Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 18, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson


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  • First View – AMBER LAGOON

  • Strike moves into second week with no solution in sight

  • Piracy – Russians deny wanting to kill Somalis

  • Damco joins DASH7 Alliance

  • Angolan company to export black granite to China

  • Royal Navy rescues Cape Town-bound yacht in deep South-Atlantic waters

  • Warning that Zimbabwe’s national railways faces collapse

  • More than 2000 containers stuck in Nigerian ports

  • Today’s recommended Read – Piracy may be the first international crime, says UN’s Ban

  • Pics of the day – OXL AVENIR


    First View – AMBER LAGOON

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    MACS line’s AMBER LAGOON (23,401-gt, built 1997) has been a regular visitor on the South African coast for more than a decade, ever since being introduced by the German company on its service between northern Europe and South Africa. While on the coast the general cargo vessel usually makes calls at Durban and Richards Bay as well as Maputo, occasionally at Port Elizabeth and more feequently at Cape Town, which is where this photograph was taken. Picture by Aad Noorland

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    Strike moves into second week with no solution in sight

    Yesterday the Transnet strike got worse, not better, despite a weekend of talks between Transnet and the two unions, Satawu and Utatu. Not only did the talks fail, resulting in the continuation of the week-long strike, but labour employed by the country’s passenger rail services, both long distance and commuter, downed tools and staged their own nationwide strike.

    While PRASA, which runs the passenger train services, says it is confident of reaching a resolution “within days”, the ports and freight railway services remain almost completely at a standstill, with only isolated areas where ships are working or trains are running.

    It appears that Transnet management has dug its heels in and is not prepared to budge from its already over the top offer of 11 percent increases, whereas the two unions on Sunday are reported to have dropped their demands from 15 percent to 13 percent, leaving 2 percent as the factor that is keeping the nation’s ports and railways shut and costing the country untold millions of rands daily. Not so mention the harm it has already done to South Africa’s reputation as a trading partner!

    In a terse statement yesterday Transnet confirmed that talks had failed and restated its view that it has made a fair and generous offer of an 11 percent increase on all pensionable earnings. The statement says that Transnet will continue to act responsibly in the interests of its employees, customers and South Africa.

    Satawu meanwhile accused management for causing the crisis and said they must be held to account. “They must be instructed by government as the shareholder, to step off their inflexible pedestal and seriously engage in the process of negotiation and compromise.”

    The unions maintain that the current offer by Transnet leaves workers worse off than with the original 8 percent offer.

    Yesterday NEHAWU, the Cosatu-affiliated trade union representing 200,000 health and education workers, lent its support to Satawu in its strike action against Transnet. Nehawu called on government as the shareholder in Transnet to intervene and to adopt a sense of urgency in resolving the matter.

    Satawu and Utatu said they were now calling on its respective trade union federations, Cosatu and Fedusa, to escalate support for the strike. “This dispute goes to the heart of the national and international campaign for Decent Work and a Living Wage. Our members will remain steadfast in the withholding of their labour until a settlement is reached.”

    “We want support from the other unions,” said Utatu general secretary Chris de Vos. Fedusa (Federation of Unions of SA) were expected to release a media statement later on Monday.

    Satawu’s deputy president Robert Mashego said the union was calling on Cosatu (Congress of SA Trade Unions) to intervene and would look even further for the intervention of the ANC.

    In the Western Cape Cosatu yesterday said it condemned Metrorail for mismanaging the rail service and called for good faith negotiations to resolve the dispute. It said that government had to make sure that Metrorail handled the wage and service level provisions adequately, so that services were not compromised.

    “The contingency plans of the (provincial) government has not been effective, with long queues of workers spending the morning in taxi and bus queues.”

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    Piracy – Russians deny wanting to kill Somalis

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    Moscow University

    Russia’s military has responded to questions about the death of 10 Somali suspected pirates, who were released by the Russian Navy after they were captured on board a Russian tanker, the MOSCOW UNIVERSITY.

    Navy captain Ildar Akhmerov told the Interfax news agency that there was never any intention to harm the 10 pirate suspects, who were placed on board an inflatable raft without navigation aids and set free some 300 n.miles from the nearest coast.

    At the time the Russians stated that they were forced to release the suspects because there was no proof that they were pirates. No weapons were found on the ship and the tanker’s crew, which had hidden itself when the vessel came under attack, were unable to identify their attackers.

    “We had one goal, to free the ship’s crew,” said Akhmerov, who added that the navy ship provided medical aid to the Somalis who were wounded when the Russian marines stormed the ship. One Somali was killed in the attack. “We loaded the dead bandit’s body onto one of the pirates’ boats with the rest of the pirates, and sent it to the nearest coast, towards Somalia,” he said.

    He said water and food had also been loaded onto one of the pirate’s boats, which has been described by other sources as an inflatable boat, but confirmed that no navigation equipment was provided. He said the subsequent fate of the Somalis was unknown to the Russians.

