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Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jan 19, 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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One of the most popular luxury ’small’ cruise ships is Silversea’s 388-passenger SILVER SHADOW (28,258-gt, built 2000), which is seen here approaching Lyttelton harbour in New Zealand. Silversea Cruises will be one of the cruise companies being targeted by those responsible for bringing the Seatrade Africa Cruise Forum to Durban from 10-12 May this year in an effort to attract more cruise companies to see the southern and east African coast as a regular destination for their cruise ships. Picture by Alan Calvert.


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South Africa's UNSC term to be testing, but exciting, say analysts

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Pretoria - The next two years might be testing and quite tumultuous as South Africa begins its second term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), analysts predict.

While the country's first stint on the Council (2007/2008) was heavily criticised by civil society groups regarding its voting record on human rights issues, International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, recently stated that South Africa would build on lessons learned during its first term.

During that term, South Africa failed to support resolutions urging Myanmar to free political detainees and end sexual violence by the military; on finding solutions to the challenges regarding Zimbabwe's oppressive regime and on a resolution that would have imposed further punitive sanctions against Iran on its suspected use of nuclear weapons.

South Africa came under heavy criticism over its ‘no’ vote over Myanmar human rights abuses before the UNSC. At the time, South Africa argued that its ‘no’ vote was based largely on the reasoning that the matter belonged before a wider forum in the form of the United Nations Human Rights Council and not the Security Council.

On Zimbabwe, South Africa stated that it would vote against a resolution on the country. At the time, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) did not call for sanctions against Zimbabwe, but instead, appealed to States and all parties concerned to refrain from any action that would negatively impact on the climate of dialogue that had been taking place at the time.

South Africa said that as a member of both the SADC and the AU, it felt obliged to follow the decision of those regional bodies and urged the UNSC to give space for the AU Summit decision to be implemented.

On Iran, the UNSC, at the time, unanimously passed a resolution tightening economic and political sanctions on that country for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. South Africa and countries such as Indonesia and Qatar, proposed amendments, including South Africa proposing a 90-day ‘time out’ to allow more time for negotiations with Iran.

Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa intends using its position as a non-permanent member of the Council to elevate the African agenda and bring peace to the continent. The reform of the Council would be one of SA's main priorities during its two-year term, she said.

South Africa will serve alongside the Permanent Five (P5) members - China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and United States and elected members Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Colombia, Gabon, Germany, India, Lebanon, Nigeria and Portugal.

The Council is the UN's most powerful body, with executive powers to determine sanctions and military intervention against any country.

“The United Nations remains the most appropriate forum for addressing international challenges in the maintenance of international peace and security, which are best served through collective co-operation.”

South Africa, said the Minister, will forge close partnerships and promote greater consultation with the other members of the Security Council in the conduct of its work.

Nkoana-Mashabane said UNSC membership will also present an opportunity for South Africa to contribute to reforming the working methods of the Council and to work towards the achievement of a representative, legitimate and more effective Security Council.

“Through our daily interactions with the P5 and other Council members, we will attempt to persuade and convince them of the need for the early conclusion of the reform process.

“South Africa will be working with all like-minded countries inside the Council and outside the Council for the acceleration of the reform agenda and in particular the reform of the Security Council,” she added.

According to the Institute for Security Studies' (ISS) Jakkie Cilliers, South Africa's previous tenure was a busy one. In 2007, the Council passed 60 resolutions and it adopted 65 the following year.

“There can be little doubt that 2011-12 will be equally demanding,” he says. “South Africa is also entering the Council at a time of unprecedented global flux.”

On the issue of reform, Cilliers says regional politics is perhaps more to blame for the lack of UN Security Council reform than reluctance by the permanent members. He says in the absence of reform, the Council will continue to suffer a continued decline in its own authority, perceived legitimacy and efficiency.

“The next two years provide a limited window of opportunity in which the emerging world may legitimately claim some political space that, on a global level, they already occupy economically, culturally and often technologically.”

With leadership and skill, says Cilliers, the current global realignments may present South Africa and the other nonpermanent members with the best opportunity yet to effect changes in the UNSC, in terms of its composition and voting procedures.

“With 53 out of 192 members in the General Assembly, Africa will undoubtedly play a huge role, be it negatively or positively, in enabling reform of this anachronistic body,” he says.

He says while there is no simple or straightforward answer as to how South Africa will conduct itself within the Council during its two-year term, its conduct will be influenced by a combination of factors and forces.

These include the composition and ensuing power dynamic of the Council; the issues that are likely to be put before the Council, including the manner in which they are packaged and presented; South Africa's willingness or lack thereof to serve as a voice for weaker States in the international system, particularly the African region; and its ambitions for permanent membership of the Council.

