Ports & Ships Maritime News

Oct 6, 2008
Author: P&S

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  • Port security chief criticises newspaper over security claim

  • Coega oil refinery comes a step closer

  • SOMALIA: Piracy threatens aid delivery - analyst

  • Piracy Report: Somalia agrees to armed action to recapture FAINA

  • NRP SAGRES in Simon’s Town

  • Mombasa tax evasion racket may have cost revenue service KSh 2 billion

  • UN Envoy likens piracy off Somalia to 'Blood Diamonds' trafficking

  • Kenyan seafarer official arrested for revealing ship’s cargo

  • Submarine SAS CHARLOTTE MAXEKE makes first visit to Durban

  • French Navy visits West African ports

  • Government bails out TransNamib over recent strike

  • US aircraft carrier in Cape Town

  • Pic of the day – USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT


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    Port security chief criticises newspaper over security claim

    Durban Container Terminal. Picture Transnet

    The head of Intelligence and Investigations at Transnet Ports Authority Security Department, Castro Khwelo has criticised a report in a Durban newspaper which claimed the port had been exposed to terrorists after thieves gained access to the container terminal and stole five containers of fridges, micro-waves and dishwashers.

    The report in the Daily News said the “multi-million rand, high-tech security systems installed to protect the harbour from terrorist attacks and unauthorised entry was no match for a group of alleged thieves,” and quoted the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) as saying that if thieves could get in, so could someone planting bombs.

    Responding to the article Khwela said the report had manipulated a press release issued by the SA Police Services and used it to “sell the article.”

    He said that theft of cargo including containers was a common thing which had nothing to do with global or national security, and particularly with the threat of terrorism.

    “South African ports, in particular, are not vulnerable to any terrorist threat at present and we are currently busy upgrading our systems, measures and procedures and training our personnel to meet such threats when and how they come. The Law Enforcement Agencies are also playing their part effectively in preparation for and in dealing with such eventualities. The mere fact that the culprits were apprehended and the goods were recovered, as Mr Ricky Bhikraj (Durban port manager) avers, proves how effective our systems are in handling such situations.”

    Khwela pointed out that the fourth anniversary of the ISPS Code has recently been celebrated internationally. “As South African ports, we have done exceptionally well so far in terms of meeting our obligations as per our Port Framework and Security Plans’ implementation schedules. Hence, since we set out to implement the Code, this has been an isolated incident hitherto in our container facilities.”

    The newspaper article confirmed that nine men had been arrested in connection with the theft, in which they allegedly drove off with five containers after presenting false documentation to the port terminal. A tenth person was arrested after he tried to bribe the investigating officer. One of the nine men has been identified as a church pastor from Phoenix in Durban.

    Coega oil refinery comes a step closer

    The proposed oil refinery at Coega, adjacent to the new port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape came a step closer last week when PetroSA was granted a manufacturing licence to build the crude oil refinery.

    "The controller of petroleum products, a unit of the Department of Minerals and Energy, has approved the granting of a manufacturing licence to PetroSA," the national oil and gas corporation said.

    The USD11 billion, 400,000 barrels a day manufacturing plant however remains subject to the granting of a permit from environmental authorities on completion of a full environmental impact assessment.

    In August this year PetroSA, which is South Africa’s national oil company, announced the appointment of HSBC as its financial advisor for the project.

    “HSBC, recognised as a leading global provider of project finance advisory services, was selected after a rigorous tender process that attracted strong competition from several top international and local financial institutions.

    “HSBC will manage the investment funding and structuring arrangements of the project and provide strategic fiscal guidance for this high-profile venture that has already attracted numerous potential business partners.”

    The Coega Refinery project is expected to commence operations in 2014 when it will begin making a significant contribution to help sustain South Africa’s future liquid fuel requirements.

    SOMALIA: Piracy threatens aid delivery - analyst

    A satellite image from UNOSAT of a suspected hijacked tanker at anchor off the Somali coast at Garacad, near Eyl, Puntland. IRIN picture

    Nairobi, 3 October 2008 (IRIN) - The international community must formulate a plan to ensure that piracy does not interrupt the supply of food aid to war-torn Somalia, a consultant with Chatham House, an international think-tank, has said.

