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Ports & Ships Maritime News

December 7, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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It was the 5 December 2010 and the cruise ship PACIFIC DAWN (70,285-gt, built 1991) had made her first visit to Lyttelton, the port for New Zealand’s South Island city of Christchurch. Here the 1590-passenger ship is seen departing from Lyttelton for Port Chalmers. Built originally for associated company Princess Cruises as their REGAL PRINCESS, Pacific Dawn is now owned and operated by P&O Cruises Australia. Interestingly, the ship was ordered from the Fincantieri Monfalcone shipyards by Sitmar Cruises but when that company was acquired by P&O Cruises, she was delivered instead straight from the shipyard to Princess Cruises. Picture by Alan Calvert


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Piracy 1 – Five Somalis to go on trial for abduction of South African yachting couple

The Netherlands public prosecution department has confirmed that the Netherlands is to try five Somalis suspected of having been involved in the highjacking of the South African yacht Choizil and the subsequent abduction of two South Africans, Bruno Pellizzari and his partner Deborah Calitz.

A third member of the crew, the yacht owner Peter Eldridge refused to leave his grounded yacht when the pirate fled at the approach of two warships and has since returned to South Africa.

The five pirate suspects are part of a group of 20 that were captured in two separate operations off the Somali coast during November, which involved the Dutch Navy ship HMLNS Amsterdam. Fifteen of the men were released for lack of evidence but the others have been charged with the seizure of the yacht.

The five suspects are being held on board the Dutch warship on remand after court officials flew out to the ship on Saturday. They said the suspects would be taken to the Netherlands for trial and could face prison sentences of between nine and 12 years if convicted.

There is still no news of the whereabouts of the two abducted South Africans, nor has a ransom been demanded so far.


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Piracy 2 – Private anti-piracy forces move in

Private security forces are beginning to play an increasing role in defending shipping from piracy in the Somali region and in a promising move, Puntland leaders in eastern Somalia have agreed to take a tougher approach aimed at preventing pirates from operating within their territory.

The Puntland development took place at the weekend when 35 out of 36 legislators in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland agreed to a new law that could help curb the actions of pirates along the Puntland coast. The new law passed on Saturday gives Puntland the necessary legislation to confiscate all pirates’ belongings. It also provides for the arrest of suspects without the option of bail.

Meanwhile it is becoming clear that increasing numbers of ‘private’ security operatives are becoming involved in the fight against piracy, as frustration increases amongst ship owners and operators over the seeming inability of international navies to bring an end to piracy in the Western Indian Ocean.

Several US security companies including Espada Logistics and Blackwater are suspected of having been engaged in providing security for shipping, while Israelis are known to have been employed by certain shipping companies including MSC on ships operating within the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin area.

According to a ‘revelation’ by Wikileaks last week, Blackwater was controversially granted permission by the authorities in Djibouti to operate an armed vessel or vessels from the Red Sea port and to use ‘lethal force where necessary against pirates’. This was in February 2009 and it is clear that in terms of how Wikileaks obtained the information that the United States government was aware of the development from the onset. The vessel involved was the US-flagged McArthur, a 55m ex research vessel with landing space for two helicopters and armed with .50 caliber machine guns. The McArthur was capable of escorting three ships at a time and would be crewed by 33 US citizens. Additionally, Blackwater made it clear that when chasing pirates it intended taking no prisoners nor did it intend placing any ashore.

In the event the US government under President Obama reacted negatively and Blackwater’s plans were reported to have been dropped.

Said to be the world’s largest private security company, Blackwater has been involved in a number of scandals involving the abuse of power in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been described as providing ‘mercenaries’ by human rights organisations. US law forbids its citizens from acting as mercenaries, but like most things it’s mostly in the interpretation. See previous PORTS & SHIPS article on Blackwater dated 29 October 2008 HERE

South Africa was seldom been far removed from the world of mercenaries either and at least two South African companies have shown interest also in providing escort and surveillance services in pirate waters – one with the encouragement of the Egyptian government although as far as is known that particular plan never took off. Nevertheless several South African-based or linked vessels are currently engaged in escort duties – one of them being a former South African Navy vessel. More than one vessel has been reflagged and sailed from Durban harbour to provide escort services for ships forced to sail through the Somali ‘pirate zone’ which becomes larger by the day.

