Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jun 24, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson


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  • First View – TABLE BAY

  • Nigerian shipping authorities at odds over administration of CTN

  • US double standards over ransom payments

  • Dutch sending a submarine to hunt for pirates

  • More piracy – how the crew of RIM survived

  • MARGARET – or what’s left of her

  • BIMCO warns of possible problems in port of Luanda

  • FPSO KWAME NKRUMAH arrives off Ghana

  • Pics of the day – SEA MARTEN and TORM CAROLINE


    First View – TABLE BAY

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    Tranquility Bay. Cape Town’s harbour in Table Bay is not always known for looking like this but on a morning earlier in the week all was gloriously calm and placid, with two ships, SAFMARINE NOMAZWE and MSC LOS ANGELES on their respective berths at the container terminal and working cargo. Picture Aad Noorland

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    Nigerian shipping authorities at odds over administration of CTN

    Two federal agencies fight over who controls a multi-million dollar cargo tracking note in Nigeria

    A silent war is currently going on between the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC) over which organisation should handle the multi-million dollar Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), a scheme introduced by the International Maritime Organisation.

    While the NPA smiles all the way to the bank with millions of Naira annually, the latter is sulking because it feels it has been denied its legitimate dues. The NPA collects N150 per container under the scheme and investigations showed that between December 2009 and April 2010 the NPA realised USD 1.59 million or N380 million.

    Abdulsalam Mohammed, managing director of NPA, who confirmed the figure, said it was made possible because CTN documentation is a requirement for cargo clearance. Each bill of lading must conform with the CTN issued by Belgium-based Transport and Port Management System, TPMS-Antaser, its representative. The NPA collects royalty from the company just as it collects a N150 levy per containerised cargo from importers and exporters.

    Many workers in the maritime industry had expected the NSC and not the NPA to administer the CTN. They argued that the former was technically equipped to do it especially given its responsibility “to advise the government on freight rates, available and frequency of shipping space, frequency of sailing, terms of shipments, class and quality of vessels, port charges and facilities,” among others.

    Since its establishment 32 years ago, it has evolved programmes in pursuit of its roles in the nation’s maritime sector including the registration of importers and exporters, and established a Cargo Defence Fund, CDF. A source said after the 9/11 incident in the USA in 2001, the Council felt it needed to ensure the safety of cargoes and vessels coming into the country more than before. Kingsley Usoh, the then executive secretary of NSC, went to the US to negotiate how the scheme could be implemented.

    Data Sciences, a local ICT provider was also contacted. Thus, the Council was optimistic that whenever the government was ready for the scheme, it would handle it. The Council has every reason to think so because several other African countries which had begun implementing the scheme saw it as an entirely Shippers’ Council affair. For example, the Republic of Congo operates both the CTN and ECTN.

    But the NSC was disappointed that it was not given the mandate when the scheme eventually took off in December 2009. It claimed that by handing over the control of CTN to the NPA, government has provided an additional source of revenue to the Authority.

    Adamu Biu, a master mariner and executive secretary, NSC, took up the matter with Adamu Bio, former minister of transport, who promised to look into it. He could not before he was redeployed to the ministry of sport and youth development. But sources said he could not have reversed the situation because the technocrats in the ministry prefer the NPA to manage the scheme because of its strategic role in the country’s international trade.

    Gbemi Saraki, chairman, Senate Committee on Marine Transport has, however, allied with the NSC over the issue. At a recent public hearing by the committee, she queried the jurisdiction of the NPA in administering the scheme. An angry Saraki said the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, could as well be given the assignment of administering the scheme because of its strategic role at the port.

    The Senator has another grouse with the CTN. She sees it as an “addition to the already high cost of shipping and clearing goods at the port and border posts.” Importers and clearing agents have been expressing these fears since December 2009 when the scheme was approved by the then Federal Executive Council (FEC), headed by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. But Mohammed has dismissed fears that CTN would increase the documentation process or increase the cost of clearing.

