Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 17, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • New South African Standby Tug Contract awaited

  • Kenya details plans for new standard gauge railway

  • MSC SINFONIA begins South African cruise season

  • Festive Season approaches – Saldanha shutdown periods

  • Piracy – British Royal Fleet Auxiliary unable to act as pirates removed British couple off yacht

  • News clips – Keeping it brief

  • Today’s recommended read – Bad roads slow continent's growth to a crawl

  • Pics of the day – KOTA NILAM



    The Smit salvage tug WOLRAAD WOLTEMADE (2,918-gt, built 1976) which arrived back in Cape Town recently – see following article. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    New South African Standby Tug Contract awaited

    Ian Shiffman, who took the accompanying photographs of the Smit tug WOLRAAD WOLTEMADE in Cape Town harbour, points out that the tug has had her Smit funnel insignia painted out, and speculates that this is in preparation for the famous tug’s final voyage to the breakers.

    If so this marks the end of an illustrious career for the former South African tug, although her immediate future may also be dependent on the outcome of the new ‘Standby Tug Contract’, which is due to be awarded at the end of November. The contract requires the presence of just one tug in a South African port at any given time, a duty that has for some years been taken up by her sister tug SMIT AMANDLA (the former JOHN ROSS).

    When these pictures were taken yesterday the Wolraad Woltemade was riding high in the water and showing evidence of wear and tear. At the time the tug was moving across from Duncan Dock to Quay 500 where a number of fittings were reportedly being transferred to her twin, Smit Amandla.

    The advent of these two tugs in 1976 was of more than passing or localised interest. Not only were they the most powerful tugs in the world, but they were being introduced as part of a then unique concept that has since been duplicated in several places around the world. This was the idea of having powerful standby tugs permanently on the coast capable of dealing with any emergency especially involving the super tankers that plied their trade around the Cape of Good Hope. Until that point countries were reliant on foreign tugs that may or may not be present when an emergency occurs.

    Facing the prospect that it was only a matter of time before South Africa became a victim of massive pollution from a disaster involving one of the giant VLCCs (South Africa had already had a close call with the grounding of the tanker WAFRA near Cape Agulhas in 1971), the decision was taken by Safmarine to build two 24,000 horsepower salvage tugs capable of handling the biggest ships and oil rigs afloat. These tugs would be available to alternate on standby on the South African coast with the second tug available to compete for charters internationally.

    SA Wolraad Woltemade was built on the Clyde in Scotland while the second tug named SA John Ross was built at the Durban shipyards of Elgin Brown & Hamer. Safmarine (subsequently Pentow Marine and then Smit) operated the tugs on the basis of a ‘Standby Tug Contract’ – an arrangement with the South African government that has more or less continued to this day. However, the most recent contract expired earlier this year and has since been extended on an ad hoc basis but even that comes to a close at the end of the month.

    SAMSA has yet to announce the tender for the next five years, without which the country stands the risk of there not being a standby tug available for the first time in over 30 years.

    After the breakup of Safmarine in the late 1990s and the sale of the tug and service vessel division of Pentow Marine to the Dutch group Smit, the new owner entered into a joint venture with black economic empowerment partners forming Smit Amandla Marine, at which time the John Ross was transferred to this company and renamed SMIT AMANDLA, becoming the regular standby tug on the coast.

    Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Kenya details plans for new standard gauge railway

    Kenya Ports Authority managing director James Mulewa says that Kenya and Uganda intend going ahead with building a new standard (1435-mm) gauge railway from the port of Mombasa to Malaba with a branch to Kisumu on Kenya’s Lake Victoria coast.

    Speaking to a meeting of clearing and forwarding agents in Kampala last week, Mulewa said Kenya has already budgeted for the project and adverts have been placed for preliminary design work.

    He pointed out that the cost of transport on the Northern Corridor of Kenya and Uganda was among the highest in the world and said the new railway would address this challenge. The train service would not be subject to border delays, weighbridges or poor road networks and would provide for a double decker train capable of travelling at 120 km/h for 4,000-tonnes freight trains and 160 km/h for passengers.

