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Ports & Ships Maritime News

July 28, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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First View – BOURBON LIBERTY 119

The newbuild offshore supply vessel BOURBON LIBERTY 119 (1517-gt, built 2010) called at Cape Town thia week for bunkers and supplies. Picture by Aad Noorland


News continues below...

Seychelles jails 11 Somali pirates

In the first case of a Seychelles court of law acting against suspects captured at sea and charged with piracy, a Seychellois court has handed down ten year prison sentences on 11 Somalis.

The 11 men were found guilty, with eight sentenced for committing an act of piracy and the other three for aiding and abetting acts of piracy. The Seychelles has a total of 29 suspects in custody, who were brought to the islands by their own naval forces or handed over by international naval forces operating offshore on anti-piracy patrols.

A special court which was built to hold trials of pirate suspects has been financed by the United Nations with contributions from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, the European Union and Germany.

The Seychelles and Kenya are the only two African countries outside of Somalia itself that have agreed to try captured pirates. Kenya has more than a hundred suspects in custody, while Puntland in northern Somalia has held several trials and jailed those convicted.

Meanwhile, while on call in Mombasa this past week the EU NAVFOR ship FS GUÉPRATTE welcomed on board twelve Mombasa based magistrates who hear piracy trials in Kenya. The aim of the meeting was to enable members of the Kenyan judiciary to understand more about Operation ATALANTA, its goals and the means used by EU NAVFOR naval units to achieve them.

Operation ATALANTA’s main tasks are to escort merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid of the World Food Programme (WFP) and vessels of African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM and to protect vulnerable vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean and to deter and disrupt piracy. EU NAVFOR also monitors fishing activity off the coast of Somalia.

The visit onboard FS GUÉPRATTE enabled the crew to stress the specifications and capabilities of EU NAVFOR ships in terms of counter-piracy operations.

Earlier last week Rear Admiral Jan Thörnqvist, Force Commander EU NAVFOR, the European Union naval force operating in the region, hosted General Thierry Caspar-Fille-Lambie, Commander of the French Forces in Djibouti on board the flagship HSwMS CARLSKRONA.

The main topic of the meeting was how to better support regional countries in their efforts to counter piracy and create a safe environment for shipping.

“This meeting will improve the possibilities for even better co-operation between EUNAVFOR and the French Forces in Djibouti. Improvements can be made in both operational and logistical terms,” said Rear Admiral Thörnqvist.

The French Armed Forces in Djibouti have a good knowledge of regional issues and are closely co-operating with Djiboutian authorities. EU NAVFOR has been operating in the region for the last two years conducting anti-piracy operations. Djibouti is one of the main forward operating locations for EU NAVFOR with significant maritime and aviation facilities.


News continues below…

Japan to assist Tanzania with road programme

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) overseas development assistance (ODA) in Africa is to concentrate on improving the roads in Tanzania with a USD 80 million grant to strengthen infrastructure on roads between Iringa and Dodoma, reports Schednet.

The Road Sector Support Project is key to improving trade on the 260 kilometre road network between Iringa and Dodoma which is poor and particularly difficult in rainy season when transit times double. The improvement will extend to the Tunduru-Namtumbo route that leads to the Port of Mtwara, an essential export base south of the country for the country's agriculture.

“Importantly, the southern part of Tanzania is considered to have tremendous potential for increased agricultural yields and it is expected that better infrastructure will boost its supply chain, develop the economy and improve livelihoods,” JICA said in an American Shipper report.

JICA provides technical assistance, grants and loans on behalf of the Japanese government and will collaborate with the African Development Bank and the Accelerated Co-financing Facility for Africa (ACFA) in its ODA in Tanzania.


News continues below...

Chinese due to start searching along Kenyan coast for 600-year old ship

Chinese archaeologists are due to begin searching for the remains of a Chinese ship believed to have sunk off the Kenyan coast 600 years ago, reports the BBC.

The shipwreck could provide evidence of an early contact between China and east Africa.

The three-year project will search in northern Kenyan coastal waters off Lamu island and Malindi. The joint initiative by China and Kenya comes after porcelain from China's Ming dynasty was found in the area.

Eleven experts will excavate key sites on land, ahead of the arrival of the maritime team in August.

The ship is believed to have sailed during China's Ming dynasty as part of a fleet led by Admiral Zheng He, who reached Malindi in 1418.

Half a century before Columbus, Adm Zheng is said to have commanded huge expeditions in an effort to increase recognition and trade for Ming rule, which began in 1368.

