Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 17, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – EAST

  • Safmarine adds direct East Africa service from Far East

  • RMS St HELENA stops calling at Walvis Bay from today

  • EASSy cable comes ashore in Zululand

  • NSRI Durban honours the heroes

  • US Navy conducts additional Africa Station exercises with Nigerian Navy

  • News clips – Keeping it brief

  • Today’s recommended Read – Grindrod the best company over a decade

  • Pics of the day –CRYSTAL SERENITY


    First View – EAST

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    The Dutch tug EAST (259-gt, built 2009) which called at Cape Town harbour during February 2010. Picture by Aad Noorland

    Safmarine adds direct East Africa service from Far East

    Safmarine says that its new, direct, fully-containerised shipping service from the Far East to East Africa will further improve the company’s Far East / East Africa shipping network.

    The new service, to be introduced in March, which will be known as the ‘Mashariki Express’ and offers improved transit times and reliability. It will replace the existing ‘Mombasa Express’ service.

    The service will be launched on 2 March 2010 with the sailing of the 2,496-TEU Safmarine Zambezi from Mombasa in Kenya to Tanjung Pelepas in the Far East.

    “The Mashariki Express offers a number of benefits to both importers and exporters, said Safmarine’s Eastern Africa Manager, John Lim. “Benefits to importers include shorter transit from the Far East to Mombasa (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) with preferred berthing in both Mombasa and Tanjung Pelepas. Exporters, in turn, benefit from the weekly calls from both Mombasa and Dar es Salaam to Tanjung Pelepas, improved schedule reliability (a buffer has been included to accommodate possible berthing delays) and preferred berthing in Mombasa and Tanjung Pelepas.”

    An example of transit times from Tanjung Pelepas to Mombasa is 13 days and Dar es Salaam to Tanjung Pelepas, 21 days.

    Six vessels will be deployed in the new weekly service.

    * The word Mashariki means ‘east’ in Swahili

    RMS St HELENA stops calling at Walvis Bay from today

    The Royal Mail ship RMS St Helena, which is the last operating British mailship, is due in Walvis Bay today (17 February) for the last time.

    For some years the ship has called at Walvis Bay and on occasion at Luderitz while voyaging both ways between Cape Town and the South Atlantic islands of St Helena and Ascension. When the service to the Namibian ports was introduced it was greeted with enthusiasm, not only by Namibians but also South Africans and others who saw it as an opportunity to cruise between Cape Town and Walvis Bay or vice versa.

    However the numbers never kept up and it has now become unsustainable for the ship’s operator, Andrew Weir Shipping and the decision has been taken to withdraw the Namibian port calls.

    RMS St Helena will now sail direct between Cape Town and St Helena in both directions. Even this service has been under threat with an indication by the British government that it would build an airfield on the island. Subsequent economic cutbacks in the UK saw this proposal fall away last year, much to the dismay and annoyance of St Helena islanders who felt let down by the British government. So the mailship continues as the only regular reliable link between the island. The ship also undertakes cruises to the even more remote Tristan da Cunha.

    EASSy cable comes ashore in Zululand

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    Ile de Batz in Durban harbour last Friday. Picture by Terry Hutson

    The East African Submarine Cable System, known as EASSy and one of the nine undersea telecommunication cables that by 2011 will connect sub-Saharan Africa to the rest of the world, came ashore at Mtunzini on the Zululand coast on Monday.

    The landing was affected by the French cable laying ship ILE ST BATZ, which late last week called at Durban harbour for supplies and bunkers, where the Durban branch of Sturrock Shipping took care of things.

    Once ashore the EASSy cable is being connected to the South African communications grid via Telkom, which will act as the ‘wholesaler’ for various service providers. The actual cable consists of four hollow fibre optics, each about the width of a human hair but with the ability to handle 16 million phone calls simultaneously at a rate of 10 gigabytes a second.

    The total length of EASSY is 10,000km, stretching from South Africa to Djibouti from where it is connected to another cable into southern Europe. The EASSy project was intended originally to be in place before the start of the Fifa world cup but due to various delays will now only be ready in August 2010.

    EASSy’s task is to deliver improved connectivity to southern and East African countries. Until recently the east coast of Africa enjoyed no international bandwith connectivity except by satellite transmission. In the past two years however a spate of activity has changed all this and a number of different submarine cables have been laid, enhancing the connectivity of the region and promising not only cheaper capacity but faster and more improved connectivity.

    Countries that will connect directly via the cable include South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, Comoros, Mayote, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan. A further 13 landlocked countries will be linked with the system – Botswana, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the DRC, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Interconnection with various other international undersea cable systems will enable traffic on EASSy to seamlessly connect to Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Asia.

