Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 23, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – KENSINGTON

  • Rail strike action averted

  • Mitropoulos urges Nigerian Government to act on piracy

  • Sonangol to build new oil port in Sao Tome

  • Bob Couttie’s Casebook : The case of the Master’s touch

  • Piracy update – NATO sending ships to reinforce patrols

  • Pics of the day – TYCO RESOLUTE


    First View – KENSINGTON

    The crude oil tanker KENSINGTON (156,802-gt, built 1995) docked at Cape Town’s EM1 berth at the recent weekend. Registered to a Liberian company the ship is managed by V Ships of Glasgow. Picture by Aad Noorland

    Rail strike action averted

    Transnet Freight Rail and the two affected trade unions have reached an agreement over the dispute relating to Transnet’s latest plan of curtailing costs.

    Last week it was ANNOUNCED that Transnet intended cutting expenditure by R4.9 billion before the end of the current financial year, which ends on 31 March – little more than one month away. The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) and the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (UTATU) raised a number of issues including the potential loss of overtime by railway workers, which the unions said that workers needed to maintain in order to earn a reasonable wage.

    In a statement issued last week the unions said that both Transnet and themselves had met and cleared up misconceptions over the cost-savings, primarily that Transnet was going to unilaterally impose a number of measures to manage costs. Transnet said in its statement that all measures would be taken to ensure that employees were not adversely affected by the current economic climate and that there were no service disruptions (strikes).

    The measures agreed to included limitation of overtime and moratoriums on travel and the filling of new vacancies. Retrenchments would be resorted to only as a last resort, said Transnet.

    Mitropoulos urges Nigerian Government to act on piracy

    London, 20 February - IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos has urged the Government of Nigeria to intervene to help reduce incidences of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea and in the waters off the coast of Nigeria.

    Mr Mitropoulos took the opportunity of a wide-ranging meeting with Nigeria's new Minister of Transport, Mr Ibrahim Bio, which took place today at the IMO Headquarters in London, to stress that urgent action was needed to assure the international maritime community of Nigeria's commitment to address the problem on a priority basis.

    Mr Bio pledged to pass the Secretary-General's message on the issue to the Nigerian President. He also informed Mr Mitropoulos that, as part of Nigeria's efforts to resolve the problem, the Government had created a special ministry - the Niger Delta Ministry - which had been given full powers to address, among other topics, the problem of militancy and piracy. He added that, in 2008, Nigeria had organised an international conference on piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Niger Delta region and that an action plan, agreed at the Conference, was currently being implemented.

    The visit, the first to IMO by the newly-appointed Transport Minister, was convened to help strengthen the working ties between Nigeria, an IMO Council Member, and the Organization. It covered a broad range of topics.

    Mr Bio took the opportunity to outline some of Nigeria's key maritime programmes in the areas of safety, security, marine environment protection and the human element. He reiterated Nigeria's resolve to continue implementing and enforcing the IMO instruments which it had already accepted, as well as its intention to ratify all outstanding treaties. So far, Nigeria has ratified over thirty IMO conventions.

    Nigeria is, he said, working hard to implement the Long Range Identification and Tracking of Ships (LRITS) system and to complete the audit of its maritime training institutions, in line with the requirements of the International Convention on Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978.

    To help address the worldwide shortage of seafarers, Nigeria had also commenced training young school leavers to take up seafaring as a profession, under a National Seafarers' Development Programme.

    The Minister also confirmed that Nigeria had commenced a self-assessment and internal audit process, with a view to presenting itself for audit under the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme in the near future.

    Responding, Secretary-General Mitropoulos expressed his appreciation for the visit and confirmed the very productive working relationship between Nigeria and IMO.

    The Minister was accompanied on the visit by the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr Dalhatu S Tafida.

    Sonangol to build new oil port in Sao Tome

    Angolan oil company Sonangol has signed an agreement with the government of Sao Tome to invest US$30 million in a new port to be built on the north of the island.

    The deal, signed last week will earn Sonangol an exemption from paying taxes, according to Arzemiro dos Prazeresa, director of the offshore zone authority for Sao Tome and Principe.

    Included in the construction is a depot for the sale of bunker fuels to fishing and commercial vessels operating in the Gulf of Guinea. The port should be in operation by 2010 and capable of handling half of the Gulf of Guinea’s maritime traffic – approximately 100 ships a day.

    Sonangol has also agreed to undertake a feasibility study for the extension and refurbishment of the port of Sao Tome as well as for the island’s airport.

    Angola is currently Africa’s largest oil producer, and pumps about two million barrels of oil a day.

