Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 19, 2008
Author: P&S

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  • Somali pirates seize Jordanian ship

  • Bad start to Atlasur as two Uruguayan navy ships collide

  • Mystery over disappearance of foreign seafarers in Walvis Bay

  • MAILBAG – readers’ view

  • Mombasa stays on top

  • Pic of the day – NAMDOCK


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    Somali pirates seize Jordanian ship

    A Jordanian cargo ship, the Victoria has become the latest victim of Somali pirates who seized the vessel early Saturday, Jordan’s Transport Ministry has confirmed.

    The 3,440-gt vessel was carrying a cargo of 4,300-tonnes of sugar donated by Denmark to the people of Somalia and has a crew consisting of Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis and Tanzanians.

    Jordan’s foreign minister was the first to announce the ship had been taken. Alaa Batayneh said contact with the vessel was lost at 8am on Saturday (17 May) while some 35 miles from the Somali coast. The ship had loaded its cargo of sugar in India. He said the Jordanian ministries of transport and foreign affairs were coordinating matters with the involved parties to secure the release of the ship and crew.

    In recent attacks on ships in Somali waters vessels have been released only after a ransom was paid, although in most cases ship owners or countries involved have denied this. In the attack on the luxury French sailing ship Le Ponant French owned by shipping company CMA CGM, authorities arranged for a ransom to be paid and once the ship and crew were released French military forces swooped on the pirates killing some and capturing others while recovering most of the money.

    The most recent case before this weekend involved a Spanish fishing trawler that was seized in April. Although Spanish authorities have denied they paid a ransom, the vessel and crew were released unharmed, while the Kenya Seafarers’ Association, which monitors pirate activities along the African east coast, claimed that USD1.2 million was paid to the pirates.

    In spite of patrols by warships of the US-led coalition, 25 ships were seized by Somali pirates in 2007, and three ships have been seized in April this year alone.

    Bad start to Atlasur as two Uruguayan navy ships collide

    Atlasur, the latest naval exercise to take place off the Cape coast and involving ships of Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and South Africa got off to a bad start late last week when two Uruguayan vessels, ROU Uruguay and ROU Comandante Pedro Campbell collided at sea.

    Details of the accident have not been made officially available but it appears both ship suffered sufficient damage to have to return to Simon’s Town for repairs.

    Atlasur is taking place from 16 May until 2 June.


    Meanwhile the navies of India, Brazil and South Africa have concluded the first joint naval Exercise Ibsamar which was held between 5 and 16 May. The purpose of the exercise was to strengthen ties and cohesion between the navies of the three countries which have formed stronger economic, trade and political links.

    During the course of the exercise India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukjerjee and Brazil’s Minister of External relations Celso Amorim travelled to Cape Town to take part in a one-day commission meeting held at Somerset West with South Africa’s Foreign Minister Nkosanzana Dlamini Zuma.

    Among the issues under discussion were Global Governance, the Millennium Development Goals, International Trade, Intellectual Property Rights, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Sustainable Development, Racism and Xenophobia, Gender, Disarmament and Non-proliferation, Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, and regional political issues of global significance.

    At the previous IBSA Summit held in 2007 the three countries set goals of increasing IBSA intra trade to USD 15 Billion by 2010.

    The next IBSA Summit is due to be held in New Delhi on 15 October 2008.

    Mystery over disappearance of foreign seafarers in Walvis Bay

    Walvis Bay - Mystery surrounds the discovery of the body of a missing Togolese ship’s engineer floating in the water, after he disappeared from the fishing vessel La Mar.

    Hator Kokouvi Gbebadah-Mensah, an engineer employed by Pescalamar Fishing was last seen two weeks earlier and it was thought that he may have fallen overboard and drowned. At the time of his disappearance the long line vessel La Mar was double-banked with another fishing vessel, Coasta San Miguel. The missing man had been on watch and couldn’t be found when the rest of the crew woke in the morning.

