Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 6, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson


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  • Time for talking, not arguing as strike draws closer

  • Pirates seize another oil tanker

  • CMA CGM returns to profitability in first quarter

  • Mozambique to reveal plans for coal export infrastructure

  • Obstacle to trade: New visa requirements for drivers

  • Togo introduces new vehicle import regulations

  • International shipping calls on government intervention to curb piracy

  • Today’s recommended Read – Massive Southern Ocean current discovered

  • Pics of the day – MORNING GLORY III and YELLOWSTONE



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    The Japanese bulker GLORIOUS SUNRISE (28,441-dwt, built 2007) arrives in Lyttleton, New Zealand to load logs for China. Picture by Alan Calvert

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    Time for talking, not arguing as strike draws closer

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    Container terminals facing strike action next week

    Reaction to news of next week’s strike by up to 50,000 workers in the port, rail and pipeline sectors has remained strangely quiet and muted, considering the gravity of its likely effect on the logistical chain.

    A nationwide strike commencing with the first shifts of Monday, 10 May has been announced by the South African Transport & Allied Workers Union (Satawu) and the United Transport & Allied Trade Union (Utatu), along with Utatu’s affiliate the smaller union Sarwhu.

    Until yesterday, Transnet’s only public response has been to issue a short note saying that it has taken note of the announcement of the strike but had not (Friday 30 April) received any formal notification. Writing on behalf of Pradeep Maharaj, Group Executive of Human Resources, Transnet’s spokesman John Dludlu said Transnet was continuing with its contingency plans to minimise the effect on its operations and “...we will endeavour to meet as far as is possible our customers’ requirements should the industrial action materialise.”

    Yesterday Transnet issued a letter from its Chief Executive Officer, Khomotso Phihlela advising stakeholders that while no strike had been officially declared, it expected to receive the required strike notice only late on Friday, 7 May.

    “We are putting contingency plans in place to minimise disruptions and protect our assets,” he said. “We have put our most senior teams on red alert to manage this potential crisis.”

    Phihlela said the industrial action will disrupt Transnet’s normal operations. “At this stage it is difficult to predict the extent of disruption. We have established Operational Command Centres in regions as well as nationally. Our Commercial Team, which is responsible for interface with you, will be in regular contact with you to ensure that we manage the deviations and that, as far as possible, we accommodate your operational needs.”

    Response from the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), which has responsibility for the passenger train services, was more confrontational, accusing the unions of acting in bad faith so close to the opening of the Fifa Soccer World Cup. In this Prasa seems to not fully take note of the dynamics of the industrial action – the timing is without question linked with that of the soccer event to maximise its effect. Indeed, the unions have said as such that the strike intends taking advantage of the event.

    On Wednesday while this was being written (18h30) the port of Durban had 10 container ships working cargo in port and another 12 at anchor outside. The port of Cape Town had four container ships inside and five outside, while Port Elizabeth had three inside. That’s already a sign of that dreaded word ‘congestion’. What will it be like next week?

    The time for acrimonious accusations at this late stage surely has no place in negotiations. Employers and the unions, acting on behalf of the workers should be seeking last minute solutions aimed at avoiding next week’s action that has the potential of creating unnecessary havoc with the country’s trade lanes, at a time when all business is still recovering from an unprecedented recession. Less angry words and more cooperative attitude and discussion is what is required.

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    Pirates seize another oil tanker

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    Moscow University

    Yet another oil tanker has been seized by Somali pirates. News was received from the European Naval forces (EU NAVFOR) operating on patrol in the affected area that the Liberian-flagged but Russian operated crude oil tanker MOSCOW UNIVERSITY (106,474-dwt, built 1999) operated by Novoship JSC of Novorossiysk, Russia was attacked and captured yesterday (Wednesday, 5 May) while sailing approximately 350 n.miles east of Socotra. This puts the tanker not far from halfway between the African coast and India.

    The Moscow University, which has an all-Russian crew of 23 was heading east when attacked. A Russian warship on patrol in the area is believed to be heading for the scene but it is not clear what action the naval vessel can take. The Tanker’s crew are reported to be unharmed. EU NAVFOR says it will continue monitoring the situation.

    Yesterday another ship, the South Korean-flagged 39,833-dwt OCEAN TRADER also came under attack but was able to evade capture. This occurred while sailing approximately 200 n.miles northwest of the Comoros islands, which lie at the entrance to the Mozambique Channel. The ship’s position was not far from the border of Mozambique with Tanzania. There were no injuries to crew.

