Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 28, 2008
Author: P&S

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  • PetroSA refinery at Mossel Bay shut down for safety

  • Cape shipping news

  • Crisis in the Comoros as AU stands poised to move in

  • WFP responds to Madagascar cyclone devastation

  • SAAFF KZN elects new committee

  • Pic of the day – PRIDE SOUTH SEAS and EEMS


    PetroSA refinery at Mossel Bay shut down for safety

    by Gabi Khumalo

    Cape Town, 27 February 2008 (BuaNews) - PetroSA has closed its Mossel Bay refinery for safety reasons following the discovery of a damaged gas pipe.

    “The plant was closed at the weekend after a 100mm crack appeared in our gas inlet pipe,” said PetroSA Chief Executive Officer, Sipho Mkhize, adding that the supply of industrial gasses and heavy fuel oil to customers will be disrupted until commissioning activities commence.

    Announcing the refinery closure on Tuesday, Mkhize said the outage was the result of a breakdown in the reformer common 30-inch line.

    He said the decision to close the refinery came after a complete risk assessment adding that safety was the company's priority.

    “On investigating the extent of the damage, we found that other key sections of the line needed repair, which required the company to source spares.

    “Unfortunately, the manufacturer did not have these in stock, these spares have to be manufactured and it will take five days for delivery to PetroSA,” he explained.

    Mkhize added that once they received the spares, it will take a week to repair the damage.

    Any liquid fuel production shortfalls would be supplemented with imported fuels, but the company have enough stock for the next two weeks.

    Meanwhile, the company is to embark on a massive drilling programme aimed at appraising existing gas and oil fields on the South of Mossel Bay.

    Last week, the state-owned oil company's Board of Directors approved Project Jabulani.

    The project will start next week Monday on the E-M 8 gas field. It will cost about R5-billion over the next two years, taking in four wells.

    “At the PetroSA Board of Directors meeting on 15 February this year, approval was given for the PetroSA's Upstream Division to drill the E-M West and F-O gas wells as well as the E-AR5 oil well,” New Ventures Vice-President, Everton September said.

    He said the board also granted approval for maintenance work on the F-BE01 gas well, currently a non-producing well in the FA field.

    Our chance of success in E-M and F-O is calculated to be about 83 percent and 72 percent respectively, according to our knowledgeable team, Mr September said.

    He acknowledged the excellent work of the team, both on the Geology, Geophysics and Reservoir engineering side and the capital projects department including PetroSA's drilling department.

    “Acknowledgement is also due to the Operations team that firmed up the technical work and the economics for justifying F-BE01 and the E-AR5 oil well.

    “We have really worked tremendously hard to get the project approved and I pay tribute to everyone for their hard work and persistence,” added Mr September.

    Footnote The Mossel Bay refinery, which is situated on a 770 hectare site near the port of Mossel Bay, has a production refining capacity of approximately 50,000 barrels of fuel a day, equivalent to about 7 percent of South Africa’s fuel needs.

    The plant converts gas and condensate from wells in the sea bed of the Agulhas Bank off Mossel Bay into fuels and other products. The product is distributed by the oil companies mainly through the Southern Cape and adjacent areas under the respective brand names.

    Cape shipping news

    The ScholarShip OCEANIC II in Cape Town harbour yesterday. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    A cruise ship with a difference has docked in Cape Town harbour. The 28,891-gt OCEANIC II is dubbed The ScholarShip – a rather nice play with words although the ship herself looked rather shabby on arrival off the Mother City yesterday.

    Oceanic II is the former KUNGSHOLM which later became P&O’s VICTORIA (under which name she undertook the Union-Castle Millennium Round Africa cruise in 2000), before being taken on by Holiday Cruises as their MONA LISA in 2002.

    The ship is now a floating university and on this segmentof her voyage is carrying about 200 international students (the ship can accommodate 796 students along with her 400 or so crew members) who are offered a range of courses to study while at sea. In the process the ship will visit four continents during the 16-week academic programme.

    A second notable visitor to Cape Town this week was the Wallenius Wilhelmsen pure car carrier TOLEDO, which reportedly became the biggest of her type to call at Cape Town when she arrived to discharge cars on Tuesday this week.

