Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 16, 2008
Author: P&S

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  • Chinese arms ship again on the move

  • TPT introduces high-tech simulator training

  • Uganda orders Mombasa rail line to be fixed

  • Piracy along African coast - update

  • US provides funding for Ghana ports study

  • Queen Victoria given a stern warning in Malta

  • Madagascar bans rice exports

  • Pic of the day – GRAND ELENA


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    Chinese arms ship again on the move

    The Chinese arms-carrying freighter An Yue Jiang is reported to be off the southern coast of Africa heading either back to China or possibly looking for a friendly port on the East African coast.

    That’s the word from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) which has been monitoring the vessel as best as possible, given that for much of the time the Cosco ship has operated with its transponder switched off and changing direction several times.

    The An Yue Jiang recently entered port at Luanda in Angola where she was seen working cargo over a period of at least one day. According to the ITF however the contentious cargo of six containers carrying arms and ammunition for Zimbabwe was not discharged in Luanda and has remained on the vessel.

    There were also suggestions that the ship was heading for Point Noire north of Luanda but this was never been confirmed and appears unlikely. According to the ITF the ship was definitely off the South African coast on Wednesday (14 May), opposite Port Elizabeth and staying outside of territorial waters). Her course at the time was east-northeasterly at a speed of about 9 knots.

    The Chinese foreign ministry said earlier that the vessel would most likely return to China with the arms still on board, but that was before the vessel continued its then course along the west coast to make a port call at Luanda.

    The only thing certain about this drawn out story is that wherever the ship now goes, someone is going to spot her and report it.

    TPT introduces high-tech simulator training

    Durban, 15 May - In a fascinating exercise, containers and other cargo are being offloaded from ships in Durban harbour using the latest cranes – without the vessels actually being in the terminal.

    Using technology in the form of state-of-the-art computers and giant screens inside a 40-ft shipping container, a make believe situation is created to help crane operators at Pier 1 Container Terminal in Durban practice challenging manoeuvres involving heavy and expensive cranes. The technology enables the simulation of weather conditions, environment and situations that cannot be safely replicated using traditional training methods.

    South African port operator Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) recently partnered with African National Engineering, the local agent for GlobalSim, a world leader in simulation training systems for the crane and material handling market.

    The partnership has seen the introduction of the R6.7 million MasterLift™ 4000 advanced training simulator at Pier 1. The high-tech software and hardware system is a dual function simulator integrating two models – a Liebherr P171L ship-to-shore (STS) Crane and a Kalmar E1 Rubber Tyred Gantry (RTG) Crane.

    Willie Coetsee, Operations Training Manager at Transnet Port Terminals, said the simulator was introduced to increase the safety and efficiency of critical crane operations at South African ports.

    “The MasterLift™ 4000 system consists of a simulated training environment for a trainee operator and a monitoring station for the facilitator and three students. Operators are able to hone their skills in order to achieve set productivity targets, without interrupting normal operations or causing millions of rands worth of damage to equipment”, he said.

    Coetsee said the system enables crane operators to carry out simulation exercises including loading and unloading a vessel under various weather conditions, stacking, de-stacking and loading containers onto private transport in the stacking yard and overcoming operational challenges like dropped boxes, high wind speeds and container swaying.

    Louis Du Toit, Business Unit Executive at the Transnet Academy – School of Port Operations, said the advanced system replaced the outdated crane simulator previously used at the Transnet National Ports Authority School of Port Operations.

    “We are currently training 24 RTG operators and 12 STS crane operators at Pier 1, however the facility is mobile and will eventually be moved to Port Elizabeth where critical training will be provided to operators for work at the new Port of Ngqura,” he said.

    Ash Ramnath, Systems Analyst at TPT will work closely with African National Engineering to ensure the simulator will be transported safely and set up for training in Ngqura.

    “We expect that all crane operators at Transnet Port Terminals will be exposed to the simulator at some stage or another,” said Du Toit.

