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Ports & Ships Maritime News

October 28-29, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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First View – SEAWAYS 16

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The Singapore owned and flagged offshore supply vessel SEAWAYS 16 (1566-gt, built 2010) which arrived in Cape Town this week. The tug which was built at the Singmarine Shipyard in Singapore, was taking supplies in Cape Town alongside quay 500, with the fishery patrol vessel SARAH BAARTMAN visible in the background. Picture by Aad Noorland


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Sarno slams Transnet – calls DCT inefficient and monopolistic

It is absolutely unacceptable that we pay for a first class ticket and then we travel in third class. It is unacceptable that Transnet thinks that we, the shipping community, are like cows to be milked.

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Capt Salvatore Sarno – picture by Terry Hutson

The head of MSC in South Africa, Captain Salvatore Sarno has slammed Transnet and the Durban Container Terminal in particular for having an aggressive monopolistic attitude which he said reminded him of the “old regime”.

In a straight-speaking speech at the KZN Exporter of the Year function held at the Durban ICC on Tuesday night, Sarno said that an efficient port attracts cargo and vessels which then generates revenue in the port and the region, that then leads to more cargo and so on.

“When there is no efficiency however, when lack of equipment or labour disputes slow down the productivity of the port; when an exporter’s truck is held in a traffic queue for 7-8 hours before being able to deliver his container to the stack; when such a stack is open only for three days and the terminal refuses any late arrivals; when even Transnet Freight Rail is not granted enough time to bring the containers into the terminal; when there is no more flexibility, then, he said, this is the beginning of the end and the port and terminal becomes congested.”

Sarno said that MSC, which he described as the biggest user of the Port of Durban, has already suffered delays during the first nine months of this year equal to 516 days for ships kept waiting at anchorage.

“The period May-June-July alone, which has been affected by the 3 weeks strike have accumulated delays of 7,736 hours or 322 days. We have never seen a similar congestion in the past 25 years,” he told the gathering.

“Due to the strike we have lost more than 15 million (US) dollars and this during a period of the worst economic crisis in the shipping industry’s history.” He said that he was sure that each of those in the audience had suffered economically directly or indirectly. “I am sure that most of you have lost at least one important client.”

“Together with you, I want to say to Transnet. NEVER AGAIN!!! PLEASE BE MORE RESPONSIBLE. Your monopolistic attitude, similar to the one of the old regime, will never work in a modern democratic society.”

Sarno said that one of the issues of the labour dispute in May and June was about ‘pay disparity’. “I do not know whether such disparities exist. I know that for a modern industry such as a port it is necessary to invest in people and not only in equipment. When I say people I do not refer to the top or medium management who thank God we have and they are good.

“I refer to the normal labourers. Invest in their culture, make them proud to do a good job. Proud to be more productive than other ports around the world. Create a labour force of professionals as in the rest of the world. Before and during the strike I prayed Transnet to find a compromise with the unions and to halt the strike. It was told to me to not interfere because it was not my business.

“I said then and I will point out now that the port is my business. The ports are not the private property of Transnet. The ports belong to me, as a resident citizen, belong to all of you as cargo owners and users, belong to the freight and forwarders community, belong to the shipping agencies and their Principals.

“Without all of us there will be no port.

“We try only to help and we admit that sometime we can misjudge a situation. Please show us where we are wrong but do not say ever again that it is not our business.”

Sarno drew attention to recent reports from the Port Regulator saying that the Port of Durban ranked as one of the most expensive ports in the world.

“I have deeply and properly analysed the numbers the Regulator has utilized and have found them to be… CORRECT!! “Yes, dear Durban Port Users, you are shipping your cargo out of one of the most expensive ports in the world. I have personally compared the Durban port expenses of three of our vessels on the European trade, against those of the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam, Felixstowe and Le Havre.

“I can assure you that as per the results of my exercise Durban is once again the most expensive port followed in the order by Le Havre, Felixstowe, Rotterdam and Antwerp.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that we pay for a first class ticket and then we travel in third class. It is unacceptable that Transnet thinks that we, the shipping community, are like cows to be milked.

Sarno said that it is time that all stakeholders, cargo and ship owners, together with the freight forwarders community made a common front for the normalization of “our” port.

“I personally know all the port management,” he said. “They are doing their job professionally and they know perfectly the resources needed to improve drastically the labour force and their equipment.

“Our protests have to reach the Minister of Transport, the Minister of the Public Enterprises, the Minister of Finance because it is them that include or do not include in the country’s budget the necessary resources to get back the efficiency the port needs.

“For your guidance the Legislator states that every port user must receive “an affordable and efficient service” against his payment of the tariff in force.

“Unfortunately, it is not what we receive now but it is exactly what we want tomorrow.”

MSC employs more than 1,300 people countrywide, of which about 900 work in Durban. The company has been active in South Africa for over 30 years.


