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Ports & Ships Maritime News

September 20, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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The Hong Kong-owned and flagged Capesize bulk carrier CHS CREATION (174,110-dwt, built 2006) in Cape Town harbour last week. Picture by Ian Shiffman


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Landside delays bedevil Durban port operations

Durban Container Terminals, now a single terminal

As volumes increase in the Durban container terminals so too the number of complaints from port users is increasing. (In August the number of containers handled at the two parts of Durban Container Terminal [DCT]* see below - increased by 27.34% to 261,605 TEU for the month as compared with August 2009.)

On Friday PORTS & SHIPS experienced personally the severe congestion along Bayhead Road leading to Langeberg Road and DCT Pier 2, with trucks across two lanes stretching back as far as the turnoff to Dormac Marine and Elgin Brown & Hamer turnoffs. For PORTS & SHIPS it was just an inconvenience that made us late for an interview, but for truckers it was something much more serious.

Several transport companies contacted PORTS & SHIPS to complain of the delays and lack of response received from DCT Pier 2. They said that turnaround times for the entire week had been poor and that it had become totally impossible to work out of DCT Pier 2 under current conditions.

Transporters say they observe huge ships entering port and being able to complete their cargo working the next day, but do not see similar efficiencies on the landside operations.

“With the amount of investment that has gone into new infrastructure and the deepening and widening of the entrance channel, all aimed at improving efficiencies in the harbour, you would think that they would come up with a contingency plan to deal with high traffic volumes on the roads outside the port,” said one. He added that if Transnet was experiencing a labour problem then it should have advised the transport companies accordingly.

Another company said that they received a SMA on Friday at 2pm advising them not to send any more trucks to the terminal on account of the congestion, but failed to address the problem of what to do with those already in the staging area or on the road outside. “We do get apologies, but that is not what we are looking for. We are losing money and just now some or even many of the trucking companies might decide to boycott the terminal entirely. Then what will they do?” said another.

* - The previous Pier 1 Container Terminal and Durban Container Terminal (on Pier 2) have become a single entity within Transnet Port Terminals and is to be referred to in future as DCT Pier 1 and DCT Pier 2. We are not aware of any communication to clients or the public (or the media) of this change, until coming across a SMS sent from Transnet Customer Services to some clients last week.


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Submarine sells at last

Picture by Paul Coxon

by Steve Shipside

After nearly four years in residence at Cape Town harbour, and at least one previous attempt to auction it, the submarine Taurus was finally sold last week at auction. Despite a claimed value of R4 million and an attempt to open the bidding at R1.5m, the Taurus was bought by Pretoria businessman Henrik Conradie for R725,000.

Conradie is better known for his used-car dealership than his nautical background and when questioned about his intentions he was vague at best mentioning only that it was destined for tourism "off an island" - when prompted he later suggested Mauritius.

With full diver lockout, an operational depth in excess of 400m, and external cutting gear this seems something of a waste of the vessel's capabilities.

The official crew figure of six also seems to count against it in tourism but in fact Taurus can take up to 22 on board including passengers – a legacy of its days in the DSRV role for the Royal Navy when it was used to 'mate' with Oberon class submarines to transfer/rescue crew.

Originally built by Hyco International of Canada Taurus has worked on scientific and salvage inspections as well as subsea support in North Sea construction projects.

Whether it is indeed Mauritius that awaits or something else Taurus is no stranger to unusual duties – it was once used to explore Loch Ness.


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Piracy: Six people taken hostage at Douala, not two

It’s been confirmed that another four seafarers were taken hostage from a ship in Douala harbour on 12 September, not just the two captured on board the dredger AMERIGO VESPUCCI – see our report HERE

The attacks have resulted in a maritime security alert being issued for Cameroon.

The additional people taken hostage are four Ukrainians who were on board the vessel SALMA in Douala harbour. It is not known whether the same pirates were involved but the seizure of the four has been confirmed by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. Cameroon has yet to make any statement on the matter, although a Cameroon customs official is quoted as saying that if the attackers were Nigerians then it amounted to an “invasion” of his country.

It is assumed that the six have been taken ashore to a hideout of the pirates/terrorists.

EU NAVFOR, the European Union naval force operating offshore of Somalia to provide escort duty mainly for ships carrying aid parcels to the region, but also assisting with other piracy patrols and actions, reports that on Friday while executing a patrol along the Somali coastline, the crew of EU NAVFOR ship FS DE GRASSE located and disrupted a Pirate Action Group comprising of six boats. The would-be pirates were thus prevented them from reaching the shipping lanes on the high seas to conduct attacks on merchant vessels.

On the previous day the helicopter from the same ship was conducting a routine patrol when it spotted suspicious boats on a beach, loaded with pirate paraphernalia (ladders, fuel tanks…), indicating the imminent departure to sea of a Pirate Action Group.

The following morning, the same helicopter from FS DE GRASSE relocated this same group at sea. This time, the Pirate Action Group comprised of several skiffs and a whaler; a boat of larger size and often used as a refuelling asset without which the skiffs cannot sail far enough to conduct attacks.

A first skiff of this group was quickly disrupted by the boarding team of FS DE GRASSE and was sent back to shore, minus all the pirate paraphernalia. The French destroyer then steamed at high speed towards a second position provided by her helicopter to intercept the whaler. Once the whaler had been placed under surveillance, the boarding team of FS DE GRASSE chased and successfully disrupted the two remaining skiffs that were still in range.

In total, twelve suspected pirates and four boats (three skiffs and one whaler) were intercepted; two further skiffs fled the scene. As none of the pirates were caught in the act of piracy, it was not possible to proceed with a prosecution under international law. However, all of the equipment which could have been used for an attack was seized and one whaler and one skiff were destroyed.