    Construction of the new railway is scheduled to begin in May 2011, he said, with Nairobi being reached in 2013 and Malaba in 2016.

    The region’s existing railway network was built around the start of the 20th century and was built to metre gauge. Following independence and the breakup of the original East African Railways into its constituent countries the railway fell into a state of deterioration. Two years ago a concession was awarded to a South African consortium headed by Sheltam Rail to manage and operate the railway as the Rift Valley Railway. This company has since come under severe criticism for lack of improvements to the railway, operations and performance, leading to demands that the concession be cancelled.

    However it is believed that both Kenya and Uganda face large financial penalties if the concession is arbitrarily cancelled. Instead the two countries have embarked on the concept of building a new railway to run more or less parallel with the old but built to a wider gauge in the conviction that this by itself will result in efficiencies.

    MSC SINFONIA begins South African cruise season

    MSC Sinfonia docked in Durban yesterday (Monday) after completing her maiden voyage from the port – a two-night cruise to nowhere. She sailed again later in the afternoon on the first of her four-night cruises to Portuguese Island and Barra Lodge.

    The 58,600-gt cruise ship is one of ten MSC cruises ships, representing the most modern cruise fleet afloat. MSC Cruises operates in the waters of the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, East Coast South America and Southern Africa.

    The new generation cruise ship introduces a much higher standard of cruising when compared with earlier ships stationed here for summer seasons, and the enormous interest particularly in the more expensive suites, such as those with balconies, signifies a growing sophistication among the local cruising population.

    “A significant change in the booking pattern is evident at the top end of the market where huge support has been received for the 135 suites with private balconies. This is a new market drawn by the ship’s improved accommodation and top class facilities,” said Allan Foggitt, director of Starlight Cruising, the general sales agent for MSC Cruises in South Africa.

    According to Foggitt unprecedented advance bookings confirmed the timing for launching MSC Sinfonia in South Africa. Most departures in November and December are already either sold out or heavily booked, he said. Among those fully booked is the 11-night New Year cruise to La Reunion and Mauritius. The cost of this particular cruise ranges from R15,180 in the lowest category to R24,200 per person.

    Foggitt said the most reasonably priced cabins remained the most popular as they ensured a significant saving on accommodation while still allowing the passenger use of the same dining, entertainment and other facilities as those booked into suites. Prices in these categories range from R3,970 for a three-night cruise.

    “MSC Sinfonia offers South Africans their first opportunity to experience a ‘new build’ world class product which only a select few who travel abroad have had the chance to do. It ushers us into a new era of world class cruising,” he said.

    As with other MSC cruise ship operations in the past, Durban will be the home base throughout the season for the ship.

    MSC Sinfonia has a full schedule of 39 cruises during her first summer season in South Africa and the Indian Ocean. Shorter cruises feature three 2 night “Cruises to nowhere” and 32 three, four and five night cruises to varying destinations in Mozambique.

    Longer cruises feature the 11 night New Year’s cruise to Mauritius and Reunion and a bumper 14 night “Island Discovery” cruise with calls at Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and Mozambique. The 21 night northbound return trip to Livorno, Italy departs Durban on 1 April 2010.

    Cruises operating from Durban are 99% South African holidaymakers but the numbers are reversed on the positioning voyages to and from Europe when about 80% of passengers are foreign nationals.

    “The most popular cruises are the 3 night weekend departures to Portuguese Island which are affordable breaks and don’t require taking special leave. Peak season cruises over Christmas and New Year are also in great demand as a choice for an annual holiday,” said Foggitt.

    Over 70,000 passengers are expected to cruise on board MSC Sinfonia this season.

    “The overwhelming support received for the ship has ensured her return for an extended 2010/2011 season which will include Easter and the April school holidays. The programme has been finalised and bookings are already open with some exciting advance booking discounts on offer for those who book early,” said Foggitt.

    Further enquiries can be made to your nearest travel agent or from
    www.msccruises.com or www.starlight.co.za .

    Festive Season approaches – Saldanha shutdown periods

    With the 2009 Festive Season fast approaching, some South African ports will either close or have restricted services on certain days and times.

