Ports & Ships Maritime News

Apr 14, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – ZHEN HUA 23

  • Piracy update – world’s attention on Maersk ship

  • Piracy - claim of international hypocrisy

  • News from the shipping lines – slow boats to China

  • Germanischer Lloyd strengthens position in oil and gas sector

  • St Lawrence Seaway 50 years young

  • Pics of the day – EUROPA


    First View – ZHEN HUA 23

    Picture by Trevor Jones

    The Chinese heavylift carrier ZHEN HUA 23 arrived in Durban on Saturday morning, after being delayed by bad weather at sea and again on Friday by winds considered too strong to bring the ship into port.

    Zhen Hua 23’s cargo consisted of six giant cranes – four 985-ton Ship-to-Shore gantry cranes for Eurogate’s Rotterdam terminal in Europe, and two 285-ton rail gantry cranes costing R36 million each for Durban’s Pier 1 Container Terminal.

    The rail gantry cranes complete the infrastructure programme for the new container terminal, which in its first phase is designed to handle 720,000 TEU. They will be installed astride the three 810m long rail terminal lines each capable of carrying 50-wagon block container trains. Until now rail wagons have been loaded of discharged using reach stackers.

    Michelle Phillips, Business Unint Executive at the Pier 1 Container Terminal said that having the gantries would substantially increase the turnaround of containers to and from the terminal.

    “These cranes are among the final investments which form part of phase one of Transnet’s Pier 1 container terminal expansion plans. This phase has seen Transnet provide additional capacity of 720,000 TEU to the Port of Durban. Phase two is at feasibility stage and aims to convert Salisbury Island to create additional capacity of 800,000 TEU’s,” she said.

    The cranes are expected to be fully operational by the end of May.

    Zhen Hua 23 (37,879-gt, built 1986) sailed from Shanghai on 14 March, bound for Durban and Rotterdam. The 245m long ship is one of a fleet of about 18 heavylift vessels operated by the Shanghai Zhenhua Shipping Company. Her arrival in Durban at the Easter weekend involved a considerable logistical effort, requiring pre-arrival co-ordination between Transnet Port Terminals (TPT), Transnet National Ports Authority and ZPMC, the crane manufacturer.

    All container traffic was diverted from Pier 1 Container Terminal until Tuesday and the ship was granted priority access to allow it to sail into harbour immediately on arrival, without disruption from other vessels. However, Mother Nature, in the form of gusting winds on Friday put paid to those plans and the ship eventually entered the port at first light on Saturday, 11 April 2009, after which everything has proceeded to plan. As of last night the ship was still in port.

    The two rail gantry cranes on board the heavylift Zhen Hua 23 - picture TPT

    Piracy update – world’s attention on Maersk ship

    Headline news around the world this weekend, with international television news stations providing ample coverage, was of the drama involving the American ship MAERSK ALABAMA (14,120-gt, built 1998) which was initially seized by pirates, then re-taken by the US crew but only after the ship’s master, Captain Richard Phillips had voluntarily surrendered himself to the escaping pirates as a safe-conduct hostage.

    The ship, which is involved in carrying food aid parcels in the region, was seized shortly after coming under attack. Once the crew managed to retake the ship the pirates fled in one of the lifeboats taking the ship’s captain with them, but shortly afterwards ran out of fuel and were left drifting in the ocean while steadily approaching the Somali coast.

    At one stage Captain Phillips attempted to escape by throwing himself overboard and swimming away but was persuaded to return when shots were fired in the water near him. US warships had meanwhile appeared on the scene and were monitoring the situation.

    The Maersk Alabama, now under control of her own crew and with US Navy SEALS and FBI agents on board, had meanwhile sailed for Mombasa where she arrived on Saturday night.

    On Sunday came news that US Navy forces had stormed the lifeboat, rescuing Captain Phillips and killing three of the four pirates on board, with the sole survivor being taken into custody.

