Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jan 21, 2008
Author: P&S

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  • Kenya wounds reopen – freight train isolated and looted

  • Maruba introduces new ship on SA service

  • Embarrassment as East London cruise ship buses are taken off

  • Bigger ships visit Walvis Bay

  • MOZAMBIQUE – growing poverty with mineral wealth

  • Pic of the day – MARUBA CRISTINA


    Kenya wounds reopen – freight train isolated and looted

    Just when it appeared that some normality was returning to Kenya, where rioting because of a disputed election result had earlier caused many deaths and saw the port of Mombasa bottled up and congested, comes reports of further strife breaking out.

    At the weekend it became clear that the railway line between Mombasa and Kampala in Uganda had again been targeted, with rioters tearing up a section of track with their bare hands.

    Television coverage shown in South Africa showed a crowd of people ripping up the line, complete with sleepers attached, as though it were a toy train. One of those involved in the destruction said it was a spontaneous action brought about by the people being told they could not attend a rally in Kibera. In frustration they later returned to the scene and ripped up longer sections several hundred metres in length.

    At least five trains carrying fuel for Uganda are believed to have been prevented from reaching their destination, while a freight train that had earlier passed the damaged section was later looted by a mob who had been denied permission to attend a political rally of protest against the government.

    People in the Kibera and Kibos regions told reporters they would continue disrupting the railway and other means of transport in Kenya until such time as government listened to them.

    In Western Kenya it is believed that major highways have been barricaded by protesters, preventing trucks from getting through to the border.

    Protests were continuing in other parts of Kenya as unrest escalated and the death toll from the unrest has now reached over 600.

    Meanwhile Rift Valley Railway, the privatised company operating the country’s railway network says it is ready to send teams to repair damaged sections of the railway and to restore rail communications between Mombasa, Nairobi and Uganda.

    In the port of Mombasa ships are continuing to be delayed. This is contrary to official statements that the congestion has been relieved and may be a subsequent development. At least one ship, Safmarine Bandama is reported to have sailed without discharging or loading cargo. There were nine ships waiting outside port yesterday (Sunday 20 January) which is a little more than usual. These included six container ships and three conventional vessels.

    Maruba introduces new ship on SA service

    Maruba, the Argentine container carrier has introduced a new vessel onto the SEAS service between East Coast South America – South Africa – Asia, which it shares with CMA CGM and China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL).

    The 42,500-dwt ship, which was recently completed at the Chinese Shanghai Chengxi Shipyard on behalf of German owners the Schulte Group, has been taken on long term charter by Maruba and deployed to the South American company’s joint SEAS service.

    Maruba Cristina was christened GABRIEL SCHULTE at her launching. She has an overall length of 232m and a beam of 32.3m with a loaded draught of 12m. Her maximum capacity of containers is 3,554-TEU (twenty foot container equivalents), including 500 reefer containers, and she becomes the largest ship in service with Maruba.

    Engine power is provided by a B&W main engine providing the ship with a top speed of 23.4 knots. It is not known whether vessels such as this on the SEAS service will continue operating at this comparatively high speed in the face of cut backs being introduced by many lines to conserve fuel and costs.

    According to Captain Richard Brook-Hart of Alpha Shipping, which is the Maruba ships’ agent in Southern Africa, Maruba Cristina is named in honour of Argentine’s second female president, Cristina de Kirchner (the famous Eva Peron being the first).

    He said the ship is expected at Durban’s Pier 1 container terminal on the coming weekend (26 January).

    See Pic of the Day below.

    Embarrassment as East London cruise ship buses are taken off

    Passengers from the Italian passenger ship SILVER CLOUD, currently cruising along the South African coast, came face to face with rampant traffic department bureaucracy at its most embarrassing last week when the two buses on which they were traveling were taken off the road on grounds of being unroadworthy.

    The two buses, chartered by the Cape Town firm of Abercrombie & Kent and supplied by Springbok Atlas and Mega Coach, collected the passengers in East London harbour shortly after the ship’s arrival last week. The journey to take in the attractions of the city was only half an hour into the making when the zealous traffic inspectorate ordered the buses off the road and re-directed them to the departmental testing grounds, where passengers were told to disembark. After testing both buses were declared to have defective brakes and one had a cracked glass window.

    But it seems that most buses visiting East London have faulty brakes. A few days after Christmas PORTS & SHIPS was witness to a large collection of long distance buses in East London that were prevented from continuing their journeys, leaving them parked haphazardly near the beachfront. On that occasion, according to later media reports, the buses were all found to have faulty brakes or various minor factors that caused them to be condemned as unroadworthy. Passengers were forced then to wait in the hot sun until running repairs had been completed to the inspectorate’s satisfaction.

