Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 18, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • US Navy visits Maputo

  • US sailors train with Mozambican Marines

  • Africa Partnership Station Arrives in East Africa

  • Further setback for Coega smelter

  • Major advanced economies slide further into recession

  • Pic of the day – GRAND ELENA



    The USS Robert G Bradley arrived in Maputo harbour earlier this month. See reports below. Picture by Nicole de Sousa-Fonseca

    US Navy visits Maputo

    An American frigate, USS Robert G Bradley became the second US Navy ship in more than 30 years to visit Maputo when the ship arrived in the Mozambique capital on 6 February.

    The ship arrived in port under very heavy security, reports Nicole de Souse-Fonseca of the Maputo Port Development Company, which operates and manages the port.

    She said the vessel docked in the early afternoon after arriving from South Africa and that despite a strong wind the berthing went well.

    “It is with pride that Port Maputo is once again making its mark by receiving these high profile vessels. The berthing of these vessels indicates that Port Maputo is a safe port offering excellent marine services.

    “In the past six months alone the SAS Drakensberg (SA Navy) and the cruise liners, the Rhapsody, Melody the Albatross and the Saga Ruby have called on the port. Indications are that there will be more such visits.”

    In September 2007 the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Forrest Sherman had the distinction of becoming the first American warship to call at a Mozambique port in ove three decades when she arrived from Dar es Salaam and Moroni on a four-day visit.

    At the time the US Navy said that the visit to East and Southern Africa by the destroyer was as part of the newly established US Southeast Africa Task Group 60.5 (CTG 60.5) and that USS Forrest Sherman was on a ‘show the flag’ cruise with the purpose of building partnerships and promoting maritime safety and security initiatives among the respective African countries visited.

    The destroyer had also visited Djibouti en route to East and later South Africa. BY contrast the frigate USS Robert G Bradley was sailing in the opposite direction, having first visited West Africa and Cape Town before calling at Maputo. Later the ship was to head to Tanzania, Mombasa, and Djibouti.

    US sailors train with Mozambican Marines

    by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Whitfield Palmer, US Navy

    Maputo, Mozambique - Sailors from the US Navy frigate USS Robert G Bradley (FFG 49) conducted visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) and small boat operations training with Mozambican Marines during a visit in the second week of February as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS).

    APS is an international security cooperation initiative, led by US Naval Forces Europe - Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and other collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.

    The ship's VBSS team began training with presentations on theory, tactics, techniques, and procedures with Mozambican troops.

    “The training is rewarding for us because the [Mozambican] guys take the training very seriously,” said Ensign Joshua Cowart, Bradley's boarding officer. “We are teaching them to be safer and how to protect their country.”

    After presentations, Bradley's boatswain's mates and quartermasters reviewed and practiced small boat handling techniques and basic navigation principles with Mozambican Marines and conducted a simulated compliant boarding with two Mozambican rigid-hull inflatable boats onto Bradley.

    The ship and her crew were making the first APS port visit to Mozambique and the VBSS training was the first time for many of the Mozambican troops to interact with Americans.

    VBSS exercises were joined by Portuguese Marine Corps Commander Alberto Correia, Portuguese Military Cooperation, who is stationed in Maputo and works closely with the Mozambican Marines.

    “We welcome more training,” said Carlos Francisco, a 1st lieutenant with the Mozambican Marines. “We've been trained well by our guests, and everything is becoming clear to us. We are grateful for the American spirit of giving and welcome more training in the future.”

    Bradley is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate homeported in Mayport, Fla., and is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the US 6th Fleet area of responsibility to help improve maritime safety and security and strengthen ongoing maritime partnerships.

    Africa Partnership Station arrives in East Africa

    by Lt Patrick Foughty, Commander, US Naval Forces Europe-Commander, US Naval Forces Africa Public Affairs

    Maputo, Mozambique - The director of Policy, Resources and Strategy for US Naval Forces Europe and Africa, spoke with media earlier this month to discuss Africa Partnership Station (APS) coming to East Africa for the first time.

    Rear Adm William Loeffler arrived in conjunction with the visit of USS Robert G Bradley (FFG 49) as the ship was in port conducting partner building activities such as maritime training, community relations projects and cultural exchange activities.

    “We have commenced the first APS visit on the east coast of Africa with the visit of the USS Robert G Bradley,” said Loeffler. “Our efforts here are to help improve maritime safety and security in Mozambique [and East Africa].”

    APS began in October 2007 when with the deployment of USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) to West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. The program has since become an enduring mission with multiple US and partner-nation ships, aircraft and personnel involved almost continuously.

    “Africa Partnership Station is about sustained engagement, which is why USS Robert G Bradley began its [APS] mission in West Africa in November, and is now the first [second – editor] US warship to tie up pier-side in Maputo and the first time APS has expanded beyond West and Central Africa,” said Loeffler. “This is also the first visit of a US naval admiral in recent history, which is an indication of how important we view our Naval relationship with Mozambique.”

    While in port, Bradley conducted small boat operations and maintenance training, as well as visit, board, search and seizure training.

    “After USS Robert G Bradley departs Maputo it will continue its APS engagements along the East Coast of Africa, stopping in Djibouti, Kenya and Tanzania,” said Loeffler. “The ship will also embark naval personnel from Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania to ride the ship as it transits along the East Coast.”

    Embarked Sailors will have opportunities to participate in various training events and routine ship operations.

    Loeffler emphasized the scale of the program by describing how amphibious landing ship USS Nashville (LPD 13) is also part of the APS mission and was in Dakar, Senegal that week. Nashville includes a large international staff and will visit Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria over the next four months to conduct similar training engagements.

