Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 3, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – CAVOUR

  • South Africa, Namibia to review strategic partnerships

  • Transnet and mining houses in talks over future of manganese exports

  • Western Cape Government concerned over Robben Island ferry

  • Piracy – Norwegian navy sailors fired on

  • CMA CGM founder Saadé denies reports that creditors want him out

  • News clips – Keeping it brief

  • Today’s recommended Read – Federal agencies raise alarm about cruise sewage

  • Pic of the day – Pic of the day – SUBMARINE OFF CAPE TOWN


    First View – CAVOUR

    The 244m long Italian aircraft carrier CAVOUR (pennant 550, displacing 27,500-tons and in service 2009) which was photographed at Civitavecchia in Italy recently. The ship carries a crew of 451 naval personnel plus a complement of 203 from the Fleet Air Arm. Cavour is completing sea trials and will carry between 20 and 24 aircraft including Boeing Harrier II jets or Lockheed Martin F-35Bs plus a number of general purpose helicopters including the EH101 AEW/HEW surveillance helicopter. Picture by Ian Shippman.

    South Africa, Namibia to review strategic partnerships

    Pretoria, 2 November (BuaNews) - President Jacob Zuma is to host his Namibian counterpart, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, to discuss the consolidation of economic relations between the two countries.

    The two are set to co-chair the SA-Namibia Heads of State Economic Bilateral Forum on Tuesday at the Presidential Guesthouse.

    "The Heads of State Economic Bilateral Forum between South Africa and Namibia takes place within the context of strengthening the bilateral relations and further seeks to consolidate efforts aimed at regional economic integration within the Southern African Development Community (SADC)," said International Relations' and Cooperation spokesperson Nomfanelo Kota.

    According to Kota, the meeting will present the two leaders with the opportunity to ascertain progress in the implementation of milestone regional projects like the Trans-Kalahari Rail, as well the Trans Kunene Corridor.

    Furthermore, sectors to be discussed during the commission include trade and industry; agriculture; energy; environment and tourism; science and technology as well as transport and communications.

    Upon conclusion, three agreements on tourism, energy and transport are expected to be signed.

    "It is also expected that the two Heads of State will exchange views on the newly created National Planning Commission headed by Minister Trevor Manuel, to share expertise for mutual benefit in both countries," said Kota.

    Zuma will be supported by the International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane, nine other Cabinet ministers and senior government officials from various departments.

    The Economic Bilateral Commission serves as a platform for reinforcing bilateral economic relations between South Africa and its north western neighbour.

    South Africa is one of Namibia's most important economic partners, with bilateral trade between South Africa and Namibia accounting about two thirds of Namibia's total foreign trade.

    The strategic relations between South Africa and Namibia are further enhanced by the two countries' membership of the Southern African Customs Union and the Common Monetary Union.

    In a related matter, South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and the Canadian High Commissioner to South Africa, Adèle Dion, have signed an agreement on the mutual assistance between the two countries’ customs administration.

    The Mutual Administration Assistance Agreement signed on Friday, consists of various forms of practical cooperation including assisting in the correct application of customs laws and the appearance of customs officers as witnesses or experts in court cases in other countries.

    The agreement also enables for the advance electronic transmission of customs data between South Africa and Canada.

    This presents the two countries with two significant advantages, it allows for comparing of data at a transactional level and identifies non-compliance but also helps in identifying and rewarding compliant traders.

    According to the agreement, customs administrations have had to keep pace with the tremendous increase in international trade and transport, the growing role of trans-frontier organised crime and the threat of terrorism.

    National and international cooperation has therefore become essential, hence the need for cooperation with other customs administrations and other key roleplayers in the international supply chain.

    Trade and investment between South Africa and Canada has steadily grown since 1994 with South Africa seen as an important destination for exports on the African continent.

    In 2006, South Africa was the top export destination in Africa of Canadian goods, this accounted for 33.5 percent of total exports of Canadian goods to Africa.

    The country has also ranked second at 10 percent, after Algeria’s 60.8 percent, as the import origin for African goods imported into Canada.

    Trade between South Africa and Canada totalled approximately R10, 5 billion, with South African exports R3.1billion and Canada’s exports R7.3 billion in 2008.

    South Africa has to date signed 17 agreements in Custom Administration with various countries.

    Transnet and mining houses in talks over future of manganese exports

    Transnet and manganese exporters are expected to decide within the next four to five months whether a new manganese export channel will be developed alongside the existing channel at the port of Saldanha, or at another port along South Africa’s east coast.

