Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 11, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – MSC SINFONIA

  • Somali pirates raise the odds in Indian Ocean – wider area now no-go for merchant shipping

  • SELI 1 ko’d by late winter storms

  • Unicorn Shipping recognised for its AMVER contribution at sea

  • US Ruling makes South Africa first choice for ship arrests

  • Piracy – attacks on ships continue

  • News clips – Keeping it brief



    First View – MSC SINFONIA

    MSC Sinfonia arrived in Cape Town yesterday (Tuesday) to be greeted by harbour tugs spraying sea water in the traditional welcome for ships making their maiden visit to a South African port. MSC Sinfonia sailed again later that night for Durban where she is due on Friday morning. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

    Somali pirates raise the odds in Indian Ocean – wider area now no-go for merchant shipping

    A much wider area in the north-western Indian Ocean is in danger of becoming a no-go zone for merchant shipping as Somali pirates dramatically escalate their activities across a broader sweep of ocean than ever before.

    On Monday a Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker, BW LION (155,585-gt, built 2004) came under attack from what is thought to be Somali pirates while 1,000 n.miles from the African coast (see report below for details). A few days ago PORTS & SHIPS reported on an attack on a bulker off the Tanzanian coast, well to the south of Somalia, while in recent weeks and months the waters around the Seychelles in the east have become an area of concern with several ships and yachts attacked and in some instances highjacked.

    As international naval patrols increase their presence so the pirates have multiplied their range, indicating that distance from the nearest land is no hindrance. They know that once in control of a ship there’s little or nothing that opposing naval forces can do, other than monitor their movements back to a Somali anchorage and to be on hand to escort the ship away once the required ransom is paid.

    Even when captured at sea the pirates have little to fear. After throwing their weapons overboard they meekly allow the approaching warship to come alongside, secure in the knowledge that they will shortly be released for lack of evidence or jurisdiction.

    This week the North British P&I Club (Nepia) advised of a new routeing from Maritime Security Area, Horn of Africa (MSC HOA) for vessels trading to ports on the east coast of Africa. It said that all ships navigating to ports in this region should be aware of attempted armed pirate attacks and successful highjacks in the Somali basin.

    “The majority of these attacks have occurred against vessels navigating between the Somali Coast and North of the Seychelles, when proceeding to and from ports in South Africa, Mombasa, Tanzania and Somalia.”

    Nepia recommended that all vessels navigating to and from ports in South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia should consider routing south of 10°S and east of 60°E, avoiding the area between the Somali coast and north and west of the Seychelles.

    “Additionally, while navigating in the region vessels are urged to operate at a heightened state of readiness, maintaining strict 24 hour anti-piracy visual and radar watches, actively implement recommended anti-piracy measures in keeping with Best Management Practices Version 2 dated August 2009, and regularly report daily their position, course, speed and ETA information to UKMTO Dubai ( ukmto@eim.ae ).”

    Nepia reiterated that any attack or suspicious activity should be reported immediately to MSC HOA and the IMB (International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur) to allow full analysis of trends in pirate activity as well as enabling appropriate warnings to other merchant shipping in the area.

    The message arising out of this appears to be that the existing naval forces in the area, which are mostly congregated in the immediate Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden zone, are inadequate to the task and that greater numbers of ships are necessary. Yet many seafaring nations continue to ignore the problem, including South Africa, while leaving it to the few others to take care of the problem. Well, the message is now clear. The problem is coming closer, and happens to be heading this way.

    One of the latest and most modern frigates of any navy, SAS MENDI is seen in this 2004 picture on her maiden visit to Durban, sans any weapons. As far as South Africa's reaction to piracy on the African continent is concerned South African Navy ships could just as well be weaponless. Picture Terry Hutson

    SELI 1 ko’d by late winter storms

    Picture courtesy SAMSA

    Cape Town, 10 November 2009 (SAMSA) - The rough weather and high seas experienced earlier this week have dealt a death blow to local plans to refloat and thereafter either recycle, or sink the vessel offshore.

    Despite the best endeavours of all who have put so much into the attempt, SMIT’s salvage masters aboard are discovering more and more indications that despite the efforts to strengthen the vessel, the structure is steadily deteriorating under the seemingly endless fronts still passing over Cape Town, with the result that she will no longer be able to be floated off the beach and will have to be cut up in situ, if she is going to be removed at all.

    Following an on-board inspection today and considering the limited funds available to SAMSA, we have decided stop wasting money on further attempts to strengthen the structure as there is no longer any prospect of refloating the vessel.

    Also on the chopping block is the ‘local’ plan to remove the coal and sell it ashore which was a necessary step which had to be carried out before any refloating attempt was made.

    The coal removal part of the project has to be re-considered, firstly due to the intransigence of the cargo owners regarding the sale of the cargo so that it might in turn be sold ashore to defray the costs of removal, and secondly due to the lack of material support from the other authorities who originally supported the plan verbally, and lastly due to the deteriorating condition of the vessel after the week-end gale, with another on the way.

