Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jan 19, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – MAERSK NEBRASKA

  • Integrated tug and barges used to ship food aid to Africa sold

  • NSRI in several rescue incidents involving ships off the SA coast

  • News from the shipping lines

  • UK pulls out from new airport for St Helena

  • Piracy update – naval forces to act tough with Somali pirates

  • Pics of the day – PETER THE GREAT


    First View – MAERSK NEBRASKA

    MAERSK NEBRASKA in Nacala harbour    both pictures by Loni Shott

    It’s not often that we feature a picture taken in Nacala harbour so these two are particularly special. The former container ship MAERSK NEBRASKA (31,920-gt, built 1985) has recently been pressed into service carrying food aid, mostly grains, to ports in East Africa and was most recently in the port of Nacala in northern Mozambique, where this picture was taken. The ship is now at the end of her long career and from Nacala was scheduled to head off to the breaker’s yard.

    Interestingly, the last listed owner of Maersk Nebraska is given as Farrell Lines Inc, nowadays a mere shadow of the once famous American shipping company whose ships plied the trades between the east coast of the United States and southern and east Africa all the way up to Mombasa for more than 50 years last century. At its formation in 1925 the name of Farrell Lines was in fact American South African Line.

    Today Farrell Lines operates between the USA and Mediterranean, the family shipping company having been sold in 2000 to the Anglo-Dutch company P&O Nedlloyd which was in turn absorbed into AP Moller-Maersk in 2005.

    Farrell Lines House flag

    Integrated tug and barges used to ship food aid to Africa sold

    JACKSONVILLE, the barge

    Two integrated tug and barges combinations (ITB) which have been working on the African coast recently delivering US food aid cargoes, have been sold.

    Marcon International handled the sale of the 26,044-gt ITB’s GROTON and JACKSONVILLE to foreign buyers in November and December 2008 on behalf of the former owners, the US Shipping Partners LP, of Edison, New Jersey. The vessels have already been delivered.

    Both ITBs were built in 1981 and 1982 respectively for Amerada Hess of the US Virgin Islands. Halter Marine Services, Inc of Chickasaw, Alabama, built the catamaran style (CATUG), twin screw tugs and Bethlehem Steel Shipbuilding Division of Sparrows Point, Maryland, built the double-bottom / single-side tank barges. The vessels traded the majority of their lives in US coastwise clean petroleum product service, but had recently been utilised to transport grain cargoes to Africa for humanitarian organisations.

    The vessels are of a unique design where the twin-hull tug ‘docks’ on a tongue protruding from the stern of the tank barge and locks into place with hydraulically operated link-arms, rigidly connecting the unit.

    Overall dimensions, with tug and barge connected, are 209 metres with a beam of 29m and a 37m height with a maximum loaded draught of 13.5m when fully loaded to a deadweight of 48,000 tons. Each barge section has 13 cargo tanks each fitted with its own Framo single stage submersible pump for liquid cargo.

    Both units are classed with ABS as Oil Tank Barge +A1 for the barges and Towing Service +A1, AMS, ACC for the tugs.

    The 2,438-gt tugs tugs are powered by two medium speed Enterprise DMRV 16-4 TransAmerica Delaval main engines generating a total of 18,200BHP providing a service speed of about 14.6 knots on 44 tons/day.

    The engines are capable of burning IFO and MGO. Buyers will return both vessels to petroleum service, but will operate under non-US flag. The buyers were represented by Marcon International, Inc and previously purchased another tug and barge through Marcon’s auspices.

    JACKSONVILLE, the catamaran-hulled tug or catug, fitted in behind the barge of the same name - pictures Marcon International

    NSRI in several rescue incidents involving ships off the SA coast

    Last week the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) of St Francis Bay Station responded with their Spirit of St Francis II to investigate the Japanese car carrier ATLANTIC SPIRIT (47,287-gt, built 1987), which was reported adrift and without engine power about 5 nautical miles off St Francis Bay.

    Bob Meikle, NSRI St Francis Bay station commander, said that on arrival on-scene it was determined that the ships engineers were attempting to repair the engine which had experienced mechanical failure and it was reported that a salvage vessel from Cape Town had already been dispatched to render assistance but the salvage vessel would only arrive on-scene at midday on Friday.

    The ship’s Captain reported that since they were in no imminent danger they were not declaring an emergency but, as a precaution, and after the ship had drifted to 2 nautical miles off-shore of Huisbaai, NSRI St Francis Bay and NSRI Port Elizabeth were placed on high alert to assist if necessary while a number of salvage companies offered their assistance.

    While off-shore of Huisbaai the ship’s crew lowered the anchor which held the ship from drifting ashore. Late that afternoon temporary repairs proved successful on the ship’s motors and the ship was able to continue on her way.

    Another rescue mission involving the NSRI saw the Port Elizabeth Station being activated by Port Elizabeth Transnet Ports Authority.

