Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 8, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – AGUSTA GRAND

  • Wells denies plans to change South Africa’s rail gauge

  • Piracy – Pirates captured while attacking ship

  • RBCT bullish about improving markets and supply

  • Cost of Transnet infrastructure increases

  • South Africa to have transport info hub for 2010

  • News clips – Keeping it brief



    First View – AGUSTA GRAND

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    The Port of Durban’s new AgustaWestland AW109S Grand twin engined helicopter touched down at the Ocean Terminal heliport on Friday, 5 February as a replacement for an earlier model Agusta 109 aircraft that has been in service for the past ten years.

    Port Manager Ricky Bhikraj said the arrival of the new R75 million aircraft demonstrated that fact that Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) was serious about maintaining and improving efficiencies by continuing to invest in port infrastructure.

    “We are serious about improving turnaround times and operating efficiiencies,” he told PORTS & SHIPS. “This is why Transnet invested in a helicopter service in the first place (Richards Bay and Durban were among the first ports in the world to use helicopters for transferring marine pilots), and it is why we are now replacing the original aircraft, which has reached its replacement date, with an even more modern and more powerful version that will continue in the fine tradition that has been established. We have also recently invested in two new pilot boats costing R41 million for the pair, that were built here in South Africa and provide a back up for the helicopter service.”

    One of these pilot boats has since been loaned to Cape Town. The Cape port has made application to have two new pilot boats built.

    In the meantime and until a decision is made regarding the disposal of the older port helicopter, the East Coast ports will have three aircraft available for service.

    The helicopter service is operated on TNPA’s behalf by Durban-based Acher Aviation which pioneered the concept in South Africa. For a look at Acher Aviation go HERE and click on the Video link.

    Wells denies plans to change South Africa’s rail gauge

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    Chris Wells

    At last some common sense from a railwayman in South Africa. Chris Wells, acting chief executive of Transnet has told parliament that Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) has no intention of replacing its rail gauge with the wider standard gauge (1435mm) as is used in much of Europe and the United States.

    South Africa has over 20,000km of Cape gauge (1067mm) railway in operation and is able to operate some of the heaviest train loads on any railway, and regularly runs trains of between 200 and 300 wagons loaded with ore and weighing well in excess of 20,000 tonnes per train load. This is achieved on normal Cape gauge rail.

    In the 1970 and 1980s the then Spoornet (now renamed TFR) operated a high speed passenger train on Cape gauge between Pretoria and Johannesburg at speeds in excess of 200 km/ph. The train, fitted with locally developed Scheffel bogies, operated over existing rail track and was finally withdrawn because it was found to be delaying slower moving goods traffic that used the same tracks.

    Wells said it was not considered appropriate to change South Africa’s rail network in the ‘medium’ term. He was responding to increased calls throughout Africa and South Africa for existing so-called colonial-built railways to be replaced with standard gauge tracks.

    Cape gauge has become one of the most commonly used gauges in sub-Saharan Africa, extending from South Africa into all its neighbouring states – Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zaire, Malawi, and the DRC. The Tazara railway connecting the DRC and Zambia with the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania was also built (by the Chinese in the 1970s) to Cape gauge because of this connectivity.

    In West Africa the Cape gauge is used in Ghana and Nigeria. The former East African Railways network in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda utilises the slightly narrower metre gauge.

    To dispel any theories that the gauge is peculiar to colonial states, Japan has extensive Cape gauge railways in service as does Taiwan. Cape gauge is also found in Australia and New Zealand.

    Piracy – Pirates captured while attacking ship

    Danish and Russian warships capture pirates attacking Ariella

    Danish special forces from the warship ABSALON were successful in recapturing the Slovenian-owned bulk carrier ARIELLA (32,442-dwt, built 1983) which Somali pirates were reported to have boarded. The crew had hidden themselves in a safe room and were in communication by radio with NATO naval forces nearby, which dispatched the Danish ship to the scene. The ship was sailing within the Internationally Recognised Transit Corridor.

    After sending its helicopter to the scene the Danes observed a skiff with seven suspected pirates near the bulker. The Danish ship also sent special forces across to secure the bulker which they discovered had not been boarded by the pirates, possibly because the vessel was protected by a ring of barbed wire. After searching the ship to ensure no pirates were on board the crew was released from the safe room. Meanwhile, a Russian warship, the NEUSTRASHIMYY also arrived on the scene and captured the skiff with its suspected pirates. The Ariella has subsequently resumed its journey.