EU NAVFOR says that despite having to release the pirates, this action by the ship FS DE GRASSE has disrupted a pirate group’s action and successfully prevented them from reaching high seas to commit acts of piracy against vulnerable merchant vessels.


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Dar es Salaam reaches out

The Port of Dar es Salaam’s container terminal, which is operated on a concession basis by TICTS – Tanzania International Container Terminal Services – has acquired another Ship-to-Shore quay crane to augment the three already in service at the port.

The additional crane forms part of a US$ 19 million upgrade programme at the terminal which is aimed at improving the equipment available to work ships.

“With this new crane the company will work more efficiently and make the port the preferred gateway to nearby landlocked countries,” said TICTS CEO Neville Bissett.

“TICTS is committed to the long-term development of modern container facilities at Dar es Salaam.”

In a speech read on behalf of the Infrastructure Development Minister, Transportation Services Director William Nshama said the government was committed to easing congestion at Dar es Salaam. He said that the port, which handles 95% of Tanzania’s foreign trade, had managed to reduce the waiting time for ships to enter port from 26 days a year ago to around three days now. Cargo dwell time had been lowered from 20 days to 13 days in the past year. These were signs of improvement but the government wanted these times to be further reduced.

In other Tanzanian port related news, Tanzania Ports Authority officials recently held a three-day workshop in Kampala to promote the use of Dar es Salaam with its inland neighbour. It proposed the Central Corridor as a viable alternative for Ugandan importers and exporters as opposed to the Kenyan port of Mombasa. The Tanzanians claimed that it takes four days to send goods along the 1,800-km long and fully tarred road system of the Central Corridor.

Tanzania has another access route to Uganda via Lake Victoria and the southern port of Mwanza. However, these routes are about 600km longer than the more direct route from Kampala to Mombasa and currently the Kenyan port was handling about 95% of Uganda’s trade to and from the sea. Tanzanian port authorities say that the Kenyan port is suffering from acute congestion which provides opportunities for Dar es Salaam.

Tanzania would also like to win more trade from other landlocked countries such as Burundi, Rwanda and the eastern DRC.

The workshop was attended by a range of importers and exporters as well as other stakeholders or potential users of the Tanzanian route.


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Pirate attack on cruise ship recalled

picture by Ian Shiffman

By Richard Snailham

The Filipino chef at the breakfast buffet was about to slide a couple of fried eggs on to my plate, and John Brocklehurst, the ship's captain, was in his private quarters on the bridge deck when the pirates appeared.

Our cruise ship, the Discovery (operated by Voyages of  Discovery), was making good progress from Mombasa over the glassy waters of the Indian Ocean towards the Seychelles when suddenly, in the bright sunshine of early morning, a speedboat came roaring in and stationed itself about 100 yards off the port side.

The officer of the watch informed the captain and over the public address system came the "Code Purple, Code Purple" call. My eggs stayed on the hotplate as the Filipino crew members rushed to their emergency stations.

Those passengers who were already up and out on deck – it was before 7am – were told to go to their designated "safe areas". Ironically, the practice drill had been scheduled for later this very morning, but suddenly it was for real.

The speedboat was now parallel with us, its seven Somali occupants sussing us out as a potential target. They were armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, clearly visible to the trained eye of one of my fellow lecturers, Brigadier Hugh Willing. We were about 200 miles off the Somali coast, so the pirates must have been operating from a "mother" ship, perhaps a captured Taiwanese fishing vessel, a few miles over the horizon. Captain Brocklehurst fired two warning shots with a flare gun to show the Somalis that he knew they were there. Slowly the speedboat fell astern of us and veered off westwards. The impressive defences on Discovery – rolls of razor wire all over the stern rail, bundles of logs to be released to fall on any craft attaching itself to our hull – must have deterred them.

Aside from the few people at breakfast, not many of the 750 passengers saw the pirates. When news quickly spread of the threat, their reactions were mixed: some wished to disembark immediately; others took a more stoic view and reasoned that as the pirates hadn't attacked us it was rather a jolly drama that they could dine out on for some time to come.

For less prepared ships, the danger could have been real. Unofficial figures show that 2009 was the most prolific year for Somali pirates, with more than 200 attacks and more than £30 million received in ransoms.

The naval forces of several nations don't seem to deter them, however. The US Navy has some 15 warships stationed near Somalia, and Nato Response Force has up to 10 ships in these parts. But they seem to be hamstrung by the maritime rules of engagement – they can only intervene if they come across an act of piracy in progress. Even then, they often don't, as in the case of Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were seized by pirates from their yacht as they sailed from the Seychelles towards Tanzania on October 23 last year while a Royal Navy warship looked on, and have been held to ransom in Somalia ever since.

Statement from Discover the World

"The incident in question, which occurred in April, saw a small skiff operating as part of a group of three. The skiff left the other two and approached Discovery but never near enough to present a real threat. It then rejoined the other boats after a very short time. It remains unclear who was on board the boat and what its intentions were.

"The safety of our guests remains our highest priority. Our crew members, security teams and procedures are capable of responding to a wide variety of challenges. All ships operating in an area with a perceived high risk of pirate activity follow standard maritime procedures. This includes being able to reach military vessels, which patrol the area, at a moment's notice should the need arise."

Source The Telegraph (UK)


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Pics of the Day – HANSA OLDENBURG


The container ship HANSA OLDENBURG (18,334-gt, built 2002) seen departing from Durban harbour on Monday, 13 September 2010. Pictures by Terry Hutson


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