Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jun 25, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • Day of drama off Cape coast - two barges go aground and near misses for three ships

  • Vietnamese fishermen cleared of piracy in South African court

  • Maritime Centre of Excellence opens in Mombasa

  • Piracy update – ship released with fatalities

  • Chetty trades places to strengthen Transnet’s Corridor focus

  • African Trade news - Turkish exports to Africa on the up

  • Pic of the day – RS AFRICANA



    The barge GTO XVIV is battered against rocks south of the Knysna Heads after the tow with the tug HAKO 18 was lost in heavy seas yesterday (Wednesday). Picture by Andrew Aveley/NSRI Knysna

    Day of drama off Cape coast - two barges go aground and near misses for three ships

    The barge MARGARET aground near Jacobsbaai on the west coast yesterday. Picture courtesy Colin Clegg

    It has been a couple of days of drama along the Cape coast as a series of cold fronts moved across South Africa, bringing high seas reaching 9 metres and strong gale force winds. Two barges have gone aground and three ships narrowly missed the same fate.

    The unmanned barge MARGARET (see our photo story on 15 June 2009 HERE) which is loaded with a cargo of 13 river barge hulls built in China and destined for Rotterdam, has gone aground in heavy seas along a rocky shore at Jacobs Baai north of Saldanha Bay.

    The barge was being towed by the tug SALVALIANT when the tow was lost. Despite efforts by the tug to reconnect the tow the barge went aground in the early hours of yesterday morning (Wednesday).

    Earlier in June the Salvaliant and Margaret put into Durban harbour for repairs and supplies. The combination sailed and then later returned to port before heading off on the next leg to Europe, which has ended so prematurely on the west coast.

    In a second incident on South Africa’s south-east coast another barge, GTO XVIV has run aground at Three Sisters Rocks, west of the Knysna Heads. According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the Singapore registered tug Hako 18 was on passage from Maputo to Port Harcourt, Nigeria, towing the barges GTO XXIX and GTO XXIV when heavy weather was encountered. The barges are owned by a Dutch company.

    The barges are carrying construction equipment and were unmanned. There are no pollutants onboard.

    At approximately 02h30 on 24 June the tow wire to the barge GTO XXIV parted. The Smit Amandla Marine tug Pentow Skua had been mobilized from Mossel Bay to assist the Hako 18 some eight hours earlier. Despite the best efforts of the Master of the Pentow Skua to connect to the drifting barge this was not possible due to the adverse weather conditions.

    The barge subsequently grounded near Three Sisters Rocks to the west of the Knysna Heads in the vicinity of Brenton. Photographic evidence reveals the barge as having broken its back against the rocks.

    A senior SAMSA surveyor is currently at the scene.

    The owners of the barge have been instructed, in terms of the Wreck and Salvage Act, to remove the wreck. The wreck removal plan will have to be approved by SAMSA who will also monitor progress and adherence to the requirements of the plan.

    In yesterday’s News Bulletin we reported on the near miss for the capesize bulker KIRAN, which lost engine power shortly after sailing from Saldanha Bay with a full load of iron ore. In danger of going aground near Slangkop on the Cape Peninsular the ship was rescued by the timely arrival of the salvage tug SMIT AMANDLA which took her in tow to a safe position away from the coast.

    Another bulker, the DOCERIVER (79,184-gt, built 1986) also had a narrow escape when she dragged her anchors in Table Bay. Shortly before going onto the beach her crew managed to get the engines running and the ship slowly made her way back into Table Bay, where she was joined by the tug INDOMITABLE which had sailed from Cape Town harbour to assist.

    According to news reports a third ship, VIKING EAGLE (18,327-gt, built 2006) was also in difficulty off the Cape Town coast in the wild seas battering the Cape coast. No details of this incident are available and the ship obviously made her way to safety.

    Pictures by Andrew Aveley/NSRI Knysna

    Vietnamese fishermen cleared of piracy in South African court

    Ten Vietnamese sailors who were charged with kidnapping and piracy after they allegedly seized the Taiwanese fishing vessel BELINA on which they were serving, were set free in a Cape Town court last week after the ship’s owner withdrew his complaint.

    The case received considerable publicity in May when it was said that the Vietnamese sailors had forcibly taken control of the ship and sailed it to Cape Town harbour, where police and South African special forces stormed on board to arrest them.

    The men handed themselves over without resistance and were taken into custody and charged with kidnapping and piracy at sea. The sailors claimed they were ill-treated on board the ship, which was fishing off the South African coast at the time. They said they were forced to work from 15 to 20 hours at a time and were beaten when they complained. Ten of the 16 Vietnamese sailors then decided to seize the ship and sail it to Cape Town and hand themselves over to the authorities.

