Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jun 8, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – PATRICIA

  • News from the shipping lines – MOL considers withdrawing from containers

  • New Lake Victoria service gets underway

  • Another delay on the Richards Bay coal line

  • Piracy news – who took Maersk Alabama’s cash?

  • Five African leaders to attend World Economic Forum

  • Pic of the day – HOKUETSU USHAKA


    First View – PATRICIA

    The former Kenya Railways Administration lighter MV PATRICIA (built 1935), has re-entered service on Lake Victoria on behalf of a private company, Power Marine Consulting. The 100-ton vessel is due to leave Port Bell for Mwanza this morning (Monday) with a cargo of scrap metal. Picture courtesy Brian Power (see report below)

    News from the shipping lines – MOL considers withdrawing from containers

    As the economic downturn continues to affect shipping fortunes, Japan’s Mitsui OSK Line, better known as MOL says it is considering selling off its container business in an effort to halt the bleeding of profits. MOL is Japan’s second largest container carrier and is rated at No.12 in the world. The company’s container ships play a significant role in the South African shipping business, being a member of the South African Europe Container Service (SAECS) while also participating in several Asia to South Africa services.

    A senior MOL executive, Kenichi Yonetani said that MOL would accrue more benefits if it sold its container business off to a Japanese rival such as NYK or K Line.

    Although MOL is forecasting a profit for the first half of 2009 it has admitted that the loss-making container division is pulling down profits. MOL is not expecting its container division to be profitable for the first half this year.

    OT Africa Line has introduced a new fortnightly service operating between Cape Verde and Mauritania (MPP service), with direct calls to Mindelo and Praia in Cape Verde and Nouakchott and Nouadhibou in Mauritania. The full MPP rotation is now Antwerp, Rouen, Leixoes, Tangier, Nouakchott, Dakar (on request), Praia, MIndelo and Nouadhibou.

    The Europe-West Africa specialist line OT Africa Line has also announced that it is adding two new ports to its UK portfolio. The company now offers services from Bristol in England and Greenock in Scotland with onward service from Le Havre to all main West African ports. The new move compliments OT Africa’s existing calls at Felixstowe, Liverpool, Belfast, Dublin and Cork and will operate on a weekly fixed day departure

    Hoegh Autoliners says it expects to commence trading between the Middle East, India and Africa shortly. The initial sailing is due to commence in the first week of July 2009 catering for both rolling and static cargo.

    The initial monthly calls will be to Jebel Ali, Mumbai, Chennai, Colombo, Durban/Maputo, Luanda, Lagos and Tema. Additional ports can be added on inducement with a connecting service to Australia, Indian Ocean and the USA available via Maputo/Durban.

    Hoegh says it has a long history in the Middle East and has for years been one of the major suppliers of transportation to this region from Europe and the USA and since 2008 also from the Far East. Main customers are major manufacturers of new cars, heavy machinery and rolling stock as well as second hand vehicles. During 2008 Hoegh Autoliners carried 2 million motor units, making 3,000 port calls.

    New Lake Victoria service gets underway

    The lighter MV PATRICIA nearing completion and ready to sail, and proudly flying the Uganda flag – Picture Power Marine Consultancy

    This morning (Monday) a ferry ship leaves Port Bell in northern Lake Victoria bound for the port of Mwanza at the southern end of the lake in Tanzania. For the 74-year old ship it is not the first voyage since being returned to service but helps mark the return of reliable services on the lake, albeit in a small way at the beginning.

    The 100-tonne PATRICIA was commissioned by the East African Railways Administartion in 1935 as a lighter operating around Kisumu and the islands. In the early 1970s the little ship was decommissioned but returned to service for a few more years during the latter part of that decade, before being laid up in the ‘swamp’ until 2008, when her present owners found her.

    The ship was bought at auction with delivery being taken in January this year, followed by an extensive refit in Jinja. Her second commissioning took place on 22 May 2009 after a series of sea trials sailing out of Jinja. The shake-down cruise from Jinja to Port Bell was completed at an average speed of 5.5 knots using only 40% power, leaving her owners to estimate the cruising speed as between 8.5 and 10 knots, which is deemed ideal for the purpose.

    Patricia is fitted with a Cummins 6-cylinder marine engine, Yammar generator, Furono radar equipment, GPS, Lawrens echo sounder and Lawrens Radios. She carries a crew of six and is currently operating a service between Kisumu (Kenya), Mwanza (Tanzania, Port Bell (Uganda) and the Sesse Islands (Uganda).

    Power Marine Consultancy, her owners plan to have at least another two vessels in service by the end of this year giving a gross tonnage of 300 tons available, with additional larger ships provided they can be found and purchased. The company is at present the only privately-owned Ugandan operation on the lake, after all government vessels were laid up about six years ago.

