Ports & Ships Maritime News

June 1, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – SUN PRINCESS

  • Mozambique sugar company warns that rail tariffs must be ‘reasonable’

  • PINE TRADER UPDATE – ship enters Cape Town harbour

  • Somalia: Nation 'taken hostage' by continuing fighting, says UN envoy

  • Trade news – Premier Fishing goes angling aggressively

  • International shipping: Lines form Heavy Lift Club

  • Pics of the day – MSC LORENA


    First View – SUN PRINCESS

    The cruise liner Sun Princess made her maiden call at a South Africa port on her current round cruise from Australia when she arrived in Richards Bay on 28 May 2009. Guests were whisked off to the various attractions around Zululand for the day before Sun Princess sailed for Cape Town at 17h00. The ship is due in Durban on Thursday 4 June. Picture by East Coast Safaris.

    Mozambique sugar company warns that rail tariffs must be ‘reasonable’

    A sugar producer in the central Mozambique has warned that it would be wrong to assume that the company will automatically revert to using the rail to get its sugar production to the port of Beira. It says that rail tariffs have to be considered to be fair and reasonable.

    The Sena Sugar Company, which operates a mill at Marromeu on the southern bank of the Zambezi River and is at the end of a rail spur branch line from the main line at Inhamitanga, has continued to use road transport to take its sugar production to Beira despite the rail link having recently opened. The company also makes use of barges on the river.

    It accuses the Beira Railroad Company (CCFB) of proposing unreasonable tariffs for the cartage of sugar and says it will only consider switching to rail if a competitive rate is set. Neither CCFB nor the Sena Sugar Company have disclosed the tariffs under discussion although a spokesman for the sugar company said he remained optimistic about the outcome of negotiations.

    In colonial days Sena Sugar Company, then owned by UK-interests, operated one of the largest – possibly the biggest – sugar cane railways not only in all of Mozambique but southern Africa as well. The sugar company operated a 60cm (2ft) gauge cane or plantation railway in addition to the 3ft gauge ‘main line’ which ran from the sugar mill at Marromeu to the CFM mainline at a place called Caia, on the southern bank of the Zambezi further upstream. Sena boasted a fleet of 11 ‘main line’ or 3ft gauge locomotives to haul the sugar to the CFM connection – most of them being steam locomotives although at least one diesel locomotive was later introduced. This main line paralleled close to the southern bank of the Zambezi River all the way to Caia while the 2ft gauge cane railway system operated on the north and south banks of the river with something like 25 steam locomotives in their heyday.

    Among the narrow gauge 2ft steam locomotives in service right up into the 1970s were 14 former German World War I ‘Feldbahn’ 0-8-0Ts sidetank wood-burning locos produced for the 1914-1918 war effort in Europe! How they found their way to a far off east African canefield is a story in itself.

    A ‘new’ branch line to Marromeu was built by CFM, the national railway company, from the junction at Inhamitanga and reached the sugar mill at Marromeu in late 1969 or possibly 1970, after which the 3ft track to Caia was abandoned. It is this branch line that has recently been rehabilitated after falling into disuse (and being subject to some sabotage) during the civil war.

    PINE TRADER UPDATE – ship enters Cape Town harbour

    The disabled bulk carrier PINE TRADER (18,322-gt, built 1979) entered Cape Town harbour on Saturday (30 May) under tow behind the salvage tug SMIT AMANDLA, seeking temporary shelter from adverse weather and rough seas.

    Permission had been granted for the vessel to be taken to Saldanha Bay to have her cargo discharged but rough sea conditions prevented entry into that harbour. Both the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and SMIT Salvage considered it important that the ship be not subjected to the continuous effect of adverse weather and rough seas that had been predicted for the following 48 hours hence the decision to seek shelter in Cape Town harbour instead.

    The bulker is carrying a cargo of bagged rice for Abidjan.

    These options became possible after salvors from SMIT Salvage contained the water leakage in the engine room and made temporary repairs to the damaged plating. The structural integrity of the ship is however continuing to be monitored and further inspections were due to take place yesterday (Sunday) while the ship’s towing connections would also be reinforced. Towage of the vessel to Abidjan is also being considered as a possibility.

