Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 11, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson


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  • First View – BOURBON THALIE

  • Transnet condemns violence as ports and railway services feel the strike

  • Seli wreck removal hits a snag

  • ZIM hikes rates to Africa

  • Beira development has port ‘buzzing’ with activity

  • DUT maritime students tour Durban harbour

  • EAC, COMESA, SADC to review railway treaties

  • Pics of the day – ZONDA


    First View – BOURBON THALIE

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    The offshore supply tug BOURBON THALIE (1,966-gt, built 2007) which, as the name suggests, is French flagged and owned, arrived in Cape Town this week and is seen in this photo taking bunkers alongside L/W berth. Picture by Aad Noorland

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    Transnet condemns violence as ports and railway services feel the strike

    Transnet has strongly condemned the violence and intimidation accompanying the nationwide strike which has affected all ports and railway services and has called on the trade union Satawu to rein in its protesters.

    Yesterday (Monday) a group of strikers at Umbilo in Durban ignored the agreed picket area and forced their way into Transnet premises in the Maydon Wharf area. According to Transnet the union members, who were not restrained by their union representatives, physically attacked and stripped naked a number of subcontractors at work.

    Police intervened and fired rubber bullets at the strikers to force them to disperse. Twelve people were injured and six have been hospitalized.

    In a statement last night Transnet said it has briefed its lawyers to apply for an urgent interdict against Satawu to ensure the protection of Transnet assets and employees. The company says it intends bringing criminal charges against the perpetrators of violence and disciplinary action will be instituted against those who breached strike rules. Video footage of the violence has been collected and will be used in pursuing the intended criminal and disciplinary actions.

    “Whilst we have asked the police to exercise restraint in dealing with protesters, we are working closely with law enforcement agencies to bring those behind today’s violence to book and to ensure that this does not recur.

    “The company has tabled a generous and fair wage increase offer, supposedly the reason for today’s strike, which has not been effectively communicated to union members. At 11 percent increase on all pensionable earnings, our offer, arguably amongst the highest in the country, is twice the rate of inflation, which puts significant cash into the pockets of our employees. We believe our bargaining unit employees – the non-managerial cadre – have to be given space and time to seriously consider management’s offer, which is good for them, Transnet and the country, without intimidation,” said Transnet in its statement.

    According to Transnet contingency plans were deployed to counteract the full effect of the strike which it claims has minimized disruptions to services. However observations by PORTS & SHIPS at the port of Durban showed little or no work being undertaken at the two container terminals, which jointly handle more than two thirds of the country’s import and export container traffic. Terminal gates were shut and a single gantry crane was noted in working position. One container vessel at berth 205 had earlier opted to leave the port and wait out the strike in the outer anchorage.

    Several harbor tugs were nevertheless in use on Monday and a number of ship movements took place, although it seems doubtful that much cargo working followed. Reports from Richards Bay indicate that the port terminals under the jurisdiction of Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) were to all extents and purposes closed to working. Activity was noted at the adjacent Richards Bay Coal Terminal which is privately operated and at several other private terminals within the harbor precinct.

    Rail freight and long distance passenger services across the country were reported to be quiet. A spokesman for Transnet Freight Rail indicated that a number of special trains had been run during the weekend carrying key commodities ahead of the strike. Analysts have warned that if the strike goes on for more than a few days then shortages of certain key items including fuel in some areas is possible. The Eastern Cape region is regarded as particularly susceptible, they said.

    The strike is not affecting Metrorail, which provides suburban passenger rail services in the metropolitan areas.

    Strikers arrested

    In a late development last night, Transnet announced the arrest of 13 protestors who took part in a strike organised by Satawu, one of the recognised trade unions.

    The 13, who are facing charges of public violence, assault and intimidation, were arrested in Durban during a protest that turned violent (refer above).

    In addition, Transnet says it has instructed its lawyers to prepare disciplinary charges against those behind today’s violence and intimidation.

    “No effort will be spared in our bid to protect our employees and assets during this protest action. Once again, we call on the leadership of organised labour to instill discipline among members and to respect the rights of those employees who choose to work.”

    According to Transnet’s recognition agreement, the unions are responsible for discipline and order during a strike. Picketing rules were agreed between management and Satawu in all regions.

    Transnet says that its contingency plans, which were being strengthened last night, have managed to minimise the impact of the strike on critical flows.

