Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 26, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – LEPTA GALAXY

  • Piracy update – anti-piracy base for mouth of Red Sea

  • Stowaways on the increase, says specialist

  • China to aid Liberia with ore port

  • Africa Partnership Station Nashville arrives in Ghana

  • Rift Valley Railway to outsource freight handling to Mombasa port

  • Pic of the day – UAL TYCOON


    First View – LEPTA GALAXY

    The Japanese bulk carrier LEPTA GALAXY (30,089-gt, built 2002) in Cape Town harbour on 20 February 2009. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Piracy update – anti-piracy base for mouth of Red Sea

    Plans to build a new harbour in the entrance to the Red Sea to be used specifically for anti-piracy operations have been revealed.

    French sources indicate that the plan, introduced by France, Djibouti and Yemen, aims to build the port on the island of Perim near the south-western coast of Yemen. The island lies in the mouth of the Bab al Mandeb, the narrow strait that separates Arabia from Africa and marks the southern entrance to the Red Sea.

    The three countries are believed to be preparing a letter of intent regarding the construction of the harbour, with the intention that it would be utilised by ships preparing to go into convoy through the troubled Gulf of Aden to the south-east. The facility could also be used to help train Yemeni coastguards.

    Yemen’s foreign minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi said that local fishermen were being targeted by anti-piracy activities employed by foreign shipping using the Gulf and Strait. He said Yemen needed a co-ordination centre where local fishermen could be assisted, but the centre would also act as an anti-piracy monitoring centre for the region. He said that Yemen would allow foreign warships to herd or chase pirate vessels into its territorial waters but only on a case by case basis.

    Meanwhile the new Somali government says it wants to establish a maritime corridor through which ships can operate in safety along its coast. The statement was made by Somalia’s ambassador to Russia, Mohammed Mohmud Handule who said the idea was for ships to form convoys of five or six and proceed along the maritime corridor under escort of ‘friendly’ warships acting in the region.

    In a new development this week the Swiss government has agreed to the posting of Swiss soldiers on board Swiss-flagged or Swiss-interest ships sailing in the Gulf of Aden. Up to 30 soldiers may be deployed to the area to take up guarding duties, but observers point out the move may create difficulties for ships to enter local ports with foreign soldiers on board.

    Stowaways on the increase, says specialist

    Incidents of stowaways found in South African ports and on board ships in the harbours has increased dramatically, says Durban-based stowaway search specialist, Patrick Mooney.

    Mooney, whose company Stowaway Search Dogs conducts anti-stowaway searches of ships at the country’s ports, said there is evidence of rapidly deteriorating security in the ports and as a result an increased threat to the visiting ships.

    “We know this not only because of the number of stowaways that we have located during our searches but also through vital information, provided by various agents, on stowaways who have been located on vessels once they have sailed without being searched,” he said.

    According to Mooney any existing statistics of the number of stowaways found on ships in the harbours would pale into insignificance in comparison with the dramatic increase in stowaway incidents in the past few weeks.

    “The reason for this dramatic surge in stowaways is at this stage anyone’s guess. Whether it stems from fear arising from recent xenophobic attacks or just disillusionment over the worsening state in many African countries, we can’t be sure. What we are sure of is the fact that we have never found so many stowaways over such a short time span. And it doesn’t seem to be letting up.”

    Mooney provided a short report on recent successes by his company, while stressing these included only the ships searched.

    On the 24/01/2009 Stowaway Search Dogs carried out a search on the mv SALCAF. Three Kenyan stowaways were located during the search and removed; the vessel also had private security in place. The vessel was berthed in a ‘secure’ berth namely Durban’s ‘O’ Berth cold storage, which requires stowaways to evade the attention of two separate landside security points before accessing the ship and its own security.

    On the 12/02/2009 a search was conducted on the mv GENCO PIONEER at Richards Bay’s Dry Bulk Terminal berth 704, also a supposedly secure position. Three Tanzanian stowaways were located during the search and removed.

    On 16/02/2009 a search on the mv CASTILLO DE SAN JUAN found three Tanzanian stowaways who were removed from the ship. The vessel was berthed at Richards Bay Coal Terminal 304. (How do stowaways get into the coal terminal without being noticed? – editor)

    On 23/02/2009 the team carried out a search on the mv NAVIOS APPOLLON. Seven Tanzanian stowaways were located during the search and removed. The vessel was berthed at Richards Bay Coal Terminal 306.

    “All the above stowaways were removed by our company and handed over to immigration except in the case of the last vessel where the South African Police had to be called due to the large number of stowaways that were found. The authorities in these ports argue that the stowaway problem is under control but it is evident from these figures that current security measures are grossly inadequate and we can only expect the problem to deteriorate even further,” said Mooney.

    He pointed to the large numbers of people that congregate at Durban’s Albert Park near the entrance to Maydon Wharf and said most of these were known East Africans who were waiting to stow away on ships in the nearby port. They even hold ‘classes’ for newcomers to learn how to hide on ships, he said. This is done in broad daylight and the full glare of passing traffic.

