Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jan 27, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – EMPRESS DRAGON

  • New Tanzania – Central Africa railway takes shape – MOU signed

  • Maersk anticipates lower container growth rates

  • Truck shortage hampers Lagos container terminals

  • Piracy update – ship attacked off Cameroon while Somalis release the BISCAGLIA

  • Pics of the day – ALAM MANIS and MSC AMERICA


    First View – EMPRESS DRAGON

    The ship may be 15 years old but COSCO’s containership EMPRESS DRAGON (46,734-gt, built 1994) is still an impressive sight, as seen with this picture taken in Cape Town harbour last week, 23 January. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    New Tanzania – Central Africa railway takes shape – MOU signed

    Arusha (Tanzania) – Proposals for a new railway linking the port of Dar es Salaam with Tanzania’s landlocked neighbours, Rwanda and Burundi, are moving forward rapidly and last Friday (23 January) saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Arusha.

    The new railway will connect with Tanzania’s existing central railway at the town of Isaka which lies on the main railway from Dar es Salaam to the Lake ports of Mwanza and Kigoma. Isaka lies also on the main tarred road from Tanzania to Kigali, Rwanda, some 600km distant, and is an inland dry port complete with custom clearing facilities for the two Central African countries as well as the eastern DRC.

    The railway will extend to the Rwandan capital of Kigali through Isaka as well as connecting the towns of Keza and Gitega by rail to Musongati in Burundi.

    Although the cost of the project has yet to be determined, the Chinese have indicated a willingness to assist with its construction. What will have to be decided is the matter of rail gauge, whether to continue with the East African standard of one metre, or to make use of the Cape gauge which is used more widely in southern Africa, including along the TAZARA railway between Zambia and Dar es Salaam, or to move to the European standard gauge of 1,435mm.

    The importance of transport in the regional integration process has been highlighted in inter-government talks. “The transport policy development has been entrenched in the Common Market Protocol which is under negotiation. This is an indicator of the central role transport plays in the EAC regional integration process,” said Julius Tangus Rotich, the EAC’s Deputy Secretary General in charge of Finance and Administration.

    The project is moving ahead under the leadership and guidance of the respective Ministries of Transport from the three affected countries and a Joint Technical Monitoring Committee has been established, consisting of three civil engineers, one economist and one environmentalist from each country, presided over by Tanzania’s Ministry of Infrastructure Development.

    Maersk anticipates lower container growth rates

    In an already gloomy world market, Maersk Line, the world’s leading container carrier, says it now expects even lower growth rates than previously forecast.

    The Danish shipping giant, which has started laying up a number of container ships due to the economic downturn, expects growth rates to drop below the 5 or 6 percent previously stated, a revised forecast that will most likely lead to more ships being laid up and the rationalizing of certain routes. The effects of this might be seen also with an increase in the return of chartered tonnage.

    “This year and the next we can’t expect much, and based on the latest numbers received, it is only going the wrong way compared to previous expectations,” said Michel Deleuran, senior vice president of Maersk Line.

    “Growth expectations are more pessimistic now that they were six months ago and in terms of volume, we can expect to go below the 5 to 6 percent growth rates in 2009 that was previously mentioned. It does not look good.”

    Deleuran said that the latest calculations from economists have generally meant negative adjustments.

    Despite its gloomy forecast Maersk Line believes it to be less exposed than many other shipping lines, with the ten largest shipping line competitors having an order book of 35 percent of the fleet on average. By comparison Maersk Line’s order book is equal about 20 percent of its total fleet.

    Deleuran said that about 60 percent of Maersk’s fleet was chartered. “We are constantly adjusting our network according to market circumstances and obviously, with the latest unforeseen developments, we are looking at options for returning tonnage.” - source Borsen

    Truck shortage hampers Apapa container terminals

    A shortage of trucks is hampering efforts to clear containers at the Apapa port terminals, says the chairman of Apapa Area One of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents.

    In a report in the Nigerian Tribune John Ofobike said it was proving very difficult to get a truck with delays of up to three days being observed. He said this was because all available vehicles had been booked to carry empty containers. Complaints have been laid at the desk of Nigerian Ports Authority MD, Mallam Abdul Salam.

    As a result some government agencies were being pressed into helping clear the ports of full containers.

    Ofobike’s statement came amidst reports that APM Terminals believes congestion at Apapa is easing. APM says it has the equipment to handle more than 500 containers moving through the terminal each day for customs clearance but the problem lies with most of the containers being returned to the stacks instead of being transported out from the port.

    The controller for Apapa Area One of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hannatu Sulaiman said there was a lack of personnel to physically examine the containers. She pointed out that customs was having to inspect 100% of the containers physically because of the high incidence of false declaration and smuggling taking place by importers.

    Piracy update – ship attacked off Cameroon while Somalis release the BISCAGLIA

    Pirates operating off Kribi, south of the port of Douala in Cameroon in West Africa have shot dead the Greek captain of a fishing vessel which came under attack after he sailed his ship to the aid of a sister vessel already under attack by about 30 pirates operating in three small boats.

    The names of the two vessels have not yet been revealed but both were operating in Cameroon waters when attacked.

    The second ship came under fire from pirates after going to the aid of the first vessel. On approaching the scene pirates stormed on board the second ship and shot the ship’s master three times in the neck.

    Pirates sailed both vessels into international waters before abandoning them and escaping in their boats. The remainder of the crew of about 40 were not injured and were later rescued by the Cameroon Navy.

    The Cameroonian attack, which may prove to be related to a fishing dispute and not necessarily to straightforward piracy, comes at a time when warnings are being issued of an escalation in violence off the West African coast.

    In Somalia pirates have meanwhile released the Liberian products tanker BISCAGLIA (16,282-gt, built 1986) after a ransom was paid. It will be recalled this was the ship on which three Europeans escaped by jumping overboard when the ship came under attack. It was reported that the three, two Britons and an Irishmen were acting as security guards on the ship.

    The remainder of the crew are Indian and Bangladeshis.

    A London risk consultant, Kirsten Parker told journalists recently that pirates off Somalia could be expected to rebound as soon as calmer weather returns to the region. She said the current lull had nothing to do with increased naval patrols.

    Other analysts warn that pirates may become more violent following the increase in naval patrols by warships and because some ships have begun carrying security guards. They warn especially of increased violence in the West African region.

    Pics of the day – ALAM MANIS and MSC AMERICA

    Something removed from the African continent for a change. The bulker ALAM MANIS (31,238-gt, built 2007) arrives at the South Island port of Lyttelton, New Zealand to load coal for India. Picture by Alan Calvert

    Here’s one that has been seen here – MSC AMERICA (34,231-gt, built 1993) is one of MSC’s one-off ships, meaning she has no sister ships in MSC service. The container ship has called a number of times in South Africa in recent years, before being transferred away to the Australasian service. As with the bulker above the 2,680-TEU capacity container ship is at the port of Lyttelton. Picture by Alan Calvert

    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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