Ports & Ships Maritime News

Apr 1, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – BALMORAL

  • Durban port entrance channel project completed ahead of schedule

  • Transnet’s statement on the harbour entrance widening project

  • New East Africa – Colombo service to commence in May

  • South Africa, China in R2.3 billion trade agreement

  • YESTERYEAR (those classic ships) : DUNBAR CASTLE

  • Piracy: ITF calls on all governments to help end Somali piracy

  • Third new Voith tug is launched for TNPA

  • Trade to expand by 9.5% in 2010 after a dismal 2009, WTO reports

  • Dormac Marine takes top BEE awards

  • Today’s recommended Read – Southern Africa must reclaim control over EPA talks

  • Pics of the day – RISING SUN and DUCK FORTUNE


    Please Note – with Monday 4 April being a public holiday in South Africa (Long Easter Weekend) there will be no News Bulletin on that day. The next news will appear on Tuesday 5 April, but if any important breaking news happens in the meantime this will be posted online, so stay in touch with PORTS & SHIPS over the weekend. In the meantime we wish all our Christian readers a very happy and blessed Easter

    First View – BALMORAL

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    Fred Olsen’s cruise ship BALMORAL arriving in Cape Town harbour at dawn on Wednesday, 30 March 2010. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Durban port entrance channel project completed ahead of schedule

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    The dredger PALLETIER helps with the celebrations commemorating the completion of the widening and deepening of Durban’s port entrance channel. Picture by Terry Hutson

    Durban’s harbour entrance widening and deepening project was completed and officially dedicated yesterday (Wednesday, 31 March) at a function held at the base of the new North Pier.

    The work, which was undertaken on behalf of Transnet Capital Projects and Transnet National Ports Authority, Port of Durban by the Dredging International/Group Five Consortium, was completed at the end of February, three weeks ahead of schedule. In total 150 weeks was allocated originally for the contract, which involved widening the harbour entrance by a minimum of 100 metres to 225m at its narrowest point, and deepening the channel from a depth of 12.8m to 19m in the outer channel and 16.5m in the inner channel. Inside the harbour the channel leading to the turning basin opposite the N-Shed Passenger Terminal and the container terminals is now dredged to a minimum of 12.8m.

    The contract is one that is of great significance for Durban both as a port and a city and is one of which its benefits will be experienced for a long time to come.

    The contract required the removal of the old North Pier and a new breakwater completed further north, the creating a wider and safer channel. At 122m at its narrowest the old channel was always a danger not only to the port but also the economy of the country. Had a ship become immobilized inside the entrance for any length of time it could have had long-ranging and damaging economic affects on South Africa and its neighbours.

    In fact there were a number of near misses over the years, with ships experiencing engine or steering problems on approaching or sailing from the harbour, and in more than one instance ships have actually collided with the breakwaters. So it was therefore no surprise when port management announced a programme to widen and at the same time deepen the entrance not merely to make it possible for larger ships to access the port (and that was becoming an important factor), but also to reduce the risk that a strategic port like Durban couldn’t so easily be closed by an accident or sinking in the channel.

    As the then Minister of Public Enterprises, Jeff Radebe once rightly pointed out, if the port of Durban was closed for a week or more for any reason whatever then the effect would be felt as far away as the Copperbelt in Zambia or even the DRC.

    In addition to building a new North Pier the old South Pier or breakwater has been strengthened with new ‘armour’ placed on the open sea side of the pier and at the end and the overall height raised by 2 metres, with the breakwater cap width increased to 11.5m. Increasing the height and width was considered necessary on account of altering weather patterns including abnormally high seas and storms that have been experienced in recent years.

    In terms of the entrance channel Durban is now equipped to handle container ships of up to 9,200-TEU capacity. Work remains on increasing the draught alongside container berths - the TNPA has already concluded geophysical studies and announcements in this regard can be expected in the reasonably near future. Dredging of container berths to bring them from a draught alongside of 11.5m to 12.8m is however expected to commence within two months and actual berth deepening is part of Transnet’s current five year plan for the port.

