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Ports & Ships Maritime News

July 5, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

Shipping, freight, trade and transport related news of interest for Africa


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Observant readers will have noticed a new look for PORTS & SHIPS, with a freshly designed front page making it easier to access the News pages and an additional column on the side. The Navigation Bar has moved over to the left side but the site is otherwise the same that you've become used to.

This is still a work in progress, with lots of tweaking to do before we can say the revision is complete. After eight years we felt it was time to spruce things up a little, but we've found that after that length of time there is plenty to sort and adjust. Please be patient with us during this process.

PORTS & SHIPS now offers more than 190,000 page impressions every month – these are the number of ‘pages’ that are read or looked at by an average of 40,000 monthly visitors. The majority of our readers are in the maritime industry or related fields – shouldn’t you be considering advertising your services on these pages?



First View – BW NICE

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The French LPG tanker BW NICE (44,807-dwt, built 2003), which was in Cape Town at the weekend. Picture by Aad Noorland


News continues below...


Union reacts to Gama’s dismissal and Transnet privatisation plans

Response to the sacking of Transnet Freight Rail CEO Siyabonga Gama has been surprisingly muted, considering the politicking that has taken place during the long drawn out affair. At the weekend it was significant that the powerfully trade union SATAWU (South African Transport and Allied Workers Union) simply commented that it has “regretfully” noted the fact.

The union says that it has consistently called for the disciplinary process to be fair and free of outside interference and notes that Gama was well respected by the workforce. “Satawu truly regrets what has happened to him. But if rules are broken, there are always consequences.”

Adding that there appeared to be prima facie evidence of selective discipline having been applied, Satawu suggested that the matter of his dismissal should be transparently investigated by the Minister of Public Enterprises.

Turning to recent announcements by Transnet of its intention of restructuring some of its services, in particular the railway branch lines and the harbour ship repair facilities, Satawu has called on the Minister to halt the process.

“Transnet has advertised for expressions of interest by the private sector. This has been done in the full knowledge that these lines cannot be operated without some form of subsidy from government. Satawu also calls on the Minister of Transport to stop his officials from continuing to advocate policies that are contrary to the position of the ANC. For some years now, the DoT officials have been given free reign to advocate freight transport policies which undermine the developmental role of Transnet and its Divisions. This has got to stop.”

“Transnet is bullying Satawu on two other restructuring matters – their intention to sell off the ship repair facilities, as well as their intention to outsource the running of their properties, including Esselenpark. Satawu will never accept such outsourcing with conditions of employment that will undermine existing conditions.”

In sum, says Satawu, all is not well at Transnet. “The existing Board and corporate management has lost its way. The sooner a new Board and CEO are appointed the better.”


News continues below…

Transport operators gain small reprieve following court appeal

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Mack Communication

The Department of Home Affairs’ campaign to clamp down on foreign drivers employed by South African trucking companies without work permits suffered a setback on Thursday when the Pretoria High Court granted an urgent interdict by 29 trucking companies to allow foreign drivers to operate on a tourist visa.

See related report in last Monday’s edition HERE

Last week’s court ruling is only a temporary reprieve but it does grant trucking companies additonal time in which to make application for the necessary work permits, or to fight the matter further.

It’s been estimated that there are more than 2,000 foreign drivers working for South African long distance haulage companies, mostly on cross- border operations although others are believed to operate purely within South Africa. Home Affairs is insistent that any foreigner working in South Africa on a permanent basis should be in possession of a work permit, whereas trucking companies have gotten by until now by applying for temporary permits, often of the tourist visa type.

The department says that before providing a work permit the employer is required to explain why they wish to employ non-South Africans. Industry representatives, who complain that obtaining work permits for their foreign drivers is time consuming and often difficult, say there are a number of reasons for employing foreigners – one being that the foreign drivers tend to have better knowledge of the roads and conditions in neighbouring countries and are generally more comfortable with having to travel in those countries. But others suggest that foreigners tend to be harder working and show greater initiative than local drivers.