    The American action follows similar armed reaction by French forces which recaptured a French yacht, the TANIT which had earlier been seized by pirates after sailing into Somali waters. In the action the French owner, who had been advised not to sail so close to Somalia, was killed along with several pirates but the remainder of the yacht’s crew, including the owners wife were unharmed.

    But the attacks on pirates holding ships and yachts hostage has brought with it warnings from several sources that it marks an escalation into violence that has so far been lacking in pirate attacks off Somalia. At least one pirate has told a news service that the French and Americans will regret the killings of pirates. He said Somali pirates have not been in the habit of killing but preferred to take hostages for ransom. He warned that something would happen to any French or American taken in future.

    A moderate Islamist leader in Somalia also warned of an escalation of violence, saying that the killing of a few pirates was likely to raise an army of new pirates to take their place. And Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers Assistance Program added his voice saying that this would act as a big wake-up to the pirates and raised the stakes. “Things will be more violent from now on,” he warned.

    The recent spate of new attacks of merchant shipping is nevertheless continuing, with reports that an American-owned, Italian-flagged and crewed tug towing two barges has been captured, along with a crew of 16 including ten Italians, five Rumanians and a Croatian. Pirates are also attacking ships further out into the ocean, and the waters near the Seychelles are now regarded as dangerous in this context. There is also evidence that the pirates are targeting ships sailing into or coming from the northern entrance of the Mozambique Channel.

    In another report the North Korean general cargo ship RYU GONG (9013-gt, built 1983) came under attack east of Yemen when pirates operating from a mother ship attempted to board, firing at least one rocket grenade into the ship without causing any real damage. The crew of the ship managed to ward off would-be boarders using fire hoses and the Ryu Gyong eventually out-manoeuvred the skiffs and made its escape. The NATO centre monitoring pirate attacks reported that the North Korean ship had come under attack twice off Somalia between 20 and 24 March.

    Piracy - claim of international hypocrisy

    With the world’s attention now firmly on piracy off the Somalia coast, and comparisons beginning to be drawn with the Barbary pirates of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in which nations including Britain, France and the United States paid tribute to the pirates to safeguard their merchant shipping while sailing off the North African coast, suggestions are also being made that the international community only makes a fuss when an American ship is involved.

    The argument came to a head at the Easter weekend when the media went into a frenzy over the seizure of the Maersk Alabama and the heroic action of her master, Captain Richard Phillips (see report above). The argument is that that the Western nations are being hypocritical by ignoring the plight of hundreds of third world (or poor nation) seafarers who have been captured and held in custody by pirates demanding ransom while being prepared to take action when an American or European ship is involved.

    Whatever the merits, they do have a point to make, which is that piracy off Somalia has been around for a number of years and has been getting steadily worse with little or no action being taken until lately. They argue that it wasn’t until the capture of a Ukrainian ship carrying tank and other weapons (the FAINA), followed shortly afterwards by the seizure of a VLCC tanker, the SIRIUS STAR carrying US $ 100 million worth of oil for the United States, that the world began to take any real notice.

    Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme says of the Maersk Alabama case that it is a pity similar attention is not paid to the nearly 250 other hostages - all from poorer nations - currently being held by other Somali pirates, of which the biggest nationality represented is Filipino with 92 seafarers being held.

    “The media and the international community at large is just demonstrating its hypocrisy,” he said in Mombasa, while waiting for the Maersk Alabama to dock.

    “Journalists have flooded here from all over the world because of one American captain. What about all the others, from Bangladesh, from Pakistan, from the Philippines, some of whom have been held now for months?”

    “Once again, it has taken American involvement to get world powers really interested,” said a Nairobi-based diplomat. “I hope they don't forget the Filipinos and all the others, once this guy (Capt Phillips) is released.”

    In the United States the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the pirates as being little more than criminals. “It’s important that we come up with an international resolution of this,” she is quoted as saying.