    This may have been regarded as a simple but tragic accident of man overboard but a second foreign seaman has also disappeared off his ship tied up alongside a Walvis Bay jetty, according to local newspapers New Era and Namib Times.

    The Polish engineer, Wieslaw Sazcku went missing four days after Mensah disappeared. Sazcku was a crew member of the trawler Dar 314 which was tied up at a company jetty at the time.

    According to Namib Times he was seen on CCTV entering the company’s premises on Wednesday 7 May at 20h30 but there is not record of him leaving later through the main gates. By late Thursday night when he had not returned to his ship his colleagues raised the alarm.

    A local source told Namib Times he thought the two incidents were strangely coincidental and said there was speculation in Walvis Bay that foreigners in the Namibian fishing industry were being targeted by some locals who felt they were being deprived of employment.

    MAILBAG – readers’ view

    Your article SAMSA chief says SA lacking in maritime basics (15 May) refers.

    Our esteemed CEO of Samsa need only call for the four yearly reports over the last 20 years that I have been in the industry warning the Government of impending marine skills shortages.

    He will also see the pleading representations made by the SA Navy, Harbours, Samsa, Sea Fisheries, Maritime schools, shipping lines for suitable active training ships and colleges for the training of suitable marine staff in all spheres of shipping activities.

    I might add that some of the very best potential can be seen any day from the youngsters sailing small boats in Cape waters.

    When I joined South African ships back in 1952, some of the best crews came from Zulus out of Durban. Where is the initiative now?

    Bill Shewell (Captain)

    Mombasa stays on top

    Mombasa has proved to be the big winner among East African ports attempting to come to terms with rising congestion.

    Despite recent political upheavals in Kenya Mombasa has retained its majority share of regional traffic. This is despite ongoing discussions and appeals by neighbouring landlocked countries for Tanzania to get its house in order and provide alternative outlets.

    Adding insult to injury, it has been shown that it costs 2,000 US dollars more to ship a container through Dar es Salaam, the next biggest port in the region, than via Mombasa. That’s because of congestion surcharges at Dar es Salaam and restricted sailings to the Tanzanian port.

    A number of leading shipping lines, including MSC, Maersk and PIL reduced the number of calls they make to Dar es Salaam specifically because of ongoing congestion and delays averaging up to 20 days, instead choosing to take the cargo on to Mombasa from where it has to be feedered back to Dar es Salaam.

    Mombasa has not been free from congestion either, although it has so far escaped the imposition of surcharges after top level appeals from port officials and Kenyan politicians convinced the shipping lines to hold back on applying them earlier this year. That was shortly before the election upheaval which led to further delays at Mombasa as cargo was prevented from leaving the port. Kenya Ports Authority was forced to resort to a temporary ban on all transit cargo until the political situation was resolved. That ban has since been lifted.

    Despite the problems or perhaps because of it Dar es Salaam has nevertheless increased its cargo handling and is reported to be handling more than 30 percent above the port’s design container capacity. One of the solutions introduced (and subsequently utilised at Mombasa as well) was the introduction of inland depots, or customs bonded container depots where excess uncleared containers could be taken to relieve the pressure within the port. This has had short term successes but until the region solves its problem of uncleared cargo the problem will persist. There are already indications that several of the newly opened inland depots are already congested.

    Analysts predict that cargo volumes into East Africa are unlikely to decrease and while Tanzania has announced plans of upgrading the port of Tanga it will take years before this will make any effective difference. Nevertheless pressure on achieving quick results is mounting in Tanzania where both the railway and the Dar es Salaam container terminal are now privately operated, and in Kenya where the railway is in private hands.

    Pic of the day – NAMDOCK

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    Walvis Bay and the two Namdocks (floating docks) side by side, with Namdock 2 recently arrived from the Baltic and moored inshore of Namdock 1. This is possibly a temporary position pending completion of a permanent position being completed. Picture Chris Savage

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