    The matter received the attention of diplomatic officials in both Pretoria and Hanoi, including the South African ambassador to Vietnam who met with Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs. Vietnam took the stance that the sailors shouldn’t be charged with piracy or kidnapping as they were defending themselves against being attacked. They had not demanded any ransom for the ship or remaining crew and had been willing to hand themselves over to South African authorities and to request assistance with ending their labour contract and returning home.

    Last week the owner decided to withdraw his complaint against the sailors and agreed to pay for their repatriation back to Vietnam but as the case had already begun with earlier hearings the men had to appear in court on Friday when a verdict of not guilty was handed down and the sailors set free.

    The ten sailors left South Africa for home at the weekend.

    Maritime Centre of Excellence opens in Mombasa

    A Maritime centre of excellence was opened officially in Mombasa this week making this the first of its kind in Africa.

    The centre, which is situated at the Bandari Training College in Mombasa, is designed to provide training for seafarers and landbased maritime personnel, with a strong focus on security at sea, reports The Nation newspaper.

    Attending the ceremony to mark the opening was the US ambassador, Michael Ranneberger who said the centre would also focus on protecting the marine environment. Training of coastguards would also be provided at Bandari together with courses on port operations and management, fisheries and customs.

    The college’s curriculum has been partly developed by the US Naval War College in collaboration with the Global Maritime and Transportation School and the Bandari College.

    Ambassador Ranneberger said the collaborative efforts will benefit countries in the region on various maritime issues, including the war against piracy and the campaign to protect the environment from degradation.

    The opening was attended by delegates from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Seychelles, Morocco, Senegal, Comoros and Mauritius.

    Piracy update – ship released with fatalities

    Somali piracy reached a different level this week with the news that the Netherlands-Antilles-flagged vessel MARATHON has been released but with one of the ship’s 8-man Ukrainian crew dead and a second crew member injured with a gunshot wound.

    This is the first recorded incident where a ship’s crewman has been killed in the course of being held for ransom. The master of another Ukrainian ship, the Ro-Ro FAINA died soon after his vessel was taken by pirates but that was from heart failure.

    Reports from the Dutch Navy say the seafarer Sergiy Vartenkov, a welder on board the Marathon was shot dead during the capture of the ship and a second sailor wounded.

    The Marathon, which has been in pirate hands since 7 May was released on Tuesday (23 June) and is now under escort from a Dutch frigate, the DE ZEVEN PROVINCIEN. A Dutch news agency says a ransom was dropped on board the vessel by helicopter ahead of its release.

    In another incident seven Seychellois hostages on board the yacht INDIAN OCEAN EXPLORER have been released and are safe in Kenya. The former research yacht was however set alight and has burned out. The seven men were captured with the Indian Ocean Explorer at the end of March 2009. There is a suggestion, unconfirmed at this stage, that a ransom for the crew only was paid.

    The Portuguese frigate CORTE REAL was able to prevent pirates from boarding a Singapore-flagged container ship, the MAERSK PHOENIX which had radioed that it was under threat of attack from pirates. The Portuguese warship, which was on escort duty with a Pakistani ship, the BOLAN at the time, hurried to the scene and fired several shots in front of the pirate boat before the Somalis surrendered. They were disarmed and taken on board the frigate for questioning before being released, with their weapons confiscated.

    Escort duties with the BOLAN had meanwhile been taken over by a Turkish warship, the GAZIANTEP.

    Chetty trades places to strengthen Transnet’s Corridor focus

    Transnet’s newly formed corridor strategy has been bolstered with another appointment made to the corridor’s senior management team. Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) Chief of Strategy, Security, Safety, Health, Environment and Quality, Mervin Chetty, has been appointed as General Manager for the Natal corridor (Natcor).

    In his new position Mr Chetty will serve as the strategic, single point of contact for customers using Transnet’s intermodal transportation services along the route linking the Port of Durban with Gauteng.

    He will report directly to the newly appointed Group Executive: Freight Corridors, Mark Gregg-Macdonald.

    Chetty’s appointment marks the final senior corridor appointment for Transnet. A full strategic and experienced team is now in place to drive the group’s goal of integrated supply chain management along four priority corridors including Natcor, Capecor, the Richards Bay corridor and Sishen-Saldanha.

    African Trade news - Turkish exports to Africa on the up

    Turkish exports to Africa increased in May, reports Turknet. The report says that Turkey is seeking new markets after sales to Europe, the United States and Russia dipped owing to the global economic downturn, and that Turkish exporters have turned their faces towards Africa, South America and the Gulf states instead.

    The report said trade with African countries has increased three-fold over the past three years having climbed from US$6 billion to $18bn while Turkish exports to the African continent were now worth $9bn, up from USD5bn three years ago.

    African countries were importing furniture, durable household products, home textiles, processed food, packaging devices, iron and steel, electrical devices and construction materials. Turkey was importing from Africa oil, raw materials, gold and other minerals.

    Pic of the day – RS AFRICANA

    The South African research vessel AFRICANA (910-gt, built 1982) in Cape Town harbour. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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