Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jun 2, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – MAERSK BULAN

  • Durban municipal council agrees to look into Cato Ridge dry port idea

  • Industry support for Cato Ridge dry port – Mercury article

  • US and SACU to negotiate bilateral trade agreement

  • High seas and storms keep fishing fleet at home

  • Ugandan private sector asks govt to fast track Dar es Salaam railway route

  • Pic of the day – MKHUZE


    First View – MAERSK BULAN

    The handsome looking container ship MAERSK BULAN (35,835-gt, built 2008) was a recent caller at Durban, where Trevor Jones took the picture.

    Durban municipal council agrees to look into Cato Ridge dry port idea

    The eThekwini Council (Durban) is to investigate the merits of recommending to the national and provincial governments that an inland container dry port be constructed at Cato Ridge.

    This follows its acceptance of a notice of motion by Bluff ward councillor Duncan du Bois at a meeting of the full Council held last week (28 May).

    In motivating his motion Cllr Du Bois made the following observations:

    1] Container truck traffic to the port of Durban is growing at a rate of some 14% per annum;

    2] All of this traffic is currently destined to travel through the South Durban Basin to reach the container wharfs;

    3] The impact of this proliferation in traffic has resulted in congestion on local roads which were not designed to carry such traffic volumes;

    4] Damage to infrastructure in terms of road surfaces, stormwater drains, crash barriers, sidewalks is escalating across the South Durban Basin putting great pressure on municipal maintenance departments and on the eThekwini budget;

    5] The only way to remedy the situation is for alternative means of moving container cargoes to be established;

    6] The Cutler Community Liaison Forum representing the stakeholders of the Island View petro-chemical complex has come out in support of the establishment of a dry port container depot at Cato Ridge from where container traffic can be railed in and out of the port of Durban. On 27 March the Forum sent letters to the then ministers of Public Enterprises and Transport urging support for the idea (see next article);

    7] The (Durban) mayor, Councillor Obed Mlaba, is on record as supporting the idea of a dry port at Cato Ridge - (see: The Mercury, 19 March 2007).

    The Executive Committee is to investigate the feasibility of the dry port idea and to report back to the Council on its findings.

    Now read the related article Plans for new inland container park unveiled HERE, and the following article which first appeared in The Mercury of 15 April 2009.

    Industry support for Cato Ridge dry port – Mercury article

    The following report by Terry Hutson appeared in the Mercury newspaper’s Network business supplement of 15 April 2009

    Support for the development of a dry port, or inland container terminal to relieve the pressure on overloaded (in more senses than one) roads leading to the port of Durban, has received a welcome boost from stakeholders within the Island View petro-chemical tank farm on the Bluff.

    The petro-chemical tank farm lies within the harbour itself where a considerable volume of liquid and dry bulk cargo is handled. By its nature the tank farm, known collectively as the Cutler Complex, contributes greatly to the road traffic congestion surrounding the port, and has a vested interest in exploring ways of diverting road traffic away from Bayhead Road and other streets leading to the area.

    Now the Cutler Community Liaison Forum, which represents stakeholders within the complex, has thrown its weight behind proposals for the construction of a dry port at Cato Ridge which it sees as a meaningful solution to the proliferation of container truck traffic in the Durban South area.

    In March the Forum delivered a submission to the ministers of Public Enterprises and Transport respectively, arguing that port expansion of the container handling facilities should go hand in hand with the construction of a dry port and its corollary, increased rail traffic.

    “It is most heartening to receive this kind of endorsement. It elevates the interests of Bluff and Clairwood residents to levels where they belong by right and, hopefully, proves instrumental in goading the three tiers of government into addressing the issue decisively,” said eThekwini Municipality ward councillor Cllr Duncan Du Bois, who has been promoting the idea of the dry port and attempting to get eThekwini Municipality to support it. He said the support of the Community Liaison Forum added tangible momentum to the process needed to make the project a reality.

    According to du Bois the merits of a dry port at Cato Ridge include a drastic reduction of container truck traffic on roads within the Metro; an easing of traffic congestion and an improvement in road safety as a result; a drastic reduction in the extent to which roads and road infrastructure is being damaged and destroyed by container truck traffic; improved utilisation of the railway network as envisaged by Transnet; and stimulation of job creation and poverty alleviation in the Cato Ridge area.

    Proposals for a dry port at Cato Ridge are not new. About 10 years ago Dr Mickey Chasomeris, then an honours student in economics at the University of KwaZulu Natal undertook an extensive cost-effective study of a dry port at Cato Ridge, suggesting that road vehicles carrying containers from inland would discharge their cargo of containers at the dry port, from where it would be placed in selected stacks until ready for shipment. Final delivery to the container terminal would be made by use of special shuttle trains running a dedicated service directly into the port’s terminals.

    Not only would such a dry port provide a transhipment terminal outside the city area but it would also become a significant development instigator for job creation and employment. In addition to handling the transhipment of containers, new facilities for storage and consolidation of cargo would evolve, as well as maintenance centres for road and possibly rail vehicles as well as a number of other ancillary services including Customs inspection and clearance.

    The benefits of this proposal are many and include removing a huge number of heavy trucks from Durban’s roads – probably 60 percent of containers handled at the port go inland and over 90 percent of these are currently delivered by road. In 2008 Durban handled a total of 2.56 million TEUs (twenty foot container equivalents) – readers can do the math and make an estimate of how many road truck deliveries through Durban this required (maximum three TEU per truck, average probably 2.5).