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    Seli wreck removal hits a snag

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    Removing coal from the shipwreck. Picture courtesy SAMSA

    The removal of coal from the holds of the shipwrecked bulker SELI 1 in Table Bay has run into a snag with expert reporting that the vessel is deteriorating rapidly.

    Nevertheless the salvage team which undertook the removal of the cargo of 30,000 tonnes of coal originally loaded in Durban, has succeeded in recovering 21,000 tonnes ashore which has been sold to a local distributor.

    The Turkish ship Seli 1 (19,031-gt, built 1980) ran aground one night in September last year while en route from Durban to Gibraltar. The vessel had put into Table Bay to undertake repairs but around midnight on 7 September the master reported his ship had lost engine power and was in danger of washing ashore, which it did a short while later after the anchor chain snapped. The grounding took place opposite Sunset Beach facing Cape Town.

    Efforts to strengthen and refloat the ship were thwarted by storms and bad weather during which the vessel was extensively damaged. This was followed by the abandonment of the vessel by her owners and insurers, leaving the cost of her salvage to the South African government in the form of SAMSA – South African Maritime Safety Authority.

    Since then a small but determined group with a desire to remove the vessel from the Cape shoreline has been attempting to keep the momentum of the project going, despite the lack of direct funding, reports Captain Dave Colly of SAMSA in the Western Cape.

    He said that the operation to remove the remainder of coal from the ship has ended, due to the equipment used for its removal having been substantially damaged by the elements and the cost of reinstating the equipment having become far too expensive for the return on cost.

    In addition, he said, the facilities aboard will no longer safely and hygienically support the team of ‘coal miners’ and SMIT Salvage personnel aboard as well as the fact that the cranes have deteriorated over time.

    “Recent hopes and enthusiasm for a refloating attempt were dashed when the highly professional naval architects and salvage masters of SMIT completed their calculations on the stresses and strains which would be placed on the Seli 1 in her present seriously damaged condition and predicted a 90 percent chance of failure.

    “Given the accuracy of their predictions on the spectacular wreck reduction of the barge MARGARET in Jacob’s Bay, we have had to put that methodology to bed once and for all,” said Capt Colly.

    “Nevertheless, no-one has conceded defeat yet and the team will continue to work towards the eventual removal of the Seli 1.”

    He said that once the current storm being experienced in the Western Cape has subsided, the condition of the wreck will be evaluated and a decision made on whether to continue any wreck reduction activities over the winter pending a new operation in summer.

    Colly said that small pockets of oil remain trapped within the wreck and are released from time to time through cracks in the hull, especially when there is appreciable swell and wave action.

    “Regardless of whether the operation is temporarily suspended or not, SMIT will continue to monitor the structure of the wreck as well as the oil pollution threat and will remove any oil which presents itself in an accessible space onboard the wreck.”

    The current storm has dislodged equipment on the shipwreck and local bathers should be aware that floating debris may still be in the area and pose a danger to swimmers and surfers.

    Because of the danger no-one may board the vessel without the express permission of SAMSA or SMIT.

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    ZIM hikes rates to Africa

    Israeli shipping line ZIM has announced that a general rate increase will be implemented from Saturday 15 May on the following trades:

    Southbound from East Mediterranean ports to East and South Africa – USD 150 per TEU

    Northbound from East and South Africa to East Mediterranean – USD 150 per TEU

    Southbound from Israel to East and South Africa – USD 100 per TEU

    Northbound from East and South Africa to Israel - USD 100 per TEU

    “This update is necessary in order to maintain our current levels of service and high reliability” says ZIM in a media announcement.

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    Beira development has port ‘buzzing’ with activity

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    The new Beira Kuduma scanner under construction. Picture courtesy Sturrock Shipping

    Sturrock Shipping, in their excellent e-News newsletter describes several new developments being undertaken at the port of Beira in Mozambique. The article describes the port as “buzzing with activity” as new terminals for grain, coal and fuel are constructed, while existing terminals are modernised or extended.

    “This expansion is taking place in anticipation of the Zimbabwean market reopening in the near future and to cater for the increase in added traffic as a result, along with increased activity in Northern Mozambique and Malawi.”

    Phase 1 of the new grain terminal, with a capacity of 30,000 tonnes is nearing completion and is expected to be in operation by the end of June 2010.

    “What remains is the dredging of the quay side to improve the draft from currently 4.5 meters to 10 metres. Equipment has been purchased and dredging should start in May this year. The second phase of construction of silos should start in 2011 to hold another 30,000 tonnes.”

