Ports & Ships Maritime News

Mar 18, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – HMS SCOTT

  • Transnet Freight Rail starts winning back freight from road

  • Demand may bring Riversdale’s Benga coal mine forward

  • Return to slow steaming reduces container ship layups

  • Tanzania president calls for interconnected railway

  • Pirates attack Dutch warship

  • Rio Tinto and Chinalco mend fences over Guinea ore project

  • Trade news – Arlona completes new grab for Bidfreight Port Operations

  • Pics of the day – MARY THE QUEEN


    First View – HMS SCOTT

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    As two of the German frigates left Wednesday morning (marking the end of a month long visit for the SA Navy Festival and Exercise Good Hope IV), a new silhouette turned up in a blustery False Bay. This was H131, HMS Scott – the Royal Navy’s Hydrographic Survey vessel. She entered Simon’s Town Naval Harbour at 09h23 on the morning of Wednesday, 17 March 2010.

    HMS Scott was built in 1995/96 at Appledore Shipbuilders in England and commissioned in June 1997. Unlike her predecessors (the familiar Hecla class, of which the SA Navy’s Hydrographic Survey Vessel A324 SAS Protea is a derivative) the Scott will never win any awards for beauty or style – she is very utilitarian in appearance.

    HMS Scott displaces 13,500 tons full load, is 131.1 metres long and 21.5 metres wide. She has 2 Krupp MaK 9M32 9-Cylinder diesel engines, driving a single shaft with controllable pitch propeller to give a speed of 18 knots, and retractable bow thruster.

    HMS Scott is the Royal Navy's sole ocean going survey vessel. She is capable of maintaining up 300 days a year at sea, thanks to her novel crew rotation system - her complement of 63 is divided into three sections, two of which are required to keep the ship operational, with the third on shore on either leave or in training. When the ship returns to port, one crew section on board is replaced by the section on shore. The ship can then deploy again almost immediately. Story and picture by David Erickson

    Transnet Freight Rail starts winning back freight from road

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    Tau Morwe, acting CEO, Transnet Freight Rail

    Transnet Freight Rail will spend R52 billion over the next five years on new equipment and infrastructure which is aimed at assisting the rail company to gain back market share from the roads.

    This was the word from TFR’s acting CEO, Tau Morwe, who took over the reins from suspended CEO Siyabonga Gama late last year. Until then Morwe has been the founding chief executive of Transnet Port Terminals and oversaw its transformation out of the old Portnet into a separate and viable port terminal operating company.

    In a presentation to the media in Johannesburg on Tuesday he disclosed that TFR carries 14 percent of South Africa’s freight tonnage, which if expressed in freight tonne terms would amount to 35 million tonnes. During the past year TFR handled 72mt of general freight, 61,5mt of export coal and 44.5mt of export iron ore.

    “During December 2009 we carried 1.002mt of iron ore along the iron ore line between Sishen and Saldanha, while in March this year the coal export line to Richards Bay has peaked at 1.504mt in a single week.”

    He said that significantly improved throughout was being achieved in various general freight sectors, including manganese, magnetite, chrome, steel, containers and rock phosphate. February this year saw the highest monthly number of containers carried on rail since 1990 (31,391-TEU) and the highest annual number of containers (526,441-TEU) carried by rail since 2002/03.

    However, he admitted there was still lots of work to be done. “We are having to cancel up to 1,300 trains a month and the key is to reduce this,” he admitted. Other challenges involve theft and sabotage. Morwe gave some detail of what was occurring with cable theft – involving large quantities of copper cable being stolen each month – recently the Richards Bay export coal line almost came to a standstill because there were so many incidents of cable theft - and there are challenges resulting from theft of components such as batteries and parts, equipment, and even stolen track, all of which counted negatively on TFR’s ability to perform.

    With regards the problems of theft he said that TFR was adopting a similar approach to that of the banking industry with regards to how it is dealing with cash-in-transit heists. It was making use of intensified intelligence gathering and the identification of syndicates involved in cable theft. Strategic alliances had been formed with the Hawks, Railway Police and the National Prosecuting Authority to take this matter in hand, a policy change that is proving more effective that simply placing greater numbers of security personnel on the ground, he maintained.

    “There are also challenges with an ageing locomotive fleet compounded by a slower than planned delivery of new locomotives and rolling stock and their commissioning,” Morwe said. “Our key challenge is to run trains on time.”

    Responding to questions Morwe said that TFR was interested in joint investments in rolling stock with customers and several models were being tested and some specialist investment was underway. He stressed however that there was a strong need for customers to invest in their own rail loading and unloading facilities, saying that in some cases delays occurred because of incompatible systems.

    One of the other challenges noted is that customers dealing in commodities are tending to trade more in the spot markets, meaning that long range predictions outside of four months is no longer possible.

    As far as the creation of a new manganese export corridor, this was still under discussion with no decision made on exporting via Saldanha or Ngqura.

    Demand may bring Riversdale’s Benga coal mine forward

    Riversdale Mining says it is likely to bring production of coal forward at the Benga coal mine in Mozambique’s Tete province because of increased demand and a worldwide shortage of coking coal.

    The original intention was to produce 5 million tonnes a year by 2011 and 20 million tonnes a year by 2016.

    Riversdale has given an indication that it is investigating the use of barges on the Zambezi River to overcome the challenge of railing coal to Beira along a single track railway that is already mainly committed to the Vale coal mining project at Moatize. The existing railway on which refurbishment is nearing completion is incapable of handling the large volumes being forecast by both mining houses.

    Return to slow steaming reduces container ship layups

    The number of idle container ships, laid up as a result of the economic downturn, is reducing steadily because shipping lines are turning more and more to slow steaming to lower operating costs.