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Transnet increases earnings and profit for half-year

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Chris Wells, Transnet acting CEO – picture Transnet

Transnet posted financial results for the first half of the 2010/11 financial year this week which reflect a healthy and improving position for the group, including increases in revenue and profitability.

The results were achieved despite the costly effect of the 17-day strike. Revenue rose 7.6% to R18.7 billion, which Transnet says is a reflection of increased volumes in most major commodities transported or handled by the group. Cost savings introduced and implemented saw a saving of R1.6 billion compared to planned expenditure and in spite of higher personnel costs and electricity tariffs.

EBITDA increased 11.7% to R7.4 Billion and profit rose 35% to R1.7bn, which Transnet says reflects that ongoing productivity improvements throughout the businesses are working. Despite the economic downturn, capital investment expenditure has increased to R10.2bn.

The disruptions caused by the nationwide strike in May resulted in backlogs, especially at the Durban container terminals, although Transnet says these have since been cleared.

“Our Quantum Leap strategy is beginning to produce meaningful results,” says acting CEO Chris Wells. “On rail, both the iron ore and coal lines recorded their best levels during September and are both likely to record strong growth in volumes compared to the previous year.”

Wells said that on the ports side, container volumes showed strong growth to over 2 million TEUs for the six months, while automotive volumes grew by 91,3% to 307,177 units, buoyed to some extent by the FIFA Soccer World Cup. Productivity, especially gross crane moves per hour (GCH), is showing improvements across the board and the new container terminal at Pier 1 in Durban is now operating at 30 GCH – a 50% improvement of on last year’s average of 20 GCH.

On the other hand, Durban Container Terminal, where improvements have not been as significant, requires management focus.

Wells said that the Richards Bay coal line is set to reverse the declining trend of the previous five years. “We are confident that it has turned around and is performing substantially better than it has in the past,” he adds.

He said that Transnet has significant capacity to enable the continued growth of Transnet’s infrastructure investment programme of R93,4 billion over the next five years - in addition to the R73 billion already invested in the previous five years.

Regarding safety, he stated that, whilst the number of incidents continued to decline, employee fatalities increased. This was mainly due to a rail accident in which four employees lost their lives.

“I am extremely distressed at the number of employee fatalities across the business,” said Wells. “Whilst my heartfelt sympathies go out to their families and friends, nothing can replace the loss of loved one. Transnet has elevated safety to its number one priority as it desires to be an example to all for running safe and efficient operations.”

Further details of the half-year results can be seen HERE


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East London fishing boat and crew arrested

A small East London-based commercial fishing boat has been detained along with the crew of 13 this week after being found in possession of protected fish species, reports the Dispatch.

The article in the East London newspaper said the fishing boat had been at sea for a week but when it returned to port officials were waiting, having received a tip-off. The Deputy Director for the East Coast: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries confirmed the arrest and said the boat also had its vessel monitoring system switched off, which is against regulations.

On searching the boat 13 copper steenbras, three 74s and two silver fish were discovered among the catch. “The copper steenbras season is closed, the 74s are a protected species and cannot be caught, while the silver fish were undersize,” the official told the Dispatch.

He said the boat and its catch had been confiscated and the docket transferred to the organised crime unit of the SA Police.

Seventy Fours are a uniquely South African fish that were once abundant and regarded almost as a stockfish, being found on many South African dinner tables. Due to overfishing or other factors they have become scarce and are now an endangered species. The unusual name is derived from a black line along the side of the fish that was said to resemble the gun ports of an old 74-gun Man o War.


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Piracy: LPG Maido abandoned by pirates after crew takes refuge in citadel

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The French LPG carrier MAIDO in Cape Town in September 2009. Picture by Aad Noorland

Yet another ship’s crew have managed to escape a highjacking this week by Somali pirates by taking refuge in a ‘citadel’ on board their vessel.

This is the second such narrow escape this week – earlier the Durban-bound German multi purpose ship BELUGA FORTUNE was boarded but later abandoned by the pirates when they found the ship incapacitated and the crew nowhere to be found. On Tuesday this week much the same occurred with the French LPG carrier MAIDO (4197-dwt, built 1999) which came under attack while sailing approximately 100 n.miles east of Tanzania.

The crew of 14 shut down the ship before locking themselves in a safe room. After a while the pirates left the ship voluntarily, allowing the crew to retake control. Maido is a frequent caller in South African and East African and Indian Ocean Island ports.

Two issues arising from this week’s incidents are said to be puzzling and worrying in themselves. Why were these ships unable to outrun or out-manoeuvre the pirates (there can of course be several good reasons why), and secondly, the concern is growing that the pirates, who have demonstrated on a number of occasion how adaptable they can be and how quickly they respond to new tactics by merchant and naval vessels, will turn to the use of explosives to break into the safe rooms. According to some sources there are already rumours emerging of C4 explosives being carried by the pirates.