    On the other hand Cato Ridge is close enough to Durban, and is ideally situated for the Pinetown, Hammarsdale and Pietermaritzburg industrial triangle that the dry port could be utilised for all containers arriving and leaving the port, not just for inland destinations. Thus container road traffic into the port would be cut to almost nil.

    Other than those detailed above, another main benefit is that a Cato Ridge dry port would postpone the need for urgent container terminal expansion at Durban. Dry ports have the same administrative, customs and cargo receiving and clearing functions as a seaport. There is therefore no need for containers arriving by sea to be delayed in the port – they could be dispatched directly from the ship onto waiting shuttle trains for delivery to the dry port. Pre-stacking of containers waiting for a ship’s arrival could also be relocated to Cato Ridge, thus the large areas of the existing port terminals would be considerably freed up. With the modern infrastructure recently installed at Durban’s two container terminals this would mean that the port would be ideally placed to continue operating as South Africa’s premier port city and container hub but minus any congestion. Thus the shipping lines and cargo owners would benefit.

    There are a number of examples of dry ports operating around the world that provide relief for adjacent ports in much the way that the proposed Cato Ridge terminal would do. Construction of a dry port would be considerably less that for a new seaport terminal. There is also ample evidence that dry ports help contain and even reduce transport costs, an important factor in Africa where the cost of transporting goods and services are far above the world average.

    US and SACU to negotiate bilateral trade agreement

    According to the Journal of Commerce Online the US and the five member states of the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) have decided to negotiate a bilateral investment and trade cooperation agreement in place of the more comprehensive free trade agreement that the two parties began to negotiate in 2003.

    “It was found that there were different approaches to new issues such as government procurement and trade in services between SACU and the US government,” Tswelopele Moremi, executive secretary of SACU told media. “It was a collective decision taken by the US government and SACU member states.”

    The five member states of SACU are Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.

    In May, the Obama administration announced that it would not revive the free-trade talks with SACU that were suspended in 2006 because of disagreements about the potential scope of the agreement.

    Since 2000, the SACU countries have benefited under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), an initiative first enacted by the Clinton administration. AGOA enables clothing and selected textile products from southern African countries to enter the US market duty-free. source JOC online

    Meanwhile, in a related matter Namibia’s Trade and Industry Minister Hage Geingob says the European Union should stop trying to bully his country into signing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

    “We’ll sign when it is right – it’s not that we don’t want to sign,” he said, explaining that Namibia wants the EU to amend the EPA to include changes with a variety of issues, including export taxes, infant industry protection, food security and the free movement of goods, along with issues around the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause and other definitions.

    The MFN requires Namibia to extend the same benefits it offers its major trade partners like Brazil, India and China to all countries within the EU.

    “But the EU doesn’t want to hear the word ‘amend’,” Geingob said, using the excuse that the text had already been translated into many languages and any further alterations amounted to too much work.

    “That’s a lame excuse, we’re not asking for too much,” he said, adding that when Namibia asked for the changes to be included in an annexed declaration to the existing interim EPA, the EU again refused.

    He accused the EU of having arbitrarily set a date for the SADC-EPA trade configuration to sign the interim agreement in Brussels on 7 May this year, without consulting with the SADC members. “A partnership means that all partners are equal, why else include the word partnership in the EPA? It also means transparency,” he said

    The planned signing on 7 May was eventually postponed.

    Geingob said that while Namibia might be a small country in terms of its farming community, the EU mustn’t try to ‘bulldoze’ it.

    “Don’t do things that divide us within SACU,” he warned the EU.

    High seas and storms keep fishing fleet at home

    Warnings of gale winds and high seas resulted in fishing vessels along the Eastern and southern Cape coast to remain largely in port, with only a few venturing outside over the weekend.

    In the southern Cape fishing boats were reported to have taken shelter in the bay formed behind the massive Robberg peninsular, waiting out the storm at sea slightly to the west of Plettenberg Bay.

    Various National Sea Rescue Stations along the southern Cape coast reported a quiet weekend as fishing boats and pleasure craft remained in the safety of the many small harbours along that section of coast.

    Further east and north the weather along the KwaZulu Natal and Wild Coast region of the Eastern Cape was rather mild and balmy with little or no disruption to shipping reported. The number of ships outside Durban harbour remains on the high side – there were 16 yesterday morning but during the past week up to 20 and more was common. The number of ships is not connected to adverse weather however.

    Ugandan private sector asks govt to fast track Dar es Salaam railway route

    Uganda’s Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) has asked the government to fast track the development of a new rail route from the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam to Mwanza on the southern shore of Lake Victoria and from there (by lake ferry) to Port Bell in Kampala, Uganda.

    PSFU says the government should urgently develop the Port Bell and Jinja piers to facilitate this trade route as an alternative means of transit for Uganda’s imports and exports.

    There have also been repeated calls for the replacement of the lake ship MV Kabalega which sank near Port Bell after being in a collision with another vessel, the MV Kaawa in May 2005. In April last year the Ugandan Department of Works and Transport announced it was withdrawing from attempts to salvage the Kabalega.

    The railway proposal calls for the rebuilding of the existing metre gauge railway from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika and Mwanza on Lake Victoria with standard gauge (1435mm) and to include new sections of railway extending to Kigali in Rwanda and Bujumbura in Burundi.

    Pic of the day – MKHUZE

    The Durban harbour tug MKHUZE (377-gt, built 2007) poses in front of the Bat Centre near the tug basin, before heading into the harbour for another stint of work. Mkhuze was one of a series of Voith Schneider propulsion tractor tugs built in Durban by Southern African Shipyards – another seven of an updated and more powerful version are currently under construction at this yard. Picture Terry Hutson

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