    The sand bypass system in place at Durban, where sand is dredged on the south side of the South breakwater to avoid a buildup and spillover across the entrance channel, is awaiting confirmation of final designs, expected by July 2010. The original plan was to create a fixed bypass but experience with a similar system installed at the port of Ngqura has convinced the TNPA that the use of dredging remains preferable.

    To this end a new dredger for the NPA Dredging Services is currently under construction in Europe and is expected to enter service early in 2011.

    During the construction and dredging period a number of interesting objects were uncovered, including a bulldozer, old cranes, and several pieces of old ordnance (bombs) that are presumably relics of World War 2 and which were supposed to have disposed of in a designated position out at sea. One old shipwreck was also uncovered.

    There are many similarities between the function held yesterday to dedicate the new entrance channel, and the successful completion of a deepened entrance channel in 1904. These similarities even extended to the coincidental arrival off port of very large passenger ships – the 13,000-gt ARMADALE CASTLE in 1904, then one of the largest passenger ships afloat, and just one week ago the 151,400-gt QUEEN MARY 2, also one of the largest. On both occasions sound economic factors influenced the decision to widen and deepen the entrance channel. In 1904 the success of the port engineers in overcoming the dreaded Durban sandbar across the entrance turned the port of Durban into what it was later to become – one of the most important ports of the Southern Hemisphere and the busiest in Africa.

    The latest developments are likely to have no less a dramatic effect.

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    Durban port entrance channel shortly before completion of dredging, showing the new North Pier (on right of picture) with the temporary coffer dam for the sand bypass used to pump sea sand onto Durban’s beaches. When this picture was taken a small amount of land required dredging. The South Pier or breakwater is on the left. Picture by Russell Cleaver

    Transnet’s statement on the harbour entrance widening project

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    Queen Mary 2 became the first really large ship to enter the new widened harbour entrance, free of limitations, 23 March 2010. Picture by Trevor Jones

    Durban, 31 March 2010 - Transnet Limited today marked the scheduled completion of one of its key projects in its rolling five-year R93 billion capital investment programme – namely, the Durban Harbour Entrance Widening and Deepening. The R3 billion project was completed on time (in fact, a month ahead of schedule) and under the forecasted cost to completion.

    The project, executed by a Consortium of construction firms, Group 5 Limited from South Africa and Belgium-based Dredging International, is intended primarily to enable the Port of Durban to accommodate the new-generation of post-panamax container vessels.

    In addition, the widening and deepening will enhance the safety of navigation for all vessels calling at the port – Transnet’s largest, in terms of container handling, and Africa’s busiest.

    Transnet Capital Projects, the company’s specialist project management support division which executes large projects or those in excess of R300 million as well as a portfolio of smaller projects, was responsible for the overall management of the construction on behalf of Transnet’s ports landlord division, Transnet National Ports Authority. Construction work commenced on May 4, 2007and was completed on February 28, 2010.

    Transnet’s Acting Group Chief Executive, Mr Chris Wells, says: “This port is key to Transnet’s growth strategy and our objective to improve customer service, safety and environmental compliance, contain operating costs as well as to take advantage of revenue and volume growth opportunities.”

    “We are particularly proud of this achievement. The widening and deepening has been completed ahead of schedule – we have invested approximately R3 billion in this project since inception. Operationally, it will help us meet the stringent targets we have set ourselves on improving efficiency in our ports through reducing shipping delays and improving terminal operations”.

    He says the widening and deepening was conceived in consultation with some of Transnet’s key customers taking into account their needs and forecasts for the future of the container shipping industry.

    The widening and deepening was funded by means of a ¥35 billion (about R4 billion) untied loan agreement between Transnet and the Japan Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC).

    The channel was widened from 130 metres to 225 metres (at the narrowest point) and deepened to -19 metres in the approach channel, -18 metres in the entrance channel and -16 metres in the inner port channels and basins.

    Container vessels with a capacity of up to 9,200 TEUs will now be accommodated safely in the new wider and deeper entrance channel. To test its readiness for the bigger vessels, the Queen Mary 2, the world’s biggest passenger liner, entered comfortably and docked at the Port of Durban on 23 March 2010. This would not have been possible without the channel being wider and deeper.