    Without active and direct support from affected and involved authorities, especially from the Transnet National Ports Authority there is no prospect of the plan’s success. SAMSA will hold a meeting next week on Wednesday with the various authorities, directly after which a final decision will have to be made by SAMSA on whether to continue with the coal removal and further “caretaking” of the wreck.

    Although millions of Rands have already been spent on the SELI 1, more still is still being expended daily by those few who are attempting to solve the problem locally, there is just not enough to do the job ‘properly’ and we may have gotten to the point where we are just wasting money, for little return.

    It would seem that the SELI 1 is destined to be around for a lot longer than anyone would have liked, especially as Salvage companies will have to decide whether it is worth producing wreck removal plans and quotes for the State to consider when there is no commitment as yet.

    The situation is further complicated by the fact that there is no precedent in our recent history and no-one is certain which State Department is responsible for securing funds or ironically, whether, as many pundits believe, the TNPA is responsible (as it is within the port area).

    A further update will be released after Wednesday’s meeting with the authorities.

    Capt Dave Colly
    South African Maritime Safety Authority

    Unicorn Shipping recognised for its AMVER contribution at sea

    Picture by Sandile Qwabe

    by Sandile Qwabe

    Durban, 10 November 2009 - United States Consul General Jill Derderian today presented Unicorn Shipping Ltd with a certificate commending its participation in the United States Coast Guard’s Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue (Amver) System.

    Established by the United States Coast Guard in 1958, Amver is a unique, computer-based, and voluntary global ship reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue coordinators to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea. Amver enables rescue coordinators to identify participating ships in the area of distress and divert the best-suited ship or ships to respond.

    Amver's mission is to provide search and rescue authorities with rapid and accurate information on the positions and characteristics of vessels located near a reported distress. In 2008 hundreds of nations and over 5,000 vessels participated in Amver resulting in 197 lives saved.

    Unicorn’s INYALA vessel received the blue Amver pennant for participating in the system as a new member in 2008. Unicorn vessels have been participating in the Amver program since the 1980s and previously received four awards for service in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Unicorn Shipping CEO Laurence Stuart-Hill received this year’s award with pleasure, noting that Unicorn is committed to safety. Consul General Derderian thanked Unicorn for its willingness to serve and said that Amver’s success would not be possible without the voluntary participation of private sector companies.

    US Ruling makes South Africa first choice for ship arrests

    In the wake of a landmark US judgement last month, global maritime litigants will once again be looking to South Africa as the world’s prime ship arrest jurisdiction. Most claimants will no longer be able to seek security for claims in New York courts, so will be looking for other ways to obtain security for their claims. South Africa is perfectly positioned to offer this service to foreign litigants.

    The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in the case The Shipping Corporation of India Ltd vs Jaldhi Overseas Pte Ltd has overruled the seven year old decision in Winter Storm Shipping, holding that electronic fund transfers (EFTs) being processed by intermediary banks in New York are no longer subject to attachment under Rule B of the Admiralty Rules.

    Rule B allowed companies to attach a defendant’s assets where the plaintiff has a maritime claim, such as collision damages and breaches of contract. The procedure allowed for the attachment or freezing of tangible or intangible property which need not have had any connection to the maritime claim. The result was that claimants could attach defendant’s funds which passed through the New York banking system. Such attachments were sought to provide security for maritime arbitrations or litigations in foreign jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, London or Singapore.

    “Instead of Rule B, it’s back to plan B,” says Gavin Fitzmaurice, maritime lawyer and partner at Webber Wentzel in Cape Town.

    The effect of this judgement is that creditors can no longer attach EFTs on businesses with funds passing through NY banks, but can attach a ship docking in South Africa. Generally the ship’s owner will then provide security by way of a bank guarantee or letter of undertaking form an insurer or financial institution.

    Fitzmaurice says this decision is very significant as it comes at a time when many companies are failing so contracts are being breached, resulting in rising numbers of claims for which security is required.

    “South Africa is a long and well-established ship arrest jurisdiction with arrest friendly legislation. This return to South Africa as the first choice as a ship arrest destination comes at a stage when we have refined and enhanced the service to potential litigants. From maritime lawyers, to sheriffs, the port authorities and indeed the courts themselves, all are well acquainted with the finer details and practical requirements associated with ship arrests.”

    Fitzmaurice says while the decision may be appealed it is unlikely to be overturned. “The US courts have been whittling away at Rule B for some time now, and most US shipping attorneys say such an appeal is bound to fail.”

