Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 20, 2008
Author: P&S

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  • East Africa file – progress made with rail restoration

  • Piracy continues to be a problem along African coast

  • Cape Town offshore helicopter service restored

  • New Cape Town NSRI rescue boat has more than double the range

  • It can only be in Africa

  • Unique Dutch maritime exhibition

  • Pic of the day – GO SARS


    East Africa file – progress made with rail restoration

    Rail services from the port of Mombasa to western Kenya have resumed after repairs to sabotaged sections of track were carried out by the operator Rift Valley Railway. The line between Nairobi and the Lake Victoria port of Kisumu is now ready to receive its first rail traffic in more than a month.

    Sections of the track were ripped up during the height of political unrest following the recent elections in Kenya. As a result trains have been prevented from moving containers and other cargo in or out of the port, causing additional congestion to the Mombasa container terminal.

    Following the repairs the first train to leave Nairobi carried passengers, typifying hopes that some form of political settlement was imminent. However not all rail services have resumed and according to Roy Puffet, Rift Valley’s managing director, the service to Butere remains suspended until repairs had been completed. He did confirm however that services via Eldoret to Uganda had already resumed.

    Rift Valley Railway, which holds the concession to operate and manage the former Kenya and Uganda Railways, says it has lost many millions of dollars as a result of lost services and the cost of repairs.

    The Kenyan government is meanwhile providing security to trains operating within the troubled sections.

    In neighbouring Tanzania rail freight services have recommenced on the country’s central line from the port city of Dar es Salaam after repairs were carried out to vandalised sections. The line is the main trunk route of Tanzania’s rail network to the northern borders and extends from Dar es Salaam to the rail junction of Tabora from where a line extends further west to the Lake Tanganyika port of Kigoma. Another line runs northwards from Tabora to Mwanza on the southern end of Lake Victoria. Both lines are important for traffic to neighbouring countries that use Dar es Salaam as the preferred an outlet to the sea.

    A different section of Tanzania’s rail services from the northern port of Tanga remains closed for maintenance and repair. The line is connected to the central railway near Dar es Salaam and from Tanga runs inland to the Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Manyara regions where it is connected with the Rift Valley Railway system of Kenya at Himo near Taveta.

    The Kenya, Uganda and central and northern Tanzania railway systems operate on metre gauge railway, whereas the Tazara railway from Dar es Salaam to Zambia is built to the Cape gauge of 1067mm. The latter railway is operated on concession by a Chinese-led consortium while the remainder of Tanzania’s railways is concessioned to the Indian company Rites.

    Piracy continues to be a problem along African coast

    Piracy on certain areas of the African coastline continues to be highlighted by the International Maritime Bureau reporting centre in Malaysia. Among the areas it singles out are:

    Lagos, Nigeria: The bureau says that pirates operating in this region are violent and have attacked and robbed ships and kidnapped crews along the Delta coast and river, at anchorages and ports. “A total of 42 incidents have been reported in Nigeria since 8 January 2007. Twenty-five attacks alone for Lagos and seven for Bonny River.” The IMB advises shipping companies and operators to remain vigilant in other areas of Nigeria.

    The IMB says that vessels in Nigerian waters engaged in ship to shore operations are particularly vulnerable and a number of violent attacks have taken place. Mariners are advised to remain highly vigilant at all times.

    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: According to the bureau 20 incidents have been reported since 5 June 2006, with pirates targeting ships in port and anchorages. The most recent was about a week ago.

    Gulf of Aden, Red Sea: The region remains one of the world’s trouble spots, with numerous pirate attacks having been reported by ships and yachts, including some vessels having been fired on.

    Somali waters: The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre says it has received reports of 31 actual and attempted attacks in 2007. “Many more have gone unreported. Some pirates are dangerous and would fire their automatic weapons at ships to stop them. Occasionally they would use their RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) launchers at ships.”

    There is evidence that pirates make use of ‘mother vessels’ to launch attacks at very far distances from the coast, indicating both a high degree of sophistication and organisation. The ‘mother vessels’ proceed far out to sea to launch smaller boats, usually fitted with powerful outboard engines to chase and attack passing ships.

    What makes the Somali pirates unique in Africa is that in many cases they seek to highjack ships and crew for ransom, opening negotiations with ship owners shortly after taking the ship. It is suspected but not confirmed that many ships have been released because owners agreed to pay a ransom.

    The eastern and north-eastern coast of Somalia are regarded as the high risk areas for attacks and hijackings and ships not making scheduled calls to ports in Somalia should keep as far away as possible from the Somalia coast, ideally more than 200 n.miles.

    The Bureau requests that all incidents be reported.

    source – International Maritime Bureau

    Cape Town offshore helicopter service restored

    The port of Cape Town has had its offshore helicopter service restored after Titan Aviation stepped in to replace that of CHC Helicopters which withdrew in December 2007.

    Titan Aviation is not a new company to South Africa, having operated heavylift and other helicopter services across the country for a number of years. The company, which has its South African head office in George and operates internationally, has taken over the management and staff, its facilities and equipment from CHC but is initially offering a daylight service only.