    Somalia: Nation 'taken hostage' by continuing fighting, says UN envoy

    New York, 29 May 2009 - Somalia has been “taken hostage” by fighting, the top United Nations envoy to the Horn of Africa nation, whose capital has been the scene of clashes between Government forces and opposition militias, said today.

    Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, told a news conference in New York that he had visited the country this week, noting that “it is very sad to see how the city, the population and the country are taken hostage by those who have been fighting and destroying their country over the last 20 years.”

    Mr Ould-Abdallah, who is based in Nairobi, said he had spoken with Government leaders about the latest developments there, including the breakout earlier this month of intense fighting between Government troops and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups.

    He said up to 75,000 persons, who had fled the country and returned earlier this year, had fled again because of the renewed fighting.

    “It is very sad to see a capital city I have known in the 80's becoming a shanty town,” the Special Representative said.

    Mr Ould-Abdallah told the reporters, “I appeal to you...to talk about the plight of Somalia - how many orphans, how many handicapped how many maimed, how many people are silenced.”

    “We cannot say we don't know,” he said. “We should look we should not look the other way.”

    When asked about reports of Ethiopian troops returning to Somalia, the official said they had all withdrawn and that there were no Ethiopian troops in Somalia.

    “Unfortunately, Somalis are still fighting and killing Somalis,” he said. “Somalia is an unfortunate country taken hostage by...those who are still fighting.”

    Instead of evoking an alibi of the alleged presence of Ethiopian troops, he said they should “assume responsibility” for what is going on in their country.

    “One overriding problem in Somalia not often reported or talked about is still there. It is the problem of impunity,” Mr Ould-Abdallah said.

    “People who have killed, displaced, maimed are still around in Somalia, or in Nairobi, or in their new country home,” he added. “Impunity to me is a very overriding issue to be addressed.”

    Regarding the issue of piracy off the Somali coast, he said he believes the international maritime presence is increasingly successful, forcing pirates further out to sea and increasing their operating expenses to the point that they are greater than ransoms.

    Meanwhile, Australia has become the latest nation to send a warship to assist commercial shipping through the troubled Somali and Gulf of Aden waters. HMAS WARRAMUNGA (F152), an Anzac class frigate displacing 3,600 tons is already in the area and on patrol, along with an Australian surveillance aircraft.

    “We believe its part of Australia putting its shoulder to the wheel, together with our friends, our partners, our allies to make a material difference to security in the region,” Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said when announcing the deployment.

    In South Africa the government has still given no indication of its intentions or otherwise of providing naval support for commercial shipping sailing close to the Horn of Africa. This is despite a significant number of ships that have sailed to or from South African ports which have come under attack by the pirates. The South African government has remained silent on this issue, other than on one occasion when it rebuked the South African Navy for suggesting that SAN ships might be sent to assist with the sea patrols.

    Trade news – Premier Fishing goes angling aggressively

    The hunted, it seems, has become the hunter, says the Cape Business News (CBN) in an article about Premier Fishing’s determination to ‘aggressively grow’ its business through acquisitions and partnerships.

    CBN’s article continues: Premier Fishing, which is controlled by empowerment group Sekunjalo, has over the last three years been regarded as bait for one of the other three big fishing companies – Oceana, Irvin & Johnson and Sea Harvest.

    Some have even speculated that Brian Joffe’s Bidvest – which has a growing fishing division – could be a possible suitor for Premier.

    What might have also fuelled speculation that Premier was readying itself for sale were rumours – that may have emanated from union sources or rival fishing concerns – that the company was perhaps looking to take a more passive role in the fishing sector.

    This would have entailed Premier taking the role as a quota holder rather than a fishing enterprise by ‘farming out’ for a fee its quotas to other operators.

    CBN has correspondence sent to COSATU’s fishing desk which suggests that Sekunjalo is in the process of transferring its West Coast Rock Lobster Division to Oceana and that Premier’s South Coast Rock Lobster Division’s quota outsourced to the Ruwekus Group or the Lusitania Group.

    Sekunjalo has denied vehemently that this is the plan for Premier – which comprises by far the biggest segment of the empowerment company’s value and represents its biggest profit earner.

    It seems quite the opposite is unfolding at Premier, which has gone on the record with its determination to ‘aggressively grow’ its business by looking at acquisitions and joint venture partnerships.