    Loeffler also spoke about the US Navy’s national maritime strategy, the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower and how a key aspect of that strategy is global maritime partnerships.

    “International cooperative [maritime] security engagements are performed throughout the world, we have similar partnership initiatives in the Pacific, South America and the Black Sea,” said Loeffler.

    He explained that APS is currently led by the US Navy, in conjunction with international partners from Africa, Europe and South America.

    “We will only be able to achieve a safe and secure maritime environment by working to build partnerships now. Programs like APS help to build trust and cooperation among all participating nations as well as build positive relationships that will last for years to come,” said Loeffler.

    Further setback for Coega smelter

    The announcement by mining giant Rio Tinto that its full-year net profits had dropped by half as a result of having to write down $7.9 billion of the Alcan business, is probably a further nail in the coffin an Alcan smelter being built at Coega in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

    The proposed aluminium smelter has been bedevilled by takeovers and delays, with French company Pechiney which initiated the proposal being sold to Canada’s Alcan which in turn was taken over by Rio Tinto.

    Initially Rio Tinto indicated it was willing to go ahead with the development of the Coega smelter, but in March 2008 the American company indicated that while it remained determined to continue with the project, the ongoing energy crisis in South Africa had forced a rethink of time frames and that the project could be delayed by between two and three years.

    This was just the latest twist of an ongoing story of ‘on and off’ being played out in the name of a smelter intended as an anchor tenant for the Coega IDZ and port. The IDZ planners subsequently stopped talking of the need for an anchor tenant for Coega.

    As it stands the fledgling port, which is due to open for business in October this year with phase 1 of the Ngqura Container Terminal coming into commission, is likely to find itself a container-only port for a number of years. Any idea that manganese ore would move across from nearby Port Elizabeth along with shipments of refined fuel have already been dashed with existing tenants of Port Elizabeth indicating their intention to remain in that port until the completion of each lease, neither of which is due for some years.

    Transnet Port Terminals meanwhile says that latest estimates indicate that the new port, in which Transnet has so far invested more than R8 billion, will handle a mere 50,000 TEUs during the period October 2009 to end March 2010, the end of Transnet’s financial year. Despite facing a severe downturn in container volumes internationally, the new container terminal will be forced to carry the brunt of income and costs for the port for some years until it is able to handle bulk and other cargoes.

    PORTS & SHIPS will carry a feature on the prospects and outlook for the new port in the near future.

    Major advanced economies slide further into recession

    Japan's economy shrank at its fastest pace in nearly 35 years in the fourth quarter of 2008, joining other major advanced economies in sliding further into recession.

    Japan, which is largely driven by exports, suffered a loss of 12.7 percent in its gross domestic product (GDP) in the October-December period last year, a government report said Monday.

    The report blamed the worsening situation on plunging external demand, rapid deceleration of the world economy and a stronger yen.

    Earlier in October, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso had unveiled a 27 trillion yen (275 billion U.S. dollars) stimulus package to bolster the world's second largest economy.

    In December, Japan's central bank cut its key interest rate to 0.1 percent, lowering borrowing rates to nearly zero, and adopted new measures to pour more money into the banking system to shake off a widening credit crunch.

    These moves in some way helped promote internal demand, but were not enough to instantly pull the export-driven economy out of recession as international demand for made-in-Japan continues to shrink amid the spiralling global economic crisis.

    However, Japan is only part of a gloomy global picture. Recent data indicates that the major advanced economies of the world are slipping further into recession despite governments' efforts to stimulate growth.

    In the United States, the economy plummeted at an annualised rate of 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, the worst since 1982, the US Commerce Department said.

    According to the country's Institute for Supply Management, economic activity in the US manufacturing sector failed to grow in January for the 12th consecutive month.

    Meanwhile, consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of overall US economic activity, recorded an unprecedented six-monthly decline last December, indicating that the economy has yet to hit bottom.

    The government's newly passed 787 billion dollar stimulus plan, which US President Barack Obama described as a "major milestone on our road to recovery," is yet to be tested for effectiveness, and presidential aides have warned consumers not to expect instant miracles.

    Further, the Wall Street Journal quoted economists as forecasting that the US will see an annualised GDP decline of 4.6 percent in the first three months of 2009 and a 1.5percent decline in the second quarter.

    Meanwhile in Europe, flash official figures released last Friday suggest that GDP in both the European Union (EU) and the euro zone contracted steeply in the fourth quarter of 2008, falling for the third quarter in a row.

    The 1.5 percent GDP decline in both the euro zone and the EU from the previous quarter is even worse than the 1 percent contraction in the US economy during the same period.

    The German economy, which is Europe's biggest, shrank by 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter last year compared with the previous one, representing the biggest decline since the country's reunification nearly two decades ago.

    Germany's reliance on exports of goods like cars and factory equipment have made it particularly vulnerable to the global economic turmoil and collapsing world trade.

    In Britain, the central bank predicted last Wednesday that the country's economy could shrink as much as 6 percent in 2009 compared with the previous year, with rising unemployment, weak consumer spending and low investment levels threatening to further dampen output.

    The economies of France and Italy declined by 1.2 percent and 1.8 percent respectively versus the previous quarter, wiping out any illusion that the euro zone is getting off lightly amid the worldwide meltdown.

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, recently said that leading economies are already in depression, adding that the worst was probably still to come, urging swifter and more determined stimulus action from governments. - BuaNews-Xinhua

    Pic of the day – GRAND ELENA

    The LPG tanker GRAND ELENA (122,239-gt, built 2007) in Cape Town during 2008. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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