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    CMA CGM returns to profitability in first quarter

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    CMA CGM Everest in Cape Town. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    French shipping company CMA CGM’s assertion that it is on the way back to profitability in 2010 received a confirmatory boost this week with the news of an improvement in its first quarter results over last year.

    During the quarter CMA CGM shipped 22 percent more TEUs (twenty foot container equivalents) than over a similar period in 2009, a total of 2.1 million TEUs.

    From a financial perspective CMA CGM recorded a net profit of USD 270 million for the quarter, compared with a loss of more than USD 1.4 billion during the whole of 2009. This, says the company, is a result of a recovery in rates and tonnages carried, in addition to the austerity measures introduced by the new management team.

    “In a market that has returned to growth in recent months, CMA CGM intends to strengthen its industry leadership by pursuing two priority objectives: to continue adapting its fleet and to complete the necessary strengthening of its financial structure,” said Chief Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group, Philippe Soulié.

    While the initial signs for 2010 are positive, some storm clouds remain on the horizon for the French company, in particular the need to restructure its USD 5.6 billion debt with the banks. However CMA CGM Executive Officer Rodolphe Saade said, “We have received several offers from industry and financial players and have given ourselves a goal of finalising the negotiations before the end of this summer.”

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    Mozambique to reveal plans for coal export infrastructure

    The Mozambican government is to present international investors with proposals for developing transport infrastructures to convey coal from Tete province, reports the Maputo-based daily Noticias.

    The proposals will be presented this coming June in Maputo at an international conference on coal, an initiative backed by the Mozambican and Australian governments, the newspaper adds.

    Three alternative solutions are currently under discussion: to connect the coalfields in Moatize with the port of Beira via the Sena line; to utilise the Zambezi River; or to build a new railway linking the region to the port of Nacala in Nampula.

    Transport and Communications Minister Paulo Zucula is expected to discuss infrastructures, particularly the government’s challenging efforts to meet the coal industry’s demand in Mozambique. This is at a time when the Vale and Riversdale companies have announced the start of industrial coal production in the second half of this year. Both companies hold concessions in the Moatize region of Tete province, where available reserves are about 7 billion tonnes.

    Plans to use the Zambezi River to convey coal from Moatize are already subject to public hearing sessions for interested parties and those affected by the probable environmental impacts of the process (EIA).

    As for the new line to Nacala, the prospective project is still in the economic feasibility study phase, though sector analysts believe it can generate multiplier effects for the economy of areas it passes through, where other economic and social projects are envisaged to boost development.

    Debate on the merits of the Sena line (Moatize to Beira) has focused on its limited capacity to meet real demand during peak production at Moatize, despite the investment in reconstruction made first by the government with Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique (Mozambican railway company) and then with funds from the World Bank. - Macauhub

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    Obstacle to trade: New visa requirements for drivers

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    Integrating transport networks across borders as a means to drive economic development is a stated goal of the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad), yet a recent announcement by the Department of Home Affairs seems to go against the grain of this intention.

    According to a report by the Road Freight Association (RFA), foreign drivers or staff members on vehicles will be prevented from entering South Africa unless they are in possession of valid work permits.

    Until now, the standard practice has been for foreign drivers to enter on a 30-day visitor’s visa – sufficient time for them to do their business and leave.

    The RFA quotes immigration specialist Leon Isaacson as saying that foreign drivers of foreign-registered vehicles will have to carry the documentation required to be issued with a ‘Visitor’s Permit with Permission to Work’. Failing this, the vehicle will be stuck at the border.

    Foreign drivers of South African registered vehicles will have to produce a work permit; alternatively, they will need to show proof that the application has been submitted and is pending at the Department of Home Affairs.

    According to Isaacson, the best option for most transport companies would be a corporate permit, pre-approved by the Departments of Trade & Industry and Labour, granting a company enough permits for its needs.

    In other words: more red tape. Is this not a step backward in terms of integrating the regional economies of southern Africa?

    According to RFA spokesperson Gavin Kelly, the answer is a qualified affirmative.
    “Companies will need to follow an administrative process with Home Affairs (not something anyone does voluntarily anymore) to (a) apply for work permits, (b) collate proof of individuals identity and pay the necessary permit fees, and (c) repeat this process annually.

    “There is the possibility (as required for other categories of work permits) that operators will have to prove that no one else in South Africa is able to perform the work (i.e. that there are no drivers available). That will be difficult, given the excess numbers of drivers currently experienced due to layoffs and operator closures. Work permits are historically based on importing skilled labour due to shortages in the country.

