Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jan 6, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – The fleet is In – Krustamoz 1-8

  • RBCT coal exports down 6.6%

  • Massive haul of illegal logs removed from ship at Pemba

  • Suez Canal authorities withhold fee increase

  • Piracy update – posers for the United Nations

  • Nigeria agrees to phase out single-hull vessels by 2010

  • Russia sends first cross Siberia container block train to Moscow

  • Pic of the day – STELLENBOSCH


    First View – The fleet is in – Krustamoz 1-8

    The prawn/shrimp trawlers KRUSTAMOZ numbers 1 to 8 are once again in Durban – an annual off-season pilgrimage from their fishing grounds off the Mozambique coast. While in Durban each year the eight trawlers undergo maintenance and any necessary refits and in the past have made an impressive sight with all eight vessels grouped on the Eldock floating dock operated by Messrs Elgin Brown & Hamer.
    Picture by Steve McCurrach

    RBCT coal exports down 6.6%

    Coal exports from Richards Bay were down 6.6% in 2008 compared with the previous year, a disappointing result given the hype about increasing the coal line capacity and that of Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT).

    Total exports from RBCT amounted to 61.79 million tonnes of coal, compared with 66.16 million tonnes for 2007. Reasons offered for the decrease are the number of derailments experienced along the coal line as well as an increased demand for domestic steam coal by Eskom which resulted in mines offering less coal for export.

    The demand by Eskom followed chronic shortages during the winter when demand peaked amidst rolling black-outs while the electricity utility was found to be wanting, with little or no coal reserves at a number of power stations.

    A total of only 62,66mt of coal was delivered to RBCT by Transnet Freight Rail during 2008, well down on the terminal’s current stated capacity of 76mt, which is due to be ramped up to 91mt annually.

    In addition to RBCT South Africa also exported small quantities of coal from Durban and Maputo.

    Massive haul of illegal logs removed from ship at Pemba

    Pemba Harbour – little space for a ship without a cargo – picture by Terry Hutson

    Mozambique authorities have intercepted an illegal haul of 93 containers of logs destined for China. The containers had already been loaded on board the PIL vessel PACIFIC DIAMOND (13,547-gt, built 2002) in the port of Pemba in northern Mozambique when Forestry and Wildlife Services swooped, preventing the ship from sailing and forcing the unloading of the cargo.

    In terms of Mozambican law, timber such as Jambirre hardwood must be at least semi processed before being exported. Instead two exporters had loaded completely unprocessed logs totalling 255 cubic metres directly into the containers. Documents presented to the authorities claimed the logs had been sawn into planks, which would then have complied with export requirements but an inspection showed that none of the logs had in fact been made into planks.

    It is being claimed that certain personnel within Mozambique Customs were aware of the irregularity and yet allowed the logs to be loaded for export. In addition an official in the Forestry department has been suspended under suspicion of having colluded with the illegal export attempt.

    The logs have now become forfeit to the state.

    The raid on the ship by officials from the Forestry and Wildlife Services initially targeted a single company involving just 18 containers. After being confronted with the facts concerning the illegal consignment the exporter is reported to have ‘shopped’ a second exporter who had loaded 75 containers, which were then discovered to have also been illegally loaded.

    All 93 containers were removed from the Pacific Diamond which later sailed empty as the berth was needed for another vessel.

    Suez Canal authorities withhold fee increase

    The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) which administers the Suez Canal has delayed until April any announcement of fee increases on vessels using the waterway.

    The SCA had been expected to announce a range of increases as from January but the escalation of piracy in the southern approaches to the Red Sea, which has resulted in some shipping lines diverting their vessels on the longer and more expensive route around the Cape of Good Hope, is now thought to have played some part in the delay.

    Another factor is the effect the downturn in the global economy is having on shipping companies.

    Revenue from the canal for the current financial year is nevertheless expected to reach US$ 4.8 billion, an increase of 16% on the previous year.

    A number of maritime observers have suggested that unless piracy is checked more ships will divert round the Cape, leading to a decrease in the number of ships using the canal. The Suez Canal Authority recently claimed there had been no reduction in the number of ships and said the global financial crisis was more of a threat to sea trade and the canal.

    In April 2008 the SCA introduced a range of increases averaging 7.1%, dependent on the type of cargo being carried on board each ship.

    Oil tankers then faced a 7.3% increase, liquefied natural gas tankers 10.5% and the lucrative container traffic 5.7%.

