Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 23, 2008
Author: P&S

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  • First View – MSC LEVINA

  • Maria Ramos resigns from Transnet

  • Ramos says she leaves with mixed feelings

  • Engen unable to provide bunker fuel

  • Piracy report – Islamists say they will stop the pirates

  • OTAL secures aid shipments

  • Pic of the day – DURBAN HARBOUR SCENES


    First View – MSC LEVINA

    The MSC box ship MSC LEVINA (36,420-gt, built 1989) seen at Durban’s N-shed berth, normally reserved for passenger ships but pressed into service for bunkers and repair callers when there are no cruise ships in the offing. Such was the case on 30 October this year when the ship came alongside for some minor repairs. The 2,880-TEU ship is a sister ship to MSC DYMPHNA, MSC MAYA and MSC SABRINA.
    Picture by Steve McCurrach

    Maria Ramos resigns from Transnet

    Maria Ramos, chief executive of Transnet for the past five years, announced her resignation on Friday (21 November 2008) and will leave the company at the end of February 2009.

    Her decision to move on is not totally unexpected although her contract which expired earlier this year was renewed to allow her to continue for an indefinite period.

    Ramos will be joining ABSA Bank next year as its chief executive.

    “On behalf of the Board, I wish to take this opportunity to thank Ms Ramos for doing what can only be described as an extraordinary job,” said Fred Phaswana, the Chairman of the Board of Transnet Limited.

    “When Ms Ramos came into Transnet five years ago I think it is fair to say the organisation was really just rolling over. With determination and diligence that we have come to associate with her style, Ms Ramos has really transformed the organisation in the true sense of the word.

    “This effort required not only commitment, but also sacrifice, and it is for that particularly that I wish to pay a special tribute.”

    Phaswana said that in line with the board’s succession plans it will announce her successor before she leaves.

    He said that one of the crucial and most noteworthy achievements under her leadership was managing the difficult balance between developing Transnet as an institution and ensuring that it plays central role in government’s plans for a developmental state in the country.

    “Apart from being a large and important business in its own right, Transnet is a crucial foundation on and around which so much of the economy is built. One of the ideas that Ms Ramos has really driven home forcefully during her tenure has been in making Transnet live up to its mandate of bringing down the cost of business. For other companies to succeed, it is critical that Transnet succeeds.
    This success is emphatically reflected in the numbers. Since 2005, Transnet has returned to profitability after a R6,3 billion loss it recorded in 2004. Its earnings have grown consistently; its cash flows are strong and predictable; the shareholder’s wealth has grown; the gearing ratios – which once peaked at over 80% - are now under the 50% mark set by the Board; and the balance sheet is considerably stronger.

    Giving a hint that her successor would come from within the group, Phaswana said this was the right time for Ramos to leave.

    “The majority of the team’s members has been in their current posts for more than four years and has worked together well during this period. Thus, as we implement our succession plan we do so with the comfort that the change will be supported by continuity in the executive leadership of the company.”

    Ramos says she leaves with mixed feelings

    Johannesburg, November 21 2008 – “At the end of February 2009, I shall be leaving Transnet Limited,” Maria Ramos said in a statement issued on Friday.

    “I do so with mixed feelings; a sense of sadness at the inevitable separation and a sense of excitement at the future of Transnet and mine simultaneously. Transnet has been my professional home for the last five years or so. An announcement about my future plans will be made in due course. (It was learned later that she is to become CEO of ABSA Bank - editor)

    “This has been one of the toughest decisions I have had to make. I believe this is the right time to depart the centre stage as the company is now ready for change and renewal.

    “I joined the company during one of the most difficult periods in its history. Among the many challenges we faced then was a R6,3 billion loss; a weakened balance sheet; low employee morale; unsustainably high gearing ratios; a steep decline in shareholder’s wealth; we were losing customers and volumes were dwindling as a result of lack of confidence in the company’s services; and in essence we were a value-destroying organ of state.

    “Through hard work, focus, discipline and team effort, I am happy to say that this is all behind us now; Transnet is a manifestly new, different and an infinitely better company today. The company has reconnected with its most important stakeholders – the customers – and is much more responsive to their needs.

    “I am proud that I shall be bequeathing this fine company to a very strong, competent, capable and committed team of executives who are supported by a supremely qualified and professional Board of Directors. Like the Board, the executive’s cohesion – an important attribute during periods of leadership transitions like the one we are embarking on – and chemistry are stronger today than when we started chiefly as a result of the fact that most of the members have worked together, albeit in various roles, for more than four years or longer. This will ensure that the impending change happens smoothly anchored by continuity.

    “The company has a clear and focused strategy and a massive brain power – in the form of a very supportive and an experienced board of directors and a diligent executive team – to enable it to continue to purposefully implement the growth plans it has agreed and, more importantly, to navigate what is likely to be a long, deep and wide economic downturn.

    “My time at Transnet has been period of personal growth and fulfillment. I derive the greatest pleasure from the knowledge that this has been an epitome of team success and a shared dream come true. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to many people who have contributed to the success of a difficult turnaround.”

    Engen unable to provide bunker fuel

    The Engen Refinery in Durban, which has begun an investigation into the cause behind the fire that broke out in the main crude unit on 13 November, expects to remain closed for a period of between two and three months.

