Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jun 29, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson


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  • First View – MAERSK FUKUOKA

  • Piracy: Singapore tanker highjacked

  • Cruise ship EUROPA takes Six Star Award for third time

  • Margaret barges for sale – three left

  • Angolan road transport company plans to open trade routes to neighbouring states

  • UN agency to monitor for toxic waste in Abidjan port

  • Diversity pays off for fishing companies

  • Pics of the day – AFRICAN PROTEA


    First View – MAERSK FUKUOKA

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    Maersk Line’s container ship MAERK FUKUOKA (9,981-gt, built 2005) arriving off the South Island New Zealand port of Lyttelton. Picture by Alan Calvert

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    Piracy: Singapore tanker highjacked

    Singapore’s Maritime & Port Authority has confirmed reports that the Singaporean petroleum products tanker GOLDEN BLESSING (14,445-dwt, built 2010) has been highjacked in the Gulf of Aden.

    Earlier EU NAVFOR, the European Union naval force operating patrols in the Somali region advised that the tanker had been seized early yesterday morning (Monday) about 60 n.miles off the northern Somali coast.

    The tanker, which is owned by Golden Pacific International Holdings (S) and is on a bareboat charter to Shanghai Dingheng Shipping, was en route from Saudi Arabia to India (a different report says the ship was heading in the opposite direction, India to Saudi Arabia), with a crew of 19 on board. All crew are reported to be safe on the highjacked vessel.

    Golden Blessing is carrying a cargo of glycol-ethylene, a toxic organic compound used in anti-freeze fluid, according to EU NAVFOR.

    After receiving reports of the highjacking, a German frigate, FGS SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN on patrol nearby dispatched a helicopter to find the tanker. The aircraft later reported seeing pirates on board the tanker.

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    The Singapore tanker Golden Blessing – highjacked on Monday. Image by EU NAVFOR

    In Kenya the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said that Kenya had taken on a heavy burden in dealing with crime (piracy) that affects the entire international community.

    The UN body was responding to the setting up of a special piracy court in a Mombasa jail (see our news report of Monday, 28 June). International forces also have plans to establish a similar legal setup in the Seychelles, an island country that has experienced increasing numbers of attacks by pirates in its waters. The Seychelles is currently holding 31 suspects awaiting trial, compared with 105 pirate suspects being held in Kenya.

    But while internationally Kenya is being lauded for allowing the prosecution of pirates to continue, internally there is a feeling that the East African country was taken advantage of and pressurized into changing its mind and continuing with the process.

    Justice Minister Mutula Kilona has been quoted saying that Kenya received a raw deal which has exposed the country to increased risks of revenge terrorism. Foreign Minister Moses Wetang’ula added his voice saying that Kenya agreed to the deal because of pressure.

    Kenya has so far signed agreements with the governments of the EU, USA, UK, China, Canada and Denmark whereby it will try pirates captured by military forces of those states. Many of the respective other countries operating anti-piracy patrols off the Somali coast have legislation that allows them to proceed with criminal cases against suspected pirates captured in international waters.

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    Cruise ship EUROPA takes Six Star Award for third time

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    Picture courtesy Hapag-Lloyd

    New York, NY – For the third time in a row, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ MS EUROPA is the only cruise ship in the world to be awarded the prestigious six star diamond award by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences.

    The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences is acknowledged worldwide for awarding excellence in the global travel and luxury services sector. Each year the Academy bestows its International Star Diamond Award exclusively to five star establishments that are deemed to be the pinnacle of quality by its esteemed Board of Trustees.

    “The MS Europa is the only ship amongst our members deserving of the six star diamond recognition, it’s the most elite of its kind,” said Academy president, Joseph D Cinque. “We believe the MS Europa is one of the most beautiful yachts in the world and has earned its right as a six star diamond award recipient for three consecutive years.”

    Europa is the first ‘all-suites’ cruise ship, with staterooms that are never less than 290 square feet, 80 percent of them having their own veranda, assuring privacy and relaxation. The Europa is one of the few ships in the cruise industry that offers guests the largest space per passenger, as well as one of the highest staff passenger ratios, with 280 staff members for a maximum of 408 guests.

