Ports & Ships Maritime News

Apr 30, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – CAP PALLISER

  • Fred Olsen Cruise Lines reroutes Balmoral World Cruise to avoid Horn of Africa – coming to South Africa instead

  • Piracy update – Maersk Line sets new rules

  • News from the shipping lines

  • Training major welcomes industry leader on board

  • Pic of the day – CHARLOTTE BULKER


    First View – CAP PALLISER

    The container ship CAP PALLISER (22,914-gt, built 2007) at Lyttelton, New Zealand. Picture by Alan Calvert

    Fred Olsen Cruise Lines reroutes Balmoral World Cruise to avoid Horn of Africa – coming to South Africa instead

    Cruise operator Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has taken the decision to change the itinerary of Balmoral’s world cruise in 2010 in order to avoid sailing through the Gulf of Aden. The 106-night cruise, which is scheduled to sail from Dover on 5 January 2010 in a westerly direction, was due to visit ports in the Indian Ocean en route to Dubai, Oman and Egypt before transiting the Suez Canal and returning to the UK via the Mediterranean.

    The new itinerary will instead cross the Indian Ocean from Fremantle in Australia and return to the UK by way of South Africa and the west coast of Africa.

    The decision to re-route Balmoral has been made in light of the continuing security problems that are being encountered in the region.

    “We are very aware of our responsibility regarding the safety and well-being of passengers and staff on board our ships, so we have taken this step in light of the continuing piracy attacks that are being faced not only in the area around the Gulf, but ever further out from Somalia,” said Matt Grimes, Director of Planning for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

    “Although our passengers will no longer visit places such as Dubai and Salalah, their cruise experience will include the breath-taking beauty of Mauritius and South Africa. The cruise will remain unchanged at 106 nights, and Balmoral will return to Dover as scheduled on 21 April.”

    Fred. Olsen currently operates a fleet of five cruise ships based mostly in the UK with itineraries to worldwide destinations. Details of the revised World Cruise and other cruises are available from Triton Cape Sea Travel, tel 021 443 9030.

    Piracy update – Maersk Line sets new rules

    Maersk Line and the AP Moller-Maersk Group says it is constantly monitoring the situation in the Gulf of Aden and the area off the Somali coast to update policy and procedures for company ships sailing in those regions.

    It says that while an investigation into the MAERSK ALABAMA highjacking remains underway, it has already taken steps aimed at further boosting the safety and security of crews and vessels against piracy.

    “We have expanded the area off the coast of Somalia where only vessels with a certain freeboard or capable of sailing certain speeds are allowed to enter,” says AP Moller–Maersk Group Partner and Maersk Tankers CEO Søren Skou.

    “Vessels should spend as little time in the area as possible, and while in the area sail at maximum speed,” he says.

    The Group is also examining defensive measures to further boost security onboard its ships such as making access to the vessel more difficult, although for security reasons it will not provide any specific details.

    AP Moller-Maersk has reiterated its call on the international community to find a solution to the problem of piracy, which it describes as a threat to important international trade lanes and therefore an international security issue.

    “We back proposals such as establishing a regional maritime sea patrol to protect vessels in the area from piracy attacks. The nations in the region with the support of the international community must address this problem,” says Søren Skou.

    “We also call on the international community to establish a transit corridor, so vessels can safely call ports in Kenya and Tanzania,” says Søren Skou.

    In a statement the Group says it welcomes the expected agreement between Denmark, Kenya and other countries to allow legal prosecution of pirates in Kenya. “The problem of piracy cannot and should not be solved by the AP Moller–Maersk Group or the shipping industry only. It must be addressed by the international community.”

    “The Group must insist that it is possible for seafarers to do their jobs in a safe and peaceful environment; ensuring the transportation of traded goods around the world.
    This is why the Group maintains its policy of not arming crews or allowing armed guards onboard its vessels. Weapons onboard could lead to a dangerous escalation and raise a number of multi-jurisdictional legal issues. However, in certain instances when force protection is government mandated, the Group will work with and comply with government instructions.”

