Ports & Ships Maritime News

Oct 19, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – FRONTIER

  • Rio Tinto Alcan abandons Coega as a smelter site

  • Piracy – PIL loses ship to Somali pirates

  • African Union signs Maritime Charter

  • Trade News - UAL expertise to boost SA explosives exports into Africa

  • News from the shipping lines

  • News clips – Keeping it brief

  • Pics of the day – Pics of the day – SAFMARINE CUNENE and WILLIAM R CROYLE II


    First View – FRONTIER

    The former DAEWOO FRONTIER (ex Repubblica di Genova, 42,567-gt, built 1988) which was sold for US$3.9 million plus bunker fuel on board at a judicial auction in Durban recently, moved under tow to the Bayhead last week to undergo preparation for her next voyage, which is assumed to be in the direction of the ship breakers. The ship has meanwhile been renamed FRONTIER. Picture by Trevor Jones

    Rio Tinto Alcan abandons Coega as a smelter site

    What many people suspected would happen has come to pass and maybe a little common sense has prevailed. Last week the international aluminium producer Rio Tinto Alcan and Telkom jointly confirmed that plans to build an aluminium smelter at Coega adjacent to the new port of Ngqura were finally off.

    According to the reason given by both companies, the R20 Billion project has been abandoned because of capacity constraints.

    The proposed aluminium smelter has been one of the more controversial projects advertised for the Coega, and now joins several other smelter projects that rose and fell. The smelter as envisaged by Rio Tinto Alcan would have had an annual production capacity of 720,000 tonnes of aluminium.

    During the period of President Thabo Mbeki’s government Eskom, the state electricity utility was obliged to provide the necessary power supply for the Coega project at considerably subsidised prices, despite a national shortage that saw other industries including aluminium smelters at Richards Bay and Maputo forced to cut back production. That the Coega project was clearly not otherwise viable was overlooked in government’s obsession to push for an anchor tenant project for the new port and the Eastern Cape.

    According to Guy Larin, VP of Rio Tinto Alcan Africa, Rio Tinto Alcan is willing to pursue discussions and is ready to “assist South Africa in realising the considerable benefits of a smelter project in the Port Elizabeth area.” However, he said other elements such as a long-term, competitive power supply agreement are essential and would need to be renegotiated.

    Eskom confirmed last week that it intends holding discussions with BHP Billiton over the supply of electricity to the company’s aluminium smelters at Richards Bay and Maputo, which are currently supplied also on a low-cost basis. Eskom recently announced it is seeking increases of 45% a year across the board for all users for the next three years.

    The utility recorded a loss of R9.7 Billion for the year ended March 2009.

    Piracy – PIL loses ship to Somali pirates

    PIL loses a ship to pirates

    A container ship operated by Pacific International Lines (PIL) has become the latest victim of Somali pirates who highjacked the KOTA WAJAR (16,772-gt, built 1997), owned and operated by the Singapore-based PIL, while the ship was sailing north of the Seychelles on 15 October.

    The 1,550-TEU ship has a crew of 21 on board – there are no reports of injuries to the crew and the vessel is believed to be heading towards Somalia. The ship’s destination was originally Mombasa.


    Japan replaces destroyers off Somalia

    Meanwhile Japan has announced that it is to replace two warships currently on patrol in the Gulf of Aden with another two destroyers. The 4,650-ton TAKANAMI and the 3,550-ton HAMAGIRI sailed from Yokosuka last week and are expected to go on patrol from early November. The two ships have a combined crew of 410.

    To enable the deployments Japan was forced to bring into use an anti-piracy law authorising the Japanese Navy to provide protection to any commercial ship under threat from pirates, no matter whether the other ship is Japanese or foreign. The law also authorises Japanese warships (Self-Defence Forces in Japanese parlance) to fire on suspected pirate vessels seen closing on other ships under threat.

    African Union signs Maritime Charter

    The African Union achieved consensus in Durban last week and signed the African Maritime Transport Charter.