    The cable layer ship Ile de Batz is one of three identical ships in service with Alcatel-Lucent and will be laying the cable northwards from Mtunzini into deep water. Once off Mozambique a landing will be made at Maputo, and this is to be followed by a landing in Toliary, Madagascar. From there the ship sails to the Comores in the Mozambique Channel for two landings and then on to a landing near Dar es Salaam, where it will connect with the northern section of cable which is being laid by a second ship, Ile de Sein working south from Sudan in the Red Sea. The cable off Sudan in turn connects with existing cables into southern Europe.

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    There is over two thousand kilometres of cable in this drum, enough to lay the entire extent from Durban to Dar es Salaam. Picture by Terry Hutson

    The principal of laying an undersea communications cable hasn’t altered much in the roughly 160 years since the first telegraph cables were laid in the Mediterranean and later across the Atlantic. The method on board the ship involves coiling thousands of kilometres of cable in a vast ‘drum’ within the vessel from where it is spooled out into the ocean as the ship holds a steady course. Splicing and joining of cables is performed where necessary on board the vessel using simple and sophisticated equipment and human skill.

    What has changed is the inner section of cable used for conveying signals and messages. Today’s cables use hollow fibre optics, each approximately the thickness of a human hair, compared with thick inner copper cable used in the early days. One simply cannot compare the volume of ‘traffic’ that can be carried over the fibre optics compared with the early versions. In 1858 Queen Victoria’s 98 word message to US President James Buchanan took 16 hours to transmit while the president’s 149 word response took ten hours.

    That’s a far cry from today’s instant communications that will be made even faster and more efficient with the connection of this new cable.

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    The stern view of the Ile de Batz. Picture by Terry Hutson

    NSRI Durban honours the heroes

    From left to right: Stuart Lund of Acher Aviation, Commander Robert van Wyk (pilot), Captain Marinus ‘Dup’ du Plessis (co-pilot), Andrew Cochrane (flight engineer) and Sean Serfontein of the NSRI. Picture by Terry Hutson

    At a ceremony at the Durban base of the NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) on Monday evening, NSRI Bravery Awards were issued to the Durban Sea Rescue volunteer and to the crew of the Transnet National Ports Authority helicopter in recognition of their brave actions that resulted in the saving of 17 foreign fishermen from the abandoned Spanish fishing vessel ACECHADOR on the night of 2 November last year.

    The NSRI Bravery Awards were presented to NSRI volunteer Sean Serfontein and the three helicopter crew, Commander Rob van Wyk, his co-pilot Captain Marinus du Preez, and their flight engineer Andrew Cockrane.

    The citations related the drama of that night in November when at 22h30, the Durban NSRI was activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority following a radio Mayday Distress call.

    A Spanish registered fishing trawler named Acechador reported that it was taking on water in the vessel’s engine room. The trawler was 42 nautical miles seawards of Durban with a crew of 17 and urgent assistance was requested as the crew were preparing to abandon the sinking vessel.

    In response, the Durban Harbour Master dispatched the TNPA rescue helicopter, piloted by Commander van Wyk along with his crew and NSRI rescue swimmer Sean Serfontein. At the same time, the NSRI sea rescue craft, Eikos Rescuer II was launched and at its best speed would take two hours to reach the location.

    Maritime Radio Services had already broadcast an “all ships” alert requesting ships in the vicinity to assist. On the helicopter’s arrival on-scene the Acechador was found to be listing and appeared to be heavily laden and appeared to be sinking, stern first. Two vessels, the Grand Orion and the Pacific Scorpion, were already on-scene and the SA Navy hydrographic research ship SAS Protea was responding to the scene.

    The trawler crew had already abandoned ship and were in the four life-rafts and a small rubber-duck moored alongside their sinking ship. This was to prevent them from drifting off into the open ocean.

    With the helicopter hovering overhead and in complete darkness, rescue swimmer Sean Serfontein was lowered on a winch hoist cable from the helicopter into the sea. After removing the harness, Serfontein then swam to the rubber duck 100 metres away where he found two of the casualty crew.

    Only one of the trawler crew could speak a little English and Serfontein managed to get the single motor on the rubber-duck to start. Then assisted by the one crewman who could speak a little English, he used the rubber-duck to collect three crewmen at a time from the life-rafts and motor into open water.

    The helicopter then winch-hoisted the fishermen, one at a time, from the rubber-duck into the helicopter. They were then lowered in a similar fashion onto the car carrier Orion Pacific, which was standing-by on-scene. A total of 11 fishermen were then transferred in this manner to the Grand Orion.

    By this time, the SAS Protea had arrived on-scene and a further three crewmen were winched down onto the navy vessel. The last three fishermen were transferred to the SAS Protea by Serfontein using the rubber-duck.

