Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 28, 2007
Author: P&S


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  • Nigeria’s Month of Mayhem intensifies

  • Nigerian forces plan new strategy

  • Port of Namibe rehab to cost US $ 40 million

  • Maritime lawyers gather in the mountains

  • Madagascar: Recovering from blow after blow

  • Pic of the day – ASAHI

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    Nigeria’s Month of Mayhem intensifies

    As the so-called ‘Month of Mayhem’ continues with escalating attacks by militants operating in the Niger Delta, a further group of expatriate workers has been snatched off a pipe-layer operating in Nigerian waters.

    One of the seven men taken hostage has been confirmed as a South African, although his identity has not been revealed. The others are described as including British and US citizens and possibly an Indian national.

    The pipelayer vessel, which has not been identified, was operating off Bayelsa State on behalf of a Nigerian company.

    South African Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa confirmed the taking of a South African in a statement issued on Friday (25 May).

    "The South African government confirms the abduction of a South African national by unknown persons in the Niger Delta along with a group of foreign expatriates in the Bayelsa state government area in Nigeria, today,” he said.

    "The South African government through its diplomatic mission in Lagos is in liaison with the employer and the Nigerian authorities with a view to securing the release of the South African."

    Meanwhile the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk) updated its travel advice last week.

    “We advise against all travel to the riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa and River States. We also advise against all but essential travel to AkwaIbom State and the rest of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States, including Port Harcourt. This is because of the high risk of kidnapping, armed robbery and other armed attacks in these areas.

    “There is a high risk of further kidnappings by armed militants around the oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta; this also applies to ships and oil rigs at sea off the coast of the Niger Delta. In 2007 there has been an increase in attacks offshore. In thirteen separate incidents since January 2006, 26 British nationals have been kidnapped. One UK citizen has been killed.

    “Since that time over 150 foreign nationals have been kidnapped in the Niger Delta area. In 2007 there has been an increase in attacks offshore. A British national was abducted from an oil rig off the coast of Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta on 5 May.”

    Nigerian forces plan new strategy

    Faced by repeated attacks on oil installations in its waters, the Nigerian military intends setting up an amphibious brigade headquarters in Bayelsa State, as well as maintaining a unit in neighbouring Rivers State as the latest effort to stamp its authority on the region.

    According to the Vanguard newspaper the army will help provide security for oil and gas installations in these regions. The article said that army battalions would be established at Sagbama and Nembe in Bayelsa State and at Omoku in Rivers State. Each of the affected areas have Shell and Agip oil installations both onshore and offshore.

    A number of months ago the Nigerian Navy increased its presence in the Niger Delta with the provision of a number of patrol vessels but the attacks by militants have continued unabated.

    Port of Namibe rehab to cost US $ 40 million

    The cost of rehabilitating the port of Namibe in southern Angola has been estimated as US $ 40 million, according to ANGOP, Angola’s Press Agency.

    The port’s director-general, Bento da Paixão told the agency last week that the port faced a number of constraints due to inadequate and poor infrastructure and equipment. But, he said, international efforts had recently made it possible to plan ahead for the rehabilitation of the port at an estimated cost of US 40 million.

    Namibe, which was formerly known as Moçamedes, was developed by the Portuguese in 1957 as a modern deep water harbour to handle a variety of imports and exports including fish and agricultural products but essentially the main product then was high grade iron ore, mined about 650km inland at Casinga.

    The iron ore was loaded onto ships at a deep water facility at Sacomar, about 10km from the commercial quay at Namibe. By 1973 the port was reported to have a throughput of 6.4 million tonnes of which 98 percent was iron ore and ships of 200,000-dwt were common sights at Sacomar. However, since the mine closed in 1975 as a result of escalating hostilities during the civil war both rail and harbour activities fell away drastically.

    Construction of the Caminho de Ferro de Moçamedes (CFM), as the railway was and is known, commenced in 1905 and was gradually extended eastward into the interior as finances became available, reaching Lubango (then known as Sa da Bandeira) in 1923.

    Originally built to a narrow gauge of 600mm gauge the line used the lightest construction methods, but following the development of the iron ore mines at Casinga in the early 1950s this was broadened and strengthened to Cape gauge (1067mm) in addition to extending the railway to Serpa Pinto (now Menongue) deep in Angola’s southern hinterland. The Casinga branch was completed in 1967.

    Earlier this year new locomotives and rolling stock began arriving from India as rehabilitation of the railway got underway, with the intention of extending the line to the Zambian border. Talks have been held with Zambian authorities about providing an alternative rail corridor to the sea.

    Maritime lawyers gather in the mountains

    Mr David Gordon SC (background), on behalf of the Maritime Law Association of South Africa, paid tribute to Mr Douglas Shaw QC for his invaluable contribution to the MLA and to Maritime law in South Africa and to the shipping industry in general and presented him with a framed map of Africa, circa 1606. Picture Capt Roy Martin

    The Drakensberg mountains formed the backdropp for this year’s annual conference and annual general meeting of the Maritime Law Association (MLA).

    Each year the function is held alternately at a venue in KwaZulu Natal and the Cape.

    This year the opportunity was taken to pay tribute to Mr Douglas Shaw QC in appreciation of his many services to the Maritime Law Association and to the shipping industry in general. Douglas Shaw is widely regarded as the doyen of maritime law in South Africa.

