Ports & Ships Maritime News

Sep 3, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – SUBHIKSHA

  • Gama suspended – union calls it a racial decision

  • Japan to fund EAC customs administration

  • Piracy update – European Union sends aircraft to Seychelles

  • News from the world of shipping

  • Sixteen Somalis drown making hazardous journey across Gulf of Aden

  • News clips – Keeping it brief

  • US security tightened for ships coming from the Congo

  • Pic of the day – MSC OSLO


    First View – SUBHIKSHA

    On a greyish, early spring morning the offshore tug SUBHIKSHA (2,655-gt, built 2001) is taken down the Esplanade channel to a deep water berth on Pier 1 in Durban harbour for engine trials, after completion of her extensive refit and repair at Southern African Shipyards in Bayhead. The tug was badly damaged by an engine room fire while working in the Mozambique Channel in 2008, resulting in both fire and water damage. After the fire was extinguished Subhiksha was towed to Beira and later to Durban. Picture Terry Hutson

    Gama suspended – union calls it a racial decision

    Transnet has announced the suspension of the Chief Executive of Transnet Freight Rail, Siyabonga Gama, pending the outcome of an internal disciplinary process.

    According to Transnet, Gama has been requested to attend a disciplinary hearing relating to an alleged serious breach of governance requirements in respect of two procurement contracts. Apart from saying that it remains committed to ensuring that due process in relation to the disciplinary matter is followed, and that the process will be adjudicated by an independent and external arbitrator, Transnet says it will not comment further, “to enable due process to take its course and that the reputation of all role players is preserved.”

    The company added that the suspension carries the full support of the Transnet Board.

    The contracts are understood to relate to an order for 212 diesel electric locomotives issued to an American manufacturer which was subsequently cancelled.

    In its reaction, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), which represents a high percentage of the people working for Transnet, particularly in the port and rail divisions, said it remained convinced that the suspension is part of a “dirty tricks campaign” designed to discredit Gama publically and “rule him out as the most suitable candidate.”

    In an inflammatory statement yesterday, SATAWU claimed to have been reliably informed that the “Carlton Centre cabal led by the acting CEO, Chris Wells with a direct link to the former CEO, Maria Ramos, is hell bent on ensuring that Gama does not get the job.”

    The union claimed to have reliable information that the Transnet Board is positioning Sipho Maseko from British Petroleum, a former protégé of the former Transnet Board chairman, Fred Phaswana, for the job.

    Maseko is currently chief executive officer of BP Africa.

    “There is deliberate strategy at play by this grouping who wishes to perpetuate the status quo by getting in a so-called African candidate who will be a controlled puppet by the current white executives in place,” the union stated.

    SATAWU said it will ensure that no “puppet appointment” takes place until the disciplinary process of Gama is completed, even at the price of delaying the process.

    As if to emphasise that in union eyes, the matter is a racial one, SATAWU also turned its attention to what it called “the lily white” Transnet Capital Projects division and said it intended investigating how a company called Hatch had been given all the major projects.

    At the weekend South Africa’s Justice Minister, Jeff Radebe, who as the former Minister for Public Enterprises and later Minister of Transport held a close relationship with Transnet and its constituent companies, called the accusations against Gama a “miscarriage of justice” and said he would see to it personally that Gama would get the job.

    Transnet has been without a permanent chief executive since Maria Ramos resigned in November 2008 and stepped down at the end of February this year. Chris Wells, the former Financial Officer was appointed as acting chief executive.

    Japan to fund EAC customs administration

    Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA) says it has agreed to help fund the East African Community’s (EAC) customs administration to the amount of US 6 million.

    “The project is intended to support trade facilitation initiatives being undertaken by the partner states to improve clearance of goods at entry points and reduce the cost of doing business,” JICA chief representative Seki Tetsuo said.

    The project focuses on training for one-stop border operations, enforcement and information technology among the various EAC member agencies.

    Piracy update – European Union sends aircraft to Seychelles

    A Swearingen Merlin III aircraft on the tarmac. Two similar aircraft are to operate EU anti-piracy patrols out of the Seychelles. Picture Wikipdeia Commons

    The European Union has confirmed it is to station two Swearingen Merlin III turboprop aircraft in Mahe, Seychelles in an effort to combat piracy surrounding the Indian Ocean islands.

