Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 6, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • Ship’s crew arrested for piracy and kidnapping outside Cape Town

  • Stalemate as Calabar terminal development is halted until port is dredged

  • Drill ship Discoverer Clear-Leader heads from Durban for Mexican Gulf

  • Somalia: Young mariners get up-close lesson in thwarting pirates

  • Plans reveal exciting Port Elizabeth waterfront prospect

  • Pic of the day – CSCL SANTIAGO



    The drill ship DISCOVERER CLEAR-LEADER, which lay outside Durban harbour for the past ten days, finally sailed for the Mexican Gulf this week. Details of the ship and her visit are below. This picture by Kevin Moore/Rennies Ships Agency

    Ship’s crew arrested for piracy and kidnapping outside Cape Town

    Cape Town, 5 May - In the early hours of yesterday morning, Tuesday 5 May 2009, members of the police elite Special Task Force boarded a Taiwanese fishing vessel outside the Table Bay harbour and arrested crew members who were holding the vessel’s captain and first officer hostage.

    The rescue drama started unfolding yesterday at 15h00 when the South African Police Service (SAPS) was alerted to the fact that conflict on board the fishing vessel BALENA had resulted in ten of the 29 crew members taking the captain and first officer hostage and commandeering the vessel. Information received indicated that the mutineers demanded that the vessel enter Table Bay harbour.

    A task team consisting of the SAPS Special Task Force, Western Cape Legal Services, Organised Crime Unit, Dog Unit, Port of Entry Unit and hostage negotiators, as well as the National Ports Authorities and the Department of Home Affairs, was assembled and the vessel which at the time was in international waters was authorised to enter South African waters.

    At 05h30 this morning (Tuesday) members of the Special Task Force boarded the hijacked vessel, freed the hostages and took the crew into custody. The Special Task Force team made up of highly skilled and trained members from the Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban units was dispatched by aircraft from Pretoria to deal with the hostage situation. The Special Task Force is specifically trained to deal with high risk situations, including hostage taking, on land, sea or air.

    The vessel was boarded before it entered Table Bay harbour and the crew offered no resistance. No force was necessary to affect the arrests.

    At these stage ten crew members all Vietnamese are being held in custody facing charges relating to kidnapping and alternatively piracy (which involves any act of illegal violence or detention on the high seas). The other 19 crew members on board played no part in the hijacking of the vessel and have not been detained.

    The captain of the vessel was unharmed while the first officer sustained injuries during an assault during the hijacking and was treated by paramedics.

    The Acting National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, Commissioner Tim Williams commended all police units involved for their professionalism. “This proves that the SAPS have the capacity and skills to deal with any security related situation effectively,” he said.

    “A special word of thanks to the Special Task Force, the Western Cape SAPS provincial team for the excellent coordination of this exercise and to the Marine and Coastal Management, National Ports Authority and immigration officials from the Department of Home Affairs whose cooperation was essential,” he added.

    Stalemate as Calabar terminal development is halted until port is dredged

    Work on the ECM Terminal at the Port of Calabar in Nigeria has come to a stop until the Federal Government agrees to continue with dredging.

    A spokesman for ECM Terminals which was awarded the concession to develop and operate the container terminal at Calabar confirmed that the Tinapa Business Resort in Calabar will remain uncompleted until such time as the Federal Government agrees to proceed with dredging the approaches to the port.

    Calabar is built on the Cross River in the extreme east of Nigeria, close to the Cameroon border and is dependent on dredging to maintain access to the port, some 83kms from the open sea.

    Managing Director of ECM Terminals Kingsley Iheanacho said his company had already invested US$4 million in the terminal project since gaining the concession in August 2007. However further development was dependent on having the sea and approaches dredged to provide shipping access to Calabar.

    Without this happening he said the whole purpose of the concessioning of Calabar was wasted, as businesses were again being forced to rely on Lagos and Onne ports for their operations.

    Instead more than 80% of Calabar port lay dormant. “The bright idea of government will come to nothing unless government Calabar port is dredged and made functional,” he said.

    Drill ship Discoverer Clear-Leader heads from Durban for Mexican Gulf

    A ship that has been attracting much attention from people living in Durban, especially at nighttime when her bright lights have dominated the horizon off the Bluff, has finally sailed for the Gulf of Mexico.