    Piracy update – posers for the United Nations

    In recent weeks Somali pirates have come short on several occasions when attempting to attack ships in the Gulf of Aden. Among the latest incidents the French Navy frigate, JEAN DE VIENNE went to the assistance of two ships that reported being under attack, a Croatian freighter and a Panamanian general cargo vessel, the S VENUS. The attacks were beaten off and a total of 19 pirates were apprehended and have since been handed over to Puntland authorities who have taken them into custody.

    Several other ships have received assistance from the various naval forces operating in the region and a majority of vessels are now believed to be adhering to the prescribed security channels in which to sail and in many instances are being escorted through the most dangerous sections. This week three Chinese warships arrived in the area to assist with convoying ships with a Chinese interest. This is the first time that Chinese warships have acted so far from their national waters.

    But is hasn’t all been plain sailing, and as the New Year arrived so the pirates chalked up another success, this being an Egyptian cargo ship named BLUE STAR. According to several reports the ship has been captured along with its crew of 28 and taken to an anchorage off the Somali coast. The ship is carrying a cargo of 5,400 tonnes of fertiliser.

    At least 14 ships and 240 crew are thought to be in pirate custody and awaiting ransoming at present. Meanwhile things are changing rapidly on the Somali mainland. In northern Puntland, which has is the semi autonomous region facing into the Gulf of Aden (the old British Somaliland territory pre-World War 2 as opposed to Italian Somaliland further south), local authorities have begun apprehending pirates where this has been possible and are reported to be adhering to promises of jailing pirates that are handed over by international naval forces.

    Further south in the remainder of Somalia, the Islamist movement appears to be gaining a stronger position and this week it was reported that Islamist militia had begun taking over some of the police stations in the capital port city of Mogadishu. The Islamists apparently began asserting themselves once Ethiopia began withdrawing its troops back across the border.

    It will be remembered that during the six months or so that the Union of Islamic Courts movement held total control of Somalia, all piracy at sea off the Somali coast was wiped out. Since then the Somali transitional government that assumed power following the intervention of the Americans and its surrogate the Ethiopians has shown little intention or ability to introduce and maintain law and order on land or at sea, leaving the warlords and pirates to once again operate freely.

    Under the current agreement which led to the withdrawing of Ethiopian troops from Somalia, a transitional government is to be formed consisting of a partnership involving a moderate Islamist movement known as the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), which is led by Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, and the transitional government that had previously been in exile in Kenya.

    However the Voice of America has also reported that the Shabab Islamic militia which is operating in southern and central Somalia has taken a strong anti-piracy stance in the regions it now controls. The coastal town of Hobyo, which has been a pirate stronghold, is now firmly in Shabab hands. The report said that contrary to popular belief local inhabitants have not supported the actions of the pirates. The actions of the pirates in fact may have resulted in the growing strength of the Islamist movement in the area.

    In December the Islamists were involved in a fierce fight with government forces before taking control of Hobyo.

    The report said the pirates are now coming under strong pressure from the Islamist movements to disband and cease their operations, which is seen as leading to a breakdown of law and order and the creation of poverty for the mass of people.

    But, concludes the VoA report, it raises another question especially for the US government and its western allies. They must now decide which poses the greater threat to global security and the economy - the pirates or the Islamists.

    Nigeria agrees to phase out single-hull vessels by 2010

    Nigeria’s Federal Government has concluded agreement with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) of the UN to phase out single-hulled tankers within the Nigerian maritime territory by 2010.

    Even though the decision was not received with overall enthusiasm in the West African country, a technical committee comprising ship owners and nominated government officials has nevertheless been set up to implement the scheme under the direction of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Indigenous Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (ISAN).

    ISAN members are reported to feel threatened by the agreement as almost all their ships fall within the category of those to be phased out next year. Members had hoped to lessen the effect by implementing the Condition Scheme System (CASS) provision which would enable Nigerian flagged single-hull tankers to continue operating until 2015 or the 25 year age limit provided by IMO.

    However members have agreed to abide by the regulation imposed by the IMO that sets 2010 as the cut-off date.

    Russia sends first cross Siberia container block train to Moscow

    The first container block train has left the port of Vladivostok container terminal on Russia’s Pacific coast bound for Moscow.

    According to FESCO the train, which is operated by Russkaya Troyka and Dalreftran together with the Vladivostok Container Terminal, is the start of a regular overland container service from the Pacific coast to Moscow, which will offer alternatives to the long sea route.

    Pic of the day – STELLENBOSCH

    The MACS line cargo ship STELLENBOSCH, seen handling cargo at Durban’s City Terminal. Picture by Steve McCurrach

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