    The Luxembourg government is making the aircraft available which will conduct anti-piracy patrols in support of the EU’s Operation Atalanta. They are expected to deploy to the Seychelles later this month. Each aircraft is fitted with a search radar and an electro optic turret, providing the crew with the ability to detect and image small craft activity by day or night. The Merlins have the added capability of operating at reasonably high speeds in order to reach the area of threat and then ‘loiter’ overhead for up to three or four hours.

    Seychelles Coast Guard personnel will undergo training with the EU and may occasionally join the aircraft for reconnaissance experience.

    With the monsoon season drawings to an end and bringing with it improved sea conditions, pirate activity is expected to increase in intensity and naval forces are gearing themselves for pirate operations much further afield, including in Seychelles waters.

    The Japanese government said on Tuesday that its warships on anti-piracy patrol off Somalia had escorted a total of 81 ships since arriving on scene earlier this year. Only one of these ships was Japanese registered but a number of others were owned or operated by Japanese shipping companies. Japan had to amend its laws to permit its navy patrols to take place. A Japanese anti-piracy law came into effect in June that cleared Japanese Navy ships for escort duties and to protect foreign commercial ships and to use deadly force if necessary.

    President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said on Monday that the Philippines would work with the African Union to help resolve the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia. The Philippines president was on a three-day visit to Libya and said that Africa was important to her country.

    “The East African monsoon is almost over, and we can expect a surge in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia. Though many have been freed, over 200 Filipino seamen have suffered in the hands of pirates. We are vigorously working to protect our seafarers and this is an issue where Africa’s collective efforts to bring stability and order to the affected areas will be crucial,” she said. Filipinos comprise roughly one third of all seafarers at sea.

    The Philippines offer of assistance is understood to take the form of training for Somali’s fledgling coast guard. The president said that the building of strong institutions was one way to help Somalia fight piracy.

    News from the world of shipping

    STOLT INSPIRATION (24,625-gt, built 1997) in Durban harbour. Picture by Terry Hutson

    Stolt-Nielsen SA announced on Tuesday that Jacob Stolt-Nielsen, who founded the Company and served as its Chairman since 1959, will step down as Chairman effective 15 December 2009, the 50 year anniversary of the Company. He will continue to serve as a Director of the Board. Christer Olsson, who has been a Director of SNSA since 1993, has been nominated to succeed Mr Stolt-Nielsen.

    Olsson is Vice Chairman of Wallenius Lines AB and has extensive shipping-industry experience.

    Commenting on the transition, Jacob Stolt-Nielsen said, “It has been my privilege to lead this Company and its people for the last 50 years. I step down as Chairman with sadness, but at the same time with an extraordinary sense of satisfaction and confidence, knowing that Mr Olsson as Chairman, and Niels G Stolt-Nielsen, the Chief Executive Officer, and his management team, will continue to capably operate the Company going forward. I anticipate this transition with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that SNSA is in good hands and in good order.”

    The French-based shipping analyst AXS Alphaliner says the end of the Northern Hemisphere peak season will lead to increased container ship layups. It says service reductions during October and November will account for the spike in ships being withdrawn and follows three cutbacks on the major east-west services. The CKYH Alliance is cutting services by 20% on the Far East – Europe run, meaning that 18 ships each of 5,000-TEU or more will be withdrawn. In addition, Maersk, CMA CGM and Hyundai Merchant Marine have announced the suspension of their joint Far East – US east coast service, eliminating eight 5,000-TEU vessels.

    Aphaliner reported that 524 ships were without employment at the end of August, comprising 9.9% of the world’s fleet. The analyst said that ships in the 1,000 to 3,000-TEU range were the most likely to be idled and that many carriers would return chartered tonnage on completion of each charter.

    AP Moller-Maersk has announced it intends selling up to 250,340 treasury B shares, which represents about 5.7% of the company’s total share capital. These will be offered to new and existing institutional investors (known as Placing Shares).

    “Through the sale of our treasury shares, we will strengthen our financial flexibility and increase our readiness to take advantage of possible, attractive investment opportunities which may arise as a consequence of the economic crisis”, said Group CEO Nils S Andersen.