    “The adoption of the African Maritime Transport Charter is indeed a significant milestone for our continent,” said South African Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele. “This charter maps a solid and defined place for the maritime sector in Africa and will help propel Africa towards our rightful place in the world economy. As Africans we must take the firm view that we cannot talk maritime transport outside of economic development and growth of the sector. The maritime transport sector in Africa is a giant that is waking up. African maritime transport has the capacity to grow our economies and create millions of jobs. The maritime transport sector can create opportunities for women and also has the capacity to absorb young people and unemployed graduates into productive work,” he said after the signing ceremony.

    Both Ndebele and several other speakers highlighted areas of strong concern, including piracy off the African coast and the dumping of toxic matter in African waters and in its ports.

    Interpol’s executive director Jean-Michel Loubotin, who was one of the delegates at the conference, said that pirates operating off the Somali coast were under the control of crime syndicates and that foreign criminals have become involved because of the attraction of multi-million dollar ransoms. He said this could now be classified as organised crime with policing, social and economic dimensions, but the international armada of naval vessels patrolling the area was not enough to solve the problem.

    In response South Africa’s transport minister S’bu Ndebele said it required the setting up of a combined force involving all nations of the world, but didn’t elaborate further. Until now South Africa, and most other African states with the notable exceptions of Kenya and the Seychelles who are directly involved, have adopted a hands-off approach to piracy, leaving the problem to other international forces and the respective shipping lines to handle.

    The maritime charter aims at encouraging the use of the national and regional shipping lines to the extent of providing them with legislative protection by way of cabotage laws that will promote the development of national or regional shipping operators. It also encourages the establishment of shippers’ councils to represent the interest of cargo owners.

    The other area of concern that was highlighted, that of pollution, will also receive attention resulting from the charter. Africa has long been used as a dumping ground by nations in Europe and elsewhere who found it convenient to ship toxic waste to an African port or its waters for disposal, without enquiring too strenuously as to how this would be achieved.

    To enforce these steps the charter recommends the establishment of an integrated coast guard network for Africa split into three separate regions.

    The Maritime Charter was adopted by 36 member states under the theme ‘Creation of a safe, secure and clean maritime transport industry’. Also present during the five day’s of deliberation were representatives of regional economic communities, the European Union and other international organisations. The adoption marks a significant step in maritime transport for the African continent.

    The overall aim of the charter is to implement continental harmonised transport policies which can promote sustained growth and development of shipping generally and African merchant fleets in particular. Some of the practical objectives of the charter include the promotion of cooperation among the maritime administrators of member states, which could ultimately lead to improved standards on the coast, in ports and on the continent’s inland waterways. In some instances the administrators require being assisted into organising recognised operating bodies.

    A strong emphasis will also be placed on the provision and strengthening of facilities for increased maritime training. This included the need for strengthened port state organisations and the need for fully trained surveyors and a dedicated maritime university is envisaged.

    Trade News - UAL expertise to boost SA explosives exports into Africa

    The Dutch-flagged general cargo ship UAL Africa (6577-gt, built 2002)

    When UAL (Universal Africa Lines) set up a South African office in June 2009, it came with decades of experience in the shipment of explosives and other hazardous cargo into Africa.

    This unique focus area positions local explosives manufacturers exceedingly well in the race to supply the evergreen African mining industries – a particularly opportune development as South Africa develops into an increasingly important trade hub into Africa.

    UAL has supplied exploration and production projects from Namibia and Angola to Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria for 30 years, says MD of UAL SA, Haakon Røstad.

    Before 2009, it did so exclusively from the US, UK and Europe, until an ever greater focus on indigenous African trade brought Cape Town within its sights.

    Røstad says UAL retains a commitment to Africa, with Cape Town merely the latest addition to an extensive portfolio of investments in African skills, offices and even an oil centre in Equatorial Guinea.

    Global Alignment

    Røstad reports that UAL SA is currently bringing its South African export portfolio in line with its international activities, with a move to include explosives and other hazardous materials.

