Ports & Ships Maritime News

Sep 29, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – ALTAIR II

  • Maersk Line begins container calls at Richards Bay

  • Rotterdam doesn’t rule – not yet

  • Nigeria: Shipowners Association arrest fifth ship over illegal bunkering

  • Skills Levies in a Climate of Skills Crisis

  • News clips – Keeping it brief

  • Today’s recommended read – could this happen here?

  • Pics of the day – SANKO BARON


    First View – ALTAIR II

    The Polish trawler Altair II spent many years fishing out of Lyttelton for various joint ventures with New Zealand companies. Last year however her owners and another of the company’s trawlers fell foul of the Ministry of Fisheries for misreporting their catch. Altair II was laid up in Lyttelton on 22 May 2008 with no quota to fish and no charter to local companies.

    This week the waiting came to an end and the trawler took on bunkers yesterday before sailing at 16h00 for Pusan, South Korea. It is understood that she will undergo a refit while in Pusan before moving to fish in the Barents Sea. Picture by Alan Calvert

    Maersk Line begins container calls at Richards Bay

    Maersk Lines' Maersk Constellation - picture by Ian Shiffman

    Within a few days of the opening of the new container port of Ngqura, a leading shipping line has taken the initiative by introducing a container service at the port of Richards Bay, in response to long repeated calls by local business for a direct service.

    Last Friday a Maersk container ship called at the Zululand port, which is better known for dry bulk cargoes – coal in particular. In the calendar year 2008 the port of Richards Bay handled a total of 9,350 containers, of which 3,511 were imports and 5,558 were for export – the balance being either coastal or tranships. With a regular service, even if by inducement, this figure is bound to increase.

    Transnet has consistently rejected efforts by Zululand business to encourage container handling at Richards Bay and the port of Durban about a hundred nautical miles away has continued to handle most of the boxed traffic for the Zululand port and surrounding area, resulting in additional road haulage to and from Durban.

    The service being provided by Maersk Line is based on inducement but the regional manager for the shipping company, Carl Lorenz was quoted by the Zululand Observer as saying that three additional sailings from Richards Bay were already confirmed for October.

    “As long as there is a demand, we will induce the service to Richards Bay more regularly. In addition to the cost saving benefits, there would be no long distance road haulage requirements to Durban. In March this year, we set up a meeting with all local stakeholders and they were keen on the proposed service,” Lorenz told the newspaper.

    With the growing move towards containerisation of dry bulk consisting of ores and minerals, the potential for shipping from a port like Richards Bay with its solid industrial base must be considered as a move in the right direction. Although the port lacks dedicated container handling equipment it does operate with a number of mobile cranes while shipping lines that may choose to follow Maersk Lines’ example would no doubt ensure that geared vessels are available.

    Possibly if private enterprise takes the lead once again Transnet might decide to revise its plans and provide appropriate container handling facilities for Richards Bay. In the recently revealed Transnet Infrastructure Plan it was clear that Transnet had no immediate intention of encouraging container handling at this port, although the long term projections indicated that Richards Bay has the land and water to accommodate a very large container terminal.

    Rotterdam doesn’t rule – not yet

    By the recent weekend 16 nations had declared their support for the UN convention known as the Rotterdam Rules. See our article which explained the new convention New cargo transport convention could impact SA importers HERE

    Another four nations are required to sign the convention before it can take effect, which would then come into effect after one year has elapsed since the 20 nations ratified it.

    The 16 countries to have given their agreement so far are the Congo, Denmark, Gabon, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, France, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, Togo and the United States.

    The UK has chosen to remain neutral at this point, as has South Africa, while the European Commission said the rules did not conform to the European multimodal expectations and were therefore not in line with wider EU transport policy which it claims is aimed at easing the complexity of shipping. The European Shippers Council said that the rules are too complex and would discourage short-sea and coastal shipping in an intra-European, door-to-door logistics setting. It claimed that the reluctance of other nations to sign the rules indicated that the Rotterdam Rules lacked widespread support.

    In a joint statement issued by the port and city of Rotterdam, which has lent its name to the convention, it stated that were the same rule to apply all over the world it would promote international trade and make it more efficient and more clear.

    “The Rotterdam Rules will give world trade a boost, considering that 80 per cent of world trade is conducted by sea,” the statement went on.

    The Rotterdam Rules are the result on inter-governmental negotiations that have been taking place between 2002 and 2009 within the UN Commission for International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

    Meanwhile four international trade organisations, which collectively claim to represent 90% of the global shipping industry, has since called on countries to sign the Rotterdam Rules saying it is an opportunity to establish international uniformity for both maritime and multimodal forms of transport which shouldn’t be missed.

