Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 17, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson


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  • First View – ARCTIC REEFER

  • Strike continues – little cargo being uplifted at Durban or Cape Town

  • Train commuters become latest victims of striking labour

  • PRASA withdraws train services

  • Piracy: UK-flagged ship released after ransom is paid

  • Training: Auxiliary Boiler Familiarisation Course – Operational level

  • Nigeria: Congestion - National Assembly Committee to Push for New Port Development

  • Pics of the day – FNS TONNERRE


    First View – ARCTIC REEFER

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    In spite of the Transnet strike the citrus season is underway and ports like Durban, Maputo, Port Eilzabeth and Cape Town are receiving refrigerated (reefer) ships to load cargoes of oranges, grapefuit and lemons for destinations as far as China and Japan, Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. On Sunday, as afternoon shadows reached across the vessel, the Greek-owned and Panamanian-flagged reefer ship ARCTIC REEFER (13,575-gt, built 1984) was at the Durban Fresh Produce Terminal preparing to load fruit. Picture by Trevor Jones

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    Strike continues – little cargo being uplifted at Durban or Cape Town

    With the nationwide Transnet strike now a week old and still no solution in sight (Sunday early evening), shipping lines are continuing with measures aimed at offsetting the worst effects as container vessels congregate at Durban.

    As was forecast in PORTS & SHIPS, the emphasis of the strike appears to have been placed on closing the two Durban container terminals and restricting the movement of freight trains between Durban and Gauteng. In this the striking unions have been largely successful, although some of the methods employed have not reflected well on them. Two fuel trains have been derailed – one within the Durban area while en route to Gauteng, and the other also en route to Gauteng but re-routed along the North Coast line because the Durban derailment had shut the main lines out of the port city.

    Transnet described both derailments as highly suspicious of sabotage and have set up inquiries. The Durban derailment at Shallcross has meanwhile been repaired but only limited train traffic is now passing along the section.

    In the port the gates of Durban Container Terminal and Pier 1 Container Terminal remain shut even though there appears to be some limited working on a single berth. As far as could be seen the seven ships on berth on Sunday remained idle. Elsewhere however the port is continuing to handle the odd container ship and on Sunday afternoon there were three at various multi-purpose terminals where some cargo working was taking place. Outside the port 13 container ships lay waiting at anchor.

    As reported above some cargo working was taking place in the multi-purpose terminals and also at the various privately operated terminals of the port which are not directly affected by the strike. Reefer traffic was continuing unaffected except for that which is containerised. Marine services continued to be available with tugs and pilot services and ships coming and going other than at the container terminals.

    In Cape Town the gates at the container terminal were shut and no working was being noticed or reported. Likewise the Cape Town Multi-purpose terminal appeared to be fully on strike.

    Port Elizabeth presented a different story. At Port Elizabeth Container Terminal two cranes were working and shipping lines were confident this would continue. The other berths in the port appeared not to be affected. Shipping lines were also making use of Port Elizabeth and to some extent also the port of Ngqura where import containers for Durban and Cape Town were being discharged for later transhipment.

    Over at the nearby Ngqura port, which is basically a container terminal only at this stage, ship working was continuing with three gangs available and the two shipping lines contracted to use this port, MSC and MOL were making full use of it. On Sunday afternoon two ships were in port working cargo. There were another two container ships at anchor in Algoa Bay, of which one was for Port Elizabeth.

    The port of Richards Bay is also effectively closed by the strike with little or no movements at the Transnet terminals. However, the coal terminal which is privately operated is not affected on the quayside but has been receiving little rail traffic from inland.

    According to SAASOA (South African Association of Ship Operators and Agents) the strike has had a severe impact on shipping lines and cargo owners. It said in a statement on Friday that the bad news is that even if the strike is resolved within a day or two, “the losses will not stop when labour gets back to work because there will be a lengthy recovery period during which ships will keep coming, including those vessels that have been diverted past South Africa this week in order to contain losses.

    “Shipping Lines are now stopping the loading of South African destined cargoes at the foreign load ports until such time as the dispute is resolved in order to prevent an unmanageable backlog of vessels with cargo for discharge at the South African ports when the strike is over. Similarly, there are bulk vessel operators that have to decide whether or not to fix vessels to load bulk exports from South Africa because they often first have to reposition those vessels empty in ballast to the South African load ports at considerable cost and may then be unable to load when they arrive due to the strike.

    “These may be sensible actions from a practical view in order for our members to try and minimize their losses but the message it sends to our global trading partners and potential investors is not encouraging.”

    SAASOA said it has conveyed these concerns to the DPE, Transnet and the two Unions concerned with the request that they resolve the deadlock as soon as possible.

    “We have also requested that they incorporate a mutual commitment from Transnet as managers and from the Union as workers to improve productivity in all port and rail operations in line with the Quantum Leap objectives Transnet have set for themselves.

