Ports & Ships Maritime News

Sep 17, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – MSC SENA

  • Shock for port industry as TPT’s Solly Letsoalo resigns

  • Hogan hints at action over Transnet appointment

  • Holland America ships NOORDAM and WESTERDAM heading for SA and FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup

  • Dock strike threat for Mombasa

  • South African Navy sailors sent home after bar brawl

  • Multinational force keeps pirates at bay

  • News clips – Keeping it brief

  • Pics of the day – RIDLEY THOMAS


    First View – MSC SENA

    Mediterranean Shipping Company’s MSC SENA (39,892-gt. Built 1986), which is deployed on the company’s South Africa – India/Gulf trade, was in Durban harbour last week when Trevor Jones took this picture.

    Shock for port industry as TPT’s Solly Letsoalo resigns

    Solly Letsoalo

    Solly Letsoalo, Chief Operating Officer of Transnet Port Terminals and effectively the number 2 person behind Tau Morwe in that organisation, resigned suddenly this week and will be leaving the company at the end of September.

    In stark contrast with appointments made within the Transnet stable, Tau Morwe has immediately appointed Nosipho Damisane, the current General Manager for Sales: Logistics and Commercial to succeed Letsoalo as COO. It is believed that Damisane who resides in East London will now relocate to Durban.

    Letsoalo joned TPT in 2005 at the Durban Container Terminal and came to the company with a background in industrial engineering, manufacturing, logistics, projects and general management. In 2008 he was promoted to the position of TPT chief operating officer with a number of divisional executive managers reporting direct to him.

    Transnet Port Terminals is understood to be preparing a statement regarding Letsoalo’s sudden departure.

    Nosipho Damasane

    Hogan hints at action over Transnet appointment

    As suspended Chief Executive Officer of Transnet Freight Rail, Siyabonga Gama goes to court this week in an effort to clear his name and bring about his reinstatement as CEO of Transnet Freight Rail, Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan has come under increasing pressure to resolve the dispute and appoint a new head for the Transnet Group.

    On Tuesday the minister told parliament’s portfolio committee on Public Enterprises that the appointment of a new CEO for Transnet couldn’t be delayed much longer. She said that if the Transnet Board did not come up with a recommendation soon she was prepared to use her prerogative and make an appointment in consultation with the cabinet.

    The minister did not explain why she hadn’t exercised her prerogative earlier in the dispute before it became politicised with racial overtones.

    The position of Transnet CEO has been vacant since Maria Ramos left the company at the end of February this year, although former chief financial officer Chris Wells has acted ably in the capacity of an acting CEO for much of the time since. The Transnet Board, which said in November last year that it had a continuance plan in place for Ramos’ replacement, has been unable to make an appointment or even a recommendation without attracting criticism and accusations from trade unions and political parties.

    In fairness, the Transnet Board’s reported choice for the post, Pravin Gordhan withdrew his name on learning that he was earmarked for a cabinet position – he was subsequently appointed Finance Minister. The Board’s next choice, CEO of BP Africa Sipho Maseko has since also withdrawn his name on account of the furore over Gama’s suspension, although there appears to be a possibility that Maseko may be convinced to throw his hat back into the ring.

    Sources within Transnet have confirmed that Siyabonga Gama, whose name was mentioned early in the race as one of the possible candidates, never featured high on any list prepared by the Transnet Board and didn’t have its support. Gama was subsequently suspended pending an enquiry into an internal disciplinary process regarding a tender for the purchase of locomotives, a move that unions and certain cabinet ministers claim was intended solely to render Gama unavailable for the promotion.

    All of this has left Hogan and the Transnet Board with an almost impossible task. Nevertheless the maritime and port industry, on which so much of the country’s economy is dependent, is looking for a speedy and wise solution. The company responsible for the country’s ports, railways and pipeline services should not be left rudderless for much longer.

    Holland America ships NOORDAM and WESTERDAM heading for SA and FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup

    Noordam - picture Wiki Commons

    German reports that said two Holland American cruise ships will not be visiting South Africa during the Fifa Soccer World Cup in 2010 have been kicked soundly into touch.