    The organisations are the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the World Shipping Council (WSC), BIMCO and the European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA).

    They added that there is no global uniform alternative for those seeking a real international solution.

    Nigeria: Shipowners Association arrest fifth ship over illegal bunkering

    A fifth ship has been arrested in Nigerian waters on accusations of illegal bunkering.

    The arrest was carried out by the Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) which has taken upon itself the task of ridding Nigerian sea lanes of foreign ships engaged in bunkering, which it says is in contravention of Nigeria’s cabotage law.

    The latest ship to be seized, the Hong Kong-flagged but British owned and managed products tanker UNION TRIUMPH (4,550-gt, built 1984) had completed delivery of 5,000 tonnes of gas oil at the fishery wharf in Lagos harbour from a larger tanker outside Nigerian waters when the arrest was made.

    Chief Isaac Jolapamo, chairman of ISAN said the organisation is determined to use the courts to prevent foreign ship owners from taking control of what he said should rightfully be a purely Nigerian shipping activity. He said the foreign ship owners have already taken over the business in neighbouring West African countries. “We cannot afford to fold our arms and watch helplessly as foreigners destroy our sector,” he said. He said ISAN was making use of the law to arrest vessels that flout Nigeria’s cabotage law. “We had to make a bold move by engaging the services of lawyers to arrest vessels that flout the cabotage Law.”

    Other ships that have been arrested include the tankers MAKHAMBET, LOVELL SEA, UNION GRACE, UNION FORCE AND TORRENT.

    Chief Jolapamo said there was little wrong with Nigeria’s laws, but accused the agency responsible for enforcing the cabotage law of not carrying out its duties.

    “There is serious conspiracy and collusion by all the government agencies as well as unscrupulous Nigerian business concerns,” he said. ISAN members’ vessel were lying idle and running up costs and even the little jobs they used to have are all gone.

    He said most of the foreign ship owners were of Asian origin, from India or Pakistan mainly but there were a few Europeans involved as well. The case against the first ship to be arrested, the tanker MAKHAMBET had proceeded as far as the appeal court while the others were pending rulings from the federal court. – source The Vanguard

    Skills Levies in a Climate of Skills Crisis

    by Carol Knox (Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers - ICS)

    Employers who pay PAYE are obliged by National Legislation to contribute 1% of their wage bill to the Skills Levy Fund. The Mandatory Claims provision of this fund enables employers to claim back 70% of this amount on educating current employees. Since most employers are not claiming this amount the funds become available for payment under the Discretionary Grant provision. This means that the Discretionary Funds become available to competitors who are investing in the knowledge and skills development of employees. Those companies who are not training are weakening in a very competitive market, especially in these very difficult economic times.

    If Skills Development Facilitators submit Workplace Skills Plans that include accredited courses from accredited providers such as the ICS, (TETA08-137) companies can properly reclaim on their skills levies paid, and position themselves for a strong competitive advantage when the economy “turns”. The signs are there that the “turn” is underway. If training budgets have been cut, then this is the time to make full use of the Skills Development Fund. This is the magic moment, as the economy “turns”, to begin to train staff and secure a strong position for your company, ensuring improved employee relationships and staff who are able to align their personal goals with that of the company, whilst meeting equity and skills training targets.

    Shipping Documentation & Maritime Geography Training

    Rennies and MOL learners actively engaged in recent training. Complete financial, statutory and operational shipping documentation and Apply Maritime Geography. These courses are fully TETA Accredited. They are demonstrating their knowledge through internalising course content in group discussions, by means of giving presentations, role-playing attitudes and values, through written projects and by means of assembling portfolios. They are continuously assessed by their Facilitator and once their portfolios are complete, and all evidence is compiled, these are assessed by a qualified Assessor experienced in the Maritime Sector.

    Carol Knox may be contacted at ICS on 031-207 8115 or by email to Carol@ics.za.org

    Chinese foreign market retracts by almost a quarter

    China’s foreign trade shrank by almost a quarter in the first eight months of this year, figures released by the China Customs office indicate.

    The value of exports fell 22.3% to US$730.47 Billion, while imports lost 22.7% in value to $607.9Bn. The country’s trade surplus fell 19% to $122.8Bn for the period. However, China’s foreign trade gave a glimmer of hope with a small increase for the month of August, rising 2.3% when compared with figures for July.

    The European Union remains China’s largest trading partner, followed by the United States.