    New East Africa – Colombo service to commence in May

    A new container service between East African ports and Colombo in Sri Lanka will be launched on 11 May.

    Operated by Evergreen Line, Simatech Shipping and Wan Hai Lines, the new service utilising three 1200-TEU vessels will use the following rotation commencing 11 May:

    Colombo (Sri Lanka), Mombasa (Kenya), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Colombo.

    Simatech is well known as a feeder service operator in the Arabian Gulf, Indian sub-continent and Far East regions.

    South Africa, China in R2.3 billion trade agreement

    Pretoria (BuaNews) - South Africa and China have signed trade contracts for products such as wine, frozen fish abalone and chrome oil worth R2.3 billion.

    “This signing ceremony will mark the deepening of mutually beneficial economic relations between our two nations,” Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said yesterday.

    The minister noted that the latest contracts between China and South Africa have more than doubled since the last signing of contracts in 2007. The total value of contracts signed then amounted to R143 million.

    Davis said government viewed its relations with China, which is now South Africa's first trading partner following countries like the United States, as strategic.

    He said that China is at the top of a seismic shift in the world economy. “We enjoy excellent relations, at a political and people-to-people level,” said the minister.

    South Africa and China established diplomatic relations in 1998 and in 2008 China was South Africa's fourth largest trading partner and is now its biggest trading partner.

    The South African government however believes that there is room to increase the volume of agreements. Davies said however said China is the home of a number of original equipment manufactures in the automotive industry that have set up in South Africa bases for exports.

    “We would like to develop this export platform model also to include exports of vehicles on to the Chinese market,” he said.

    Additionally South Africa would welcome further investment from China.

    South Africa exports minerals to China as well as wine while China exports mostly electronic products to South Africa. Although South Africa (contributing 25 percent to the continent's Gross Domestic Product) is a small market there is talk of expanding the market size into the region

    Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin said South Africa is an important emerging economy adding that the two nations should further open markets between each other as well as deepen their mutual investments.

    YESTERYEAR (those classic ships) : DUNBAR CASTLE

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    The Union-Castle intermediate service motor vessel DUNBAR CASTLE (10,002-gt, built Harland & Wolff, 1930) seen in this picture on her berth at Durban’s Point, circa 1930s. The ship was an early casualty of World War 2, being sunk after striking a mine about 7 miles off Ramsgate in the UK on 9 January, 1940. Picture Terry Hutson collection.

    Editor’s Note: Suitable pictures for use with the YESTERYEAR column are welcome.

    Piracy: ITF calls on all governments to help end Somali piracy

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    HNLMS TROMP of the Dutch Navy. Picture EU NAVFOR

    Delegates to an International Transport Federation (ITF) meeting in Germany this week called on all governments to commit resources to help bring an end to piracy from Somalia.

    In addition to the resolution, the ITF voted to “support the inclusion, where appropriate, of armed military personnel on ships in addition to the commitment by flag states of naval vessels.”

    The ITF however stopped short of arming seafarers saying that it remained firmly opposed to this step, and added its grave concern at efforts to stop the payment of ransoms, saying this endangered the lives of seafarers. It was the responsibility of ship owners and flag states to take all necessary measures to swiftly reunite seafarers with their families when they are taken hostage.

    The ITF aims to collect half a million signatures to these effects by World Maritime Day on 23 September 2010. The resolution will call on governments to “close the circle on protection of ships, and for those states now ducking their responsibilities to stand up and follow the example of those which are actively involved in combating the threat.”

    South African government, please take note!

    While the ITF was discussing piracy in Germany, Somali pirates were active in Indian Ocean waters although for once the scoreline favoured the naval protective forces in the region. EU NAVFOR, the European Union naval force acting to protect commercial shipping, particularly shipping involved in the movement of food and other aid to the region, reports that on 28 March the EU NAVFOR Swedish Maritime Patrol aircraft (MPA) located a pirate group almost 700 miles east of Mogadishu and informed the Force Commander onboard the Italian warship ETNA.