    "In the next three months, it is of paramount importance that a replacement for Canada is found to escort WFP [World Food Programme] ships," Roger Middleton, the Africa Programme consultant, stated in a paper issued on 2 October. "If there is no permanent solution to the issue of escorting WFP ships, then Somalis will starve and the already severe problems in the region are likely to get worse."

    Noting that piracy off the coast had "more than doubled" in 2008, Middleton said it was making aid deliveries to drought-stricken Somalia "ever more difficult and costly".

    Somalia's self-declared autonomous region of Puntland seemed to be the base for most pirates. "Puntland is one of the poorest areas of Somalia, so the financial attraction of piracy is strong. Somalia's fishing industry has collapsed in the last 15 years and its waters are being heavily fished by European, Asian and African ships."

    Ransom payments

    Puntland foreign relations minister Ali Abdi Aware, however, said the payment of ransoms to pirates was complicating efforts to fight piracy. He denied claims that some Puntland officials were involved.

    "We are doing everything we can ... but the money being paid to them is emboldening the pirates and undermining the authorities," he told IRIN. "Every time they get money they use some of it to buy more and more equipment to the point that they are better equipped than our coastguard."

    Chatham House urged the international community to organise shipping into a safe lane to be patrolled by the Maritime Security Patrol Area, which was established in August by the coalition naval forces in the Gulf of Aden; provide a coastguard to be run by the UN or the African Union and establish a large naval presence in the area.

    At least 60 ships have been attacked off the Somali coast since the beginning of 2008; four in the last week of August alone. Some 14 ships from various countries are estimated to be held around the coast of Puntland.

    "It is the payment of massive ransoms that provides the motivation," Middleton said. "A few years ago ransoms were in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. So far in 2008 they have hovered between half-a-million and USD2 million, although recent reports indicate that demands have again shot up ..."

    While pirates kept most of the funds, a significant amount was passed on to "important locals", some of whom were involved in the ongoing war in the country.

    "Somalia is one of the most dangerous and violent places in the world," the paper stated. "Arms are freely available throughout the country and there are almost daily reports of explosions, murders, skirmishes, battles and kidnappings across the country."

    Aware said they had mounted a campaign to combat the pirates. "Pressure has been brought to bear on them using traditional elders and religious leaders to condemn their activities," he said.

    "This already is having a positive result. After intense pressure, pirates who were holding a number of ships in the coastal town of Eyl were forced to leave and are now on the seas.” Eyl is one of two towns in Puntland used by pirates as a base.

    [This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

    Piracy Report: Somalia agrees to armed action to recapture FAINA

    Somalia’s Transitional Government has agreed to allow foreign armed forces to take action against pirates who are in possession of the highjacked Ukraine ship FAINA.

    According to some reports the pirates are demanding a ransom of USD20 million for the ship, its crew and cargo. The latter consists of 33 T-72 tanks and other weapons and munitions. A subsequent report suggests the pirates have lowered the ransom demand to USD5m because of the increasing world pressure about the ship and its cargo.

    Somali’s Transitional Foreign Minister Mohammed Jammer Ali said the international community had Somali’s permission to take action, while the country’s Prime Minister Abdulla Yusuf said the government had lost patience and now wants to fight pirates with the help of the international community.

    The ship that is causing all the fuss, FAINA, was seized last month by pirates who then discovered the nature of its cargo.

    Since then something of a dispute has broken out regarding the eventual destination of the weapons of war. The ship was heading for Mombasa when captured and Kenya authorities say the tanks and other equipment is for them, but American officials believe the ultimate destination of the weapons is South Sudan, where civil war has been bubbling for some years.

    It is calculated that Somali pirates were holding a record total of 374 hostages in September, compared with a total of 292 persons captured throughout the whole of 2007. So far the pirate attacks have yielded a net USD30 million in ransom money – that’s before the so-far unpaid demand of USD20m for the FAINA.

    The frequency of attacks are causing consternation among ship operators who face the choice of taking the long route round the Cape or running the gauntlet of pirates who operate with seeming impunity in the Gulf of Aden, despite the presence of a large force of multi-national warships. The only country so far that has reacted with force against the pirates is France which has twice sent its armed forces to rescue hostages, free ships and recover ransom money.

    With pirates reaping rewards averaging one million US dollars for every ship taken piracy has become a big business in the otherwise impoverished country and has won the support of many of the locals. Some of the ransom money is used to buy more sophisticated weapons but is also used to buy luxury goods as well as food and basic requirements. In a region where the fishing industry has been largely worked out, often by fishing vessels operating from other countries including Europe, it is little surprising that local support has been so welcoming.

