Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jun 10, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – SANKO BAY

  • MOL denies it intends spinning off container business

  • Namibia and Botswana sign agreement to undertake Trans Kalahari railway project

  • News from the shipping lines: Maruba to feeder to Walvis Bay

  • Piracy report – US official says international community has united against pirates

  • Transnet’s Saldanha plans scuttled

  • Pic of the day – MAERSK BALTIMORE


    First View – SANKO BAY

    The newbuild offshore supply ship SANKO BAY (2,428-gt, built 2009) arrived this week in Cape Town harbour. The Linerian-registered vessel is owned and operated by Japan’s Sanko Steamship Company of Tokyo. Picture by Aad Noorland

    MOL denies it intends spinning off container business

    Tokyo, 9 June 2009 - Japanese container carrier Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) said in a statement issued today (Tuesday) that a senior official of MOL has been misquoted and that there is no intention of selling off its container division. See our report of 8 June HERE

    The MOL statement reads:

    There have been some reports in the press recently that MOL is considering “spinning off” its container division. This was a result of a misinterpretation of remarks made by MOL Financial Director Mr Yonetani in an interview with Reuters.

    MOL is not considering spinning off its liner division and it has no plans to quit the container business. Mr Yonetani did say that the container business had been hardest hit “due to unprofitable rates and sagging volumes”. He also admitted that he expects overcapacity in the container market to continue for several years.

    But he explained that “only diversified shipping lines which provide a wide range of services including bulkers and containers will be able to survive” and that although MOL’s spinning off its container shipping division was one option, the benefit of doing so at this time would be small due to the industry's huge overcapacity.

    Obviously, with the current downturn in the global economy and over supply of capacity in the shipping market, being a responsible company, MOL continues to review every alternative to improve its profitability.

    However, as MOL’s CFO actually said, it considers that the option of a “spin off” is not a choice under the current circumstances.

    Namibia and Botswana sign agreement to undertake Trans Kalahari railway project

    The proposed railway between Botswana and the Namibian port of Walvis Bay came a little closer this week with the signing of an agreement between the two countries to build a railway from eastern Botswana across the Kalahari Desert to the port of Walvis Bay.

    The line is intended to carry coal from the Morupule and Mmamabula coalfields, and salt and soda ash from Sua Pan but will also provide an important rail aspect to the Trans-Kalahari Corridor. From eastern Botswana the rail is connected with Zimbabwe, Zambia and the DRC railway systems in the north and with Transnet Freight Rail to Gauteng in South Africa.

    Walvis Bay is being touted as an alternate port for Gauteng goods and among the incentives on offer is a cheaper and faster route to North and South American destinations and to Europe. Proponents of the corridor claim that by using the port of Walvis Bay importers and exporters can save up to four days travel time – a key factor for time-sensitive cargo.

    The signing of an agreement is the first step of the process and will be followed by a feasibility study that will consider the alignment of the railway and cost implications, according to the Transport Ministry Permanent Secretaries of both countries.

    “We have even made the appointment of a consultant to start work possibly in July this year, and both countries are committed to financing the project,” said George Simataa, Namibia’s Permanent Secretary. He said that rail is an economical mode of transport as it is much cheaper than roads. “It is durable, and it takes a lot of heavy loads and that is why we are urgently carrying out the feasibility study which is expected to inform us on its viability.”

    The feasibility study which is being undertaken by a Canadian company is being financed by both countries and with some financial input from the World Bank. It is expected to take 12 months to complete.

    News from the shipping lines: Maruba to feeder to Walvis Bay

    Argentinean shipping line Maruba Container Lines has included the Namibian port of Walvis Bay in its monthly feeder service between Durban and ports in the West Africa region. The service is being operated by the multi purpose vessel SENATOR (13,746-gt, 20,00-dwt, built 1980) with a rotation of Durban – Walvis Bay – Douala – Libreville – Pointe Noire – Durban. Other ports can be added on inducement. The Senator has a container capacity of 550-TEU.

    The feeder service provides connections with Maruba’s other main service between the Far East and West Africa (WAX) as well as that between the East Coast South America – Durban – Far East service, in both cases with cargo being transshipped at Durban. According to the South African agents, Alpha Shipping, the intention is to introduce a second ship at a later stage in which calls at an Angola port can be added. Alpha Shipping can be contacted at 27 31 304 5363.

    Hull Blyth South Africa has announced the establishment of a groupage service to Nigeria. “Although there are a few groupage companies offering a service to Lagos, they are having to appoint 3rd party agents to attend to the de-stuffing, warehousing and release of cargoes,” said Leigh Walker Country Manager for Hull Blyth in Durban.

    Hull Blyth South Africa together with its sister company Hull Blyth Nigeria will handle the complete service, meaning everything stays within the group, he said. This will assist customers considerably if it comes to communicating queries, disputes and so on.

    Hull Blyth South Africa will handle all consolidation of cargo at the Durban SACD Durban terminal and deconsolidation at Hull Blyth’s own facility in Lagos. “We will also offer a service for our Johannesburg customers, with dedicated transport from SACD Johannesburg to Durban.”

