Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 17, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – OCEAN SUNRISE

  • National road freight strike set for March

  • Ship charter rates spiral downwards

  • Around the word to save money - CMA CGM eliminates Panama Canal in favour of Cape route

  • South Africa, Spain to boost political, economic ties

  • Piracy – US turns to unmanned drones to hunt pirates

  • Pic of the day – IMPALA


    First View – OCEAN SUNRISE

    The NYK bulker OCEAN SUNRISE (26,586-gt, built 1999) arrives in Durban harbour towards the end of March 2003. Picture Terry Hutson

    National road freight strike set for March

    A wage dispute between members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) and the road freight and logistics industry is threatening to become a national protected strike starting at midnight 15 March 2009 which will run indefinitely until union demands are met.

    According to a union statement issued yesterday (Monday) the required notice will be issued to the bargaining council and the Road Freight Employers Association (RFEA) by 10 March.

    The intended strike poses problems for the entire logistics and cargo working industry as it involves drivers of vehicles in the light, heavy, extra-heavy and ultra-heavy vehicle categories, fork lift drivers, gantry crane operators, loaders and packers and general workers. About 70,000 workers are employed by the Road Freight & Logistics industry, of which 60,000 are covered under the National Road Freight Bargaining Council and represented by the trade unions collectively.

    Union demands include a minimum wage of R6,000 per month for drivers and R3,000 pm for general workers, as well as other benefits such as four months paid maternity leave with job guarantees and new danger and occupational allowances.

    At present, according to SATAWU, the minimum wages remains very low and is set at R883,88 per week for drivers and R579,16 pw for general workers. The union is also concerned at what it sees as a developing monopoly by the Imperial Group which it claims has bought out a large number of companies.

    SATAWU says it is willing to engage in negotiations to avert a national strike and recognises the implications for the national economy particularly in the context of the global downturn.

    Ship charter rates spiral downwards

    Freight rates are continuing to spiral downwards with stark drops being experienced alongside an increase of short term spot deals for temporary tonnage, reports HKSG Media.

    Quoting the London shipbroker firm of Clarkson, HKSG Media says earnings for midsize container ships of 3,500-TEU is down at $10,500 a day from $17,500 in October, and 2008’s average of $26,125 and even further from 2005 when charter rates topped $38,000 a day for a panamax ship.

    “Smaller vessels are in similar decline with a 1,100-TEU ship on a 12-month charter currently earning $4,770 a day, down from over $9,000 in early October,” reports the Hamburg Shipbrokers Association. Before the market plunge a 2,500-TEU vessel earned a daily rate of $8,185 a day against $25,074 in May 2008.

    Newark’s Journal of Commerce meanwhile reports that idle charter containerships have reached 200 with more expected following news of a possible redelivery from CMA CGM of 60 vessels adding to an overflowing tonnage in the coming months. - source HKSG Media

    Around the word to save money - CMA CGM eliminates Panama Canal in favour of Cape route

    It seemed a pretty radical move when first Maersk then MSC and CMA CGM and a number of other lines announced they would re-route eastbound shipping around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the higher costs of sailing through the troubled Horn of Africa region and then paying the high Suez Canal costs.

    The high costs were influenced by Suez Canal fees and heavy insurance premiums on sailing through pirate-infested waters near the Horn of Africa. A surcharge on containers helped redress the additional costs with westbound sailings but eastbound movements are too lightly loaded to make up the additional costs. Hence the decision to go the longer route via the Cape, avoid both canal and insurance fees and steam at slower speeds to conserve fuel.

    The economics of this decision reveal this to be more than feasible and ships are already on their diverted courses, with the first having passed the Cape already and one, the 9,800-TEU MSC Lisbon actually putting into Cape Town to uplift empty containers for re-positioning.

    Now comes news that French carrier CMA CGM intends diverting ships away from the Panama Canal on its PEX 2 service between the Caribbean and Asia and will instead sail the longer and slower route via the Cape of Good Hope on the homeward leg between Asia and the Caribbean.

    Nine 4,000-TEU vessels are currently employed on the PEX 2 service but CMA CGM will add an additional ship because of the slower journey, but says it will still make considerable savings given the approximate $ 350,000 cost of transitting the Panama Canal for a ship of this size.

    The revised PEX 2 revised port rotation eastbound from Trinidad is now essentially a circumnavigation voyage calling at Port of Spain, Keelung (optional), Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Ningbo, Chiwan, Shanghai and Pusan.

