Ports & Ships Maritime News

Mar 9, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Richards Bay dry bulk terminal faces up to problems

  • Bunker problems ahead for Cape Town

  • Walvis Bay port creates more space

  • Strike looms at Nigerian port terminals

  • Southern Africa braces for poor harvests

  • SA and Mozambique meet over Easter Maputo Corridor traffic

  • Pic of the day – GLOBAL PRINCE

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    Richards Bay dry bulk terminal faces up to problems

    The dry bulk terminal (top of picture) with the Bulk Metals Terminal nearest the camera at the port of Richards Bay – picture NPA

    The port of Richards Bay still has a number of service delivery problems to contend with, which are resulting in costly delays to shipping services which SA Port Operations (SAPO) says it hopes to eliminate.

    SAPO admitted at a client report-back session held in the port last week that it was responsible for the majority of lost hours that resulted in delays during January 2007, with stevedoring inefficiencies and adverse weather the next most serious causes for delay.

    The meeting was called by SAPO as an open forum in which the port operator and clients could interface over problems and challenges at the Dry Bulk Terminal (DBT).

    Ricky Govender, Business Unit Manager for the DBT admitted to SAPO having been ‘soft’ with labour issues as well as the terminal having failures with refurbished and new equipment. He said SAPO had also suffered from the loss of experienced and qualified personnel.

    “The Dry Bulk Terminal has gone through one of its most difficult periods but we’ll continue to work closely with our stakeholders to address issues for our mutual benefit. We are making mistakes and not everything has gone to plan but we are committed, optimistic and encouraged by some of our successes,” he said.

    SAPO Richards Bay revealed that capital spending of R465 million had been approved for the 2007/08 financial year, which included refurbishing quayside equipment and upgrades of the conveyor systems.

    In addition a contract has been issued to finally resolve the problem of accumulated waste material at the port – approximately 4,500 tonnes at last count.

    SAPO was also able to disclose that the National Ports Authority would be replacing the marine pilot helicopter at Richards Bay, initially with a leased aircraft and later in the year with the NPA’s own machine. The previous marine helicopter, used to ferry pilots to and from ships entering and leaving the port, crashed in 2005 with the loss of one life and has not since been replaced.

    The leased helicopter is expected to become available later this month.

    Bunker problems ahead for Cape Town

    Cape Town harbour – picture Terry Hutson

    Cape Town’s bunker fuel supply is likely to come under further strain with the impending shutdown of the local Chevron refinery for six weeks, when it undergoes its annual maintenance shutdown between mid March and end April.

    Although there has been no announcement of a shortage of bunker fuels the port is already feeling the pinch by having its sole bunker barge out of service (see our News Report dated 2 March 2007).

    The barge Pelican, which is owned and operated by KZN Oils, was found to be out of class at a recent inspection. KZN Oils has yet to make an announcement about replacing the barge with a newbuild that meets the requirements of the oil majors.

    Meanwhile, Western Cape business has already been informed of a liquid petroleum gas shortage as a result of the shutdown. Supplies of LPG will have to be arranged from sources outside the Western Cape and forward planning by LPG users will be essential, a spokesperson for the Western Cape Chamber of Business said yesterday.

    Walvis Bay port creates more space

    Increasing volumes of cargo being handled at the port of Walvis Bay as well as along the several transport corridors linking the desert port with the hinterland, has led to an increase in covered storage facilities being provided.

    According to a report in The Namibian, five new sheds each 96m long and 20m wide have been built in different locations within the port precinct. This is in addition to about 12,000 square metres of undercover storage provided during the past year including a portable facility that can be moved to different parts of the port as required.

    The new sheds are required to handle transit cargo that will move along the Trans Kalahari, Trans Caprivi and Trans Cunene Corridors and are in line with TransNamib’s expansion programme for the port of Walvis Bay.

    The three transport corridors serve South Africa and Botswana, Zambia and the DRC, and southern Angola respectively, with a large proportion of the cargo moving along these corridors being in breakbulk form as opposed to containers.

    The Walvis Bay Corridor Group said in a statement that the aim remains that of making Walvis Bay a hub for imports and exports to the SADC market.

    source – The Namibian

    Strike looms at Nigerian port terminals

    The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has issued an ultimatum to port terminal operators that unless negotiations are satisfactorily concluded within a week, dockworkers at the respective terminal will go out on strike in an effort to cripple the ports.

    According to a report in The Lagos newspaper Vanguard, the strike will lead to a total port shutdown unless terminal operators come to the table with proposals that will satisfy grievances.

    The union says that terminal operators have withheld union dues collected since November on the pretext that the unions had been dissolved. A spokesman for MWUN told the newspaper that organised labour would not allow the terminal operators to ‘de-unionise the workers and enslave labour.’

    He said there was an agreement in force regarding the retrenchment of labour following the concessioning process, with elderly personnel being pensioned off and others receiving severance packages, whereas able-bodied workers would be absorbed back into the terminals. Instead he claimed the terminal operators had drastically reduced the number of workers required and were being permitted to employ others who hadn’t previously worked in the port environment.

