Ports & Ships Maritime News

Mar 9, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – ZEUS

  • SA port statistics for February are now available

  • For the record – tug London in Cape Town

  • DOULOS has chance of a new life

  • MSC’s Aponte says shippers drove rates too low

  • Piracy is now big business, and outside organisations are benefiting, says new report

  • East African conference to discuss railway revival

  • Book Review: Lighthouses of South Africa

  • Today’s recommended Read –Combating maritime piracy – a policy brief

  • Pics of the day – Durban’s wider entrance channel


    First View – ZEUS

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    Zeus was the ancient God of Gods and supreme being, who used his powers as god of the sky, thunder and weather as well, each an important factor in the life of a seafarer. Not an inappropriate name, therefore, for a crude oil tanker of 99,450-dwt, built in 1992 and although flagged in Panama, very firmly of Cypriot ownership. The fully laden vessel was in Cape Town recently. Picture by Aad Noorland

    SA port statistics for February are now available

    South African port statistics for the month of February 2010 are now to hand, courtesy Transnet.

    As is customary the figures shown in this report reflect an adjustment on the overall tonnage to include containers by weight – an adjustment necessary because Transnet NPA measures containers in terms of the number of TEUs and no longer by weight - for which PORTS & SHIPS estimates an adjustment of 13,5 tonnes per TEU to reflect tonnages. This figure is on the conservative side with 14 tonnes or even more being a more realistic figure, particularly in view of the increasing quantity of bulk cargo which is now being handled in containers.

    For comparative purposes readers can see statistics from 12 months ago (February 2009) by clicking HERE

    Figures for the respective ports during February 2010 are (with January 2010 figures shown bracketed):

    Cargo handled by tonnes during February 2010

    Richards Bay 5.600 Mt million tonnes (Jan 8.359Mt)
    Durban 7.040 Mt (Jan 5.491)
    Saldanha Bay 4.282 Mt (Jan 3.766)
    Cape Town 1.224 Mt (Jan 1.206)
    Port Elizabeth 0.868 Mt (Jan 0.598)
    Ngqura 0.255 Mt (Jan 0.103)
    Mossel Bay 0.214 Mt (Jan 0.080)
    East London 0.247 Mt (Jan 0.189)

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    East London Car terminal and harbour

    Containers (measured by TEUs) during February 2010
    (TEUs include Deepsea, Coastal, Tranship and empty containers all subject to being invoiced by NPA)

    Durban 222,412 TEU (Jan 184,135)
    Cape Town 73,903 (Jan 66,377)
    Port Elizabeth 26,788 (Jan 19,234)
    Ngqura 18,881 (Jan 7,665)
    East London 5,582 (Jan 2,370)
    Richards Bay 1,619 (Jan 0,910)

    Total containers handled during February 349,185-TEU (Dec 278,192)

    Ship Calls for February 2010

    Durban: - 361 vessels 9.920m gt (Jan 378 vessels 10.799m gt)
    Cape Town: - 203 vessels 4.105m gt (Jan 204 vessels 3.845m gt)
    Port Elizabeth: - 85 vessels 2.088m gt (Jan 76 vessels 1.747m gt)
    Ngqura: - 21 vessels 0.962m gt (Jan 18 vessels 0.949 gt)
    Richards Bay: - 146 vessels 4.842m gt (Jan 154 vessels 5.182m gt)
    Saldanha: - 44 vessels 2.596m gt (Jan 42 vessels 2.640 gt)
    East London: - 23 vessels 0.633m gt (Jan 32 vessels 0.544 gt)
    Mossel Bay: - 47 vessels 0.232m gt (Jan 32 vessels 0.104m gt)

    Total ship calls for February 2010: 909 ships for 24,414,933-gt
    (Jan 918 ships for 24,861,306-gt)

    - source TNPA, with adjustments made by Ports & Ships to include container weights

    For the record – tug London in Cape Town

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    SEDCO 709 in Table Bay. Picture Master of tug London

    In yesterday’s News Bulletin we showed pictures of the Svitzer tug LONDON in Cape Town harbour and said that she was in port for some repairs. We got that one wrong – the tug is actually towing the rig SEDCO 709 to Singapore and called at Cape Town to bunker. After disconnecting the tow in the replenishment position, the local tug PENTOW SALVOR took on the task of servicing the rig with provisions and spares and remained on standby until London was ready to connect again on Friday, 5 March and continue her long journey to the East. Picture showing Sedco 709 in Table Bay is courtesy Master of the London and Aad Noorland.

