Ports & Ships Maritime News

Mar 10, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – GARCIA D’AVILA

  • Drama at sea off Port Elizabeth as ships collide

  • Cypriot ship sinks in Red Sea – 17 crew missing

  • Transnet explains cancellation of 212 locomotives – irregularities uncovered

  • Shipping Line News – Maersk has better than expected result and SEAS downgrades

  • Piracy update - cruise ships under the firing line

  • Pic of the day – MILLENIA TOWER


    First View – GARCIA D’AVILA

    The Brazilian Navy vessel GARCIA D’AVILA (G29) sails from Simon’s Town Naval Harbour at 09h20 hrs on Monday morning, 9 March 2009. She was bound initially for Cape Town and thereafter to Indian Ocean ports and has been in Simon’s Town for a brief weekend stay.

    The vessel is the former British Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship SIR GALAHAD which in 1988 replaced the ship of the same name lost in the Falklands War. The 8,750 tonne vessel was handed over to the Brazilian Navy at Portsmouth on 4 December 2007.

    Garcia D’Avila is the name of a distinguished captain and Brazilian war hero who served from 1913 to 1945. Picture and background by David Erickson

    Drama at sea off Port Elizabeth as ships collide

    A bulker sailing out of Richards Bay and a Cape Town-based fishing trawler collided on Sunday night about 11 n.miles off Cape Recife (near Port Elizabeth), resulting in most of the crew of the trawler having to be evacuated.

    The accident occurred at approximately 9:15pm on Sunday night after which an urgent distress signal was picked up over VHF radio and intercepted by Maritime Radio Services, saying that the 158m Chinese-owned, Singapore-flagged bulker MARITIME MASTER (15,850-gt, built 1984) had been in collision with a 48m trawler, the MONIE MARINE. The signal indicated that the trawler had sustained damage on the port side below the waterline and was taking water and sinking with 30 crew on board, some 16 nautical miles off Port Elizabeth.

    The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) at Port Elizabeth immediately launched its rescue craft while other vessels in the area also responded, among them the Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) environmental patrol vessel LILIAN NGOYI.

    As rescue vessels moved to the scene it became clear that all crew were safe with no injuries despite damage having occurred to both vessels.

    “Water extrication pumps were being used by the fishing trawlers crew to pump water from the sinking trawler and the bulk carrier Maritime Master's Captain reported that they were standing-by on-scene to take crew off the fishing trawler if necessary,” the NSRI reported later. The trawler’s engine room was flooded, the report added, and water extrication pumps were making little difference to the water level in the vessel although they were continuing to prevent the vessel from sinking.

    After several hours the majority of the trawler crew were transferred across to the Lilian Ngoyi using one of the NSRI rescue craft as a ferry. Only four members remained on the Monie Marine and the Lilian Ngoyi later returned to Port Elizabeth harbour with the rescued crew who have since been flown back to Cape Town.

    The Maritime Master is carrying a cargo of iron ore loaded at Richards Bay. Reasons for the collision which occurred in mild seas and good weather are not yet known and an enquiry will be launched shortly. Meanwhile a salvage team has flown out to the scene by helicopter and will attempt to carry out repairs to the rupture hull.


    A Port Elizabeth Transnet tug was despatched yesterday to take the Monie Marine in tow and bring her into Port Elizabeth harbour but during this operation the trawler sank. The four remaining crew members on board the trawler plus salvage crew who had attempted to stem the flow of water into the vessel were taken off safely before she sank and there are no reports of injuries.

    Cypriot ship sinks in Red Sea – 17 crew missing

    A general cargo ship, the IBN BATOUTA (7,435-DWT) has reportedly sunk in the Red Sea off the coast Egyptian coast and 17 crew are missing.

    The vessel radioed an emergency message early yesterday (Monday) saying that it was sinking while about 35 n.miles off the Egyptian coast opposite the port city of Safaga. No further word has been heard from the vessel.

    Ibn Batouta was carrying a cargo of 6,500 tons of silica sand intended for the manufacture of glass and had earlier passed through the Suez Canal en route to the United Arab Emirates. Bad weather was being reported in the area at the time.

    Another vessel, the much smaller SULTAN (no details available) was able to go to the scene and rescued six members of the crew, consisting of five Somalis and an Iraqi. Another report said an Egyptian helicopter had managed to pluck three crew members from the water.

    Transnet explains cancellation of 212 locomotives – irregularities uncovered

    Transnet says it cancelled a tender for the purchase of 212 diesel-electric locomotives after investigations revealed procedural irregularities that would have made the awarding of a tender unlawful. The cancellation was made “some time ago” it says in a statement issued.

    The statement continues: “Whilst the effects of the economic downturn on rail volumes – particularly in Freight Rail’s general freight business – have impacted on the locomotive acquisition strategy, it remains the intention of the Company to re-issue the tender for the supply of 212 and, most probably, a higher quantity than this in the future based on operational requirements.

    “Our decision to withdraw the 212 tender was not taken lightly. The advice from two leading senior counsel and the findings of forensic advisors (Ernst & Young) who investigated our underlying concerns regarding the tender process in question was followed in reaching our decision. The decision was also part of a series of corrective steps, including a review of our procurement processes, that we took in a bid to prevent a similar occurrence. Further recommendations of the forensic advisors arising out of the probe are being implemented.

    “In discharging our responsibility in terms of the Public Finance Management Act, it is vitally important that our tender processes are fair, equitable, transparent and cost- effective to ensure that all stakeholders have the required level of confidence in our procurement processes.

    “Meantime though, we have issued a tender for the quick delivery of 100 locomotives. This tender, which is separate and distinct from the 212, closes on 10 March 2009.

