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Ports & Ships Maritime News

August 19-20, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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First View – SOLEA

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The coasting vessel SOLEA seen at Cape Town’s L wharf-3 on Tuesday. Picture by Aad Noorland


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Indian Navy called in to find missing containers

MORE than a hundred of the 250 containers that went overboard from the container ship MSC CHITRA when she collided with the bulker Khalijia almost two weeks ago, remain missing and the Indian Navy has been called in to lend specialist help in finding the them.

Authorities fear that two of the missing containers may begin leaking their hazardous chemical cargoes. The navy will use sonar equipment to look for the boxes on the sea bed and a salvage team has been called in from Singapore to assist with the recovery.

MSC Chitra remains grounded and up to 400 tonnes of oil which leaked from the ship is continuing to keep Jawaharlal Nehru port (JNPT) closed to all shipping. It is estimated that the closure is costing the port authority up to US$ 1 million a day.

“The port will remain shut until the salvage operation ends,” JNPT’s chief operating manager S N Maharana said. He added that this could take another three to four days, “at least. If the weather conditions prove to be unfavourable, it could take even longer. The incident will definitely have a negative impact on the port’s revenues.”

MSC Chitra traded between India, the Middle East and East Africa. The Khalijia had just been refloated after a grounding on a sandbank in the approaches and was under tow when the collision occurred. The matter is now before the courts to decide culpability.


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Wool exports to China banned because of Rift Valley Fever

ACCORDING to a report in the Business Day, South Africa could lose export revenue worth nearly a billion rand because the government has suddenly halted raw wool and mohair exports to China.

The government told brokers that it could not guarantee that the products were from areas free from Rift Valley Fever, after an outbreak in a few parts of South Africa earlier this year.

The report said that China had been expected to take most of the 14,000 bales of wool on auction on Tuesday at the start of the annual wool sales. In 2009 South Africa exported R933 million worth of raw wool to China, an increase on the previous year.

The report said that the Department of Agriculture advised Cape Wools, a sheep farmers’ association, that it was not ‘ethically possible’ to certify the wool as having come from Rift Valley-free areas. Exports to China require this certification, the only country to do so.

Cape Wools told Business Day that a technical delegation had left for China to discuss possible alternatives. – source Business Day


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AP Moller-Maersk reports good turnaround for halfyear

Maersk Bratan. Picture by Ian Shiffman

AP MOLLER-Maersk has reported a more than satisfactory turnaround for the first half of 2010, after disastrous losses in 2009.

“The first half of 2010 has been very satisfactory for the Group, and we expect a full year profit in excess of US$ 4 billion. The container market has improved beyond our expectations, and our own efforts to improve competitiveness are paying off. However, we still view the development in the global economy as uncertain, and this may affect us from the last quarter of 2010,” says CEO Nils S Andersen.

Profit for the first half of this year amounted to $ 2.5 billion, compared with a loss of $ 0.5bn the previous year. Revenue for the period increased by 20%, primarily as a result of higher freight rates and volumes for the Group’s container shipping activities as well as higher oil prices. The profit for the period was US$ 2.5 billion compared to a loss of US$ 0.5 billion in the same period of 2009.

The interim report says that freight rates and volumes for the Group’s container shipping activities have been surprisingly positive, up 31% and 11% respectively on the same period of 2009. This has been attributed to stronger activity in global trade.

The average crude oil price (Brent) was 48% higher than in the first half of 2009, which had a positive impact on the Group’s oil and gas activities. On the other hand, its share of oil and gas production was 14% lower than in the same period 2009, mainly due to a lower share in Qatar. The result for the first half of 2010 was positively affected by lower exploration costs and a high take of gas.

Tanker rates increased during the six months but remain at a low level, leading to a negative result for Maersk Tankers.

AP Moller-Maersk says it will continue to focus on reducing costs. Further cost-cutting initiatives aimed at paring $500 million have been introduced during 2010. The group has benefited from the sale of its interests in several companies, while others are due to be completed later in the year.

The announcement says that the group’s container shipping and related activities are expected to post a positive result at similar levels to the first half of the year, but APM remains cautious with uncertainty for especially the fourth quarter.

Overall expectations for the AP Moller-Maersk Group are that the result for 2010 will exceed US$ 4 billion but the outlook for 2010 remains subject to considerable uncertainty, “not least due to developments in the global economy. Specific uncertainties relate to the container freight rates, transported volumes, the US dollar exchange rate and oil prices.”