    Durban recently featured another WW car carrier, the 8,000-car FIDELIO, which carries the title (for the present?) of the biggest car carrier (228m length, 32.2m beam, 30,137-dwt and 71,853-gt) to call in South Africa and this week it was learned that WW has ordered another eight of these impressive ships to join the five already delivered or building. Seven of this new order will be delivered in 2011 and one in 2012, after which they will be deployed in the company’s global trades, says Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

    Returning to Cape Town news, the oil rig PRIDE SOUTH SEAS duly sailed from port yesterday behind the towage tug EEMS (former NORMAND TITAN which underwent a name-change while in port). The rig has been undergoing maintenance and repairs in Cape Town.

    A reminder that this weekend (Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 March) ships of the German and South African Navies, which are participating in joint naval exercises off the Cape coast, will be open to the public at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront.

    Crisis in the Comoros as AU stands poised to move in

    (IRIN) - In line with a long tradition of foreign military intervention, official and clandestine, international forces are moving in to help the Union government of Comoros re-establish control over the renegade island of Anjouan and save the fragile three-island state in the Indian Ocean from falling apart.

    After an African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council meeting on 20 February, the African body revised its stance on the political conflict in the Union of Comoros, moving from fruitless negotiation efforts to diffuse the conflict to backing the Union government's position of using military force. Four AU countries - Libya, Sudan, Senegal and Tanzania - have promised troops and military support.

    “The meeting reiterated AU’s commitment to the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Comoros,” and “mandated the African Union Electoral and Security Assistance Mission (MAES) to the Comoros to deploy in Anjouan in order to facilitate the restoration of the authority of the Union in Anjouan,” said an AU communiqué.

    The gathering “agreed on practical military and security measures aimed at supporting the decision taken by the Government of the Union of the Comoros to restore its authority in Anjouan.”

    A standoff between the authorities on Anjouan and the other two islands, Grande Comore and Moheli, has lingered since individual island elections were held in June 2007.

    The archipelago's complex electoral system provides for a semi-autonomous government and president for each of the islands - Anjouan, Grand Comore and Moheli - with a rotating presidency for the over-arching Union government.

    Neither Anjouan's self-proclaimed president, Mohamed Bacar, nor the Comoros Union government, which is demanding a fresh poll, is prepared to back down.

    The AU said it would send a military and security evaluation team as well as a planning team to Comoros to make final arrangements.

    Increasing international involvement

    France has offered to transport the AU troops to the Indian Ocean archipelago. “We confirm France's readiness to provide support to the Tanzanian and Senegalese troops for their transport to the Comoros, that is, to the island of Grande Comoro or Moheli, but not to Anjouan,” Agence France-Presse quoted French foreign ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani as saying.

    “We want to show our support to the AU and to its determination to preserve the integrity and unity of the Comoros,” he said.

    The former colonial power's involvement came after reports of increasing anti-French sentiment in the former colony, amid rumours of possible French support for Bacar.

    “There have been some protests and slogans against France painted on walls - some people might be suspicious that France was supporting Bacar and many expected France at least to raise its voice against what is happening on Anjouan,” Union government spokesman Abdourahime Said Bakar told IRIN.

    After more than 130 years of colonial rule, independence from France in 1975 led to three decades of political instability marked by 19 successful and attempted coups in Comoros.

    The notorious French mercenary, Bob Denard, who died recently, orchestrated four of the coups and played a prominent role in Comoran political struggles, ousting and replacing presidents over the years until his final attempt was thwarted by France in 1995.

    The Union government has acquired two Ukrainian helicopters and crews to back up its planned military operation, because “we only have one helicopter pilot” according to Said Bakar. Hundreds of Union government troops have been assembling on Moheli, which is closer to Anjouan than the larger island Grand Comore, and the helicopters would transport troops and equipment and evacuate the wounded, he said.

    The Union government will need all the help it can get: most experts acknowledge that Bacar's forces are better trained, better equipped and more numerous. Attempts by the Union government in 1997 and 2007 to establish control of the island by force failed.