    Leading off is the Port of Saldanha, Multipurpose Terminal which will operate as follows:

    Thursday, 24 December 2009 – terminal stops working at 19h00.
    Friday, 25 December 2009 – Christmas Day – terminal will be closed.
    Saturday, 26 December 2009 – terminal reopens at 07h00.

    Thursday, 31 December 2009 – terminal stops working at 19h00.
    Friday, 1 January 2010 – New Year’s Day – terminal will be closed.
    Saturday, 02 January 2010 – terminal reopens at 07h00.

    On the days preceding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day Transnet Port Terminals’ (TPT) administration offices will close at 12h00.

    Piracy – British Royal Fleet Auxiliary unable to act as pirates removed British couple off yacht

    It now transpires that a British fleet auxiliary, RFA WAVE KNIGHT was forced to stand by helplessly as pirates hurriedly transferred British yachting couple Paul and Rachel Chandler from their yacht Lynn Rival onto the pirates’ headquarter ship.

    The nearest warship, HMS CUMBERLAND was several hours away as the RFA auxiliary, manned by a crew of 100, arrived but was unable to act for fear of causing harm to the hostages. As the Wave Knight approached the pirates were seen to rush the couple off their yacht and onto a waiting skiff which transferred them to a captured merchant ship at anchor off the Somali coast.

    The crew of the Wave Knight who are mainly civilians are not trained to act in such circumstances and could take no action. With the Chandlers having been removed the yacht was abandoned by the pirates and was later taken in tow by British warships.

    A Royal Navy spokesman defended the response saying that the situation was volatile.

    “What you have is a hostile situation with a bunch of pirates who are clearly unhappy. You have to be absolutely sure of what you are doing before you start trying to release hostages because you could end up with the hostages getting killed. You have a small open boat which is crammed full of pirates armed with AK47s and rocket propelled grenades and two middle-aged yachties, all loaded into this small boat which is full of fuel.”

    He said that the ship on the scene was the lightly armed Wave Knight, a Royal Fleet Auxiliar. “She has a helicopter and a helicopter crew and some self defence weapons but she doesn’t have a crew of snipers,” the spokesman said.

    A Royal Navy ship later took the abandoned yacht in tow and removed it from the Somali coast. The Chandlers remain in custody of the pirates at a position further inland while a ransom is negotiated.

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    26 drown in Lake Victoria sinking

    A small ferry has capsized in Lake Victoria leaving 26 of the 50 people on board to drown in the wind-swept waters. The overcrowded boat was travelling from Lugala to Hama Islands at the time and capsized near Usenge, near the border with Kenya, according to reports in New Vision. A Ugandan fisheries officer said the boat was overcome by strong waves. He said the boat’s owner had earlier been warned against overloading. A survivor claimed the boat had run out of fuel at the halfway point. Few passengers were wearing life jackets, he said, adding that he survived by holding onto an empty fuel drum until rescued 45 minutes later.


    Kykdaar - Oasis of the Seas causes traffic jam

    The arrival in Fort Everglades of the world’s latest and largest ever cruise ship, the 225,000-gt OASIS OF THE SEAS led to a massive traffic jam at the weekend as thousands of sightseers tried to approach the vessel. Oasis of the Seas arrived in her new home port from the builder’s yard in Finland. Security remained tight around the ship and only ticketed passengers were allowed access but throngs of sightseers made it difficult for passengers to board the ship.

    Today’s recommended read – Bad roads slow continent's growth to a crawl

    The poor quality of Africa's infrastructure is costing the continent's economies around two percent of their potential economic growth each year, while the state of infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa - its electricity, water, roads, and information and communications technology (ICT) - also reduces business productivity by as much as 40 percent.

    Read the full article HERE.

    If you have any suggestions for a good read please send the link to info@ports.co.za and put GOOD READ in the subject line.

    Pics of the day – KOTA NILAM

    Pacific International Lines (PIL) container ship KOTA NILAM (20,902-gt, built 2009), one of the Singapore-based company’s recent newbuilds, arrived in Cape Town yesterday. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    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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