    The number of Placing Shares and the price at which the Placing Shares are to be placed will be decided by the Company at the close of the book-building process. Settlement is expected to be facilitated through VP Securities on the third business day after the announcement of the price of the Placing Shares.

    Chinese shipping giant COSCO Container Lines which is owned and operated by state-owned China COSCO, has reported an operating loss of US$631 million for the first half of 2009. In the corresponding period for 2008 COSCO Container Lines made a $141m profit. Revenue in the first half of this year fell 52% to $1.7Bn and container volumes decreased 22% to 2.3 million TEU’s carried.

    Sixteen Somalis drown making hazardous journey across Gulf of Aden

    2 September 2009 – Sixteen Somalis died over the weekend trying to start fresh lives in Yemen, joining hundreds of others who have lost their lives this year making the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden, the United Nations refugee agency has reported.

    The Somalis who perished this weekend died in two separate incidents involving smuggling boats.

    In the first, survivors said that the vessel, which left Somalia’s Bossaso port carrying over 40 people, capsized when smugglers pushed people overboard, pushing passengers to one side of the boat. Seven bodies were recovered by partners of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while three people are still missing.

    In the other incident, smugglers, fearing detection by Yemeni authorities, forced more than nearly 40 passengers to swim ashore, with three people drowning and three others missing and presumed dead.

    Last year, over 50,000 new arrivals reached Yemen’s shores, marking a 70 percent increase from 2007, and 36,000 people have already arrived since this January.

    Over 1,000 people drowned en route to Yemen in 2008, and already this year some 300 have died or are missing, according to UNHCR.

    To respond to the potential influx of as many as 20,000 new arrivals, UNCHR and other agencies have been planning the provision of protection and assistance, as well as improving the capacity and conditions of reception centres.

    On Somalia, the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs this week reported that civilians continue to be killed in the capital, Mogadishu, with at least 50 people losing their lives in the past week alone.

    A UN report released late last month found that half of the Horn of Africa nation’s population needs humanitarian assistance, noting that that the conflict engulfing Somalia is pushing increasing numbers of people into hunger.

    The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit of the Food and Agriculture Organization says that the crisis in Somalia is both widespread and severe, with some 3.76 million people in need of humanitarian aid, up from 3.17 million in January. - UN News

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    Luanda – The de-mining of the Luanda, Moçamedes and Benguela railways has been completed, according to Angolan news agency Angop. It said the confirmation had come from the director-general of the National Institute of De-mining, Leonardo Severino Sapalo. The process has cleared an extent of 380 kilometres of the country’s railway lines, allowing trains to operate without constraint. In addition a total 28,437 square kilometres of land has been de-mined to enable the laying of Angola’s fibre-optic telephone network. An additional 78,806 sq km of land was cleared for the electricity transportation line. Angola has a total of 51 de-mining brigades operating across the country’s 18 provinces.

    Across on the east side of Africa, the Goba border post between Mozambique and Swaziland has begun operating 24 hours a day as from Tuesday, 1 September. This border post previously operated during daylight hours until either 20h00 or 22h00 at peak periods. The border post is one of the quieter crossings but provides a shorter route for transportion from Durban. This makes Goba the only border post into Mozambique to remain open 24 hours a day – the busy Ressano Garcia crossing further north near Komatipoort will not open on a 24 hour basis before 2010, according to Mozambique’s Provincial Director of Immigration.

    US security tightened for ships coming from the Congo

    The US Coast Guard has announced that ships coming from ports in the Republic of Congo will have to demonstrate enhanced security measures before they may enter US ports.

    This follows recommendations made to the Congolese government by the US Coast Guard in December 2008, in order for the Congo to come into line with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS).

    “To date, the United States cannot confirm that the identified deficiencies have been corrected,” the coast guard said.

    The announcement excludes ships coming from the offshore Djeno oil mooring.

    The added security measures include the right of the coast guard to place armed guards on the vessels while in US ports.

    Pic of the day – MSC OSLO

    Mediterranean Shipping Company’s container ship MSC OSLO (32,630-gt, built 1989) in Durban harbour at the recent weekend, en route for the entrance channel and the high seas. Picture by Terry Hutson

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