In a related issue come reports, also as a result of Wikileaks – of an Islamic country in the Middle East that is funding the creation of a well-armed and privately trained militia force to be based in the north of Somalia to fight piracy. The report says that former US ambassador-at-large Pierre Prosper and former CIA deputy station chief in Mogadishu, Michael Shanklin are key figures. The initial batch of recruits have already undergone training, while a company named as Saracen is said to be taking part. The report says the first shipment of weapons has been delivered.

The South African head of a Uganda-based company named Saracen International, former special forces member Bill Pelser has denied that his company is involved.

In addition, says the document, the militia will have air support, which no other combatants in Somali enjoy. There are questions as to whether either the United States or the UN were officially aware of this development. You can read this Washington Post related report HERE Meanwhile, Puntland’s political leader President Abdirahman Farole said his government “will not seek approval” from anyone when it comes to security matters. “For nearly two years we have requested the international community to help us establish anti-piracy troops and to construct monitoring stations along Puntland’s coast to fight pirates…but we received no answer,” the president said.

Responding to questions about the involvement of Saracen International, the president said that what is important is that Puntland improves its security. “Without sufficient security, there can be no investment because investment depends on security and stability.”

The head of the anti-piracy program at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Alan Cole was quoted at the weekend as saying that it was a good thing that Puntland was training an anti-piracy force. He said he would like to know the identity of the donor, the laws governing the force, how recruits are screened and the chain of command.

“Those who are providing equipment have a responsibility to make sure those who are going to use it understand the limits of their authority and are properly trained,” he said.

Previous efforts at training a Puntland coast guard proved unsuccessful and in at least one incident pirates attacking a ship were seen to be wearing uniforms issued to coast guard recruits.


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Piracy 3 – another ship highjacked

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Jahan Moni

On 5 December, the 44,377-dwt Bangladeshi bulker JAHAN MONI was highjacked by pirates in the Somali Basin, approximately 1300 nautical miles East of Eyl (Somalia), and only 300 nautical miles from the Indian coast of Kerala, reports EU NAVFOR. The Bangladesh-flagged bulk carrier has a crew of 26, all of whom are reported to be Bangladeshi. The ship was sailing with a cargo loaded in Singapore and was bound for Europe. According to some reports the ship came under attack twice before the pirates gained entry on the third attempt.

Including the JAHAN MONI, pirates are currently holding 23 vessels, with 547 hostages.

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German Navy support ship FGS Rhoen

EU NAVFOR, the European Union naval force taking part in Operation Atalanta has as its main task to escort merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid of the World Food Programme (WFP) and vessels in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM. The naval force is also charged with protecting vulnerable vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean and to deter and disrupt piracy generally. In addition, EU NAVFOR monitors fishing activity off the coast of Somalia.

On 30 November, one of the EU NAVFOR German ship, FGS RHOEN conducted her last day of operations as an EU NAVFOR unit, after 102 days of counter-piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin.

As a naval support ship FGS RHOEN completed a variety of tasks under deployment and performed 28 replenishments at sea. Rear-Admiral Philippe Coindreau, EU NAVFOR Force Commander, expressed his deep satisfaction and thanks to the crew of the warship.

“I am convinced that your enthusiasm and your engagement in this operation have had a great impact on the counter-piracy mission,” he said.

A few days later, on 3 December, the Italian warship ITS ZEFFIRO and her 225 crewmembers joined Operation ATALANTA. The Italian frigate, under the command of Commander Marco Montoneri, is a Maestrale Class Frigate with a displacement of 3,000 tons and a length of 123 metres. She is equipped with two helicopters.

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The Italian Navy frigate ITS Zeffiro which has just joined EU NAVFOR off the Somali coast


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News from the West African ports and harbours

Ivory Coast

The Abidjan Port Authority has signed a contract with Transas Mediterranean to upgrade the port’s existing VTMS system and to supply a multi-purpose simulator facility, or Port Training Centre.

The contract involves Transas upgrading the port of Abidjan’s VTMS system and to provide the facility for an extensive training programme. The package will enable training that is fully compliant with IMO and STCW’95 requirements.

The new simulator will be installed at the Abidjan Marine University (ARTSM) and apart from helping with the training of new recruits will enable existing marine pilots to undergo refresher courses aimed at honing their pilot skills.

Angola to reintroduce rail in the ports

Luanda, 6 Dec – Angola’s three main sea ports, Luanda, Lobito and Namibe, will once again be able to transport goods via rail, the Angolan Transport Minister, Augusto Silva Tomás said in Luanda Thursday.

At the opening of the 3rd Meeting of Ports of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP), the minister said that in the short term, in the specific case of the port of Lobito, the handling of ore from the Democratic Republic of Congo would recommence.