    He said importers knew they would pay for the service since the documentation was required for any importer to take delivery of cargo. Abdullahi Dikko, comptroller-general, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, is happy with the implementation of the scheme in Nigeria. He said it has assisted in checking diversion of cargo and boosted NCS’ monthly revenue. He called on freight forwarders and importers to support the new scheme rather than sabotage it. “CTN was necessary in the interest of safety, security and prompt release of goods at the ports and border posts,” he said.

    Lucky Amiewero, president, National Council of Managing Directors of Licenced Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, who once criticised the scheme, said Nigeria would benefit immensely like other countries that have begun its implementation. “It is not important which agency is administering the scheme,” he said, adding, “it allows for advance processing of information by border and intelligence agencies.”

    Nigeria experienced the importance of CTN last April when Maersk Nashville, loaded with some containers at Rotterdam Port, Netherlands en route to the Federal Ocean Terminal, Onne, Rivers State and Tincan Island Port, Lagos, was intercepted based on information leaked to the NPA and the NCS that one of the containers scheduled for the Lagos port carried hazardous wastes. The advance information assisted the relevant agencies to track the vessel and have the consignment returned to the country of origin. – source Finda Jobin Africa

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    US double standards over ransom payments

    Is there any irony in reports that the US has been caught out paying millions of dollars in ‘protection money’ to Afghan warlords to enable land convoys of troops and supplies to pass safely along the byways of Afghanistan? Is this the same United States whose president recently spoke out so strongly against the payment of ransoms to pirates who highjacked ships?

    Obama’s executive order left commentators with the clear understanding that US shipowners had been summarily prohibited from the payment of ransoms to free their ships and crew. The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) followed up by issuing a list of Somali individuals and organisations that had been added on the SDN list, i.e. people or organisations with which US companies may not do business. In this the US considered that the payment of ransoms was the same as doing business with those the US considers to be terrorists.

    Now comes the revelation that the US military has been surreptitiously paying tens of millions of dollars in protection money to Afghan warlords, some with possible links to the Taliban, to ensure the safety of convoys carrying supplies to US troops in Afghanistan.

    The fact that this is being achieved by outsourcing to private companies – companies that are in effect involved in mercenary activity - only serves to cloud the matter, but only slightly. There is little difference in principle between paying a warlord to allow safe passage through his territory, and paying off pirates along the Somali coast to release ships they have captured.

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    Dutch sending a submarine to hunt for pirates

    Still on the topic of piracy, The Netherlands Navy announced this week it is sending a submarine to take part in anti-piracy activities off the Somali coast.

    On Tuesday the Dutch Ministry of Defence said the submarine, which was not identified, will join the NATO-led naval forces operating in the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa.

    The submarine, said the report, would be used for reconnaissance both in the Gulf of Aden and deep into the Indian Ocean where pirates from Somalia have been active in recent months. The Ministry said the submarine will join the NATO flotilla from the end of September and will remain on station until the end of November.

    NATO’s Ocean Shield anti piracy mission has been extended to run until the end of 2012.

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    Rear Admiral Jan Thörnqvist, Force Commander EU NAVFOR

    Meanwhile, the Force Commander of Operation Atalanta, the European Union naval operation in the area, Rear Admiral Jan Thörnqvist said the EU NAVFOR tactics of preventing pirates from leaving the Somali coast is proving successful.

    “We are disrupting more suspected pirates near the coast before they put on the high seas and conduct hijackings. The challenge is that once they get through they venture further and further out on the Indian Ocean,” he said while summing up his first two-month stint as Force Commander.

    In mid-April, Admiral Thörnqvist took command over the EU fleet off Somalia and became the first Swedish Force Commander to lead an EU-mission. Everything, says EU NAVFOR, is not ‘hunting pirates’ even if that gets more headlines. So far under Swedish leadership the EU Task Force has conducted eight escorts for the UN agency World Food Programme (WFP) and 13 escorts of the African Union’s peacekeeping operation in Somalia (AMISOM).

    “It is important that we solve our main tasks, to escort WFP ships with humanitarian aid to Somalia’s 1.6 million internally displaced persons and to escort the AMISOM transports,” he notes.

