Ports & Ships Maritime News

Oct 15, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Iceberg sighted off Cape St Francis - 8 October 2007

  • World Bank gives CFM the thumbs up

  • WWL ships Winston Churchill’s funeral van back to UK

  • New US Command to take broad, inclusive approach to Africa

  • Analysts dispute ship capacity claims

  • Pic of the day – NORDIC HUNTER

    Iceberg sighted off Cape St Francis - 8 October 2007

    by Ian Hunter – Principal Researcher, SA Weather Service

    Fig. 1 – Bergy bit

    The skipper of the trawler F/V 'Ntini' has reconfirmed his report of an iceberg roughly 74 km southwest of Cape St Francis on Monday evening. No other sightings have been made since then but the 'berg would have moved further and further away from the coast in the ~ 3 km/ hr southwest-setting current that was observed at the time.

    Fig 1 (above) is a photo of a typical 'bergy bit' which has survived into relatively low latitudes (47°S). This was taken from the 'SA AGULHAS' during her annual buoy deployment voyage in 2004, to the southwest of Gough Island. Sea temperatures would have been around 5°C. This chunk of ice would have capsized many times.

    Note that the ratio of (roughly) 1:8 so frequently quoted refers to mass below water level versus that above. Thus the actual freeboard to draft ratio in a non-tabular iceberg can be a lot lower - the keel will not be as deep as implied by this commonly used ratio.

    Thus it is now out of the main shipping lanes. A preliminary fly over was unsuccessful and the one satellite which can detect something of this size (even through cloud cover) will not pass over the region again until Monday (today). This is not to say that it would definitely spot the iceberg (assuming the radar was switched on) - in its highest resolution mode it has a very narrow swath width.

    By extrapolation and allowing for some meandering in the current, the iceberg should be (very) roughly 160 km southwest of Cape Seal (Plettenberg Bay) by this afternoon, 12 October. From its reported position and the observed current speeds the 'berg must be close to the core of the Agulhas Current - i.e. in sea temperatures in excess of 20°C (see Fig 2). However it is not just this large temperature differential which will be eating away at the iceberg - sea state has an important role to play in deterioration, and wave action is always enhanced in the Current.

    Fig.2 - SST analysis on 1 October 2007 versus likely path of iceberg

    Fig 2 and 3 give some idea of how extremely unusual this event is. Large icebergs usually pass well to the south of the subcontinent heading in an easterly direction. Most of these originate in huge parent 'bergs which have initially tracked westwards along the Antarctic coastline after calving off from the ice shelf.

    They may run-aground, they will split eventually - in most cases those encountered in the South Atlantic have drifted clockwise around the Weddell Sea gyre and then moved to the north before turning east and starting to disintegrate (melting rates depending on latitude i.e. sea temperature). They can be well over 5 years old by the time they reach a position southwest of Gough Is.

    A likely track has been added to the SST analysis. Even in a large meander in the Agulhas return flow an iceberg would have to survive a long transit in relatively warm water. Thus it would have to have started off as a large ‘berg, probably big enough to be included in the National Ice Center's database (i.e. > 10 nm long) - at a relatively low latitude (~ N of 50S).

    At present the closest 'big' (>10nm long) iceberg - in longitude - to South Africa is over 2,000 km SSW of Port Elizabeth - B15G. Admittedly the 'St Francis' iceberg is miniscule compared with this giant (26 X 12 nm). But this is how all low latitude icebergs originate.

    Fig.3 - SST analysis on 10 November 2006 south of New Zealand

    Fig 3 shows the sea temperature analysis on 10 November 2006 south of New Zealand. On this day icebergs were spotted from Dunedin - for the first time in 75 years. The largest were described as being 'house size' (cf St Francis 'berg : 25m long by 20m high). However Dunedin is over 1000 km further south than Cape St Francis and is not affected by a warm western boundary current (i.e. the Agulhas). Note the very significant difference in sea water temperatures which an incoming berg would have to transit in the New Zealand case.

