Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 17, 2008
Author: P&S

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  • First View – Progress with widening Durban’s port entrance channel

  • Fire at Durban oil refinery threatens bunker supplies

  • Container ship charters go into freefall

  • Chinese seaman dies off coast as containers go overboard

  • Piracy report – Somali pirates undeterred by naval presence

  • Bill for MSC NAPOLI comes to £120 million

  • Pic of the day – CAPE TOWN TUGS


    First View – Progress with widening Durban’s port entrance channel

    Work on widening the port entrance channel at Durban is progressing on schedule, as can be seen with these two recent pictures, taken approximately one month apart – the second as recently as 31 October. The new north breakwater can be clearly identified, and the removal of land at the tip of the Point is almost complete. Gone are the popular pubs and restaurants that used to occupy this space, from which patrons enjoyed unprecedented views of the passing ship parade literally metres away. According to Transnet National Ports Authority the public will again have access to the breakwater when the north pier is completed by early 2010. Pictures courtesy of Willem Kruk

    Fire at Durban oil refinery threatens bunker supplies

    Bunker supplies at the ports of Durban and Richards Bay may be placed in short supply following a fire at the Durban Engen oil refinery – the third in two years – which shut down all operations last Thursday (13 November).

    The fire which broke out at about midnight on Wednesday occurred in a unit that feeds crude into processing units. Engen’s refinery has a capacity of 120,000 barrels a day and is one of two in the Durban area and had been returned to service from an annual maintenance shutdown a fortnight earlier.

    According to Engen’s general manager, Willem Oosthuizen, the fire was extensive and would result in huge losses for the company. Pumps that were destroyed in the fire will have to be imported and he said it was likely that the refinery would be shut for up to three months.

    Oosthuizen said however that petrol supplies would not be affected because other refineries held significant stocks. Engen itself held supplies that would last for several weeks until new stocks could be shipped in by sea.

    Spokesmen for the two bunker barging operations in Durban, Smit Amandla and Unical said they have a good supply of bunker fuel on hand at least for the immediate future but other sources said they believed some shortages of bunker fuel were inevitable as the supplies would not last.

    They pointed out that the second refinery in Durban, operated by Shell and BP does not have sufficient capacity to make up the difference. Bunker refuelling at Durban is now almost exclusively by bunker barge.

    The fire immediately sparked renewed calls from environmental watchdog organisations and residents for the Engen refinery, which is situated in a housing area, to be shut down permanently because of its location and because much of its equipment is old, dating back to the early 1950s.

    Container ship charters go into freefall

    London, 13 November – Container ship charter rates are in freefall, reports the Journal of Commerce Online, raising fears of bankruptcies among owners.

    Ocean carriers are eliminating or suspending services in response to lowering cargo volumes and weaker freight rates on key trade routes, while chartering activity is also slowing and ships coming off hire are not being re-chartered.

    “This is swelling the pool of idle vessels just as increasing numbers of container ships of all sizes are being delivered, putting further pressure on charter rates.

    According to Clarkson, the leading London shipbroker, average daily earnings of a 3,500-TEU gearless Panamax vessel have plunged USD10,000 since September to USD16,000, and off almost USD14,000 from the average in 2007.

    “A 2,750-TEU gearless sub-Panamax ship is commanding USD14,000 a day, down from USD19,500 in September and an average of USD26,292 in 2007.

    “Rates for smaller ships also are declining as surplus tonnage builds up. A 1,700-TEU vessel is currently fetching USD8,666 a day for a 12-month charter against USD11,343 a month ago,” says the Hamburg Shipowners’ Association. A 1,100-TEU ship that was earning nearly USD12,800 a day in mid-May can now be hired for just USD6,958 a day.”

    In addition the average charter duration has halved since the beginning of the year to below 12 months, “the lowest since the slump of 2002, reflecting ocean carriers’ expectation that hire rates still haven’t touched bottom.

    “There are over 50 ships of between 1,000 TEUs and 2,000 TEUs and around a dozen 2,000-3,000 TEUs vessels without work and the number will grow in the coming weeks as carriers shutter services,” AXS-Alphaliner, a Paris-based consultant reports.

    Clarkson adds that charter shipowners are now more exposed to the current market downturn than the slump of 2002 as they have sharply increased their share of the global fleet while ocean carriers have cut their share of owned ships. More than half of the world container fleet is owned independently, mainly by German shipping investment companies.