Herman Kiriama, Kenya's head of coastal archaeology, said he hoped the project would make some important findings about early relations between China and Africa.

“It will be a big achievement because it will tell us a lot about what happened in the Indian Ocean before the European powers – Portugal, the Dutch - started their trading routes to India,” he told the BBC.

“We have a lot of mixed Chinese pots dating back to that period so we know the ship must have sailed sometime here.” He says they hope to find out more about ship engineering from that period.

The team will try to find the original village of the Sultan of Malindi - who is rumoured to have given Zheng a giraffe as a gift - by digging up areas near the village of Mambrui. According to legend, some sailors survived the ship's sinking, swam to shore, and were allowed to stay after they killed a deadly snake.

In 2005, as part of an event in the run-up to the 600th anniversary of Zheng's first voyage, the Chinese paid a visit to Lamu to undertake DNA tests on a Swahili family, who were found to have had traces of Chinese ancestry.

- source BBC News

South Africa’s connection

There is scattered evidence suggesting possible early Chinese visits to the southern part of Africa, including the intriguing mystery of a ship’s skeleton discovered in the early years of the 19th century, buried deep in the sands of the Cape Flats. The author Lawrence Green told of this discovery in one of his books, and related how little notice was taken of this strange discovery, miles from the nearest ocean. Green speculated that the vessel may have been Phoenician in origin but doesn’t dismiss the Chinese connection. More than 60 years later the Cape winds once again exposed the ship’s skeleton, or another just like it near what had then become the Woltemade cemetery. Again not too much notices was taken and local people took its timber for firewood and other household purposes, thereby destroying any chance of uncovering the mystery of what kind of ship or how it came to be there, so far from the sea.

Professor Raymond Dart recounted stories of Khoisan paintings in the Eastern Cape showing people wearing hats similar to those worn by Chinese people, while elsewhere Chinese pottery and coins have been discovered along the southern and east African coast and much further inland.

Some of the more compelling evidence for the early explorations of the Chinese, which predated those of the Portuguese and Spanish, are told in two books, ‘1421’ and ‘1434’, written by Gavin Menzies and published by Harper. Anyone interested in this subject is strongly urged to read these.

Belated thanks go to the PORTS & SHIPS reader from the Netherlands who wrote and pointed them out.


News continues below…

YESTERYEAR: those classic ships - MARGIN


MARGIN, which went aground on King Neptune beach some 16 miles north of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

She had sailed from that port on 30 July 1963 in daylight, and for some inexplicable reason, carried on sailing, in perfect weather conditions, straight across the bay until she ended up on the beach. Thereafter there were allegations of alcohol abuse and some female ‘passengers’ were seen wading ashore, who were apparently on board for the voyage to Durban without the authority of the owners. She was eventually pulled off by the two Port Elizabeth steam tugs, CF KAYSER and JOHN DOCK, which took a few days to get her off.

Built in 1922 by A & J Inglis Ltd as EASTERN COAST for Coast Lines of Liverpool, who kept her for 32 years before selling her in 1954 to the Bermuda Steamship Company (DJ Shanks) of Hamilton, Bermuda. These owners only retained her for about a year before she was acquired by African Coasters (Pty) Ltd (Grindrod, Gersigny & Co (Pty) Ltd), Durban, and flew the South African flag. Thereafter, she was sold to J Newmark who broke her up in Durban.

This picture is copyright of Shiphoto International, Durban.


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Reefer trade: Capespan profits took a dip in 2009

The reefer CORAL MERMAID (9829-gt, built 1992) loading citrus fruit at Durban’s Fresh Produce Terminal. Picture Terry Hutson

Fruit exporting group Capespan’s prediction – at the release of promising interim results in 2009 - that the global financial crisis would not have such a severe impact on business did not quite pan out.

The Bellville-based group took a pounding in second half trading, finishing the 2009 financial year with operating profits down over 50 percent to R83 million in spite of a 6 percent hike in turnover to R2.6 billion.

Capespan MD Neil Oosthuizen says price pressures in the market affected global marketing of fruit. “All the main supermarkets wanted to ensure that they offer their general client base, who was under severe financial pressure, the lowest possible prices.”

He says this resulted in much lower selling prices being achieved - contrasting the previous marketing period. Oosthuizen explains that the overall demand for fruit was not down, but he noted “certain shifts” regarding fruit types, specification and packaging.