Angola’s once quite extensive railway network is in the process of being refurbished.

Angola targets 5 million tonnes a year for its ports

Angolan deputy transport minister José João Kuvingua says that by 2015 Angola’s three ports of Luanda, Lobito and Namibe will have increased to over five million tonnes of cargo. He was speaking last week at the meeting of Ports of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP) and said that a market related study showed this figure to be feasible.

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Maersk donates 300 containers to African charity

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Picture by Terry Hutson

Danish shipping giant Maersk Line has donated 300 containers to an African charity, Advance Aid, which will be used to store emergency medical equipment at strategic locations across Africa.

With an estimated value of US$ 500,000 the containers will increase the preparedness of UK-registered charity Advance Aid in pre-positioning emergency kits across Africa, close to potential disaster areas and in advance of any humanitarian crisis.

The kits consist of non-food items, such as shelters, hygiene kits, blankets etc, and are designed to house a family of five people who have been displaced. When all the kits are fully in place in three years’ time, Advance Aid will be able to reach 450,000 people in 30 countries within 24 hours of the onset of an emergency.

“This is a fantastically generous gift on the part of Maersk, this is a key piece in the jigsaw that we are putting together,” said David Dickie, chief executive of Advance Aid. “We are aiming to build a stockpile of 90,000 emergency kits in strategically located warehouses across Africa and this gift will give us storage space for all of these kits.” The kits also provide significant employment to African companies as the contents of the kits are all manufactured locally.

Within the next few weeks, the first containers will arrive in Mombasa, Kenya, to reach the first of three regions: East Africa (Nairobi/Mombasa/Kampala), followed by Southern Africa (Durban/Johannesburg/Maputo), and West Africa (Accra).

"Maersk Line is happy to support a cause that not only provides jobs for Africa, but also helps to ensure timely relief when a disaster hits. As a company with a large market presence in Africa, Maersk Line is strongly committed to future development of the African continent," commented Søren Toft, VP of Maersk Line Operations.


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Trade News: Anchor Industries meets tall order

With a significant investment of time and resources, Anchor Industries recently produced 30t of equipment for four rigging lofts as commissioned by DCD-Dorbyl, a leader in the national and international engineering industry.

Anchor Industries is a leading supplier of products and services to the lifting, rigging, marine and offshore mooring industries throughout Africa. This is due to their knowledge and experience as well as a strong focus on delivering quality services and equipment that adhere to the required specifications and standards.

Valued at over R1 million, this project included the inspection, repair, load testing and recertification of existing equipment as well as new products consisting of over 1000 pieces. This includes various sizes of TITAN manually operated hoists, APEX 80 chain slings, VERTEX polyester webbing slings, steel wire rope slings, plate lifting clamps, lashing equipment and a range of below the hook loose lifting tackle.

“We have completed various diverse projects for which we implemented standards, new work instructions and procedures. As a result, this project, being one of the larger, coordinated by our lifting and rigging department, was completed in record time as all the requirements were already in place. It was initially a 3-month project, however we managed to bring the delivery deadline forward by two weeks,” says David Pratt, Anchor Industries Cape Town Branch Manager.

All the products comply with local and international standards and regulations for lifting and rigging equipment, such as SANS (South African National Standards) and EN (Technical European Standards) specifications.

Upon completion of the slings, 2000 certificates were printed. The dedicated team who reviewed, collated and signed the individual certificates, also ensured that all equipment adhered to the required standards. With the Apex 80 Lifting Guide (the first electronic guide introduced to the industry) in place, the process was completed more proficiently thus maintaining Anchor Industries’ reputation as a reliable service provider on the Southern Coast of Africa.

The client could easily equip the lofts as all the products were arranged and numbered according to the respective loft numbers. “We found that the process of sorting and keeping all products for each loft together, proved to be a challenge that our competent and experienced staff completed successfully,” says Pratt.

Anchor Industries is constantly researching and providing the market with new and innovative products and services, setting industry benchmarks. “To improve the industry we are expanding the scope of our business and offerings; and will soon be revealing the latest edition to our lifting and rigging range,” says Dale Hutcheson, Anchor Industries Managing Director. – media release


Pics of the Day – SA AGULHAS

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The South African Antarctic supply ship SA AGULHAS has been in the news recently, after completing a coastal voyage between Cape Town and Durban with an all-women crew, and of course the news that she will soon be replaced by a new supply vessel under construction in Finland. These two pictures were taken last week in Cape Town by Ian Shiffman

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