    In London last week delegates to the International Petroleum Week conference heard that the current economic climate meant that Africa’s existing ports would have to handle increases in oil and gas production across the continent. CEO of Global Pacific & Partners Duncan Clarke said the credit squeeze and reducing short-term oil demands were acting as a brake on new investments in Africa and that he didn’t see any additional ports being constructed.

    Bob Couttie’s Casebook : The case of the Master’s touch

    Comparing pilotage incidents like the Cosco Busan collision with the San Francisco-Oakland bridge and the grounding of the passenger ship Van Gogh in Devonport, Australia shows that size doesn't matter and that such incidents may be more common than realised, suggests a new podcast from Maritime Accident Casebook.

    In February 2008 Van Gogh ran aground while departing Devonport and under conduct of a pilot. Because there was no pollution, damage to the ship or injuries to people the incident made few headlines but its causes remain the same as those revealed by investigators from the US National Transportation Safety Board to be behind the Cosco Busan’s disastrous contact, spilling 50,000 gallons of bunker.

    Says writer and narrator of the new podcast, The Case of the Master's Touch, Bob Couttie: “By coincidence, The Case Of The Master’s Touch was in production when the NTSB meeting on the Cosco Busan was announced and, really, the only difference between the two was pure luck. There clearly are common issues which need to be addressed and there is a danger that the high profile of the Cosco Busan case will actually distract from them being addressed.”

    Recently the International Group of P&I Clubs issued a report on pilotage incidents involving claims of more than $100,000. The report identified an average of about 50 such incidents a year at an average cost of some $850,000.

    Says Couttie: “The Van Gogh incident would not have appeared in the study, and there are others that fall under the radar.”

    Like all MAC podcasts, The Case of the Master’s Touch reveals the circumstances around a real event through an audio podcast and online materials available for free at the Maritime Accident Casebook website,

    As with the preceding episodes, the podcast is backed by an illustrated online transcript that seafarers can read, discuss and share with their crewmates and other seafarers. Those with training and safety responsibilities can use the broadcasts and the transcripts freely.

    Maritime Accident Casebook, MAC, is a unique, free, informal educational resource, supported by donations, for seafarers and maritime trainers which seeks to empower seafarers through knowledge to keep themselves alive and their ships safe. Using audio podcasts that can be played on any computer, MP3 Player or MP3-capable cellphone and online downloadable hard-copy transcripts, MAC encourages seafarers to discuss lessons learned from real-life events and apply them to their own vessels and working practices to create a safety-conscious community.

    Piracy update – NATO sending ships to reinforce patrols

    Although there have been less incidents reported of actual pirate successes off Somalia in recent weeks, the actions of international navies is continuing to intensify.

    NATO became the latest to announce it was again sending warships to conduct patrols off the Somali coast, after having a small group of three ships operate in these waters for a seven week period in 2008.

    NATO defence ministers agreed last week to recommence patrols in the Gulf of Aden, saying that a NATO presence would be in the area by the end of the first quarter. During 2008 43 ships were seized by pirates and held for ransom, of which a small number remain in custody. Those captured included the Ukraine Ro-Ro vessel FAINA which was carrying a cargo of T-72 tanks and other weapons for either Kenya or South Sudan. The ship was eventually released on payment of a reported $3.2 million and arrived a week ago in Mombasa where the cargo is being discharged.

    Another high profile ship taken was the ultra large crude carrier SIRIUS STAR which was seized some 450 miles from the Kenya coast and taken, under the eyes of patrolling US warships, to an anchorage off Somalia where she too was ultimately ransomed for an amount variously reported as between $2 and $3 million, which was dramatically dropped on board the tanker by parachute. Five pirates later drowned after their boat was swamped while making their escape from the tanker.

    There are currently at least 20 international warships already on patrol, including ships from Russia, India, Malaysia and China as well as from European nations acting individually or under the umbrella of the European Commission, and the United States. Two Japanese destroyers are currently preparing to sail for the Horn of Africa, making this the first time that Japanese warships will have gone into active service away from home waters since the end of World War 2.

    According to NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the pirate-infested waters around Somalia are so vast that there is enough work for forces operating under different flags,

    The most notable absentee from these naval activities in guarding the waterway leading to the Suez Canal is that of warships from African nations. Several countries including South Africa have ships suitable for the task but have so far refrained from being drawn into taking up patrols, although Kenya’s small navy has undertaken localised patrols in Kenya waters.

    Pics of the day – TYCO RESOLUTE

    The cable ship TYCO RESOLUTE (12,184-gt, built 2002, flagged Marshall Islands) arrived in Durban harbour late last week. One of six modern ‘Reliance’ class cable layers in the Tyco fleet, she carries a crew of 80.

    The business end of the cable layer which was berthed at Durban’s T-Jetty. Both pictures by Trevor Jones

    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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