Ports & Ships Maritime News

Sep 3, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • African reluctance over EU trade agreement

  • Mistaken government strategy to blame for port under-investment

  • International maritime briefs

  • Pic of the day – HMCS TORONTO

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    African reluctance over EU trade agreement

    A number of African states have indicated they will sign only parts of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which has been offered as a successor for the Cotonou Agreement.

    The reluctance to sign the full agreement indicates Africa’s growing concern about having to give too much for too little return with regards market access and development. The Cotonou Agreement signed in 2000 gave 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries preferential access to European Union (EU) markets and replaced the 25-year old Lome Agreement.

    At a recent regional meeting held in Mauritius 16 members of COMESA (Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa) agreed on a common approach at the next negotiating round to be held this month (September).

    The concern felt by the COMESA members arises from new World Trade Organisation (WTO)-compliant trade terms that have to be negotiated between the EU and ACP, which will do away with non-reciprocal trade benefits. The ACP currently has access to EU markets without the EU members enjoying similar access to ACP markets, which are incompatible with WTO standards. However some of the COMESA members fear that opening up their markets by decreasing or doing away with trade duties will leave their economies open to European exploitation.

    African states also fear that the new trade agreements involving ‘zero tolerance’ policies on food imports has more to do with protecting Europe’s subsidised agriculture and fishing industries than with looking after the interests of public health in Europe.

    The overlying concern is that Africa, which requires markets for its goods, faces many more barriers to being able to successfully compete with European food producers on an equal footing.

    There is also criticism that the EU uses South Africa as the benchmark by which the rest of Africa is assessed in terms of losing revenue as a result of the new agreements and that there is a failure to understand that other less developed African countries will be affected differently.

    It has been pointed out that South Africa possesses natural resources along with a highly developed business and communications infrastructure. South Africa had a GDP of $13,300 in 2006 along with a GDP growth rate of 5 percent despite continuing high rates of unemployment (25 percent +).

    By contrast, Mozambique maintained a GDP per capita of just $1,500 while in Kenya it was 1,200 dollars and Tanzania 800 dollars.

    A transitional period for the lowering of trade barriers has been offered to African states but the fear remains that the present agreement does not offer sufficient protection for each country’s individual economy.

    source - Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)

    Mistaken government strategy to blame for port under-investment

    The abandoned strategy of privatising port terminals, looked on as policy by the current government for nearly ten years post 1994, is now the scapegoat for under-investment by Transnet, according to a statement given by Minister of Public Enterprises Alec Erwin in the National Assembly.

    Erwin was replying to a question by Manie van Dyk of the DA. He said Transnet was now trying to correct a ‘legacy of under-investment in capacity at the ports’ as a result of the former strategy that aimed at concessioning the various terminals. As a result of this policy there was a hiatus in re-equipping the terminals. Since the change in policy however Port Terminals has already invested R3.2 Billion in port infrastructure.

    Further investment includes the expansion of the as-yet unopened Ngqura Container Terminal by an additional two berths and the expansion of the Cape Town Container Terminal. On top of this is a total investment of R78 Billion in rail, port and pipelines over the next five years.

    It is believed that the Cape Town Container Terminal, where proposed expansion projects have been effectively blocked by environmentalist concerns, will now undergo vertical expansion enabling containers to be stacked much higher than two or three high as at present.

    In his reply Erwin said that R1 Billion had been spent on a refurbishment programme at Richards Bay and that there were further plans to expand this port. The iron ore terminal at Saldanha would be expanded from the current 30 million tonnes a year to a potential 90mt in an effort to create capacity ahead of demand.

    Meanwhile he claimed that productivity at Durban was being enhanced with specialist training involving a team from Sri Lanka that was aimed at introducing best practice initiatives. This theoretical and practical training programme, in which the Sri Lankans operate the equipment allowing Port Terminal employees to undergo classroom and practical training, will end in December.

    In Durban Mervin Chetty, Chief Strategy Officer at Transnet Port Terminals described South Africa as a large construction site, and said the challenge facing Port Terminals was in keeping up with the demands of this growth. He said Transnet was spending R20 Billion on improvements to the highly strategic Durban – Gauteng transport corridor. In Ngqura a total of R7 Billion will have been spent by the time the port opens to shipping in the fourth quarter of 2009. A total of 1200 people will be employed at the new port.

    International maritime briefs

    Maersk Line has announced an increase in the Bunker Adjustment Factor (BAF) on its Mediterranean – USA and Canada trades, as has been anticipated following increases in bunker prices worldwide. (See Ports & Ships ‘MSC chief executive warns of inevitable BAF increase’ at http://www.ports.co.za/news/article_2007_08_15_3124.html#two)

    As from 1 October Maersk Line will increase the BAF between Mediterranean ports and North America by a surcharge of $525 per TEU (was $453 per TEU). This will affect all transatlantic cargo via Mediterranean and Black Sea ports.

    The latest BAF increase is in addition to a general rate increase on westbound Mediterranean traffic to North America of $400 per 20ft and $600 per 40ft container which also comes into effect on 1 October.

    Uruguay has gone ahead with inaugurating a controversial pulp and forest products mill terminal at Nueva Palmira on the Uruguay River, despite protests from the Argentine government and environmentalists. Nueva Palmira, which is situated on the Uruguayan side of its border with Argentina, has been enlarged to cope with pulp deliveries – the port also serves as an important hub for the South American country’s fruit exports.

    Pulp for the terminal is shipped via barge some 70km from a mill at Fray Bentos to a new 30,000 m² storage warehouse in Nueva Palmira.
    Argentina and environmentalist groups claim that the development will have an adverse effect on the environment while Argentina also claims that the development contravenes a treaty governing the use of the river.

    source – MGN

    The Port Authority of Douala (PAD)’s former General Manager, Alphonse Siyam Siewe and 11 others have appeared in court on charges of having embezzled 6 Billion Yen from a contract that was intended to modernise the Douala Container Terminal.

    In his defence Siyam Siewe maintains that in terms of the loan agreement reached between the Cameroon government and Japan the loan was paid directly into the account of the Japanese contractor, Mitsue and Company and that he had not had any contact with the money. He further claims that the loan agreement was between the Cameroon and Japanese governments and that money had not been processed through the port authority. Mitsue in turn had made disbursements to the respective sub-contractors in Douala as required, including the French construction company Razel.

    The court has also heard how differing amounts had been paid to respective contractors, which was countered by Siyam Siewe’s lawyers who argued that if a main contractor was awarded a contract for a set fee and in turn sub-contracted to another for much less, this was not the concern of the owner as long as the terms of the contract were completed as initially agreed. Observers however are suggesting that the prosecution’s case Is based on the grounds of there being a secret deal between the Japanese company and the former general manager plus some other Cameroonian officials to inflate the project. The case is continuing.

    source - BUEA

    Pic of the day – HMCS TORONTO

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The Canadian Halifax-class multi role patrol frigate HMCS TORONTO, one of six warships that will take part in exercises off Cape Point with ships of the South African Navy later today (Monday). See PORTS & SHIPS Naval Review pages for details. HMCS Toronto was pictured on arrival in Cape Town last week by Ian Shiffman

    Send us your news and press releases for inclusion in the News Bulletins. Shipping related pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – please email to info@ports.co.za

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