Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 3, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – CREST STAR 2

  • Piracy report – Eukor car carrier Asian Glory a floating pirate fortress

  • DP World terminals see 8 percent drop to 25.6m TEU

  • News from the shipping lines

  • First train reaches Moatize

  • Nigerian militants call off the truce – Niger Delta again a no-go zone

  • News clips – Keeping it brief

  • Today’s recommended read – Helping out in Haiti

  • Pics of the day – STOLT AQUAMARINE



    First View – CREST STAR 2

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    The Singapore tug CREST STAR 2 (486-gt, built 2009) arrives in a choppy Table Bay ahead of entering Cape Town harbour. The tug arrived during January with its identical sister, CREST STAR 3. Picture by Aad Noorland.

    Piracy report – Eukor car carrier Asian Glory a floating pirate fortress

    Chinese armed soldiers on Hong Kong-flagged ships

    Armed Chinese soldiers are beginning to man Chinese mainland and Hong Kong owned and flagged merchant ships operating in the Gulf of Aden region, and according to some reports Chinese soldiers have also manned Taiwanese vessels.

    China currently has three warships operating with other international naval units in the region and will shortly assume the leadership of the international naval efforts off Somalia. This role is rotated periodically. Merchant shipping is encouraged to navigate the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa area in a convoy of other ships escorted by warships.

    The irony of the situation is that Somali pirates have succeeded in bringing together an international fleet of warships from nations and navies – some of which until now seldom if ever talked or communicated with each other. For the first time also a Chinese naval presence has been felt in international waters far from the Chinese mainland, ending a long period of isolation for the world’s most populated state.


    In an unrelated matter involving Somalia, a cargo ship accused of illegally carrying charcoal from the Islamist-held port of Kismayo in southern Somalia, caught fire while in harbour last Friday and has completely burned out. Described as the AL MAJAN (we’re not sure if this is the correct name or spelling) the ship burned fiercely before partly sinking at her mooring. Witnesses told Shabelle Radio that when the ship went alongside the berth she was already on fire. The radio station claimed that the port lacked fire fighting equipment.

    This is the second time that a ship carrying charcoal has caught fire in Mogadishu harbour. On the first occasion about a year ago the fire was extinguished thanks to the intervention of African Union peacekeeping troops stationed in the harbour.


    Asian Glory now a floating fortress under the Jolly Roger

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    ASIAN GLORY – picture courtesy Eukor

    According to Russian and EU sources, Somali pirates have turned the captured car carrier ASIAN GLORY, which was operated by Eukor and is owned by Zodiac Maritime, into a ‘mother ship’ for deployment at sea.

    The car carrier, with 2,400 cars on board (mostly Hyundai) was seized by pirates on 1 January 2010 about 1100km off the Somali coast while the ship was on a heading for Saudi Arabia. The ship was taken to an anchorage off the Somali coast and negotiations with the ship’s owner and operator got underway.

    It is thought that the cars on board the vessel have been unloaded and disposed of in Somalia although this hasn’t been confirmed. According to the Russians a mock execution of the Bulgarian master of the ship took place to emphasise the pirates’ determination of receiving a ransom for both the crew and ship.

    The ship has already undertaken at least one short voyage for the pirates.

    What is puzzling about the capture is that like most car carriers, the Asian Glory should be very difficult to board from a small craft alongside, mainly because of the ship’s high freeboard. Additionally there are unconfirmed reports that eight Bulgarian ex-soldiers were on board the vessel as guards at the time.


    Pirates release Durban-bound ship

    Somali pirates have released the Marshall Islands-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier FILITSA (23,709-dwt, built 1996) after a ransom was paid. The ship, with a crew of 22 consisting of 19 Filipinos and three Greeks was sailing from Kuwait to Durban when she was seized last November some 400 n.miles from the Seychelles.

    DP World terminals see 8 percent drop to 25.6m TEU

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    New ship-to-shore gantry cranes and RTGs arrive for DP World’s Doraleh Container Terminal on board the heavylift Zhen Hua 25. Picture courtesy DP World

    DP World, one of the world’s leading port terminal operators which includes activities in Africa, saw container volumes drop 8 percent last year in comparison with 2008.

    The decrease was in fact a little worse - 10 percent for terminals if several new terminals not featured in the 2008 figures are excluded.

