Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 27, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson


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  • First View – DONG HUA MEN

  • Strike settlement in sight – possible breakthrough as Transnet agrees to up its offer

  • Strike continues – BMW forced to cut back production

  • Metrorail arson condemned

  • Japan goes ahead with military base in Africa

  • YESTERYEAR – those classic ships : BOVENKERK

  • East London’s waterfront declared an eyesore

  • SAGA ROSE reappears

  • Bring on the big stuff says Durban harbourmaster

  • Piracy update – tanker attacked off Zanzibar

  • Pics of the day – BOURBON LIBERTY 116


    First View – DONG HUA MEN

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    The general freighter DONG HUA MEN (former Kamateri, since renamed YUAN XIANG and now owned by Chinese interests) seen in Cape Town harbour in February 2009. The ship has a gross tonnage of 14,538 tons and was built in 1978. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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    Strike settlement in sight – possible breakthrough as Transnet agrees to up its offer

    Signs of a probable breakthrough with the two and a half week-long Transnet strike received a fillip last night with news of an offer by Transnet to improve on its previous stance with the unions.

    Earlier this week one of the unions broke ranks and settled for an 11 percent increase in wages, but Satawu, the larger of the two main unions held out with its demand for 13 percent. Last night Satawu said that it has received a further proposal from Transnet management which “is an improvement on the agreement previously signed with Utatu.”

    Satawu said it was now seeking a mandate from its members to settle, a process that should be completed by 14h00 today (Thursday, 27 May).

    “Satawu national leadership is optimistic that the new offer will be given the green light by the Transnet membership. If the members approve the offer, it is likely that agreement will be signed tomorrow afternoon and workers will return to work on Friday.”

    Details of the new offer remain confidential at this stage but Satawu says it will share these with the public after all Satawu members on Transnet have been appraised and their views canvassed.

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    Strike continues – BMW forced to cut back production

    As the country’s ports and railway struggle back to life, with backlogs in the ports causing restrictions on the type of cargo being handled, news is filtering from the motor industry of enforced cut-backs because of disruptions to supply.

    The Pretoria-based BMW South Africa plant at Rosslyn, which produces a range of up-market vehicles for local and export distribution, announced yesterday that it has been forced to cut back a second production shift, joining the shift cancelled on Monday.

    The company was due to make an announcement last evening whether BMW could continue in production as a result. A spokesman said BMW was operating on a day-to-day basis and on the first two days of the week had already lost production of almost 400 motor vehicles.

    The combination of delayed air flights caused by the volcanic disruption over Europe and the Transnet strike had come as a double-whammy for the firm, after it attempted to fly in spare parts normally sent by ship, resulting in a lack of parts for the production of the group’s 3-series motor car. BMW South Africa had begun air-freighting parts in anticipation of the strike.

    The motor company has already conducted tests with the port of Maputo in Mozambique as an alternative to Durban for its exports, and has completed a second test run.

    Fruit exporters face having increased costs levied by the shipping lines of USD 150 per TEU on top of the estimated more than R1 billion the fruit industry estimates it has already lost. Citrus Growers’ Association CEO Justin Chadwick is quoted as saying the surcharge by the lines is akin to being kicked while you are down. He said shippers would refuse to pay.

    The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the strike has cost South Africa billions, while Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson is reported to be considering declaring the strike a national disaster, according to the journal Containerisation International.

    Meanwhile Exxaro Resources, ArcelorMittal South Africa, Xstrata Plc, Samancor Ltd and Ruukki Group have each declared force majeure,which enables them to miss contracted metal deliveries.

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    Metrorail arson condemned

    Johannesburg - Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Bheki Nkosi, has condemned the setting alight of a Metrorail train at Park Station, where a number of coaches were burnt by unknown people around 4am on Tuesday morning.

    “This act is a setback to the Department's vision of providing a world-class transport infrastructure system that is environmentally sustainable, safe, reliable, efficient and fully integrated,” he said.

    Nkosi called on anyone with information that can assist the investigation to come forward and share the information with the relevant authorities.

    The MEC has also expressed his support for Metrorail's commitment to assist in mitigating the effects of the strike by running a reduced service during peak times in Gauteng, while efforts aimed at finding a final conclusion is being pursued.

    “This will indeed assist the stranded commuters who have been heavily affected by the strike,” the MEC said. – BuaNews

    In an unrelated matter but arising from the national railway and commuter train strikes, the Railway Society of Southern Africa (RSSA) has raised an interesting point of interest. Speaking at its Natal branch regional meeting this month, national secretary Ashley Peter suggested this was the first time in South Africa’s history that it has had to go without intercity and suburban rail services.

