Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jun 10, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson


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  • First View – SAIGON QUEEN

  • Long awaited privatisation of SA branch lines

  • Obama administration committed to AGOA partnership with Africa

  • YESTERYEAR: those classic ships: SAS DURBAN

  • Illegal Somali immigrants die off Mozambique coast

  • Piracy : Libyan ship was abandoned after engine problems

  • Wilhelmsen Ships Service challenges traditional ships agency business

  • Developed world inhibits African trade – Report

  • Replace Africa aid with trade, rich countries told

  • TPT will remain open all Friday during soccer World Cup

  • Good read: South Africa’s way ahead: shall we samba?

  • Pics of the day – WESTERDAM


    First View – SAIGON QUEEN

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    The Vietneamese freighter SAIGON QUEEN (4074-gt, built 2006) seen arriving at Cape Town on 7 June 2010. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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    Long awaited privatisation of SA branch lines

    It has been a long time in coming, but earlier this week Transnet initiated a call for registrations of interest from parties wanting to take over the operation of approximately 7,300km of South Africa’s branch line railways.

    Of this amount about 4,000km of the lines are currently considered operational, with the balance either not is use or having been closed. The lines concerned include certain narrow (610mm) gauge railways, notably the Port Shepstone to Harding narrow gauge line and the famous Apple Express line out of Port Elizabeth. Each of the branch lines are regarded as feeder lines into the country’s core railway network. Some such as the Empangeni – Nkwalini branch are very short while others are quite extensive in length and complexity.

    Transnet will seek interested parties to demonstrate the viability of proposals for each branch line and will retain ownership. It also retains the right not to concession any lines that fail to attract viable levels of interest from the private sector and to hold these over for possible later consideration.

    It is considered possible that certain of the lines could attract interest from the timber companies and consortiums, such as the Greytown – Pietermaritzburg line and the so-called Cape Natal line from Pietermaritzburg to Franklin and East Griqualand. A number of other lines will attract similar interest from farming or industrial groups but others again are unlikely to receive much attention due to their remoteness and lack of potential traffic.

    The agricultural sector will certainly be the most interested in the outcome of this venture, which is unique in South Africa although isolated attempts at privatisation, such as the narrow gauge Port Shepstone – Harding line have been attempted with mixed success and eventual failure.

    The development of privatised lines is also likely to attract strong interest from private railway infrastructure providers such as Sheltam Railway and RRL Grindrod. But an important factor will be the degree with which Transnet Freight Rail is capable of leasing or making available ordinary rolling stock, in particular goods wagons to the private sector.

    For some years much criticism has been levelled at Transnet for withdrawing from branch line activity, with the result that considerable volumes of freight have been lost to rail after being forced onto the road. Private enterprise will have to show now whether it is capable of winning back this traffic by offering a superior service to the road freight industry. It is also going to be a most interesting period watching how much of the branch line potential is sought after by the private sector.

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    Will this be the new dawn for private rail operators like Sheltam?

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    Obama administration committed to AGOA partnership with Africa

    The Obama administration is very much committed to a strong partnership with Africa, and the ninth annual US-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum - better known as the AGOA Forum - in August is part of that commitment, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told African diplomats recently.

    Addressing the African diplomatic corps at the State Department, Carson said: “We want to find ways to make this partnership beneficial to the United States and, most importantly, to Africa and the people of Africa. ... We are doing everything that we can to reach out to strengthen the partnership and add value to it. The African Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA] Forum is one of those ways and we want to build on it.”

    This year, he said, the annual AGOA Forum will begin in Washington and be followed by a session in Kansas City, Missouri. In Kansas City, Carson said, “we hope to engage with the agro-industries and agro-processing sectors of America and link them up with productive relationships, networking with your governments - taking advantage of something that, frankly, you have a comparative advantage in - agro-industry.”

    “We are committed,” Carson said, “but we need your cooperation, we need your public will and your governments' public support. We want to do something that is positive.”

    Carson also told the African diplomats that he needs their ideas on where the United States and African countries can collaborate best. Saying he was paraphrasing sentiments expressed by President Obama, Carson said: “As much as we want to help and to be a partner, the future of Africa is in the hands of Africans and their leaders. We cannot will or hope or be able to achieve for you the enormous success that you desire and deserve without you, in fact, leading the way to get there. We cannot want it or achieve it more than you do. But if you give us an opportunity to do so, we will find a way to do so in the spirit of partnership and friendship.”

    Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Karl Wycoff told the meeting that the 2010 AGOA Forum will have as its theme ‘AGOA at 10, New Strategies for a Changing World.’ It will be held in two parts: 2-3 August in Washington and 5-6 August in Kansas City. (AGOA recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.)

