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Ports & Ships Maritime News

July 29, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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First View – Durban yacht basin


Something different from ships for a change – the tranquil scene at the Durban yacht basin, with the backdrop of the CBD. Picture by Terry Hutson


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Grindrod’s Cockett Marine introduces English Channel bunker barge service

Fumana, one of Unicorn Shipping’s two 5,000-ton marine bunker barges on duty in Durban harbour. Picture Terry Hutson

Cockett Marine Oil is to start a bunkers-only service for shipping operators transiting the English Channel from September in a move that will transform the availability of bunkering in the area.

Until now Cockett Marine Oil has been known as a specialist marine oil trader based in London with a network of international offices. Its new service will be operated from three anchorages in the Thames Estuary in an area controlled by the Port of London Authority (PLA), with whom Cockett has worked closely to develop the service.

The new service by Cockett Marine draws on the resources of a number of businesses with Cockett’s South African parent company The Grindrod Group, including Unicorn Shipping and Rotterdam-based Associated Bunker Oil Contractors.

Sitting on one of the world’s busiest trading routes, and located approximately on 51deg 28min North/1 deg 20 mins East, the Cockett Marine anchorage will offer cost-effective bunkers-only services from anchorage positions off the English Channel shipping lanes. Cockett Marine Oil is predicting that it will supply at least 1m tonnes of marine fuels, including low and high sulphur fuel variants, as well as gasoil.

The new facilities will be able to host deep draft vessels of all types. By supplying fuel oils delivered by barge from Rotterdam and enabling customers to avoid time-consuming and costly diversions from the main shipping lanes, it will compete head-to-head with other major international bunkers-only supply centres as well as facilities in the English Channel.

The new service will take advantage of being closer to the traffic separation schemes in the English Channel and require a diversion of only 1-2 hours from the shipping lanes, in contrast to the diversions required to reach other bunkering facilities in the English Channel.

“This is all about providing a bunkers-only service in the right place at the right price and thanks to the combined forces of the Grindrod Group – the right people,” said Robert Thompson, General Manager Supply at Cockett Marine Oil.

“Until now the English Channel has suffered from a lack of competitiveness which has hindered its development as a serious bunker hub. Our new operation will remedy this situation.

“We believe the commercial advantage of its location and ability to take advantage of cheaper fuel prices from Rotterdam makes the case a compelling one for owners and operators, especially in the current economic climate.”

“As a team we are all very excited by this project which is another step in the expansion of our global physical supply strategy,” said Karl Beeson, Group Managing Director at Cockett Marine Oil.

“The new Cockett Marine service shows the synergy delivered by The Grindrod Group for the benefit of shipping operators. We can secure excellent prices through our years of back-to-back trading experience, combined with the barging expertise of our colleagues at Unicorn Shipping and utilising the procurement skills of Associated Bunker Oil Contractors in Rotterdam.

“Operating two barges initially through Unicorn, each able to transport 5,500 tonnes of fuel oils, we will be able to provide ship owners and operators with a cost-effective and quicker service than other ports within the Emissions Control Area.”

Cockett Marine will place a strong emphasis on quality control and reliability. The PLA will provide oversight of the operation from its London Port Control Centre and as part of risk control measures is putting in place enhanced oil spill response capabilities based at Ramsgate.

Details of the new Cockett Marine bunkers-only can be obtained by visiting Cockettgroup.com


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Nigerian government committee concerned over Apapa congestion

Apapa container terminal – picture courtesy OTAL

Concern has been expressed by the Nigerian House Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation over ongoing port congestion at Apapa.

The committee was meeting with the Nigerian Ports Authority, the Bureau of Public Enterprises, the Nigerian Customs Service, and AP Moller which holds the concession to operate the Apapa container terminal.

Chairman of the committee, Khadijat Abba Bukar expressed her dismay over the number of petitions and complaints received concerning the operation of the port and called on all stakeholders to provide solutions to the problems.

Apapa Port Terminal is managed under concession by AP Moller, Dangote and Sun Flower under a 2006 concession agreement reached with the Federal Government.

Bukar said the majority of complaints brought to the committee’s attention ranged from allegations of multiple charges, unnecessary delays in bookings for examination, poor working conditions and inadequate equipment to properly inspect containers. She said the bulk of complaints centred on there not being sufficient space for stakeholders to carry out their obligations.