“South Africa will, as in the past, take its role on the UN Security Council seriously and view it as a mandate on behalf of Africa, and it will not adopt a role that narrowly reflects only its own national agenda or ambitions. Hence, South Africa's position will reflect many of the provisions most succinctly outlined in the Ezulwini Consensus. “One can only predict with certainty that the next two years are going to be testing and quite probably tumultuous. South Africa is, inevitably, in for a bumpy but exciting ride that will have long-lasting implications for the future global positioning of Africa's largest economy,” explains Cilliers. University of KwaZulu-Natal academic, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, says South Africa will need to work closely and cooperatively with other governments, especially key regional and non-regional partners on the UNSC during its second term.

He says while South Africa's inexperience was laid bare during its first term on the Council, he expects that South Africa now understands that a stubborn stance based on principles alone, will not necessarily get good results in the international arena.

“Strong and experienced governments know well that diplomatic instruments must be used methodically to pursue or support high principles. Given the high profile diplomatic embarrassments South Africa has suffered over the past decade and a half, it does seem that the lessons have now been learned. South Africa's diplomatic approach has become more systematic and pragmatic and, simultaneously, less value-laden or cowboyish,” explains Uzodike.

On the issue of reform, Uzodike says he does not believe that UNSC reform will be achieved in the short-term, however, the issue must continue to be placed firmly on the diplomatic table.

“I do not see much progress on this matter until other states, especially those in the developing world, learn to speak meaningfully and without self-serving intentions and posturing,” he says.

Research Associate at the South African Institute of International Affairs, Tom Wheeler, says while the Minister has placed a lot of emphasis on the reform of the Council, he was skeptical about the chances of success.

“There are too many vested and conflicting national interests at play and it has not been possible over the past 17 years to reconcile all of these.” While the rhetoric has improved, says Wheeler, national interests still get in the way and while he does not expect any short-term break-throughs, it's good that the conversation continues, he explains.

“We go back to the Council much prepared and hopefully more thoughtful about the positions we take,” says Wheeler. – BuaNews


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Medical evacuation from FPSO along Cape coast

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BP’s FPSO SKARV which is on tow to Norway and the pffshore Skarv Idun fields. Picture courtesy BP

The NSRI’s ASR (Air Sea Rescue) unit had to be activated on Monday this week following a request at 13h40 for medical evacuation to hospital from the 128,000-dwt high tech platform ship SKARV, which is on her maiden voyage from Korea.

The vessel involved is a FPSO which is under tow behind two Fairmount tugs, the FAIRMOUNT SUMMIT and FAITMOUNT SHERPA. Earlier the FPSO had been at anchor off Camp’s Bay while the tugs went into Cape Town harbour for bunkers. The tow is expected to last about 100 days.

The medivac involved a 73-year old Norwegian operator on board suffering from thyroid medical problems.

A ship’s doctor onboard the FPSO was treating the patient but had requested the South African maritime authorities for the patient to be evacuated to hospital.

This led to a SA Air Force 22 Squadron Oryx helicopter being activated to carry out the medical evacuation operation accompanied by a NSRI ASR rescue commander and rescue swimmer and a Metro EMS paramedic. Crew on board the Oryx were two SAAF 22 Squadron pilots and a SAAF 22 Squadron engineer. The flight was airborne by 15h30 and shortly afterwards the Oryx rendezvoused with the ship in 25 knot south easterly winds and calm seas, 33 nautical miles off-shore of Saldanha Bay.

The helicopter was able to land on the platform and the patient, in a stable and satisfactory condition, was taken onboard and brought to Ysterplaat Air Force Base from where he was transported to hospital for further treatment.

The FPSO Skarv was built in South Korea and is 294m in length with a width of 50m. Her towing depth is given as 12.2m. The tow involves a distance of 15,000 nautical miles which takes the FPSO and two tugs from Okpo in South Korea to Norway via Singapore and the Cape of Good Hope.

While remaining off Cape Town earlier this week the local tug SMIT SALVOR assisted the FPSO as the two Fairmount tugs entered harbour to bunker.


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Piracy: IMB calls for ‘desperate measures’

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Pottengal Mukundan

More people were taken hostage at sea in 2010 than in any year on record, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) global piracy report disclosed this week.

During the year pirates captured 1,181 seafarers and killed eight. A total of 53 ships were hijacked.

The IMB report reveals that the number of pirate attacks against ships has risen every year for the last four years. Ships reported 445 attacks in 2010, up 10% from 2009. While 188 crew members were taken hostage in 2006, 1,050 were taken in 2009 and 1,181 in 2010.

“These figures for the number of hostages and vessels taken are the highest we have ever seen,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre, which has monitored piracy worldwide since 1991. “The continued increase in these numbers is alarming."

“As a percentage of global incidents, piracy on the high seas has increased dramatically over armed robbery in territorial waters,” he said. “On the high seas off Somalia, heavily armed pirates are overpowering ocean-going fishing or merchant vessels to use as a base for further attacks. They capture the crew and force them to sail to within attacking distance of other unsuspecting vessels.”