    “We are endeavouring to put contingency plans in place for the supply and storage of fuel during this shutdown period. However, until these plans have been agreed, finalised and executed, Engen will be unable to supply marine fuels at any of our ports in South Africa,” the company said in a statement on Friday (21 November).

    The situation for bunker fuel at Durban and Richards Bay is expected to become serious and will be made worse by an increase in shipping rounding the Cape because of the Somali piracy crisis. Shell, which operates from a refinery also in Durban which it shares with BP, has stopped quoting for November and says its earliest supply date is 1 December 2008.

    BP in the meantime is continuing to quote on prompt requirements but is monitoring its stocks, with preference given to contract business.

    Demand at Cape Town is expected to increase as a result of the shortage of bunkers at Durban and supplies there may also run low.

    On Friday (21 November) Maersk joined several other companies that have re-routed ships around the Cape rather than run the gauntlet of pirates in the area of Somalia. Maersk said that it has ordered its oil and chemical tankers and three of its container ships to travel via the Cape of Good Hope as well as east of Madagascar to avoid pirates.

    Maersk said this would add between 20-25% to the ships’ travelling time. The company had considered using armed guards on its ships but thought that would escalate the danger and persuade the pirates to carry even heavier weapons.

    Maersk said the criteria for its ships avoiding the Red Sea route is those without adequate speed or freeboard. A spokesman said that subject to the availability of naval escorts the affected ships may join a naval convoy transiting the Gulf of Aden.

    The decision by Maersk follows those of Svitzer and Odjfell who have ordered their ships to bypass the Gulf of Aden in favour of the Cape.

    Piracy report – Islamists say they will stop the pirates

    The Somali Islamist movement which appears set to take greater control of the country says it will outlaw piracy.

    Having already taken control of the southern port of Kismayo the Islamist Shabab group said on Thursday last week that it will form a task force that will police the coastline.

    “We will set up marine forces and will protect all ships and vessels from the pirates off the coastal areas we control," said Sheikh Hasan Yaqub, on behalf of the
    Islamist administration in Kismayo.

    Kismayo, which was re-captured by the Islamist movement in August is the principal city and port in southern Somalia. Another port, Merka was taken by the movement a fortnight ago.

    Meanwhile it is reported that pirates holding the VLCC SIRIUS STAR at the northern anchorage off Eyl are demanding a ransom of USD25 million for the ship’s release. Sirius Star has a crew of 25 on board, all of whom are in good health and uninjured from their ordeal. The ship is carrying two million barrels of crude oil destined for the US.

    South Korean shipping companies say they will adopt new measures to avoid being intercepted by pirates. These measures include turning off their AIS equipment while approaching within 500 n.miles of the at risk areas. However in the event of an attack ships are to turn their AIS back on again.

    In addition ships sailing at less than 15 knots must have posted security guards on deck.

    In other news the highjacked tanker STOLT VALOR has been released after her operators paid a ransom that some reports say is in the region of USD2 million. The ship, loaded with nearly 24,000 tonnes of oil products was seized in September. The National Union of Seafarers of India is claiming credit for having secured the ransom. The crew on board Stolt Valor included 18 Indian nationals.

    Attacks on shipping well to the south of the Gulf of Aden continue to be received, indicating that pirates are again operating in the south of the country and even in Kenyan waters.

    The International Maritime Board has put out a warning to shipping to keep a lookout for three suspicious vessels thought to be operating in The Gulf of Aden. They are the Russian-built stern trawlers carrying the names BURUM OCEAN, ARENA or ATHENA and a blue tug.

    Three more ships have been attacked by pirates off Somalia since the seizing of the VLCC Sirius Star. On 15 November the chemical tanker CHEMSTAR VENUS was seized as was a fishing vessel named EKAWATNAVA 5. The third ship is another IRISL-chartered bulk vessel, DELIGHT which is also in the hands of the pirates.

    On Friday (21 November) BIMCO issued a warning to shipping lines to avoid the Mozambique Channel between Madagascar and the African mainland and instead make the longer journey to the east of Madagascar. This was because of fears that pirates may relocate from the coast of Somalia because of increased naval policing of those waters.

    OTAL secures aid shipments

    OT Africa Line said last week that it has secured contracts to ship aid cargo to West Africa.

    The West African specialist line involves ports in northern Europe and Dakar, Abidjan, Lagos, Conakry, Tema, Douala, Maradi and Pointe Noire in West Africa.
    Cargo will consist of medical and humanitarian supplies which will be carried on scheduled OTAL sailings.

    Pic of the day – DURBAN HARBOUR SCENES

    A fine aerial view of the bunker barge SMIT LIPUMA alongside the container ship MAERSK DELLYS at Durban Container Terminal berth 205 in May this year.

    Another aerial view, this time of the ship repair jetty at Durban’s Bayhead, with the Elgin Brown & Hamer yard on the left and Dormac Marine to the right upper area of the picture. In between is the freighter BAYBURT 5 and two small white fishing vessels, Hai Au 8 and 48, with on the far side the unique 1981-built, 1108-TEU Africa service container ship MSC SELIN.

    Both pictures by Steve McCurrach

    Don’t forget to send us your news and press releases for inclusion in the News Bulletins. Shipping related pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – please email to info@ports.co.za

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