    DOULOS has chance of a new life

    The world’s oldest ocean-going passenger ship, the 96-year old floating library DOULOS (1,818-gt, built 1914) may receive an unexpected extension of life from one of three organisations or individuals who are believed to have made offers to buy the ship.

    Doulos is currently laid up in Singapore where her owners and former operator, the German charity GBA Ships had announced that her days as a floating library and bookshop were over. GBA Ships said that it was uneconomical to keep the ship going and intended disposing of her.

    Since then several offers have been received, one being from an organisation in Port Elizabeth. The harbour master at Port Elizabeth however pulled the plug firmly on any ambitions to mount the ship in PE harbour as a floating museum and tourist attraction, saying that there was no space available and that having the ship attracting tourists would create ISPS code security concerns.

    One of the other interested parties is thought to be from the Philippines where the ship would be used for crew training purposes or possible as a museum or charity centre.

    According to GBA Ships’ Ken Miller an offer has been accepted, although he declined to go into details. He said a memorandum of agreement was being worked out which could be signed this week. He provided no information on how much the purchaser was prepared to pay for the ship.

    Doulos was built in 1914 at the Newport News Shipbuilidng and Drydock Company in the United States as a cargo ship named SS Medina.

    MSC’s Aponte says shippers drove rates too low

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    MSC Barbara in Durban. Picture by Trevor Jones

    Shippers are to blame for the worst container crisis ever by driving down rates and creating instability in the market.

    That’s the view of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) founder and boss, Gianluigi Aponte. In a rare interview with the media on the occasion of the naming ceremony of the new MSC Cruises’ ship MSC MAGNIFICA in Hamburg on Saturday, Aponte said it was the customers of shipping lines who were to blame for the current instability and huge losses that shipping lines are experiencing.

    But he also had a stern word or two for those who lobbied the European Commission to commit the ‘grave error’ of disbanding the conference system by which shipping lines met to discuss and share future capacity and demand, which allowed the lines to smooth out price swings.

    “Shippers are not that deep. They worry always who will ship for USD50 less. The shippers are concerned solely by the price,” Mr Aponte said.

    He said that since the abandonment of a conference system, the cost of moving a 20ft container from Asia to Europe has oscillated from USD350 in January 2009 to about USD1,500 today.

    This insistence on eliminating the historic conference system will create a lot of instability in the future for the European and worldwide community, Aponte warned. “We have multiplied by five the rate in the space of one year. If the situation continues, maybe the rate can even double again.”

    He said there would be substantial volatility in future. “This will be against the interests of the consumer.”

    He reacted to industry allegations that MSC was responsible for aggressively cutting its prices at the start of the economic crisis to maintain market share.

    “It would have been crass and irresponsible for a company to lower the rates,” he said.

    Aponte said that none of the large container shipping companies would collapse because of the crisis. “I think that the big operators will come out very strong. We will all recover our losses in 2010.”

    MSC is the world’s second largest container ship operator with about 400 ships in service and a capacity of around 1.55 million TEU.

    Piracy is now big business, and outside organisations are benefiting, says new report

    A new report says that in 2008 and 2009 and continuing into 2010 it became clear that Somali piracy is big business.

    The report issued by the World Peace Foundation says that there are about 1,500 pirates involved, with 7 syndicates and fewer ‘bosses’ controlling separate but linked enterprises largely financed and brokered from Kenya, Dubai, Lebanon, Somalia, and elsewhere. (Russia, the report says, has also been mentioned.)