He says a further factor impacting on Capespan’s performance is the rand exchange rate, which strengthened during the year against the major trading currencies. “This resulted in grower returns (in rands) coming down on average by between 12 percent to 21 percent depending on the fruit kind. This, in turn, had a major negative impact on our income.”

Oosthuizen says SA fruit industry volumes exported decreased by around 6.5 percent in 2009 with the reduced citrus crop being the major contributor.

Capespan marketed 54 million cartons of fruit sourced from 40 different countries. This compared to the 55.2 million cartons in 2008 (representing a 2 percent drop year on year). He says the main contributor to this situation was the overall reduction in our South African volumes.

Encouragingly, the drop in SA volumes was partially off-set by the growth in non-RSA fruit. Oosthuizen discloses that of the total fruit marketed by Capespan, around 37 percent was sourced from outside SA. This is a figure that was increasing year after year.

In his divisional review Oosthuizen notes that all divisions showed major reductions in profitability with the biggest percentage reduction coming from the Fruit Division.

The Logistics Division again made the largest contribution to the overall result with an adjusted profit before tax contribution of R59 million from turnover of R673 million. The Fruit Division produced a pre-tax loss of R11.6 million (2008: a profit of R27.5 million) from turnover of R2 billion. But at bottom line the division showed a R5 million profit – adjusted for associate’s tax and exceptional items. Of the 13 major companies in the Capespan group, three were loss-making.

He is most pleased with the performance of Capespan UK, which returned to profitability after showing a loss in financial 2008.

Other Capespan companies that showed good profit growth year on year were Fisher Capespan in North America, Metspan in the Far East and Matola Cargo Terminal (MCT) in Mozambique.

Looking ahead to the 2010 financial year, Oosthuizen stresses that Capespan’s main business focus remains to be a leader in the global marketing of fresh produce and provider of supply chain service solutions. But he adds that many of the traditional business streams that Capespan has been involved with in the past are undergoing change.

“Various external factors have played a role and we think of trends like direct sourcing by retailers, grower-exporters, containerisation… Therefore, growing the business in various other areas of involvement will remain an important strategy.”

Oosthuizen says during 2010 Capespan needs to conclude its expansion plans into the Chinese and Indian fruit markets. Developing the company’s non-RSA fresh produce sourcing will also require investment in resources to give the strategy the necessary impetus.

Oosthuizen is also bullish about the Logistics Division and believes there are many opportunities for Capespan to expand into related business areas. “Mozambique, in particular, offers some interesting options and MCT will build on the success of 2009 and further expand its bluechip list of customers to others in need of warehousing and distribution services.”

After some good results in 2009, Oosthuizen says Capespan’s Fresh Chain would be looking at growing its customer base and further increasing its fruit volumes and profitability. Source Cape Business News News continues below…

Saldanha-Sishen railway back in service later today


The 860-km iron ore railway between Sishen in the Northern Cape and the Port of Saldanha is due to return to service later today (Wednesday), according to a Transnet Freight Rail official.

The line was closed last Thursday when one third of a more than 300-wagon train, loaded with export iron ore, was derailed between Loop 4 and Loop 5, near a place called Lutzville. From pictures it appears that part of the train that derailed was crossing a bridge at the time. Wagons fell over the side into the valley below. Others came off the tracks along an embankment. Overhead catenary was damaged as was sections of track.

Two locomotives, a diesel (no.34.618) and a Class 9E electric (no.9004) were damaged in the derailment, which is now thought to have been caused by a broken rail. A total of 107 loaded wagons came off the tracks along with the two locos, which were at the back of the mammoth train.

The train was made up of four ‘sections’ consisting of locos and wagons. The derailment involved locos and wagons from set C backwards with the A and B sections in the middle and up front being unaffected.

Pics of the Day – TOLEDO and USNS YANO


Making her maiden voyage to Durban on an April day in 2005 was the Wallenius Wilhelmsen car carrier TOLDEO (61,321-gt, built 2005), which has subsequently called at the port on a number of occasions. Picture by Terry Hutson


Visits by the supply ships of the US Military Sealift Command have largely dried up in the past year but in 2005 seldom a month went by without one or more ships calling to take supplies and refuel. The large supply vessels were of course en route to or from Iraq or Diego Garcia, carrying items needed for the military operations in Iraq. On this occasion the visitor was the pre-positioning vessel USNS YANO (T-AKR 297), rebuilt for the pre-positioning programme from a former container ship. Yano berthed at Island View berth 9. Picture Terry Hutson


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