    “I don't know if anyone has the specific historical details to hand, but according to my knowledge, the current strike has made railway history for at least two reasons - and these of course are all the wrong reasons!!

    “Firstly, I suspect that Monday, 10 May 2010 was the first day in about 130 years that no intercity passenger trains have run anywhere in this country - a situation which continued for two weeks, with the first Shosholoza Meyl trains only venturing out cautiously today (Monday this week).

    “Secondly, Monday, 17 May 2010 was the first day in about 140 years that no scheduled passenger rail services were provided anywhere in the country - a situation that was also maintained until early this morning. Even now, with a major union still out on strike, commuter rail services are generally languishing between 0% - 40% of their normal weekday levels. Port Elizabeth was the only city that managed a full service this morning (but that only amounts to four trains) whilst neighbouring East London had none at all.

    “This means that the unions have effectively managed to achieve what the Great Depression, several world wars, the Anglo-Boer War and even the previous frontier wars couldn't - to completely stop passenger rail operations in South Africa!”

    Mr Peter suggested that the only possible exception to this scenario might be the Kei Rail service which may have continued running between Amabele and Umtata during this period and asks whether anyone can confirm or deny this?

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    Japan goes ahead with military base in Africa

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    Japan is going ahead with construction of a USD 40 million strategic naval base in the Horn of Africa region, at Djibouti at the southern end of the Red Sea.

    Japan will become the third foreign nation to create a base at the small Gulf of Aden country. The US has a substantial military presence in the enclave while the French, which once ruled Djibouti as a protectorate also maintain forces in the country to combat al-Qaida insurgents and incursions from neighbouring Eritrea.

    Throughout history Djibouti has been a significant trading centre and is today the terminal for Ethiopia’s main rail outlet to the sea. An important container terminal has also developed which acts for Ethiopia as well as a hub for Red Sea and Gulf of Aden states.

    The Japanese presence is interesting in that it is the first time that Japan has reached outside its own territorial waters since the end of World War 2, and marks a significant move in policy by the Japanese government. The development of the base is to provide backup facilities for Japan’s naval presence in combating Somali piracy in the Gulf and immediate Indian Ocean region. It is due for completion by 2011 and will include naval facilities as well as an airfield capable of handling Japan’s P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft.

    The commander of the Japanese naval force operating in the region, Captain Keizo Kitagawa said this would remain Japan’s only base outside the Japanese islands.

    “We're deploying here to fight piracy and for our self-defense. Japan is a maritime nation and the increase in piracy in the Gulf of Aden is worrying,” he said. Over 90 percent of Japan’s exports into Europe and the Mediterranean are shipped through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

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    YESTERYEAR – those classic ships : BOVENKERK

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    Vereenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaartmaatschapppij’s cargo and passenger ship BOVENKERK (8,820-gt, built 1960), which operated from new with the company’s Holland Africa Line on the service between Europe and southern Africa. The ship was transferred to Nedlloyd in 1977 when she was renamed Nedlloyd Bovenkerk but a short two years later was sold out of Dutch ownership to Singapore’s Pacific International Lines (PIL), becoming their Kota Jaya. The ship was scrapped in 1984.  Picture by Willem Kruk


    In a recent YESTERYEAR we featured the Danish sailing vessel DANMARK sailing from Durban. There was some uncertainty as to which year this particular picture had been taken. Reader Brian Norris has taken on himself to enquire of the Danish Maritime Authority, who advise the Danmark visited the port of Durban during her voyage undertaken in 1948/49.

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    East London’s waterfront declared an eyesore

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    Latimer’s Landing, before the cordoning off became necessary. Picture by Terry Hutson

    East London’s once attractive and welcoming little waterfront (and a favourite place to visit when in town), known as Latimer’s Landing, has been labelled an eyesore in a local newspaper exposé.

    The waterfront, situated upriver from the small port and harbour is used by pleasure boats and fishing craft. Some 15 or 20 years ago Latimer’s Landing was given a facelift with a new boardwalk and several shops catering for the tourist were opened along with a number of restaurants.

    Over the years many of these have either closed or drastically reduced the type of business on offer. Meanwhile the boardwalk needs upgrading but as with many facilities in the small port, was allowed to gradually deteriorate. Now things have gotten so bad, according to the Dispatch newspaper, that sections of the boardwalk have had to be cordoned off, leaving what few businesses that remain to ask whether renovations will ever materialise.

    One man who operates a boating service taking tourists along the river and through the port has had to close his operation because tourists no longer visited the centre. “I had no choice but to close up,” he told the Dispatch.

