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Ports & Ships Maritime News

November 29, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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Sea Point, outside Cape Town Harbour. In the centre at anchor is the combined ore carrier/oil tanker E WHALE (319,869-dwt, built 2010), with the dry bulker VOSCO SKY (52,523-dwt, built 2001) on the left of the picture and the reefer FALCON BAY (10,374-gt, built 1993) astern on the right. Picture by Ian Shiffman


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Government gets on board with cruise tourism

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Picture by Terry Hutson

Durban, 26 November 2010 – The South African government would like to see more South Africans employed on cruise ships operating in South African waters instead of foreigners.

That was one of the messages from Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk at the launch of a national report on cruise tourism in South Africa, which was held on board the cruise ship MSC SINFONIA in Durban Harbour.

He said that the development of cruise tourism as a niche market would enhance South Africa’s reputation as a world class and globally competitive tourism destination. “The global cruise tourism industry has experienced significant growth over the last three decades, expanding from 1.4 million passenger carrying in 1980 to an estimated 15.4 million by 2009,” van Schalkwyk said.

Although tourism is an extremely tough and competitive sector, it is one that also has the capacity to create jobs, he said. “The figures for tourist arrivals [in South Africa] show that from January to august this year our tourist arrivals were more than 5.2 million, which is an increase of 17.4% compared to the first eight months of last year,” he said.

The minister did not add that 2010 included visitors for the FIFA Soccer World Cup.

He said his department was exploring various avenues to ensure that “we increase our global competitiveness and one of these is the identification of and further development of niche markets.”

Cruise tourism had been one of the areas identified for further investigation and it was in this regard that the report on tourism was commissioned, which he said was conducted by a national steering committee that represented all stakeholders including port cities and provinces, Transnet and its National Ports Authority.

“The National Department of Tourism (NDT) will continue to engage with the industry as well as other government departments and entities on how to address constraints, facilitate passenger transit, encourage cruise passengers to visit port cities and the surrounding areas and ultimately increase economic opportunities for communities in and around coastal cities,” he said.

Van Schalkwyk added that it was the responsibility of government to market ‘Destination South Africa’, to ensure service excellence and facilitate the provision of infrastructure. “The responsibility does not, however, rest with government alone. We also need buy-in from the private sector and in this case particularly the cruise line industry in support of our economic development goals.”

The launch contained only passing reference to the Seatrade Africa Cruise Forum that will be held in Durban in May next year, which is an initiative of the Cruise Indian Ocean Association. Nor was there any reference to a similar study already undertaken by tourism KwaZulu-Natal in 2003, which led to the relaunching of the Cruise Indian Ocean Association.


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Mozambique insists on EIA study on Shire-Zambezi waterway

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Mozambique’s foreign minister Oldemiro Baloi has flatly rejected a call by the country’s opposition to accept requests by Malawi for the Shire and Zambezi Rivers to be opened to international traffic.

The question arose during a parliamentary debate during which the representative for the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement suggested that turning the two rivers into an international trade route would be of benefit for the people living in the Zambezi Valley. He noted that the Sena Sugar Estates, before its nationalisation by the government in 1979, had used the Zambezi River to transport sugar on barges, which indicated that the river was navigable.

Baloi then made the odd claim that Malawi’s request was for goods to be brought up river whereas the Sena barging operation involved navigating down river – “there’s a great difference between river transport and maritime transport,” he said, adding “Imagine if there is an oil spill in the Zambezi. Who would be responsible? The government of course! The government must defend its interests.”

Mozambique has continued to insist that a proper environmental risk assessment be carried out, which makes perfect sense and would be a requirement anyway, but some of the transport minister’s strange and somewhat illogical comments add fuel to the theory that there is a political motive for Mozambique’s dragging of feet over the matter.

While a EIA is the proper way forward, Mozambique should also look further afield into Europe or the United States or even China where river transport is regarded as a perfectly normal means of transporting cargo and people, upstream or downstream. Provided the Shire and Zambezi rivers remain navigable, as they once were in colonial days, then Mozambique owes it to its people as well as those in Malawi to find a way of providing this service.