    The service then crosses the Pacific to call at Ensenada, Manzanillo (Mexico), Panama Canal, Manzanillo (Panama), Kingston, Caucedo, Puerto Cabello, Port of Spain, and then east to Africa. The Port of Manzanillo, Panama, is dropped from the end of the PEX2 rotation before the eastbound leg to Africa.

    South Africa, Spain to boost political, economic ties

    Pretoria, 16 February (BuaNews) - Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sue van der Merwe is currently in Spain where she is expected to hold political, economic and trade discussions with Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Angel Lossada.

    The pair will hold discussions within the context of South Africa's priority to consolidate North-South relations.

    Issues on the agenda are expected to include, among others, a briefing regarding developments in the European Union including the impact of the global financial crisis on the Union and ways in which this will be addressed.

    African peace and security as well as conflict resolution initiatives including Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Sudan, Somalia and Western Sahara as well as the Middle East and the implementation of the Roadmap are also on the agenda.

    The Deputy Minister is also expected to hold discussions with Minister for Interior Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, the Secretary General of Spanish International Co-operation Agency (AECI) and the President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation.

    Ms van der Merwe will also address Casa Africa which is a public consortium created within the framework of Spain's Africa Plan in the Canary Islands.

    Casa Africa is a space for meeting and open exchange among citizens of Africa and Spain. It aims to promote awareness of their respective realities, enhance overall Spanish-African co-operation and also African-European dialogue between cultures.

    Casa Africa is an initiative between the Spanish Ministry of External Affairs and Co-operation (MAEC) and the Spanish Agency for International Co-operation for Development (AECI), the Canary Island Regional Government, the island administrations of Fuenteventura, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Tenerife and the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Town Hall, all of whom are represented through a Council of Directors.

    Spain is South Africa's 9th most important export market. In 2007, South Africa's exports to Spain totalled Euro 1.5 billion (an increase of nine percent on the 2006 figure), the country's imports from Spain grew by four percent to Euro 800 million in the same year.

    South Africa's main exports were coal, fish, fresh fruits, iron and steel products, mechanical appliances and automotive parts and accessories.

    The most important products imported from Spain were vehicles, parts and accessories, machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical machinery and equipment, furniture and related products and plastics.

    Spain could be considered as a source of Foreign Direct Investment in the following sectors infrastructure, tourism, agro-processing and renewable energy.

    Seven of the world’s largest construction companies are Spanish. The largest one in the world, ACS Dragados, has a stake in South Africa's Platinum Highway. The company was also part of the consortium that lost the bid for the Gautrain to the French consortium Bombela.

    Piracy – US turns to unmanned drones to hunt pirates

    US Navy pic

    The US Navy is using modern technology to fight an age-old scourge of the seas – pirates in open small boats who raid commercial shipping.

    After successful use of the pilotless drone aircraft (UAV’s – unmanned aerial vehicle) over Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Navy had admitted that it is also using drones on a daily basis to search for pirates in the wide ocean and in particular, the mother ships.

    The remotely controlled drones fly at altitudes up to 1,000 metres from where they are able to search a wide area and relay back pictures of the sea to controllers on board the navy ships. The US destroyer USS MAHAN is one such ship employing this tactic but the information and pictures, both video and still images that are taken are shared with other ships in the coalition of navies assembled in the Horn of Africa region to combat pirates.

    It turns out that a drone aircraft was responsible for assisting with the capture of nine pirates last Thursday. Using night vision the pilotless aircraft captured images of the pirate skiff with men on board and what looked like a scaling ladder. Earlier the skiff had fired a rocket grenade at a merchant ship, without causing any injury to crew or vessel.

    By the time destroyers arrived on the scene, guided by the drone, the pirates had thrown the ladder overboard but it had already been recorded and will be used in court if and when the men are charged.

    The use of UAV’s or drones in Somalia is not new. The US is believed to have overflown sections of the troubled African country for a number of years with these pilotless aircraft, seeking out suspected terrorist camps.

    Pic of the day – IMPALA

    There’s something almost reassuring about these old freighters, especially vessels like the classic SD14 class which, despite their squat shape and small size still manage to create the impression of being good and reliable ‘seaboats’. Whether or not this was true, the SD14 type survived in service for a long time - a handful remain in service to this day - being a worthy successor to the Liberty and Victory class ships of a slightly earlier time. The ‘14’ in SD14 denoted they were of around 14,000-DWT, exactly double that of the first Liberty ship. The old IMPALA was at one time a regular caller at Durban, as is shown in this 2003 image as the graceful old ship leaves port for the high seas. Picture Terry Hutson

    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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