • Pic of the day

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    COMMENT: Piracy story is over-sensationalized

    A highly sensationalized article on piracy which was carried yesterday morning by a group of South African newspapers claimed that experts are warning that ‘ruthless sea pirates who plunder hundreds of ships off the coast of Africa each year, are moving south, threatening South African waters.’

    The article quotes South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils who made the statement at a symposium on security last year that piracy at sea was drawing nearer to South Africa and that the country needed to establish good intelligence networks to avoid these attacks.

    The article claimed that pirates were operating within their own network of intelligence operatives stationed at South African ports – Richards Bay, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town were specifically highlighted. It is said that these sources feed crime syndicates with information relating to ship sailing times, destinations, routes, cargos and the number of crew.

    This article is over dramatized and headline seeking, with little in the way of proven fact but much speculation. The allegation of crime syndicates selling ship movement and cargo manifest information to the so-called pirates sounds like bar-room talk and is an easy allegation to make, provided one doesn’t have to back it up.

    But given the nature of the majority of so-called piracy attacks (and Ports & Ships is guilty if referring to them by this term) it is very hard to imagine these to be the result of intelligence gathering thousands of miles away.

    Most of the piracy attacks are in effect little more than cases of robbery at sea, where thieves go on board a ship at anchor or drifting outside port, usually in the still of night, and seek to rob the ship of stores and any other valuables readily available. Sometimes the crew have been targeted and attempts made to relieve the ship’s safe of any spare dollars on board – it doesn’t need an intelligence system to know that most ships carry some cash and that crew have cell phones and wristwatches.

    At the first sign of resistance many of these modern day pirates take to their heels, or rather their boats, leaving the crew over-excited but unharmed. There have been a few cases where crew has been roughed up, much the same as happens ashore in a mugging for the same intent.

    The Somalia pirates were something different and were a product of the lawlessness that pervaded that country for so long. In their instance opportunism was the modus operandi of many of the ship seizures, often involving small motorized dhows or small coastal freighters capable of little resistance. A ransom for the ship and the crew was invariably the target.

    The closest to South Africa of any of these cases of robbery at sea, so far as we are aware, has been Dar es Salaam and Luanda, with each case fitting the descriptions above. If this is the evidence of piracy “moving south, threatening South African waters” then there is little to fear and one doubts that South African security forces have reason to go on high alert.

    Yesterday’s newspaper article attracted the attention of at least one leading British shipping journal (Fairplay), which made requests for clarification and background. Obviously such as story damages the good impression that South Africa’s maritime industry has deservedly established. That such a story is based on wild unproven speculation is unfortunate, given that South Africa already receives (in this case a deserved) poor press for its internal crime. That crime has not, in our opinion spread to our oceans – it is a pity that uninformed headline seekers try to make it appear so.

    Now DNV wants to be close to GL

    Shortly after French classification society made known its interest in acquiring a controlling share of Germanischer Lloyd (GL), Det Norske Veritas, the Norwegian society entered the fray with suggestions of closer co-operation between the two societies.

    Apparently the two societies examined a possible merger of interests several years ago but decided then against going ahead. DNV’s senior vice president said yesterday that many of the findings then remained valid today and the two societies held much in common. He said while there was no talk of DNV making a bid for GL at this point, “we have indicated an interest for closer co-operation.”

    Earlier GL’s staff union rejected ‘vehemently’ a hostile takeover bid by the French Bureau Veritas. In a statement carried by Shednet the society said: “At an extraordinary works meeting today, the staff members of the classification society were informed about the consequences of a takeover by the French competitor. The result of the works meeting is, that the staff wishes fully and only the continued existence of the German classification society Germanischer Lloyd.

    “We must remind our stockholders about the heavy responsibility they will have to bear if they do decide to sell their shares and thereby break up a central pillar of the German and international maritime industry Over the past few years, we have managed to build up a very successful position in Asia. And the course has already been set for GL's continued expansion in Asia. We really don't need BV to help us go forward! The truth is that BV wants to prop up its worldwide service network at our cost - and also needs our know-how to do so.”

    The union body said that BV was extremely profit-oriented. “In the view of the work council, safety and profit orientation do not go very well together.”

    - source Fairplay and Shednet

    Spanish ice breaker to the rescue of cruise ship

    A Spanish Navy ice breaker rescued a small cruise ship last week after the passenger ship ran aground in Whalers’ Bay in the South Shetlands, South Atlantic.

    The cruise ship, the 4,250-ton Lyubov Orlova with 150 passengers on board was visiting Deception Island in the South Shetlands when she went aground. After transmitting a radio message for help the Spanish ice breaker Las Palmas, which is on duty in the Antarctic, hastened to the scene. Tow lines were placed on board the Lyubov Orlova and on the next high tide the cruise ship was successfully pulled clear.