    The matter has been under study for some time, leading to speculation that the new port of Ngqura was not necessarily being favoured. Manganese ore exports have been (among several commodities) one of the motivating factors for the development of the new port of Ngqura but it is understood that other options including continuing with the ports of Port Elizabeth and Durban are under consideration. Manganese ore is already being exported through both east coast ports, with Port Elizabeth capable of handling up to 4.5 million tones annually and Durban in the region of 2.5mt annually. According to the mining houses the demand for manganese ore is expected to reach 12mt annually.

    It appears that BHP Billiton, Assore and African Rainbow Minerals would prefer to expand with Saldanha, where they enjoy a dedicated rail link to the coast as well as a dedicated ore port.

    Whichever option is chosen will require significant investment both for the rail extensions as well as port facilities. The current railway line to Saldanha is currently used for iron ore exports and is in the process of being ramped up to substantially increase iron ore exports.

    Western Cape Government concerned over Robben Island ferry

    Picture by Robert Ravensberg

    Strong concern has been expressed in local government circles about the problems being experienced with the ferry that operates the tourist service from Cape Town to Robben Island.

    With the approaching 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup there are fears that tourists might be unable to visit the World Heritage Site, following the debacle of the recent withdrawal of the ferry to await spare parts from overseas.

    The ferry, named Sikhululekile, was taken out of service shortly before the September long weekend around Heritage Day, and remained on its berth at the V&A for several days while parts were flown to South Africa from Germany.

    Tourists, including some who had booked ahead arrived at the V&A to be confronted by a notice advising of the ferry’s withdrawal. The R26 million ferry, which carries 280 passengers and entered service in 2008, began leaking oil earlier in the week and after an examination it turned out that the cooler was cracked and could not be repaired, resulting in spares having to be obtained from the manufacturer in Germany.

    The ferry has an unfortunate record, having been delayed by about one year over construction problems. Shortly after entering service in 2008 Sikhululekile was attached when the operator failed to keep up payments. The operator claimed that the money was being withheld because of faulty workmanship but once the boat was repossessed the matter was quickly sorted out.

    At last Friday’s meeting of the Western Cape Premier’s Metropolitan Co-ordination Forum, strong concern was expressed over access to Robben Island as well as the deteriorating state of the site, which is under the jurisdiction of the National Department of Arts and Culture.

    The Forum noted that in 2010 the eyes of the world will be on Cape Town and Robben Island as one of the key heritage and tourism destinations of the city. It stated that should poor management of the island continue, Robben Island risked losing its status as a World Heritage Site.

    In the financial year 2006 the Robben Island Museum lost R25 million and in 2007 it received a qualified report from the Auditor General due to problems with providing financial information.

    Piracy – Norwegian navy sailors fired on

    As pirates ramp up their activities in Somali and Seychelles waters, news from EU NAVFOR, the European Union naval presence in the Gulf of Aden, is that pirates opened fire on a Norwegian frigate on Sunday morning.

    The HNOMS FRIDTJOF NANSEN was inspecting local fishing dhows near the coast of northeastern Somalia when the suspected pirates opened fire from a small boat. There were no injuries and the Somalis retired when the EU NAVFOR boarding team returned the fire. The Norwegian vessel then withdrew to de-escalate the situation.

    In other news Somali pirates holding the British yachting couple off the yacht Lynn Rival have reduced their demand for ransom, possibly in recognition that their original demand was excessive. A spokesman for the pirate group said the seizure of ships and yachts was a response to Western fishing vessels operating illegally in Somali waters and harassing Somali fishing craft, including destroying their nets. This claim was also made by Somalia’s prime minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke in a speech last Wednesday, when he said that many countries were operating fishing boats in Somali waters without permission.

    In Europe, Helene Bours, a fishing consultant to non-governmental organisations in Europe and Africa said she was skeptical of such claims, saying that the extent to which piracy has developed had gone way beyond a few fishermen turning into pirates. She admitted that the lack of reliable information from Somali made any assessment unreliable.

    Spain has meanwhile passed into law a decree allowing armed security guards to be placed on board ships and other vessels operating in waters considered to be dangerous. This follows the recent attack on a Spanish tuna vessel which was captured by Somali pirates along with the crew of 36.

