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Ports & Ships Maritime News

August 17, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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The offshore supply tug MAINPORT ASH (1089-gt, built 1982) in Durban harbour earlier this year. Picture by Terry Hutson


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SA Cabinet will decide tomorrow on whether to send troops to Somalia

It is being widely reported that the South African cabinet will meet tomorrow (Wednesday) to decide on whether to send South African troops to Somalia to bolster African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu.

The report, which appears to have emanated in the UK press at the weekend quotes a government spokesman in London, Themba Maseko as confirming the matter will come under discussion. Another source, speaking in condition of anonymity said “it appears President Zuma will definitely give the nod to the AU’s request for South African military support.”

This follows an official request by the AU for South Africa to lend support to the peacekeeping mission in troubled Somalia. Observers have described the task of the African Union, operating in Somali as AMISOM (African Union Mission for Somalia) as more of a ‘peace-enforcer’ role than peacekeeping.

South Africa has previously said it would provide assistance if asked by the AU but has appeared to distance itself from any form of naval involvement with Nato and EU naval forces engaged in the region on anti pirate patrol. It is thought the question of cost has been one of the factors here.

The London source told the British newspaper Observer that “The South African government will definitely seize the opportunity to show the continent that they are the big brothers.”

The bulk of the under-strength 6,300 Amisom troops in Somalia come from Uganda, where a bomb was detonated on 11 July killing at least 76 people attending a World Cup soccer fanfest. Al Shabaab, the Islamist miltant group opposing the transitional Somali government, which is believed to have the backing of Al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the blast, which it said was in retaliation for the Ugandan military presence in Somalia.

Uganda’s State Minister for International Affairs Henry Okello-Oryem said recently that the assurance given by President Zuma to Uganda’s President Museveni during the AU summit in Kampala in July was that South Africa would provide logistical assistance and other support to ensure Amisom does its work “better than now.”

Vikings in Africa

In related news the Danish Minister of Defence, Gitte Lillelund Bech says that Denmark soldiers will send troops to both West and East Africa to assist in preventing the spread of piracy.

A number of Danish warships have already taken part in patrols with EU NAVFOR, the European Union naval presence off the Somali coast, which is primarily involved with the escorting of food and other aid shipments in the region.

The Danish minister said the Danish soldiers would become involved in assisting with the establishment of coast guard services in countries such as Benin, Togo, Cote de Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar.


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Drama as container ship forced to return to SA from Hong Kong

Ambassador Bridge arriving in Cape Town on Saturday, 14 August. Picture by Ian Shiffman

A container ship, AMBASSADOR BRIDGE which was ordered to turn about one day out of Hong Kong has returned to South Africa after the ships agents were served a SARS Detention Order on the ship.

On arrival in Cape Town on Saturday, SARS officials confiscated R4 million worth of abalone (perlemoen) discovered in a container on board the K Line vessel.

The 1.6 tonnes of abalone was smuggled out of the country hidden in a container bound for China.

“For only the second time in the history of law enforcement in the country a shipping vessel suspected of carrying illicit goods was forced to return to South Africa for inspection after SARS issued a Detention Order in terms of the Customs and Excise Act,” said SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay on Monday.

He said the Detention Order that was served on the shipping agents legally compelled the vessel to return to South Africa.

At the time of serving the Order, the vessel was about one day away from its destination of Hong Kong.

SARS had previously received information that freight containers on two vessels destined for Hong Kong were carrying abalone that was poached off the South African coastline. Ambassador Bridge is the first of the two vessels to return to the country.

The SARS investigators were joined by the South African Police Services (SAPS) and investigators from the Fisheries division of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in detaining and searching the containers.

“The 1.6 tonnes of smuggled abalone was confiscated and is being stored at the State Warehouse while investigations continue. The second vessel is expected to return to South African waters later next week for inspection,” said Lackay.

The Revenue Services has also established that the suspects had ordered a third container to be used for another export of abalone from South Africa but that the order had been cancelled after SARS issued the Detention Orders.

“Investigations to date clearly indicate that there remain strong links between abalone poaching, illicit trade networks, corruption and racketeering. Criminal syndicates are known to exploit vulnerable coastal communities where residents serve as poachers for abalone destined for a growing international market,” Lackay said.

In October 2006, law enforcement agencies in the country set international precedence when a container vessel was rerouted back to South Africa for the first time on suspicion that it carried containers of smuggled abalone.


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ITF calls for overhaul of its Flag of Convenience (FOC) policy

Delegates attending the International Transport Federation (ITF) congress in Mexico City have voted to accept an overhaul of the ITF Flag of Convenience (FOC) policy, after being mandated at the organisation’s last congress held in Durban, South Africa, in 2006. The overhaul will be the first major update to the campaign since 1998 and the new policy is to be known as the Mexico City Policy.

The new policy approved by the joint dockers’ and seafarers’ meeting aims at providing improvements in the protection for seafarers. ITF maritime coordinator Steve Cotton said the new policy would continue to establish closer relationships between seafarers and dockers and their unions and develop the methods that could be used to advance their interests.

“The Mexico City Policy begins to address long-standing concerns about non-domiciled seafarers. It includes an understanding that the ITF’s engagement with national flag vessels is in partnership and in consultation with unions in those countries and reflects their concerns about protecting their own members.”

The policy sets out to:


  • Make crew interests more prominent
  • Recognise the role of international bargaining
  • Support the ports of convenience campaign
  • Define beneficial ownership
  • Clarify negotiating rights
  • Promote bilateral agreements, where practicable, between labour supply country unions and beneficial ownership country unions.