    The lack of shipping services on Lake Victoria has severely constrained cargo and passenger services, and in particular the service between Uganda and the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam. One of the drawbacks, according to Brian Power, chief executive of Power Marine Consultancy, is the lack of logistical support and competent engineers and technicians. The current staff of the new company is drawn from former SA Navy officers and senior ratings but a programme of training is expected to be set up in Uganda to address the problem. Power said his company has received major support and encouragement from the Ugandan government and he believed the future of marine services on the lake to be very bright.

    “Opportunities for marine services, tourism and any such like on the lake are available and it is scary to think how under-utilised the lake is,” he told PORTS & SHIPS.

    A view of the lake ship MV Patricia before her restoration and 6 years since decommissioning - Picture courtesy Power Marine Consultancy

    Another delay on the Richards Bay coal line

    Transnet Freight Rail’s woes over delivery of coal to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal won’t go away. Several trains have had to be cancelled because of cable theft, it now transpires.

    The line which carries between 60 and 70 million tonnes of export coal each year, as well as an additional amount of other commodities including import cargo, has suffered in recent years from a series of derailments – some involving train smashes that spilled tens of thousands of tonnes of coal – and other technical problems such as signal failures.

    Transnet Freight Rail has become highly sensitive about derailments and other delays along the line and generally makes no announcements unless the news leaks out, and not always then. Because of the remote nature of much of the line – rural farmland and tribal areas, such news can be delayed by days or even weeks.

    From all accounts recent cable theft resulted in a number of trains being cancelled or delayed and will impact on the volumes carried by TFR this year, although the rail company generally makes every effort to reschedule and recover the lost traffic. The latest incidents of cable theft took place in the Ermelo – Ogies region in recent weeks – the ‘upper’ end of the line close to the source of most coal exports, the Mpumalanga mines.

    Piracy news – who took Maersk Alabama’s cash?

    It’s usually Somali pirates who are to blame for what goes missing on ships that have been attacked by pirates, but in the case of the celebrated MAERSK ALABAMA, US military authorities are casting their beady eyes elsewhere for the culprits.

    What they want to know is who took the $30,000 in cash that was on board the container ship when Somali pirates boarded her in early April this year. During the attempted highjacking, which ended with pirates being captured or killed by US Navy Seals, the ship’s master, Captain Richard Phillips was forced at gunpoint to open the ship’s safe and hand over the money it contained – about $30,000.

    It just happens that the sole surviving pirate, one Abduwali Muse, who is now in custody in the United States, is alive and available for questioning. Naturally he didn’t get away with the loot, as he was captured. Nor did his comrades – they were killed on board the ship’s lifeboat in which they were holding Capt Phillips captive. The money had apparently been distributed among the pirates on the lifeboat but hasn’t been seen since. So where is it now? The US Naval Criminal Investigative Service NCIS) is on the case but is saying little at this stage.

    In the latest news from the Somali region a bulk carrier, the POSTOJNA came under attack from three fast moving motorboats but evaded capture thanks to the timely intervention of an Indian warship. The Indian ship opened fire in the direction of the pirate boats which fled the scene. The Postojna was sailing from South Korea to Saudi Arabia at the time.

    In another case involving an Indian warship, shots were fired at pirates on another boat attempting to board a merchant ship. Two of the pirates were killed in the incident and a French warship captured the two remaining survivors and recovered the bodies of two pirates. The prisoners and bodies were later handed over to Puntland officials.

    Five African leaders to attend World Economic Forum

    Johannesburg (BuaNews) - Five African Heads of State have confirmed their attendance for the Word Economic Forum (WEF) scheduled for this week.

    “Heads of State who had confirmed their participation included Presidents Jacob Zuma, Kenya's Raila Amolo Odinga, Lesotho's Pakalitha Mosisili, Rwanda's Paul Kagame and Zambia's Rupiah Bwezani Banda,” said WEF Director Head of Africa Katherine Tweedie.

    She was briefing media on Friday ahead of the three-day WEF which kicks-off on Wednesday in Cape Town.

    Ms Tweedie said “almost the whole South African cabinet” as well as over 800 participants from 50 countries were going to attend the forum.

    Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi are among some of cabinet members expected at the forum.

    Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Arthur Mutambara is also expected.

    She added that she looked forward to the dialogue between stakeholders particularly in times of transitional governments.

    The forum would present an important platform for world leaders to address the global and regional implications of the financial crisis as well as develop a roadmap for Africa's future.

    WEF will also celebrate the one year kick-off of the 2010 World Cup to be hosted in South Africa.

    Pic of the day – HOKUETSU USHAKA

    The NYK Line wood chip carrier HOKUETSU USHAKA (49,186-gt, built 2008) arriving in Durban on Saturday (6 June) to load wood chips at the Maydon Wharf berth 8 terminal. Picture by Terry Hutson

    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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