Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 5, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – AUTUMN WIND

  • Ngqura terminal in ship-shape condition for October launch

  • Bunker delays at Durban

  • News from the shipping lines

  • Inland port to be built near Harare

  • Piracy report – two ships taken

  • Pic of the day – CSAV RIO AYSEN


    First View – AUTUMN WIND

    Appropriately renamed with regards the season, although autumn winds are not generally known in Durban, the reefer ship AUTUMN WIND (13,077-gt, built 1993) is one of the first reefer vessels to call for citrus fruit in Durban at the start of the South African season. Previously named St Lucia under which name she made a number of calls in previous years, and prior to that the Geest St Lucia, the ship was in port at the weekend. Picture by Trevor Jones

    Ngqura terminal in ship-shape condition for October launch

    Ngqura, South Africa - With just five months to go before its commercial launch, the new Ngqura container terminal is a hive of activity, and Transnet Port Terminals’ Divisional Executive Manager for the Container Sector says all parties are gearing up to ensure it brings value to the maritime industry.

    “We are now obviously at a very critical stage in this project but have every reason to be highly confident, as we move closer to the experimental operations testing process planned for August and September, followed by our October go-live date,” said Siyabulela Mhlaluka.

    Mhlaluka said the majority of the terminal’s infrastructure was in place, final recruitment and training programmes had kicked into high gear and customer engagement was now at an advanced stage. Transnet has invested in excess of R10 billion to date to develop the facility as a high-performance terminal.

    “Our most significant progress - as far as world-class equipment is concerned - includes the assembly and commissioning of twelve rubber-tyred gantry cranes (RTGs) and four Megamax ship-to-shore cranes to date. Two additional ship-to-shores scheduled for delivery in May or June will complete the fleet of six such cranes, while the remainder of the 22 RTGs will be delivered as the programme progresses further,” he said.

    The commissioned cranes are currently being used in the terminal’s intensive Operators of Lifting Equipment (OLE) training programme, which has produced 42 RTG operators and 18 ship-to-shore operators since January.

    The 60 operators are now nearing the end of their rigorous training programme. This involves four weeks of classroom-based theoretical education, one week of simulation training via Transnet Port Terminals’ mobile advanced crane simulator and finally 12 weeks of practical application manoeuvring actual cranes and shipping containers.

    Mhlaluka said the importance of adhering to rigid safety procedures had been impressed upon operators from the commencement of their training, along with the obvious technical skills, trouble-shooting and the ability to operate equipment quickly and efficiently.

    “We are now entering the next wave of recruitment and appointments will continue to be made from within the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan area (Port Elizabeth). Upcoming appointments will include around 33 driver articulated vehicle operators, as well as cargo controllers, first line managers and supervisors, a SHEQ Manager, and support services and administration staff. We already have our core operations staff and 11 expert planners who will be responsible for vessel planning, berth planning, rail planning, traffic control and stack planning, ” said Mhlaluka.

    He said the terminal currently had in place a staff complement of just over 80, of which more than 90% were appointments drawn from the local region. This would be stepped up to 210 permanent employees by the time the terminal opens in October.

    Further equipment on order includes two rail-mounted gantry cranes (RMGs) currently en route from Shanghai, China, which will arrive in May or June of this year to serve the rail terminal and its Johannesburg to Ngqura rail corridor.

    Around half of the 1680 reefer plug points for refrigerated cargo were ready to be electrified and Mhlaluka said this would be sufficient to serve vessels in October. The balance of the reefer points would be made available in stages. Non-critical equipment such as the six reach stackers and empty container handlers are scheduled for arrival in June.

    Mhlaluka said the terminal would be implementing other high-tech systems including the web-based Navis SPARCS N4 terminal operating system, which Transnet recently introduced in a global first for port operators, running it from a central server across multiple marine and rail sites. Ngqura container terminal would also boast a fully automated gate system, similar to that introduced at Pier 1 container terminal in Durban last year.

    Transnet has already taken beneficial occupation of the main building cluster comprising mess and ablution facilities, which is due for handover in June. The temporary services workshop, including offices and mess rooms, has been occupied since January and would likely continue to be used even once the main hauler zone workshop was handed over in December of this year.

    The 60,000 hectare Ngqura container terminal will open with a capacity of 800,000 TEUs, but by its end state will boast a capacity of two million TEUs. The Port of Ngqura will be the only port in South Africa able to receive new generation vessels carrying between 8,000 and 9,000 TEUs with a draft of 16.5 metres.

    Bunker delays at Durban

    Delays in bunkering ships are beginning to build up at Durban as the two barge operators struggle to cope with an increasing number of ships seeking bunkers at the port.

    Durban no longer delivers bunkers by pipeline and all refueling is done by barge.