    China says it is negotiating for the release of a Chinese ship and its crew seized by pirates in the past month. The vessel, the bulker DE XIN HAI was sailing from Richards Bay to India with a cargo of coal when pirates stormed on board in the vicinity of the Seychelles. Twenty-five crew were taken into captivity with the ship which is now at anchor off Somalia. The Chinese premier Wen Jiabao is due in Egypt from 6 November for talks with Egyptian and other African leaders and the subject of piracy off the African coast is likely to be on the agenda.

    CMA CGM founder Saadé denies reports that creditors want him out

     Jacques R Saadé

    CMA CGM founder and CEO, Jacques R Saadé has denied reports that his company’s creditors want him to retire before they restructure the troubled French shipping giant’s US$5.6 Billion debt.

    “I cannot believe that some of our financial partners would try to take advantage of our current situation, when the company is fully mobilised, when we are on the road to recovery and when the company needs all of the knowledge and experience of all its executive team,” Saadé said in a statement.

    According to the reports several of the lenders including BNP Paribas have demanded that CMA CGM appoint a new CEO and revamp the management team. CMA CGM faces defaulting on payments if the banks invoke its breach of covenants on $4Bn of the debt, according to an American financial publication.

    The French shipping company is trying to raise the cash by selling stakes to potential equity investors. A spokesman for CMA CGM said this week there was no truth in reports that its Delmas subsidiary was for sale. “Group Bolloré has made no offer to buy Delmas,” he said.

    The speculation began after CMA CGM announced earlier that it was looking to sell off some assets to relive its debt.

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    For the record

    In yesterday’s News Bulletin we incorrectly identified the location of the two cruise ships WIND STAR and CARNIVAL DREAM as being Gibraltar, whereas the port in which the two pictures were photographed by Ian Shiffmann was actually in Palma, Majorca (we must have had rocks in our editorial head).


    MSC hikes export rates

    Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), has announced it is increasing its rates for export cargo from the United States, Mexico and Canada to Africa, Europe, the Middle East and India with effect 1 December 2009.

    Rates from Canada will go up US$200 per 20ft and $400 per 40ft container to North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, the Red Sea, Middle East, India, Pakistan, Northwest Europe, the UK, Scandinavia, the Baltic and the entire Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. From the US and Mexico the same increase applies with the exception of Western Mediterranean ports where the increase will be $150/$300 per 20/40ft container.


    French ports face lock-down as workers go on strike

    French dock workers have called a 24-hour strike for this Friday, 6 November 2009 at France’s largest ports, Dunkirk, Rouen, Nantes Saint-Nazaire, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Le Havre and La Rochelle. The strike is in protest against government plans to privatise container handling and was called after unions failed to get guarantees from government over job losses.


    Equatorial Guinea to double LNG exports

    EQUATORIAL Guinea says it plans to double its LNG exports within five years and is aiming to become a regional hub for LNG exports, including handling exports on behalf of Nigeria and Cameroun. We have the good problem of having more gas than we thought, said an energy spokesman. The small West African country currently produces 3.7 million tonnes of LNG a year.


    MSC reverts to Suez Canal with its Golden Gate service

    picture by Ian Shiffman

    MSC’s Golden Gate Service, which operates between the US east coast and the Far East via the Cape of Good Hope, will revert to using the more direct Mediterranean, Suez Canal and Red Sea route with calls at Jeddah on the Red Sea. The change in course takes place from next week with the sailing of MSC KENYA from New York on 10 November. The rotation change will reduce transit time between the US and Jeddah and further connect shippers to Jebel Ali and other major ports in the Gulf, Middle East and Red Sea through MSC's dedicated feeder service, a MSC statement said.

    Today’s recommended Read – Federal agencies raise alarm about cruise sewage

    Cruise ships stand accused of dumping raw sewage just off shore, possibly washing up on the beach close to where your family is relaxing on holiday. Raw sewage contains disease pathogens and toxins, impairs the respiratory functions in water life, and causes algae blooms. Nightmare fiction? Hardly. Read on 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.

    Pic of the day – SUBMARINE OFF CAPE TOWN

    re-enacting an historic scene - Picture by Aad Noorland

    For several weeks we have followed the progress of a mystery submarine being built inside the docks at Cape Town. Thanks to some snooping by Aad Noorland and others we learned that the vessel was being built for a movie to be shot in and around the Mother City. More recently the sub went to sea off Cape Town (on a suitably calm day) and Aad Noorland was able to take a few long-range pictures.

    Thanks now to having read Brian Ingpen’s recent account on his Cape Ports website, a more detailed story emerges. The film concerns the sinking of the liner LACONIA off West Africa in 1942 – you can read Brian’s account HERE.

    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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