    The Force Commander, Admiral Giovanni Gumiero tasked TROMP with intercepting the pirate group. “EU NAVFOR warship TROMP launched her helicopter and forced the suspected pirates to stop their skiffs. A boarding operation was conducted and 10 suspected pirates were detained. A large number of fuel barrels were found and destroyed. Two attack skiffs were also destroyed and the suspects were provided with sufficient fuel and water to reach the coast in a third boat.”

    In the early hours of 31 March (yesterday) the MV EVITA, a Sierra Leone flagged production tanker of 9,897-dwt (and owned by UAE), was attacked approximately 350 nautical miles north of the Seychelles, by a Pirate Action Group (PAG) consisting of three attack skiffs.

    The PAG fired on the EVITA but the attack was unsuccessful and the ship evaded the pirates.

    The Swedish EU NAVFOR Maritime Patrol Aircraft responded to the report of the attack and located the EVITA. The MPA has coordinated a response with nearby Combined Maritime Forces who are now investigating a PAG in the vicinity. It is understood that there were no casualties and no damage to the vessel.

    Earlier in the week, on the afternoon of 29 March, the EU NAVFOR Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) from the Seychelles supported the Seychelles Coast Guard vessel Topaz to locate and apprehend a hijacked ship.

    “Robust action from the Topaz ensured the release of 27 hostages: 9 pirates have been captured. Early this morning, 29 March, the EU NAVFOR Force Commander, Rear Adm Giovanni Gumiero, tasked the Seychelles Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) to support the Seychelles Coast Guard vessel Topaz in an anti piracy operation against three hijacked ships.

    It had been reported that a Pirate Action Group hijacked a Motor Vessel ARZOO with 14 Indian nationals onboard. EU NAVFOR had been monitoring its movements and noticed that two days ago the vessel was abandoned by the pirates near to the Seychelles when the vessel ran out of fuel. The crew were released unharmed. The pirate group then hijacked another ship (fishing vessel) called GALATE and set course for the northern Somali basin. The Swedish MPA monitored the movements of this vessel and reported to the EU NAVFOR Force HQ. At this time the Seychelles Coast Guard vessel Topaz was vectored onto the position. The EU NAVFOR Luxemburg MPA then arrived and provided cover and positional information to the Topaz.

    “At about midday, it appears that the F/V GALATE was too small for the pirates who abandoned this vessel and took control of another ship called the MV AL ABI. They took the crew of the GALATE with them. There were by now 6 Seychelles hostages from the GALATE, 21 (15 Iranian, 6 Pakistani) from the AL ABI and 9 pirates. The Topaz then made is presence known to the pirates and demanded it to stop. Warning shots were fired so the pirates placed the hostages on the upper deck and appeared to be threatening them.

    “Topaz decided to use disabling gunfire against the AL ABI and the vessel was hit below the water line and it began to sink. All personnel jumped overboard and were rescued unharmed by the Topaz.”

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    Modern dhow-type vessel AL ABI, sunk by Seychelles Coastguard vessel TOPAZ

    Third new Voith tug is launched for TNPA

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    The Port of Ngqura tug ORCA heads out from Durban harbour for sea trials before delivery to the Eastern Cape port. The third tug in this series was launched at the Southern African Shipyards facility this week. Picture by Trevor Jones

    South African Shipyards in Durban this week successfully launched the third in a series of seven new 70-t bollard pull Voith Schneider-propelled tugs for Transnet National Ports Authority.

    Named LIZIBUKO, the latest tug will join two others at the port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape. Tug number 2 named ORCA was recently delivered to the port. The three tugs for Ngqura will have cost Transnet R385 million.

    The two Algoa Bay harbours also took delivery of a new(ish) R25 million pilot boat TSITSIKAMA which was completed at a Cape Town shipyard last year. Soon after completion the pilot boat went on loan to the port of Durban pending delivery of that port’s two new pilot boats, which have since entered service at the KZN port.