    The helicopter, now low on fuel, had time to hoist and transfer five of the survivors from the Grand Orion to the SAS Protea before being forced to return to base to refuel. Once refuelled at the Port of Durban the rescue helicopter then returned to the scene and the last six casualty crewmen were winch hoisted from the car carrier to the waiting navy vessel at approximately 02h30.

    All 17 trawler crewmen were accounted for and safely aboard the SAS Protea. Sean Serfontein was then hoisted from the SAS Protea into the rescue helicopter which then returned to base.

    A total of 54 winch hoists were successfully completed by the rescue helicopter crew during this entire rescue operation.

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    The Spanish fishing vessel ACECHADOR which was abandoned by its crew on the night of 2 November 2009 when it appeared to be sinking. The vessel was later found to be still afloat and was salvaged and returned under tow to Durban, where the vessel currently is. This picture from a previous call at Durban is by Terry Hutson

    US Navy conducts additional Africa Station exercises with Nigerian Navy

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    USS Samuel B Roberts (FFG 58) comes alongside in Pointe Noire – US Navy picture

    As four ships of the German Navy arrived in Simon’s Town to participate with the South African Navy in Exercise Good Hope IV, in West Africa the US and Nigerian Navies have also engaged in various military interactions that included basic damage control, first aid, anti-terrorism force protection, non-lethal weapons, visual communications and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS).

    At-sea training between the US Navy frigate USS Samuel B Roberts (FFG 58) and the Nigerian Navy patrol vessel NNS Nwamba included tactics, visual communications, emission control drills, VBSS and search and rescue training. The exercise at sea was useful for both navies in providing training on how to tackle piracy and terrorism, smuggling and the stopping and searching of suspicious vessels.

    NNS Nwamba is the former US Coastguard Cutter USCGC Firebush which was acquired by Nigeria in 2003.

    The exercise was conducted as part of the US African Partnership programme.

    Prior to the US warship’s arrival in Lagos, USS Samuel B Roberts spent seven days at Pointe Noire undergoing training exercises with members of the Congolese Navy focusing on small boat maintenance and handling, automatic information systems (AIS), technology and combat lifesaving.

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    Dutch finance to aid Mozambique exports

    An export project financed by the Dutch government will assist Mozambique to export a variety of agricultural products and handicrafts to the European Union. The agricultural products selected are cashew nuts, pineapples, mangoes, green beans, chilli peppers, and groundnuts. Farmers from the Nampula, Cabo Delgado, Sofala, Inhambane, Manica, Gaza and Maputo provinces have been identified for the project. To meet EU requirements the Mozambique farmers will receive technical assistance from a Dutch agency. Holland has provided €1.2 million to finance the project. – source AIM


    180 bulkers line up outside Australian ports

    Congestion outside Australia’s main coal and iron-ore ports has worsened with 181 capesize, panamax and handymax class bulk ships at anchor outside the country’s main coal and iron ore ports waiting for a berth. Making matters worse, during the next fortnight a further 153 vessels are due to arrive.


    China’s iron ore imports from Australia Brazil and South Africa zoom

    Chinese news agency Xinhua reports that China’s iron ore imports from Australia increased by 42.9 percent in 2009 to reach 260 million tonnes while imports from Brazil increased 41.5 percent to 140mt. The report said that China’s imports from South Africa rose 140 percent to 34.1 million tons, while those from Ukraine went up 150 percent to 11.6 million tons. India’s exports of iron ore to China rose 18 percent to 110 million tons and iron ore imports from Canada rose 130 percent to 8.7 million tons. – source Xinhua quoting Chinese Customs

    Today’s recommended Read – Grindrod the best company over a decade

    But its glory days are over for a while.

    Speaking to Moneyweb, Grindrod chairman Ivan Clark described Grindrod as having flown at high speed to become the best performing company on the JSE in the past decade. Grindrod gave shareholders a return of 52.1 percent pa every year for ten years and achieved this even taking into account a 24 percent share price fall in the past year.

    To read the interview with Moneyweb, cut and paste the following and then click ENTER http://www.moneyweb.co.za/mw/view/mw/en/page295165?oid=346865&sn=2009 Detail

    Make sure you include everything from http to Detail, including leaving the space before the final word in the address (Detail).

    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 – CRYSTAL SERENITY

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    Crystal Cruises’ magnificent 68,870-gt cruise ship CRYSTAL SERENITY has just concluded another cruise along the South African coast, calling at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban and is now heading north along the Mozambique Channel for Zanzibar, where the ship is due tomorrow. While in Cape Town passengers on board were treated to some unusual weather conditions, which produced these rolling cloud formations over the mountain. Pictures by Ian Shiffman.

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