    According to some observers in the city, it may be the testing station’s equipment that is faulty rather than the majority of buses that visit East London. Others however have applauded the crack-down by drawing attention to the large number of bus accidents blighting South Africa’s roads.

    Again from personal observation made on South Africa’s roads over many years, PORTS & SHIPS is of the opinion the high number of accidents involving buses is just as likely a result of the high speeds that these buses are forced to travel to maintain tight schedules.

    Whatever the merits of the latest incident in East London, the mostly elderly tourists visiting the city could hardly have been impressed. One passenger fell in the testing grounds and hurt herself rather badly, having to be rushed by car to the ship for medical treatment. Others, made to wait in a building lacking proper facilities while their buses were tested, were later advised their tour was cancelled on account of the buses having been declared unroadworthy. Arrangements were then made for shuttle buses to collect and return the passengers to the ship.

    Even then their discomfort was not quite over. Those organising the shuttles decided it was too risky bringing the small buses into the testing ground in case they too fell foul of the law, so passengers were made to walk out of the testing grounds and along the road to where the shuttles were waiting.

    According to the Daily Dispatch newspaper, some of the passengers sent a letter to the shipping line calling the incident ‘a total farce’ and recommended that East London be dropped from Silverseas’ future itineraries. They accused the traffic officers of being ‘arrogant’.

    A spokesman for the Springbok Atlas company told the paper that when their bus returned to their testing station it passed all tests. The Cape Town manager of Mega Coach said he wanted a calibration certificate from the East London traffic department, because he said the equipment used by them needed to be calibrated regularly and was not designed to be worked non-stop.

    source – Daily Dispatch and own reporter

    Bigger ships visit Walvis Bay

    The Maersk / Safmarine container ship LUETJENBURG has become the largest container ship to enter the port of Walvis Bay, according to local reports.

    The German-owned Luetjenburg (37,323-gt) and 340m in length was chartered in February 2007 as a replacement for one of Safmarine’s Big Whites, SA HELDERBERG when that ship was involved in a collision with the oil tanker OCEAN SAPPHIRE near Singapore.

    Luetjenburg was brought into the Safari 1 Service in order to maintain the schedule’s integrity until SA Helderberg was repaired and has since been deployed by Maersk and Safmarine on other services.

    In fact however the port of Walvis Bay is capable of handling much larger ships given the need – it is just that until now the larger vessels haven’t been deployed to Namibia. In recent years Walvis Bay has undergone dredging to a draught of 12.8m in the approach channel and depths alongside berths 4 to 8 of 10.6 metres chart datum.

    The container terminal has an annual capacity of around 150,000 TEU which is probably the port’s main limiting factor, although should the need arise for larger volumes to be handled there is ample space to enlarge the terminal.

    Nevertheless the arrival of Luetjenburg at Walvis Bay may be an indication that the tendency towards larger ships being released onto secondary and regional services is taking place even in West Coast waters.

    MOZAMBIQUE – growing poverty with mineral wealth

    Special report

    Maputo, 7 January 2008 (IRIN) - For years, the coal-mining town of Moatize in the northern Mozambican province of Tete has been a ghost of its former self, but this is about to change.

    Its railroad is closed and the purpose-built prefabricated neighbourhood, called Berlin after long-disappeared German miners, now houses local residents. Like much of Mozambique's extractive industry, the decades-long civil war resulted in large-scale damage to infrastructure, and the region's mineral wealth was all but ignored.

    But the peace dividend appears to be paying off since hostilities ended in 1992. Vale do Rio Doce, a Brazilian mining company, is expected to resuscitate coal mining at Moatize by 2010 and its investment has already begun to bring rapid changes to the town.

    Like similar projects across Mozambique, the new coal-mine in Tete Province is a reflection of the government's policy of using mineral wealth as a lever to eradicate stubborn poverty levels; nearly four fifths of the about 20 million people live on US$2 or less a day, according to the United Nations.

    The rights to Mozambique's minerals, including heavy metals, coal, natural gas and possible oil reserves have been auctioned off to multinational companies at a rapid rate in recent years.

    In the past five years alone, South African company Sasol has begun exporting natural gas from Inhambane Province; Kenmare, the Ireland-based firm and South African company Corridor Sands are mining titanium deposits in Gaza Province, about 200km north of the capital, Maputo, and an array of companies from the United States, Brazil, Canada, Norway, Italy and Malaysia are prospecting for oil reserves.