    Durban port manager Ricky Bhikraj told PORTS & SHIPS this week that he thought the reports, which were circulated by the German news agency DPA had perhaps confused the arrival of the NOORDAM (82,000-gt, built 2004) and WESTERDAM (81,811-gt, built 2004) with the proposed transfer of QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 to Cape Town as a floating hotel and tourist attraction.

    Bhikraj confirmed that 1 Ocean Club had been contracted to send the two Holland America ships out to South Africa in time for the World Cup in June and July next year. “The matter has been discussed at government level and cleared. The Noordam and Westerdam are coming as cruise ships, not as floating hotels and will operate services between the ports of Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town,” said Bhikraj.

    Between them the ships will provide 3,700 additional beds at the three port cities while also providing an opportunity for fans to travel between the cities.

    German media reporting on the matter said that the South African Department of Tourism had been forced to intervene in a dispute between the South African hospitality industry and 1 Ocean Club. “The position of the Tourism Ministry was always that we don’t want ships at the World Cup that have the objective of anchoring in our harbours and presenting themselves as alternatives to our local hotels,” the South African Tourism Ministry was quoted as saying.

    There is still no clarity over the positioning of QE2 in Cape Town harbour or the V&A. The local hotel and hospitality industry continues to be outspoken in condemning the move, saying that Cape Town has sufficient accommodation and tourist attractions.

    Westerdam - picture Wiki Commons

    Dock strike threat for Mombasa

    Mombasa’s Dock Workers Union says it will go out on strike on 1 October unless demands made on the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) are met, the Nation newspaper has reported.

    A strike could see more than 1,600 workers preventing stevedoring and other port operations over a wage and job permanency dispute. According to the Dock Workers Union secretary-general Simon Sang, efforts to negotiate with the KPA have so far been fruitless.

    The two main issues at stake are the ongoing use of casual labour and low pay. Sang said that although Kenya’s labour laws state that no casual labour should extend beyond two months, the union represented many workers who had been employed as casuals for up to 13 years.

    He said attempts had been made to engage with Kenya’s Transport Minister, Chirau Mwakwere and unless a satisfactory solution was found the workers would go out on strike on 1 October.

    According to the union current wages for the lowest scale of worker in the port of Mombasa is Ksh11,620 (US$154) per month, whereas the union is demanding a minimum wage of Ksh16,616 ($220).

    South African Navy sailors sent home after bar brawl

    Without appearing to condone such matters, it is almost reassuring to note that at least some things never change, even in Africa’s new navies. Place a bunch of sailors in a pub and you can expect a fight to result, after which you may as well call for MPs (or the cops in this case).

    Several ships of the South African Navy have been in Walvis Bay this past week, taking part in Exercise Golfinho which involves the military forces of SADC countries. The three seamen, two from a South African ship and a friend from the Namibian Navy, got caught up in a brawl with a local 22-year old Walvis Bay man at the Rio Cope Nightclub after everyone had had too many drinks. The local man was left with serious injuries which required his being admitted to hospital.

    Police instead of the MPs were summoned and the three sailors spent the rest of the night inspecting the inside of the Narraville police cells, before diplomatic intervention the next day brought about the release of the two SAN personnel followed by their rather sudden return to South Africa. Their Namibian Navy brother in arms was left behind to face the outcome of Namibian law while the two South Africans will presumably face disciplinary action back home. – source Namib Times

    Multinational force keeps pirates at bay

    By Ian Graham (Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs/US Africom)

    Washington, DC, 15 September 2009 — Navy Rear Admiral Scott Sanders, vice commander for US Naval Forces Central Command, and British Royal Navy Captain Keith Blount, the task force's chief of staff, discussed counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor in a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable, 11 September 2009.

    Combined Task Force 151 was created in January by the Combined Maritime Forces to deter, disrupt and suppress piracy and maintain free channels for ships navigating in the Horn of Africa.

    A major facet of their mission in the long term is to help nations bordering the gulf -- such as Yemen and Somalia -- build their naval capacity, so they can deter piracy themselves.

    “It stands to reason, the more capacity we can build is in the interest of the international maritime community,” Blount said. “As much as we can, we will push forward with them. We just have to make sure that exactly the right circumstances are set for a meaningful engagement that will be a benefit for both sides.”

