Ports & Ships Maritime News

Mar 5, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • Anti-nuke body prepares the unwelcome signs for ships carrying nuclear fuel

  • More container ships to be idled as worldwide slump deepens

  • US scanning law now unlikely by 2012

  • UN agencies, shipping corporations to tackle environmental threats

  • SA, Moz discuss establishing one border post


    Anti-nuke body prepares the unwelcome signs for ships carrying nuclear fuel

    Anti nuclear environmentalist bodies are already preparing a campaign aimed at discouraging two ships carrying spent nuclear fuel from approaching the South African coast while en route from France to Japan.

    The two ships, the PACIFIC PINTAIL and the PACIFIC HERON sailed from the UK this week to load the fuel at a French port prior to making the long journey to Japan. It is not known which route the ships will take, which because of opposition from environmentalist groups has to be taken in secrecy, with the ships routing either via the Cape of Good Hope and the Indian Ocean or via Cape Horn and the Pacific. A third alternative is for the ships to transit the Panama Canal but the shorter Suez route is not available to them.

    Past voyages by the ships that are specially designed for the carriage of nuclear fuel products have used different routes and the ships have been forced to remain outside territorial waters wherever necessary, as is expected should the ships sail past South Africa.

    The cargo is believed to consist of 1,800kg of mixed oxide nuclear fuel, stored in special containers designed to prevent leakage in the event of the ship sinking or going aground and being damaged.

    More container ships to be idled as worldwide slump deepens

    Container ship charter owners are preparing to lay up more ships in coming weeks as hire rates reached new lows and operators make demands for bigger discounts, reports the Journal of Commerce Online.
    The publication quotes AXS Alphaliner as reporting there were about 400 ships totalling 1.1 million TEU total capacity, which is equal to 8.8% of the world’s fleet that were idle at mid February, with additional ships being added daily. The shipbroker Clarkson says this number is probably on the conservative side.
    The layups have become necessary because charter rates no longer cover vessel financing costs.
    The article gives examples of charter rates that have been re-negotiated – Eurosease agreeing to decreasing the rate on one ship from $ 18,500 a day to $ 12,000 for a 1,742-gt ship, and from $ 16,500 a day to ,000 for a 1,932-TEU vessel.
    It adds that while many owners have adopted ‘hot’ layups in anticipation of ships resuming trading shortly, they are now adopting ‘cold’ layups that involves considerable expenditure in maintaining the idle ship for a longer period.
    In other examples JOC quotes average daily charter rates for a 1,700-TEU ship as having reached $ 5,418, down two-thirds from the $ 25,074 the same ship achieved 9 months ago. A 3,500-TEU gearless container ship had dropped 44% in three months to $ 10,500 from $ 15,500.
    Adding to the woes the article says that ocean freight rates have fallen even more, thus widening the gap with charter rates. Rates between China and Europe have plunged nearly 70%, said the report quoting London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants. source JOC Online

    US scanning law now unlikely by 2012

    US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has admitted that US plans to introduce the controversial Customs and Border Protection 2012 deadline is now unlikely to be achieved.

    The plan was for all containers headed for the US to have been electronically scanned at their country of loading.

    “My initial view is that the 2012 deadline is not going to work. We're going to have to work on what we do beyond that,” she advised the House Homeland Security Committee.

    She explained that to do 100% scanning requires agreements with many countries and involved a lot of issues. “There is a difference between screening and scanning in the lexicon of the cargo world, and I believe we are close to 100% screening now.”

    Democrats voted in the law during 2007 but since then the Department of Homeland Security and US Customs officials have maintained the deadline was unreasonable and unattainable and that a risk-based approach to cargo security is a better approach.

    “The last administration made clear to us that they didn't think this was doable, and they weren't going to push for it,” said Republican Peter DeFazio. He asked what the attitude of the new US administration was towards all containers being scanned before they left foreign ports, pointing out that there is a greater threat of a nuclear attack by a weapon smuggled in an ocean container than from a missile-launched warhead. source JOC Online

    UN agencies, shipping corporations to tackle environmental threats

    A Global Industry Alliance (GIA) has been launched to tackle the threats of marine bio-invasions caused by the transfer of alien plants and animals in ship ballast tanks. The Alliance, made up of an innovative partnership between the International Maritime Organization (IMO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and four major private shipping corporations, aims to harness the different skills and expertise brought by these groups in order to develop concrete solutions to this global environmental hazard.