    All of the above facts would imply that a large iceberg - not quite big enough to be reported by NIC - reached an unusually low latitude (40-45°S) in order to be advected rapidly northwards by a big meander in the Agulhas return flow.

    World Bank gives CFM the thumbs up

    Far from being near bankruptcy, the state-owned Mozambique transport company CFM has become a profitable one with financial credibility, says the World Bank, which was one of the main bodies involved in restructuring the company.

    According to news agency Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (AIM) the World Bank’s Michael Baxter remains enthusiastic about the leasing of ports and railways to private operators in Mozambique, although Baxter said that the Northern Nacala Corridor and port operator CDN was not yet as profitable as had been hoped, although he noted there were some ‘positive trends’.

    CDN is operated by an American-led consortium of Edlows and Railroad Development Corporation.

    Baxter reported significant increases in traffic at the port of Maputo although this remained well below original expectations, which were causing some temporary financial problems to the leaseholder Maputo Port Development Company, a consortium headed by Mersey Docks & Harbour Company of the UK and including Durban-based Grindrod Group as a minority shareholder. The problems had resulted in an inability of MPDC paying CFM the contractually agreed rent for the lease, said the report.

    MPDC’s agreed rent is an annual rate indexed to the US Consumer Price Index, plus a percentage pf pre-tax gross income beginning at 10 percent for the first year and eventually rising to 15 percent.

    Baxter said the World Bank regarded the restructuring as a great success largely because CFM has succeeded in reducing its workforce from 20,000 to only 1,500, although a significant number of these ‘reductions’ included people transferred from CFM to the leaseholders.

    According to Baxter the retrenched workers all received their due compensation and training in various areas, along with opportunities for self-employment.

    He said the World Bank was assisting CFM rehabilitate the Ressano Garcia railway line leading from the port of Maputo into South Africa at Komatipoort and this line is expected to increase traffic both on the railway and to the port significantly. The line remains in the hands of CFM, the original concession granted to South Africa’s Spoornet having been cancelled due to non-performance by Spoornet.

    CFM is investing a sum of US $ 20 million on refurbishing the line and hopes to increase traffic to 9 million tonnes annually by 2009. This refurbishment includes added security outside the Maputo port confines by means of a 6km electrified fence as far as the Infulene railway station, to prevent local residents from gaining access to trains and stealing contents or causing acts of vandalism.

    source - Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)

    WWL ships Winston Churchill’s funeral van back to UK

    Picture WWL

    The historic railway funeral van that carried the body of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill to his final resting place more than 40 years ago has been returned from the USA to the UK by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics.

    Built in 1931, the Southern Railway parcels and luggage van is bound for a new life on the Swanage Railway in the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset.

    The van arrived on board Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics' 67,140-gt roll-on, roll-off ship M/V TAMERLANE at the Port of Southampton after an 8,000 mile and six week journey from Long Beach, California, United States. It will begin the final leg of its journey by road to Cranmore on the East Somerset Railway in the West of England for restoration prior to display on the Swanage Railway.

    It was on 30 January 1965 that the van, specially repainted in Pullman colours and suitably decorated, formed part of the wartime leader and Prime Minister's funeral train from London Waterloo to Oxfordshire. The historic van was saved from being scrapped and was exported to California thanks to the late Darius Johnson of the City of Industry. It was subsequently displayed at a resort hotel near Los Angeles.

    Last year, following an approach by the Swanage Railway Trust, the historic van was declared surplus to requirements by the City of Industry, Mayor David Perez, kindly offering it to the Trust as "a gift to the British people".

    The Churchill Project appeal to save a very special piece of British railway history was the idea of Steve Doughty, Deputy Chairman of the Swanage Railway Trust, which runs the Swanage Railway.

    The van was painted in Pullman Livery in 1962 and stored in anticipation of its eventual requirement to bear Winston Churchill's coffin on its final journey to Bladon, near Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire after his state funeral.