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Lamu port development may be held up on environmental grounds

THE National Museums of Kenya has placed a dampener on proposals to build a new port at Lamu, northeast of Mombasa.

Kenya’s Daily Nation reports that the Museum body says the port cannot go ahead without first holding a cultural heritage impact assessment. The Museum body said the law was very specific on the matter.

Lamu’s case was unique because of its status as a World heritage site and therefore every precaution had to be taken to ensure that the rich heritage was left undisturbed, said the head of Coast Archaeology at the museum, Dr Herman Kiriama.

Local residents and environmentalists, who have witnessed increased activities in the recent past, including a seismic survey to establish whether there is oil and gas, are pushing for the holding of an environmental impact assessment.

“We have the powers under the Museums Act 2006 to stop any project from taking place if a proper assessment is not done. There have been a lot of activities going on in Lamu regarding the port but we have not been consulted for us to do an assessment on how it will affect the heritage,” Dr Kiriama said.

“When property development was increasing along the sand dunes, we did a cultural heritage assessment and came up with recommendations that are still being used in conserving the area. Therefore, a project of such magnitude as the port requires serious work to be done,” he added. – source Daily Nation


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SADC pushes towards Customs Union

PRETORIA - The 30th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) closed on Tuesday with an affirmation to consolidate timelines for the establishment of the Free Trade Area (FTA) and speeding up preparations towards a Customs Union.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the two-day summit, which was attended by 14 Heads of State including President Jacob Zuma, the leaders said they remain unshaken and committed in the establishment of Customs Union which they say will help deepen regional integration.

With regards to the Free Trade Area, which will enable easier trade among member states by easing time spent at border posts through the establishment of one-stop border posts, the summit adopted a comprehensive work programme with concrete actions and time limits.

The launch of the FTA is seen as the initial step in the trade integration trajectory, and will move the regional bloc incrementally towards establishing a Customs Union which was set for 2010, a Common Market by 2015 and a Monetary Union by 2016. A regional central bank and a common currency are expected in 2018.

However, to date, only 11 out of 15 SADC Member States have joined the protocol for the creation of this FTA.

During the summit a high-level expert group was appointed to look at how the Customs Union can be speeded up. The team is expected to report back to the SADC by December 2011.

“The main mandate of this group will be to consolidate and refine technical work so far done in order to reach agreement and common understanding of parameters, benchmarks, timelines, a model customs union and its implementation modalities,” reads the communiqué.

However, country membership overlaps exist in SADC, COMESA and EAC. All three organisations plan to be part of this customs union - a situation that presents technical challenges as a country cannot belong to more than one customs union.

With regards to other economic challenges in the region, the leaders noted the adverse socio-economic effects of the global economic crisis on the region. As a result, they have resolved to hold an extraordinary summit on economic development. – BuaNews


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Special Feature – Saldanha’s giant trains

An ore train passes through Elands Bay, some 45km out from Saldanha. Picture Transnet 


EVERY week 35 long trains, each more than 4 km in length, carry iron ore from Sishen in the Northern Cape to Saldanha Bay on the Cape West Coast.

The new long trains, which are about 50% longer than their predecessors, have been phased in since July last year, when Transnet Freight Rail began commercially implementing Radio Distributed Power (RDP) control systems on the Class 9E electric locomotives and Class 34 diesel locomotives deployed on the 861-km Sishen-Saldanha line.

The RDP systems provide the overall control required to enable the new long trains – each consisting of 342 wagons hauled by three electric and seven diesel locos – to operate efficiently.

Prior to the introduction of the RDP systems the length of the trains was limited to a maximum of 228 wagons per train.

The need for Transnet Freight Rail to run more or longer trains arose from having to meet the higher tonnages and ramp-up requirements that resulted from substantially increased output by the two major opencast mining operations producing the ore – Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen Mine and Assmang’s Khumani Mine.

As part of the improvements to meet this need, the line was upgraded to handle the increased throughput of more than a million tonnes of iron ore per week.

The upgrade and efficiency improvements of the locomotives started with an upgrade and general overhaul contract that was awarded in 2000 to Germiston-based Actom Transport Equipment & Projects (TEP) – then Alstom Transport Equipment & Projects.

The key portion of this contract was installation on each of the 31 electric locomotives operating on the ore line of state-of-the-art Agate (Advanced Generic Alstom Traction Electronics) control systems.