    According to IMO’s findings, an estimated 10 billion tonnes of ballast water are being carried around the globe each year, and more than 3,000 species of plants and animals are being transferred daily. As a result, a serious environmental threat has developed, caused by the introduction of alien aquatic plants and animals to new ecosystems which may not be able to deal with the imported species. The damage done by these alien species is costing the world billions of dollars.

    In many areas of the world, the effects of it have been devastating since once these invasive species are established they are extremely difficult to eradicate. For example, the introduction of the comb jelly (mnemiopsis leidyi) to the Black and Azov Sea caused a near extinction of anchovy and sprat fisheries and the introduction of the zebra mussel (dreissena polymorpha) in the Great Lakes required multibillion dollar control and cleaning of underwater structures and pipelines.

    Recognising the significance of the global environmental threat from ballast water transfer of such harmful species, the international community has developed a regulatory framework for ballast water management, culminating in the adoption of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments by IMO member States in 2004.

    The problem is due largely to the expansion of seaborne trade and traffic over the last century. When cargo ships are not loaded, they pump water into their ballast tanks in order to maintain stability on their way to pick up cargo. Once the ships are loaded with heavy cargo, they discharge the water from within the ship into the sea or ocean. Alien and potentially harmful invasive species are released with the discharged water. So far, very little of this ballast water is being managed in a way that minimises the spread of these marine invaders and new invasions are being recorded at an alarming rate.

    The Alliance will contribute to research and development of cost effective ballast water treatment technologies that can be fitted onboard ships. In addition, it will assist with exploring new ship design options such as 'flow thru' ballast tanks and ‘ballast-free ships’.

    The Alliance aims to promote the transfer and diffusion of technology within the industry by opening a ballast water information exchange mechanism, developing training tools targeted at the maritime industry and establishing an industry dialogue forum.

    The agreement signed this week forming the GIA was initiated by GloBallast Partnerships – a joint initiative founded by IMO, UNDP and GEF. The Alliance is hosted by the IMO in London. To date, four major shipping corporations - APL, BP Shipping, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, and Vela Marine International – have signed on to this partnership. More shipping corporations have expressed their interest to join. source UN Development Programme

    SA, Mozambique discuss establishing one border post

    by Proffesor Ndawonde

    Komatipoort - South Africa and Mozambique are to integrate the Lebombo and Ressano Garcia border posts to improve safety and security measures at the border.

    Director General in the Department of Correctional Services Xoliswa Sibeko affirmed on Tuesday that a one-stop border post would facilitate the legal movement of people and commodities across the border.

    "Travelers will only stop once as opposed to the current dispensation which requires that they get processed at two facilities of the two countries," said Commissioner Sibeko, following a visit to the Lebombo border.

    She said this would also address the congestion at the border and result in more convenience for travelers.

    "It is our intention to ensure that all law enforcement in all South African ports of entry is effective," she said, adding that an agreement on operations would be easy to reach between the two countries.

    Government has always made law enforcement at ports of entry a priority, however, efforts have been doubled ahead of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup.

    A Joint Border Clearance Initiative is expected to be implemented at both the South African and neighbouring states' border posts to deal with the anticipated influx of soccer fans.

    "The initiative entails cooperation between South African border posts officials and their counterparts in processing the passage of travellers through our borders. This initiative will result in effective and efficient border post operations as already mentioned in respect of the One Stop Border Post," she said.

    Specific attention will be given to Lebombo, the Zimbabwe border at Beit Bridge, the Botswana border at Kopfontein, the Swaziland border Oshoek and the Lesotho borders at Fiksburg Bridge and Maseru Bridge.

    Commissioner Sibeko added that several foreign airports had been designated as a priority as ports of entry due to the following considerations Strategic Central Air Hubs, volume of travellers departing for South Africa, possibility of participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and direct flights to South Africa.

    The airports to be given precise attention during the two most important events in the international soccer calendar include Perth Airport, Heathrow Airport, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and Frankfort Hahn Airport in Germany.

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