    Ambassador Roble Olhaye of Djibouti said the State Department meeting was a good opportunity to discuss the AGOA Forum.

    “Trade and economic cooperation are two of the many important links between sub-Saharan Africa and the United States,” Wycoff said.

    “The AGOA Forum is the only annual US ministerial with sub-Saharan Africa,” Wycoff said. “In this time of economic crisis, it is important that we work cooperatively to protect economic growth and lessen the negative impact of market fluctuation.”

    Wycoff added that forum organizers have been working closely with members of civil society and the private sector to “ensure that we have captured their concerns, as well as those of governments.”

    Civil society events on 28-29 July will precede the formal opening of the forum, he told the diplomats. The formal meetings will begin 2 August and conclude the following day. Sessions will touch on the impact of the economic downturn, strategies to promote the next wave of growth, strategies for expanding US-sub-Saharan-African trade, the Feed the Future initiative and integrating Africa's women in to the global economy.

    The second part of the forum in Kansas City opens with a breakfast meeting 5 August and ends on 6 August, and will include site visits to local US agriculture companies.

    “We are very excited about this part of the forum. We chose to put together this hybrid forum, taking it outside Washington for the first time, to allow a larger number of American businesses to get to know their African counterparts in a way they would not if the forum stayed in Washington,” Wycoff said. “We aim to enhance personal contacts between investors, buyers and sellers on both sides of the ocean to try to jump-start trade and investment to help fulfill AGOA's promise.”

    Wycoff acknowledged that there have been criticisms that AGOA has not lived up fully to its potential, and said this year's ‘hybrid forum’ is an effort to respond to those criticisms. He then invited the African diplomats to make their ideas known to the organizers to ensure the event is as successful as possible.

    Speaking for the African diplomatic corps in Washington, Ambassador Roble Olhaye of Djibouti said the State Department meeting marked a good opportunity to discuss the ninth AGOA Forum. “We are very happy with the innovation that you are introducing this year, splitting the forum between Washington and America's heartland,” he said. “We believe this is a very good initiative. ... Africa's continued development and stability, to a large extent, depends on widening the base of the private sector.”

    The briefing at the State Department also featured remarks from representatives of the Office of the US Trade Representative, the US Department of Commerce, the US Department of the Treasury, the US Agency for International Development, the US Department of Agriculture and the US Trade and Development Agency and concluded with a question-and-answer period during which African diplomats could offer their suggestions and voice their concerns. -

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    YESTERYEAR: those classic ships: SAS DURBAN

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    The South African Navy SAS DURBAN (M1499) in the harbour whose name she bore. The minesweeper, one of ten Ton class warships acquired from the UK as part of the Simon’s Town agreement, was laid down in 1956 at the Camper & Nicholson yard in Gosport and completed two years later on 14 January 1958. SAS Durban and SAS Windhoek (M1498) were the only two of her class to be built specifically for the South African Navy, the other eight all being former Royal Navy ships, although several were transferred to the SAN before actually entering service with the RN.

    The 42m ships had standard displacements of 434 tons and in the case of eight of them including SAS Durban were powered with two 18-cylinder Deltic diesel engines producing 3,000 bhp. The little ships were capable of 16 knots and had a complement of 39 men (no women in those days). Armament consisted of a single 40/60mm Bofors, a twin 20mm Oerlikon plus four 12,7mm Browning machine guns and a pair of light 7.62mm machine guns. Subsequent conversions involving alterations to equipment and armament took place before SAS Durban was withdrawn from service at Simon’s Town on 23 October 1985. The ship found her way back to her namesake three years later when she took up residence in Durban Harbour at the Durban Maritime Museum as the pride of the current collection.

    The picture was taken in Durban in 1974 by Trevor Jones

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    Illegal Somali immigrants die off Mozambique coast

    A large number of illegal Somali immigrant have died when their boat sank off the northern Mozambique coast on 31 May, the Mozambique news agency AIM has reported.

    The boat carrying 82 people who were described by Mozambique authorities as illegal immigrants, sank of the Cabo Delgado coast near the town of Mocimboa da Praia. Initial reports said that at least nine passengers had died, but another 40 were missing and are now presumed to have also died. Thirty-three passengers were rescued.

    The boat entered Mozambique waters from Tanzania and it is thought that the eventual destination of the passengers was South Africa. Mozambique police said they frequently intercepted groups of Somalis in northern Mozambique who are using the country as a corridor to reach the imagined wealth and opportunity of South Africa.

