Ports & Ships Maritime News

Apr 9, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – CMA CGM IMPALA

  • Piracy – Maersk container ship latest to be taken as US Navy issues new warning

  • New gantry cranes arrive for Transnet on board Chinese heavylift ship

  • Possible GM bankruptcy will have minimal impact on South Africa

  • US Navy CNO in first ever visit to South Africa

  • Maputo border crossing times over Easter weekend

  • Pic of the day – HOANG SON SUN


    Please note that owing to the long Easter Weekend the next edition of this News Bulletin will be on Tuesday, 14 April. We wish all our readers a very peaceful and blessed long weekend.

    First View – CMA CGM IMPALA

    The container ship CMA CGM IMPALA (16,803-gt, built 1996) is a long-time caller at South African ports and interestingly, for a French ship, flies the flag of the United Kingdom. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Piracy – Maersk container ship latest to be taken as US Navy issues new warning

    Maersk Line advised yesterday that its US-flagged 1,100-TEU container ship MAERSK ALABAMA (14,120-gt, built 1998) had come under attack from Somali pirates at 05h00 UTC yesterday and was presumed to have been highjacked. This is the sixth ship to have been taken by pirates off Somalia this week.

    Maersk said the ship has a crew of 20 US nationals on board and is owned and operated by Maersk Line Ltd in the USA. The ship is deployed on Maersk Line’s East Africa service network and was en route to Mombasa when she came under attack approximately 500km off the Somali coast. “Our initial concern is to ensure proper support of the crew and assistance to their families,” the company said.

    According to news to hand shortly after the above report was published, PORTS & SHIPS has learned that the crew of the Maersk Alabama have managed to take back control of their vessel. Of the pirates who initially seized the container ship one remains on board in custody, the others having jumped overboard. There are no reports of injuries to the crew.

    In other pirate related news the identity of the German container ship attacked and seized in the Indian Ocean has been identified as the HANSA STAVANGER. See original report HERE. The ship is now reported as having been about 400 n.miles off the Kenyan, not Somali coast when seized, approximately between Kenya and the Seychelles.

    A European warship is believed to be shadowing the Hansa Stavanger, which has a crew of 24 on board. The vessel was en route from Jebel Ali to Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.

    In yet another attack on a ship off this coast one of Zim Navigation’s containerships same under attack but managed to out-manoeuvre the pirates and make an escape. The vessel was reported to be some 700km off the East African coast at the time. It is though the Israeli Navy had been notified and according to at least one report a British jet aircraft overflew the scene either during or shortly after the attack.

    As a result of the sudden spurt in pirate activity off the Somali and East African coast, the Combined Maritime Forces operating in the area has issued an updated maritime advisory.

    The message highlights several recent attacks that occurred hundreds of miles off the Somali coast and states that merchant mariners should be increasingly vigilant when operating in those waters.

    “We continue to highlight the importance of preparation by the merchant mariners and the maritime industry in this message,” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander, Combined Maritime Forces. “We synchronize the efforts of the naval forces deployed to the region. However as we have often stated, international naval forces alone will not be able to solve the problem of piracy at sea.

    “Piracy is a problem that starts ashore.”

    While the majority of attacks during 2008 and early 2009 took place in the Gulf of Aden, these recent attacks off the eastern coast of Somalia are not unprecedented. An attack on the large crude tanker Sirius Star in November 2008 occurred more than 450 nautical miles off the southeast coast of Somalia.

    The notice also reiterates the fact that despite an increased naval presence in the region, ships and aircraft are unlikely to be close enough to provide support to vessels under attack. The scope and magnitude of problem can not be understated.

    The area involved off the coast of Somalia and Kenya as well as the Gulf of Aden equals more than 1.1 million square miles (2.5 million square kilometers), roughly four times the size of Texas or the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined. The length of the Somali coastline is roughly the same length as the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

    Ships and aircraft of Combined Task Force 151, the European Union, NATO and a number of international navies continue to patrol the region, but the closest military ship could be days away from a merchant vessel sailing hundreds of miles off the coast. While maritime patrol aircraft from a number of nations fly counterpiracy missions, the same aircraft are also providing critical support to coalition forces operating throughout the region.