    The appropriation of sizable ransoms, not thefts of valuable cargo or thefts from individual yachtsmen or seafarers, is the goal. “There are no political motives or ideological drivers, despite the widespread assertion (part-fact and part-myth) that piracy began in the earlier years of the last century in retaliation against and in response to European, Egyptian, Indian, Taiwanese, Thai, Korean, and Japanese trawlers illegally fishing in Somali waters and depleting accustomed catches.

    “There are assertions, too, that illegal dumping of radioactive and other waste has occurred, angering those who have become Somali pirates. But there is no hard evidence of such illicit dumping. Moreover, the persons who are engaged in piracy, based either in northern or southern Puntland, or at the northeast extremities of what is left of Somalia, were in their former lives rarely fishermen, an occupation to which non-Somali from the Shebele River area were traditionally the leading devotees. Most of today’s pirates are unemployed young men from two of Somalia’s clans; many of them are ex-militia from the internal wars of the south attracted to piracy by the opportunities for gain that piracy has revealed.”

    The report says that Somaliland, which has a much more stable and functional government than does Puntland or Somalia (which has warlords rather than governance), has not harboured pirates despite its location along the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden, adjacent to piracy syndicates based in northern Puntland.

    The report looks at the international dimension of Somali maritime piracy. “The extent to which Somali piracy is a purely local response to opportunity and perceived grievance is exaggerated. Some of the profits and cash that flow from successful ransoming actions stays at home in Somalia and Puntland, but a large proportion of the off-take from ransoms flows out of Somalia to Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, and other distant points managed by members of the Somali diaspora and entrepreneurs from Europe and Arabia.

    “The young pirates grow wealthy compared to other young Somalis by going out to sea to capture innocent merchant vessels. So do those who provide food and other base services for the pirates and their hostages. But the largest portion of the ransoms that are collected goes to the organisers of the raids, various intermediaries and negotiators, and the syndicates overseas that have been bankrolling the ransom operations. A key driver of the escalation in Somali piracy is the stability of the business model; successful ‘firms’ have grown and evolved, and become more sophisticated technologically and tactically.”

    If this topic interests you, go to the Recommended Read section below and follow the links to read the full report by the World Peace Foundation. It makes for interesting and eye-opening reading for anyone with an interest in the modern phenomena of piracy off the North-East African coast.

    East African conference to discuss railway revival

    The East African Community (EAC) will be meeting in Dar es Salaam on Thursday and Friday (11-12 March) to discuss aspects of financing a railway revival for the region.

    The conference is being held under the context of 'Revitalising the Railways for Enhanced Regional Integration and Economic Growth’ and relates to the EAC’s master plan for rebuilding railways from the ports of Mombasa and Lamu in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to the hinterland countries of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, the DRC (Eastern region), Ethiopia and South Sudan.

    Among those attending the conference are the respective ministers of Works and Transport or their equivalents.

    Book Review: Lighthouses of South Africa

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    There are few books on South African lighthouses although Portnet produced a slim publication in 1991 and Harold Williams, a former senior Engineer there with the South African service wrote Lighthouses of Southern Africa.

    Now comes Lighthouses of South Africa, a profusely illustrated book by a master photographer with more than 500 splendid and frequently dramatic photographs showing the 45 operational lighthouses, other aids to navigation and the flora and fauna associated with these stations as well as their history. The text is supported by 47 maps and a rich anthology of nautical quotations and poems.

    Of particular interest is the book’s reflection: To the unselfish dedication of those who have done so much to save the lives of seafarers. In its opening pages the book passes further well deserved credit: Celebrating the many lives and ships saved from the treacherous currents and tempestuous seas off the coasts of South Africa – paying homage to the fortitude of its intrepid lighthouse keepers and the ingenuity of the men who designed, built and maintain these beacons of hope.

    There is no doubt that this extraordinary book, divided into the regions of Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, is a landmark in lighthouse literature. It is profusely illustrated with dramatic photographs taken by world-renowned master photographer Gerald Hoberman from the land, the sea and the air (as well as photographs of the mechanism and optics of the lighthouses). This treasure trove tells of the romance of men who went down to the sea in ships along the perilous coastline of Africa’s Cape of Storms.