    If oil is found, Mozambique's economic profile is expected to change drastically. According to estimates by the government's Ministry of Planning and Development, even small reserves of oil would increase total annual exports from US$6.5 billion to more than $10 billion by 2020; if the finds are more extensive, total export values of $60 billion annually are being predicted.

    But the prospect of joining the world's oil-producing countries is being met more with consternation than euphoria. Australia, Canada, Norway and Botswana have managed to use their mineral wealth for the good of their economies and populations, but this has not necessarily been the case in countries like Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Sudan, where vast oil reserves have failed to improve the livelihoods of the majority of the inhabitants.

    The curse of oil

    A study, "Exploring Natural Resources in Mozambique: Will it be a blessing or a curse?", released in June 2007 by the planning and development ministry, summarised concerns using data from other countries rich in mineral resources.

    It found that, on average, the relationship between natural resource wealth and GDP growth was negative. It also determined that natural resource wealth has no demonstrable relationship to a population's overall wellbeing as measured by the United Nation's Human Development Index (HDI).

    Known as the "natural resource curse", the negative effects of mineral wealth on a country's population are legion: it can inflate the local currency, making other enterprises less competitive in the international market; fluctuations in the price of oil, gas and minerals create a volatile exchange rate that often discourages foreign direct investment; mineral revenue windfalls also have a tendency to encourage poor government policy and increase foreign debt.

    "Resource revenues may contribute to myopic behaviour and irrational expectations on the side of the government, leading to accumulation of debt with resource stocks as collateral," the study noted.

    Investment in education has a tendency to diminish in such countries, while the civic institutions that are key to monitoring corruption have a tendency to falter when governments earn the bulk of revenue from foreign companies.

    "The treatment of existing projects of large dimensions - the so-called 'mega-projects' - most of which operate in the area of natural resource exploration, is so far characterised by a persistent lack of transparency and granting of extraordinarily large fiscal benefits," the report said. "If this situation is to be continued, Mozambique indeed is vulnerable to suffer at least the risk of continued weak institutional quality."

    Avoiding the curse

    Aurelio Bucuane, one of the authors of the study, said the political consequences of an oil windfall was his greatest concern. "It's there that I identify the biggest problem, above all, regarding transparency. Even to do this study it wasn't easy to obtain facts about the contracts involved."

    Unlike other developing countries, whose institutions might not have been adequately prepared for the sudden influx of oil revenues, the Norwegian government has been involved in capacity-building assistance to the government for more than 20 years.

    "It's true that in the bulk of countries that are very rich in mineral resources, [this can] enable the government to extract so much money it becomes independent of its own people," said Mette Masst, a Norwegian diplomat based in Maputo.

    She said Norwegian assistance had helped Mozambique negotiate better terms with multinational companies, such as less generous tax holidays, ensuring that the country obtained a better return from foreign investments.

    "The Mozambican government is conscious about this [oil reserves]. I have a lot of respect for those who manage petroleum in this country," she said. "The most useful thing we have done in 30 years here is for the petroleum sector, but anything can be derailed. Things are so dependent on individuals."

    The study's authors recommended a slow approach to any possible development of reserves, but Masst disagreed. "Advisors have said don't rush too fast, but this is a very poor country that needs revenues." The Norwegian company, Norsk Hydro, is one of many companies currently prospecting for oil in Mozambique.

    Tourism versus oil

    One potential source of conflict the study did not address was balancing the economic impact of an increased focus on mineral resources against the country's emerging international tourism market.

    Mozambique's pristine beaches and marine biodiversity are primary attractions for tourists, and local environmentalists contend that the impact of mining and offshore drilling might destroy a nascent industry that has the potential to create mass employment.

    "There are countries that have achieved development through tourism, more than have achieved it from oil," said Daniel Ribeiro, member of a local environmental group, Justiça Ambiental (Environmental Justice in Portuguese).

    "Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world but it's difficult to measure because the monetary impact is so dispersed. The government prefers to support mega-projects because they are easier for it to control."

    Like the authors of the study, Ribeiro believes the government should not allow mineral extraction until it has a plan for controlling spending and borrowing, encouraging economic diversification, and a system of anti-corruption checks and balances.

    "Mozambique is not ready," he said. "We're not there. We need more planning and we need more debate. [The oil] will always have value - it's not going anywhere."

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

    Pic of the day – MARUBA CRISTINA

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The newly built container ship MARUBA CRISTINA, named for Argentina’s lady president and the largest container ship in Maruba service, which has joined the SEAS service (South America – South Africa – Asia). Maruba Cristina is due in Durban on her maiden voyage this coming Saturday, 26 January. Picture courtesy Alpha Shipping

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