    He said he could not understand why Transnet had neglected the place, saying that it was East London families that supported the waterfront, not World Cup visitors. “The place is an eyesore.”

    Included among his former customers are schoolchildren who are exposed to the workings of a harbour when taking a boat trip down river. “I had to send away a group of schoolchildren the other day,” he said.

    A restaurant manager on the landing, one of the few that has remained said there had been no communication from Transnet over the matter of fixing up Latimer’s Landing. His business had dropped by 30 percent on account of the cordoning off of a section of the landing but his rent remained the same. “No-one knows what is going on,” he said. “If they (Transnet) just told us how long this would go on for, at least then we could make provisions. It just seems like no one cares. We have been forgotten.”

    The newspaper approached Transnet for comment and spokesman Terry Taylor said he apologised for being unable to comment on the matter. “Our management team is focusing all its attention on contingency planning related to the current strike.” – source Dispatch

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    SAGA ROSE reappears

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    Saga Rose by Terry Hutson

    For those readers that were puzzled by the strange movements of the cruise ship SAGA ROSE, which ambled her way around southern Africa before disappearing (for a while) off the scanners, the ship has reappeared off the Chinese coast although her AIS report says she is heading for Japan.

    Readers may recall that at our last count the ship was reported to have been sold to Chinese interests, so at least that aspect appears to be holding up. We have a feeling however that this ‘saga’ may not be over.

    Fire on the Deutschland

    In other recent cruise news the Peter Deilmann luxury cruise ship DEUTSCHLAND caught fire in the machine room while the ship was in the Norwegian port of Eidfjord. All 364 passengers and 241 crew plus a couple of Norwegian pilots had to be evacuated while firefighters battled to contain and extinguish the blaze, which was finally accomplished but not without some difficulty. The fire was contained in the machine room but considerable hear spread throughout the ship.

    Some observers fear this may prove the final straw for the troubled Peter Deilmann company.

    Bring on the big stuff – Durban harbourmaster

    Durban’s harbour master, Captain Rufus Lekala has advised that the port now allows vessels with a beam of up to 60 metres to enter port without indemnity by way of the recently widened and deepened entrance channel.

    Vessels with this beam will be docked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, he advises, (weather permitting).

    The draught of vessels is determined by their destination berth.

    Piracy update – tanker attacked off Zanzibar

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    FNS Nivose

    A helicopter from the EU NAVFOR warship FNS Nivôse was launched against a pirate skiff leading to the disruption of a pirate attack against the Cypriot merchant vessel NORDNEPTUN (74,999-dwt, built 2004) off Zanzibar, Tanzania on the morning of 25 May.

    The French EU NAVFOR warship Nivôse responded immediately to a distress signal from Nordneptun, a tanker, which indicated she was under small arms attack from a pirate vessel. As a result of the application of ‘Best Management Practices ‘against pirate attack, the Nordneptun was able to evade the attack.

    However, within an hour, the Nordneptun was under further more serious attack by two pirate skiffs. In the interim, EU NAVFOR warship FS Nivôse closed with Nordneptun and was now in a position to launch her helicopter. On arrival, the Nivôse helicopter fired warning shots and both skiffs gave up their attack and moved into Tanzanian territorial waters where the Tanzanian Coast Guard was alerted to continue the pursuit.

    Elsewhere in the Somali theatre the Dutch dock landing ship HNLMS JOHAN DE WITT has brought its shallow draught and unique qualities to the fore by successfully blockading a known pirate camp and preventing the pirates from accessing the open sea.

    As an amphibious ship, HNLMS Johan de Witt is able, from a dock within the ship, to launch a number of smaller vessels, LCVPs (Landing craft for vehicle and personnel transport), that can provide a blockading role on selected known pirate areas of the Somali coast.

    Under orders from the Swedish EU NAVFOR Force Headquarters Ship CARLSKRONA, the warship Johan de Witt was positioned on the Somali coast to provide surveillance and reconnaissance patrols with the aim of gaining useful information while restricting and interdicting pirate movement on the coast. With the onset of the monsoon, increasingly poor weather conditions are making pirate activities very difficult, creating an urgency amongst the pirates to get to sea quickly.

    HNLMS Johan de Witt is providing an excellent blocking force and very effectively denying pirate access to the high sea at a time when worsening weather conditions is making pirate operations increasingly more difficult. – EU NAVFOR

    Pics of the day – BOURBON LIBERTY 116

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    The French offshore supply tug BOURBON LIBERTY 116 (1,517-gt, built 2009) called at Cape Town for repairs this week. Pictures by Aad Noorland

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