    The cruise ship suffered no apparent damage and was able to steam unassisted towards Ushuaia where passengers were flown to Buenos Aires.

    Maersk names latest VL Container Ship

    Maersk Lines latest container ship newbuilding, L 205 has been named in a ceremony at Odense Steel Shipyard in Denmark where the ship was presented on Saturday 25 November 2006.

    The new vessel, a sister ship to the Emma Maersk and Estelle Maersk which are the world’s largest container carrying ships afloat at officially 11,000-TEU, was named Eleanora Maersk.

    Mrs Bernadette Brabeck-Letmathe, accompanied by her husband, Mr Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman & CEO, Nestlé SA, naming the newbuilding.

    Like her predecessors, Emma Maersk and Estelle Maersk, Eleanora Maersk will be part of the series of the world’s largest container vessels, said the company in a statement yesterday. “Ships in this series will set new standards for safety and environment. Environmentally friendly silicone paint covers the hull of the vessel below the waterline – reducing water resistance and cutting the vessel’s fuel consumption by 1,200 tonnes per year.”

    Powered by a single 14-cylinder Wärtsilä RT-flex diesel engine developing 110,000 bhp, Eleonora Maersk will enter Maersk Line’s worldwide service. The ship is registered in Svendborg and is to be commanded by Captain Jørn Holger Pedersen with Jens Lykke Sørensen as Chief Engineer.

    SOMALIA: People flee as military movements create fear

    Nairobi, 27 Nov 2006 (IRIN) - Rising tension due to rivalry between feuding groups around Baidao, the seat of the country's interim government, has prompted residents to leave the town and nearby Buur Hakaba amid fears that armed forces massing in the area could soon clash, witnesses said on Monday.

    Forces loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which controls much of the south and central Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu, are massing at Buur Hakaba, 60 km south of Baidoa, in anticipation of a showdown with forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which is allegedly supported by Ethiopian troops. Addis Ababa has denied sending a fighting force to Somalia, but has acknowledged that its "military advisers" were helping the TFG.

    The Ethiopian authorities were not available for comment on Monday.

    "Many families have already left and many more are leaving," Usman Muhammad, a Buur Hakaba resident, said.

    "The atmosphere is one of war in the place. We don't know when it will begin but we know it is coming. "There is too much movement of troops on both sides," he added.

    He said many people were fleeing towards Mogadishu, 180 km to the southeast, while others are going to "safer villages around the area".

    The UIC has been bringing large numbers of troops and equipment into the region for the past weeks. "Their numbers increased dramatically from last week," Muhammad said.

    He said people living in villages between Baidao and Buur Hakaba had left their homes.

    The situation is no better in Baidao, according to residents there. "Baidao has become a military garrison. Everywhere you look there are military people," said one, who asked not to be named.

    "I sent away my wife and kids last week. I don't want them caught up in any fighting. Most of those who can afford to have sent their families to safer areas," he added.

    "There is a real fear among the population that a war between the Islamic courts and the TFG and Ethiopian forces is imminent and everybody is trying to get away before it is too late," he said.

    Abdirahman Sheikh, a Baidao businessman, told IRIN business in the town had been badly affected by the brewing conflict. "There is a severe shortage of fuel which is having an impact on other businesses."

    The UIC has put restrictions on fuel going to Baidao from Mogadishu. "The prices of food and other essential commodities have increased dramatically," he said.

    Sheikh said the TFG had started to tax any goods coming into the town, and this, "coupled with Courts' restrictions on fuel, has forced many small traders out of business. Many poor people have lost their livelihoods."

    Meanwhile, many families in the town of Abudwaaq, in the central Galgadud region, close to the Ethiopian border, are reported to be fleeing. "They think that there will be war between the courts and the Ethiopians," a businessman said.

    The UIC took control of Abudwaaq on 21 November without a fight.

    Since the UIC took control of Mogadishu in June, it has continued to extend its authority over much of southern and central Somalia, challenging the authority of the transitional government. The TFG was set up in 2004 in a bid to restore law and order in the Horn of Africa country, which has had no functioning national government since the regime headed by the late Muhammad Siyad Barre was toppled in 1991.

    (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

    Co-Co Diesel-electric locomotive no.3001 is lifted from the hold of the Emerald Sea at Durban’s FPT Terminal after arrival from General Electric in Brazil. The loco is one of eight in this shipment and the first of 20 planned for the Sheltam Grindrod company and will take up service on the Randfontein Estates and other mines. Picture Terry Hutson

    NB Pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – email to info@ports.co.za

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