    NRP SAGRES in Simon’s Town

    CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE    Picture by David Erickson

    The Portuguese Navy Training Ship NRP SAGRES which arrived at Simon’s Town Naval Harbour at 08h50 hrs on Friday 3 October 2008, escorted by the SA Navy tug DE NEYS.

    The ship has a most interesting history, having been built in 1937 at the German shipyard of Blohm+Voss in Hamburg. Her original name was ALBERT LEO SCHLAGTER, the third of four ships built for the German Navy (Kriegsmarine).

    Details of this fascinating ship can be found at

    Mombasa tax evasion racket may have cost revenue service KSh 2 billion

    Tax evasion at the port of Mombasa may have cost the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) more than KSh2 billion (USD27.4 million), according to a report by Kenya’s Auditor-General as quoted in The Nation last week.

    The report says security bonds destined for neighbouring countries cannot be accounted for.

    "According to the Customs and Excise Act Regulation No. 96, evidence should be produced for exportation of transit goods within 21 days from the date of their importation and where no such evidence is produced, the goods are deemed to have been imported for home use and therefore liable for duty," the report says. It adds that no such evidence has been produced.

    "It would therefore appear they were converted into home use without payment of the relevant taxes. Further, the relevant security bonds have not been realised into revenue."

    The Auditor-General also raises questions concerning Mombasa’s customs bonded warehouses where missing goods worth KSh679,000 are being investigated. Documentation indicates that goods to this value were delivered to the bonded warehouses but a physical check had not produced the goods, nor is there any documentation showing that they have been removed.

    "It appears they were removed without payment of import duty and VAT," the report says.

    UN Envoy likens piracy off Somalia to 'Blood Diamonds' trafficking

    The Ukraine Ro-Ro- vessel FAINA which is carrying a cargo of Russian made tanks and other weapons is the latest high profile ship to be captured by Somali pirates, who are now demanding a ransom of USD20m for the ship and her crew. Picture by Jason Zalazky/US Navy

    UN News Service (New York) - Rampant piracy off the Somali coast, demonstrated by the latest hijacking of a Ukrainian ship carrying heavy weapons, can be likened to so-called 'blood diamonds,' the illicit trafficking in gems used to finance civil wars in West Africa in recent years, the top United Nations envoy for the strife-torn Horn of Africa country said last week.

    "There is a striking similarity between the actions of these unscrupulous pirates and the activity in blood diamonds in Liberia and Sierra Leone during the civil wars in these countries," Special Representative Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah declared in a news release.

    "No ship, big or small, industrial or commercial, civil or military is spared. With the seizure of the Ukrainian ship a new line has been crossed. This act should not and will not be rewarded."

    Currently some dozen ships are being held by pirates, generally for heavy ransom, and Mr Ould-Abdallah said piracy had become a multi-million dollar business attracting many Somalis using various political or social covers.

    Piracy has driven the price of insurance and subsequently retail prices higher in the whole region, adding to the sharp rise in oil and food costs to make life even harder for the poor, he added. He called on journalists not to allow themselves to be used to broadcast messages from the pirates or help glorify their actions.

    "The international community is determined to stop these pirates who are undermining efforts to bring peace to Somalia and maintain stability in the region," he declared. "This cannot and will not be allowed to continue."

    UN food operations in Somalia have been directly impaired by the pirates who have seized numerous chartered ships carrying supplies for the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

    Kenyan seafarer official arrested for revealing ship’s cargo

    Andrew Mwangura, who came to attention this year with news and information about the welfare of seafarers on board vessels highjacked by Somali pirates, has been arrested on charges of making a false statement and for possession of banned substances.

    Mwangura is the head of East Africa Seafarers’ Association, a seafarers’ association he helped form himself. He has recently been in the unique position of being able to inform the world media of what was happening to seafarers on ships or boats captured by Somali pirates long before anyone else has knowledge of their fate, and as such has been frequently approached and quoted in the world media.

    The statement that has placed Mwangura in trouble with Kenyan authorities is that the cargo of tanks and other weapons on board the Ukraine ship FAINA, and now in pirates’ hands off northern Somalia, is destined for Southern Sudan. Kenya says this is a false statement and that the cargo is for Kenya.