    The special funeral train was hauled by the locomotive that bore his name, a Southern Railway Bulleid Pacific. This locomotive is now preserved as part of the national collection at the National Railway Museum in York.

    source Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics

    New US Command to take broad, inclusive approach to Africa

    Washington, 12 October 2007 - The new US regional military command for Africa, an integrated defence, diplomatic and economic organization, will enhance US efforts to advance security and prosperity in Africa, US officials say.

    In contrast to traditional military commands, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, is designed to provide support to Africans as they continue to build democratic institutions and establish good governance. It will focus on tasks such as peacekeeping, security, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, according to the officials.

    AFRICOM’s commander, General William E. “Kip” Ward, said that the new command will help African nations provide for their own security by enhancing existing US and international programs.

    But he and other US officials said AFRICOM’s strategic objectives go beyond military matters.

    Linda Thomas-Greenfield, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa, said that the United States hopes its support for defense reform and military capacity-building not only will help African nations to manage conflicts and mitigate violent extremism but also create conditions conducive to further economic growth.

    Thomas-Greenfield spoke at a 9-10 October conference on infrastructure investment in Africa. Its private-sector participants viewed stability as the critical precondition for investing in telecommunication, transportation, power-generation and other infrastructure projects.

    Underdeveloped and dilapidated infrastructure has hampered efforts by many African countries to sustain fast economic growth and engage more fully in international trade.

    Thomas-Greenfield said only private capital markets can bridge the gap between what is required to fund costly infrastructure projects and the scarce resources available to most African governments.

    Despite significant improvements in the security and business climates in Africa, many US investors still consider long-term infrastructure projects on the continent too risky because of what they perceive as a lack of stability.

    Thomas-Greenfield said that the formation of AFRICOM is an acknowledgment that Africa warrants special US attention, and thereby helps boost the US private sector’s confidence in the continent.

    Security and stability not only make it possible to maintain existing infrastructure, she said, but they also create the right environment for the private sector to contribute to its expansion.

    “The creation of this new command is going to make a difference,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

    Another speaker, retired general Anthony Zinni, said early successes will be a key to winning the trust of African partners. Combined with an approach of consulting and building relationships with key leaders and groups, such successes can help overcome skepticism and doubts Africans may have about the AFRICOM mission and achieve common understanding of mutual interests, he added. Zinni is the executive vice president of DynCorp International, a company that provides support to military and civilian government operations.

    “We need to engage African nations on an equal playing field,” he said.
    Ward told a Senate committee in September that AFRICOM will give careful consideration to “what our partners need from the US to help them develop to meet their stated needs.”

    The AFRICOM structure integrates staff members from civilian US agencies, primarily the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development. One of AFRICOM's two deputies will be Mary Carlin Yates, a senior State Department official and former ambassador to Ghana.

    Zinni called AFRICOM an excellent opportunity and a noble experiment. He said that if it succeeds, it can serve as a new model, an integrated, interagency approach to US engagement with the rest of the world that combines different aspects of US policies.

    (Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, US Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

    Analysts dispute ship capacity claims

    A number of different analysts are disputing claims by shipping lines that there is barely enough capacity to meet with shipping demand, thus driving up rates.

    The analysts suggest that by maintaining ‘a veil of secrecy on orders’ carriers are able to keep forecast figures dense, thereby creating problems for shippers devising long-term distribution strategies.

    According to French-based AXS Marine, capacity has been ‘understated.’ US-based Newton Massachusetts is reported as quoting the AXS analysts as saying, "Times when carriers were proud of new orders for big ships are over. This renders difficult the reliable assessment of the future supply, especially for years as far away as 2010 or 2011."

    However the British shipping consultancy Drewry is forecasting a decline in fleet size of specialised reefer vessels. According to Drewry the specialised reefer fleet above 100,000 cubic feet has declined in number from 878 vessels in 1999 to just 786 vessels in 2007. Meanwhile, cold storage shippers are reporting that reefer space is likely to continue to be expensive.

    Pic of the day – NORDIC HUNTER

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    1997-built crude oil tanker NORDIC HUNTER(80,187-gt), ex British Hunter in Cape Town April 2006 and photographed by Ian Shiffman

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