    Previously, RTG training was carried out at Pier 1 by Port Management Container Services or Aitken Spence, however the simulator will now enable the School of Port Operations’ own instructors to conduct the training internally.

    Refresher training for existing operators will also be introduced at Pier 1 and the Durban Container Terminal. The actual training of a new recruit currently takes a total of twelve weeks. It is estimated that a maximum of five days on the simulator will reduce training time by at least two weeks, if not more. Actual training time will vary depending on individual ability.

    Scott Huntsman, President and CEO of GlobalSim, said, “We see this programme as a significant step in opening up the continent of Africa to advanced training tools. Africa has many ports and they are starting to recognise major growth in shipping and construction.”

    Globalsim’s simulators are found in several major ports worldwide. During the last five years, the company has delivered 86 simulators to customers at ports in Marseille, New York, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Hamburg, Tacoma, La Havre, Oakland and Antwerpen.

    The port of Hamburg's limited access to actual cranes for training was also remedied by GlobalSim's MasterLift™ 4000 system, which has replaced 60 percent of Hamburg's need for training hours on live cranes. The port has subsequently reduced live crane training by 50 percent and saved thousands of euros in fuel, maintenance and other crane-related operating costs.

    Uganda orders Mombasa rail line to be fixed

    Kampala, 15 May – Uganda’s Works and Transport minister Jon Nasasira has issued instructions for the damaged railway bridge near Jinja on the northern tip of Lake Victoria to be repaired.

    The bridge, which had been weakened some years earlier, was washed away earlier this week after heavy rains fell across the region, stranding more than 20,000 tonnes of cargo at the port of Mombasa which was to be railed to Uganda and other neighbouring countries.

    The minister insisted he wanted the line reopened within three weeks, however Gerrie Scheepers of the Rift Valley Railway said the work was complex and would take at least four weeks to complete.

    Scheepers said that arrangements were being made with Kenyan marine services to enable the movement of Uganda-bound cargo through the Kisumu – Port Bell waterway until the rail repairs have been carried out.

    Rift Valley railway has eight locomotives in the region immediately available to begin moving cargo to Kisumu on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria. source - New Vision (Kampala)

    Piracy along African coast - update

    The following report has been posted on the ICC Commercial Crime Services website:

    Suspicious craft

    4 May 2008: 1810 LT: 15:05.0N-051:13.0E: Gulf of Aden.
    Two white speedboats chased a general cargo ship underway. Ship took evasive manoeuvres to prevent boats from getting closer. The two speedboats moved towards other larger vessels in the vicinity. Later, they returned with two more black speedboats, followed ship for a while, and then aborted the chase.

    10 May 2008: 0330 LT: Tin Can port, Lagos, Nigeria.
    Robbers boarded a general cargo ship at berth. Alert crew raised alarm and the robbers jumped overboard into their waiting boat and headed for another ship.

    4 May 2008: 0050 LT: Monrovia port, Liberia.
    Three robbers, armed with knives, boarded a container ship at berth. Robbers cut and stole reefer container electric cables. Robbers escaped when sighted by ship’s crew. Master tried to contact PFSO by VHF but no response.

    4 May 2008: 2215 LT: 01:00N-051:30E: Off Somalia.
    Two speedboats chased a chemical tanker underway. Pirates opened fire on the tanker. Master took evasive manoeuvres and increased speed. Later, the boats aborted the chase. Ship continued her passage. No reported injuries to crew.

    Piracy prone areas and warnings

    Mariners are warned to be extra cautious and to take necessary precautionary measures when transiting the following areas:

    Africa and Red Sea

    Lagos (Nigeria) : Pirates are violent and have attacked and robbed vessels/kidnapped crews along the coast and river, at anchorages and ports. A total of 42 incidents have been reported in Nigeria since 08/01/2007. Twenty five attacks alone for Lagos and seven for Bonny River. Generally be vigilant in other areas in Nigeria.

    Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) : Twenty incidents have been reported since 05/06/2006. Pirates are targeting ships in port and anchorages

    Gulf of Aden / Red Sea : Numerous pirate attacks have been reported by ships and yachts in the Gulf of Aden/Red sea. In the past, some of the vessels were fired upon.

    Somalian waters : The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre has received (reports of) 31 actual and attempted attacks in 2007. Many more attacks may 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. Pirates are believed to be using “mother vessels” to launch attacks at very far distance from coast. These “mother vessel” is able to proceed to very far out to sea to launch smaller boats to attack and hijack passing ships. Eastern and Northeastern coasts are high risk areas for attacks and hijackings. Vessels not making scheduled calls to ports in Somalia should keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast, ideally more than 200 nautical miles. Mariners are also advised to report any suspicious boats to the Centre.

    In addition to the above the following occurred this Tuesday (13 May). Armed men attacked and highjacked a ship owned by a US company complete with the vessel’s crew. The attack happened in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria and militants have since demanded a ransom of N30 million (USD 259,000) for their return and the release of the ship. The vessel was deployed on ferrying supplies for the oil company Chevron. The crew consists of nine Nigerians, a Portuguese and a Ukrainian.

    US provides funding for Ghana ports study

    The port of Tema in Ghana. Picture OT Africa Line

    A port master plan for the development of Tema and Takoradi ports in Ghana has been undertaken using funding provided by the US, reports OT Africa Line.

    According to the report the expansion and development of the two ports entails four berths, eight STS gantry cranes, cargo handling equipment, improved warehousing and marine dredging for the port of Tema. Takoradi would receive improvements to two berths for container handling, one for breakbulk cargo, another for tankers as well as cargo handling equipment and marine dredging.

    The port of Tema was constructed in the mid 1950s by means of two breakwaters encompassing the artificial harbour. Work was completed in 1962 including 13 berths and a dry dock for ship repair. Takoradi is much older having been built in 1928 as an alternative to the system of surf ports in use along the Gold Coast, as Ghana was then named. Construction was relatively simple consisting of a pier jutting into the bay and a breakwater completing the opposite side. Takoradi was built with six berths for bulk cargoes – mostly bauxite and manganese exports but later cocoa, timber and other commodities began to be exported through the port. As a result the port was extended and improved in 1955.

    Queen Victoria given a stern warning in Malta

    Queen Victoria, Cunard’s latest cruise ship became the centre of some unwanted attention on Wednesday (14 May) on entering Malta’s Grand Harbour. The 90,000 tonne ship smacked into the quay, causing some damage to her stern and lots of red faces.

    Making matters worse was that Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation, was on board for the maiden voyage to Malta. Carnival Corporation is the parent company of Cunard and owns the Queen Victoria.

    According to official reports the ship experienced mechanical failure - it is understood her throttle jammed, or ‘got stuck’ in the appropriate parlance.

    The only saving grace for Cunard and her master was that the ship was officially in the hands of the harbour pilot, so no doubt that’s where the blame will be laid. The ship’s master Captain Paul Wright was quick to confirm to local media that his vessel was under pilotage at the time.

    There were no injuries to passengers or crew, who reported experiencing only a loud noise.

    It hasn’t taken long for the ‘I told you’s’ to remind everyone how on Queen Victoria’s naming ceremony little more than six months ago the champagne bottle declined to break. Within a month the ship went down with an attack of the dreaded novovirus. Now the rude arrival in Valetta. “What next?” some will be asking.

    Madagascar bans rice exports

    Port Louis, 14 May (IRIN) - A government decision to ban rice exports to cushion Madagascar against spiralling global food prices will bring temporary relief, but observers say the island's goal of food self-sufficiency will remain a pipedream unless underlying problems are dealt with.

    The disaster-prone, heavily aid-dependent but resource-rich Indian Ocean island has long been struggling to meet its own food needs. Now, the squeeze of global food and energy prices has compelled the state to announce that it “suspends the exports of rice to guard the stability of the market of this commodity in Madagascar”.