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Piracy: More ships escape being pirated

East Coast Somali pirates are continuing to attack ships, going even as far as the Maldives which are considerably closer to India than Africa. In another development, they are beginning to make use of pirated ships whose crews are forced to work for them in operating the ships as mother vessels to smaller skiffs that spread out in search of victims.

In one of the most recent attacks on a ship, the newbuild German general cargo vessel MCL BREMEN (7138-gt, built 2010) came under attack 315 n.miles off Male in the Maldives. According to the seafarer reports the attack was made using the captured Greek tanker POLAR (74,854-dwt, built 2005). Crew on board the MCL Bremen escaped to the ship’s citadel and the pirates eventually abandoned the ship and left the scene.

Ironically, the Polar was also captured by way of the pirates using another captured vessel to lead the attack, the VLCC tanker SAMHO DREAM.

MCL Bremen is now continuing on its course from China to the Netherlands. The tanker Polar was captured on 30 October while en route to Singapore - the ship has a crew of 24 consisting of 16 Filipinos, 4 Montenegros, 3 Greeks and one Rumanian.

In another aborted attack, the crew of the FRONT ALFA (150,038-dwt) locked themselves in a citadel room and waited for the pirates who had come aboard their vessel to leave. It was only after a Chinese warship arrived in the morning to investigate that it was discovered that the pirates had left the ship. There were no injuries among the crew of 22.

The attack took place within an hour of the Frontline tanker leaving a convoy in the Gulf of Aden.

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Medi Chennai

In a third attack on a ship in which the crew took refuge in a safe room or citadel, the bulker MEDI CHENNAI reported having come under attack 880 n.miles east of Port Victoria in the Seychelles in the early hours of 26 November. According to EU NAVFOR, this is the furthest east attack ever registered with them since EU NAVFOR began operations in December 2008.

The crew of Medi Chennai said they came under attack by pirates using small arms and rocket propelled grenades. The master of the ship mustered all non-essential crew into a safe room and immediately began evasive manoeuvres by zigzagging five degrees at a time. The ship was also protected by a ring of razor wire along the upper deck and the combined actions managed to prevent pirates from boarding.

In yet another case the bulk carrier PAGONA reported coming under attack approximately 620 n.miles north east of Socotra Island. As recommended the ship began zigzagging as soon as it came under attack and despite the pirates attempting to board the ship using hooks and ropes, the skiff was eventually out-manoeuvred and evaded, with the pirates leaving the scene.

West Coast

Nigerian armed forces have captured a senior leader of the militant group suspected of carrying out recent attacks on oil workers offshore of the Niger Delta.

According to Nigeria’s Joint Military Task Force, the militant leader Obese Kuna and 62 members of his gang were captured on Saturday a week ago. The men are believed to have been behind the kidnapping of 19 oil and construction workers in the Niger Delta. Also captured was a consignment of 45 AK47 rifles, 12 general purpose machine guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, armbands identifying the wearer as a member of MEND, the militant organisation, radio sets, military hardware and cash equal to Naira 673,000.


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News from the shipping lines

Maersk to invest US$ 4 billion in 20 new supercontainer ships

AP Moller-Maersk is about to invest about US$ 4 billion in buying 20 new container ships, according to several shipping sources. Each vessel will cost in the region of $200m and will be capable of carrying up to 18,000-TEU, making them the largest container ships in service. Reports indicate the orders will go to South Korean shipyards. The current largest container ship carries around 14,000-15,000-TEU.

Turkey’s Yildirim buys into CMA CGM Image and video hosting by TinyPic
picture by Ian Shiffman

Turkey’s Yildirim Group is to invest US$ 500 million in French shipping group CMA CGM to give it a basic 20% share in the family business. CMA CGM however retains as majority shareholder with a full 80% of shares and voting rights. Yildirim, which will take three of the ten seats on the Board of Directors, is also a family driven company involved in chrome ore mining and trading, ferrochrome production and trading, coal trading, fertiliser production, shipping, shipbuilding and port management.

“This alliance with Yildirim Group will enable us to strengthen CMA CGM’s balance sheet,” said Jacques R. Saadé, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CMA CGM. “The arrival of a new investor will provide our Group with additional resources to support and step up its growth and represents a major milestone in our history.”

