Ports & Ships Maritime News

Oct 27, 2008
Author: P&S

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  • End of the line for the Coega smelter?

  • CFM offers to rebuild Malawi railway

  • Cruise season gets underway as Rhapsody arrives

  • SAS SPIOENKOP impresses the Chinese

  • Piracy Report – French fight back

  • Transnamib locomotives for overhaul

  • Pic of the day – MAERSK BOSTON



    The South African Navy submarine SAS CHARLOTTE MAXEKE (S102) leaves Durban to go on patrol off the KwaZulu Natal coast, before making a courtesy call in the Mozambique port of Maputo along with the combat support ship SAS DRAKENBERG and the strike craft SAS ISAAC DYOBHA. Picture by Grant Bairstow

    End of the line for the Coega smelter?

    The on-off Coega aluminium smelter took another twist last week when the Competition Commission ruled that were BHP Billiton to merge with Rio Tinto then it would have to dispose of the aluminium smelter project at Coega within 12 months.

    The merger is as yet far from being signed and sealed. Rio Tinto itself has rejected the offer from BHP Billiton calling it undervalued but two other regulators have so far given the nod – Australia said yes earlier in October while the United States has given its preliminary approval. Still considering the matter are Canada and the European Commission.

    According to the South African Competition Commission the only area it is unhappy with involves aluminium production where it says BHP Billiton already exercises a monopoly. BHP Billiton already has three aluminium smelters in operation in southern Africa – the Bayside and Hillside plants at Richards Bay and Mozal outside Maputo in neighbouring Mozambique. According to the Commission aluminium production is the only area within the proposed merger that creates competition problems.

    Rio Tinto inherited the proposed aluminium smelter at Coega when it acquired Canada’s Alcan, and initially moved ahead with the intention of developing the site close to the new port of Ngqura. More recently however, as a result of the electricity shortage in South Africa the company underwent a rethink and placed the project on hold, withdrawing its personnel from South Africa.

    So if the merger of Rio Tinto into BHP Billiton goes ahead, which is beginning to appear increasingly likely, then another buyer will have to be found for the Coega smelter.

    CFM offers to rebuild Malawi railway

    Mozambique’s railway and harbours company CFM says it is prepared to pay for the rehabilitation of the railway inside Malawi that connects Blantyre with Vila de Fronteira on the Malawi/Mozambique border.

    Mozambqiue’s railway between Beira and Moatize in Tete Province and the branch line to the Malawi border is currently being rehabilitated on behalf of CFM by the Indian company Rites and Ircon International, which will also operate the railway.

    CFM Chairman Rui Fonseca made the announcement at a meeting in Beira last week, marking the tenth anniversary of the lease of Beira port to the Dutch operator Cornelder. Fonseca said he’d made the offer to the Malawian authorities several weeks earlier but was still awaiting a reply.

    "We are constructing the 45km stretch of railway from Vila Nova da Fronteira up to Nsanje but we have asked the Malawi Government to let us continue with the 100 kilometres up to Blantyre. As of now, we are still waiting for a response," he said.

    According to Fonseca it will cost CFM approximately USD 11 million to rehabilitate the section but Mozambique was prepared to go ahead in order to ensure that Malawian goods could be railed direct to and from the port of Beira. Without the rehabilitation the use of the line to Malawi will not be possible.

    In colonial days Beira was Malawi’s main port of entry. However the line inside Mozambique was largely destroyed during the civil war and no traffic has run along the section for over 25 years. Malawian importers and exporters wanting to use the port of Beira have to do so using road transport.

    source - Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)

    Cruise season gets underway as Rhapsody arrives

    MSC RHAPSODY which arrived in Durban on Saturday to begin an extended summer season of cruises off the Southern African coast. Picture Terry Hutson

    The first cruise ship of the 2008/09 South African season arrived in Durban from Genoa on Saturday morning. MSC RHAPSODY will be based in Durban and Cape Town until April 2009 and will be joined by another MSC cruise ship, the MELODY which is due to arrive also from Genoa on 18 November.

    Rhapsody sailed again later on Saturday on a short two-night cruise and is due back in Durban this morning (Monday) before sailing in the early afternoon for the Mozambique coast. After that the ship will undertake a series of cruises to Mozambique destinations but will later transfer to Cape Town to cruise to places like Mossel Bay and Walvis Bay.

    There are reports that Rhapsody has been sold and will be withdrawn from service on completion of the current South African season. Confirmation of this from any reader will be welcome.

    Other ships lining up to visit South Africa during the summer months include Europa, Hanseatic, Deutschland, Hebridean Spirit, Silver Wind, Astor, Aurora, Discovery, Rotterdam, Sun Princess, Vistamar and Black Watch.