Operators also fear there may be some reciprocal action by neighbouring states against South African drivers operating cross border services.

The South African Road Freight Association has requested Home Affairs to delay the implementation of the ruling until September, in order to give companies the time to process the work permits through the system.


News continues below...

NSRI and air force kept busy

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Eikos Rescuer II

The National Sea Rescue Institute, St Francis Bay station was activated last week in response to an emergency on board a crayfish fishing vessel 40 n.miles southeast of St Francis Bay and 30 n.miles offshore.

The 47m fishing vessel Southern Patriot reported that a hydraulic winch boom being used to haul a rubber duck from the sea had collapsed, causing severe head trauma to one fisherman and a severed finger to another.

In sea conditions of 2.5m swells and a 15-knot wind from the southwest the NSRI rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II set out to rendezvous with the fishing vessel and on arrival found the seaman with head injuries to be in a critical and unstable condition, while the other patient was declared to be in a stable condition.

After giving emergency treatment of the seaman with head injuries a helicopter from South African Air Force 15 Squadron, Charlie Flight was requested from the air base at Port Elizabeth.

On arrival overhead the helicopter, a BK-119 winched-hoisted a paramedic and the NSRI rescue medic swimmer down to the vessel where resuscitation efforts were immediately carried out. Unfortunately after all efforts were exhausted the 33-year old patient was declared dead on -scene.

The other patient, also 33, was lifted on board the helicopter as was the body of the deceased, the paramedic and the swimmer and the aircraft left for St George’s Hospital in Port Elizabeth where the injured man could receive full medical treatment. The fishing vessel was reported to be returning to Port Elizabeth. The South African Maritime Safety Authority was informed and investigations into the accident have begun.

In another NSRI rescue off the KZN coast two men were rescued when their newly purchased yacht developed engine problems in rough seas. The yacht had been purchased the week before in Richards Bay from where the two were sailing, intending to go to East London.

The Durban station of NSRI launched their rescue craft Eikos Rescuer II and on arrival was able to secure a tow and return to Durban. Both sailors, Otto Gaipl from Austria and Chris Bester from Pietermaritzburg were in good health and not in any immediate danger.


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Evergreen slips a place or two, but not for long

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Evergreen’s EVER GIVEN in Cape Town. Picture by Ian Shiffman

For the first time since the early 1970s Taiwan’s top liner firm is not among the top five container lines of the world, according to figures released by Paris-based box watchers, Alphaliner.

Evergreen, run by the wily octogenerian, Chang Yung-fa, found itself neatly placed in terms of financial overhang at the start of the global financial crisis, being the only top 20 box line without anything on order. However, that has let rivals usurp its place.

Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd has just beaten it to fifth spot with 16,000 extra TEU in its fleet. COSCO, CSAV, China Shipping and Hanjin all have orderbooks larg enough to push Evergreen out of the top ten.

However, the Taipei-headquartered giant will not let this happen and is putting the finishing touches to a mammoth 100-ship order, which is beginning to unfurl, with ten 8,000 TEU class ordered in South Korea and a further 12 ships set to be signed at Taiwan’s CSBC Corp shortly. Chang is adamant that none of his ships to be ordered will cost more than USD 10,000 per TEU, a sticking point that held him back in the previous ordering cycle. - seatradeasia online


News continues below…

Damning report – SA unemployment level at 60 percent

The following article, written by Loni Prinsloo which appears in Engineering News, makes for sobering reading for all South Africans. The real surprise is that there has been so little reaction. Official figures put the unemployment figure at somewhere in the mid-twenties, which we have all known to be a gross underestimation.

Africa's largest economy, South Africa, is boasting the highest unemployment ratio on the continent, with almost 60 percent of people being unemployed and 25 percent choosing not to participate in the country's economy.