    Hull Blyth says it intends extending this service to Tema in Ghana and Luanda in Angola as soon as the Hull Blyth offices in those ports have set up their own deconsolidation centres. Contact 27 31 3600 700 for details or email

    Maersk Logistics, the AP Moller supply chain management company is to be merged with and branded under the single brand name Damco with effect from 7 September 2009.

    This follows the acquisition in 2005 of Damco Sea & Air and that of P&O Logistics which was followed by the merging of Maersk Logistics’ forwarding services and Damco Sea & Air into the forwarding company Damco in 2007.

    The combined companies have more than 10,000 customers and last year handled over 580,000 TEU of sea freight and over 60,000 tons of air cargo.

    Piracy report – US official says international community has united against pirates

    by Lauren Caldwell (America.gov)

    Piracy off the coast of Somalia is felt worldwide, harming trade, slowing regional development and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching the poorest nations of east Africa, according to a State Department official.

    “Also, piracy is causing insurance rates to rise and increasing the costs of goods shipped through this region. So we are all paying a price for piracy,” said Donna Hopkins, the State Department program manager on piracy issues, in a webchat May 26. She said Somali pirates are holding about 200 hostages, whom they use to extort ransom from shipping companies that want to get back their cargo, vessels and crew. About $30 million in ransom was paid to pirates in 2008, and the number of pirate attacks has doubled in the past year.

    “Piracy offers quick money to young Somalis who have few alternatives that pay as well as piracy,” Hopkins said. “Unfortunately for both these young men and their victims, piracy is a serious crime that damages their country's chances of recovering from civil war and building a sustainable future. International investors are unlikely to invest in a country where criminal gangs could threaten their investments. Piracy is organized crime, which makes Somalia less attractive as a place in which to invest to provide employment.”

    She detailed the steps the international community is taking to fight the menace: sending naval ships to interdict pirate attacks; helping commercial ships to protect themselves against pirate attacks; adopting legal procedures to prosecute pirates; helping the Somali government develop its own capacity to control its territory and bring security to its people; and discouraging concessions to pirates.

    The international Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was established in January to focus on piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin. It serves as an informal venue for governments to share information about their policies and programs, Hopkins said.

    Participating countries and organizations are encouraged to contribute to an international trust fund, endorsed by the group on 29 May. Trust fund monies will pay for the prosecution of suspected pirates and other efforts to fight piracy. Courts in Kenya are holding trials for some accused Somali pirates.

    “The Government of Kenya is rising to the challenge of helping to counter piracy by agreeing to try suspected pirates in their courts,” Hopkins said. “Several countries, and most recently the European Union, are providing support and assistance to Kenya to help them build additional capacity to prosecute pirates.”

    In April, US Navy SEALs rescued merchant ship Captain Richard Phillips, who was being held hostage by Somali pirates.

    Following the rescue, President Obama said, “I want to be very clear that we are resolved to halt the rise of piracy in that region. And to achieve that goal, we're going to have to continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks.”

    The head of the State Department's political-military affairs bureau, Stephen Mull, told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee 30 April that international efforts to stamp out piracy are beginning have effect.

    “Naval patrol interventions are increasingly active, international naval forces have intervened to stop dozens of attempted piratical attacks in the past nine months, and we're seeing a significant upswing in the number of countries willing to commit assets to the effort,” Mull said, although he conceded that political and legal obstacles remain.

    Hopkins, in the America.gov webchat, said the Somali people must develop economic alternatives to piracy and create institutions to control criminal activity.

    “Helping Somalia to stabilise and rebuild is very important, and many countries and organizations are trying to do that very thing,” Hopkins said. “It will take time, much money, and ultimately, only the Somalis can stabilize and rebuild Somalia.”

    For the Record

    In PORTS & SHIPS news bulletin for yesterday we reported that Somali pirate had released the Nigerian tug YENEGOA OCEAN which had been held for ransom since August 2008. It transpires instead that the crew of the tug managed to steal back their ship after the pirates relaxed their guard.

    Transnet’s Saldanha plans scuttled

    Transnet’s plans to develop a reverse osmosis plant at the Port of Saldanha have been scuttled by the suspension of a favourable environmental impact assessment.

    The suspension follows an appeal by environmentalists and is now awaiting a decision by new Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica, reports the West Cape News. The appeal concerns possible brine outputs into Saldanha Bay and was upheld by the previous Minister of Environmental Affairs & Tourism in April this year.

    The purpose of the osmosis plant is to desalinate seawater that can then be used for damping down iron ore dust at the iron ore terminal. Environmentalists say it is not the plant that they object to but its location. The brine from the process would have been pumped back into the bay, creating a closed system and increasing the salinity of the water to the detriment of marine life.

    The Port of Saldanha lies in Saldanha Bay which is adjacent to the Langebaan Lagoon, a Ramsar protected wetland. Environmentalists have accused the EIA study of having not been comprehensive and all-inclusive.

    Pic of the day – MAERSK BALTIMORE

    The Maersk Line container ship MAERSK BALTIMORE (48,853-gt, built 2006) in Cape Town harbour. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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