The Minister of Transport, Malam Yusuf Suleiman said operations at Apapa were below expectations and advised that the government had formed a committee which aimed at creating a one-stop facility for clearing of cargo.

“When I met the operator (AP Moller) during my visit to the port, I was told that he had to produce his own power 24 hours round the clock, and the two sitting tenants had not left, and that government had not dredged the port or fixed the roads.

He said he’d been advised that cargo charges were made based on the fluctuating rate of the US dollar. Source: Leadership


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Piracy: EU flagship warned off for being ‘too close’

Swedish Navy checking fishing boat credentials

As part of EU NAVFOR’s more offensive tactics some units are now and then tasked to operate close to the Somali shore. Recently the flagship HSwHMS CARLSKRONA of the Swedish Navy was given this task. When passing two hijacked merchant ships the pirates suddenly called on the radio and warned the Swedish warship it was getting too close.

On Sunday 25 of July HSwMS Carlskrona was searching after pirate-related activities near the Somali coast. The landscape is beautiful and varies from the gigantic mountains that plunge steeply into the sea to the more flat areas with sandy beaches. Carlskrona was tasked for ISR – Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – photographing boats, buildings and activities on the beach. The boarding team was out in the RHIB (a fast ships-boat) talking to local fishermen, in order to get up-to-date information on activities in the area.

The flagship passed the two hijacked merchant vessels MOTIVATOR and GOLDEN BLESSING, at anchorage close to one another. MV Golden Blessing was hijacked on 28 June in the Gulf of Aden and MV Motivator was hijacked on the 4 July in the southern Red Sea.

Although increasingly effective at preventing pirate attacks EUNAVFOR warships are limited in their ability to intervene after a vessel has been hijacked for fear of harming the hostages. When the ships are hijacked and anchored communication with them is also halted in order not to interfere with the communication between the owner of the ship and the pirates.

Despite the fact that Carlskrona passed the ships at an appropriate distance the pirates aboard the hijacked vessels reacted strongly to its presence. The hijackers did not want the warship getting closer and warned the navy ship by radio, demanding that Carlskrona leave the area.

“With regard to the hostages’ safety on board, we cannot do much more than document the vessels and their positions. It is frustrating to be so close and yet not be able to help the ships’ crews,” said Commanding Officer Håkan Nilsson. “What is important in this context is not only that two ships with their cargo have been hijacked, the biggest tragedy is that the crews, who are now hostages, and their families, are the ones who will pay the highest price for this crime.”

It is not unusual for it to take up to six months of negotiations before the vessels are released. There are currently 348 crew members hostage on a total of 16 hijacked ships anchored at various locations off the Somali coast. – source EUNAVFOR


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Disinfectant banned after fire on CHARLOTTE MAERSK


Following the fire on board the container ship CHARLOTTE MAERSK earlier in July, Maersk Line has placed an immediate ban on the carrying of the disinfectant calcium hypochlorite, which is considered the main suspect for having caused the fire which raged for nearly two weeks earlier in July.

Calcium hypochlorite is used as a household disinfectant and is more commonly found in swimming pool cleaners (pool chlorine), which needs to be kept separate from other organic material and in a cool dry place. It is capable of self-heating and rapid decomposition, with the release of toxic chlorine gas.

According to the Containerisation International publication, Maersk has advised Chinese and Hong Kong shippers that containers with calcium hypochlorite will be refused shipment, in order to “ensure a safe voyage for our vessels”. Consignments that have already been loaded will however be carried.

“Maersk Line is investigating the cause of the fire, but there is absolutely no indication that it was caused by an explosive device,” said Marie- Louise Moller, a spokesperson for AP Moller-Maersk said earlier in Copenhagen.

Meanwhile the 6,600-TEU Charlotte Maesrk, with its fire finally extinguished has berthed in Tanjung Pelepas to discharge its cargo. The ship and cargo was made subject to a General Average declaration following the fire.


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MSC Cruises confirms order for additional Fantasia class ship

MSC Fantasia

MSC Cruises has confirmed that it has signed contracts for the building of a new Fantasia class cruise ship which will become the 12th ship in the fleet.

To be named ‘MSC FANTASTICA’ the newbuild will be built in the French shipyard of STX France at St Nazaire.