    The first time the army came we kicked them out. The second time the army came we kicked them out. That means that if they try to come a third time we will kick them out

    In an earlier interview with IRIN, Mohamed Bacar dismissed the threat of armed Union forces landing on Anjouan. “[National president Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed] Sambi does not know anything concerning the military, but if I had to advise him I would say that it's not the solution. The first time [1997] the army came we kicked them out. The second time [May 2007] the army came we kicked them out. That means that if they try to come a third time we will kick them out.”

    Earlier this week, the AU extended sanctions against Anjouan's leadership for the third time, but the Comoros Union government strongly rejected the move, claiming that sanctions - a maritime embargo and asset freeze - were having no impact on Bacar and were only prolonging the crisis.

    The possibility of a new high-level mission, under the auspices of the AU, to try negotiating a peaceful resolution to the conflict prompted Said Bakar to reiterate the government's position to move in with the Union army and re-establish order on Anjouan.

    “We know that his [Bacar's] answer will still be the same. Why give him more time?”

    The proposed AU mission would include representatives from Tanzania, South Africa, France and the United States, but it was still unclear as to when the delegation would arrive in Moroni, the national capital, situated on Grande Comore.

    US engagement at this level was relatively new, Said Bakar commented. “Comoros has a strategic position in the Indian Ocean and in relation to the middle-east,” and the US ‘fight against terror’ might also be a reason, but he welcomed the international support to help resolve the crisis.

    Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a Comoran national, is still wanted by the US for his role in the bombings of their embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in Kenya on 7 August 1998.

    “We continue to search for this known criminal, and I would again like to call for your assistance in capturing this man, which has tarnished the international reputation of Comoros. Only when he is captured will Comoros be free from the dark shadow he has cast,” the former US ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and the Union of Comoros said in his outgoing speech in 2005.

    “But I want to make it very clear - the United States is going to be there to help the Comoros over the long run, even after we capture this terrorist.”

    On the run

    While Union forces, international troops and Bacar loyalists manoeuvre themselves into position, Anjouan's population has been scattering, seeking refuge on neighbouring islands or leaving the island capital, Mutsamudu, to find safety in the hills and smaller villages.

    The UN Resident Coordinator in the Comoros, Opia Kumah, said that a recent UN assessment carried out in cooperation with the Comoros Red Crescent movement, had confirmed movements from Anjouan to the other islands, but rumours of thousands moving to Moheli were an exaggeration and “there were a couple of hundred at most.”

    According to Said Bakar, over 2,500 Anjouanese had made their way to Grand Comore since the conflict flared in June 2007. The displaced people were mainly being taken in by relatives, but capacity to absorb them was wearing thin and leading to growing frustration.

    Kumah said two factors were driving the displacement: the threat and violence associated with military action, and individuals thought to back the Union government being targeted by Bacar supporters. “There are rumours of human rights violations, of beatings, and even torture. Our biggest concern is the possibility of a humanitarian and human rights crisis.”

    Regardless of the military outcome, Kumah said, pro-Bacar and pro-Union sympathisers on Anjouan would be pitted against each other in the aftermath. “What we are afraid of is retaliation against the people who support Bacar. People might want to take revenge, but we want to take them to court. Bacar has committed high treason,” Said Bakar remarked.

    Besides the ongoing inter-island tension in the Union, there is also tension between the Union and the French territory of Mayotte. The Union of Comoros claims Mayotte - one of the four stars in the Comoran flag represents the island - and its claim is backed by the UN and the AU.

    The archipelago's violent past has left Comorans heavily dependent on foreign aid and among the poorest people in Africa. In the view of Said Bakar, “This country should bury all its separatist ideas and allow Comorians to go into a stable and peaceful future.” Many of the archipelago's people would probably agree with him.

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


    Tanzania’s foreign minister has urged the leader of the Comoros isle of Anjouan to either flee or surrender before an African Union-authorised military offensive is launched. And in a last minute attempt to stave off military action, a team of international diplomats has flown to Anjouan to meet with leaders there to find a peaceful solution.

