Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 19, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – PORT OF NGQURA

  • Unions hit back as Transnet Freight Rail scraps all overtime

  • Small craft harbour set to boost KZN economy

  • Idle ships grow in number as recession bites deeper

  • Panama Canal to stick with its toll increase

  • Lagos ports more congested than ever

  • Pics of the day – PORT OF NGQURA


    First View – PORT OF NGQURA

    An aerial view of the new port of Ngqura, which is situated some 20km east of Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. On the right is the new container terminal, with phase 1 (two berths) nearing completion and due for commissioning by October 2009. Phase 2 will see an extension of the container quay with another two berths bringing the number to four and an increase in container capacity from 800,000-TEU to 1.5 million by a projected 2015.

    The centre quay to the left of the picture was designed to handle dry bulk cargo – manganese was the expected main product but this is now unlikely for another five years or more. The deepwater port, with a draught alongside the contanier and bulk berths of 16.5m will be able to handle container ships in the order of 9,000-TEU capacity and will offer immediate berthing incentives to shipping companies. However, because of the economic downturn latest estimates are that the terminal will handle just 50,000-TEU during the first six months of operation between October 2009 and March 2010.

    A more in-depth report on the devlopment of this harbour will be carried in a future edition of PORTS & SHIPS. Picture TPT.

    Unions hit back as Transnet Freight Rail scraps all overtime

    Trade union members have objected to the announcement by Transnet Freight Rail that it intends scrapping overtime as a cost saving exercise.

    General Secretary of the United Transport and Allied Trade Union, Chris de Vos slammed the idea and said the plan would weaken Transnet’s skills base even further. He pointed out that overtime pay amounted to more than a third of railway workers’ take-home pay and had been a fact of life with the railways for as long as anyone could remember.

    “They (railway workers) have structured their living costs on their gross incomes,” de Vos said, adding that the move was tantamount to bankrupting thousands of employees. Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) could not afford such disruption in the present economic climate and it would end up costing TFR far more than it was trying to save, he said.

    According to De Vos TFR had created the position where employees are paid on scales about 50% less than the market rate and were forced to rely on working long hours to make ends meet.

    The matter of stopping overtime for TFR personnel has been followed by the news that parent company Transnet intends saving R4.9 billion in cuts before the end of the current financial year, ie before the end of March 2009.

    Small craft harbour set to boost KZN economy

    by P Ndawonde (BuaNews)

    Pietermaritzburg, 18 February - The construction of a small craft harbour at Durban's Point Waterfront is expected to attract investment capital in excess of R6 billion to the province.

    Delivering his 2009 State of the Province Address on Wednesday, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sibusiso Ndebele said the small craft harbour will further create 6,000 to 8,000 direct new jobs during the construction phase, with a further 6,000 permanent jobs once fully operational.

    "This excludes the thousands of indirect jobs created as a result of an investment project of this scale."

    He added that once completed, it was anticipated the entire development would increase the rates base of eThekwini by more than R100 million per annum.

    The entire development will comprise approximately 575,000 m2 variety of usage types including office, residential, retail and hotels, the premier said.

    At present, about 200,000 m2 of this has been sold, representing virtually the entire stock of zoned land available prior to the Record of Decision by the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs.

    “We foresee it becoming a safe, clean and vibrant environment, where all citizens, irrespective of class or race, can enjoy the best which Durban has to offer.

    “In short, we expect it to be on par with leading harbour rejuvenation projects around the world,” the premier said.

    This decision, he explained, was consistent with, and will further drive, the provincial government's vision to position KwaZulu-Natal as one of the continent's major growth nodes.

    Editor’s note – Environmental authorization giving the go-ahead - subject to possible objection – of the construction of a mixed use development at the Durban Point, including a small craft harbour, was granted yesterday (Wednesday) in terms of the provisions of Section 22 of the Environment Conservation Act, (Act No. 73 of 1989).

    The small craft harbour at the Durban Point has been the subject of heated and acrimonious debate over an extended period of time, having been under consideration since 2003. The most recent objection involved a legal argument which maintained that no section of the sea and/or public beaches can be reclaimed for development without the minister of environmental affairs and tourism’s approval, whether or not the area concerned falls under the domain and control of Transnet National Ports Authority.

    According to a report in the Mercury newspaper of 27 January 2009, environment minister van Schalkwyk’s head of ministry wrote to attorneys acting for the Durban Paddle Ski Club, one of the main objectors, advising that coastal public property and sections of the sea can only be reclaimed for development under very strict conditions.

    It remains to be seen whether these strict conditions have now been met.