    This involved a request for urgent medical assistance from the 225m Japanese-owned, Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier RUBY CREST (28,995-gt, built 1997) which reported that the ship’s master, a 48-year old Asian male, was suffering severe chest pains.

    At the time the ship was 48 nautical miles south of Cape Recife and had turned around and was heading towards Port Elizabeth.

    Ian Gray, NSRI Port Elizabeth station commander said that the NSRI Port Elizabeth rescue craft Spirit of Toft was launched to respond and rendezvous with the ship. A Netcare 911 paramedic accompanied the operation aboard the rescue craft which rendezvoused with the bulk carrier 30 nautical miles south of Cape Recife where two NSRI rescue medics were transferred aboard the bulk carrier. They stabilised the patient who was then secured into a specialised Stokes Basket stretcher while a rope and rigging system was erected on the ship.

    The patient was lowered onto the rescue craft, secured into the Stokes Basket stretcher, using the rope and rigging system and once on-board Spirit of Toft was given treatment for suspected angina pectoris by the onboard paramedic, while the rescue craft headed for the Port Elizabeth NSRI rescue base. Once in port the patient was transported to hospital by a Netcare 911 ambulance in a stable condition.

    The ship, which is sailing from Australia, has continued on her way with the Second Mate, who is rated (qualified) as a ships master, at the helm. The ship was not due to call at any South African port.

    In other incidents off the SA coast last week the Port Elizabeth NSRI station was again activated by Transnet Ports Authority to respond to a 30-year old male chokka boat (squid) fisherman suffering from a laceration to the cheek. The injury was received after an alleged stabbing incident on board the vessel Bongo which was then 15 n. miles off Port Elizabeth.

    Station commander Ian Gray reports that the NSRI rescue vessel Spirit of Toft was launched and on arrival on-scene NSRI medics treated the laceration, which was not severe, and the patient was brought to the NSRI rescue base in port and transported to hospital in a stable and satisfactory condition for further treatment.

    Further west the NSRI Kommetjie station was activated by the Transnet Ports Authority following eye-witness reports of two red distress flares spotted off-shore of Kommetjie. The NSRI Kommetjie rescue craft Rotary Winelands and NSRI Hout Bay’s MTU Nadine Gordimer and Albie Matthews were launched while the Metro Ambulance and Rescue Services, SA Police Services and a Police Dive Unit were placed on alert.

    Ian Klopper, NSRI Kommetjie station commander, said that during an extensive search a Kreef Bakkie small boat was found washed up on shore in the capsized position but no sign of any people that may be linked to the boat could be found and there are no reports of anyone overdue or missing.

    He said that an extensive sea and shore search revealed no signs of any people in difficulty and without any further information to go on NSRI Kommetjie and the Police have suspended the search while continuing to monitor the situation.

    The NSRI are appealing to anyone with information relating to this incident to contact the NSRI emergency telephone number (021) 449 3500 or the SA Police Services on 10111.

    In another report NSRI Yzerfontein responded to a call for assistance from the fishing trawler St Anne which reported having collided with an unidentified object while underway between Yzerfontein and Dassen Island.

    Andre Nel, NSRI Yzerfontein station commander, said that the five crew aboard the fishing vessel were forced to use water extrication pumps to expel water from the vessel which had a hole in the bow caused by the collision. The fishing boat managed to enter the safety of the bay at Dassen Island where efforts continued to save the vessel. With the arrival of the NSRI craft Lady Coutts NSRI volunteers assisted the fishing boat crew to expel water from their vessel while temporary repairs were attempted.

    At the request of the owners a salvage company later dispatched a team of divers to assist in the operation with none of the crew in any imminent danger and no injuries reported.

    News from the shipping lines

    AP Moller-Maersk says the shipping industry is unlikely to recover from the current downturn before the end of next year and as a result the company is not looking at new acquisitions.

    “Right now we are not looking at acquisitions,” said Nils Andersen, chief executive of the Danish shipping giant. He was speaking at a media cocktail in Singapore.

    Andersen forecast that 2009 would be a tough year with a recovery unlikely until 2011 at the earliest. If it came before the end of next year AP Moller-Maersk would be very surprised, he told journalists. The company would in the meantime continue to reduce capacity by laying up ships as necessary.

    Arch rival Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is meanwhile about to take delivery of their second 14,000-TEU container ship, which will be named MSC DANIT.

    The 14,000-TEU giant follows the recent handing over of MSC DANIELA, the first in a series of this size container vessels ordered from South Korea’s Daewoo and the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyards. Both ships are 365.5m long with a beam of 52.2m and stack containers 20 rows wide across the ship. Both have their superstructure built forward while the engine room and funnel remain conventionally placed one third of the way from the stern.