    It was later stated by another Russian military source that the boat had failed to reach the shore and that the men on board were probably dead.

    On Friday last week the Somali transitional government called on Russia to explain why it had set 10 Somalis adrift in the Gulf of Aden with no means of navigating themselves to safety and with little hope of survival.

    Somalia’s Information Ministry said it wanted an explanation from Russia on the death of its citizens. A spokesman said that he accepted they were pirates but said that they deserved a fair trial. “Dumping them in international waters is not the only choice,” he said.

    Somali pirates have reacted to the news with threats of taking revenge, saying they will deal with Russian captives differently from other nationalities. “We never think about harming our hostages, but will have a rethink now,” one said.

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    Damco joins DASH7 Alliance

    AP Moller-Maersk's logistics arm, Damco, has joined the DASH7 Alliance - a coalition of organisations promoting a standard for wireless sensor networks.

    As a member of the DASH7 Alliance, Damco will work with more than forty companies around the world to advance development of the ISO 18000-7 (DASH7) standard.

    DASH7 is a wireless sensor networking technology that evolved from the RFID and sensing technologies used in the defense industry. Because of its long range, ten-year battery life and its ability to penetrate water, concrete and other materials that can block other radio frequency signals, DASH7 is used extensively by the military for tracking ocean cargo shipments.

    To meet the needs of the commercial shipping and supply chain industries, the DASH7 Alliance recently formed the Container Sensing & Security Initiative (CSSI), to define the next generation of cargo container tracking and monitoring devices.

    “We see great potential for DASH7 technology," said Jeremy Haycock, president of Damco USA. "We hope that by joining the alliance, we can have an impact on how the technology is applied to areas such as container security, perishable goods, air cargo and other applications, thus providing improved service to our customers.”

    The DASH7 Alliance membership comprises manufacturers, systems integrators, developers, regulators, academia and end-users, and includes Analog Devices, Arira Design, Confidex, Dolphin RFID, Dow, Evigia Systems, Hi-G-Tek, Identec Solutions, KPC, Lockheed Martin, Lyngsoe Systems, Damco, Melexis, Michelin, Northrop Grumman, OnAsset Intelligence, RFind, Semtech, Savi Technology, ST Microelectronics, Syrma, Texas Instruments, US Department of Energy, and Wavetrend. - Eye for Transport

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    Angolan company to export black granite to China

    Chibia, Angola, 17 May – The Angolan decorative stone company Rodang plans to begin exporting black granite in June to China, a new market, to make up for falling demand in Europe, the company’s director has stated.

    Marcelo Siko told Angolan news agency Angop on Friday in Chibia that he had been in contact with Chinese entrepreneurs with a view to exporting from 100 to 200 cubic metres of ‘marrom’ type black granite to that strongly growing market.

    “We’re currently extracting 300 cubic metres of stone per month and can envisage sending from 100 to 200 cubic metres of our production to China,” Siko said, adding that a cubic metre of the stone is worth from USD 250 to 350 on the market, depending on quality.

    The Rodang director said the company will continue exporting to European countries such as Spain and Italy, but due to the drop in demand for construction materials the company has decided to look at other markets to ensure a rapid outflow of its product.

    Despite this situation, Rodang expects to ramp up production to 450 cubic metres per month this year, Siko said.

    Rodang has a workforce of 65 employees and has been quarrying stone in the Chibia and Gambos municipalities of southern Angola’s Huila province since 2006. To date, it has exported more than 4,000 cubic metres of decorative stone. - Macauhub

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    Royal Navy rescues Cape Town-bound yacht in deep South-Atlantic waters

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    HMS Clyde. Picture VT Shipbuilding

    The Royal Navy Falklands guard ship HMS CLYDE has rescued three people on board a yacht heading for Cape Town, after the Oyster class yacht struck an iceberg and began taking in water.

    The rescue effort commenced on 7 May after a message was received at the Maritime Rsecue Coordination Centre in Falmouth, UK, advising that the yacht named Hollinsclough, being sailed by British Lord and Lady Hollinsclough, was in difficulty and threat of sinking about 300 n.miles northeast of South Georgia and 1000 n.miles east of the Falklands.

    Also on board the yacht were the two young daughters of the couple.

    HMS Clyde, which has been sailing off South Georgia partly to reassure the islanders and also to as a deterrent to possible aggression from Argentina, was redirected to race to the yacht’s position and render assistance.

    At 12h30 the following day the warship reached the position of the yacht which was lying low in the water. A Royal Navy team was put on board the yacht to render possible assistance, while the three womenfolk were taken across to HMS Clyde as a precaution.

    After assessing the nothing could be done to save the yacht, which had taken considerable damage in the collision with the ice, the RN team and Lord Hollinsclough were ferried across to HMS Clyde leaving the yacht abandoned to the South Atlantic Southern Ocean Convergence Zone.