    He said the agreement reached with the Presidential Task Force on Ports Reforms specified that dockworkers should be re-employed. “They are doing just the opposite to that agreement,” he said.

    source – The Vanguard (Lagos)

    Southern Africa braces for poor harvests

    Johannesburg, 8 March 2007 (WFP) - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today expressed deep concern over erratic weather patterns in southern Africa which have devastated harvest prospects for millions of people, and could spell yet another year of widespread food shortages.

    Parts of Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia, have been struck by devastating floods which have destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of crops during the most critical growing stage.

    In stark contrast, Lesotho, Namibia, southern Mozambique, and much of Swaziland and large swathes of Zimbabwe's cropland, have all been affected by prolonged dry spells which have withered and killed crops or reduced their development. Lesotho, for example, is expecting up to a 60 percent decline in agricultural output over last year's harvest.

    In addition, South Africa, which is usually the largest producer of maize in the region and one of WFP's procurement points, is facing poor harvest prospects due to recent weeks of extreme heat and drought in some parts of the country. Reduced harvests in South Africa could be especially problematic when responding to food shortages in the region, particularly as prices for maize have already started escalating

    "All indications are that southern Africa could be heading for yet another year of critical food shortages," said Amir Abdulla, WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa. "For some parts of the region, it's simply too late to hope that a late burst of rainfall will change people's food supply outlook for the year ahead."

    One of the countries worst affected by dry spells is Swaziland, which is potentially facing a sixth consecutive year of poor harvests -- perhaps the worst in 25 years. In the last few months, Swaziland has suffered delayed rainfall, heavy winds and hailstorms, and then scorching dry spells. This year, the impact of the dry spells is expected to be felt countrywide and not just in the traditionally dry Middleveld, Lowveld and Lubombo Plateau.

    "Early indications are that this could be the worst agricultural year in Swaziland due to drought since 1992," Abdulla said. "We are now pulling together an assessment team to determine the extent of crop failure and the likely impact on the country's food supply, but initial findings are grim."

    Since 2002, WFP has been supporting about a quarter of Swaziland's 1.1 million people with food assistance to improve the nutrition of families affected by drought, poverty, and HIV/AIDS. However, even in a normal year of harvests, nearly half the population is classified as suffering from food insecurity.

    Parts of Zimbabwe are of particular concern as early indications are that cereal crops in much of the southern half of the country have been decimated by a long dry spell in January and early February.

    In other parts of southern Africa, despite the erratic weather, Malawi is expected to yield a bumper harvest again this year, while Zambia and northern Mozambique are also likely to produce good harvests that will represent buying opportunities for WFP as in previous years. Crops are usually harvested during April and May.

    Since 2004, harvests in southern Africa have generally improved due to better weather patterns and the broader availability of seeds and fertilisers. As a result, the number of people requiring food aid has steadily declined. However, due to chronic poverty and nine of the ten highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world, food security in southern Africa remains precarious, requiring WFP to currently assist 4.3 million people.

    "We are watching the region very closely to see what assistance may be needed to help the poorest and most vulnerable people through the months ahead," Abdulla said. "Assessments need to be carried out as soon as possible to determine the impact agricultural losses may have on these groups, but already the early indications for several countries are alarming."

    Even without the additional challenges that would be posed by widespread erratic harvests in southern Africa, WFP faces a funding shortfall of about US $ 97 million for current operations through to the end of 2007.

    SA and Mozambique meet over Easter Maputo Corridor traffic

    by Kulani Mavunda, BuaNews

    Nelspruit, 7 March 2007 - South African and Mozambican authorities are holding bi-weekly meetings to prepare for an increase in traffic along the Maputo toll road over Easter.

    "Bi-weekly stakeholder meetings are underway to plan for the Easter weekend traffic at the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia border post," said chief executive of the Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI) Brenda Horne on Wednesday.

    She said the MCLI was also coordinating the production of the updated Border Crossing pamphlet, which advises travelers on what procedures to follow when crossing the border.

    Discussions are underway about turning the border into a one-stop border post.
    "It is the right of our region's travelers to expect fast, efficient clearing and not to have to waste extensive hours of their very precious family time and business time, waiting to cross our borders," said Ms Horne.

    The rehabilitation of the Ressano Garcia/Maputo railway line is also expected to be completed by June this year.

    "The goal is to increase the number of weekly trains from 35 to 120 by 2009," Ms Horne said.

    "A short-term goal is to reduce the transit time between Komatipoort and Maputo from three hours to two hours within the next four months."

    According to Ms Horne, there was a 44 percent increase in passengers crossing the border in December last year.

    There was also a 10 percent increase in traffic volume along the N4 highway.

    The MCLI aims to improve trade and infrastructure like the road and rail link between South Africa and Mozambique as part of the Maputo Development Corridor (MDC).

    Pic of the day – GLOBAL PRINCE

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The general cargo vessel GLOBAL PRINCE underway in the Maydon Channel at Durban in 2004. The 8,582-gt ship was for a number of years a regular caller at the port, along with several other vessels in the Gulf Shipping Agencies fleet, The vessels operated on a liner service between Durban and the Arabian Gulf. Picture Terry Hutson

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

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