Economist Mike Schussler, who presented the '2010 Uasa South African employment report' in Johannesburg on Thursday (1 July), said that, in fact, more people in the country were currently receiving money from welfare than from employment, with 12,8-million people working and 13,8 -million people receiving welfare payments from the proceeds of only five-million people.

Schussler pointed out that 40,8 percent of adults in South Africa were employed, compared with 83 percent in Uganda, 80 percent in Rwanda and 78 percent in Tanzania and Malawi.

“If South Africa was just able to up its employment numbers to the average ratio in Africa of 64 percent, adult employment in the country would have grown with seven-million jobs,” he added.

In fact, Schussler said that the only countries that were doing worse than South Africa in employment numbers were countries ridden by war such as Gaza, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The report showed that employment growth in South Africa's formal nonagricultural sector added a mere 2 percent to the employment numbers over the past decade. “We at least need a 2 percent growth in employment numbers every year. This is screamingly bad and shows that the country has been pussyfooting around in its aim to create additional employment,” Schussler commented.

The report showed that fewer people were currently working in South Africa than before 1994. “With around a million jobs lost over the recession, South Africa is still at a net job loss after 16 years of democracy. Government is currently only protecting older jobs and not creating new jobs, creating more inequality in process.”

Schussler said that people in the country had become so desperate for work that they had been working free for months in the hopes of getting paid at the much-shamed Aurora mines. “This desperation is a crying shame, showcasing South Africa's failure in creating decent jobs even in an African context.”

Meanwhile, he noted that the answer did not lie with employing more people in central government and other State-owned entities, seeing that it already employed around 24 percent.

Sectors in the economy that has shown some measure of growth over the past four years included government, electricity, water and gas, mining and transport, while construction and manufacturing showed a large loss in jobs over the same period.

Schussler said that government should stop supporting sectors and deploying policies for sectors that were not making it and start structuring policies for sectors that were showing potential for employment growth such as the services sector.

In the medium term, Schussler said that continued growth in fixed-capital formation might be helpful, with economic infrastructure, such as building roads and dams, being the best option.

However, he noted that in the longer term, education would be an essential tool to build South Africa's economy and to create decent jobs. “There are no decent jobs, without decent education,” stressed Schussler.

He added that more attention should be given to pulling people through the system from lower and secondary education through to tertiary education, which was where the country was lacking.

Lastly, Schussler pointed out that South Africa could create large numbers of jobs by cutting through the red tape and dropping some of its unnecessary laws and policies.

“Let's open up our skies and make way for more freight and people to enter our country, or let's get more people opening up radio stations and generating more advertising, these are simple ideas that will not cost a lot of money, but will generate many more jobs in the country.

“Fewer laws would mean more hiring, while concrete plans to remove red tape would make it easier for entrepreneurs to do business and create jobs,” Schussler concluded.

Africa’s wealth

Another study by investment firms Africa Investor and The Africa Group says that Africa has USD 1.7 trillion of potential wealth in areas such as agriculture, tourism and water, none of which are commodities. Africa also boasts one of the fastest growing GDPs in the world, thanks to its vast natural resources. Another study shows that Africa possesses extractable oil, gas and uranium worth between USD 13 trillion and USD 14.5 trillion.

The question must be how that relates to the report above concerning unemployment in South Africa.


Pics of the day – AWOBASAN and DAL KALAHARI

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The Chinese (Hong Kong) Capesize bulk carrier AWOBASAN (150,275-dwt, built 1993) by Aad Noorland seen in Cape Town this past weekend. Picture by Aad Noorland

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The German DAL container carrier DAL KALAHARI (50,736-gt, built 2005) has become a familiar sight in South Africa’s container ports, as the ship is deployed to the Europe-South Africa (SAECS) service. Silhouetted against the sunlight as the ship leaves Cape Town, she still manages to make an impressive picture. DAL Kalahari is one of the few container ships to continue offering passenger accommodation between Cape Town and Europe. Picture by Aad Noorland


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