    A ships agent approached by PORTS & SHIPS confirmed the apparent ease with which stowaways are getting on board ships in ports like Durban and Richards Bay, that boast high security levels. When asked if it was difficult to get past the security and into the port precincts he laughed. “The only time it is difficult to get into these ports is when you arrive by motor car and find you have forgotten your safety boots, vest or hard hat. Then they are all over you and you are prevented from going any further, but stowaways apparently have no problem sauntering past the security gates during the day or at night.”

    The team from Stowaway Search Dogs, together with their four-legged assistants who make many of the discoveries, searching a logger in Durban harbour. Stowaways can secrete themselves in the most inaccessible places on board a ship, including concealing themselves beneath a highly dangerous cargo of logs that may shift suddenly at sea.

    China to aid Liberia with ore port

    China Union has contracted to develop Liberia’s Bong iron-ore project at an estimated cost of US $ 2.6 billion, reports OTAL. The project which will get underway in 18 months time and will continue for a period of between 8 and 10 years, will include the refurbishment of the port of Monrovia as well as the construction of a hydro electric power plant to provide the capital with electricity.

    Earlier OTAL reported Liberia’s Finance Ministry as saying it required $ 50 million to repair the deepwater port at Monrovia. “What we are doing right now is sourcing where to get those funds,” Finance Minister Augustine Ngafuan was quoted as saying. In November 2008 Liberia announced its intention of converting the state-owned port system into a public-private partnership within two years.

    After several years of civil war Monrovia is no Liberia’s only functioning port. The other ports of Buchanan, Greenville and Harper lack handling facilities for commercial use but remain in use mainly for the logging trade. The port of Monrovia, around which the capital city and country’s economic centre has developed, operates on a Freeport basis, in which cargo can be stored in transit, free of duty and subsequently re-exported to other West African countries.

    The port consists of four piers and a main wharf, with three of the four wharf berths operational – space at the fourth berth is taken up by the capsized TORM ALEXANDRA (4,160-gt) which capsized in July 2001. Containers are handled at the wharf including reefer containers.

    Africa Partnership Station Nashville arrives in Ghana

    by Lt jg Ellen Bock, Africa Partnership Station Nashville Public Affairs

    Sekondi, Ghana - USS NASHVILLE (LPD 13) has arrived in Sekondi, Ghana, Feb. 20, the second African port of its five-month deployment in support of Africa Partnership Station (APS).

    APS is an international initiative under the auspices of Naval Forces Africa which aims to work cooperatively with US, European and African partners to enhance maritime safety and security on the African continent. APS provides a unique venue to align maritime engagements by utilising an international team of expert trainers in a variety of military capacities and a handful of civilian fields such as fisheries management, port security and meteorology.

    With APS, training is conducted as requested by the partner countries. In Ghana, that means traditional military training, such as engineering and small boat handling, plus a handful of specialty areas.

    “This initiative has been built at the request of African partners, and we execute it side-by-side with an embarked team of officers and civilian specialists from 20 different countries,” said Capt Cindy Thebaud, Africa Partnership Station Nashville commander. “This fact should send a clear message. The responsibility of maritime security truly is a global effort.”

    Thebaud, the commodore of Destroyer Squadron 60, leads an international staff consisting of naval officers from 18 countries on four different continents, including two officers from the Ghanaian navy. The international staff is in addition to the Nashville's crew, commanded by Capt Tushar Tembe. For Tembe's crew, APS represents the ship's final deployment, with decommissioning slated for September.

    The APS mission will see seminars, workshops and hands-on training conducted with Ghanaian sailors, including sessions on port security planning, small boat maintenance, medical training, search and rescue training and oceanographic methods. But APS is more than training. APS will conduct large community relations projects in each of the countries visited. All of the activities are based on specific requests from Ghanaian officials.

    “We see APS as a promising US Navy-led initiative that, along with our international partners, will create the foundation for future regional cooperation in meeting our common maritime concerns,” said Lt Cdr James Agambire, Ghana Navy.

    Rift Valley Railway to outsource freight handling to Mombasa port

    The embattled Rift Valley Railways (RVR), which is under threat of having its concession to operate the combined railways of Kenya and Uganda cancelled, has incorporated the use of a private container dry port facility at the port of Mombasa.

    The development comes as RVR moves swiftly to avoid being evicted by the two East African governments over what they see as a lack of performance during the two years since RVR was awarded the concession. A spokesman for RVR said the move would speed up turnaround times for the railway and help relieve the chronic congestion at the port of Mombasa, for which RVR has come in for a fair amount of blame. The contract with Summit Cove Lines Company Changamwe yard is for a period of two years.

    RVR currently handles 6% of the cargo moving to or from the port, compared with the railway’s projected 30% capacity. The railway company suffers from a lack of railway rolling stock including both locomotives and wagons but the poor state of the permanent way in places has also had an effect of performance so far.

    In a notice sent to shipping lines and agents RVR says that handling agents will be expected to collect their empty containers from Changamwe within 48 hours of arrival. Containers not collected will be moved to service providers’ depots and agents will have to pay any charges resulting.

    In January Uganda followed Kenya’s example by applying to the High Court to cancel the RVR concession.

    Pic of the day – UAL TYCOON

    An interesting and slightly unusual arrival in Cape Town harbour this month was the deck cargo vessel UAL TYCOON (1675-gt, built 2008), flying the Antilles Netherlands flag but owned and managed by a South Korean company. Note the rubber tyre fenders strung along the ship sides. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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