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Ports & Ships Maritime News

October 25, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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First View – MSC BASEL

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The container ship MSC BASEL (34,231-gt, built 1994) departing Lytellton harbour, on an inter-island coastal run to Wellington, New Zealand. Picture by Alan Calvert


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African Union urges UN for Somalia blockade

The African Union (AU) has urged the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to approve a no-fly zone and naval blockade of Somalia, asserting that such restrictions would deter piracy and prevent weapons reaching al-Shabaab fighters bent on toppling the largely powerless UN-backed government.

Making the request, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra repeated a call to support the boosting of African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom) troop numbers to 20,000 from 7,200, mostly from Uganda and Burundi.

Criticizing the UN policy as "limited engagement and half-hearted measures," the AU official called for stepped-up effort to tackle the threat posed by Somalia's militant groups to regional and international security.

Lamamra also sought UNSC's help in tightening international sanctions against Somalia and to initiate measures of tackling illegal fishing and dumping of toxic substances and waste off the Somali coast. Foreign Minister Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim extended the government's full support to the AU's strategy and said that it needed assistance to build up the Army and police.

The plea from the AU came after Somali government troops launched an offensive last Sunday to take back areas held by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group.

Ruhakana Rugunda, current UNSC President and Uganda's Ambassador to the UN, told reporters after a closed-door meeting that the 15-nation Council considers the AU's request for a blockade to be "legitimate" but the representatives would need further details.

Uganda had recently told the UNSC that it was ready to provide 12,000 to 20,000 troops if enough funds were made available for the mission.

AU Chairman Jean Ping last week appealed to the UN for funds to pay and equip them but countries such as the UK and France are more wary of funding missions over which the Council has limited control.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon signaled his backing for increasing the resources of Amisom.

He called on the UNSC to take “bold and courageous decisions,” while pointing out that the recent advances against al-Shabaab and other such groups showed there were “glimmers of hope” in Somalia.

US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson called on Somali leaders to do more to contain internal conflict and to form a stable government that the Somalis would be able to trust. He said the US would forge partnerships with the regional governments in Somalia's Puntland region and the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in order to broaden US engagement there.

Somalia has not had a fully functioning government since 1991. The interim government controls just a few blocks of the capital Mogadishu, and some other small areas, while armed groups, such as al-Shabaab, control much of southern and central Somalia, including parts of Mogadishu.

source RTT News Meanwhile, an independent American admiralty lawyer said on Wednesday that the United States should consider blockading Somali ports if it wants to stop piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Quoted in the American Shipper, Mark Tempest, said at a conference on piracy held by the US Naval Institute in Annapolis, that the “Department of State ought to go to the UN and propose a protectorate of Somali waters where we’d begin to run their exclusive economic zone (offshore), where we’d set up checkpoints.”

“If you’re going to leave a Somali port, we’re going to look your boat over and make sure you’re not carrying ladders and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades),” said Tempest, who writes a maritime security blog for the institute.

Boats that fail to check in would get quickly visited by an armed helicopter and instructed to turn back or face the consequences, he said.

Tempest said British, Turkish and Dutch forces have recently taken military action close to shore and sunk some small pirate boats.

One wonders whether the admiralty lawyer has ever near Somalia or has really studied the question of imposing a blockade, because not all pirates sail from a recognized port. In the same report, Stephen Carmel, senior vice president for Maersk Line Ltd, pointed out that fencing off the Somali coastline is easier said than done. Somalia’s coast is equivalent to the distance from the tip of Maine to Jacksonville, Florida, he said. “That takes a lot of ships to blockade. And an awful lot of hardware is going to be used up in that mission for a long time,” he said. The US Navy may not be willing to divert so many resources to such an exercise when it has its hands full with other critical missions around the world. Maersk Line Ltd operates some ships in the region carrying US military cargo and World Food Program aid.

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Piracy: two more ships including Greek LPG tanker captured

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LPG tanker YORK

Somali pirates have successfully seized another two ships, including a LPG tanker which was highjacked 50 n.miles east of Mombasa. A second, German ship BELUGA FORTUNE has been taken much further east.

The LPG tanker YORK (5,076-dwt, built 2000), Greek owned but registered in Singapore, was captured shortly after sailing from Mombasa en route to the Seychelles. The attack took place on Saturday (23 October) and was launched from two pirate skiffs.

According to EU NAVFOR, the European Union naval force operating off Somalia, the Turkish warship GAZIANTEP which is operating with the Combined Maritime Forces, Task Force 151, launched her helicopter to investigate after the call that the ship was under attack, and on arrival observed pirates on board and seemingly in control of the tanker.