    The Swedish admiral and his multinational Force Headquarters, FHQ, have seen both successes and tough challenges. The fact that the new more proactive EU NAVFOR tactics are successful is proven by statistics; In the first two months, the force managed to disrupt or prevent piracy about 15 times and a dozen pirate ships with equipment and weapons were destroyed or seized by EU NAVFOR.

    A tough challenge in the first period of 2010 has been that the pirates are operating further out in the Indian Ocean, sometimes closer to India than Somalia. One example is the hijacking of a ship on 18 April as far as 1200 nautical miles east of the coast of Somalia. Compared to the same period a year ago, data suggests two things: the total number of pirate attacks have increased by 150 percent, but the number of completed hijackings dropped by 25 percent.

    “Pirates recruit more young men who are sent further out on the high seas. Their plan is apparently to make a large number of attacks over a larger area, but we are often able to disrupt them before they complete a hijack,” says Admiral Thörnqvist.

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    More piracy – how the crew of RIM survived

    The pirate cook smuggled food to the terrified hostages held by his gang off the Somali coast. He bought them cell phone cards. And when the pirates started talking about harvesting their organs for cash, he sneaked them guns.

    The hostages killed the pirates and escaped. But now the life of the Somali cook, known only as Ahmed, is in danger. Despite actions the crew described as heroic, European Union nations, Syria and nearby Djibouti have all refused to take him, according to an official who was not authorized to talk.

    Ahmed has since disappeared. It is thought to be the first time someone working for the pirates has turned against them to help hostages.

    “Sending him back to (Somalia’s) shore would be putting him to death for his compassion,” said John S Burnett, the author of ‘Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terrorism on the High Seas.’ “This smacks of a bureaucratic bungle … it’s a line in the sand. No Somali pirate will ever risk showing any modicum of compassion again if he knows he’s not going to get any help from the authorities.”

    The tale began on 2 February, when the pirates hijacked the MV Rim, a Libyan-owned, North Korean-flagged cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. The crew radioed international navies, but help arrived 15 minutes after the pirates seized the ship. International naval forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off Somalia generally don’t intervene militarily after pirates take a ship because of the danger to the crew.

    During the first two months, the pirates gave food and water to the crew of one Romanian and nine Syrians. But when talks about the USD 300,000 ransom went nowhere, the pirates grew impatient. The crew got little food or water, Virgil Teofil Cretu, the 36-year-old Romanian crew member, said in an interview in Costanta, Romania.

    Cretu, who as the coxswain had steered the ship, and the Syrian sailors drank rainwater and cooked rice in seawater. Their diet was augmented by whatever Ahmed could sneak to them.

    Various pirate groups bought and sold the ship and crew, Cretu said. One of the rotating pirate guards was a gun-wielding 13-year-old. Ahmed bought a SIM card to use in a cell phone the crew had hidden from the pirates, so the hostages could speak with relatives.
    But the negotiations were not going well. No one from North Korea, Libya or Syria would agree to pay a ransom.

    On 2 June, Ahmed told the crew that the pirates had decided to kill them and harvest their organs to get some money out of the seajacking. Ahmed secretly passed the crew three Kalashnikovs. That’s when “all hell broke loose,” according to Cretu.

    “There were six pirates guarding us. We started shooting. I shot like mad. The pirates were taken by surprise. They opened fire, shot each other also by mistake,” said Cretu, who was wounded in the back during the firefight. “This lasted for about 45 minutes. All in all, we annihilated them pretty quickly. Some we threw overboard, to the sharks.”

    “It was like being in a commando fight. In fact, my Syrian colleagues on board nicknamed me Rambo afterward,” said Cretu. He credited his compulsory military service with getting him through the fight.

    One last pirate who had hid in a cabin jumped overboard himself when the ship started sailing. All six pirates were killed or went overboard.

    The crew started their engines and steamed away, pursued by more pirates in another hijacked vessel. The MV Rim’s old engines stalled, but an EU Naval Force helicopter swooped down just before the pirates closed in, hovering between the two ships and buying precious minutes.