    Despite the recent successful attacks, merchant mariners have proven successes as first-line defenders against pirates. A number of merchant vessels have employed evasive manoeuvering and other defensive measures to protect their ships and their cargoes.

    Recent examples of proactive measures include the crew of Panamanian-flagged motor vessel Protector evasively out-manoeuvering pirates and repelling their would-be attackers with fire hoses; the crew of Motor Vessel Sea Green firing several warning flares at suspected pirates as they approached, successfully warding off an attack; and the merchant mariners aboard Motor Vessel Africa Star rigging barbed wire along the sides of the ship to prevent pirates from boarding.

    In all three examples, merchant mariners were able to prevent the theft of their vessels via methods they undertook to secure their ships and protect their crews.

    CTF 151 is a multinational task force that conducts counterpiracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.

    New gantry cranes arrive for Transnet on board Chinese heavylift ship

    When the ZHEN HUA No.23 (37,879-gt, built 1986) enters Durban harbour on Friday morning (10 April) she will be loaded with an unusual but much anticipated cargo. The vessel left Shanghai, China on 14 March 2009 and is visiting Durban to deliver two rail mounted gantry (RMG) cranes for the Pier 1 rail terminal.

    At 245 metres long with a beam of 40 metres, the vessel, which is purpose-built to transport such huge cranes, will provide an interesting new look to the Durban landscape during her four day berth at the port. The RMG cranes are being shipped to Durban already assembled by the Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC) and the vessel also carries four ship-to-shore (STS) cranes destined for Rotterdam and Hamburg on its next stops.

    “There has been extensive communication between ZPMC, Transnet Port Terminals and Transnet National Ports Authority to get permission for this vessel to enter our port,” says Les Biggs, Chief of Operations at Pier 1 container terminal.

    “There was reluctance at first to give the go-ahead for the vessel to berth in Durban. This stemmed from concerns around the beam of the vessel being 40 metres wide as well as the overhang of the deck cargo (STS cranes), which could impede the tug operations. Marker buoys in the channel will also have to be moved outward so as not to obstruct tug operations during the arrival and departure of the vessel,” says Biggs.

    The vessel will anchor at berth 107, however given its magnitude, cargo and structure some of the other berths may be affected.

    “Berths 105, 106 and 107 total a maximum length of 650 metres and as such due to the manoeuvring of the vessel during the offloading period no other vessels will be allowed to berth behind it,” he said.

    Once berthed the ZEN HUA No.23 is capable of submerging or raising itself so that the deck of the vessel is always level with the quayside, allowing for easier handling. The purpose-built ship also comes equipped with its own specialised gear to winch the cranes across onto the quayside.

    The two RMG cranes will be used at the new Pier 1 rail sliding to transfer containers from internal road truck onto rail wagon for import units, or the reverse for export container units.

    “Presently the train sets are offloaded with reach stackers, which is a slow process. The cranes can accommodate three train sets simultaneously and can travel the full length of the 850 metre terminal and load directly onto bathtub trailers, which are then taken direct to the container stacks. This will rapidly increase the turnaround of containers to and from the terminal,” says Biggs.

    The cranes, which are manufactured by ZMPC, arrive fully assembled. Following an anticipated six week commissioning process, starting 16 April, they are expected to be fully operational by the end of May.

    Possible GM bankruptcy will have minimal impact on South Africa

    Johannesburg (BuaNews) - The possible bankruptcy of General Motors in the United States will have minimal impact on GM South Africa (GMSA).

    President and Managing Director of GM South Africa and African operations Steve Koch said on Tuesday that GMSA generated its own cash and was responsible for its own viability.

    “We are responsible for funding our own operations and do not rely on any direct financial support from North America,” he said.

    Given the small overlap of product portfolios between GMSA, the North American market and the financial independence under which GMSA operated, there are few implications for the South African market.

    “Approximately 95 percent of GMSA's total sales were derived from markets outside North America,” explained Mr Koch.

    Customers could also be assured that GMSA would continue to honour its warranty and after-sales commitments. “South Africans need to worry as we will live up to our warranty,” he assured.

    While GMSA source many components for assembly from local suppliers, Mr Koch said the majority of Isuzu components are sourced from Japan and Thailand and Corsa Utility components from Brazil, while the Chevrolet products are imported from Korea and Australia.