    SAS SPIOENKOP impresses the Chinese

    From all accounts the visit of the South African Navy frigate SAS SPIOENKOP to Shanghai, China was a success.

    This is the first time that a South African, or for that matter an African warship has visited China and if first impressions count then this trip can be described as successful. The trip has been described by the Chinese as ending 600 years of one way visits.

    The Chief of Staff at the Shanghai Naval Base of the East China Sea Fleet welcomed Spioenkop.

    “You’ve travelled a long distance to bring the friendly greetings of the South African people, We really appreciate it,” he said.

    Reports in the Chinese media have heaped praise on the ship and crew, referring to the smartness and friendliness of the latter as well as the impressive technology of the German-built Meko type A-200 stealth frigate.

    One report lightheartedly described a soccer match between the crew of Spioenkop and the Chinese Navy. It said that while the Chinese players stood by quietly awaiting the start of the game the South African players arrived singing and dancing – the festival approach of the frigate crew impressed many of the spectators.

    While in Shanghai the crew had the opportunity to go ashore and visit the city. The Officer Commanding Captain Christopher Manig and fellow officers also paid a courtesy call on the commanding officer of a Chinese frigate that had accompanied SAS Spioenkop up the Huangpu River and into port.

    SAS Spioenkop has since sailed from Shanghai and will be visiting Vietnam, Malaysia, India and Mauritius before returning to Simon’s Town.

    Piracy Report – French fight back

    NATO warships transit the Suez Canal en route to the Gulf of Aden to take up patrol duties against Somali pirates. The three ships are ITS Durand de la Penne, Italian Navy and flagship of the task force, HS Themistokles (Greek Navy)and HMS Cumberland (Royal Navy) Picture NATO

    The French Navy has intercepted two small boats carrying suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden and took them prisoner before burning their boats. The nine men were in possession of grenade launchers, assault rifles, grappling hooks and ladders.

    The pirates were later handed over to northern Somali (Puntland) security forces on Thursday (23 October) who gave assurances they would be treated according to international conventions.

    While the French declined to say where the capture took place, a Puntland assistant minister for fisheries said openly that the men were pirates who intended highjacking commercial shipping in international waters. “The French burnt the pirates’ boats and then contacted us,” he said.

    Despite the French success Somali pirates continued their attacks on shipping. On the same day that the nine men referred to above were handed over, other pirates attacked the Singapore-registered container ship KOTA HENING in Kenyan territorial waters, approximately 180 n.miles from Mombasa and not far from Lamu.

    Three speed boats surrounded the container ship and opened fire with automatic weapons. The ship with a crew of 22 on board – 22 Indonesians and four Indian nationals, issued a distress call and took evasive action, managing to escape without any injury to crew. The Kota Hening later docked in Mombasa.

    This was the second occasion that a ship has been attacked in Kenyan waters, signaling an escalation in pirate activity further south, perhaps away from where the pirates think the NATO warships are patrolling.

    Meanwhile Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein has welcomed the arrival of several NATO ships in his country’s waters.

    "We are so delighted with the arrival of those NATO ships into our waters and they have our full consent to fight against the pirates. NATO can carry out any acts including military actions in our waters against the pirates," he said during a press conference.

    So far this year 60 ships have been attacked by Somali pirates, which is more than double that of the previous year. A London-based institute that analyses international affairs says that between USD18 and USD30 million has been paid across in ransom so far in 2008. It claimed that one of the Somali groups receiving this money is the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab, which is termed a terrorist organisation by the United States.

    Transnamib locos for overhaul

    Namibia’s rail company Transnamib has entered into agreements with Transnet and African Rail and Traction Services in Bloemfontein and Gauteng respectively for the overhaul of additional diesel-electric locomotives.

    This is the second phase of a programme aimed at refurbishing the company’s aging loco fleet. The first five entered the programme in January this year. The second phase consists of 18 GE U18 and U20 locos (former SAR class 32) that have been in service since the 1960s. The refurbishment will cost ND80 million (R80m) over 18 months.

    In a statement Transnamib said the upgrading of the locos would enable it to respond positively to the growing demand for rail services in Namibia and the region.

    Pic of the day – MAERSK BOSTON

    The 294m long container ship MAERSK BOSTON and two harbour tugs in Durban. The 48,853-gt ship was built in 2006 and has a capacity of 4174-TEU. She is a sister ship to MAERSK BENTONVILLE and MAERSK BALTIMORE, both of which call in South Africa. Picture by Trevor Jones

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