    “Poor productivity in our ports remains a burden and is preventing the realization of the benefits of the substantial capital investments Transnet have made in recent years and have planned for the next 5 years. A commitment to improved productivity will not only bring about a realisation of those benefits, but will also facilitate a quicker recovery period after the strike and could also possibly provide the justification for a more generous wage settlement than might otherwise be considered fair in the current economic climate.”

    The association pointed out that there was a need to complete the recovery in the ports before the onset of the FIFA soccer World Cup.

    “The usual peak season for our ports starts shortly after the World Cup at which time Ports are naturally stretched and the last thing they need is to still be trying to recover from the backlogs from the strike and the World Cup. Such a situation would result in substantial losses to shipping lines which would inevitably be passed on to local consumers in one way or another, which is a burden that the people of South Africa can do without as we try to recover from the hardship and job losses over the past 18 months.”

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    Train commuters become latest victims of striking labour

    by Gabi Khumalo

    Pretoria, 16 May 2010 - Thousands of train commuters will be left stranded on Monday as the two major transport unions will be embarking on a national strike over wage increases.

    The SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) National Sector Coordinator Tinzi Lubabalo told BuaNews on Sunday that the strike continues on Monday as both unions, Satawu and the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) have not reached any agreement with Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).

    "We will be having a march in Johannesburg, where a memorandum of complaint will be handed over to Prasa," said Lubabalo.

    He said the strike was due to deadlock over wage increases, where the unions rejected the 8 percent offered by Prasa, the unions are demanding 16 percent across the board.

    Prasa acting CEO Tumisang Kgaboesele said all rail operations including Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl will be suspended to secure the safety of commuters during the planned strike action.

    Kgaboesele said in a statement that no alternative transport would be offered to commuters and apologised to commuters for the disruption and inconvenience they will suffer as a result of the strike.

    “Prasa hopes that an amicable solution will soon be found, one that protects the long-term business imperatives of this public company and secures its future,” he said.

    Meanwhile, talks between Transnet and striking unions re expected to continue later today (Sunday).

    Utatu General Secretary Steve Harris told BuaNews that mediation started at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration on Friday afternoon in a bid to seek an end to the strike.

    “The strike continues tomorrow [Monday], pending the outcome of today's meeting,” Harris said.

    Satawu Policy Researcher, Jane Barett said: “There won't be any solution for sometime and we will let you know when we've reached a solution.”

    Satawu workers downed tools last week Monday after rejecting a second offer of 11 percent increase across the board from the transport parastatal. Utatu joined the protest action on Wednesday.

    Transnet operates in five divisions: freight rail, rail engineering, ports, port terminals and pipelines. - BuaNews

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    PRASA withdraws train services

    As the stranglehold on South Africa’s ports and railways tightens, PRASA, the parent company of Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl, confirmed on Friday that it has been issued with a strike notice by the trade unions SATAWU and UTATU.

    Metrorail handles the suburban commuter rail transport requirements in the major metropolitan areas of South Africa while Shosholoza Meyl is the name of the long distance passenger train service operating between the main centres.

    The rail strike commences this morning (Monday 17 May) but in advance of this PRASA says it has closed all ticket offices and no tickets will be sold for the duration of the strike. Similarly it has withdrawn all passenger train services and commuters and long distance passengers are advised to find alternative transport.

    As a result it is expected that thousands of commuters will be late for work or won’t be able to report in at all, adding to the effect of the strikes already in place.

    Some of the services were suspended ahead of Monday – in the Eastern Cape the commuter service between Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage was suspended on Wednesday. According to local news reports the services were withdrawn because of fears that members of Satawu and Utatu already on strike might sabotage the train services.

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    Piracy: UK-flagged ship released after ransom is paid

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    The merchant vessels Dream-H (left) and Rozen (near right), sailing for UN World Food Programme with humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons in Somalia, were escorted by EU NAVFOR flag ship HSwMS Carlskrona

    After a ransom drop was made on a UK-flagged ship held by pirates off the town of Garacaad in Somalia last week, the vessel was released along with its crew of 26 seafarers, reports EU NAVFOR.

    The British flagged ST JAMES PARK (13,294-dwt) was highjacked on 28 December 2009 and taken to anchorage near Garacaad where negotiations for its release began. The crew of 26 is made up of Filipinos (3), Russians (3), Georgians (1), Romanians (2), Bulgarians (5), Ukrainans (2), Polish (1), Indians (6) and Turkish (3).

    EU NAVFOR reports the vessel is underway and had been monitored until she reached safety. The crew are understood to all be in good health. When captured the ship was en route to Thailand.

    The merchant vessels Rozen and Dream-H, sailing for UN World Food Programme with humanitarian aid to displaced persons in Somalia, have safely arrived in Mogadishu after being escorted by the EU NAVFOR Swedish flagship HSwMS Carlskrona.

