Ports & Ships Maritime News

Apr 8, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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  • First View – LS JACOBA

  • Captain Mike Brophy retires as SA’s chief harbour master

  • Two fishing vessel collide off Walvis Bay

  • Russia calls on UN to prevent pirates from escaping justice

  • Piracy. Dutch Navy recaptures highjacked container ship

  • Somalia asks for help with toxic waste dumped on its coast

  • New initiative launches DRC, Zambia and Namibia transport corridor

  • UAL gives Cape Town’s Remix Dance Company new lease of life

  • Turkish bulker YASIN C is highjacked by pirates

  • Maersk says it will break even this year

  • Pics of the day –SAFMARINE LUALABA


    First View – LS JACOBA

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    The coastal tanker LS JACOBA (15,602-dwt, built 2006) seen arriving in Cape Town harbour in a stiff north easterly wind. Picture by Aad Noorland

    Captain Mike Brophy retires as SA’s chief harbour master

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    Capt Mike Brophy, retiring chief harbour master of the ports of South Africa. Picture by Terry Hutson

    Captain Mike Brophy, chief harbour master of Transnet National Ports Authority, has retired after more than 30 years of service with the company. He has been based in Durban since 2004 following his appointment as port captain (later renamed harbour master) of that port. In 2006 he succeeded Captain Eddie Bremner as chief harbour master.

    Although Capt Brophy hails from a small Irish village called Crosshaven and still speaks with a soft Irish brogue, he has spent much of his life either on ships or helping making them safe in harbour. He finally came ashore in the land of his adoption after falling in love and marrying a Port Elizabeth lady, and joining the harbour service in the process.

    The young Mike Brophy went to sea in 1963 when he signed on as an apprentice deck officer with Irish Shipping, working up the ranks to 2nd Mate with a Mate’s certificate before seeking a change of scenery with Ocean Fleets (Elder Dempster Line and Blue Funnel Line) which took him on the run to West Africa. “Not a good place at that time, with the Biafran war underway,” he recalls.

    One day in the early 1970s while back in London he was passing the Safmarine offices and ‘popped in’ to enquire about a job. In the 1970s ships officers were in demand and he was soon in contact with South Africa, a country he immediately liked.

    This fondness grew even stronger when he met a young lady from the Eastern Cape who agreed to become his wife, a decision that led Brophy to realise that it was time to ‘go aground’ as he put it. As a result he applied to and joined the South African harbour service.

    The first posting for the married couple was to Mossel Bay, an interesting little port for any harbour man where he had to double his duty as both tug master and pilot at times, while acting as harbour master on other occasions.

    In his first night at the little town and barely a week after getting married the Brophys were woken at 2 am by a loud knocking on the door. It was a messenger from the harbour.

    “Kaptein… Kaptein, kom gou-gou, daars ‘n skipper van in die moeilikheid by Knysna is…”

    “What on earth’s he talking about?” demanded Brophy of his sleepy wife of just seven days.

    Fortunately Mrs Brophy, who came from Port Elizabeth, both understood and spoke Afrikaans and was able to translate for her husband.

    “They want you to come quickly, there’s a ship in trouble somewhere at sea near Knysna and they need a tug,” she explained.

    It turned out that one of the Unicorn coasters, the Barrier he thinks it was, was in difficulty off Knysna that night and urgently required a tug to assist. So off Brophy went with the port’s only tug, the little pilot tug ALWYN VINCENT, motoring eastward from Mossel Bay to bring the Barrier to safety. Later the coaster was taken to Durban for repairs behind one of the large steam tugs but the episode served as a sudden introduction to the harsh realities of harbour service although it later offered a lucrative reward from the salvage money.

    After four pleasant years at Mossel Bay, where to his amusement the Irishman was constantly referred to as ‘die Engelseman’, the Brophys were transferred to Durban. “For my wife it was a good move to a big city but for me coming from a small village anywhere, even Mossel Bay or Richards Bay, was large. Besides, as a seaman I was used to making do wherever I was.”

    After nine years in harbour service in Durban, during which he underwent training to become an acting pilot, he was transferred to Richards Bay, which was to become his home for the next 17 years. Promotion in those days was slow, which was something the men of the marine service understood and accepted, and if they were anxious for quick promotion they would look for transfers between the ports. Nevertheless, Brophy became a pilot while at the Zululand port and later acting port captain, before being appointed harbour master, succeeding Captain Neil Brink.

    In 2004 came his transfer to Durban as harbour master of the country’s premier port, followed two years later by his appointment as chief harbour master of South Africa. For one year he performed the chief harbour master duties jointly while remaining harbour master of Durban, before handing over the reins of the port to Captain Rufus Lekala, the present harbour master, and concentrating on his position as chief harbour master.

    His duties in this post included many top level meetings and negotiations but also included the opportunity of helping pass on marine skills to young men and women joining the harbour service, something he says he has been passionate about.

    “These skills were passed to me, now it was my turn to pass them on to others,” he says simply.

    He also acted as mentor to other harbour masters in addition to being available to provide maritime input to the National Ports Authority executive when required. Captain Brophy says he regarded it as rewarding that, having worked in an organisation for so many years he was later considered for the highest post, something for which he feels both grateful and honoured.