    Europa provides international cruises (German/English), ensuring that English-speaking passengers feel comfortable and at home from the moment they step onboard.

    The ship, which is also Hapag-Lloyd’s flagship, is the only cruise liner to have been awarded the coveted 5-stars plus distinction by the Berlitz Cruise Guide from 2001 to 2010.

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    Margaret barges for sale – three left

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    One of the barges recovered off the wreck of the Margaret, now in use with another wreck, the Turkish bulker Seli 1. Picture courtesy Gustav Louw, Principal Officer, SAMSA, Cape Town

    In a News Bulletin last week (24 June) which carried a report on the fate of the barge MARGARET and its cargo of river barges that went aground last year at Jacob’s Bay, we included an appeal for news and pictures showing what happened to the cargo of river barges lashed on board the main barge. See that report HERE.

    Since then we’ve had several responses including from SAMSA, the South African Maritime Safety Authority who advises that six barges were saved from the Margaret. One of these is, as previously reported being used in the wreck reduction of the Turkish bulker SELI 1, which lies aground and burned out in Table Bay.

    SAMSA says it intends keeping one of the recovered barges for future use, leaving four which are currently alongside the government quay in Saldanha Bay. One of those was sold this week, leaving three available.

    They could make ideal craft for use on the Great Lakes of East Africa.

    Acknowledgements to SAMSA and others for information provided.

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    Angolan road transport company plans to open trade routes to neighbouring states

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    Map by Geographicguide.net

    Suwinvest Genises Odlon Santos (SGO), Angola’s privately-owned road transport operator, has announced its intention of opening trade routes from Luanda and other points of Angola into neighbouring countries.

    The group has already concluded feasibility studies and says that both Congos, DRC and Congo-Brazzaville will be reached by way of Cabinda, Uige and Zaire, while Namibia and Zambia will involve routes across the southern Angolan regions of Cunene, Kuando Kubango and Moxico.

    SGO already operates road transport into 16 of Angola’s 18 provinces. The company says it is currently training personnel to operate the new routes.

    Angola has one of the world’s faster growing economies. Source Angola Press Agency

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    UN agency to monitor for toxic waste in Abidjan port

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    Port of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Image courtesy OTAL

    A new laboratory has been set up in the Ivorian port city of Abidjan to improve the monitoring of hazardous materials under a project backed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that aims to prevent a repeat of a notorious incident in which thousands of people were sickened by toxic waste.

    The laboratory, which has been handed over to Cote d'Ivoire's environment ministry, is equipped to test for waste in ships entering the port, according to a press release issued by UNEP in Geneva.

    The agency developed the laboratory as part of a joint project with the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

    UNEP said the project is the result of wider efforts by the agency to both improve waste management systems in Côte d'Ivoire and protect the West African coast from hazardous materials.

    In 2006 the cargo ship PROBO KOALA dumped 500 tons of toxic waste, belonging to the Dutch company Trafigura, at various sites - including local waterways - around Abidjan, the largest city in Côte d'Ivoire. The liquid sludge contained large quantities of hydrocarbons and toxic substances such as hydrogen sulphide and caustic soda.

    Official estimates indicate at least 15 people died, 69 others were hospitalized and at least 100,000 more residents complained of nausea and vomiting after inhaling fumes.

    In a report last year Okechukwu Ibeanu, the UN Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, said some areas of Abidjan had still not been decontaminated.

    He called for urgent steps to tackle the long-term human health and environmental effects of the incident. – UN News Service

    Diversity pays off for fishing companies

    The reporting seasons for Cape Town’s big four fishing companies once again shows that diversity pays off – especially in times of tough trading and rand strength.

    On the face of it Oceana – which is controlled by food giant Tiger Brands – probably fared best. But the results from the three smaller fishing groups are perhaps more intriguing, especially the efforts to negate effects of the stronger rand and countering weak offshore markets.

    Oceana reported a 2 percent decrease in headline earnings to R110 million for the six months ended March 2010 despite generating 6 percent less in revenue of R1.5 billion.

