Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jan 19, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • US Navy programme of helping Africa combat piracy & illegal fishing deemed a success

  • Somali pirates fight over largest ever ransom

  • Tanzania railway project boosted by USD 8.15 million viability funding

  • China a net coal importer in 2009 – augurs well for South African exports

  • Yemen - Horn of Africa: African arrivals in 2009 up by 55 percent

  • News clips – Keeping it brief

  • Today’s recommended Read – frustration at impotence of international community over piracy

  • Pic of the day – DIANA C



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    The Ditch offshore supply tug FAIRMOUNT EXPEDITION (3,239-gt, built 2007) in Cape Town during January. Picture by Aad Noorland

    US Navy programme of helping Africa combat piracy & illegal fishing deemed a success

    by Jim Fisher-Thompson (America.gov)

    Washington, DC — A US Navy collaboration with African nations to counter seaborne threats such as piracy and illegal fishing, called the Africa Partnership Station (APS), has proved so successful it is being expanded, says Vice Admiral Harry Harris Jr., US Navy.

    The Navy training program, begun in 2005 with just a handful of African nations and a few US ships, is being increased to "more ships, more equipment, [and] more people...and 2010 promises to be the biggest year yet," Harris told journalists at a 12 January 2010 Foreign Press Centre (FPC) briefing in Washington.

    Vice Admiral Harris, deputy commander of US Naval Forces in Africa and Europe and NATO naval forces in the Mediterranean, helps oversee the APS program, which he said began when 11 Gulf of Guinea nations asked the US military to help them counter piracy and illegal fishing in their waters.

    Harris said, "African coastal states are contending with a wide range of challenges at sea, to include illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, oil theft, piracy, illicit trade, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, illegal immigration, environmental degradation, and all sorts of illegal and illegitimate activities."

    To meet those threats, Harris said, APS is "improving maritime security and safety through collaborative partnerships. We've helped in the installation of the automatic information system, the AIS, for maritime domain awareness" and the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership, or the AMLEP program.

    Since 2005, US naval ships and sailors deployed to the APS program have trained thousands of African military personnel in seamanship, search-and-rescue operations, law enforcement, medical emergencies; environmental stewardship and small-boat maintenance, according to the APS Web site.

    That training paid off in the Gulf of Guinea, Harris said, when Benin recently "conducted a counterpiracy operation where they took back a ship that had been captured by pirates. The chief of the Benin navy said later that his success, his navy's success, was directly attributable to the Africa Partnership Station and the efforts that we have expended in partnering with Benin and helping them improve their ability to get out counterpiracy operations."

    On the continent, where it is estimated that USD1 billion a year is lost to illegal fishing, Harris said, APS is making inroads through its law enforcement training program in Sierra Leone, where authorities "arrested four ships that were illegally fishing in their waters."

    Now, said Harris, "we're seeing the full range of these partnerships blossom in the form of multiple deployments of large [US] amphibious ships such as the USS Fort McHenry, the USS Nashville and the upcoming USS Gunston Hall deployment, as well as smaller ships such as the High-Speed Vessel Swift, the USS Robert Bradley … and the Coast Guard Cutter Legare, to name just a few."

    In addition, for the first time, there will be a European component to the APS program, Harris said, in the form of the Netherlands naval ship Johan de Witt and the Belgian ship Godetia.

    Harris explained that APS expansion will also include two new efforts: a hub concept for coastal Africa that "allows us to stay in a given port and bring regional partners to the ship for training and cooperative security operations" and a new operation in East Africa called APS East.

    "This is the first time we've deployed a mission of this scale to the east coast of Africa," Harris said. "While still smaller than APS West, we have an international staff of about 15 folks from Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Mauritius, and two ships dedicated to this mission. And as I speak, APS East today is in Mombasa, Kenya, training with Kenyans and other sailors from East Africa."

    At the same time, Harris said, APS operations in West Africa, where the initiative began, will continue and be expanded. "In fact, the deputy commander of APS West for this next phase is a Nigerian navy captain."

    "You have to build trust and confidence over time, and that is what APS has done" and will continue to do to promote maritime security and stability with its African partners, Harris concluded.

    CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE - American amphibious landing ship USS Fort HcHenry

    Somali pirates fight over largest ever ransom

    Released tanker heading for Durban

    Somali pirates have released the Greek crude oil tanker MARAN CENTAURUS (300,294-dwt, built 1995) after the highest ever recorded ransom of USD 7 million was paid.

    The European Union Naval Force off Somalia said yesterday (Monday) that the money had been dropped on in the sea next to the giant tanker off the anchorage at Haradere and that the ship was now heading for Durban with a naval escort, the FS SALAMIS. On board the VLCC the crew of 28, consisting of 9 Greek, 16 Filipinos, 2 Ukrainian and 1 Rumanian are reported to be safe, although a helicopter from the Salamis was dispatched immediately the ship was released to assess their position and render any medical assistance necessary.

    Maran Centaurus, loaded with a full cargo of crude oil was highjacked on 29 November 2009 six hundred nautical miles east of the Seychelles.

    Shortly after the ransom money was dropped near the tanker, fighting among the Somalis broke out and reports indicate that two of the pirates were killed. The fighting involved rival gangs apparently arguing over the distribution of the money and took place as the pirates landed on shore.

    A Kenyan report suggests the ransom may have been more than USD 7 million but this has not been confirmed.

    Another tanker came under attack by pirates in the Gulf of Aden at the weekend. This was the 147,834-dwt Indian tanker JAG LAYAK (80,636-gt, built 1996) which called for assistance while some 105 n.miles offshore and after a skiff carrying armed men began firing on the ship. A Turkish frigate, TCG GOKOVA responded by dispatching a helicopter and amphibious forces and took the pirates into custody. A machine gun and several knives were found on the skiff.