    From what CBN understands, Premier has been talking to the Silverman family (who also used to be well known in the fruit exporting industry via WB Holdings) around taking a significant stake in West Point Fishing.

    Neither Sekunjalo nor Premier has made official comment on such a deal. But Premier probably can afford to make a few bolt-on acquisitions, which would ultimately broaden its sphere of operations away from its traditional strength in south and west coast lobster.

    The other possible deal that has long been doing the rounds is that Premier may look at buying seafood processing, storage and distribution company Lusitania Food Products from King Consolidated Holdings. Lusitania has a troubled history, and has not managed profits for the last few years.

    But perhaps a well priced bid would allow Premier to profitably reorganise Lusitania into its food chain with an eye on brand building.

    One suspects, though, that Premier could be much more successful in wooing any number of smaller quota holders into its net – especially in tighter trading conditions where a financially muscular partner can afford to keep operations afloat.

    If Premier – which is part of a genuinely empowered corporate entity – can successfully snag a few smaller quota deals the company may become a ‘default option’ for smaller fishing concerns. Buying into smaller businesses/quota holders gradually would allow Premier to easily assimilate new ventures without the risk of serious indigestion. Interestingly, Sekunjalo built a highly profitable technology division by following a similar ‘low risk’ tack…

    A steady bulking up of Premier will also give Sekunjalo the option (when investment conditions improve) of listing the fishing company on the JSE – an exercise that could raise fresh funding by issuing new shares to investors.

    The talk around Sekunjalo is that Premier’s profits could be doubled by the 2010 financial year.

    Last year Premier managed about R35 million in profits, an achievement that the company is unlikely to repeat this financial year as export markets for lobster were probably adversely affected by the global financial meltdown. It seems that Premier’s south coast lobster business – which exports to the US – has taken some strain.

    But there has been a strong commitment by Sekunjalo (and this is why trade unions are looking a tad edgy) to take out costs in the business. The suggestion is that Sekunjalo wants Premier to deliver between R80 million to R90 million in profits in 2011 – a performance that would justify long standing notions that Premier is really worth around R750 million to R800 million.

    Over and above that valuation is the investment Premier has made in aquaculture – a side line business that perhaps should not be under-estimated in the long term. Aquaculture, of course, could be an area where Premier can secure a few more acquisitions and build production capacity in abalone. – source www.cbn.co.za

    International shipping: Lines form Heavy Lift Club

    Ocean carriers involved in the international transport of project and heavy lift cargo met last week to form the International Council of Heavy Lift and Project Cargo Carriers, or Heavy Lift Club as they will be known.

    The meeting took place ahead of the Breakbulk Europe Conference held in Antwerp. Jan Steffens from Rickmers-Linie is the elected chairman of the group.

    “Heavy Lift and project cargo carriers are crucial to world infrastructure, which affects everyone,” he said afterwards. “The work of heavy lift and project cargo carriers is not only important, it is specialised. There are technical, operational and safety considerations in the heavy lift and project cargo sector and important challenges, which are not always considered or understood. The Heavy Lift Club provides a forum for exchanging ideas on industry matters that are of interest and concern to heavy lift and project carriers.”

    Membership of the Heavy Lift Club will be open to ocean carriers whose business if usually that of the transport of heavy lift and project cargoes by means of long-term fleets of self-sustained heavylift ships. A non-rate discussion agreement is pending with the Federal Maritime Commission.

    The following carriers applied for membership:
    Australia Asia Line;
    BigLift Shipping BV;
    Beluga Chartering Gmbh;
    BBC Chartering & Logistic GmbH & Co KG;
    Clipper Projects A/S;
    Hyundai Merchant Marine;
    Intermarine, LLC, representing Industrial Maritime Carriers, LLC;
    K/S Combi Lift; Nordana;
    Rickmers-Linie GmbH & Cie KG;
    and Universal Africa Lines Ltd.

    The Club can be contacted via the Chairman, Jan Steffens, email

    Pics of the day – MSC LORENA

    Two views of the container ship MSC LORENA (50.963-gt, built 2006) on arrival in Durban at the weekend. As the photographer commented, this is quite a difficult ship to photograph in a way that reveals the stack colours. Pictures by Trevor Jones

    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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