    She is the ultra deepwater drill ship DISCOVERER CLEAR-LEADER, owned and operated by Transocean Inc of Houston, Texas and under charter for five years to Chevron to drill in the Mexican Gulf. The ship arrived off Durban on her maiden voyage from the shipyards of Daewoo Shipbuilding Marine Engineering (DSME) in Okpo, South Korea, as the prototype vessel of a new range of improved Enterprise class drill ships. A total of five vessels have been ordered from Daewoo with at least two due for completion later this year. Discoverer Clear-Leader, the first in the series cost in the region of US$670 million to complete.

    The ship is able to operate in waters up to 12,000 ft deep (about 3,500m) and can drill 40,000ft (over 12,000m) into the earth’s surface. To enable her to find and hold her position over the ocean bed the ship makes use of a sophisticated dynamic positioning system and powerful Azimuth thrusters. Discoverer Clear-Leader has a draught of 20m which is what made it impossible for her to enter Durban harbour, or any other South African port for that matter.

    She stopped off Durban to enable a crew change – some 250 people getting on or off, while also undertaking some minor adjustments and maintenance in a safe anchorage position. Durban was chosen as being roughly halfway between South Korea and the Mexican Gulf and also for the good weather and sea conditions expected at this time. In addition the port city has all the facilities and services required by the ship’s operators, including being able to send crew on a visit to a game reserve while waiting for their ship.

    All liaison while off Durban was undertaken for Transocean by the Durban office of ships agents Rennies Ships Agency.

    Transocean Inc is the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor and operates a fleet of about 90 offshore drilling units. Some of these are earlier versions of the Clear-Leader or different types of drill ship, others are the more familiar jack-up drill rigs and semi-submersibles, while others, according to Transocean’s rig manager Dan Haslam, include pontoon supported swamp barge drilling rigs for use in swamp and river systems with waters a mere 6m deep but where the rig can drill down almost five kilometres.

    The next drill ships in the enhanced Enterprise class will be named DISCOVERER AMERICAS, DISCOVERER INSPIRATION, DISCOVERER LUANDA and DISCOVERER INDIA.

    Somalia: Young mariners get up-close lesson in thwarting pirates

    By Matt Herrick (America.gov)

    Buzzards Bay, 4 May 2009 — In the 100 years the Massachusetts Maritime Academy has taught mariners to crew merchant ships, not once had pirates hijacked a US-flagged vessel. Never had weapon-wielding sea bandits kidnapped an American captain. The students' anti-piracy training seemed abstract, until Somali raiders boarded the Maersk Alabama on 8 April.

    Suddenly, the students had context. It wasn't only that two crewmembers of the Alabama were graduates, but also that the incident reinforced their learning.

    "With the US responding the way we did, it can show the international community that we're not going to give in to piracy and we can deal with it in a different way than just giving them the money," said 22-year-old senior cadet Kyle Ingersoll, one of 18 students attending Captain Joseph Murphy's security course on a recent Thursday morning.

    Balding and tanned, bearded and broad, Murphy is an old salt, a Boston-bred seaman with 40 years experience on ships as large as oil tankers and as small as lobster boats. Two decades ago he brought his love of seafaring to this academy of 1,100 students on a rocky peninsula sandwiched between Butler Cove and Cape Cod Canal. Mass Maritime -- as it is known -- offers several undergraduate programs, and Murphy teaches in the marine transportation department. He also happens to be the father of 34-year-old Shane Murphy, a 2001 graduate and a crewmember on the Alabama. It was Shane who recently skippered the ship to safety in Kenya.

    The elder Murphy's students met Shane, who came to a class to talk about piracy. Murphy often brings experienced mariners into the classroom to "translate the theoretical into the practical." But Shane's visit was noteworthy, considering the course's focus on security and anti-piracy. "It happened to someone they know. That brings it home," Murphy said.

    Murphy's course for fourth-year cadets covers how to compose a security plan for a ship, crew and cargo; how to plan travel routes that minimize interactions with pirates; how to use speed and evasive maneuvers to avoid small craft; and what to do if taken hostage.

    Combating piracy, not the sole focus of the course, has gained significance as acts of piracy grow. In 2008, in the Gulf of Aden area off of Somalia, incidents more than doubled, according to the International Chamber of Commerce. The ICC reports 293 pirate attacks worldwide on many countries' ships and more than 900 hostages taken in 2008. Today, some mariners from other countries remain hostages.