    In addition the MLI played host to the Honourable VEM Tshabalala, Judge President of the Natal Provincial Division who opened the conference, and to the Honourable PV Combrinck, Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal, who addressed the members with some observations from the Bench.

    Some of the papers presented at the conference included:

    The Multi-Purpose Master and Other ILO Issues by Captain Malcolm Hartwell
    (Deneys Reitz Inc);

    STCW Standards and Crew Training by Captain Roy Martin, Chairman of the
    Durban Chapter of the MLA (Admiralty Consultants);

    The Criminalisation of Seafarers by Tony Norton, National President of
    the MLA (Garlicke & Bousfield Inc);

    Courts of Marine Enquiry by Angus Stewart SC;

    The Plight of Fishermen in RSA by Horst Kleinschmidt, the former
    Deputy-Director General of the Department of Environment Affairs (Feike
    Natural Resource Management Advisors; and

    AJRA Amendments Workshop by Gys Hofmeyer SC

    Madagascar: Recovering from blow after blow

    Johannesburg, 24 May 2007 (IRIN) - Much of Madagascar had already been suffering from drought before the worst cyclone season in years hit the Indian Ocean Island, leaving aid agencies and the government struggling to help communities cope without food, schools and hospitals.

    Madagascar has faced a string of calamities - cyclones, tropical storms, unprecedented flooding, and chronic drought in the south – which have been unusually severe, even for this natural disaster-prone island.

    "Madagascar has been hit by seven cyclone systems and heavy rains, which caused flooding at nearly a national scale. This was peaked by Cyclone Indlala which hit us on March 15th with heavy winds and rains damaging roads, bridges and triggered landslides limiting access to many communities," said Krystyna Bednarska, the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

    The combined effects of the disasters left nearly half a million people in need of humanitarian assistance by the end of March. Indlala, which struck the northeast and northwest, reaching wind speeds of up to 220 km per hour, created extensive damage and left 88 people reported dead.

    "I lost everything and I don't know what to do. Our houses were destroyed and we lost all our possessions. We managed to save our cooking pots, everything else was taken by the river," Maronama, a 53 year old widow caring for five children and six grandchildren in Ambolodibe East village, in the northeast of the country, told IRIN.

    Unusually early and heavy rains throughout most parts of the island at the beginning of 2007 flooded areas around the capital, Antananarivo, the northwest, the northeast, and the southeast, destroying an already poor road network and tens of thousands of hectares of rice, the staple food.

    With access to affected areas severely limiting the delivery of humanitarian aid, WFP launched a four-week helicopter transport operation in the northwestern Antsohihy and Ambanja districts. The last delivery was made last week.

    Relief items, including 100 metric tonnes of food, and various non-food items such as water filters, buckets, soap, tents and school kits – as well as food items such as high-energy biscuits – provided by the UN’s Children Fund (UNICEF), were airlifted to 20,000 isolated people.

    “After the cyclone was gone I went round to all the villages and made a list of all the people affected. There are still communities out there that need help but they are very isolated,” said Paul-Bert Andralahy, deputy mayor of Ambolodibe East.

    The remote community, with a population of around 1,150, received little warning Andralahy said: “Most people did not know a cyclone was coming. A nearby village has a radio and they heard about the cyclone, they came to warn us but nobody believed them.”

    “Now life has become very difficult because we can't find enough food. The village lives mainly from cattle and the river flood took many of our animals... and the landslides and floods destroyed the rice fields."

    Bruno Maes, UNICEF representative in Madagascar, said children were particularly at risk during emergencies. "As drinking water becomes scarce, the number of cases of diarrhoea increases and with the floods, the abundance of mosquitoes means increased risk of malaria." The trauma children have faced is also of concern, and it was important for them to be able to return to their “normal” lives as soon as possible, added Maes.

    But for 14-year old Marie Floiere Julianna, school classes are still conducted in the rubble that used to be her classroom. “I can barely recognise my village. Everything is gone, the whole school is gone,” she said. Almost 150,000 children have been unable to attend classes since the cyclone hit the region. According to Madagascar's Ministry of Education, 136 schools have been completely destroyed and 591 others have been partially destroyed since December 2006.

    “Rebuilding schools will be a slow and difficult process, but communities have made great strides to bring education to the children, with churches and community halls being used as classrooms, local carpenters crafting school benches and tables, and masons transporting construction materials on their backs, often taking days to reach their destinations," a UNICEF statement said.

    Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked 143 out of 177 on the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index in 2006. Seasonal food insecurity is commonplace, with the lean season between December and April coinciding with the cyclone season.

    Donors had covered 50 percent of a US $ 19.5 million UN Madagascar Cyclones and Floods Flash Appeal by 11 May. The appeal warned that “in-country resources have been exhausted,” due to the number and severity of crises the government and humanitarian actors have faced.

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

    Pic of the day – ASAHI

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The reefer vessel ASAHI poses against a backdrop of cranes from the Fresh Produce Terminal in Durban as she loads citrus on 17 May 2007. In spite of her Japanese sounding name the 3,696-gt 1990-built ship is owned by a Panamanian registered company Forest Commercial and managed by Fairport Shipping of Greece. Picture Terry Hutson

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

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