    Before the long weekend both Smit Amandla and Unical, the two barge operators were reporting 36-hour delays, with 14 and 13 ships to service respectively. The operators have also advised agents that they need to service cargo ships first (ships on berth working cargo) failing which the vessels stand to be chased off berth as soon as cargo working is complete and would then have to move to a laybye berth to take bunkers – a costly additional exercise for the shipping company involved.

    Agents were advised to keep bunker-only vessels outside the port until such time as the barges were on the berth loading for those vessels – this would require a close liaison between the agent and the barge operators to check whether barges were loading for their specific vessel and to plan accordingly.

    Ports & Ships is aware of several ships that have by-passed the port on account of the current delays in providing bunkers.

    News from the shipping lines

    AP Moller-Maersk has confirmed rumours that it is in discussion with several parties regarding the possibility of selling the European ferry company, Norfolkline.

    Norfolkline currently operates four Irish Sea routes, one cross-channel (English) service, two between the UK and Esbjerg in Denmark, and another two between the UK and Rotterdam. A new service is due to be launched on 18 May between Rosyth and Zeebrugge. Norfolkline operates with a fleet of 17 vessels.

    “There is no certainty as to whether these discussions will result in a transaction taking place,” the company said in a statement shortly after reports of the sale began surfacing. The stories doing the rounds initially included the name of French ferry company LD Lines as having expressed an interest in acquiring Norfolkline to expand LD Lines’ cross Channel services, although the French company has since launched its own cross-channel service from Dover to Boulogne and Dover to Dieppe. – source Journal of Commerce online

    Staying with AP Moller-Maersk, Maersk Board Chairman Michael Pram Rasmussen painted a dismal outlook for the container market for the remainder of 2009. Speaking during the company’s annual general meeting he said the global economic downturn was having a negative effect on most of AP Moller-Maersk’s business, with unprecedented decreases in container volumes in early 2009. Combining this with the introduction of new tonnage had led to a significant decrease in rates down to what he called an untenable level. Rasmussen said the tanker and offshore markets were also taking strain with falling demand which was affecting spot and contract rates. The chief executive of Maersk Line, Eivind Kolding told the meeting that Maersk Line planned to lay up 25 container ships into 2010 as a result in the drop in demand.

    Taking advantage of the tough times, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is reported as having fixed a significant number of container ships, including eight vessels of 8,411-TEU capacity and five of 5,000-TEU size at bargain rates for one year. The eight 8,400-TEU containerships are being chartered from German owner NRS with an option for a further year at the rate of just US $ 10,000 a day ($ 12,000 for the optional year). The ships are all newbuilds that would otherwise be going into immediate laybye for the owners, so it represents a small but useful return for them but a real bargain for MSC.

    Inland port to be built near Harare

    According to Harare’s government-controlled newspaper The Herald, Sunway City plans to establish an inland port along the main Harare-Mutare highway and railway line (to Beira) which will act as an inland port and regional cargo hub.

    The inland port, which is to be built in the 1,600 hectare Sunway City integrated park to handle container traffic en route to or from the Mozambique port of Beira, will also serve containers and other cargo for the ports of Maputo, Durban and Richards Bay.

    In addition the port will facilitate the handling of cargo arriving or leaving Zimbabwe by air, road and rail, with an emphasis on high-value low bulk cargo that is not otherwise containerised. The port will become a one-stop cargo centre for the consolidation of cargo, repackaging, rental space for long-term storage, wagon loading, customs clearance and brokerage.

    The Sunway integrated park incorporates a high-tech park, light industries, warehousing, office park, terrace factories and ancillary facilities.

    Piracy report – two ships taken

    Somali pirates attacked and captured two more ships at the weekend, it has been learned. The first vessel highjacked was a Greek ship which was followed shortly afterward with the seizing of a Ukrainian vessel. There is an element of confusion with these reports and neither case has been confirmed, but another report describes the Greek ship ARIANA as having been captured along with its Ukrainian crew, so the two may be one and the same.

    Either way, the Somali pirates themselves have revealed that the one ship is carrying a cargo of UN motor vehicles. One pirate reported by telephone that they had captured a Ukrainian ship carrying “industrial equipment, including white cars with the UN logo, our friends are on it,” he said. The ship was reported to be on its way to the town of Haradheere.

    The Portuguese frigate CORTE REAL which went to the aid of a tanker, the KITION on Friday later captured 19 Somali pirates after the latter had aborted their attack on the tanker. Pursuing the pirates back to their mother ship by helicopter, the Portuguese later boarded the mother ship (a fishing vessel) and discovered weapons including grenade launchers and explosives – the first time that explosives have entered the pirate story of Somalia. The pirates were later released by the Portuguese Navy.

    Pic of the day – CSAV RIO AYSEN

    The car carrier CSAV RIO AYSEN (46,800-gt, built 2007) in Durban with a delivery of motor vehicles. Picture by Trevor Jones

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