    News from the shipping lines – slow boats to China

    After posting a net income of US$124 million, which is 87% down from the $977m of 2007, French shipping company CMA CGM says the worst is now behind it. Chief Executive Jacques Saade told the newspaper Le Figaro that he expected a gradual improvement in the container business later this year with the year ending at break-even point.

    Saade said that while his ships had been sailing on the normally lucrative Europe – Asia trades at between 70 and 75% container capacity, from the beginning of 2009 they were operating at 80% filled. He expects sales to reach $16 billion by year end and said that CMA CGM was not cancelling orders for new ships and that between 2009 and 2010 the company would take delivery of 52 new vessels. These would bring economies of scale by making it possible to replace older vessels. Saade said that CMA CGM has introduced cost-saving measures and the rationalising of services in slower markets and the consolidation of lines. The group had 180 ships due to come out of charter during 2009 which will be either returned to their owners or renewed or replaced at more attractive contract rates.

    AP Moller-Maersk hopes to cut costs by slower sailing and says it can save up to $5000 an hour by sailing at 10 knots instead of at 26kn with any of its 13,800-TEU meg container ships. At about half speed, fuel consumption drops from 350 tons a day to between 100 and 150t and the strategy is now to sail as slowly as possible.

    The company expects to cut $1 billion in costs during 2009 by scaling back on everything possible, from fuel consumption to table napkins. It hopes these drastic measures will keep the whole company out of the red this year, although the container division is still likely to lose money in 2009. “We cannot go on doing business as we have done,” chief executive Nils Andersen has been quoted.

    Maersk Line has 49 new ships still on order, including some of the largest container ships afloat, but it is believed these will help with economies of scale. The company has plans to scrap up to 25 older ships at present.

    GAC Solutions reports that ship owners may mothball the largest number of ships since the 1970s, as a result of the global downturn.

    The company adds that about one thousand container, bulk and general cargo ships are now sitting idle with no cargoes and hundreds are likely to be taken into harbours for months on end. It said that the last time so many ships were laid up was during the oil crisis in the 1970s.

    GAC says it intends offering a specialist service on the best way to hibernate ships and will have a manual available shortly.

    Germanischer Lloyd strengthens position in oil and gas sector

    Classification Society Germanischer Lloyd (GL) says it has formed a world class technical assurance and consultancy company with the merger of Noble Denton.

    The new entity will provide assurance, inspection, and consulting as well as project management on a worldwide scale. It will focus its worldwide services along the entire life cycle oil and gas - upstream, midstream, and downstream, renewables and energy installations onshore and offshore. This includes safety, integrity, reliability and performance management,” GL said in a statement announcing the merger.

    “The merger is a reflection of the needs of our clients who increasingly face challenges in technology, environment and asset integrity,” said Pekka Paasivaara, Member of the Executive Board Germanischer Lloyd, at a press conference in London. “They are looking for partners who can provide a single source of engineering, consulting and project management services in the geographies in which they are based. This merger will ensure that we become the premier global business partner in oil and gas, renewables and energy supply markets.”

    Germanischer Lloyd, headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, and Noble Denton, headquartered in London have followed similar growth strategies. Both organisations have conducted a number of acquisitions recently to complement their areas of expertise.

    Acquisitions by GL include the UK-based Advantica Group, Canadian and US PV Inspection, Montreal-based Helimax, Kuala Lumpur-based Trident Consultants, US-based Materials Consulting Services and International Refinery Services in Singapore. Noble Denton has strengthened its portfolio by acquiring Martech Unlimited, BOMEL Consultants, Intelligent Decisions, Poseidon Maritime Ltd., Lowe Offshore International Inc., Standard Engineering and Brevik Engineering.

    “With Noble Denton's expert knowledge in assurance and consulting as well as project management and transportation and installation services relating to offshore assets we will enter a new dimension of services and expertise for the marine, offshore oil and gas industry. We will be the full service provider for the entire lifecycle of oil and gas installations,” said Pekka Paasivaara.