    According to AXS-Alphaliner chartered ships account for nearly 45% of the capacity of Maersk Line, the largest ocean carrier, rising to 48% at second-ranked Mediterranean Shipping Co. and over 69% at No. 3 CMA CGM.

    The Journal of Commerce Online says that charter rates have sunk so low that some owners are barely covering operating costs and risk falling behind in their loan payments, and quotes DVD Bank, a leading ship financier as saying that it is unlikely that any owner taking delivery of 2,000-3,000-TEU sub-Panamax ships next year will break even.

    This has prompted speculation that German ship-owners will soon reactivate a scheme to subsidise coordinated lay-ups that was established in 2002 but never implemented because the market suddenly recovered to embark on a five-year bull run. – source Journal of Commerce Online

    Chinese seaman dies off coast as containers go overboard

    A young Chinese seaman has died and another was injured after containers on board the Chinese Cosco ship AN LONG JIANG (15,865-DWT, built 1985) were washed overboard in heavy seas off South Africa’s Wild Coast on Wednesday night (12 November).

    Maritime authorities in Durban were alerted that several boxes were overboard in an area 10 n.miles east of Port St Johns and a navigational warning was issued. Three hours later the ship reported that two crewmen had been injured while crew attempted to secure containers on deck. The report said that one man was unconscious and the other had a fractured arm and the ship required urgent medical assistance.

    The Port of Durban Agusta 109 helicopter was despatched to the scene with a trauma doctor and an ER-24 paramedic on board but the attempt had to be aborted due to thunder storms, poor visibility, strong winds gusting to 50 knots and extremely heavy sea conditions. Because of low cloud cover the chopper was unable to return to Durban and was forced to land at Shelly Beach on the KZN south coast.

    In the meantime the National Sea Rescue Institute coordinated efforts to relay medical advice to the ship which was asked to head for East London where a NSRI rescue craft was launched to rendezvous with the ship some 3 n.miles offshore.

    It was then learned that the 19-year old seaman who had been reported unconscious had died during the night. Later, in 4-metre swells and a 20 knot wind a Metro rescue paramedic and a NSRI rescuer were transferred to the ship where they confirmed that the 19-year old crewman who had been injured the night before had died.

    After treating the second seaman for a broken arm, he was transferred to the rescue craft and taken to an East London hospital. The NSRI craft later returned to the ship to transfer the body of the deceased seamen ashore. The An Long Jiang is continuing her voyage to India.

    In another rescue along the east coast NSRI Shelly Beach was activated to assist the yacht Trish with four people on board which was sailing from Richards Bay to Cape Town. The yacht has earlier reported it was in danger of running aground in heavy sea conditions at Trafalgar Beach near Margate.

    After launching it rescue craft the yacht crew reported that they had managed to rig a jury rig and were sailing away from the coastline. As a precaution the NSRI rescue craft continued to respond to rendezvous with the yacht. On meeting up with the yacht the NSRI was advised the crew reported they were out of danger but were returning to Durban to make repairs and wait out the bad weather.

    Further south NSRI Knysna Station reports having launched its rescue craft to go to the assistance of the yacht Liberty, which is believed to be from Namibia, which against all advice from the maritime authorities on account of expected weather had sailed from Knysna. After making little headway en route to Durban the yacht had turned back and required assistance to re-enter through the Knysna Heads.

    "On our arrival on-scene, in 2 to 3 metre swells, three experienced NSRI volunteers were transferred aboard the yacht and assisted the skipper and his crewman to bring the yacht to berth in Knysna through the Knysna Heads under her own motor power and escorted by our two rescue craft. Once berthed no further assistance was required.”

    "The skipper and the crewman of Liberty have declined to have their names published," says the NSRI station commander.

    Piracy report – Somali pirates undeterred by naval presence

    Despite the presence of an increasing number of naval warships on patrol in the region, Somali pirate attacks have continued with several reported in the last few days.

    One of these involved an attack on a container ship operating off the northern Kenyan coast. Shots were fired at the ship which has bullet holes to tell the story. However the pirates later aborted the attack after the ship took evasive manoeuvres to prevent boarding.

    Chinese reports say that a Chinese fishing vessel named Tianyu 8 came under attack in Kenyan waters with the vessel being taken captive into Somali waters. The fishing vessel has a crew of 24 on board.