    "We had none of this kind of training when I was starting out," Murphy said. "When I started going to sea ... [pirates] would come on board, steal whatever they could on deck and be gone. Now, they come on board, they grab the ship, the cargo and the crew, and they hold them for ransom."

    Shane Murphy reunited with his wife, Sarena, at an Air Force base on 16 April, before speaking to his father's students about piracy.

    Historically, merchant mariners have worked for private shipping companies in times of peace and have acted as an auxiliary unit of the US Navy in times of war. Last year, Mass Maritime began offering a marksmanship course to prepare students whose future employers may require them to carry firearms.

    On this morning Murphy's class is tackling the intricacies of international maritime law and the State Department's role in securing international agreements to combat piracy. A female cadet breaks Murphy's lecture with a question.

    "Why is there any question about whether or not we can prosecute the pirate?" she asks, referring to Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, the Somali pirate who survived by surrendering to the US Navy.

    Murphy surveys the class and then his voice booms forth. "This is an occurrence on the high seas, right?"

    The cadets nod.

    "Legally speaking, that is an issue that is dealt with by international convention. But believe me," he says parenthetically, "this individual was involved in the incident. I have pretty good sources."

    Outside, the sun slices through gray morning drizzle and hits the 540-foot (164-metre) training ship, the Kennedy, that gives cadets their first extended experience on the high seas. The Kennedy steams out as much as 14,000 miles (22,400 kilometers) and back on a one-semester journey. Hanging on the Kennedy are lifeboats, similar to the one in which four pirates held Capt Richard Phillips, skipper of the Alabama, before one surrendered and the other three were killed.

    Rear Admiral Richard G Gurnon, president of Mass Maritime, said cadets make a transformation from individualistic young adults to team-oriented leaders aboard the Kennedy. When informed that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts questioned the prudence of sending young men and women with less than a year's training and sometimes little time at sea out to protect valuable merchant ships, Gurnon didn't hesitate to respond: "The success of any operation depends on the training of the people and the leadership that's involved, not the age or the experience of the players."

    Captain Murphy said that once his son's safety was assured, his thoughts went to Phillips aboard the lifeboat. He thought about the training and leadership Phillips would have acquired, and he felt convinced Phillips would make it.

    "All the things we saw in Rich Phillips -- courage, dedication, respect, duty, honor -- they're all things he learned right across there, in the dormitories. It's the regimen here," he said.

    Plans reveal exciting Port Elizabeth waterfront prospect

    Plans to develop an international waterfront at the Port Elizabeth harbour came a step closer this week with the disclosure that Adrian Gardiner, the man who founded world-famous Shamwari Game Reserve and placed the Eastern Cape on the international tourist map, will be developing a R380 million boutique hotel on the site.

    Gardiner’s hotel rides with one of the bidders, Embo, being successful in gaining Port Elizabeth’s only casino licence.

    The proposed hotel, along the lines of the Cape Grace Hotel in the Cape Town V&A Waterfront, has the potential of taking Port Elizabeth into the forefront of tourism in South Africa as one of its premier destinations, Gardiner says. He claimed the present accommodation in the city chases away visitors – “We need to develop a worthy product to become a top destination,” he is reported as saying.

    The R1.8 billion waterfront project proposed by Embo would make use of 18,000m˛ of mainly disused land on the Humewood side of the harbour close to the Algoa Bay Yacht Club. While the waterfront will be centred around a casino it will also feature other attractions including tourism-related retail shops, a cruise ship terminal, an ice skating rink, an Imax cinema, restaurants, and a new station for the Apple Express steam train. The waterfont complex would be linked with the Shamwari Park, which is now owned and operated by Dubai World.

    A second consortia bidding for the project, Emfuleni says it plans a R175 million 5-star hotel complex and international conference centre.

    Meetings are to be held with Transnet this month to take the projects further, while adjudication for the awarding of the casino licence is expected in August.

    Pic of the day – CSCL SANTIAGO

    The container ship CSCL SANTIAGO (26,404-gt, built 2008) sails from Durban harbour after completing her cargo working at the recent weekend at the Pier 1 Container Terminal. Picture by Trevor Jones

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