    Like MSC Daniela, MSC Danit is expected to join MSC’s Jade service between the Mediterranean and the Far East, displacing smaller 8,000-TEU vessels in the process.

    a computer impression of the new 14,000-TEU MSC DANIELA and MSC DANIT

    Following its successful bid of US $ 5.87 billion for TUI’s Hapag-Lloyd container line, the Hamburg group of investors is now attempting to renegotiate the price, reports a German business newspaper.

    A TUI spokesman later denied the report saying TUI wasn’t involved in any renegotiations but did enjoy a good dialogue with the consortium. After selling the container line to the Hamburg consortium, which outbid Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines, TUI later bought back a 33% stake for $ 924 million.

    UK pulls out from new airport for St Helena

    The British government has decided against building an airport on the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena, which lies more than 1,900km from the African continent.

    According a to a report in The Times the British government has decided it is unable to finance the project at this stage, putting paid to hopes that islanders would finally have a direct air service with the rest of the world. It was hoped the new airport would have been completed by 2012.

    The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development said that negotiations over a contract to build the £100 million St Helena airport had been placed on hold because the Treasury could not fund the project. “There will be a pause,” he said.

    St Helena islanders are reported to have reacted with shock at the news and the island’s councillors have written to the Secretary of State for International Development telling him there will be a negative backlash if the statement means an indefinite delay.

    “Our electorate of Saints is renowned for loyalty to Britain, but if this current statement is hiding an indefinite delay in an airport, then we are certain there will be a very negative backlash,” they wrote to the minister.

    St Helena, home to 4,000 inhabitants, will have to continue relying on a service by sea provided by a single ship, the Royal Mail Ship ST HELENA, which operates between Cape Town and St Helena and Ascension Islands and to the more remote Tristan da Cunha. The mailship, which is a combined cargo and passenger vessel also operates a couple of sailings between the island and the UK each year.

    However the island has limited landing facilities and bad weather or heavy seas can mean the island is cut off from supplies and other necessities for differing periods.

    Occasional cruise ship visits help to create a highlight in the life of the island although this is normally subject to summer visits and is again affected by the sea conditions.

    Piracy update – naval forces to act tough with Somali pirates

    The US Navy has revealed plans for the newly established naval force that will act to deter piracy off the Somali coast. Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of the US 5th Fleet said the US is close to agreement with an unidentified country that will take pirates into custody once captured in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden waters.

    Until now one of the main drawbacks for coalition forces operating to protect merchant ships against piracy has been what to do with suspected pirates once they have been captured. A new task force, CTF-151 was formed earlier this month that has a specific mandate to seek out pirates and to offer protection to merchant shipping – other naval forces operating in the region have different agendas while the other main task force, CTF-150 is there to seek out terrorism and counter drug and arms smuggling.

    According to Admiral Gortney once the agreement with the unnamed country is in place the naval force will go after pirates with aggression. “It will be a mixture of surveillance and then raid action,” he said.

    Until now many of the pirates who were captured at sea were released soon afterwards.

    Russia meanwhile has indicated it is increasing its presence in the Gulf of Aden with a further two ships, the YAMAL and the AZOZ which are en route to join the Russian naval fleet preparing to exercise in the northern Indian Ocean with the Indian Navy in late January. Included among the Russian ships taking part in the exercise is the nuclear-powered cruise PYOTR VELIKY which last week visited Cape Town for the first time.

    YAMAL and AZOV are both large landing type ships, each capable of carrying two companies of naval infantry for extended periods in addition to armoured vehicles. They are normally part of the Black Sea fleet.

    Russia currently has a multirole frigate, the NEUSTRASHIMY on deployment off the Horn of Africa.

    The Russian landing vessel YAMAL – picture courtesy Flickr

    Somali pirates have meanwhile released the Bahamas-flagged Clipper general cargo ship CEC FUTURE (4,980-gt, built 1994), which they seized on 7 November 2008. It has been confirmed that a ransom in cash was paid to release the ship and crew of thirteen with reports that it took the pirates all day to count the money.

    Pics of the day – PETER THE GREAT

    A few last glimpses of a special visitor to the Mother City from Mother Russia – the nuclear powered Russian cruiser PYOTR VELIKY which sailed last week after a short visit to Cape Town. The massive ship (25,000 ton displacement and 251m in length) was delayed by half a day owing to Cape Town’s infamous wind (may we refer to it that way, Capetonians?) which blew up to 40 knots across Table Bay making it more than difficult for a ship with such a large resistance to leave the dock. Pyotr Veliky is now on the way to rejoin other ships of the Russian Navy which will engage with the Indian Navy in naval exercises off the west coast of the sub-continent.

    PYOTR VELIKY, or Peter the Great backs off the eastern mole in Cape Town harbour prior to sailing.     Picture by Trevor Jones

    For many people this was as close as they could get to seeing the large ship in Cape Town harbour.       Picture by Chris Taylor


    A stern view of the ship in Cape Town harbour.    Picture by Ian Shiffman

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