    A number of negotiations are under way, he says, with the early focus falling on Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Gabon and Congo. “Various explosives are being used to extract minerals of all descriptions. The call is for detonators and explosives in a number of countries.”

    He says smaller manufacturers are in the running as well. As a small, privately-owned shipping line, UAL requires the least amount of inducement to enter smaller ports along the African coastline.

    Given Africa’s indigenisation laws, Røstad says South African manufacturers have a captive opportunity in the West African market.

    “It’s an opening one simply cannot pass up. Since South Africa is a preferred origin of supply into Africa, exporters almost don’t need to contend with the normal problems of the export market, such as a too-strong currency, global competition and so forth.

    “Couple this with UAL’s extensive experience in serving a market that is perennially active on the continent, and South African exporters of explosives are in for a good ride.”

    News from the shipping lines

    Hapag-Lloyd gets its loan

    It appears that the German government has agreed to provide the financial lifeline needed for Hapag-Lloyd to survive. A spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Economics and technology indicated the deal was a good as done, which will see €1.2 Billion being provided in bank loans. Although the matter has not been confirmed the industry was talking freely as though it had last week. A spokesman for TUI, which holds 43% of Hapag-Lloyds shares said he had heard the rumours but his organisation had not been advised officially. There had been a few outstanding issues but these had been resolved, he said. One of these is thought to be a salary cap for Hapag-Lloyd executives.


    Maersk to reflag ships

    Danish shipping line AP Moller-Maersk intends reflagging 55 of its ships in an effort to consolidate and simplify its registration structure. Fifteen of the container ships will be reflagged from the UK to Denmark, while 17 offshore vessels will transfer from the Isle of Man to Denmark. A further 20 ships are moving onto the UK registry from other unspecified flags. There is no information on the balance that are to be reflagged.


    Maersk expands into breakbulk

    Remaining with the Danish company, Maersk Line appears to be moving into the breakbulk market as the global recession tightens the container business. Maersk has purchased more than 10,000 new flat-rack and open-top containers, thus increasing its capacity quite dramatically. Final delivery is expected during the fourth quarter of this year. The company says that by bringing more focus to the breakbulk market it will be able develop a more sustainable partnership with breakbulk shippers. – source Journal of Commerce

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    India’s coal imports from SA rise in September

    India imported a total of 1.4 million tonnes of coal from South Africa in September, a small increase on the 1.3mt imported during August. India has become the largest single importer of South African coal during 2009, helping to compensate for the loss of exports South Africa has experienced to Europe which is in a state of oversupply. So far India has taken 13mt of SA coal, which is equivalent to 34% of Richards Bay Coal Terminal’s total exports. It is expected that RBCT will export 60mt during 2009, which will be considerably down on the 67mt of 2008 and even more so on the target of 72mt.


    Call to support Kenya’s Merchant Shipping Act

    Stakeholders in Kenya’s maritime industry have been asked to give support to the recently enacted Merchant Shipping Act 2009 and to help boost trade in the region. Transport Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere pointed out that 95% of international trade is by sea and said the Act will encourage economic growth. He allayed fears that the Act will deter foreigners. “It is regrettable that some stakeholders misinterpreted this Act as one enacted to restrict foreign direct investment in the maritime transport sector. This is not so. On the contrary, the government through my ministry encourages collaboration between local and foreign firms,” he said. The new Act is intended as an improved legal regime for merchant shipping in Kenya.


    Petrobras invests in Angola

    Brazil’s oil company Petrobras says it intends investing US$3 Billion in Angolan oil exploration over the next three years. Part of the investment is to train Angolans working in the oil industry and also to improve existing infrastructure.


    The newbuild offshore tug WILLIAN R CROYLE (2,200-gt, built 2009) has been a recent visitor in Cape Town. Managed by Tidewater Marine of the United States the ship is flagged in Vanuatu. Picture by Aad Noorland

    The German-owned container ship SAFMARINE CUNENE (27,322-gt, built 2002) is a regular caller in South African ports and is seen here sailing from Cape Town. Picture by Aad Noorland

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