The Turks reported that initially the York was drifting but shortly afterwards began moving off at 10 knots. EU NAVFOR says that in a separate but seemingly linked incident the fishing vessel GOLDEN WAVE, pirated on 9 October 2010, was seen in the vicinity of the YORK.

The LPG tanker is crewed by 17 seafarers of which the master is German, two are Ukrainians and 14 are Filipinos.

In the second attack and capture of a ship, the German freighter BELUGA FORTUNE was attacked about 1,200 n.miles east of Mombasa and is reportedly in the hands of its captors, Somali pirates. There are no further details at present except that the attack happened yesterday (Sunday).

Helicopter destroys skiffs with rocket fire

According to Radio Garowe, a community-based radio station based in Puntland, an unidentified military helicopter fired rockets at Somali skiffs on Saturday night, sinking a number of the boats.

The radio station said that the skiffs arrived at Warsheekh on Friday only to have their crews arrested and jailed by the Somali insurgent group Al-Shabaab on Saturday morning. That night the helicopter arrived overhead and fired rockets in the direction of where the skiffs were anchored. The next morning the boats were seen to be destroyed and sunk.

In a related report, a helicopter supposedly from a naval ship offshore attacked and destroyed a house where affiliates of Al-Shabaab were meeting in Marka, in the Lower Shabelle Region.

Russians capture pirates, blow up skiff – video

< In the attached video clip, Russian armed forces can be seen on a captured Somali pirate vessel shortly after the pirates had highjacked a Russian tanker. All discussion is in Russian except for one short statement in English when someone says “This is not a fishing boat.” Otherwise the pictures tell their own story. There has been some debate whether the pirates were blown up with their boat but this doesn’t appear to be evident from this clip and may be just speculation.

See the clip HERE - it may take a while to load and to buffer, but once this is done it can be watched repeatedly


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Safmarine says EC South America to Asia and Africa is driving growth

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Safmarine Meru off Fremantle, Australia, picture by Chris Gee

Safmarine says that the East Coast of South America trade is playing a significant role in Safmarine’s development as it is a key trading partner with Safmarine’s core markets in Africa, particularly regarding foodstuffs and building materials with West and Southern African countries and those in the Middle East and Indian sub-continent.

Writing in its October customer update, Safmarine says that in order to meet with the needs of its customers, the shipping company has developed four main weekly products linking the main ports of the River Plate (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay) to the South/Southeast and North-East of Brazil, with Europe and on-carriage to Africa and Middle East/India sub-continent.

“These products are the L-Class, Samba, Samex and Apollo services.”

Safmarine says that the development of Brazil exports has been particularly noticeable. “Brazilian commodities such as minerals, agribusiness energy (ethanol) as well as coffee, cotton, sugar, orange juice, chicken and beef, are ‘feeding’ the world, and are clear engines for exports,” the line said. “Today, more than 50 percent of Safmarine exports from the South American Coast are perishable, including poultry, beef and fish, as well as fruit.”

“The diversification of its economy together with a strong and steady domestic consumption (making Brazil the second largest host for foreign investment after China), is driving double digit growth on imports. This year we have seen imports return to pre-crisis levels, with Asia as main country of origin.”

Safmarine added that it is doubling its capacity on the ASAS service that connects ECSA with Safmarine’s core market of South Africa as well as its Asia main ports of call.

Our group has made very significant investments on the SAMMAX large vessels program, 7500 TEU ships with high intake of reefer units specially built to serve the South American coast.

“These vessels are expected to enter this trade with Asia during first quarter 2011, and also on the cabotage seacarrier Mercosul Line, ensuring regular feeder capacity,” Safmarine said.


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Dramatic air sea rescue off Cape coast

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The chemical gas tanker ST JAMES PARK at sea 150 n.miles off the Cape coast – note one of the SAAF Oryx helicopters in picture on the left. Picture courtesy SAAF/NSRI

In a successful joint operation involving the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), the South African Air Force and a Cape Town Metro EMS paramedic, it was possible to evacuate an ill ship’s captain from his vessel 150 n.miles off Cape Town yesterday (Sunday).

According to Andre Beuste, NSRI Air Sea Rescue (ASR) station commander, the operation got underway at 13h00 yesterday after the rescue team rendezvoused with the chemical tanker ST JAMES PARK (13,924-dwt, built 1993) 150 n.miles off Cape Town to casualty evacuate the ship’s master suffering from suspected acute renal failure.

The operation commenced on Friday with a radio call advising of the ship master’s worsening condition and stating that he was in urgent need of medical care. As the ship was then some distance from the South African coast it was instructed to steam at full speed for Cape Town, while aircraft of the South African Air Force and a rescue team from the NSRI would be prepared to meet the ship as soon as it came within range of the helicopters.