    Although officially retired, he will remain available to Transnet National Ports Authority in whatever capacity required.

    Two fishing vessel collide off Walvis Bay

    Two fishing vessels, JONAS owned by Tunacor and DOLPHIN BAY owned by Abroma Fishing, collided while fishing outside Walvis Bay last Friday, reports the Namib Times.

    Both vessels managed to sail back to port, despite Dolphin Bay sustaining some serious damage below the water line, forcing a few of the crew to transfer across to Jonas for safety. Only the skipper, first mate and chief engineer remained on board to get the damaged vessel back to the harbour. With water rushing in faster than it could be pumped there were fears the vessel would sink but crew managed to isolate the incoming water to the bait room and forward hold only.

    The following day divers plugged a gaping hole some two metres below the water line as a temporary repair until the vessel can be permanently repaired on the synchrolift.

    According to the Namib Times Dolphin Bay was struck on her port side by the bulbous bow of the Jonas, which rammed a hole in the hull of the other vessel. Jonas also suffered damage but not as serious.

    Russia calls on UN to prevent pirates from escaping justice

    Russia has launched an initiative aimed at preventing Somali pirates from escaping justice after being captured. Russia’s hasn’t come up with any solutions of its own but has tabled a draft resolution in the UN Security Council calling for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to produce a report in three months on ways to strengthen the international legal system to ensure there is no impunity for captured pirates.

    The initiative follows the release of a number of Somali pirates by European and US warships after being captured in possession of weapons and other equipment used for attacking and boarding commercial ships. It comes only a day after the Dutch rescued a German ship that had been highjacked (see below).

    “The piracy industry is growing and it is becoming a major headache for the international community,” Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said. “We feel that one of the weak links is the legal process.”

    He said Russia was concerned about reports of European authorities releasing pirate suspects.

    Piracy. Dutch Navy recaptures highjacked container ship

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    Dutch marines boarding the highjacked container ship TAIPAN. Picture EU NAVFOR

    On Monday morning (5 April) a pirate group attacked and gained access to the container ship TAIPAN (12,612-dwt), then some 500 n.miles east of the Somali coast. The German flagged and owned Taipan was en route from Mombasa to Djibouti.

    As the pirates boarded the ship the crew of the Taipan followed recommended procedures by retreating to a secure strong room where they locked themselves in. Before doing this they disabled the ship by stopping all engines and alerted EU NAVFOR (the European Naval Force operating in Somali waters) that the ship had been taken.

    The Dutch Navy vessel HNLMS TROMP was sent immediately to the scene and located the pirated ship.

    According to EU NAVFOR, HNMLS Tromp attempted to negotiate with the pirates to avoid casualties but when it became clear that the pirates intended resisting, HNMLS Tromp launched a military operation to recapture the ship. Marines from the Tromp subsequently boarded and retook control of the ship from the pirates.

    The crew of 13 (2 German, 3 Russian and 8 Sri Lankan nationals) were released unharmed and 10 pirates have been taken into custody.

    According to reports, the officer commanding HNLMS Tromp went beyond EU NAVFOR in seeking permission to board the container ship. After ascertaining that the crew of the Taipan were in a safe position, Colonel Hans Lodder contacted the Dutch government and requested permission to use force to recapture the ship. He then launched his ship’s Lynx helicopter with six special forces marines on board with orders to board the Taipan and secure its release.

    They met with no resistance and the pirates meekly handed themselves over. “The pirates surrendered the moment they saw the marines,” Col Lodder said later. There were no injuries.

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    HNLMS Tromp

    In another incident an Iranian Navy ship intervened to prevent Somali pirates from capturing an Iranian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden. The IRAN FARAZ (35,155-dwt, built 2004) was en route to Turkey when approached by four skiffs carrying armed men. An Iranian warship in the area responded to a call for help after which the pirate skiffs broke off the action and left the area.

    In yet another incident this time on Sunday 4 April the Danish products tanker TORM RAGNHILD came under attack from six pirates in two skiffs. The Danish ship immediately increased its speed and began a zig-zag course while making use of its fire hose. The pirates continued their attempts to board the ship but broke off the engagement when a French military aircraft approached.

    Later a Japanese patrol aircraft discovered a pirate mother ship in the vicinity, identifying it as the captured Indian-flag dhow SAFINA AL-GAYATRI. A Turkish warship, the TCG GELIBOLU later shadowed the mother ship and two skiffs back to the Somali coast where the dhow was abandoned.

    Somalia asks for help with toxic waste dumped on its coast

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    map courtesy IRIN

    Somalia says it needs international help to clear toxic waste that has been dumped illegally along its long coastline.

    Somalia has one of the longest coastlines of any African country and has been the victim of illegal fishing and waste dumping for many years. The country’s interim government says that the fight against toxic waste dumping goes hand in hand with the fight against piracy.

    “If the international community wants to limit acts of piracy, it has to help Somalis keep illegal foreign fishing and toxic waste dumping away from their coasts,” Deputy Prime Minister Abdulrahman Adan Ibrahim Ibbi told African Union maritime security experts meeting in Addis Ababa.