    US officials have also made a statement that they believe the cargo is intended for Southern Sudan.

    He is credited with being the first person to have alerted the outside world that the ship was carrying tanks and other weapons.

    In addition to the charge of making a false statement Mwangura has been charged in court with being in possession of four rolls of bhang. When the second charge about the bhang was read out it drew cynical laughter from those attending the court.

    A police spokesman told a Chinese news agency that they had arrested Mwangura “over claims he has been making to the media because we want him to share with us what he knows of these pirates and other issues surrounding the Ukrainian ship".

    Submarine CHARLOTTE MAXEKE makes first visit to Durban

    The South African Navy’s class 209 submarine SAS CHARLOTTE MAXEKE (S102) under the command of Cmdr Kobus Beukes made her maiden entry in the port of Durban on Friday, 3 October 2008.

    This is the first time one of the class 209 submarines has called at Durban.

    The submarine, along with the combat support ship SAS DRAKENSBERG, the frigate SAS ISANDLWANA, and the strike craft SAS ISAAC DYOBHA will exercise this week with the French Navy in an exercise called OXIDE. The French presence is made up by the patrol frigate FNS FLOREAL which was also in Durban at the weekend.

    All ships berthed at the Durban Naval Station on Salisbury Island. The exercise off the KZN coast is scheduled to begin today (Monday 6 October).

    Picture by W/O Manny Gounden/SA Navy

    French Navy visits West African ports

    A French Navy ship now visiting Nigeria was not there to protect French oil installations but to ‘consolidate technical links’.

    That’s what Commodore Thierry Ruffier, officer commanding the French Navy supply and support ship JULES VERNE (A620) pointed out at a news conference given shortly after the vessel’s arrival last week.

    Cmdr Ruffier said his ship and crew were in Nigeria to further technical links with countries in the Gulf of Guinea, including Senegal, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. The visit to Nigeria was in response to an invitation from Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua which was made on a visit to France in 2007.

    Protecting oil installations (from Nigerian militants) was not part of the ships responsibility, he said.

    They would however study the operations of the navies in the Gulf with a view to greater cooperation and possible future assistance. Members of the Nigerian Navy Engineering Corps have joined the JULES VERNE to share and gain experience on the maintenance of naval ships.

    The French ship sailed from Nigeria at the weekend bound for Senegal.

    Government bails out TransNamib over recent strike

    Namibia’s government has propped up rail operator TransNamib to the amount of ND14 million (R14m) after the company was unable to pay workers’ wages.

    This follows a disastrous strike by almost the entire TransNamib work force over the suspension of the company’s CEO, Titus Haimbili last month.

    TransNamib initially approached government seeking ND52 million. The rail company claims it was losing ND5 million a day during the strike.

    TransNamib said it would not pay the workers for the first week they were on strike. The strike had left the company with very little liquidity and it was now unable to pay workers on the last day of September either.

    The company said it expected to recover some of its liquidity after the end of the month period when creditors began paying accounts. He said the banks had responded in a professional manner to the company’s problem.

    US aircraft carrier in Cape Town

    USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT arrives in Table Bay early Saturday morning for a short stopover. Picture Aad Noorland

    The American nuclear aircraft carrier USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT arrived in Table Bay shortly before 7am on Saturday morning and went to anchor in the roadstead outside the port.

    A number of small craft were hired to act as liberty boats in assisting the crew of between 5,000 and 6,000 to shore leave, however heavy swells on Saturday meant this had to be curtailed.

    On Friday the accompanying cruiser, USS MONTEREY arrived in Table Bay and took up a berth at the V&A Waterfront.

    Another ship in the group, the replenishment vessel USS SUPPLY is due to arrive in the port of Richards Bay this morning (Monday, 6 October).

    Later this week the two US ships are scheduled to sail from Cape Town after which they will participate in an exercise with ships of the South African and French Navies off the KwaZulu Natal coast.

    The remainder of the American carrier group consisting of the destroyers USS MASON, USS NITZE, USS THE SULLIVANS and the attack submarine USS SPRINGFIELD are sailing to the Indian Ocean via the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

    USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT departed from her homebase in Norfolk in early September while the other ships of the group departed from various bases in the United States.

    Pics of the day – USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT

    The nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT in Table Bay on Saturday, 4 October 2008. Both pictures by Ian Shiffman

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