    The meeting also identified cabotage as an area where more work is needed, an initiative that received much support from unions in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Spain and the US.

    Nearly 1400 delegates from 368 trade unions in 112 countries met at the ITF congress in Mexico, during which ITF policy for the next four years was set and elections held for the ITF president, vice-presidents, general secretary and executive board.

    The joint conference elected globally representative members to the new governing bodies that the Mexico City Policy creates. With a wider remit, these groups will be able to draw on the considerable experience of ITF affiliates in the FOC and developing port of convenience campaigns.

    Before voting on the FOC campaign took place, ITF Maritime Coordinator Steve Cotton commented said, “What has come out of this almost four year, member union-driven exercise is a raft of recommendations on how the FOC campaign can be run effectively, accountably and efficiently in the fast changing world of modern shipping. We await with eagerness the response of the whole membership to it.”

    Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia was elected the new ITF president at the ITF Congress.


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    Shippers face increased exposure to the risk of piracy

    While the Horn of Africa seems a long way away and most South African goods reach Asia and Europe by other routes, a growth in piracy has doubled the cost of hull insurance, upped the chances of General Average being applied to cargoes, multiplied the risks that freight forwarders assume on behalf of their clients, and increased the overall risk exposure of South African businesses with goods or materials that travel the high seas.

    Given the very real costs that piracy has added to shipping cargoes “South African businesses that merely rely on freight forwarders to get it all right may end up paying much more – or even forfeiting their cargoes,” warns Kennedy Ntenjwa of Alexander Forbes Risk Services Marine.

    The recent increase in piracy off Somalia is driven by Mogadishu’s inability to ensure the safety of it national and international waters. Until a concerted international effort is put in place to either stabilise Somalia internally or provide blanket protection to all vessels travelling around the Horn of Africa, the phenomenon is only likely to increase, he says.

    In the meantime piracy has very real cost and insurance implications for all South African businesses with goods or materials that move by sea.

    Traditionally, Marine Hull Insurance, purchased by ship owners from internationally registered Protection and Indemnity (P & I) Clubs or International Underwriters, covers loss at sea, including sinking, piracy or any other physical damage to the vessel. Marine Cargo Insurance, on the other hand, covers the goods carried by ships. This is usually taken out by the owners of the cargo or the freight forwarders that book the cargo on behalf of the owners. Marine Cargo Insurance is obtained from normal commercial insurers, through brokers like Alexander Forbes.

    In recent months the increase in piracy has seen some ships quoted Marine Hull Insurance rates in the region of 0.5 to 1 percent of the value of the vessel – with this increasing significantly depending on the routes that the ship will be taking.

    Piracy has, on the other hand, had “surprisingly little impact on the Marine Cargo Insurance market where we have not seen the same increase in rates as observed in the Hull Insurance market,” says Ntenjwa. This is all the more remarkable since goods that have been delayed are likely to experience an increase in contract cancellations and fines or penalties for breach of contract arising from such delays.

    To avoid the risk of incurring delay costs it is important, where possible, to build more time in to import and export transactions to provide for unscheduled delays. Alternately “businesses with goods on the high seas should consider purchasing Marine Project Delay cover, particularly on project related cargoes,” advises Ntenjwa.

    Also of increasing concern is that if a shipping line declares General Average, then all parties with goods aboard the vessel are required to contribute towards the loss – in a proportion equal to their share of the overall value of the cargo. With the increase in piracy General Average is being declared more often on cargoes travelling around the Horn of Africa “further illustrating the importance of having marine cargo insurance in place - on all sea freight cargoes,” explains Ntenjwa.

    In short, thanks to piracy the whole process of insuring vessels and their cargo has become both more risky and costly, even for those businesses in South Africa which consider themselves far removed from the risk of piracy.

    Given these very real increased risks and costs, Ntenjwa warns South African businesses to avoid a situation where they do not make a detailed review of the risks that they face.

    “Companies that do not take the time to understand and fully cover the risk that their vessels or cargoes may face on the high seas could end up with some nasty and costly surprises,” concludes Ntenjwa. – source CBN


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    Suez Canal Authority stops transit of weapons on canal

    The Suez Canal Authority is enforcing an old, but long ignored, law prohibiting firearms on board merchant ships transiting the canal, seizing them at one end and driving them to the other where they are returned, reports American Shipper.

    Maersk Line discovered the new policy after one of its ships was prevented from entering the canal until it surrendered weapons to the Egyptian authorities. The procedure caused several hours of delay as the ships waited for officials to take possession of the weapons.

    A number of alternative proposals - such as inviting Egyptian officials on board and placing a seal and extra locks on the weapon cases or posting a guard on board - have been turned down, it is learnt. The problem, it is felt, will become critical when ships carry military hardware.


    News continues below…

    Pics of the Day – ASABA GE Floating Dock


    PORTS & SHIPS has previously documented the story of the ASABA GE K790 floating dock which arrived off Africa from the Far East behind one of the Svitzer tugs. While in the Mozambique Channel the stern half of the dock broke away from the rest of the craft and drifted ashore near Vilanculos. From there it was later recovered and reunited with its other half in Cape Town harbour, where the two sections were rejoined in the port’s dry dock.


    Last week the repaired dock left port bound for its final destination of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, leaving harbour behind the tug SKUA. You can see our earlier pictures HERE. Today’s pictures are by Aad Noorland



    Don’t forget to send us your news and press releases for inclusion in the News Bulletins. Shipping related pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – please email to info@ports.co.za


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