Ports & Ships Maritime News

Apr 23, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • Moatize coal railway set to roll

  • India becomes major coal importer from South Africa

  • Piracy update: Somalia says it has a solution

  • Another port smelter under threat

  • Pic of the day – ROTTERDAM



    The K Line container ship SARONIKOS BRIDGE (37,193-gt, built 1990) in Cape Town harbour recently. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Moatize coal railway set to roll

    The Beira – Moatize railway, linking the extensive Vale coalfields at Moatize in Mozambique’s central Tete province with the port of Beira, is expected to begin operating in January 2010, the World Bank has announced.

    The bank has provided over half of the US$200 million needed to rehabilitate the 665km of railway that was largely destroyed or allowed to collapse into disuse during the Mozambique civil war.

    With the awarding of contracts to Brazilian mining giant CVRD (now known as Vale) to reopen and develop the coal mines in Tete province, a railway rehabilitation programme was also commenced with the contract to rebuild and later to operate the railway awarded to a consortium headed by India’s Rites – a division of the Indian national railways.

    According to the bank most of the construction work on the railway will be completed by the beginning of October and general traffic should be in operation by January 2010 once final testing of the line and operational issues have been completed.

    Initially it is expected that the line will carry six million tonnes of export coal to Beira each year, with an expansion to 12mt as phase 2 of the project. Vale has said it hopes to export up to 11mt a year in the early stages of the mines’ redevelopment but is looking to even greater volumes in the future.

    One of the stumbling blocks remains the ability of the port of Beira, even with extensive dredging, to handle ships with sufficient draught for these volumes. It has been reported elsewhere that initially a lighterage system will operate from Beira, with coal being lightered by barge to bulk ships waiting some 22km from the port.

    In the long term however it is anticipated that consideration will be given to building a railway from Moatize to connect with the deepwater port of Nacala.

    India becomes major coal importer from South Africa

    Remaining with the theme of coal, India has quietly increased its imports of thermal coal from South Africa with 3.7 million tonnes having been exported through Richards Bay Coal Terminal between January and March this year.

    The monthly export figures for India were one million tonnes in both January and February increasing to 1.7mt for March with a similar volume expected during April and May. Thereafter exports to India will drop until the end of the September when the monsoon season ends - the discharging of coal at India’s ports during the height of the monsoon being almost impossible.

    It has been forecast that India would import 12mt of coal from South Africa this year but this figure is now being reconsidered in view of the larger than expected takeoff for the first quarter. The increase in exports to India has also come as a welcome surprise to coal producers after sales to Europe decreased rapidly. There is however no guarantee that demand from India will resume after September.

    Piracy update: Somalia says it has a solution

    Somali president Sharif Sheik Ahmed says his government is capable of solving the problem of piracy off the Somali coast provided the world assists his country with the money needed to develop and maintain national security forces.

    President Sharif made the statement in Cairo while en route to a conference in Brussels, which will include many of the potential international donors. He said his country needed to form a security force consisting of at least 6,000 national security personnel and 10,000 police which he claimed would be able to bring the pirates under control.

    The Somali president’s comments appear to be supported (albeit inadvertently) by a statement made this week by Rear Admiral Philip Jones, the admiral in charge of six warships attached to the European Union Naval Force for Counter Piracy in the region. Adm Jones said that while his and other naval forces were having some success deterring the more amateurish attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Aden, the most recent onslaught of piracy in the wider Indian Ocean region indicated the presence of new and better organised gangs, capable of ranging vast distances in so-called mother ships.

    By comparison he described the attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Aden as being largely opportunistic and carried out by people who are part-time fishermen. “The more recent attacks seem to be more sophisticated, with access to better arms and equipment,” he said. The admiral described foreign anti-piracy patrols as ‘scratching the surface’ and said that the only real solution lay in establishing proper security on the otherwise lawless Somali mainland.

    In other pirate-related news, the Stolt-Nielsen tanker STOLT STRENGTH has been released by Somali pirates along with the ship’s crew of 23 who are all reported as being safe. The ship was seized by pirates on 10 November 2008 and is presumed to have been released after payment of a ransom.

    In West Africa a Turkish tanker, identified as the ALENYA MERCAN and on charter to carry products for Total Oil, was attacked by armed militants or pirates some 30 miles off Bonny fairway buoy while en route to Onne port. Two of the crew, the ship’s master Captain Taskiran Sinan and second engineer, Sengul Salim, both Turkish nationals, were taken hostage when the militants left the ship. As of yesterday the vessel had yet to arrive in Onne.

    The recent spate of pirate attacks on shipping throughout the world this year is almost double that of the same period in 2008, the ICC International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur has announced. The bureau said the dramatic increase in attacks was almost entirely due to what was happening off Somalia. In total 102 incidents involving piracy were reported for the three months January to March this year, compared with 53 in 2008.

    Of the total of 102 incidents, 61 attacks took place in either the Gulf of Aden or off the east coast of Somalia, with 34 ships being boarded, 29 fired upon and nine ships highjacked.

    Another port smelter under threat

    Two years ago all the talk was about building South Africa’s fourth aluminium smelter at Coega, near the as-yet unopened port of Ngqura. With the dramatic collapse in South Africa’s ability to produce sufficient electricity, followed by the even more dramatic global recession, that plan has gone out of the window for the foreseeable future, if not forever.

    Now come reports that another of South Africa’s smelters, Bayside Aluminium smelter in Richards Bay is at risk and is facing ‘streamlining’ and may have to close, although these reports have been denied as rumours and unfounded.

    According to the Zululand Observer, a sharp decline in domestic demand for its value-added products has caused BHP Billiton to explore options regarding the future operation of the smelter which will have to undergo urgent restructuring.

    A London-based BHP Billiton spokesperson told the Zululand Observer that the Bayside smelter had experienced a sharp decline in the domestic demand for its value-added products which has resulted in the termination of certain customer supply contracts and that the financial viability of the smelter was now at risk.

    The company said it was examining options to the streamlining of the smelter.

    During 2008 BHP Billiton closed two of the four pots at the smelter as a measure aimed at reducing the company’s electricity demand. At the time the move cost 400 jobs at Bayside. This was in response to the rationing of electricity by Eskom, in which industry was expected to reduce demand by ten percent. BHP Billiton operates two aluminium smelters at Richards Bay, the smaller Bayside and the Hillside smelter, and also has a majority stake in the Mozal smelter outside Maputo.

    Pic of the day – ROTTERDAM

    The vessel Rotterdam called on the port of Richards Bay and other South African ports last Tuesday (16 April). While at the Zululand port passengers were treated to trips to the various cultural villages, nearby game reserves and the famous St. Lucia wetland (a World Heritage Site) for the day. She sailed for Durban the following day at 18h00. Picture by East Coast Safaris

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