    “Late last month, Transnet received court documents from Electro-Motive Sibanye Joint Venture, one of the tenderers in the withdrawn 212 process, in which the consortium sought an urgent interdict preventing Transnet from going ahead with the awarding of the separate, distinct and subsequent tender for 100 locomotives.

    “We have filed an answering affidavit at the Johannesburg High Court in response to the interdict. And, today (5 March) we will be vigorously defending the court challenge at the High Court as part of our commitment to the highest standards of corporate ethics and governance. The interdict has no basis – the 100 tender is distinct from the 212.

    “As the matter is now before the courts, we will not be issuing further statements nor commenting whilst this process is ongoing.”

    Shipping Line News – Maersk has better than expected result and SEAS downgrades

    Maersk Line, the container liner division of the AP Moller-Maersk Group says it has enjoyed a better than expected result in 2008, with profits almost doubling when compared with 2007.

    The company posted a profit of US$205 million from a turnover of US$28.6 billion and Maersk Line and Safmarine, the sister liner company saw volumes rise 2% for the year. At the same time costs were curtailed by 4% thanks to a number of measures introduced, including slower sailing and better utilisation of ships.

    On the adverse side bunker prices averaged 51% higher than for 2007 although approximately 40% of this was recovered by way of the Bunker Adjustment Factor (BAF).

    In spite of the better than expected results Maersk expects to make further job cuts during the year – in 2008 a total of 4,500 employees were let go. The reason for this is that some of the company divisions remain unprofitable and are dragging down profits. AP Moller Chief Executive Nils Smedegaard Andersen said Maersk would step up the streamlining process introduced during 2008.

    “We’re basically finished with cuts in Maersk Line but are now looking at other operations that need improvement, so more job cuts are in line,” he said.

    Maersk Line also says it intends retaining its market share even though as many as 25 medium sized container ships may be mothballed during 2009. By December 2008 Maersk had laid up eight 6,500-TEU ships, taken mainly off the Asia-Europe trade.

    In other news member lines of the SEAS 1 and SEAS 2 services operating between Asia and South America via South Africa, Maruba, CMA CGM, China Shipping and K Line have announced that the two SEAS 1 and 2 strings will be merged into a single loop as from 26 March.

    A spokesman for CMA CGM described the months between November and June as traditionally a slack period and that in order to adjust to the current economic conditions the partners had decided to reduce capacity by 35% be merging the two SEAS services, while deploying larger ships and improving cost efficiencies.

    The revamped service will now be operated with ten ships in the range 2,800 to 4,000-TEU capacity, with calls at Qingdao - Pusan - Shanghai - Ningbo - Chiwan - Port Kelang - Rio de Janeiro - Santos - Buenos Aires - Montevideo - Rio Grande - Paranagua - Sao Francisco Do Sul - Santos - Durban (Eastbound) - Port Kelang - Hong Kong - Qingdao.

    The ports of Xiamen and Hong Kong on the Westbound sector do not form part of the new rotation but will be connected through other Group feeder services.

    Piracy update – cruise ships under the firing line

    Several unsuccessful attempts to board and highjack merchant ships in the area near Somalia have been reported in the past week, including reports of pirates opening fire on the ships.

    Cruise ships and piracy have also been in the news – MSC announced it has altered the itinerary of the RHAPSODY, currently making her positioning voyage (and also her final voyage for the Italian company) back to Genoa after a final season in South African waters.

    The reason for the Rhapsody’s altered itinerary is to steer clear of possible pirate interception while off the coast of Somalia by sailing well away from the African coast, although once within the Gulf of Aden the ship will have to sail along a demarcated channel, probably in convoy with other ships and with a navy escort.

    This development follows a report that the Fred Olsen cruise ship BALMORAL came under attack while transiting through the Gulf of Aden, a story that Fred Olsen has hastened to downplay, saying that at no time was the ship under attack, nor were there actual sightings of pirates.

    The company said the ship’s master had taken precautionary aggressive manoeuvring action after two small boats were seen approaching, and passengers were assembled in ‘safe havens’. It was a suspicious incident and not an attack, said the cruise company. Balmoral was able to continue her voyage into the Arabian Sea.

    In other incidents suspected Somali pirates opened fire on a merchant ship off the coast of Kenya but failed to board the ship, the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme has reported. The attack took place a considerable distance from the coast – approximately 265 n.miles east of Mombasa but the ship was able to make its escape after employing anti-piracy measures.

    Yemeni news services also reported that a Korean tanker, the PRO ALLIANCE came under fire from suspected Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden but were beaten off by the intervention of Yemeni Coastguards operating out of the Ras Amran Advanced Anti Piracy Centre.

    The tanker was already carrying several coastguard security officials from Yemen, France and the Netherlands, who opened fire on the approaching pirates, holding them at bay until the arrival of the Yemeni coastguard vessel which then exchanged fire with the pirates, killing one man carrying a RPG launcher and injuring several others.

    The ship, which is carrying a cargo of diesel fuel from South Korea to the Netherlands, was hit by machine gun and RPG fire from the pirates but suffered no lasting damage.

    China says it will renew an anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia when the existing mission involving three ships comes to a conclusion. Three Chinese warships arrived in the Gulf of Aden in January, the first time that Chinese warships have operated so far from home waters. The three ships are the destroyers WUHAN and HAIKOU and the replenishment vessel WEISHANHU.

    "We feel this is not a short mission. The length of the mission depends on the Somali political situation and whether Somali pirates can be eventually kept away," said China’s naval deputy chief of staff, Rear Admiral Zhang Deshun.

    Pic of the day – MILLENIA TOWER

    The container ship MILLENIA TOWER (16,731-gt, built 1990) in Cape Town harbour last week. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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