    Tanzania railway project boosted by USD 8.15 million viability funding

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    Port of Dar es Salaam

    Funding worth USD 8.15 million will be used to study the feasibility of a railway development between the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam and the Great Lakes countries of Rwanda and Burundi.

    The money has come from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and will help finance a study for the viability of the proposed new railway connecting Dar es Salaam with Isaka, Kigali, Keza and Musongati. The EAC development programme has descried the project as vital in reducing poverty across the region.

    Providing the viability is proven and the railway completed on time in 2014, traders in Rwanda and Burundi will be able to transport their goods in just one day to or from the port at Dar es Salaam. It currently takes at least three weeks to move cargo between the port and the landlocked countries.

    The study is examining proposed routes inland from the port as well as providing comparative studies involving alternate methods of transport – road transport and the use of the region’s lakes with lake/rail connectivity.

    Another part of the study will examine the social impact the railway will have on the people in the regions affected.

    China a net coal importer in 2009 – augurs well for South African exports

    Statistics issued by China’s Customs indicate that the Asian country, a major coal producer in its own right, became a net importer of coal in 2009.

    For the 11 months reaching up to November China imported 89.1 million tonnes of coal, well in excess of the 22.4mt of coal that China exported during the same period. Analysts say the discrepancy will increase once the figures for the full 12 months of 2009 are released when a final figure of 97.6mt of imports is anticipated.

    The reason for the increase in imports if thought to be a price war taking place between Chinese coal producers and local power plants that have turned to cheaper international supplies.

    South Africa is one of the international suppliers benefiting from increased exports of coal to China. – source Cargonews Asia

    Yemen - Horn of Africa: African arrivals in 2009 up by 55 percent

    Sanaa, 17 January 2010 (IRIN) - The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Yemen received 77,802 new arrivals from the Horn of Africa in 2009, a 55 percent increase over 2008 and for the first time Somalis were not the majority nationality, the agency's external relations officer Rocco Nuri told IRIN in Sanaa on 16 January.

    The biggest change over 2008, he said, was that the number of Ethiopians making the perilous boat journey across the Gulf of Aden more than doubled to 44,814, while 32,988 Somalis reached Yemen’s shores.

    “There are various push factors behind the increasing number of Ethiopians, such as conflict, famine, drought and lack of job opportunities,” Nuri said.

    He added that the global financial crisis and subsequent rise in commodity prices “also played a role in pushing more people to leave their countries in search of better opportunities”.

    Over 700,000 immigrants

    There are more than 700,000 African immigrants in Yemen, the majority of whom are Somalis, deputy foreign minister Ali Muthan told a symposium in Sanaa on 12 January at the launch of a new initiative entitled ‘Supporting Yemeni Government and Civil Society to Meet Migration Challenges’.

    He said that “out of the total number of African immigrants in Yemen, only 200,000 have refugee status.

    “The government has made tireless efforts to reduce the influx of Africans into its territory through contributing to enhancing stability and security in Somaliland,” Muthan said.

    According to UNHCR, all Somalis arriving in Yemen are granted prima facie refugee status while non-Somalis wanting to claim asylum are required to apply at a UNHCR office.

    Hazardous journey

    For those escaping war, violence and persecution, the hazardous journey to East African ports and then across the Gulf of Aden in the hands of ruthless people smugglers only adds to their suffering, according to UNHCR officials.

    “They walk sometimes for days or travel in risky conditions prior to reaching one of the main departure points in Somalia and Djibouti. Once a deal with smugglers is made, they are put on over-packed, rickety boats and are likely to be subjected to psychological and physical violence at the hands of smugglers, as well as being left with no water and food for days under a blistering sun,” Nuri told IRIN.

    He added that smugglers often beat passengers to prevent them from moving and putting their small boats at risk of capsizing. Sometimes people were forced to jump overboard. “When a boat capsizes, many drown and the likelihood of finding the missing alive is very low,” he said.

    According to UNHCR, at least 309 people drowned or did not survive the trip in 2009. However, this was less than half the 590 that died in 2008.

    [This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    Two ferries for Kalangala on Lake Victoria

    Uganda’s Works and Transport ministry says it has signed an eight-year agreement with Kalangala Infrastructure Services (KIS) to supply two new ferries for service between Bukakata - Luku in the Kalangala district of Lake Victoria. Once the two new ferries enter service, the existing Bukakata ferry will be reallocated elsewhere, the ministry said. Works & Transport Minister John Nasasira said the government was putting more emphasis on improving transport on the lakes.


    German Navy heads for Southern Africa

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    FGS Brandenburg (F215) with several other ships of the German Navy in Durban harbour during a visit in 2000

    Four ships of the German Navy are currently en route to Southern Africa. The naval flotilla consists of the ammunition ship FGS WESTERWALD (A1435) and replenishment vessel FGS FRANKFURT which are due in Walvis Bay on 29 January, and will be followed by the frigates FGS NIEDERSACHSEN (F208) and FGS BRANDENBURG (F215) arriving at the Namibian port several days later on 2 February. Although it hasn’t been announced, it is possibe that the four ships will continue on to Simon’s Town and take part in joint exercises with the South African Navy.

    Today’s recommended Read –frustration at impotence of international community over piracy

    London: The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has expressed its deepening frustration at the seeming impotence of the international community to address the continuing piracy crisis in the Indian Ocean, with around 1,500 seafarers having so far been taken hostage for ransom, often for months at a time, in spite of the comprehensive measures that ship operators have taken to defend their crews.

    Read more 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 –DIANA C

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    The Greek-owned and operated bulker DIANA C (21,968-gt, built 1983) which arrived in Cape Town on 11 January 2010. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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