    Schednet quotes a Moody official as saying that Asian container shipping lines face losing their ships because they can no longer meet financial obligations. The report quoted Moody’s Global Corporate Finance vice-president Peter Choy who said bank foreclosures were looking increasingly likely in six to 12 months time as troubled ship owners move closer to insolvency.

    “Operating losses, covenant breaches and declining market value of vessels have rattled nerves among banks,” Mr Choy said. He indicated that foreclosures would most likely affect small to medium-sized companies with leased vessels. Any strengthening demand was likely to be temporary as inventories are restocked. He did not expect Asia Pacific container lines to make a full recovery before 2012.


    Better news comes from the land where the economic downturn began. In the United States, Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise ship operator by far says the signs are that 2009 may turn out better than expected.

    This encouraging news comes on the back of increased interest being shown with worldwide bookings as well as from a decrease in fuel prices and other cruise costs - the price of fuel decreased by 39% for the third quarter. Carnival reported a net income of US$1.1 Billion for the third quarter of 2009, compared with an income of $1.3Bn for the same period in 2008.

    Since June, booking volumes for the remainder of 2009 and the first half of 2010 are running 19 percent ahead of the previous year. Although occupancy levels are catching up with last year they are still slightly behind, with ticket prices for these bookings also at lower levels, the company said in a statement.

    “While the environment for travel remains challenging, we are encouraged by the strength we have had in booking volumes throughout the year. Consumers are responding to the attractive pricing and product offerings our brands have in the marketplace," said Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation & plc chairman and CEO.

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    The Robben Island ferry SIKHULULEKILE in happier times, heading out from Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront en route to Robben Island. Picture by Robert Ravensberg

    The Robben Island ferry Sikhululekile, which broke down last week shortly ahead of the long weekend around Heritage Day, has resumed service after spare parts arrived from Germany. Hundreds of tourists were left disappointed and angry on arrival at the V&A Waterfront last week when they were advised that the service was cancelled owing to the unavailability of the ferry. The R26 million ferry, which carries 280 passengers and entered service last year, began leaking oil earlier in the week and after an examination it turned out that the cooler was cracked and could not be repaired. Spare parts were not available locally and had to be obtained from Germany, which would take at least three days to have them flown in.

    Due in service in 2007, delivery of Sikhululekile from the Cape Town builder was delayed by about one year and not long after entering service the ferry was attached after the operator failed to keep up payments. It was claimed the money was being withheld because of faulty workmanship although the dispute was quickly settled once the boat had been repossessed.


    The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) has confirmed that its general secretary, Randall Howard has resigned to take up a post as advisor to the minister of Public Services & Administration on labour relations. Howard rose through the union ranks to its top position and was also elected as Africa Vice President and President of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) at the World Congress that was held in Durban in 2006. He has also served on COSATU’s Central Executive Committee and Political Commission, the NEDLAC Executive and Management Committee, as co-chairman of the Transnet Restructuring Committee and the ITF Executive Board and Management Committee.


    Tanzania is introducing a national strategy aimed at dealing with possible oil spills along the coast and throughout its national waters. To be known as the National Oil Spill Response Contingency Plan (NOSRCP) the plan was made public at a workshop held in Dar es Salaam during National Maritime Week 2009 last week.

    Today’s recommended read – could this happen here?

    SELI 1, now officially a wreck off a Cape Town beach
    Picture by Steve McCurrach

    In the same week that a Turkish bulker named SELI 1 was going aground in Table Bay, another ill-fated bulk vessel BLACK ROSE sank in the Bay of Bengal five kilometres from the port of Paradip with the loss of one man. It now turns out that Black Rose carried no valid documents and also no insurance papers, according to a port official.

    Could something like this happen here, asks Alex van Heerden who also submitted the article. He adds the following questions:

    We wonder who is checking documentation in this country ....? How did the vessel not show up as suspect when the vessel forwarded its ISPS request? Could something like this happen in SA Waters?

    Who does check that vessels are 'legal & above board' in their trading in RSA Waters?
    If it was not iron ore onboard ... what could she have smuggled in ..... ?

    Mr van Heerden suggests that a whole pot full of coffee could be spent on this topic.

    You can read the article referred to HERE and also HERE

    Have you any suggestions for a good, interesting or thought-provoking read? If so please send the link to info@ports.co.za and put GOOD READ in the subject line.

    Pics of the day – SANKO BARON

    The offshore tug SANKO BARON (2,428-gt, built 2009) concluded her maiden voyage to Cape Town during September when Aad Noorland was on hand to take the pictures.

    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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