Ports & Ships Maritime News

Dec 20, 2006
Author: P&S


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  • Subtech Diving sold to US interests

  • Piracy reports from West Africa

  • Concessioning for Dar es Salaam’s general cargo terminal comes closer

  • Lower Niger River to be dredged

  • Special Report: Security the critical issue facing the DRC’s success under Kabila

  • Pic of the day – SS Cleveland

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    Subtech Diving sold to US interests

    Durban-based Subtech Diving & Marine, one of South Africa’s leading commercial dive companies, has been acquired by US-based Superior Offshore International, headquartered in Louisiana.

    Subtech has made its name and reputation in a relatively short period of time with operations primarily in southern African waters, the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. In terms of the acquisition Subtech will retain its present management but will in future operate as Subtech Offshore Pty Ltd as an indirect subsidiary of Superior Offshore International.

    Subtech commenced operations from Durban in 1995 and has since acquired four vessels, two utility vessels and two barges. Operations now include class inspection and survey services, pumping and dredging, pipeline support and installation, ship husbandry, offshore support and civil marine works.

    “We have dramatically increased our geographical footprint and have significantly expanded Superior Offshore International’s ability to provide quality commercial diving, salvage and subsea construction services to our customers worldwide,” said Jim Mermis, President and CEO of Superior Offshore International.

    Piracy reports from West Africa

    In separate cases of robbery at sea, or piracy if you prefer, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur reports that thieves operating from small boats managed to board a Ro-Ro ship in Luanda Roads last week while the ship was at position 08.45S, 013.17E.

    They accessed the ship using the anchor chain and forced open the forepeak locker but nothing appeared to have been stolen according to a later inspection. It is thought they abandoned the effort as soon as crew noticed them and sounded the alarm.

    The master of the unnamed Ro-Ro vessel warns other ships in the area to maintain a vigilant anti-piracy watch and to keep all deck lights on while approaching Luanda.

    The IMB also reports that seven thieves armed with knives managed to board a chemical tanker riding at anchor off the port of Tema in Ghana, West Africa on 11 December. The men took one of the crew hostage and tied him up while robbing the forecastle store, from which they stole ships’ stores which were lowered into a waiting canoe.

    The AB, who was unhurt, later managed to free himself and report to the duty officer who sounded the alarm. Port control at Tema was subsequently advised of the incident and a patrol boat dispatched to the ship. By that stage however the thieves had left the ship and made their escape and a search of the waters revealed nothing of consequence.

    Concessioning for Dar es Salaam’s general cargo terminal comes closer

    Concessioning of the general breakbulk cargo terminal at Dar es Salaam has come a little closer with the news that Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) intends having a concessionaire move in by June 2007.

    The port’s container terminal was concessioned several years ago but the process of privatising the breakbulk/bulk general cargo terminal has been delayed for one reason or another.

    The TPA also intends deepening and widening the harbour channels to facilitate larger ships, a step that is necessary not only to accommodate larger ships that will call at Dar es Salaam in the future but also to remain competitive with other ports in the region that are similarly undergoing upgrades and improvement.

    With existing rail infrastructure such as the Tazara Railway, which will shortly be operated by Chinese interests, Dar es Salaam remains an important port for inland destinations including Zambia, Malawi, the DRC and the Great Lakes countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

    According to latest projections quoted by the East African media, Dar es Salaam hopes to increase the number of containers handled at the port to 260,000-TEU for the 1006/07 financial year; 280,000-TEU in 2007/08; 305,000-TEU in 2008/09 and 320,000-TEU in 2009/10.

    Lower Niger River to be dredged

    Nigeria’s Federal Government announced this week that it intends spending N43.7 Billion on dredging the lower Niger River between Warri in Delta State and Baro in Niger State.

    The intention is to reopen the waterway to a draft of 2.5m and a minimum navigable width of 100m for all-season navigation.

    Originally a Korean company was awarded a contract to undertake the dredging but the project never got underway. The Federal Government has recently recovered N666 million from this aborted contract and the project is again made possible.