On Sunday, with the ship approaching 150 n.miles off the coast, an Air Force maritime patrol aircraft from SAAF 35 Squadron flew to locate the ship and to help direct the two Oryx helicopters from SAAF 22 Squadron, which would expect to arrive overhead the ship at approximately midday.

Beuste takes up the story. “MRCC had instructed the ship, at the time in deep-sea off the South African coast, and beyond range of a rescue mission, to make best speed in the direction of Cape Town while a Metro EMS duty doctor relayed medical advice to the ship’s medic to assist with stabilising their Captain.

“It was determined, based on sea conditions, speed of the ship and weather conditions, that the ship would be approximately 150 nautical miles off-shore of the Cape Town coast by Sunday midday, within range of a helicopter rescue operation.

“Just after 13h00 today (Sunday) two SAAF 22 Squadron helicopters, each carrying two SAAF pilots, a SAAF engineer, an NSRI rescue swimmer and a Metro EMS paramedic - one of the helicopters also carrying a relief (ships) Captain to be dropped off at the ship to take over the duties of the ill Captain that we were on our way to rescue - lifted off from Air Force Base Ysterplaat and arrived on-scene an hour and a half later (after being directed to the ship by the 35 Squadron Dakota which remained circling above the scene throughout the rescue operation).

While the helicopter hovered above the deck of the ship, NSRI rescue swimmer Warren Pearson and Metro EMS paramedic Farouk Lutta were lowered by winch cable onto the deck of the St James Park after which they assessed and stabilised the patient, a 50 year old Ukrainian National, who was then secured into a harness and winch hoisted into the helicopter accompanied, on the winch hoist, by the Metro EMS paramedic.

“The relief Captain was then winch hoisted from the second helicopter onto the deck of the ship and the NSRI rescue swimmer was recovered from the ship also by winch hoist.

“Following the successful transfer of the relief Captain and the successful loading of the ill Captain both of the 22 Squadron helicopters and the 35 Squadron Dakota returned to Air Force Base Ysterplaat where they were met by a Metro EMS ambulance and the patient has been transferred to hospital for further treatment.”


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Nigeria probes another ‘toxic waste’ ship

The Nigerian port of Tin Can Island (Lagos) is embroiled in a controversy concerning the release of a car carriere, GRANDE AMERICA (56,642-gt, built 1997) after the vessel was involved with the arrival in Nigeria of seven containers carrying toxic electronic waste.

The Director-General of the National Environmental Standards and Regulatory Enforcement Agency (NESREA) want to know who is responsible for a breach of security in allowing containers of toxic waste to be brought into the country. Dr Ngeri Benebo said that when another vessel, the container ship VERA D (17,718-gt, built 2004) had been similarly arrested, it was agreed that a fine be paid.

A Customs official meanwhile said that the ship had been allowed to sail because no-one had ordered it detained.

Dr Benebo said that while her agency was waiting for the release of MV Vera D, another vessel, Grande America came in with two containers of hazardous products. “My officers demanded for the manifest, searched and discovered five more containers laden with waste.

“We cannot fold our hands and just watch,” she said, while raising questions as to who takes responsibility for dumped toxic containers that have to be returned from where they came.

“Some officials of the Nigeria Ports Authority who are responsible for this serious breach of national security must get serious with their jobs and stop playing with the lives of Nigerians.”

Africa, India and China remain favourite dumping grounds for toxic waste materials from Europe.


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One millionth ship passes through Panama Canal

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at the Continental Divide

Panama Canal Authority (ACP) Operations Executive Vice President Manuel Benítez has awarded the vessel FORTUNE PLUM with a plaque commemorating the ship as the one-millionth to transit through the Panama Canal since its inauguration in 1914.

The ceremony took place at the Miraflores Locks on 14 October and included all Canal staff that worked on 4 September, the day of the historic transit. The plaque also recognized the ship’s operator STX Pan Ocean.

“We are extremely honored to commemorate the one-millionth transit through the Panama Canal,” said Mr. Benítez. “For more than 96 years, this vital waterway has served world trade, and we will continue this tradition of safe, reliable and efficient service. Today, we also honor the hard work of every ACP employee, whose dedication has helped make this one million mark a reality. We are proud to be a part of this moment and look forward to many more milestones to come.”

As the Panama Canal celebrated one million transits, the ACP is continuing with the expansion of the waterway, which will create a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, doubling the canal’s capacity and allowing more traffic and longer, wider ships.

The term Panamax and Post-Panamax may in future have to be redefined.



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The Murmansk-based Russian ice breaker VLADIMIR IGNATYUK (4391-gt, built 1983) which was an unusual caller in Cape Town recently. In recent years the ice breaker has been employed by the Shell Oil Company in the exploration of arctic regions for oil.

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