    WFP responds to Madagascar cyclone devastation

    Antananarivo, 27 February 2008 - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has begun providing emergency food assistance to tens of thousands of people affected by the cyclone Ivan, which devastated large parts of Madagascar last week.

    In the capital, Antananarivo, WFP has already distributed three-day rations of High Energy Biscuits (HEB) to 2,000 people living in tents after their homes were destroyed by the cyclone. The distribution focussed on the most vulnerable people, including children under 5 and pregnant and nursing women.

    Along the worst-affected East coast and on the devastated island of St. Marie, WFP distributed 500 kilograms of HEB as an immediate response to ensure that the most vulnerable people had food to cope with the traumatic first few days after the cyclone.

    On Monday, WFP began providing food assistance to people in tented camps in Antananarivo in partnership with two non-governmental organizations, Asern and Reggio Terzo Mondo. WFP will distribute nutritious corn-soya blend porridge to one of the camps and HEB to the other seven camps.

    General food distributions and food-for-work activities will start along the East coast in the coming days.

    All decisions relating to the response to the latest cyclone disaster are taken during daily coordination meetings in Antananarivo, which are coordinated by the National Office for Natural Disasters Preparedness and Response (BNGRC) and include all humanitarian partners.

    According to the BNGRC, 73 people were killed by cyclone Ivan, while around 240,000 people were affected, 148,500 were left homeless, among them almost 20,000 in Antananarivo.

    Following initial government-led assessments, WFP estimated that around 140,000 people will require around 2,000 metric tons of immediate food assistance. However, this figure could change since additional assessments are planned, which will provide an even more accurate picture of how many people need assistance.

    WFP has prepared for the cyclone season by pre-positioning food in strategic locations. Currently, WFP has around 3,000 tons of food, including rice, pulses, oil and HEB in the warehouse in Toamasina.

    Given the estimated number of beneficiaries, WFP is likely to face a shortage of rice and vegetable oil in April.

    The damage inflicted by the cyclone will also pose a logistical challenge since many affected communities are no longer accessible by road and it could prove difficult to provide them with assistance. WFP is considering delivering food by air if necessary.


    Cyclone Ivan first struck the island of St. Marie on Friday 17 February with winds up to 230 km/h. The wind speed made it a category 4 cyclone, with the same intensity as Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans in the United States in 2005.

    The cyclone affected the regions of Analanjirofo, Atsinanana, Alaotra Mangoro, Betsiboka, Analamanga and Menabe.

    On 22 February, the Malagasy Government launched an appeal calling for international emergency aid.

    WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: on average, each year, we give food to 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 58 million hungry children, in 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP – We Feed People.

    SAAFF KZN elects new committee

    by Philip Edwards

    Durban, 27 February - The KZN Chapter of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders held its Annual AGM at the Durban Country Club on Tuesday (26 February).

    SAAFF KZN represents over 100 local clearing and forwarding agents and a further 46 Harbour Carriers and Associated members. The meeting was addressed by the Executive Officer of SAAFF National, Chris Richards who thanked KZN for the support given to the national body but warned that future growth within the Association and the need for an extended paid National secretariat would undoubtedly mean an increase in future Annual subscriptions.

    The AGM saw Kevin Naidoo who led the local chapter very successfully for the past two years, hand over the chair to Keith Blond, his Vice Chairman. New Exco members voted in were, Jacques De Villiers, Warehousing, Emmanuel Ntshangase, Training and Stephen Naidoo, Vice Chairman. Non officio members included Denise Sodalay and Alex Moir.

    Reports were tabled by all the sub committees.

    Major concerns included the following:

  • a perceived lack of experienced staff within the industry and Customs, as well as skilled drivers

  • congestion in and around the port and nearby residential areas and the shortage of affordable warehouse space

  • delays at privately owned container depots due to shortage of equipment

  • and the draft Port Rules, to name a few

  • Pic of the day – PRIDE SOUTH SEAS and EEMS

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The US-owned semi-submersible oil rig PRIDE SOUTH SEAS which was towed out from Cape Town harbour yesterday, after having undergone repair and maintenance lasting some months. Picture by Aad Noorland

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