    The decision was aimed at preventing the unrest experienced in countries where rising food prices have impacted most severely on the most vulnerable and poor, Krystyna Bednarska, the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director in Madagascar, told IRIN.

    “The measure is pre-emptive - prices [of rice] have been stable”, Bednarska said, but there was a fear that high global prices might tempt traders to forgo local markets for more lucrative deals abroad, sending local prices in the island through the roof. The World Bank estimates that over the past few months global rice prices have risen by 75 percent.

    According to Rakototvao Andriambololonirine, president of the Madagascar rice-growing association, the island has been exporting only “the deluxe types of rice”, and the home market was not affected.

    Madagascar, which has been rocked by food riots in the past, is one of the biggest per capita consumers of rice in the world. Even slight increases in domestic retail prices - ranging from USD0.55 to USD1.15 per kg, depending on the type of rice - would have significant implications, given that over 70 percent of Malagasy survive on less than a dollar a day.

    In April the World Bank warned that there were over 30 countries where price hikes could cause social unrest. Cameroon, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Mauritania, Niger, Peru, the Philippines, Uzbekistan and Zambia, among others, have all seen protests against high food prices.

    “We consider this a positive step [banning exports], showing that the Malagasy government is thinking about the effects of the crisis on its country [but] it should not be the only step.”

    The staple saved, for now

    “We have advised the government to keep the measure in place for only a limited period of time,” Bednarska said. Madagascar has clearly stated that its ambition is to become a net exporter of rice, and high prices on the global market would be an extra incentive to boost production.

    The Madagascar Action Plan, the government's anti-poverty programme, aims to double rice production by 2009 and triple it before 2012. The island expects to produce 4 million metric tonnes (mt) of rice this year, compared to 3.7 million mt harvested last year.

    As the main staple crop, rice accounts for about 70 percent of total farm output, but the country has been unable to grow enough for its own consumption needs since the 1970s. Current estimates put the shortfall at around 200,000 mt a year.

    A recent study by the UN Development Programme found that over 50 percent of the lush island was capable of sustaining crops but a mere 10 percent was actually being utilised. The classification of Madagascar as a ‘food-deficient nation’ came with a footnote that abundant natural resources have the potential to alleviate chronic food insecurity.

    Yet Madagascar still faces monumental challenges if it is to wean itself off food imports and a long-time dependence on international aid.

    The cyclones that hit the island every year, flooding farmland and destroying crops, are partly to blame. This year cyclones Fame and Ivan brought very high winds and torrential rain that affected over 330,000 people, of whom 190,000 lost their homes. 2007 was the worst season recorded, with six cyclones tearing across the island.

    Gianluca Ferrera, the WFP Deputy Country Coordinator, estimates that over 200,000 of Madagascar’s 19 million people will need food aid into June, and an additional 100,000 in the arid south will need assistance by September. In 2007, 700,000 Malagasy required food aid.

    The island’s isolation is another major obstacle. “Where subsistence farming now exists, agri-business can work, but the problem is market access,” said Maurice Ralaimihoatra, director of FYExpress, a road freight firm. “Crops grown in areas unconnected to road or rail infrastructure cannot make it to towns, much less to seaports for export.”

    In total, 38 percent of the population is malnourished and one out of two children under five suffers from some form of undernourishment. “Without further contributions, WFP will be forced to review downwards the number of people to be assisted,” said Ferrera.

    With food aid increasingly more expensive and global competition for it on the rise, there is reason to worry. Ferrera said an emergency appeal for USD9.6 million had been launched to meet Madagascar's needs, but had so far only attracted USD3.5 million.

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

    Pic of the day – GRAND ELENA

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The 122,239-gt LNG carrier GRAND ELENA has excited more than a little interest among ship watchers overlooking the Durban outer anchorage this past week, since coming to anchor and remaining there while waiting for the SBM. In April, when this picture was taken Grand Elena was raising similar interest among Cape Town residents while laying at anchor off Sea Point. The NYK- owned and managed, Cypriot registered vessel was built in 2007. Picture Aad Noorland

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