Germans disagree with British over private navy

The German Shipowners Association (VDR) says it does not agree with proposals by its British counterpart of establishing a multi-million euro private navy to combat piracy off Somalia.

The British suggestion is for a fleet of privately financed speedboats to patrol the waters under threat by pirates at a cost of around € 12 million annually. This, say its proponents, is a small amount compared with the estimated € 115 million that is paid over to pirates each year as ransoms.

The German association says it does not agree with the principle of sending out a private navy onto the open sea, and doubts whether such action would be covered by international maritime law. If it was allowed to happen then what was to stop other people or organisations from going out and buying their own fleet, it says.


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Navigation on Mozambique’s Shire and Zambezi rivers depends on feasibility study - Mozambique

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Shire River near Nsanje – picture Wikipedia

Maputo, 27 October – Navigation on the Shire and Zambezi rivers to transport merchandise to and from Malawi and Zambia can only take place after an economic feasibility study that also assesses environmental aspects, Mozambican Foreign and Cooperation Minister Oldemiro Baloi said in Maputo on Tuesday.

In the government’s first reaction to recent incidents affecting navigation on those rivers (see PORTS & SHIPS Malawi military attaché arrested for ‘cruising’ on the river Shire), Baloi said that Mozambique’s position had already been reaffirmed at the 11th session of the Mozambique/Malawi Joint Commission. The most recent incident occurred only last week, when boats from Malawi forcibly attempted to navigate.

Baloi stated that in 2007 Malawi began restoring some infrastructures linked to the project without the required feasibility study, specifically the Blantyre-Nsanje road and the related opening of a port.

“This was followed by incidents with boats aiming to show that a feasibility study was not necessary. We clearly distinguish between feasibility and possibility, which is different. We can’t talk about the importance of the environment and climate change at one moment and then ignore them in fundamental aspects,” he said.

Baloi emphasised that Mozambique was not ready for a project that takes shortcuts so as to avoid fundamental stages in the process.

The feasibility study project dates to 2005 and arises from the need for Malawi and Zambia to access the Indian Ocean via the Shire and Zambezi rivers, to channel their imports and exports.

A preliminary viability report on the project, presented by the Malawian government in 2006, was deemed inconclusive. This led the parties, including Zambia, to recommend a more thorough and detailed feasibility study.

The governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia signed a memorandum of understanding on 25 April 2007 in Lilongwe, Malawi. The Zimbabwean Zambezi River Transport Company (Zartco) was then hired to conduct the study.

Mozambique withdrew from the memorandum of understanding two months later, alleging that the tender-winning company was unreliable, as it did not have the offices in southern African countries it had claimed.


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Kenyan Customs releases impounded rice

Eight hundred containers of Pakistani rice have been released from bond in the Port of Mombasa after meetings between Pakistani exporters and Kenyan Customs.

The 800 containers, with a value placed at US$ 8 million were impounded last month by Customs who said they wanted the rice tested to establish grading. This followed the introduction by Kenya of a policy of grading all imports of rice before releasing into the market.

Pakistani’s Rice Exporters Association sent a delegation to Mombasa to meet with Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Bureau of Standards and try and sort out the delays in clearing the cargo, which were incurring demurrage costs of between $ 300 and $ 500 per container. The delegation stated afterwards that it was satisfied with the meeting and the results achieved. – source Pakistan Observer


Pics of the Day – KOOMBANA and BENCRUACHAN

A couple of those ‘Classic Ships of Yesteryear’ to bring this week’s news to a close. The first picture comes courtesy of Robert de Lange and ‘Gordy’, although the original photographer remains unknown. Written background to the ship is courtesy John Hoskin

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Built to carry 188 passengers by A Stephens & Sons Linthouse, Glasgow, the 3,668-gt KOOMBANA was also fitted to transport 219 cattle and 1,500 sheep between Fremantle and the North West coastal ports of Australia. This was between the years 1908 and 1912, the year in which the ship was posted missing while en route from Port Hedland to Broome. A cyclone occurred shortly after the ship departed from Port Hedland with 138 passengers on board – Koombana was not seen again. The name mean ‘Deep’, no doubt a fitting epitaph.

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In 1973 South Africa’s notorious Wild Coast almost claimed another victim in the Ben Line’s fast cargo liner BENCRUACHAN (12,092-gt, built 1968) which was struck across her bows by one of nature’s less well understood forces, the so-called freak wave. The incident occurred off Port St Johns in May of that year and such was the force and weight of the wave that it bent the hull nearly four metres out of true. Number 1 hold bore the full brunt of that crushing wave as the ship ploughed deep into what some people refer to as a ‘hole in the ocean’, before recovering and emerging. The ship survived and with a sling to hold her bows in place was towed backwards to Durban where she underwent emergency repairs. A new fore-section was subsequently fitted in Rotterdam. This picture shows the ship arriving in Durban harbour, no doubt much to the relief of her master and crew. Picture by Trevor Jones


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