    Pirates want USD15 million for car carrier

    After making use of the car carrier ASIAN GLORY, Somali pirates are demanding a ransom of USD15 million for its release along with the 25-man crew of Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Indian and Rumanians. The ship was captured in early January while approximately 1,000 n.miles from the Somali coast and taken to an anchorage on the Somali coast. The ship has since been used at least once to rendezvous with a dhow captured by pirates. Asian Glory was carrying a cargo of 2,405 motor vehicles, mostly Hyundais when captured, and although some reports suggested these have been offloaded this now seems unlikely. Insurance assessors say it is highly unlikely that the pirates will receive anything like the USD15m they are demanding. A prize of USD3m or USD4m is possible, they suggest.


    Philippines may bar seafarers from working off Somalia

    The Philippine government is reported to be giving consideration to barring its nationals from working on ships anywhere near the Somali coast where pirates are known to operate. With the highest percentage of seafarers at sea at any one time, Filipinos have been the most affected by the rampant piracy off the Somali coast and the Philippine government is known to be highly concerned about the matter. The proposal to ban its nationals from working on ships sailing near the pirate-infested waters came from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and if carried out may prove to have far reaching effects on the world’s attitude towards piracy.


    Pirates a blessing in disguise for Kenyan fishermen

    Piracy off the Somali coast is proving to be a blessing in disguise for Kenyan fishermen who say they are enjoying better fishing than in previous years because the foreign fleets are staying away for fear of the pirates. Each year large numbers of fishing vessels from Europe and Asia arrive off the African coast, which has helped reduce the fish stock along large sections of coastline. But since 2007 when piracy began to escalate, fish levels have improved mainly, say the fishermen, because there are less boats in the water. This in turn is allowing the fish to multiply. Kenyan fishing authorities deny the theory however saying it only applies to deep sea regions and not off the Kenyan coast.

    RBCT bullish about improving markets and supply

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    Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) says in a statement that it is confident of reclaiming its status as the largest single coal terminal in the world by the second quarter of 2010.

    Thirty-two percent of new black economic partners are now ready to export coal to markets in Europe, the Indian sub-continent and to other markets, and the technical commissioning of the terminal to handle 91 million tonnes a year by the end of the first quarter of this year is on track.

    Last Tuesday (2 February), Worldwide Coal Carolina became the 5th user to sign an agreement with RBCT and says it is ready to rail coal to the Zululand port. Other coal emerging producers are in final contract negotiations with RBCT.

    “I'm delighted to report that five of the nine new users have now concluded their agreements and am ready to export coal. This represents 32 percent of the new user tonnage of 15 million tons at a 91 million ton terminal,” says Raymond Chirwa, Chief Executive, RBCT. “Nine million tons per annum of expansion capacity has been offered to new shareholders and commercial users with black economic empowerment priority, while 6 million tons belongs to South Dunes Coal Terminal (SDCT).”

    Chirwa says he expects the final four partners to conclude agreements as soon as possible. RBCT is on track to roll out its Phase V expansion from April this year on its existing terminal control computer system.

    “I look forward to the finalising of all agreements with all of our new players. Once we are all on the same page, the terminal can concentrate on what it does best, efficient and reliable coal exports service. The increased capacity to 91-million tons a year will consolidate RBCT as the largest single export coal terminal in the world,” Chirwa says.

    Transnet Rail Freight (TFR) continues to be dogged by non-performance in meeting rail capacity requirements but remains committed to ramp up capacity.

    “I remain committed to increase exports several-fold and elevate black players to the centre stage this year and beyond. The reality is that all partners need to come to the party. Yes, there are challenges, but we intend to meet them within the required deadlines,” Chirwa says.

    Cost of Transnet infrastructure increases

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    New harbour tugs such as the ORCA, which recently completed building at the Southern African Shipyards in Durban, could be included in Transnet’s massive spending as it seeks to upgrade transport services. The new tug is due to leave for Port Elizabeth and Ngqura shortly. Picture Jurgen Cobarg

    Transnet will spend R93 billion on new infrastructure and equipment in the next five years, Chris Wells the company’s acting CEO told parliament last week.