    DP World, which on Saturday (30 January) celebrated the official opening of its new Saigon container terminal, which began operations last October, handled 43,4 million TEU across the 50 terminals in its portfolio during 2009. In its statement the company described 2009 as the most challenging year that the container port industry has yet experienced and the first global decline in volumes since containerisation began. Earlier in January DP World said it was seeking a dual listing on the London Stock Exchange,

    During the past year two new terminals were opened; the Doraleh Container Terminal in Djibouti at the start of 2009, and the terminal at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam during the last quarter of the year. DP World was awarded concessions to handle two new terminals in Algeria.

    “As anticipated, all our regions handled more containers in the second half of 2009 than in the first half and the early signs of stability seen in the third quarter have continued into the final quarter of the year,” said Mohammed Sharaf, DP World’s Chief Executive.

    “Customer confidence, whilst improving, remains fragile with limited visibility for the medium term.”

    News from the shipping lines

    Confident forecast from Mitsui OSK

    Announcing a revised outlook for the year 2009 ending 31 March 2010, Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) said the revision was upward as regards the company’s shipping operations.

    MOL said the dry bulker market is expected to hold steady thanks to China's strong demand for iron ore and coal imports, while an improvement in the tanker market is also anticipated due to recovery in demand for petroleum products and the withdrawal of single-hull VLCCs.

    “In addition, the global economy is bottoming out and the containership business is expected to see increased cargo trade and progress toward recovery of freight rates. Therefore, the Company made an upward revision of its earlier announced consolidated business outlook for FY2009,” the statement said.

    However, it cautioned that future outlooks such as plans and strategies related to matters other than the past and present facts contain potential risks and uncertainties, and are not guaranteed. “These outlooks are issued by the Company according to currently available information. Please realise that actual achievement may be significantly different from these outlooks, due to various factors such as future economic trends, market demand, exchange rates, bunker prices, other economic, social, and political situations, and various contingencies.”


    K Line takes a USD574 million loss in first nine months of 2009

    Japan’s Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line) had a less than rosy outlook for the nine months to 31 December 2009 of the current financial year. The shipping company suffered a loss of USD573.9 million, after recording a profit for the same period of 2008.

    “Consolidated operational revenues for the third quarter of FY2009 accounted for JPY212.5 billion, a decrease of JPY105.5 billion compared with the same period of the previous year,” the company said in a statement. The blame for the disappointing results was placed on the container business and in particular poor consumer demand in the US and Europe, although it said the number of boxes moving eastwards across the Pacific had increased. Negative freight rates and the lowering of cargo value negated this advantage, K LIne said.


    Bleak outlook by China Shipping Container Lines

    Another container line with a bleak outlook is China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) together with its subsidiary company, China Shipping Group. The group says it expects to post a loss for the year 2009 because of adverse trading conditions across the global freight markets.

    Actual results will not be issued until 22 April after the financial year end but the company feels that making known its outlook now will provide credence to arguments by CSCL and associated members of the Pacific Stabilization Agreement which have already increased rates on the carriage of containers.

    Shippers generally have objected to the freight rate increases.


    Hiccup for Hapag-Lloyd loan

    A hiccup has occurred with arrangements for bailing out German container line Hapag-Lloyd from its financial difficulties with European Union regulators who are challenging a €2 billion loan from the German Federal Government.

    The regulators are concerned that guaranteed credits, already approved by the German government last October, do not meet EU conditions regarding state aid, partly because the commission does not think Hapag-Lloyd fits the category of aid for small companies. There is also concern that the loan may give the company an unfair advantage over other European container lines.

    However, after an improved fourth quarter of 2009 due to increasing freight rates and cargo volumes, Hapag Lloyd may now not have to raise the loan. The company says it broke even for the fourth quarter but has posted an operating loss of USD986 million for the first nine months of the year. TUI, which owns 43 percent of Hapag Lloyd said earlier that the losses had continued into the fourth quarter.

    First train reaches Moatize

    The first train to reach the coal mining town of Moatize in nearly 30 years has arrived, reports Mozambique’s AIM news agency.

    This follows the reconstruction of the railway from the port of Beira to the Tete Province town of Moatize, which is also the centre of Mozambique’s new coal mining bonanza. From the end of this year trains should be hauling coal to the port at Beira for export and changing the economy and outlook of both the region and country.

    The railway line to Tete was severely damaged during the civil war and rendered useless for traffic. According to Mozambique authorities this was at the hand of Renamo rebels which were engaged in a war with Frelimo for control of Mozambique. The truth is the both Renamo and the now ruling Frelimo Party were guilty of destroying a railway network including its fleet of steam locomotives, coaches and wagons, that was of the highest standard when the Portuguese left.

