Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jan 12, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – SIRIUS STAR

  • New proactive international naval force to fight Somali piracy

  • Port crews rise to the challenge in Port Maputo

  • Shipping lines making news

  • Piracy update – Sirius Star released but no reward for the pirates

  • Russian cruiser visit, Yes or No?

  • Pic of the day – SOUTHERN UNITY


    First View – SIRIUS STAR

    A parachute dropped by a small aircraft floats down over the VLCC Sirius Star during an apparent payment of ransom money to pirates holding the ship.

    Picture courtesy US Navy/Air Crewman 2nd class David B Hudson

    See report below

    New proactive international naval force to fight Somali piracy

    Bahrain – The United States Navy 5th Fleet Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) has announced the establishment of a Combined Task Force (CTF-151) specifically to undertake counter-piracy operations.

    The CMF is responsible for having created the Maritime Security Patrol Area in the Gulf of Aden last August, which lends support to anti piracy measures including use of coalition warships and aircraft to patrol the area. However the charter for this particular unit, CTF-150, was created specifically for the conduct of Maritime Security Operations in the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, Red Sea and Indian Ocean and operations. These included the deterrence of destabilising activities, such as drug smuggling and weapons trafficking. Naval ships and assets from more than 20 nations make up the Combined Maritime Forces of CTF-150.

    The establishment of CTF-151 now will allow CTF-150 assets to remain focused solely on its counter-piracy mission.

    US Navy Rear Admiral Terence “Terry” McKnight has been named the commander of the new task force (CTF-151) which will be fully operational by the middle of January. His ‘fleet’ consists so fat of three ships an some aircraft – his flag vessel being the USS San Antonio, a dock landing ship.

    “Some navies in our coalition did not have the authority to conduct counter-piracy missions,” said Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, CMF Commander. “The establishment of CTF-151 will allow those nations to operate under the auspices of CTF-150, while allowing other nations to join CTF-151 to support our goal of deterring, disrupting and eventually bringing to justice the maritime criminals involved in piracy events.”

    He highlighted the reduction in piracy in the region due to merchant mariners’ proactive measures but also continued to caution that the efforts of coalition and international navies won’t solve the problem of piracy.

    “The most effective measures we’ve seen to defeat piracy are non-kinetic and defensive in nature. The merchant ships have been doing a great job stepping up and utilising these methods to defeat piracy attempts. That’s a great first step. But the problem of piracy is and continues to be a problem that begins ashore and is an international problem that requires an international solution. We believe the establishment of CFT-151 is a significant step in the right direction.”

    The US Navy describes CTF 151 as a multinational task force that will conduct counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and says it was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.

    NATO hands over patrols to EU

    Meanwhile, a NATO-led naval force which has been operating in the area of the Somali coast to provide sea patrols in support of UN food aid shipments, has handed over control of the operation to European Union (EU) naval forces.

    The transition took place on 14 December when the EU Operation Atalanta took over control of the operation. From 24 October until 12 December NATO, in response to appeals from the United Nations, provided ships to escort deliveries of World Food Programme aid in the area. A total of 30,000 tonnes of food and other aid was safely delivered – in the past several WFP shipments were highjacked by pirates and held for ransom.

    With effect 14 December ships of the EU have taken over this escort service.

    Meanwhile NATO says that pirate activity off Somalia has shown signs of increasing after a lull in late December. The organisation said that 15 ships remained in the hands of pirates along with more than 200 crew. Ships being targeted were larger vessels including oil, gas and chemical tankers. The attacks were being made by larger and faster speedboats, usually containing three to five armed men.

    The two latest vessels to be seized, the BLUE STAR and SEA PRINCESS II have been moved to the coast near Eyl north of Hobyo and Haradheere, the same location from where the Turkish freighter YASA NESLIHAN was last week freed after a ransom was paid.

    Port crews rise to the challenge in Port Maputo

    Gil Rodolfo, chief pilot at the Port of Maputo

    by Yvonne de Kock

    “The channel is a challenge” - so says Ken Shirley, Port Authority Director of the Maputo Port Development Company. The channel he refers to is the entrance channel to the Port of Maputo and the characteristics certainly reveal the challenge.

    Situated on the Indian Ocean on the East Coast of Africa, Port Maputo’s North Channel leads from the open sea into Maputo Bay. The distance from the North Channel entrance to the Pilot Station is 25 miles. From the Pilot Station the Xefina, Polana and Matola Channels lead into the wharves and terminals. Rendezvous point is at Buoy 6, some 10 nautical miles from the port entrance. At times the port has to be closed with frequent gale force winds.

    “But”, he continues “we have skilled and experienced marine crew who are able to cope with any eventuality”.

    Shirley has praise for the crews as do the shipping lines entering the Port of Maputo, judging by the frequent compliments received.

    In 2003 the Maputo Port Development Company SA (MPDC), a company registered in Mozambique comprising an international group of foreign investors with Mozambican partners, was granted concession rights by the Mozambique Government to finance, rehabilitate, develop, operate and manage Maputo Cargo Terminals and certain Matola Bulk Terminals, a decision which has paid dividends.

    At the time, the entire marine crew were taken over by the MPDC. They are all Mozambican and have been “traditionally” trained, ie they went to sea, did their time and after seven years, qualified for their masters’ tickets. The last six pilots understudied as apprentice pilots for two years, hence the standard is high. The tugmasters and chief engineers all have sea going experience as well, and training for the pilots includes tug experience.

    The port has two Azimuth stern drive tugs, the XEFINA and POLANA, built in Japan each with a 36 ton bollard pull. Five crew members and a deckhand man the tugs, whilst the pilot boat, the INHACA has two crew members. After the purchase of the tugs, a training crew from Hong Kong trained the crew in Maputo.