    It features the important role of lighthouses since the earliest known light, the pharos at Alexandria, to the South African stations we see today with their marine life, breathtaking scenery, lighthouse keepers and people around the southern shores of the African continent.

    Gerald Hoberman worked in collaboration with specialist consultant, James Collocott, Manager Lighthouse Service of Transnet National Ports Authority and Vice President of IALA, who commissioned the work. Additional text was by Harold Williams.

    Writing in his foreword David Gordon of PORTNET commented, “Many staff retiring with more than 40 years’ service is an indication of the dedication for, and love of, the business that is lighthouses.”

    Hoberman reveals a multifaceted insight into every aspect of lighthouses and in his introduction James Collocott has written of him, “Gerald Hoberman has captured the history, the different lighthouse designs, equipment, different atmospheric moods and diverse environments in such a way as to show the reader the uniqueness and essence that makes one lighthouse quite different from the next.”

    The book reveals the optical, mechanical and civil engineering genius, innovation and traditions of lighthouse science, against often treacherous and logistically challenging odds, in sometimes remote, uninhabited territory and wild seas. Hoberman, who travelled 12,000km in his researches for the book, enlivens history, painting a vivid picture of legendary shipwrecks, providing graphic and dramatic accounts of the sheer terror and blending in the story of civil lobbying for the establishment of lighthouses and other threads in the rich fabric of social history. To accompany there are maps showing the locations of the lighthouses and shipwrecks. Chapter headings incorporate delightful pencil drawings of the stations by Mellany Fick and an anthology of poems from Virgil and Shakespeare to Kipling and Masefield.

    Each station listed is provided with its position, nearest town, date commissioned, architect / builder, material from which constructed, cost, height of tower, height of focal plane, optics (original and current), light source, light character, intensity, range, other equipment, heritage status (some are regarded as national monuments), whether manned, and if open to the public.

    It is believed Lighthouses of South Africa can be regarded as the authoritative and definitive work on the subject.

    There are two editions, the Flagship edition at £59.95 and the Boatswain’s edition at £29.95. Each has 384 pages and is printed in full colour.

    To order see the website HERE, click on ‘Books’, click on ‘Commissioned’, click on ‘Hardcover’. Prices are given on the website which also provides shipping charges.

    Further details may be obtained from and orders placed with: Combined Book Services Limited, Units Y, Paddock Wood Distribution Centre, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, Kent, TN12 6UU, England. Telephone: +44 (0)1892 837171 Fax: +44 (0)18 92 837272. E-mail: orders@combooks.co.uk

    - Review by Paul Ridgway, Editor: The IALA Bulletin

    Today’s recommended Read –Combating maritime piracy – a policy brief

    A comprehensive new report says that piracy off the Somali coast has become big business, ruled and advised by outside interests. It points out that maritime piracy has continued, despite significant efforts by shipping companies, captains, and crews; major international surveillance and prevention efforts by naval and air task forces; and growing intelligence about the pirates onshore and offshore.

    The complete policy brief, entitled COMBATING MARITIME PIRACY, a policy Brief with Recommendations for Action by Robert I Rotberg, can be found HERE. Once in the site, click on Brief number 11.

    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 – Durban’s wider entrance channel

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    As most readers will be aware the R4 billion project to widen and deepen the Port of Durban entrance channel is just about complete, apart from a few finishing touches. Transnet Projects held a roadshow to ‘show off’ what has been done during which the dredger Pallieter and two harbour tugs provided a ‘water ballet’ for visiting dignitaries that helped emphasise the new widened entrance channel.

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    Not to be outdone, the port marine pilot helicopter also got into the act.

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    Durban’s developing Point Waterfront can be seen in the background of the last two pictures.

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    Pictures are by Trevor C Photography www.nauticalimages.co.za.

    Don’t forget to send us your news and press releases for inclusion in the News Bulletins. Shipping related pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – please email to info@ports.co.za

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