    The Maersk Line statement came as news was received of a Liberian-flagged tanker, the NS COMMANDER (57,248-gt, built 2007), coming under attack by Somali pirates but managing to beat off the would-be boarders using fire hoses. The Russian-owned crude oil tanker was sailing about 120 n.miles from the island of Socotra when the attack occurred. Pirates attempting to board the ship were armed with grenade launchers and automatic rifles. There were no injuries reported among the ship’s crew.

    Further south a Spanish warship claims to have captured the nine pirates who made an abortive attack on the cruise ship MSC MELODY at the recent weekend. The frigate LA NUMANCIA (F83) conducted a search in the area where the Melody came under attack and eventually came across two small boats – one empty and the other carrying nine men thought to be Somali pirates. The suspects have been handed over to Seychelles authorities who are holding them in a Seychelles prison cell.

    The BBC is reporting that Somali militia have captured 12 armed pirates in two boats off northern Puntland. Regional leaders told the BBC that they had formed militia groups consisting of fishermen to counter pirates operating in their waters. They said this was in response to the action of the pirates who were seizing ordinary fishing boats at gunpoint in order to go pirating.

    And in further late news Russian news agencies are reporting that a Russian Navy ship has intercepted and detained 29 people suspected of being pirates. The boat in which the men were captured was found to have seven assault rifles and a number of handguns. Russian authorities say they believe the men were those involved in the failed attack on the Russian tanker NS Commander, reported above.

    The cruise industry has already become a victim of piracy off the Horn of Africa, affecting schedules and forcing some cruise lines to empty their ships and fly passengers past the danger. Other lines have opted for the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope while yet others may choose to avoid cruising in the Indian Ocean altogether.

    What isn’t yet apparent is what would happen if the pirates did manage to capture a cruise ship such as one with a considerable number of passengers on board. How they would control the situation is not at all clear – the Melody was carrying about 1500 passengers and crew when attacked by less than ten pirates. While crew can be given training on how to respond after being captured, how does a cruise line instruct a thousand or more pampered passengers – and more particularly keep control of the occasional would-be Chuck Norris’s among them? Or do they follow the lead of MSC by placing armed guards on board, with all the attendant risks in the hope of preventing a boarding in the first place?

    These issues must be engaging the thoughts of cruise operators as they debate whether to continue risking ships and passengers in troubled waters.

    Another issue that must be engaging the minds of those in Miami or Switzerland is how to react if and when the unthinkable does happen, and pirates do capture a cruise ship and realise the monetary worth of their latest prize. Remember how the odds escalated after the capture of the ULCC SIRIUS STAR, or the arms-carrying ship FAINA? Now think of the scenario of a cruise ship with upwards of a thousand wealthy passengers, many of them elderly, and what all this would entail.

    Perhaps the sooner it is accepted by the world’s political decision makers that the only real solution lies ashore in Somalia and Puntland, with a political and social settlement, the better for everyone concerned. But what will it take to bring about this change in attitude?

    Finally (for this edition), they don’t call the United States the land of lawyers and lawsuits for nothing. Fresh from the drama of the MAERSK ALABAMA comes news that the ship’s cook (some reports say steward) is suing his presumably former employer Maersk Lines Limited , as well as Waterman, the crewing agent, for US $ 75,000 in damages for sending him knowingly into danger in the Indian Ocean without adequate warning or protection. His claim is not unique – there have been several moves on behalf of ship’s crew claiming that owners have been negligent in allowing their ships into dangerous waters without proper protection.

    News from the shipping lines

    Japanese shipping giant Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) has reported a decrease in profits for the 2008 financial year, down almost one third on 2007 to ¥127 billion (US$1.3bn). Company income was also slightly down at ¥1.87 trillion. MOL has warned that 2009 will be a difficult year as a result of the global recession but it expects Capesize bulker rates to improve on completion of negotiations with the Chinese over ore purchases.