    The flagship of EU NAVFOR is not only carrying the Force Headquarters, she is also an Ocean Patrol Vessel with a helicopter and a boarding team in addition to own armament.

    During her first month in the Operation Atalanta she has handled all the different tasks that are normally performed by the units in the force; escorts, patrolling the internationally recommended transit corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden, carrying out surveillance outside the Somali coast and boarding suspected vessels. Last week, she escorted ships for World Food Programme (WFP) and AMISOM, the tasks that are the number one and two on the priority list for EU NAVFOR.

    Her latest escort protecting MV Rozen and MV Dream-H loaded with WFP humanitarian aid was a golden opportunity for the Carlskrona boarding team to practice boarding and searching of vessels. This was performed in cooperation with the captains of the merchant vessels. – report by EU NAVFOR

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    Training: Auxiliary Boiler Familiarisation Course – Operational level

    SAMTRA, the South African Maritime Training Academy based in Simon’s Town advises that it has developed the Auxiliary Boiler Familiarisation Course at Operational Level.

    The course has been developed to provide training with an emphasis on the marine auxiliary boiler and steam systems operation. Using up-to-date theory lectures and modern engineering simulation training methods the necessary knowledge and operational skills can be imparted to the participant who will be able to apply these skills directly to the auxiliary boiler watch keeping routines in the modern engine room. The course satisfies aspects of the STCW code for Engineer Officer of the Watch at Operational level and is aligned with IMO model course for engine room simulator.

    The course has been SAMSA accredited.

    Who should attend:

    This course is aimed at but not limited to: Engineering/technical staff who intend to acquire the STCW Officer of the Watch – Operational level qualification. These would be engineering cadets, junior engineers, current motorman qualification holders and interested land based technicians.

    This course is of particular benefit to those serving on vessels that are not equipped with auxiliary boiler systems and are faced with the problem of meeting SAMSA requirements for this aspect of engine room operations.


    The objective of the course is to provide proper familiarisation of marine auxiliary boilers, shipboard steam system installations and associated equipment; to provide knowledge and skills to operate, supervise and monitor the safe operation and control of a ships auxiliary boiler and steam system in accordance with applicable STCW code requirements; and to provide knowledge of watch keeping procedures and routines associated with auxiliary boiler operation.

    The course duration is 3 days and the first course is scheduled to run from the 12 July 2010. Further details are available from SAMTRA, telephone 021 786 8421, or email pmaurer@samtra.co.za

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    Nigeria: Congestion - National Assembly Committee to Push for New Port Development

    by Andrew Airahuobhor

    Lagos — Nigeria’s House of Representatives Committee on Marine Transport has set in motion legislative processes that will facilitate development of new port facilities in the country.

    Chairman of the committee, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who disclosed this while addressing maritime journalists in Abuja, stated that the development of a new port would put an end to the perennial congestion that has bedevilled ports in Lagos over the years.

    According to Ugwuanyi, developing a new port is imperative because the existing ones are inadequate both for today and for future projections, adding that the committee has charged the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to promptly come up with a comprehensive, short, medium and long term port development plan.

    “To put an end to this congestion, we are pushing for development of new port facilities. This is because it is clear that the existing facilities are inadequate, not just for today, but also for future projections. Indeed, we have charged the NPA to promptly come up with a comprehensive, short, medium and long-term port development plan,” Ugwuanyi said.

    Towards the end of the third quarter of 2008, Lagos ports experienced terrible vessel and cargo congestion lasting several months, which almost grounded port operations as containers filled available spaces in the terminals, leaving no space for discharge of new boxes.

    This resulted in the setting up of a joint ad-hoc committee of both the marine transport and customs and excise committees of the House of Representatives, charged to address the congestion.

    However, investigations revealed that the global economic crisis was largely responsible for the eventual decongestion of the ports as container imports took a plunge.

    This underscores the inadequacy in the existing ports that have been encroached by population growth, leaving no space for expansion.

    Already, the Federal Government is working on developing new river ports at Onitsha, Idah Dekina, Lokoja and Baro in Niger State. However, construction works is being stalled by issues ranging from fraud to lack of access road to the port site. - Daily Independent

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    Pics of the day – FNS TONNERRE

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    FNS Tonnerre, the impressive French Navy amphibious dock landing ship seen arriving in Durban harbour on Friday, 14 May 2010 for a spell of R&R. Picture by Allen Schultz

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    FNS TONNERRE nears the N shed passenger terminal which is to be the vessel’s home during her stay in Durban. The ship sails again on Wednesday. Picture by Clinton Wyness

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    The French helicopter carrier FNS TONNERRE on her berth at the N shed passenger terminal. Picture by Trevor Jones

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