    The Royal Navy frigate HMS CUMBERLAND was called into action for a second time in a week when the Cyprus-flagged container ship KAPITAN MASLOV (16,575-gt) reported it was under attack about 300 n.miles off the Somali coast. The pirates were chased off but not before their attack resulted in a small fire in the accommodation area of the box ship, which was quickly localised and extinguished,

    Last week HMS Cumberland was called into action to assist a Danish ship under attack, during which three pirates were reportedly killed before that attack was called off.

    According to Turkish news agencies the Turkish-registered ship KARAGOL was highjacked last week Wednesday (12 November) while just 16 n.miles from the Yemeni coast. The ship has a crew of 14 and is carrying a cargo of 4,500 tonnes of chemical products.

    In other developments a British security company is claiming to have repulsed a Somali pirate attack on an unidentified chemical tanker using a magnetic acoustic device and water hoses. The company called Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions apparently places security personnel consisting of three-man teams of ex-special forces on board vessels sailing through the endangered area.

    The latest warship to join the NATO naval forces operating in the area is the Ukraine warship URS TERNOPIL, a Grisha V class anti-submarine corvette which arrived a week ago.

    India, which has had a number of its nationals captured and taken into custody for ransoming by the Somali pirates, has called for the formation of a United Nations Peace Keeping Force to be established under a unified command to combat the increasing number of pirate attacks on merchant shipping.

    Finally, here’s a report about a new weapon that has been brought into use against pirates, with success it appears. The International Maritime Bureau, which monitors all cases of piracy around the world, reports of a chemical tanker which came under attack from a white speedboat that had been masked in its approach by a fishing boat. When the tanker crew noticed weapons on board the speedboat they realised they were under attack. Shortly afterwards the pirates began firing at the ship to get it to slow down and stop. Instead the ship began taking evasive measures while the crew began laying down a layer of firefighting foam on either side of the tanker. The pirates immediately stopped firing their weapons and departed the scene.

    Bill for MSC NAPOLI comes to £120 million

    Remember the MSC NAPOLI which went aground off the English south coast with cargo mainly for South Africa?

    Who will forget the sight of BMW motor bikes being wheeled off the beach by self appointed salvagers (looters) while policemen and officials looked on… or the many other goods that disappeared in the first few days before British customs officials got their act into gear. Well, that little lot cost something in the order of £120 million (R1.806 billion in South African money).

    This is the second most expensive shipping casualty ever. The most expensive ever remains that of the EXXON VALDEZ, the tanker than leaked almost 11 million gallons of crude oil onto the Alaska coast in 1989.

    MSC Napoli, which was deliberately grounded off a Devon beach in January 2007, was en route from Europe to South Africa on MSC’s regular service between the two continents.

    The cost of the grounding has been revealed by the London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association Ltd, otherwise known as the affected P&I club. While the grounding prevented a potential environmental disaster, the subsequent salvage of the ship and the remaining cargo of containers (about 50 were washed overboard) presented a unique set of circumstances in that a large number of containers were recoverable, albeit in a wetted condition.

    The report into the accident deals among other things with the reason why it was decided to beach the ship on a British beach rather than a French one, when the ship was equally close to both shores at the time that she suffered a catastrophic hull failure.

    "The conclusion was that the least environmentally risky option was to tow the vessel to a place of refuge in UK waters," the report says, adding that the only option was to ground the ship on shallow waters to avoid almost certain break-up. The ship was carrying 3,364-tonnes of fuel oil and marine diesel oil.

    "The spilled oil would have escaped and found its way on to many beaches, possibly on both sides of the Channel, for many years," says the report.

    It adds that there was "understandable" confusion over the legislation governing salvage, which was exploited by salvagers who descended on Branscombe's beaches after 50 containers washed ashore.

    Pic of the day – CAPE TOWN TUGS

    Cape Town tugs have begun appearing with a new colour scheme on the funnels, a bright crimson that replaces the turquoise blue that has been part of the National Ports Authority livery since the early 2000s. The two tugs in these pictures, ENSELENI (above) and PINOTAGE (below) were both built in Durban, the 43-t bollard pull Pinotage being a somewhat earlier design having been built in 1980. Enseleni with a bollard pull of 55t was completed in 2000 Both are Voith Schneider propelled tractor tugs. Pictures by Aad Noorland.

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