    Another Japanese shipping giant, NYK saw its 2008 profits slashed by over 50% on 2007 to ¥56Bn ($571million) on a turnover of ¥2.43 trillion, which was down 6% on the previous year. In its financial report NYK said the second half of the 2008 year was in marked contrast with the first, when earnings across all main shipping sectors fell.

    Staying with the Japanese, “K” Line has announced a fall in its profits for 2008 by 61% on the 2007 financial year. The company posted a profit of US$8.1 million on a revenue of $12.7 billion (down from $13.8bn the year before). As with the other Japanese lines being reported, “K” Line said the dramatic change came in the third quarter, but results were also affected by the appreciation of the Japanese Yen. The company says it foresees a further decline in profits and turnover during 2009 of 80% on profits and 24% on turnover, with a further deterioration in the business environment looking ahead.

    US shipping company Horizon Lines, Inc has posted a net loss for the first quarter of 2009 of US$10 million, although this includes fees of $4.4m payable to the company’s US anti-trust case. The loss was made on a turnover of $272.4m, down from the $305.9m during the first quarter of 2008. Horizon operates a fleet of 21 US-flagged containerships and six port terminals.

    While most other shipping lines are reporting gloomy pictures and results, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has remained the odd man out and is actually adding container capacity at a time when other lines are reducing their tonnage. By April 2009 MSC increased its market share from 10.4% on 1 January 2008 to 11.5% by the end of April (taking into account idled vessels in other fleets), whereas Maersk Line’s share dropped from 16.1% to 14.1% and CMA CGM decreased from 7.6% to 7.1% over similar periods. In pure market terms MSC is now only 2.6% behind Maersk Line, or 340,000-TEU behind in terms of container capacity. This is the closest the two main rivals have been thus far. The increase in capacity is mainly a result of an order book for large containerships now being delivered to MSC. The company recently took delivery of three 14,000-TEU class containerships as well as four 11,660-TEU class vessels but the order book includes a further 41 ships of over 12,500-TEU still to be delivered.

    Turning to Germany’s Hamburg Süd the company has reported a satisfactory result for 2008 but says that 2009 will be more difficult for the liner services. Total revenue for 2008 increased 32.8% to US$6.5 billion, of which the company’s liner services accounted for 84% (or $5.5bn) of the total revenue. Hamburg Süd also operates a fleet of 60 tramp ships in the bulk trades. The company does not disclose profit figures.

    sources Shipping companies and AXL Alphaliner.

    Training major welcomes industry leader on board

    One of the forwarding industry’s major training providers, Global Trade Training (GTT), this week welcomed Gerald Rowe, Managing Director of a.hartrodt South Africa, to its Board of Directors.

    Explaining the background to his decision to serve on the GTT Board, Rowe said, “a.hartrodt is a strong company which is expanding on many fronts. On a worldwide basis we see significant synergies in becoming involved with a company like GTT because it has the potential to raise levels of competency across the supply chain in every area of the world in which a.hartrodt operates as well as those into which we will grow.

    “We function in an environment in which competition between different freight forwarding companies decreases in significance whilst the competitiveness of different supply chains plays an increasing role in distinguishing between the average and the exceptional. In such an environment cooperation between role players is key. GTT, with its strong freight forwarder shareholding, represents a valuable asset as industry’s partner for the future.”

    He said the opportunities which abound for freight forwarders all require enhanced levels of competency, not only in the traditional areas of moving cargo internationally but also in the end to end management of inventory.

    “In this context GTT’s industry intimacy and scope of understanding of the trends which are developing in the field of international logistics and supply chain management are formidable.

    “My primary role at GTT will be to harness the resources of our stakeholders so that GTT can become a profitable, sustainable entity through the diversification of its product offerings, its market penetration and its training delivery methodologies.”

    Pic of the day – CHARLOTTE BULKER

    The Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier CHARLOTTE BULKER (19,831-gt, built 2007) also in Lyttelton harbour, New Zealand. Picture by Alan Calvert

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