    Mozambique currently has more than 6,000 genuine refugees accommodated at the Marratane refugee centre on the outskirts of the northern city of Nampula. Most of the people involved come from the Great Lakes area or the Horn of Africa. Police told AIM that in late May they had picked up a group of 15 Pakistanis in Maputo, the country’s capital. Two Mozambicans were arrested after offering a bribe worth about R3,300 for the release of the Pakistanis. - AIM

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    Piracy : Libyan ship was abandoned after engine problems

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    The Dutch Navy dock landing vessel HNLMS Johan de Witt (L801), which has been shadowing the Libyan vessel Rim after the latter’s crew recaptured their vessel from Somali pirates. Picture EU NAVFOR

    It transpires that the Libyan cargo ship RIM which was captured by pirates in February, was retaken by its crew last Wednesday (2 June) and then, with a European Naval force warship on standby, abandoned last weekend, was done so on account of engine room problems.

    The crew was transferred to the Dutch warship operating with EU NAVFOR, HNLMS JOHAN DE WITT and is being taken to a safe port from where each member can be repatriated home. The abandoned ship was last reported to be drifting in the Gulf of Aden.

    During the recapture of the ship by its crew one crew member was seriously injured and between five and nine Somali pirates killed.

    Rumours began to circulate after the ship was captured about the cargo being carried by RIM, with suggestions that an unusual interest in the vessel was being expressed by authorities in the Yemen. It was suggested that the vessel was carrying a cargo of weapons for Yemen when seized.

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    Wilhelmsen Ships Service challenges traditional ships agency business

    Wilhelmsen Ships Service says it intends revolutionizing the way ships agency is handled. The company claims to have streamlined and simplified the method of handling multiple port calls, offering one point of contact and a single bank account for all port calls.

    By introducing a sophisticated IT communication system and service agreements, Wilhelmsen says that with its 320 offices in 72 countries servicing 2,200 ports, it is able to offer customers a single agent in handling ship owners’ multiple port calls.

    “Today the market consists of approximately 85 percent of local ship agency companies. The disadvantages of dealing with a different agent at each port are clear. Defining the tasks to be done, following up to ensure requirements are met, and receiving operational and disbursement account reports in different formats for each port is a burdensome task. Instructions need to be repeated, and to multiple agents in different ports. Cost control is also limited by fluctuating prices and unclear deliverables,” the company said in a statement yesterday.

    “Wilhelmsen Ships Service has concentrated on developing a new offer which simplifies the process for international customers no matter where their port call is. By having a more predictable and structured way of managing multiple port calls, customers will experience a predictable agency performance and less administrative work. This in turn will reduce operational and administrative costs and improve efficiency.

    “By entering into a service Agreement with Wilhelmsen Ships Service the customer will have a single dedicated expert, a global agent, to coordinate all port calls handled by the company. This global coordination opens will streamline operations, cash transactions, documentation and communication flows.”

    According to Wilhelmsen, dealing with one company on a worldwide basis will bring about economies of scale. At the same time, port operations will still be handled locally by specialists with personal knowledge of the port and fluency in the local language, who have contacts with all local service providers.

    “This new offer makes the best use of our worldwide network,” comments David Tandy, President of Wilhelmsen Ships Services. “We believe that this offer will help our customers streamline their operations and improve operational efficiency.”

    What do other ships agents and operators think? Send your comments to info@ports.co.za

    Developed world inhibits African trade – Report


    Developed countries have responded to the global financial crisis by adopting protectionist measures which have damaged Africa’s chances of boosting its exports, according to a major new report.

    The report, African Economic Outlook 2010, was released recently at the annual meetings of the African Development Bank group and is being launched in South Africa.

    It says packages introduced by rich countries in 2009 to stimulate economic growth have often been geared to favour domestic interests, by supporting their capacity to export goods, or to favour buying, hiring or investing in local goods and services.

    “Such measures clearly discriminate against developing countries, including those in Africa, on two levels. First, African governments lack the resources to curb the domestic impact of the crisis with the same type of measures.

    “Second, African firms face unfavourable treatment precisely in those markets where additional spending is being promoted.

    “Hence, with these new measures African products could easily face discriminatory treatment in relation to similar domestic products and services in developed countries, despite the general agreements about preferential treatment they may enjoy.”

    The report adds that protectionism is on the rise “despite repeated assurances in the context of the G20 meetings in London and later in Pittsburgh, as well as in the context of World Trade Organisation talks.”

    It calls for a rapid conclusion to the Doha Round of international trade talks, and to negotiations on regional Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), saying this is “crucial” to Africa’s medium-term trade prospects.

    It also notes that African countries benefitted from the exponential growth in world trade which preceded the global crisis but that their exports still amount to only three percent of the world total.

    While protectionism by developed countries accounts partly for this, there are also constraints within Africa which inhibit trade, the report says.

    “Most African economies depend on very few primary agricultural and mining commodities for their exports and mainly import manufactured goods from advanced countries.