    The port operates 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Port operations offered are pilotage and tug assistance, vessel traffic control and anchorage. Services include dry dock and repairs, ship-chandling, cargo handling, bunkering and fresh water.

    An important activity which involves the entrance channel is dredging.

    Since taking over the port, MPDC has restored the approach channels to their design depth (-9.4m chart datum) and instituted an annual maintenance dredging programme using the modernised Mozambican dredger, ARUANGWA.

    The marine crew consistently uphold best practices, safely berthing a variety of vessels ranging from cargo vessels to container ships, cruise liners and car carriers.

    Shipping lines making news

    NYK turns to overland transport to counter maritime downturn

    Japan’s NYK line (Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha) is to turn to overland and air transport to counterbalance the downturn effects in its sea transport division. Announcing the implementation of NYK’s Emergency Structural Reform Project, NYK president Koji Miyahara said in his New Year’s address to the company that the project was designed to deal with the hard economic times expected over the next three to four years.

    “We intend to maintain stable management by fostering overland transport, air transport and logistics, which promise to become major spheres rather than relying on marine transport,” he said.

    “Our NYK Group has all along pursued a policy of attaching prime importance to medium- and long-term profits grounded in mutual trust with important customers, accruing those profits primarily from long-term contracts rather than from short-term profits from fleet operation in the spot market,” he said.

    NYK expects restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from ships to impact on the company results to “no small extent.”

    “Accordingly, we regard environment as one of the most challenging areas for our management,” said Mr Miyahara.

    Evergreen denies reports of shipbuilding spree

    Taiwanese shipping giant Evergreen says there is no truth in reports that the company is to embark on a massive shipbuilding programme of as many as 100 ships by 2012.

    The reports which were carried by various Taiwanese and mainland China newspapers said that up to 100 new container ships were to be built to replace aging vessels. Evergreen is the only major container shipping line without orders on hand for newbuilding.

    A company spokesperson denied the reports but said Evergreen has indicated it would order new ships once the price of steel comes down and also provided it doesn’t end up overtonnaging the market.

    Lines shed tonnage on three major routes

    More than 104,000-TEU has been shed on the three main east-west container shipping routes from the weekly capacity over a five-month period between August and December 2008, says AXS-Alphaliner. By 1 January the weekly capacity on the three services had decreased from 916,000 TEU to 812,000 TEU, a year on year decrease of 11.5%.

    AXS-Alphaliner says the sharpest decline came in December when a number of Asia-Europe loops were either suspended or cut, removing 30,000 TEU of weekly capacity. The three routes are Asia-Mediterranean, Asia-North America and Europe/Mediterranean-North America trades.

    It says that some 210 cellular container ships totalling about 550,000 TEU are currently idle.

    Piracy update – Sirius Star released but no reward for the pirates

    The Saudi VLCC SIRIUS STAR has been released by Somali pirates after a ransom believed to be worth US$3 million was paid. However while the handover went off smoothly, disaster befell the pirates as they made their escape in a fast speedboat which is reported to have capsized. Of the nine men on board five drowned and the remaining four managed to swim ashore after spending several hours in the water.

    There is no news of the money which is presumed to have gone to the bottom with the speedboat.

    The ransom handover was witnessed by the US Navy operating in the area. This included some dramatic footage showing the parachute and canister thought to hold the money being dropped onto the tanker from a small aircraft. Shortly afterwards the pirates informed the 25 crew of the Sirius Star they were free to sail away, before leaving the ship themselves to board their speedboat.

    The Sirius Star, which has a cargo of two million barrels of oil on board worth an estimated US$100 million, was escorted out of the area by coalition warships and has since left the area. The ship had been at anchor off the coast between the towns of Hobyo and Haradherre on the northeastern Somali coast.

    “While the release of the Sirius Star is undoubtedly excellent news, we must not forget that nearly three hundred other merchant mariners are still being held captive. The men who attacked the ship and held the crew hostage are armed criminals and consequently, we must remain steadfast in our efforts to address the international problem of piracy," said Commodore Tim Lowe of the US 5th Fleet.

    Russian cruiser visit – Yes or No?

    Will she arrive today, or won’t they? That’s the question being asked by ship enthusiasts this weekend this past weekend concerning the expected arrival of the nuclear-powered Russian heavy cruise PYOTR VELIKY.

    Originally the ship was earmarked for an 11 January arrival but then it was found that this would not allow the mandatory 30 days notice period in which people can comment or object to a nuclear-power ship entering a South African port.

    As a result the arrival has been delayed by one day in anticipation of permission being granted but as this goes online there is still no confirmation and recent history with US nuclear powered warships suggests that one should hedge any bets.

    So by the time you are reading this, and if of course you are in Cape Town, look out of your office or apartment window and you may have the pleasure of a rare sight, a large Russian cruiser sitting in Cape Town harbour. Or on the other hand, maybe you won’t. Stranger things have happened in this wonderful country of ours. If you do see the ship, please take some photographs and send us one.

    Pic of the day – SOUTHERN UNITY

    The Unicorn Shipping products tanker SOUTHERN UNITY (37,091-DWT, built 2004) which went off charter towards the end of December, when she sailed from Durban in Dannebrogs colours and bearing the name AMALIENBORG. In this earlier picture the ship is seen sailing from the port of Durban. Note the ship on the horizon beyond the Bluff.

    Southern Unity was sold to Target Marine of Greece together with a second sister tanker OLIPHANT in 2006 for a reported combined figure of US $ 97 million. During her service with Unicorn the tanker Oliphant spent all of her time on the international trades while Southern Unity was deployed on South African coastal service. Picture courtesy Unicorn Shipping

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