The Agate systems, produced by Alstom’s electronics systems centre of excellence in Villeurbanne, France, control the operations of each electric loco individually.

Subsequently, in 2006 Transnet Freight Rail assigned to TEP the task of installing and integrating Phase 1 of the new electronic brake and associated RDP systems on the 9E locos. TEP was supported in this by Alstom in Preston, responsible for the project and technical interfaces, and Alstom in Villeurbanne, which provided technical backup on interfacing the Agate systems with the wireless RDP system, supplied by General Electric of the US.

“The RDP technology was initially implemented and tested on some trains back in December 2007, while full commercial use of the system went into operation in November 2009 after all the electric and diesel locomotives had been upgraded to RDP configuration,” explains Frans Weygertze, TEP’s 9E project manager.

“In addition to the new electronic brake system, the challenge was to interface the Agate control system with the RDP control system to enable the RDP system to manage and co-ordinate the operation of the independent control systems of each of the electric locos in the train, with improved fault reporting and fault handling features.”

“The control system of each locomotive feeds the required instructions and messages to the RDP system, which in turn sends and receives messages from the lead locomotive to the locomotives in the remote consists.”

“The RDP technology combined with the electronic brake-racks ensure high braking efficiency as well as increasing the drawing power of the locomotives by enabling the locomotives to be spread evenly at strategic positions within the train instead of all together at the front,” Weygertze stated.

The installation and interfacing of the RDP control systems and electronic brake-racks, plus other enhancements, were added to the original main contract as variation orders, bringing the value of the contract in total to over R400 million, making it by far the largest upgrade contract undertaken by TEP to date. – CBN

Some background to a world record

IN August 1989 Transnet ran an ore train consisting of 660 loaded iron ore wagons along the entire 861km of track between Sishen and the port at Saldanha, setting a new world record at that time for a heavy haul train. This was accomplished on Cape gauge railway – 1067mm or 3ft 6inches – the same gauge as used throughout southern Africa.

Apart from establishing a few records the purpose of running such a long train was to conduct research into determining whether various factors were possible. In addition to the 660 loaded wagons, the train included three other vehicles – a coach, a container wagon carrying instruments and spares, and a diesel tank car - it was calculated that the diesel locos would require refueling during the journey. The coal wagons were arranged in semi-permanent pairs and each single wagon weighed 118.5t and carried a load of 85t.

The total length of this mammoth train was 7,208km with a total mass of 71,232 tonnes. Excluding the locomotives the total mass amounted to 69,027 tonnes. The locomotives used to haul the train were 9 Class 9E electrics and 7 Class 37 diesel-electric locomotives.

The consist of the train looked like this: Five Class 9E electric locos in multiple at the front, 470 CR5 ore wagons, four Class 9E electric locos, 190 CR5 ore wagons, seven Class 37 diesel-electric locos in multiple, an accommodation coach, a diesel fuel tank wagon, and a container wagon.

The world record was submitted to the Guinness Book of Records, although not to be outdone, the Australians later arranged a slightly longer train to recapture the record.

Who said heavy long trains could not be run of Cape gauge? – Ports & Ships

Question: How do you photograph a 7km long train? With difficulty, is the reply, or in this case, from the air.


US company discovers oil deposits off northern Mozambique

AMERICAN oil company Anadarko says it has discovered offshore oil deposits in northern Mozambique, but remains uncertain whether the find will prove commercially viable.

Making the announcement on Tuesday, Anadarko spokesman Johan Christiansen described the find as “not appearing to be commercially viable”, although it might lead to exploitable reserves later and does show the presence of oil in the region.

The find was announced by an excited Mozambique president Armando Guebuza during this week’s SADC summit. “We must remain calm until we have more information,” he said.


Pics of the Day – ORIENT QUEEN

The rather attractive Louis Cruise Lines’ ORIENT QUEEN (15,782-gt, built 1968) seen off the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil in February 2010. Built in Germany by AG Weser in Bremerhaven for the Kloster Group, she has sailed as STARWARD for the Norwegian Caribbean Line which later evolved into today’s NCL (1968-1994), then as BOLERO for Festival Cruises (1994-2004), and ultimately as ORIENT QUEEN for Orient Queen Shipping (2005-2006) and for Louis Cruise Line since 2006. With eight passenger decks the ship carries upwards of 900 passengers in 364 cabins. Picture submitted by Robert de Lange


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