    “We appeal to the delegates attending this assembly … to share with my government the clearance of toxic material and nuclear waste containers dumped in African coastal areas,” he said.

    It is claimed that a number of toxic waste containers came to the surface after the tsunami struck Indian Ocean countries in late 2004.

    New initiative launches DRC, Zambia and Namibia transport corridor

    The Ministers responsible for Transport of Zambia, Namibia, and the DRC recently launched a partnership initiative towards the development of the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor (WBNLDC).

    A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on co-operation and mutual assistance was signed at a meeting held in the Zambezi Sun Hotel in Livingstone, Zambia, which was facilitated by the Walvis Bay Corridor Group.

    The MOU is aimed at addressing bottlenecks that hinder smooth flow of cargo along the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Corridor (formerly known as the Trans Caprivi Corridor) regarding trade development with the aim of reducing the time spent at the borders along this corridor.

    The signed MOU between DRC, Namibia and Zambia includes trade facilitation and spatial development along the WBNLC; the facilitation of safe, efficient trade, movement of persons and goods, regional and international transport; the stimulation of economic and social development in the territories of the contracting parties and the partnership between public and private sectors; and to implement strategies for accelerating economic and social growth along the corridor whilst ensuring environmental stability.

    UAL gives Cape Town’s Remix Dance Company new lease of life

    Youngblood Culture Development, the philanthropic initiative of shipping line Universal Africa Lines (UAL), has given Remix Dance Company a new lease of life.

    Thanks to Youngblood’s sponsorship, the integrated dance company has taken up full company-in-residence status at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town. Without it, Remix’s 10th anniversary might have been a sad affair, but as it turned out, the fęted troupe was able to combine festivities with an announcement of its new digs and five performances of a new production, Lovaffair.

    UAL and Youngblood owner, Roger Jungblut, recounts being touched by the courage and skill of Remix’s differently-abled dancers at a performance six months ago. “Discussing them with other patrons afterwards I heard of their financial plight, and decided to provide funding that would ensure their survival.”

    Shipping meets culture

    But how did the world’s foremost shipping company to West Africa become involved in dance? Jungblut says UAL has been intimately involved in the region for over 33 years, with investments in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa and Angola. “A year ago, when we set up in Cape Town, I became conscious of a need to be involved in something other than just business, something out of the ordinary and meaningful.”

    Cape Town’s cultural energy was very attractive and palpable, he says. “I also wanted to be involved in something energetic and youthful, and so Youngblood Cultural Development was born – for the time being without a cause. Then, six months ago, Remix’s financial difficulty gave us our first direction.

    “In time, we will develop other initiatives to support arts and culture in South Africa, something that will give young people a chance to develop their skills,” he says.

    To this end, Youngblood is looking for a theatre suited to this particular purpose. “Dance groups have problems finding venues to rehearse and practice,” Jungblut points out.

    “In time the initiative may get involved in an exchange programme with other African countries, involving young people involved in arts and culture and preparing them for their future. Such an initiative would be in line with our business module of investing in Africa,” he concludes.

    Remix is not UAL’s first venture into CSI; in its 33-year-long involvement in Africa, UAL has run various CSI activities on the continent, including backing an orphanage in Angola, training shipping personnel in Nigeria, and funding soccer development and donating drinking water in Equatorial Guinea.

    Turkish bulker YASIN C is highjacked by pirates

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    Yasin C off the coast of Africa. Picture courtesy EU NAVFOR

    In late breaking news, the Turkish flagged bulk carrier YASIN C was hijacked yesterday (Wednesday) approximately 250 nautical miles east of Mombasa, reports EU NAVFOR.

    The YASIN C (36,318-dwt) was heading for Mombasa when attacked. The ship has a crew of 25 on board, of which all are believed to be Turkish.

    From initial reports it appears once the ship came under attack an appeal for assistance was made to the Turkish Navy frigate TGC GELIBOLU, which is operating with NATO forces in the area. Shortly afterwards the bulker reported that it had been boarded and was in the hands of the pirates.

    Naval forces in the region say they are continuing to monitor the situation.

    Maersk says it will break even this year

    Maersk Line chief executive officer Eivind Kolding says the company expects to break even this year after having experienced substantial losses amounting to USD 2.09 billion in 2009. He said Maersk was predicting a increase in volumes of 5 percent in 2010, up from an earlier forecast of between a 3 and 4 percent increase.

    Container rates have improved since December but consumption in Western Europe was still a concern as it was lagging – this was a ‘fundamental driver’ for the container business, he said.
    There was still a good balance between supply and demand, he said, but Maersk was aware that part of this was because of inventory replenishment.

    Pics of the day –SAFMARINE LUALABA

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    Above and immediately below: SAFMARINE LUALABA (9,722-gt, built 2009) arriving in Cape Town on her maiden call on 6 April. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    A similar view of the ship approaching, but notice also the cormorants that appear to fly across the ship’s deck and through the crane structures. At least eight birds can be seen in this picture. Picture by Aad Noorland

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