    HMS Clyde is a River class Offshore Patrol Vessel, which undertakes regular patrols around the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Crew on the ship are rotated on a six-monthly basis. The ship is under the command of Lieutenant Commander Steve Moorhouse. – source SARTMA

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    Warning that Zimbabwe’s national railways faces collapse

    by Nkululeko Sibanda (Zimbabwe Standard)

    Bulawayo - Almost the entire National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) equipment is obsolete.

    NRZ (National Railway of Zimbabwe) bosses made this stunning revelation at a briefing they held for a government delegation led by Gorden Moyo, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office that assessed operations at the troubled parastatal last week.

    Moyo was told at the meeting that was closed to the media that 99% of the NRZ equipment had outlived its lifespan.

    The track also needed an urgent overhaul.

    Officials said they had since applied for a USD 150 million bail-out from the government.

    “Out of a total of 168 locomotives, only 61 or 36% are in service,” read the briefing notes leaked to Standardbusiness.

    “All locomotive classes are beyond the design life with only 13 DE11A locomotives commissioned in 1992 still having seven more years to reach their design life.”

    Lack of regular maintenance has also seen wagons that are still operational going down from 8,682 a few years ago to 5,411.

    Only 131 passenger coaches are still usable down from 311, the notes revealed.

    “Failure to carry out scheduled resource maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement over the years has resulted in the availability of locomotives, wagons, and coaches dropping from 62% to 42% and now to 32% respectively,” added the notes.

    “As demonstrated by the statistics, 99% of NRZ's resources have outlived their design lives. This means that while rehabilitation exercises can and are being carried out, there are limits. New equipment is now needed and this is more so under the technologically dynamic era we are now living in.”

    Management blamed the sorry state of affairs on the dollarisation of the economy.

    However for decades, the NRZ had been weighed down by cash flow problems blamed on government's insistence that the parastatal must charge below market rates.

    The NRZ has also been forced to run the unprofitable "freedom trains" introduced by the previous Zanu PF government at a time when it was desperate to shore up its waning support in urban areas.

    Mike Karakadzai, the NRZ general manager said the parastatal needed the USD 150 million for short-term projects that would set it on track for a turnaround.

    He said the projects would include reclaiming the locomotive fleet, wagons for freight traffic and also passenger coaches for intercity and commuter trains.

    The NRZ was allocated USD 12.8 million in this year's budget of which the parastatal has already received USD 5 million from the national fiscus.

    “The low incomes have made it difficult to operate,” Karakadzai told journalists after the briefing.

    “We have had to stagger salaries for workers in order to cope with the situation at hand. We are a month behind in terms of payments of salaries.”

    Moyo said the NRZ faced imminent collapse if it did not find a strategic partner immediately.

    He said government was considering proposals by Chinese companies who were interested in providing money for the immediate recapitalisation of the NRZ and the rehabilitation of the country's rail infrastructure. - Zimbabwe Standard

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    More than 2000 containers stuck in Nigerian ports

    More than 2000 containers carrying equipment for the Nigerian re-electrification programme lies abandoned in the country’s ports, according to a report in the Vanguard.

    A year ago the Federal Ministry of Mines and Power sought an agreement from bonded warehouse owners and shipping companies for a waiver on demurrage charges by the respective container terminals and depots, but since then nothing further has happened. In March 2009 the ministry summoned shipping companies and bonded terminal operators to a meeting in which they were told the electrical equipment was required for special projects of electrification across the country.

    Since then however still nothing has happened and the boxes remain in bond, seemingly abandoned.

    Read the full report HERE

    Today’s recommended Read – Piracy may be the first international crime, says UN’s Ban

    “Piracy may be the first international crime,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly yesterday, as he called for a “change in strategy” to combat the resurgent scourge through broader global cooperation and a new push for stability in war-torn Somalia, off whose coast pirates had, in the past year alone, hijacked some 56 ships and taken hostage nearly 750 crew members.

    Opening the Assembly’s day long informal meeting on maritime piracy, with a focus on the situation in Somalia, Secretary-General Ban said that, while the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was the legal foundation for the world’s efforts to tackle piracy, the attacks against transport vessels, oil tankers and shipping lanes continued and had even increased in recent years. “Piracy is very much with us.”

    The balance of this important case study of Somali and the role of the UN may be found 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 – OXL AVENIR

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    OXL AVENIR (9,990-gt, built 2005) arrived in Durban earlier in May to undergo maintenance repairs at Elgin Brown & Hamer’s shipyard, which included the application of a new coat of paint. Compare her appearance with the ship’s arrival as seen in an earlier News Bulletin here. Note also the deck cargo on the general cargo vessel as she heads off down into the Esplanade Channel – what appears to be a river boat ferry powered by two outboards for the Congo (Brazzaville). Pictures by Trevor Jones

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