    “As the traditional markets in advanced countries are expected to grow less than markets in emerging Asian and Middle East countries as well as markets within Africa, enhancing trade relations with these more dynamic markets is key.”

    The report also identifies poor transport infrastructure, political instability and lack of security, and intra-African trade barriers as imposing constraints on trade.

    It says trade between African countries is still low, representing on average about 10 percent of their total exports.

    “Only 29.7 percent of the African road network is paved,” the report states. “The continent’s railway network is also very poor.… Shipping a car from Japan to Abidjan costs USD 1500, while shipping that same vehicle from Addis Ababa to Abidjan would cost USD 5000.”

    The African Economic Outlook 2010 is published jointly by the African Development Bank, the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). - tralac

    Replace Africa aid with trade, rich countries told

    Rich countries need to change the way they deal with Africa, shifting from aid to trade if they are to avoid losing ground to the emerging economic players of Asia and South America, a top think-tank said recently.

    In a report by the Royal Institute of International Affairs at London’s Chatham House analysing Africa’s small but evolving influence, the Western perception of Africa as a hopeless case was challenged, painting the continent rather as home to a billion people and up to 40 percent of the world’s natural resources.

    Africa’s strategic position between Asia and the Americas increases its long-term appeal and potential, the report said.

    “The overwhelmingly humanitarian interest of many Western countries and traditional partners has led to stereotyped perceptions of Africa in terms only of problems,” it said.

    “These views are increasingly patronising, recursive, out of touch, and a deterrent to serious business interest. Meanwhile the emerging economic powers of the G20 see Africa in terms of opportunities, as a place in which to invest, gain market share and win access to resources.”

    As evidence of the shift, China overtook the United States last year as Africa’s top trading partner.

    The Chatham House report asked whether campaigns to open up Western wallets were to Africa’s advantage.

    “The over-promising of what aid can deliver and the emphasis placed on aid to the exclusion and deterrence of considerations of business and private-sector links have diminished the relevance of the G8 for Africa,” it said.

    “The emerging economies of the G20 have brought entrepreneurialism, energy and recognition of mutual benefits that are increasingly attractive.”

    In a note of caution, the report said that Africa’s political leaders might not be able to ensure the continent accrues the full benefits of the increased competition for its natural resources from economic powers such as China, India, Brazil and Russia.

    “Without strong, effective leadership the competition for Africa’s resources may degenerate into the kind of colonial exploitative scramble from which much of the continent has only recently begun to recover,” it said. - tralac

    TPT will remain open all Friday during soccer World Cup

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    Durban Car Terminal. Transnet Port Terminal says it will remain open all Friday. Picture by Steve McCurrach

    As a number of shipping companies, including several ships agencies have begun advising their intention to close for business on Friday afternoon, to enable their staff to watch the opening ceremony and game of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, Transnet Port Terminals has indicated that it will remain open.

    At the same time several trade unions have issued a call for businesses to close for the afternoon or even the entire day.

    Several months ago TPT said it would consider closing early on Friday 11 June, but as a result of the recent Transnet strike and the huge backlog that TPT faces, the terminal operator says it has had to change its mind and will keep the respective terminals open throughout the day.

    Durban’s Diamond Shipping is the latest of a number of shipping companies to advise clients that they will be closing early. Diamond’s clients have been requested to ensure that all documentation, payments and collections are done by 13h00 on Friday.

    If the trend follows then TPT may find itself remaining open but no customers arriving anyway.

    Recommended read: South Africa’s way ahead: shall we samba?

    The timing of the third book in tralac’s ‘South Africa’s way ahead’ series exploring trade policy options fits perfectly with the recent interest in examining both South Africa’s Industrial Policy and Trade Policy. The book details the implications of taking the current SACU-Mercosur partial trading agreement (PTA) further to a full free trade agreement (FTA), and tralac considers that it makes a valuable contribution to both trade and industrial policy insights with the Mercosur countries of Brazil and Argentina in particular. tralac concludes that such an FTA is worthy of serious consideration.

    Read more and download the book HERE

    Pics of the day – WESTERDAM

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    The Holland America cruise ship WESTERDAM arrived in Cape Town yesterday with well over a thousand visitors disembarking in the Mother City prior to touring South Africa and attending the Soccer World Cup. The ship was booked along with sister vessel NOORDAM to act as a floating hotel in South African ports but due to a lack of sufficient interest this scheme has been dropped. Westerdam nevertheless continued with her positioning voyage to South Africa because of the large number of passengers who booked in both directions. She will now proceed to Walvis Bay where the ship, along with a large number of her 800 crew will remain on layby until mid July when she sails back to Cape Town and then to Europe. The above picture is by Aad Noorland; the lower picture by Ian Shiffman

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