    “A work permit and an entry permit (visa) are not the same thing – and yes, you need various permits (visas) to enter different countries. This has always been the case, hence the special dispensation created some time ago for visiting permits (for drivers to move through countries as they transport goods). Essentially, they were similar to transit permits (but the person physically entered the country, which was a problem),” he adds.

    “A step backwards – in terms of creating a revenue flow – no. In terms of easier trade and freer movement – yes, definitely a move backwards.” - ROAD AHEAD

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    Togo introduces new vehicle import regulations

    The Togolese Customs Department has issued new instructions regarding the importation of motor vehicles into Togo, which is aimed at reducing levels of fraud.

    Commencing on 1 May 2010 all vehicles destined for Togo are required to have the following documents before loading:

  • A non-registration number certificate

  • A car registration document if it’s a used car or in the absence of this document

  • A car registration document loss certificate (basically a document that proves the loss of these papers)

  • Non property certificate

  • A destruction certificate

  • In addition, all the transport documents (manifest, bill of lading etc…) need to have on them the 17 digit chassis number of each vehicle for control needs. Not only the last five or six numbers as the law previously required.

    From the beginning of May anyone who loads vehicles for Togo without complying with these requirements faces prosecution. – source OTAL news

    The official notice (in French) can be found HERE.

    Note – this is a pdf file. If you do not have Adobe Reader it can be downloaded here free of charge Adobe Reader

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    International shipping calls on government intervention to curb piracy

    The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Shipping Federation (ISF) are urging governments to enhance existing naval protection to prevent acts of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

    The call was reiterated at their annual meeting in Singapore from 28-30 April that was attended by representatives of national shipowners' associations from 33 countries to discuss key issues concerning the global shipping industry.

    “After two years of increasingly violent armed attacks, enough is enough! The current situation, with over 200 seafarers being held hostage by Somali pirates at any given time, is totally unacceptable,” said ICS chairman/ISF president Spyros Polemis.

    “However, our immediate concern is the most unhelpful US Presidential Order (of 13 April) on security in Somalia, which suggests that those involved in the payment of ransoms to release ships' crews could be subject to criminal sanctions,” he said.

    “Words cannot describe our frustration. This is a very serious matter, and there is a most urgent need for the US to provide clarity on the precise meaning of this, frankly, extremely confusing presidential order.”

    Other key developments included the ICS reiterating its commitment to help governments at the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) deliver a ‘bankable’ package to reduce the global shipping industry's CO2 emissions substantially, before the next United Nations Climate Change Conference in Mexico in December 2010.

    “An agreement at IMO on so called Market Based Measures is proving more of a challenge,” he said. “MBMs must be demonstrated to deliver genuine and direct environmental benefit, rather than simply being used as a source of revenue for governments, or to compensate for lack of progress in other industry sectors,” said Mr Polemis.

    “Shipping is already the most carbon efficient form of transport, but we are not a 'cash cow'. Any MBMs adopted must also be applied equally to all ships, regardless of flag, in order to avoid significant market distortions,” he said. source – Schednet.com

    Today’s recommended Read – Massive Southern Ocean current discovered

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    A deep ocean current with a volume equivalent to 40 Amazon Rivers has been discovered by Japanese and Australian scientists near the Kerguelen plateau, in the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean, south of and midway between South Africa and Australia.

    In a paper published online 25 April in Nature Geoscience, the researchers described the current — more than three kilometres below the Ocean’s surface — as an important pathway in a global network of ocean currents that influence climate patterns.

    The current carries dense, oxygen-rich water that sinks near Antarctica to the deep ocean basins further north. Without this supply of Antarctic water, the deepest levels of the ocean would have little oxygen. The ocean influences climate by storing and transporting heat and carbon dioxide — the more the ocean stores, the slower the rate of climate change. The deep current along the Kerguelen Plateau is part of a global system of ocean currents called the overturning circulation, which determines how much heat and carbon the ocean can soak up.

    Read this article 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 – MORNING GLORY III and YELLOWSTONE

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    The Japanese Nakata Mac Corp’s oil products tanker MORNING GLORY III (98,743-dwt, built 1996) in Cape Town harbor. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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    The Singapore-owned multi purpose cargo ship YELLOWSTONE (30,975-dwt, built 1986) which is on charter to GAL on its US – South Africa service, has been a regular visitor in Cape Town and Durban in recent years. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Don’t forget to send us your news and press releases for inclusion in the News Bulletins. Shipping related pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – please email to info@ports.co.za

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