    This is the conclusion of French analyst Alphaliner which reports that the number of idle box ships had reduced to 464 by 15 March. This is the equivalent of 1.22 million TEU lying idle, it said.

    In its weekly newsletter Alphaliner said, “This is the lowest level recorded since February 2009 and it compares with 495 ships for 1.24 million TEU recorded on 1 March. The number of idle ships will continue to decrease as several idle units of 5,000-TEU and above are to have new assignments in the coming few weeks.”

    Four new services between Asia and Europe are due to commence this month which will employ 38 ships totaling 208,000-TEU, with most being taken from the pool of idle vessels and the balance from newbuildings.

    Tanzania president calls for interconnected railway

    President Jakaya Kikwete has called for a regional railway network in which the respective railways of the East African Community (EAC) members can connect.

    He said a strong robust railway was essential once the EAC merges with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) regional blocs.

    “Our resolve to move to a single market will not succeed without a wider connectivity of the existing railway lines,” he said.

    Pirates attack Dutch warship

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    The frigate HNLMS TROMP

    Early yesterday morning, 17 March, two small skiffs made a fast approach on the EU NAVFOR Dutch frigate HNLMS TROMP with what appeared to be a pirate attack.

    The TROMP fired warning shots as they approached and it was this action that alerted the “would be” pirates to the fact that they were trying to attack a well armed naval warship.

    The warship, HNLMS TROMP of the Royal Netherlands Navy, was patrolling the region as part of the ongoing EU counter-piracy mission, when it was approached at high speed by two small vessels, known as skiffs, shortly after 0630 GMT. Warning shots were fired by the naval vessel, which also deployed its helicopter to intercept the suspects who attempted to flee.

    An EU NAVFOR Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) from Sweden was also on the scene, tracking a third boat, the suspected pirates’ mother ship, and monitoring the safety of any merchant shipping in the area.

    A search of the skiffs by the EU NAVFOR ship uncovered ammunition and some rocket propelled grenades were also found. Ten suspects were held on board the warship before being released to one of their boats. Having completed the search, the warship destroyed the other two skiffs and reported the incident to the Seychelles Coast Guard, with whom the EU NAVFOR works closely.

    This is the 11th Pirate Attack Group that EU NAVFOR has been involved in disrupting in the last 2 weeks.

    Rio Tinto and Chinalco mend fences over Guinea ore project

    Rio Tinto is believed to be engaged in talks with China’s Chinalco with regards to developing a massive iron or mining project in Guinea.

    Both the Wall Street Journal and Australia’s Fairfax media have reported the discussions as taking place to develop one of the world’s largest iron ore fields.

    In 2009 a proposed USD19.5-billion cash injection into debt-ridden Rio Tinto by Chinalco collapsed, which effectively stymied attempts then to develop the Guinean iron ore mines.

    Trade news – Arlona completes new grab for Bidfreight Port Operations

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    Arlona Engineering has recently completed the manufacture of a new, highly flexible grab, which operates efficiently on many different crane sizes at the Durban Harbour for discharging vessels. – picture supplied

    Arlona Engineering has recently completed the manufacture of a new, highly versatile grab, which operates efficiently on many different crane sizes, for discharging vessels at the Durban Harbour.

    “This new grab, which has been designed by Arlona Engineering for Bidfreight Port Operations, is capable of being used as a 6, 8, 10 or 12m³ grab, making it compatible with any crane fitted on a ship, whether it is a 15 T crane or a 30 T unit. This means it is no longer necessary for a specific grab to be used on different sized cranes,” says Steve Christy, managing director of Arlona Engineering, specialists in bulk handling and lifting equipment. “This robust grab, which meets the demand from the shipping sector for versatile handling equipment, is designed to handle many different free flowing bulk materials, including cereals, mill scale coal and fertilizers.

    “Another important feature of this grab – the latest generation in Arlona’s range – is these grabs are lighter than previous models. Special materials were used during manufacture to ensure high strength and extended service life in arduous operating conditions.”

    Arlona’s fabrication facility is equipped to design and manufacture grabs, hoppers, container spreaders and lifting equipment, as well as a wide range of cargo handling equipment – all to exact specifications.

    Soulos sold to Singapore interests

    According to Piet Sinke, who publishes a shipping newsletter on top of his other job of salvaging ships, the former floating bookshop DOULOS (built 1914) has been sold to Singapore interests and will be converted into a floating restaurant and conference centre.

    The elderly ship, regarded as the oldest passenger ship still in operation, is due to change hands today (Thursday).

    Doulos arrived recently in Singapore for a maintenance inspection where she failed to receive a seaworthy certificate. Faced with an expensive bill for undertaking the necessary repairs, her owners opted for selling the ship, even if this meant she would go to the breakers.

    Assuming the reports are correct this means that that day has not yet come and the ship will have a new lease of life, albeit tethered permanently alongside a wharf somewhere.

    Pics of the day – MARY THE QUEEN

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    The former Ro-Ro ferry CIUDAD DE VALENCIA, since renamed MARY THE QUEEN (11,513-gt, built 1984), entered Durban harbour yesterday after spending about 10 days in the outer anchorage. Judging by her tattered state the ship may well be a candidate for the breakers, although a cursory search shows the vessel as still in the ownership of a Philippines shipowner.

    While at anchor off Umhlanga the ship attracted much attention from the public ashore, leading to many phoned and emailed enquiries asking what the ship was and why she was outside port. Had they perhaps have known of the strange coincidence of her name, and less than a week before the arrival of Cunard’s QUEEN MARY 2, even greater interest might have been displayed. As it was at least three people independently captured the ship on film as she entered port on Tuesday and have sent us copies for consideration. Over time we will try to publish all of them but on this occasion it is two from the camera of Trevor Jones.

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