    After the crew was taken off the MV Rim, the EU Naval Force let the ship drift in the Gulf of Aden. Cretu said the ship was to have been scrapped after delivering in India a load of kaolin, a soft white clay used in making porcelain and many other products.

    Now the crew has gone home, but Ahmed is nowhere to be found. His last known location was the Dutch warship Johan de Witt.

    “In my mind, cook Ahmed was an angel sent by God,” said Cretu. “Without his intervention, without his courage, we would have been dead.”

    The EU Naval Force won’t say if he was set ashore in Somalia — where he faced execution by pirates or clan members of the brigands who died — or sent away alone in a small boat to navigate the high seas at the beginning of monsoon season. EU Naval Force officials said they had investigated repatriation and migration options for Ahmed but would not give details.

    The MV Rim was Cretu’s first job as a ship’s crew member. On Thursday, he boarded a ship on the Danube River in Romania to start his second high-seas adventure.
    Ahmed remains on his mind.

    “I owe my life to my Somali friend and I want to take him into my home if possible so he and his family can change their lives,” said Cretu. Source - Shiptalk

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    MARGARET – or what’s left of her

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    What’s left of the barge MARGARET, firmly aground on rocks at Jacob’s Bay near Saldanha and at the mercy of the sea. Picture by Captain Kevin Tate of SMIT Salvage

    A number of readers have enquired about the wrecked barge MARGARET which went aground in June last year off Jacob’s Bay. The barge was carrying a cargo of river barges and tugs for the canal/river systems of Europe and after separating from her tow in stormy seas, was washed towards the shore and grounded firmly on rocks in the bay, refusing all subsequent attempts to be refloated.

    The Chinese builders and the insurers basically abandoned the wreck, leaving it to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to handle the problem of a shipwreck directly opposite an area noted for its natural ecology but also home to a small community. SAMSA took the decision to reduce the wreck with explosives, which removed a number of the smaller barges lashed on the deck of Margaret. Early winter storms are playing a role in further reducing the wreckage.

    Some of these barges have been recovered but attempts to find out what has happened to them proved fruitless. It is thought that one of the smaller barges is being used in the removal and wreck reduction of another grounding, the bulker SELI 1 in Table Bay, but this is not confirmed. If any reader is aware of the fate of these smaller craft please send PORTS & SHIPS an email with the details.

    See related story here HERE

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    The barge MARGARET shortly after going aground with a cargo of river barges and tugs for Europe. Picture by Colin Clegg

    BIMCO warns of possible problems in port of Luanda

    BIMCO says it has been informed by one of its members that they have faced problems in the port of Luanda, Angola, due to alleged unjustified fines in connection with Port State Control. This is more specifically in relation to breaches of safety requirements and non-compliance with instructions received.

    As other previous reports indicate that this kind of unfortunate and unfair treatment seems to be a common problem, BIMCO advises that it would encourage members to take account of these experiences when considering a visit to the port of Luanda.

    Contact international@bimco.org

    FPSO KWAME NKRUMAH arrives off Ghana

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    Ghana’s Jubilee Field

    The FPSO KWAME NKRUMAH has arrived off Ghana to take up station on the Jubilee Field, named in honour of Ghana’s 50th anniversary since independence.

    The FPSO (floating, production, storage and offloading) vessel was converted at Singapore’s Jurong Shipyard from the VLCC tanker OHDOH and is 330m long by 65m wide.

    The vessel is to go into service on the Jubilee Field in about 1,100 metres of water,on one of the biggest oil fields discovered offshore West Africa in recent years. The FPSO will be able to process over 120,000 barrels of oil a day and has a storage capacity of 1.6 million barrels of oil. Kwame Nkrumah is designed to remain in service for up to 20 years without the need for a dry docking.

    Pics of the day – SEA MARTEN and TORM CAROLINE

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    Above: The newbuild Norwegian-owned, Cyprus-flagged offshore supply vessel SEA MARTIN (1943-gt, built 2010) which was a visitor in Cape Town this week. Picture by Aad Noorland

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    The Danish handysized products tanker TORM CAROLINE (46,414-dwt, built 2002) enters Durban harbour under cloudy skies. Picture by Terry Hutson

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