    The dredging will extend for 572km upriver and will return the Niger River to full navigation. By developing its inland waterways Nigeria hopes to connect eight state capitals as well as a number of major economic centres in the country.

    Special Report: Security the critical issue facing the DRC’s success under Kabila

    Kinshasa, 19 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - Joseph Kabila won Congo's first democratic presidential elections in decades, but now the 35-year-old former guerrilla leader faces the daunting task of rebuilding from scratch a country almost the size of western Europe.

    Apart from resettling internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees in neighbouring countries, he needs to address widespread insecurity and human-rights abuses, including sexual violence committed by government troops and different militias, and reintegrate ex-combatants into society.

    There is also a lack of basic medical facilities in a country where an estimated 1,200 people die every day and 80 percent of the population is considered food insecure.

    "The population is fed up with war," Ross Mountain, United Nations Deputy Special Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC, said in New York recently. "That is the bottom line."

    The UN and partner agencies estimate they require US $ 687 million next year to deliver essential relief aid and humanitarian support to affected communities across the country.

    "We hope that 2007 will be a year for the return of the most of the refugees and IDPs," said Jens Hesman, external relations officer at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Kinshasa.

    "But there is still some concern because conditions for return have not been met, with human-rights violations in the east," he added. "For example, it is difficult for returnees to come back to North Kivu province while there is fighting."

    According to the UNCHR, there are an estimated 1.2 million IDPs in the DRC and 410,000 refugees in neighbouring countries - excluding 35,000 who came back in 2006 to Katanga and South Kivu provinces.

    Security key to development

    The country has taken a battering since its first democratically elected government 46 years ago. Transport infrastructure is old and in disarray; agriculture is moribund; the health system has virtually collapsed; and insecurity reigns in the eastern province of North Kivu.

    Of all the problems facing the DRC, analysts and Kabila say, insecurity and continuing violence need the most immediate attention. Without security, there is no hope of addressing the nation's other ills.

    "In a country the size of the DRC, all sectors are a priority," Kabila told reporters in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi last week. "But my priority for the country is to consolidate peace and stability."

    While Kabila was taking the oath of office on 6 December, fighting was raging between loyal troops and army dissidents in Bunagana, near the Ugandan border. The dissidents were supporters of former army general Laurent Nkunda, who first revolted against the central government in 2004, saying he was protecting his Tutsi people from persecution.

    Kabila said his government would pursue reconciliation to bring about peace in the east, but if this failed it would use military force. "We want, at any price, for the DRC to have peace," he said. "Militia activities [in the east] are the kicks of a dying horse at a time when the country is in a period of transition."

    Nkunda's refusal to end his rebellion reflects the slow pace at fully integrating former belligerent factions into a national army under civilian control, according to Jacques Ebenga, a former Congolese army colonel and now independent military analyst heading the NGO, Labor Optimus.

    Army estimates support this argument. Only 14 brigades (about 49,000 men) have been integrated into the national army, yet 18 should have been processed by 29 October. There has been no public assessment of the quality of the integrated units - their training, equipment, discipline and loyalty to the state.

    Failure to manage the armed forces could make it difficult to quell Nkunda's revolt and expel the thousands of Rwandan Hutus in the east any time soon.

    The leaders of the Rwandan rebels are accused of masterminding and executing the genocide against Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in that country. Their continued presence in the DRC has irritated the Rwandan government which, at one time, threatened to send troops to stamp out the threat. However, Rwanda has since expressed confidence in Kabila's willingness to deal with the problem.

    Analysts say the solution to the Nkunda problem must be political and he must be engaged in talks. They say he needs assurances of safety for his Tutsi ethnic community in the east.

    "The dialogue should not, however, last indefinitely and become a weak instrument," Ebenga said. "Any soldier who refuses to rejoin the ranks should be regarded as demobilised. But before that can happen the [different factions of the] army must be welded together, then deployed to pacify the east."

    Congo's eastern borders will also need to be secured and for this there needs to be a full normalisation of relations with Uganda and Rwanda, which once supported the Congolese rebel movements. Speed is of the essence, otherwise the Rwandan rebels, known as the Interahamwe, will continue to undermine Congo's nascent democracy.