    Each of these locations had their own design and engineering capabilities and operated independently from North America as well, he explained.

    Mr Koch further explained that they have continued investment in the distribution infrastructure.

    These include the recent inauguration of the new R150 million vehicle conversion and distribution centre, the recently announced additional investment in a new R220 million pan-African parts distribution centre at the Coega Industrial Development Zone scheduled to begin construction early next year.

    Local vehicle sales have dropped by more than a third this year despite interest rate cuts.

    The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA last week indicated that new vehicle sales dropped 30.3 percent year on year last month to 36,331, confirming the depressed and increasingly desperate state of the domestic vehicle market.

    Sales of vehicles exported from South Africa to the flailing US, Japanese and European markets, also continue to slump.

    Mr Koch said during the course of 2008, the company made significant changes in line with the deterioration in the vehicle sales. The company began a reorganisation of its business in May.

    “Unfortunately the market deterioration has continued into 2009 to the point where we have no other option but to contemplate forced retrenchments.”

    Last week GMSA indicated it would retrench 700 workers.

    Current job losses are estimated at more than 35,000 people in the automotive industry in South Africa.

    Meanwhile, government has tasked an auto industry task team to draft a strategy aimed at assisting the local industry. It is expected to present its proposals to Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa during the course of this month.

    Since 2005, General Motors in the United States has lost more than R800 billion and has been kept afloat by an emergency loan of R130 billion from the government.

    It has requested a further R160 billion from the US government. However chances of a government bailout of GM in the US have taken a knock after the White House determined that neither GM was viable and that its turnaround plan was vague.

    US Navy CNO in first ever visit to South Africa

    US Navy Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm Gary Roughead this week began the first CNO counterpart visit to South Africa with visits to the Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Adm Johannes Refiloe Mudimu and other military and political leadership both in Pretoria and at Simon’s Town.

    The objective of the meetings is to build coalition partnerships and discuss training and maritime security co-operation in the African region, according to a US Navy communiqué.

    Among those whom Adm Roughead met were the Deputy Minister of Defence Mr Fezile Bhengu, acting Secretary for Defence Mr Tsepe Motuni, and General Janse Van Rensburg, Chief, Corporate Staff at the Defence Headquarters in Pretoria.

    Adm Roughead also toured the South African Maritime Warfare School, the submarine SAS QUEEN MODJADJI (S103) and the frigate SAS SPIOENKOP (F147) at Simon’s Town Naval Base.

    He said he was excited to be in South Africa. “It’s a great honour to be here, and I’m privileged to visit South Africa and to be part of such an extraordinary event,” he said.

    In other US Navy related news, USS NASHVILLE is conducting a two-week port visit in Limbe, Cameroon as part of the ongoing Africa Partnerships Station (APS) initiative, during which the APS team is conducting engagements with Cameroon on shore and afloat.

    According to the US Navy, APS focuses on building co-operative partnerships with regional maritime services in order to achieve common international goals such as stability and security. APS brings an international team of maritime experts including elements from Africa, Europe and the Americas to offer assistance in addressing maritime safety and security challenges such as unlawful, unregulated and illegal fishing, piracy and trafficking.

    While in the port of Limbe USS Nashville will provide daily outreach projects, along with the delivery of medical, hygiene and school supplies to area clinics, schools and orphanages.

    USS Nashville has so far visited Senegal, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria on this current detachment and following the visit to Cameroon will visit Libreville and Port Gentil in Gabon. (source US Navy)

    Maputo border crossing times over Easter weekend

    Authorities manning the border crossing between South Africa and Mozambique at the Lebombo / Ressano Garcia Border Post have issued the following notification regarding crossing times at the Easter Weekend, which is courtesy of the Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI).

    The statement giving times and other information can be accessed HERE

    Pic of the day – HOANG SON SAN

    The Mongolian-flagged bulk ship HOANG SON SUN (13,881-gt, built 1984), formerly the Thai-owned and registered Fonarun Naree under which guise she made several calls at South African ports, was back in Cape Town last month. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Don’t forget to send us your news and press releases for inclusion in the News Bulletins. Shipping related pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – please email to info@ports.co.za

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