    Idle ships grow in number as recession bites deeper

    The number of idle or mothballed containerships has reached almost 400, according to the latest survey conducted by French analysts AXS-Alphaliner. The laid-up ships have a combined 1.1 million TEU carrying capacity.

    This number of box ships laid up amounts to 8.8% of the world’s cellular fleet, with numbers increasing each week.

    Alphaliner points out how this number far exceeds the 3.2% of containerships laid up during the last economic downturn in 2002, and describes it as being the worst state of affairs to hit the containership industry ever, much more serious even than in 1986 when 5% of ships were laid up and the entire US Lines fleet, consisting of the then world’s biggest container ships, was frozen in bankruptcy.

    Perhaps more distressing is Alphaliner’s assertion that it would require an average annual growth rate of 15% in the container trades over a three year period to bring the supply and demand back in balance by 2013, while a more pessimistic but somewhat more realistic potential 10% annual growth rate would take an additional year to 2014 to see equilibrium.

    Many of the ships being laid up are in Asian anchorages but South Africa is not immune. Two of the mid-range Maersk boxships, Maersk Baltimore and Maersk Bentonville have been placed on laybye at the port’s outer anchorage for some weeks now after Maersk and associated companies cut back on several major services.

    Panama Canal to stick with its toll increase

    The Panama Canal Authority says it intends keeping to its planned toll increase from 1 May despite the move by CMA CGM and possibly other shipping lines to sail the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope to cut costs.

    A spokesman for the authority said the toll increases scheduled for the 1 May were agreed after a long period of discussion with the shipping industry and the shippers themselves.

    His remarks followed REPORTS that CMA CGM has estimated it would save more than $ 200,000 per trip by sending 4,000-TEU containerships around the Cape of Good Hope on the homeward leg of The French company’s PEX 2 service between the Caribbean and Asia.

    CMA CGM says the savings were possible even after adding a tenth ship to the service to maintain port call integrity.

    According to the Journal of Commerce, Maersk, which ‘pioneered’ the route around the Cape for Europe – Asia bound containerships – the 11,000-TEU ELLY MAERSK passed Cape Town recently, is believed to be considering sending its ships round Cape Horn rather than the much shorter but more expensive route through the Panama Canal. A company spokesman told JoC that given the significant cost of going through the canal, Maersk was forced to explore all the alternatives.

    The cost of using the Panama Canal has been subjected to three planned increases including this May, that will see the cost per TEU rising to , a 14.3% increase over the current toll of per TEU. In May 2008 tolls were increased by 16.56% from per TEU.

    In 2006 when Panama’s President Martin Torrijos announced the ambitious plans to widen the canal and build new locks to accommodate post-panamax ships he said that the cost would be partly borne by toll increases, which he said the shipping lines world be prepared to absorb in order to save making much longer sea trips.

    He said then that the Panama Canal was facing competition.

    “If we do not meet the challenge to continue to give a competitive service, other routes will emerge that will replace ours. It would be unforgivable to refuse to improve the capacity of the waterway.”

    What Mr Torrijos did not foresee was the economic collapse that would cause shipping to take a radical new view of costs in order simply to survive.

    During 2008 there were more than 14,000 transits of the Panama Canal.

    Lagos ports more congested than ever

    Almost halfway into the 60-day deadline given by Nigeria’s Federal President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Lagos ports remain as badly congested as ever with the number of ships lined up outside and waiting for a berth having increased to more than a hundred.

    The continued delays are now being blamed on shippers refusing to take delivery of cargo that has arrived in the ports, but has also been exacerbated by a three-day strike of freight forwarders which crippled all harbour activity. There are currently 33,000 TEU sitting in the ports waiting clearance, and more importantly, preventing other containers from being landed.

    The Nigerian Ports Authority said this week that 44 ships were waiting outside Apapa and Tin Can ports for a berth, of which 31 were container vessels carrying almost 14,000 containers for discharge.

    Another 56 tanker and dry cargo bulk ships are waiting to berth at the respective petroleum and bulk terminals and facilities in the Lagos port area.

    According to other reports the situation with containerised cargo is made worse by importers refusing delivery of their cargo because of fears of demurrage and fines as a result of the activities of the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission which has been tightening up on imports and exports.

    Pics of the day – PORT OF NGQURA

    Looking down across the new container terminal under development at the port of Ngqura. Two of six new ship-to-shore (STS) cranes are already fully assembled and were being moved towards the quayside when this picture was taken this week. Elsewhere in the terminal are a number of assembled and under-assembly rubber tyre gantry (RTG) cranes and racking for over a thousand reefer containers. Picture Terry Hutson

    The as yet incomplete administration building for Transnet Port Terminals overlooks the Ngqura container terminal situated behind the building. The terminal is due to be commissioned in early October of this year. 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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