    One way to achieve this, Ebenga says, would be for the Rwandan government to guarantee the safety of the returnees. However, Rwandan President Paul Kigame has said he would not exclude them from prosecution for genocide-related crimes.

    Small progress has been made. The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), with its 17,000 blue berets deployed across the country at an annual cost of US $ 1 billion, has been helping to repatriate Rwandans. Under its voluntary disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation and reintegration programme launched in 2001, it has returned 8,000 fighters and their families. Nearly 12,000 Rwandan combatants and their families still remain.

    Another reason why disarmament should be speeded up is that friendly foreign forces cannot stay in Congo indefinitely. The 2,400 European Union troops who had come to support UN forces to secure the election will complete their withdrawal before Christmas. Then it will be up to the UN and the Congolese army to maintain the peace.

    "We hope the Congolese will be able to preserve what they have gained in these elections," Gen Christian Damay, the EUFOR commander, told IRIN.

    Although MONUC might stay another few years, troop numbers are bound to be scaled down. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, said during Kabila's inauguration ceremony that MONUC's mandate could be extended for another two years.

    After fully integrating its forces, Congo will have 200,000 men under arms. Soldiers must, however, be paid regular salaries to avoid mutinies, as in the past. Only then can the government begin sifting out unsavory individuals. But, because of the current sensitivity in integrating and moulding former enemies into the same army, the clean-up will take time.

    "They need to ensure that the DRC army is trained to protect civilians, not prey on them," Mountain said.

    Political opposition

    Once the security situation is under control, the government can turn its full attention to revamping health, electricity, water, education, services and infrastructure. To do this Kabila will still need political space. His potential headaches are his beaten presidential rival and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, and veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi.

    For now, Bemba has undertaken to be the loyal opposition, despite his disenchantment with the election process. As long as there is freedom of expression and respect for human rights, his supporters say, they are willing to engage in the political process. The local rights body, La Voix de Sans Voix, said it was concerned by the lack of improvement in human rights.

    However, progress is being made on the political front. Bemba says he will run for a Senate seat in January. His chances of winning are high, since his Mouvement pour la liberation du Congo has the majority of local members of Parliament in the Kinshasa constituency.

    Tshisekedi, unlike Bemba, refused to take part in the electoral process and his supporters took to the streets several times in the run-up to the elections. Tshisekedi holds sway in his native east and west Kasai provinces but it remains to be seen if, having excluded himself from the polls, he can keep his supporters in check. Analysts say political instability in the Kasais could halt the nation's recovery.

    Tshisekedi has made no reassuring public statement on how he intends to act in opposition. His alliance with Bemba has yet to be decided, although their aides have made contact.

    "There is rapprochement but we will discuss the leadership of this opposition," says Valentine Mubake, a leading parliamentarian for Tshisekedi's Union pour le démocratie et progrès social.

    Analysts say that stability could be achieved if the police force, army and other security forces learn to respect human rights. Politicians, too, are expected to display greater responsibility by keeping the peace and being constructive either in opposition or in power. They are, however, expected to speak out against ills such as the diversion of public funds.

    At his inauguration Kabila promised to provide leadership and good governance during his five-year stewardship. If he can be held to this, then the Congo, potentially the wealthiest mineral-rich country in Africa, will have a foundation on which to build a strong, prosperous and peaceful nation.

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

    Pic of the day – SS Cleveland

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    Another picture from Durban harbour and the year 2003 reveals the American steamship SS Cleveland, delivering food aid parcels for the southern African region. The scene is Maydon Wharf from where the cargo would be railed or road freighted to neighbouring countries.
    Flying the Stars & Stripes and registered in Philadelphia and operated by Sealift Inc, SS Cleveland along with SS Wilson has been a long-time visitor to the East African coast. The 15,949-gt (22,536-DWT) SS Cleveland was built in 1969 and was formerly named President Cleveland. Picture Terry Hutson

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

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