    On a divisional basis Oceana’s Midwater and Deep Sea fishing operations were in fine fettle, posting a profit of R99 million from turnover of R249 million. The larger inshore operations generated R68 million in profits from turnover of R1 billion.

    Reviewing the inshore fishing sector Oceana CEO Francois Kuttel says overall profit from canned fish was above that of the same period last year. He says pilchard landings and processing yields at the St Helena Bay cannery were good.

    “Canned fish sales volumes increased due to a more robust supply chain with imported product continuing to supplement local supplies.”

    Kuttel says margins showed some improvement and Lucky Star’s market share recovered further as a result of higher sales.

    In the fishmeal division, Kuttel says turnover declined due to lower volumes mainly as a result of low opening stock and poor landings at the end of last season.

    He explains that the lack of volume and high maintenance costs incurred during the annual shut down period resulted in a loss at the half year.

    But it does look more promising going forward. Kuttel believes that higher landings will continue into the winter. “In addition, fishmeal selling prices increased substantially in recent months due to concerns of an international market shortage, the benefits of which should be seen in the second half.”

    Profits were also recorded in the squid division despite selling prices in European markets remaining under pressure.

    In the midwater and deep-sea fishing sector, Oceana’s profit from horse mackerel was slightly up. Kuttel reports that catch rates in Namibia were ‘very good’. But in SA, less favourable fishing conditions resulted in lower catches.

    Irvin & Johnson (I&J) the fishing group controlled by AVI, claimed a better operational performance in the six months to end December 2009 – although the profit figures don’t make for pretty reading.

    The operating performance from the company that was until recently headed by current Oceana CEO Francois Kuttel was better than last year thanks to improved catch rates and size mix as well as lower fuel prices.

    But I&J’s export revenues were materially reduced by lower prices in key European markets due to reduced demand and increased supply from other fish resources (not to mention the effect of the strong rand).

    So the numbers showed I&J‘s revenue down by a hefty R138.5 million with operating plunging R66 million to R60 million.

    AVI has already warned that I&J‘s results for the second half of the year will be much lower than last year if weak prices for seafood products and the strong rand prevailed. AVI notes that the ongoing pressure on I&J‘s margins has prompted a number of new cost saving initiatives being implemented. But these efforts will not have much impact on the current financial year.

    The poor profit performance has once again sparked rumours that AVI might look at selling off I&J – although such talk does tend to surface every time I&J brings in a poor profit catch.

    Sea Harvest, now controlled by empowerment company Brimstone, seemed to have come through the year to end December 2009 in fairly good shape.

    Brimstone argued that Sea Harvest – which generates annual revenue of around R1 billion – performed satisfactorily in restricting a decline in operating profits to just 3 percent.

    The performance is contextualised by the fact that Oceana’s (much smaller) small hake division made a loss for the period - although this division did incur extra costs when one of its vessels broke down.

    Brimstone CEO Mustaq Brey notes that while some prices came under pressure Sea Harvest – a hake specialist – managed to maintain pricing and volume in most markets. He says Sea Harvest further increased its market share in the local market and is now the leading frozen white fish brand.

    Speaking at the recent Brimstone AGM, Brey also noted that Sea Harvest – which has a good chance of gaining in its Total Allowable Catch this year - had fished responsibly. “We did not, like some other operators, catch all our fish at once, We slowed down our catch rate to ensure Sea Harvest could provide fresh fish all year round. This enhanced our credibility, especially on international markets.”

    More importantly, Brey said actions taken to improve the management of SA’s hake resource appear to be bearing fruit – which “bodes well for the resource and potential quota increases over the medium term.”

    He said Sea Harvest maintained a relentless focus on efficiencies and containing costs. “Extracting maximum value from every kilo of fish caught will be the key in driving future revenues.”

    Perhaps the biggest surprise in the local fishing sector was profitable interim performance from Sekunjalo controlled Premier Fishing in the six months to end February. - CBN

    Pics of the day – AFRICAN PROTEA

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    The bulk vessel AFRICAN PROTEA (24,111-dwt, built 1997) sailing from Durban harbour. The ship has since been renamed and sails now as FREE KNIGHT. Picture by Terry Hutson

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