In a statement issued by MSC Cruises, the company said an important factor in the success of the project was the financial backing provided by French financial institutions, and especially by Coface, the French Export Credit Agency, making it possible for the vessel to be delivered as required by MSC Cruises by the end of spring 2012.

“We are very pleased that this important contract with MSC is now confirmed,” said Jacques Hardelay, General Manager of STX France, “and we look forward to continuing the long-standing relationship between the teams of MSC Cruises and STX France for the successful delivery of this magnificent vessel.”

“We are delighted at the confirmation of this important investment, a sign of the success of our ambitious growth strategy, and we would like to thank all those who have made it possible,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, CEO of MSC Cruises. “Together with STX France, we are now keen to focus our energies on further enhancing MSC Cruises' leading positioning within the world’s cruise industry.” He said MSC Fantastica will build on the success of the ‘Fantasia’ prototype.

MSC Cruises currently has the most modern fleet in the world (fleets of four ships or more), comprising eleven ships: MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia (the largest ships ever built for a European ship owner), MSC Poesia, MSC Orchestra, MSC Musica, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Armonia, MSC Opera, MSC Lirica and MSC Melody. MSC Magnifica, the newest ship in the fleet, was launched in March 2010.

The fleet cruises year round in the Mediterranean and seasonally in Northern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, North America and Canada, South America, the Indian Ocean and South Africa and West Africa. MSC Cruises is the only company in the world to receive the "6 Golden Pearls" award from the Bureau Veritas in recognition of its high level of quality management and environmental protection.

STX Europe is an international shipbuilding group which aims to be the leading builder of cruise and offshore vessels. The group comprises 15 shipyards in Finland, France, Norway, Romania, Brazil and Vietnam and has approximately 16,000 employees.


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AGOA News: West African civil society groups call for removal of trade barriers in Africa

Participants at the Fifth African Agriculture Science Week, which has just ended in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, want all the stakeholders including political leaders to develop functional policies that will encourage more intra-Africa trade.

The participants, who include civil society groups from within and outside Africa involved in agriculture, farmers group and non-governmental organizations, said existing protocol on free movement of goods and persons, particularly in ECOWAS countries and other Regional Economic Communities (REC), needed to be fully implemented.

“On paper there is the free movement of goods and persons, but in reality we all know that farmers who take their farm produce to neighbouring countries in the region are daily being harassed by security agencies at border points,” Lyndia Sasu of the Accra-based Association of Women Farmers said.

“Our leaders cannot shy away from this fact; they need to show more political will to implement agreed protocols. In Ghana various women have received training in fish processing, they want to expand their markets to other places but are been discouraged by the various impediments across the region,” Sasu added.

The participants at the round table discussion on Promoting Access to Regional and International Markets for Agricultural Commodities as part of the Africa Agricultural Science Week also identified some key areas that need to be urgently addressed.

These include transfer of money on goods that have been bought, issues of standardisation, harassment at border points, establishment of reliable distribution network, pricing, subsidies and the need for more government support.

“The point is that agriculture accounts for a small part of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Besides this, it is important to build regional trade cooperation; it is important to encourage more African countries to trade with one another. We need to step up credit facilities to help the small holder farmers,” the Coordinator of the Partnerships to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, Julie Howard said.

Under AGOA, sub-Sahara African countries are allowed to export some designated products to the United States duty-free. But the policy clocks 10 years this year with many African countries yet to take full advantage of it.

While about 5 percent of textiles has been exported under AGOA, since it started ten years ago, only about 1 percent of agricultural produce has been exported.

On his part an agriculture expert based in the United States, Fred Oladeinde, underscored the importance of African countries to improve infrastructure, remove impediments to trade among themselves, develop regional market and the need for civil society and farmers group to be more vocal in their demands.

“We cannot improve our well being if we do not help the farmers in promoting regional trade and market. We should begin to see how we can use our efficiency to put the relevant infrastructure in place using the various research conducted across Africa by institutions. The key message is that everybody should play their roles well,” Emmanuel Tambi of the Accra-based Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) said.


Pics of the Day – USNS ALTAIR


The USNS ALTAIR, one of the pre-positioning ships used to return military equipment to the United States from the Iraqi theatre in 2005, paid a call at Durban to load bunkers and supplies, during which a small delegation from the media was invited to visit on board. Here the ship is seen departing from Durban at the end of that visit in February 2005. Pictures by Terry Hutson



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