    Prior to independence and the civil war the Trans Zambezi Railway operated from a junction on the main Beira – Zimbabwe railway and extended into Malawi, from where it was possible to continue the rail journey to the northern Mozambique port of Nacala. At the crossing of the Zambezi River another line led westwards to the Tete Province and the Moatize coal fields. The extension of the line into Malawi remains closed and dilapidated and there are no plans yet revealed to reopen this section.

    “We are not yet satisfied, because we have not yet seen the impact of the rail services on the fight against poverty, particularly in the rural areas,” said Moatize district administrator Adelino Andissene. He said he was sure that people living along the railway will know how to take advantage of the opportunity by transporting their agricultural surpluses to the commercial centres.

    With the line reaching Moatize much need mining equipment can now reach the mining area on behalf of Vale and Riversdale, the two mining companies with concessions in the area.

    Riversdale is exploring the idea of transporting coal to the coast along the Zambezi River, using push tugs and barges.

    Nigerian militants call off the truce – Niger Delta again a no-go zone

    The dodgy truce between the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and the Nigerian Federal and State Governments has been called off with MEND threatening an ‘all out onslaught’ against companies connected with or doing business with the oil industry in the Niger Delta.

    “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta warns all oil companies to halt operations as any operational installation attacked will be burnt to the ground. Oil companies are responsible for the safety and welfare of their workers and will bear the guilt should any harm come upon their staff in the event of an attack. By now they should know the military Joint Task Force cannot protect their installations or staff in the event of an attack,” said MEND spokesman Jomo Gbomo.

    Three months ago President Umaru Yar-Adua declared an amnesty that led to a truce and a cessation of all militant terrorist activities, which had been directed at the oil industry on the land and at sea. Ships have been attacked and crews taken hostage, only to be released after the oil companies paid over a considerable ransom fee.

    In justifying the end of the ceasefire MEND blamed the government saying that it (MEND) had hoped for a meaningful dialogue with the Federal Government aimed at bringing what it said was justice to the people of the Niger Delta.

    The militants have accused the oil companies of exploiting the country’s oil reserves and destroying the ecology and environment.

    “It is sufficiently clear that the government of Nigeria has no intention of considering the demands made by this group for the control of the resources and land of the Niger Delta to be reverted to the rightful owners, the people of the Niger Delta,” said MEND in a statement. “All companies related to the oil industry in the Niger Delta should prepare for an all-out onslaught against their installations and personnel.”

    During the previous period of unrest Nigeria’s oil production dropped by about one million barrels a day, allowing Angola to take over as Africa’s leading oil producer.

    Last week Royal Dutch Shell announced it as selling a number of assets including 30 smaller wells to a local group of businessmen. But late yesterday the oil company announced that it had been forced to shut some of its oil production after a pipeline was sabotaged. A spokesman said that some flow lines had been closed to prevent further leaks and losses.

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    Nigerian ports littered with derelicts - claim

    Nigerian ports, jetties and channels in Warri, Sapele, Lagos, Calabar and Port Harcourt are no longer safe for navigation, a local newspaper has claimed. According to the Nigerian Compass the facilities are littered with seized barges and boats impounded for various offences and have since become derelict. It claimed they could not be removed owing to bureaucratic and legal bottlenecks. Nigeria’s Minister of Transport responded saying that his ministry was making efforts to rid the waterways of the abandoned vessels. “It is the intention of the government to work hard towards elevating the current status of the country in international maritime industry. As a step in that direction, Nigeria will work hard to move up from the Category ‘C’ status at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) council to the more prestigious Category ‘B’ at the foreseeable future.”


    Cape Town’s harbour master resigns

    Captain Ravi Naicker, Cape Town’s harbourmaster since 2007, has resigned from Transnet. He finished at the port and with Transnet on Friday. It is not yet known who his successor will be. Before his elevation to Cape Town Naicker was harbourmaster at Richards Bay.

    Today’s recommended read – Helping out in Haiti

    Not a long ‘read’ by any description but a visual of sailors aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) transferring pallets of food rations from Carter Hall to US Army Landing Craft Unit 2001. See it HERE.

    Thanks to Gerhard Terblanche of Workboat Offshore Maritime Service for this recommendation / lead

    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 – STOLT AQUAMARINE

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    The Norwegian products tanker STOLT AQUAMARINE (38,761-dwt, built 1986) in Cape Town harbour during January. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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