    More than 30 ships and aircraft from 17 nations including the United States, China, Russia, India, Malaysia, South Korea, the European Union and NATO patrol the gulf. Task force officials want to foster better relations with nations using its area of operation, which also includes the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. So far, Sanders said, that portion of the mission is going quite well.

    “I had [Dutch Navy] Commodore Pieter Bindt of the European Union here last week on the USS Anzio, and he said -- and I didn't prep him with this line -- 'This is the maritime strategy at work each and every day in the Gulf of Aden,'” Sanders said. “At the end of the day, that makes us all very proud. Every time we end another day without a piracy attack, we feel pretty good about ourselves, and we've had a lot of those nights lately, I can tell you that.”

    Another part of their operation is maintaining open communication with ships passing through the gulf and providing guidance should they be approached or attacked by pirates. Primarily, he said, they encourage captains not to surrender immediately or give up their ship.

    Because the area of operations is fairly small, simply taking evasive manoeuvres can give enough time for a member of the task force's fleet to come to the scene of an attack, Sanders said.

    “We can't be every place, but in the [Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor], there usually isn't a ship too far,” Sanders said.

    Sanders and Blount said that no ship that's taken the proper countermeasures within the corridor has been successfully boarded by pirates -- though there have been instances in which ships were boarded after straying from the measures the task force prescribes.

    “The reason the IRTC was put in place was to properly coordinate the movement of ships from one end of the Gulf of Aden to the other, and it's been quite successful,” Blount said. “But what we've found is that despite the number of military units we have patrolling, if the merchant ships weren't doing their bits, they could still be pirated.”

    He said it's to merchant mariners' “enormous credit” that they've been more courageous and active in taking anti-piracy measures. It's created an environment in which pirates are less brazen and spend more time hiding and looking for an easy target.

    “Captain Blount did say 'courageous,' and that is not to be underestimated,” Sanders said. “It's extremely stressful out here, and what the maritime community is doing, they can't be applauded enough. They're taking a lot of risks. We're backing them up, but they're taking a lot of risks.”

    The results Sanders has seen while commanding the task force have been beyond imagination, he said. If he didn't witness it every day, he added, he couldn't possibly fathom the goodwill it's created.

    “No matter what country you're from or what your politics are, piracy is not in your national interest,” Sanders said. “There's a level of confidence. ... It's one of those things where you can read about it, but when you actually see this level of cooperation happening at sea, it's really remarkable.”

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    Operations of the lake ferry MV KALANGALA have resumed after a month’s suspension, according to Uganda media reports. The vessel’s licence had been withdrawn after surveyors failed to complete an inspection – a course of action (or lack thereof) that left many of those who rely on the ferry services very angry and annoyed. See that report HERE A Ministry of Works spokesman said that a number of mechanical faults had required attention before the ferry could be returned to service.

    Also on Lake Victoria, it appears that any talk of an immediate return to service of the 1,000-ton Kenyan rail ferry MV UHURU were optimistic and premature. The vessel is apparently high and dry in drydock with not much more than 1.5 metres of water at the back of the dock and it will require about 3m of dredging before the ship can leave the dock. That’s not the end of the problem - there are no pump or bucket dredgers available on Lake Victoria to do the job. Uhuru has been languishing in the dock for between three and four years but Rift Valley Railway’s managing director Brown Ondego was reported to have said recently that the ship would be back in service by August – needless to say his deadline came and went without any sign of the ship emerging. MV Uhuru was previously owned by the Kenya Railways Corporation and was among several rail ferries divided up among Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania on the dissolution of the East African Railways.

    Salvors working on the grounded bulker SELI 1 report that approximately 340 tonnes of fuel has been removed from the ship and 150 tonnes of the fuel remaining onboard is now located in topside tanks higher up in the vessel and away from areas that sustained structural damage when she ran aground on 7 September. The fuel removal operation is continuing 24 hours a day as sea conditions allow. Concern remains however that residual oil may be released from the casualty in high seas and proactive precautionary measures put in place to reduce the environmental impact of any oil pollution remain in effect.

    Pics of the day – RIDLEY THOMAS

    The 61m Chinese (Hong Kong-owned) research vessel RIDLEY THOMAS (1,241-gt, built 1981) which underwent repair, refurbishment, blasting and a new paint job in Durban before arriving in Cape Town earlier this month. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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