    Both companies serve clients from oil and gas companies, contractors, shipyards, ship owners, consultants, designers and financial institutions across the marine and energy industries. The joint workforce will amount to more than 6,400 employees in 80 countries.

    “Noble Denton is excited to be merging with GL. We share the same values of safety, integrity and technical excellence. This partnership brings benefits to our clients and employees alike. We are now able to provide an even more comprehensive service offering to our clients, with access to a greater number of technical experts and this will enable us to enter developing markets,” explained John Wishart, Group Managing Director of Noble Denton.

    St Lawrence Seaway 50 years young

    The St Lawrence Seaway linking the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes and the American Midwest, celebrated turning 50 years old earlier this month.

    Described as having been highly successful in having had over 2,5 billion tonnes of cargo valued at more than US$375 billion carried along its 800 mile (1287km) length since inception, the Seaway is also seen by others as an environmental problem in that up to 57 invasive species have been introduced not only into the river but the Great lakes as well.

    “The Seaway has been successful for the last 50 years and, despite today’s challenging economic conditions, we are pressing ahead with a number of initiatives to position the system for success during the next 50 years”, said Richard Corfe, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC).

    Corfe said that lock equipment was in the process of being updated by applying today’s technology. A hands-free mooring system currently under test in the Seaway Welland Canal has the potential to automate much of a vessel’s transit, while accommodating a wider variety of vessels into existing lock chambers.

    We are optimistic that efforts to streamline Seaway operations, coupled with toll incentives, will attract new users to the system while spurring our customers to invest in new vessels”, said Mr Corfe.

    The Seaway was constructed with a series of seven locks and three dams in the St Lawrence River between Lake Ontario and Montreal and promoted as the means of bringing economic activity to ports across the Great Lakes, although today only seven percent of all shipping traffic in the Great Lakes can be said to be truly international. In its golden era shortly after opening in 1959 the Seaway carried considerable loads of grain eastward from the American and Canadian Midwest with steamships returned with loads of iron ore and steel to supply busy steel mills and the auto factories of Detroit.

    Many of the cities and towns bordering the lakes owe much of their prosperity to having access to the open ocean and world trade as a result of the Seaway, and although the emphasis of trade has since moved in favour of Asia, the waterway still provides an important service to industry and the economy as a whole, although traffic volumes have dropped in recent years, barely topping 42 million tonnes by 2007 compared with peaks around 74mt in the 1980s.

    “We've struggled in the last 20 years, no question,”' admits Corfe. “The world has changed dramatically since 1980, and we've had to ask ourselves how to remain relevant.”

    He said the seaway would eventually return to growth, especially when environmental considerations were taken into account more seriously. “As we get back into the full economy, clients will have to balance their costs with the greening of the supply chain.” He said another path toward that goal would be through more agreements with road and rail companies.

    A year ago a study co-sponsored by Transport Canada and the US Department of Transport found that at the seaway’s current 40mt it would cost shippers an additional US$1.2 billion annually if they switched to rail or road transport, while placing vast amounts of additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

    Terry Collister, President of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp, Corfe’s US counterpart, said the St Lawrence Seaway was primarily a channel for commodities, “so we don’t create demand, we meet it.”

    “Railways do a very good job, but the most reliable, dependable and sure way to get your merchandise delivered to Chicago on Tuesday at 3 pm is via the seaway,” said Corfe.  sources Montreal Gazette, Canwest News Service, MGN and Ports & Ships.

    Pics of the day – EUROPA

    The Dutch barque EUROPA (303-gt) arrived in Simon’s Town yesterday prior to going on the naval dockyard’s synchrolift for routine maintenance and inspection. Here she is seen alongside E berth on the East Breakwater. The sail training ship was built in 1911 and restored as a barque in 1994. The ship sails the world crewed by 14 full-time sailors and complemented with up to 48 voyage crew along for the training and adventure. Both pictures by David Erickson

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