    Addressing the parliamentary portfolio on transport Wells said the group had spent R74 billion over the past five years on projects aimed at upgrading ports, pipelines and railway services. This had created hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, he said, “possibly as many as 500,000.”

    He indicated that the latest five year plan would be finalised by the end of February when it would show that Transnet would need further investments of R93,4 billion in new infrastructure and equipment.

    This is an increase on previous estimates and is possibly affected by escalation rather than new projects.

    Wells said that Transnet has succeeded in raising R19 billion in the debt capital markets but there would be a need to go offshore for further funding as there was a limited capacity in South Africa.

    South Africa to have transport info hub for 2010

    Pretoria - A Transport Command and Call Centre will come into operation from next month to serve as the central hub of co-ordination for transport operations during the forthcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup.

    “The Centre will enable the Department of Transport to maintain overall command, control and co-ordination of transport operations across the country, including host cities and provinces,” said Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele during a meeting with Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan. The meeting was held to provide an update on transport plans for the World Cup.

    The Centre will provide live, real-time information that will also facilitate quick decision-making and responses to incidents.

    Travellers will also be able to access relevant transport information through the Call Centre and a central website.

    One of the aims of the Centre is to ensure that visitors to the country have a central point of call, where they can be provided with travel information and assistance to adequately plan their trips.

    South Africa is expecting approximately 450,000 visitors to descend on the country for the football spectacle which kicks off on 11 June. - BuaNews

    News clips – Keeping it brief

    Port movement updates

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    The Durban harbour tug UMHLALI which entered dry dock at the weekend. Picture by Terry Hutson

    Two ships in the Durban dry dock have completed work leaving the dock currently empty until this morning (Monday) when the harbour tug UMHLALI and the vessel SEAGULL will undergo routine docking for repairs and maintenance. During the past weekend the coastal vessel Lilac Roller and the seismic research vessel GEOWAVE MASTER completed repairs and left the dock. Lilac Roller is currently at the Dormac quay while Geowave Master has undergone sea trials and on Sunday afternoon was berthed at 100 on Pier 1.

    In Cape Town the two visiting American warships, the high speed vessel HSV-2 SWIFT and the frigate USS NICHOLAS have concluded the South African leg of their long African journey and sailed on Saturday. In Simon’s Town meanwhile the four German warships which are on a training mission and are due to undertake exercises with the South African Navy have begun arriving from Walvis Bay.


    EU puts pressure on EAC to sign

    The European Union is placing added pressure on the five members of the East African Community (EAC) to sign the delayed trade deal granting them full access to the EU markets. “More than two years after initialling the Framework EPA ... the East African Community has not signed it yet. The situation, as it stands now, is untenable,” Timothy Clarke, head of the EU delegation in Tanzania, said in a statement. He said the situation was inconsistent and contrary to both EU law and World Trade Organisation rules. In 2007 EAC members initialled an agreement which only becomes binding on their final signature.


    Derailments not unique to South Africa

    Australia’s Ensham Resources has declared force majeure on some of its shipments of thermal coal and coking coal after a derailment prevented deliveries to the port of Gladstone. The delay caused by the derailment is expected to last into this week and also affects some movements of Rio Tinto coal from its Kestrel mine. Australia’s leading coke producer BMA said shipments to Japan and other areas would not however be affected as most of its coking coal goes through the Hay Points terminal.


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    Above: German Navy support ship A1435 FGS Westerwald enters Simon’s Town Naval Harbour at 09h50 Thursday 4 February 2010 accompanied by the SA Navy tug Umalusi. The SA Navy Valour Class frigate F148, SAS Mendi is in the foreground. Picture by David Erickson

    The annual Navy Festival takes place this year between 5 and 7 March, slightly earlier than usual. One of the highlights is undoubtedly the free concert with the highly rated South Africa Navy Band which will also feature the visiting band of the German Navy. To set the scene, as it were, is this view of the 2009 concert which as always is held in the ‘ampitheatre’ created by the Selbourne dry dock, with SAS DRAKENSBERG in dock to add a backdrop of even greater effect. Picture by David Erickson

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