    Trade to expand by 9.5% in 2010 after a dismal 2009, WTO reports

    After the sharpest decline in more than 70 years, world trade is set to rebound in 2010 by growing at 9.5%, according to WTO economists. “WTO rules and principles have assisted governments in keeping markets open and they now provide a platform from which trade can grow as the global economy improves. We see the light at the end of the tunnel and trade promises to be an important part of the recovery. But we must avoid derailing any economic revival through protectionism,” said Director-General Pascal Lamy.

    Exports from developed economies are expected to increase by 7.5% in volume terms over the course of the year while shipments from the rest of the world (including developing economies and the Commonwealth of Independent States) should rise by around 11% as the world emerges from recession.

    This strong expansion will help recover some, but by no means all, of the ground lost in 2009 when the global economic crisis sparked a 12.2% contraction in the volume of global trade – the largest such decline since World War II. Should trade continue to expand at its current pace, the economists predict, it would take another year for trade volumes to surpass the peak level of 2008. Measuring trade in volume terms provides a more reliable basis for annual comparisons since volume measurements are not distorted by changes in commodity prices or currency fluctuations, as they can be when trade is measured in dollars or other currencies.

    One positive development in 2009 was the absence of any major increase in trade barriers imposed by WTO members in response to the crisis. The number of trade-restricting measures applied by governments has actually declined in recent months. However, significant slack remains in the global economy, and unemployment is likely to remain high throughout 2010 in many countries. Persistent unemployment may intensify protectionist pressures.

    “During these difficult times, the multilateral trading system has once again proven its value. WTO rules and principles have assisted governments in keeping markets open and they now provide a platform from which trade can grow as the global economy improves,” said WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy.

    Dormac Marine takes top BEE awards

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    Dormac’s Durban shipyard. Picture by Gary Pulford

    Durban-based ship repair and engineering company Dormac, which has offices and repair yards at Durban, Richards Bay, Cape Town, Saldanha and Walvis Bay, was honoured this week with two awards acknowledging transformation.

    The company received the Top Empowered Corporate Award for companies with a revenue of between R35m and R500m), and also Top Empowered Company in General Industrials.

    Dormac was created from a merger between Dorbyl Marine and IMAC.

    The Metropolitan Oliver Empowerment Awards are aimed at acknowledging, congratulating and celebrating the efforts made by local companies towards the development of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) and transformation. There is an intense three month research process which is critical in ensuring that all of the finalists are championing empowerment in business today.

    Today’s recommended Read –Southern Africa must reclaim control over EPA talks

    Governments in southern African nations must regain control over the negotiations on the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU). Issues earmarked as deal-breakers should be resolved before talks to a full EPA are continued, including limiting the EPA to a goods-only agreement and the EU dropping its demand for reciprocity.

    These demands emanate from a public meeting of the Southern Africa People’s Solidarity Network (SASPN) and the Southern African Christian Initiative (SACHI) held on 24-25 March in Windhoek, the Namibian capital.

    You can continue with this report HERE.

    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 – RISING SUN and DUCK FORTUNE

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    The luxury motor yacht RISING SUN which arrived in Cape Town this week, was designed by the late Jan Bannenberg and built in Germany by Lürssen. The yacht is currently owned by Larry Ellison, co-owner of Oracle Corporation, and David Geffen. She is reputed to be the 6th largest motor yacht in the world and has a length of almost 138m. The yacht/ship has 82 rooms with a total living area in excess of 8,000m². Rising Sun cost USD 290 to build – about enough for a small luxury cruise ship (or a couple of container ships). Picture by Ian Shiffman

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    Something more practical although aging and of suspect condition is the bulk carrier DUCK FORTUNE (22,525-dwt, built 1981), which was also in Cape Town this week. Now owned by the Latvian company Duck Maritime and operated as part of its Aquaship fleet the ship was previously named SYLVIA of Sylvia Shipping, a Greek company which lost a high court case in London this year upholding an arbitration finding that the charter party involved could recover its loss of profit from the ship on account of the vessel having not been maintained properly in the cargo holds. Syliva was subsequently sold for USD 6.1 million. See a summary of those court findings HERE. Picture is by Ian Shiffman

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