For the first nine months of 2010 CMA CGM revenue totalled $ 10.5 billion, up 38% year-on-year while container volumes increased by nearly 18% to 6.8 million TEU. So far this year CMA CGM has taken delivery of 12 new ships, bringing the number of owned vessels to 92, while new ships have also been chartered in bringing the total fleet count to 400 ships.

Meanwhile, in a new agreement to restructure its huge debt, CMA CGM says it expects a new cash injection of $ 150 million before the end of the year, this time from the French government. Group chief executive Rodolphe Saadé said last week that CMA CGM had reached agreement with creditor banks on a restructuring of $ 5 billion of loans taken on to finance its ship order book.

Compagnie du Ponant may be put up for sale

In a related matter, CMA CGM-owned Compagnie du Ponant could soon be out up for sale, according to the French maritime press. Compagnie du Ponant operates the cruise ships Le Boreal, Le Levant, Le Diamant, Le Ponant and the still to be delivered Le Austral. Le Boreal (10,944-gt) was built earlier this year. The company has been in CMA CGM hands since 2004.

Zim turns the corner

Israeli shipping line ZIM has joined the list of container carriers that is turning its fortunes around in somewhat spectacular fashion, with a net profit of US$ 37 million for the third quarter after recording a loss of $ 208m a year ago, which brought the company to near collapse.

Container volumes grew to 596,000 TEU compared with 455,000 the previous year, bring the total for the year to date at end September to 1.65m TEU, up 27% on the same period 2009.


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Another busy week for NSRI

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) evacuated a patient at sea off Port Elizabeth last week. Marcus Oshry, NSRI Port Elizabeth duty controller, takes up the story:

“At 04h41 (on Wednesday 24 November) Sea Rescue Port Elizabeth volunteers were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority following a request for medical assistance from the 100 metre fishing vessel Desert Diamond reporting a crewman onboard suffering pain in the appendix region and suspected to be suffering appendicitis.

“A Metro EMS doctor had assessed the patient via radio telephone and believing this to be a patient suffering full blown appendicitis the ship was ordered to head towards Port Elizabeth and Sea Rescue Port Elizabeth launched our rescue craft Spirit of Toft to rendezvous with the ship.

“On arrival on-scene the patient was taken onboard our rescue craft in the care of our NSRI medics and brought to the Port of Port Elizabeth where a Guardmed private ambulance service ambulance transported the patient to hospital in a stable condition where he was rushed into surgery for an emergency appendectomy and we believe he is recovering well.”

Later that day Port Elizabeth volunteers were activated following reports of a distress call from a rubber duck which had suffered a broken gearbox and broken steering one n.mile off Noordhoek and drifting towards the shore in three metre rough swells and a 20 knot onshore wind.

On arrival the NSRI found only two people on board the duck, the third having decided to swim ashore. The NSRI 4x4 land rescue vehicle was able to report that the third man had made it to shore and was safe. The rubber duck was taken in tow but while this was underway friends of the occupants put to sea to help their friends, but after seeing the NSRI was already on-scene they turned about but subsequently reported having run out of fuel. The NSRI was able to refuel the stricken craft and watch over it to safety at Noordhoek, including using illuminating flares over the slipway as it had by now become dark. The original rubber duck casualty was towed back to Port Elizabeth.

At Port Alfred the NSRI launched its rescue craft to go to the aid of a crewman on board a chokka boat who was suffering from dehydration. The ill man was taken ashore and to hospital for treatment.

A similar incident involved the St Frances Bay NSRI is responding to another chokka boat with a fisherman also suffering from dehydration. He too was transferred across to the rescue boat in rough seas of 3 to 4 metre swells and a 25 knot easterly wind. The patient was the taken to Port St Frances where an ambulance was waiting which transferred the 30-year old man to hospital in a stable condition. Later that day NSRI St Frances transported a replacement crewman to the chokka boat out at sea.

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Pics of the Day – AFRICAN UBUNTU and WAN HAI 506

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The MUR container ship AFRICAN UBUNTU (17,801-gt, built 1997) which was in Durban harbour earlier this month. Picture by Trevor Jones

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The Taiwanese container ship WAN HAI 506 (42,894-gt, built 2005) makes a grand entrance into Durban harbour this past week. Picture by Trevor Jones


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