    In early December CHC (originally known as Court Line Helicopters) announced it was withdrawing from offering offshore services from Cape Town and would stop business as from 31 January, although the service was actually ‘chopped’ at the end of December 2007. CHC/Court had operated in Cape Town since the Suez crisis of 1967-1975 and also introduced offshore services at Durban.

    Titan Aviation in Cape Town can be contacted at telephone 021 421 5900 or email info@titan-shipservice.com

    New Cape Town NSRI rescue boat has more than double the range

    On Thursday (21 February) the NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) will officially name and launch its latest rescue boat, Spirit of Vodacom.

    The function at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront where the NSRI Table Bay Station has its rescue base, will be attended by among others the premier of the Western Cape, Ebrahim Rasool, as well as the chief executive officer of Vodacom, the company that single-handedly made the whole thing possible with a massive R6 million donation to purchase, design and build the Spirit of Vodacom.

    According to NSRI media spokesman Craig Lambinon, she becomes the first rescue craft in South African waters that has been hand crafted and designed to the exact specifications of NSRI experts to suit South African sea conditions, “making her a truly exceptional addition to South Africa’s search and rescue capabilities.”

    Spirit of Vodacom is a 12 metre Rodman rescue craft with a range of between 300 to 400 nautical miles, which more than doubles the range of any existing NSRI boat.

    It can only be in Africa

    The following story, which appears in the pages of current Namib Times, best explains the complexities of the shipping industry in Africa.

    “Thirty crewmembers of the horse mackerel trawler Mars refused to board the vessel last Friday (15 February) fearing for their well-being as a result of alleged witchcraft.

    A certain crewmember who claims that he is being sexually molested on several occasions in his sleep, has allegedly sparked the fear that has spread amongst the crewmembers. The particular crew-member, whose name is withheld allegedly worked on the sister vessel Namibian Star where the witchcraft and sexual mole-station initially originated, allegedly claimed that he has been the victim of black magic.

    As a result of this a crewmember on Namibian Star allegedly resigned last year after being accused by the victim of sexual molestation. The situation is said to have become unbearable to his crew-members to the extent that they collected funds so that he could see a traditional healer in December last year. He was transferred to the Mars before a traditional healer could see him thus the crewmembers refusing to board the vessel with him.

    “We don't have a problem with him joining us,” a crewmember said. “He must first seek help from a traditional healer. This problem might pass on to our vessel. We are fearing for our safety and refuse to be on the same vessel with him.”

    The problem reached a peak situation last Friday when the thirty crewmembers refused to board the vessel after receiving three written warnings. The vessel departed on Friday with casuals replacing the crewmembers. The crewmembers now face disciplinary action as a result of this.

    The Namib Times also spoke to Namsov's Marketing Manager Mr Herman Smidt who confirmed that management is aware of the situation. He also said that the assistance of a traditional healer was consulted but could not yet see the crewmember.

    “We are not ignoring the situation and we are positive that we will solve it as soon as possible”.’

    source – The Namib Times

    Unique Dutch maritime exhibition

    PORTS & SHIPS has been asked to draw attention to an exhibition taking place in the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam until 22 June 2008, in which a variety of art and artefacts is on display.

    These include ships models, paintings and drawings normally housed in various shipping and other offices around the city.

    For those unable to attend Rotterdam for the exhibition (and as a keepsake for those that can) a book with the title ‘Maritime Heritage’ has been produced which contains pictures and details of all the exhibits along with descriptions of the artists or model boat builders and the history of the various types of artwork on display.

    The exhibit has a website at www.maritime-heritage.com which is available in both English and Dutch or alternately go to

    The address of the exhibit and where the book can be ordered from, its price etc is available on the website.

    Why not here?

    As an aside to this and having been privileged to see some of the many fine and inspiring paintings of South African shipping and harbour activity in various maritime company offices, perhaps the Rotterdam exhibition could act as a catalyst to staging something similar in South Africa, with pictures and models ‘loaned’ for the occasion.

    An art gallery such as the municipal gallery in Durban could possibly be encouraged to house the collection in one of its several rooms for a limited period, after which the exhibit could go to other centres. The Durban Museum already holds a number of ship models dating from the Union Castle days that used to be on show in Union Castle and other shipping line offices and there are others in shipping company possession. There are also a large number of original Nils Andersen paintings depicting South African marine activity in collections in the Durban area alone and Cape Town must have its own unique collections.

    So why not here?

    Pic of the day – GO SARS

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    Cape Town port plays host to a range of highly interesting and unusual visitors right now. One of these this month was the Norwegian research vessel GO SARS, named after one of Norway’s celebrated marine biologists and owned by the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research. Apart from her futuristic design and build, GO SARS features vibration and noise-dampened diesel generators, with propellers being driven by direct current motors, helping to keep the vessel extremely quiet. It is claimed to make 99 percent less noise underwater than conventional research vessels. Picture by Aad Noorland

    Don’t forget to 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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