    The report says that Cornelder de Mozambique Lda, which is affiliated to Cornelder Netherlands and holds the concession for the operation of container and general cargo terminals in Beira, is a very active partner in this venture. Cornelder employs approximately 400 people in the port.

    In addition to the grain terminal development the company is now in the process of clearing, reinforcing and paving an area that will double the existing container storage capacity to 200,000 TEU's.

    A new ‘Kudumba’ scanner was recently installed at the Port of Beira and is due to be commissioned shortly. Beyond the scanner a new IPG petrol terminal is under construction with a capacity of 65,000 cbm.

    “A new coal terminal is also under construction which will handle the coal mined in the Tete area of Moatize by mining houses Vale do Rio Doce from Brazil and Riversdale from Australia.”

    Sturrock Shipping’s Beira team is headed by Julio Balane and is supported by Julio Choi and Walther Macumbe. The branch provides general freight forwarding as well as ships agency services, and is specialised in fuel logistics providing clients with sophisticated stock control systems, customs processes and supervision during loading operations.

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    DUT maritime students tour Durban harbour

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    DUT students from the Department of Maritime Studies prepare to board the Port of Durban’s harbour launch Isiponono

    by Dumile Mbatha

    Students of the Durban University of Technology (DUT) Department of Maritime Studies recently went on a harbour tour of the port of Durban, sponsored by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA).

    Following an informative presentation by TNPA representatives the two lecturers and 68 students boarded the TNPA harbour craft Isiponono for a tour lasting three hours. The purpose of the tour was to expose students, particularly those from rural areas, to a port environment. After this the group was taken by bus to TNPA’s School of Ports, which is situated at the Bayhead near the giant Durban Container Terminal.

    The outing commenced with two presentations from TNPA, the first being on the variety of services offered by the Port of Durban and the important role the port plays within the greater eThekwini (Durban) Municipal region. This was followed by a presentation on the present and future developments within and around the port area.

    The tour of the port consisted of visits to various facilities including: the multi-purpose terminals at Maydon Wharf and the Point; the car terminal; and the container terminal at Bayhead. During the trip students were able to interact with TNPA staff from Corporate Affairs, Human Resources, the Port Engineer’s Office and the Business Strategy Unit. When the Isiponono was safely moored at the tug basin the students disembarked and were transported to the TNPA’s School of Ports for lunch.

    At the School of Ports the different career pathways in TNPA’s Marine Division were explained and two of the school’s state-of-the-art ship simulators were demonstrated. These computer-driven simulators provide a realistic view from the wheelhouse of a ship entering the port. Some of the students were given a chance to use the equipment and were overwhelmed at getting the opportunity.

    “I don’t think I’ll ever forget this trip for the rest of my marine career. This was a good experience for all of us here. The university needs to get some of the equipment that is used in the industry,” said student Mandla Mathonsi.

    This is the second consecutive year that TNPA’s Corporate Social Investment Division has sponsored this tour and it is hoped that this will become a firm annual event on the Department’s academic calendar. The Department of Maritime Studies is most grateful for the generous sponsorship of TNPA and their staff who patiently answered questions and interacted positively with the students.

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    EAC, COMESA, SADC to review railway treaties

    by David Muwanga (Tralac)

    Chief Executives from the Secretariats of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC) have resolved to develop a model concession agreement that will remove loopholes in all the current railway concessionaires.

    The new development comes after the Tripartite Task Force of the Chief Executives of the regional economic communities realised that concessioning had remained a problem in all the three regions as none of the current operating concessions had registered any meaningful success.

    “The development of this agreement is ongoing under the North-South Corridor Aid for Trade programme,” said a statement issued by the EAC Acting Head for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Owora Richard Othieno. The statement said that during the period 2006-2007, the three partner states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania privatised their railways operations through long-term concessions.

    The EAC Council of Ministers has also approved the establishment of a railways regulatory authority at the regional level to coordinate competition, exchange equipment, develop policy and facilitate investment. - TRALAC

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    Pics of the day – ZONDA

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    The ageing general cargo ship ZONDA (26,320-dwt, built 1983) which is operated by Argentina’s Maruba company, is seen leaving Durban’s Maydon Wharf for Cape Town and assisted by two TNPA harbour tugs. Pictures by Terry Hutson

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