    South Africa was established as a leading ship arrest jurisdiction when the Admiralty Jurisdiction Registration Act 105 of 1993 was promulgated, establishing South Africa as a ship arrest jurisdiction for foreign litigants. - source www.cbn.co.za

    Piracy – attacks on ships continue

    Piracy off the Horn of Africa continues to dominate the world’s maritime news, as Somali pirates become ever more audacious in their attacks on shipping.

    VLCC BW LION attacked by pirates

    The latest report involves an attack on a large modern tanker, the BW LION (298,563-dwt, built 2004) while the ship was sailing 1,000 n.miles off the African coast. This is the furthest recorded attack on a ship by Somali pirates and indicates that distance and size is no obstacle. In the event the Hong Kong-flagged BW Lion was able to take evasive action and out-manoeuvred the pirates who were operating from two small open boats, despite being fired upon with automatic weapons and grenade launchers. It is thought the pirates came from a mother ship in the area.

    Pirates have already attacked and captured an even larger tanker, the 319,430-dwt VLCC SIRIUS STAR which was carrying 300,000 tonnes of Saudi oil valued at over a hundred million dollars. That ship was ransomed in January this year.

    UAE gun runner captured by pirates

    In another and somewhat bizarre attack, Somali pirates seized a UAE-flagged ship named AL MIZAN, although some doubt exists as to whether this is a fake name. The ship is said to be carrying a cargo of weapons destined for somewhere in the Horn of Africa in breech of a UN arms embargo. According to Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, the ship is known to be regularly involved in gun running to pirate factions, although why it has been attacked is not clear. One possible explanation is that rival pirate gangs are involved. Al Mizan is being held near the Somali anchorage and town of Garacad. Some member states of the UAE have long been known as distribution points for running guns into Africa, although much of this illicit cargo has previously gone by air.

    Pirates may want to exchange British couple

    In the matter of the British yachting couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler who were captured by pirates with their yacht Lynn Rival several weeks ago, reports have appeared saying that the Somalis are now asking for an exchange of the British couple for seven Somali pirates taken into custody after attacking the French fishing boat Cape St Vincent.

    China calls anti-piracy conference

    Concerned with escalating piracy involving Chinese ships and seafarers, China has called a two-day conference involving delegates from NATO, the European Union, Russia, Japan and India to look at how best to deal with the increasing problem. China already has three warships operating in the area but this hasn’t prevented Somali pirates from capturing Chinese ships and Chinese seafarers. Last month the bulker DE XIN HAI was seized while sailing from Richards Bay to India with a cargo of South African coal and is now being held for ransom. The Chinese warships have so far acted independently of other commands but the conference this week may signal a move away from this policy and greater cooperation with other forces in the area.

    In a reflection on this the Handy Shipping Guide comments that thes latest forum “is all too clear proof of the growing recognition that the Chinese are developing in the role they must play in international security to protect their interests.

    “The irony will not be lost on students of history. It was to tackle pirates on the Barbary Coast in North Africa that saw the fledgling United States launch its first foray into international force-projection that has led inexorably to the creation of the most powerful navy the world has ever seen. It remains to be seen whether or not piracy on the same
    continent some two centuries later will start the rise of another naval giant. One thing is certain, any improvement to the security situation in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of East Africa will be welcome news to all involved in the shipping industry.”

    EU wants more ships to face pirates

    As if in concert with the Chinese move, the Defense News reports that the outgoing chairman of the European Union Military Committee wants the number of ships in the Somali basin to be increased because of the larger areas to be covered.

    “The EU has committed three or four frigates but in 2010 we probably need between six and 10 to cover that vast area,” General Henri Bentegeat said at a news conference following a meeting of the EU Chairs of Defense Staff (CHODs).

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    Angola ups its oil projections

    Expect to see even more tankers along the coast of Angola in the future. The country is predicting oil production of up to 3 million barrels a day within the next five years. Angola’s current production is just short of 2mb/d but a number of new fields are due to come into production within the next few years as further licenses are issued.


    NYK cuts it container loaf in half

    Japanese container carrier NYK is said to be preparing to reduce its container fleet by half between now and 2013 to cope with weak demand and large financial losses from this division. NYL currently operates a fleet of 120 container ships, of which about 20% are owned by the group. The reports say that NYK will either scrap or sell some of its owned ships and return others under charter. NYK has been a victim of a massive expansion of its container fleet in the last few years as it sought to take advantage of the boom.


    Twin sisters co-joined. Built in two separate shipyards in different hemisphere’s the SMIT AMANDLA (2,918-gt, built 1976 in Durban) and WOLRAAD WOLTEMADE (2,918-gt, built 1976 in Scotland) met again recently in Cape Town harbour. Picture by Aad Noorland.


    Another look at MSC Sinfonia on her maiden visit to Cape Town yesterday, seen receiving fuel at the port’s F berth from the bunker barge Southern Valour. MSC Sinfonia is now making her way along the South African coast to Durban to begin a summer season of cruises from that port. Picture Aad Noorland

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