According to IMB, hijackings off the coast of Somalia accounted for 92% of all ship seizures last year with 49 vessels hijacked and 1,016 crew members taken hostage. A total of 28 vessels and 638 hostages were still being held for ransom by Somali pirates as of 31 December 2010.

While attacks off the coast of Somalia remain high, the number of incidents in the Gulf of Aden more than halved last year, with 53 attacks in 2010 down from 117 in 2009. IMB attributes this reduction to the deterrence work of naval forces from around the world that have been patrolling the area since 2008 and to ships’ application of self- protection measures recommended in Best Management Practices, version 3 (BMP 3), a booklet published last year by the shipping industry and navies.

“The naval units in the seas off the Horn of Africa should be applauded for preventing a huge number of piracy attacks in the region,” said Captain Mukundan. “The continued presence of international navies is vital in protecting merchant ships along these important trade routes."

But Somali pirates are travelling further afield. In December 2010, they reached as far south as the Mozambique Channel and as far east as 72° East longitude in the Indian Ocean, an operating range IMB says is unprecedented.

What can be done to stop the surge of piracy on the high seas? Captain Mukundan said the answer lies primarily onshore in South Central Somalia. “There is a desperate need for a stable infrastructure in this area,” he said. “It is vital that governments and the United Nations devote resources to developing workable administrative infrastructures to prevent criminals from exploiting the vacuum left from years of failed local government. All measures taken at sea to limit the activities of the pirates are undermined because of a lack of responsible authority back in Somalia from where the pirates begin their voyages and return with hijacked vessels.”

Elsewhere, violent attacks continued around Nigeria, with incidents concentrated near the port of Lagos. Overall, 13 vessels were boarded, four vessels fired upon and there were two attempted attacks.

No word on South African couple

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South African yacht captured by Somali pirates off Tanzania/Mozambique coast and taken to Somalia

Meanwhile there is still no word on the whereabouts of the South African couple, Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz who were kidnapped by Somali pirates off their yacht on 26 October last year.

A third member of the crew, yacht owner Peter Eldridge refused to leave the yacht when it went aground and was left behind as the pirates disappeared ashore while a naval ship approached to investigate. Pelizzari and Calitz however were forced ashore and taken inland.

Subsequent to this event, the Dutch Navy captured a number of pirates that have been taken to the Netherlands for trial and who include, so it is believed, several of those involved in the capture of Eldridge’s yacht. The South African sailor has left for the Netherlands to give evidence in the trial of the five pirates.


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Special Report: Transnet to spend R20m on refurbishing East London Grain Elevator

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Picture courtesy TPT

East London - Transnet’s R20 million project to repair the iconic grain elevator stationed at the Port of East London will commence in February 2011, Transnet Port Terminals informed Ports & Ships this week.

It will take around nine months to restore the facility to a safe working state, although it will remain open throughout the repair process.

Built in the 1960’s the grain elevator is the largest export grain facility in South Africa and was recently converted to handle imports in addition to exports.

Transnet Port Terminals chief executive Karl Socikwa said a number of safety and compliance issues had escalated around the facility over the last year. Significant repairs, renovation and maintenance were required in key areas.

“Transnet had been concerned that the facility would have needed to be closed down while the repairs were taking place and customers were alerted of this eventuality.

“However Transnet then commissioned a professional engineering firm to perform a detailed investigation into what was needed to address the grain elevator’s safety and compliance issues.

“The investigation showed although extensive work is required, repairs and maintenance can take place in a responsible manner while the facility remains open. This can be done together with proper planning and scheduling and is good news for Transnet and its customers,” said Socikwa.

He said Transnet was faced with the commercial realities of ensuring that any investment into infrastructure meets the strategic needs of the region, the broader economic position of the country and the financial requirements of a sound business decision.

Since 2007 volume forecasts through the facility had been decreasing significantly but the port’s multi-purpose and car terminals continued to show steady growth and improving productivity.

Transnet had made attempts to introduce innovative changes that would enable safe and compliant operations at the grain elevator, while still being able to operate the facility in a commercially responsible manner.

“Given our understanding of the port’s importance to the economy of the region and our responsibility to our shareholder, Transnet has invested into the port over the last five years and will continue to do so over the next five years,” he said.

“We are committed to the Eastern Cape and the Port of East London.”

The Port of East London is South Africa's only remaining river port and is situated at the mouth of the Buffalo River in the Province of the Eastern Cape.


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Better economic outlook for South Africa

Pretoria - South Africa’s economic outlook rating has been revised from negative to stable, a move which has been welcomed by National Treasury.

Rating agency, Fitch Ratings, announced its revised outlook this week, affirming South Africa’s long term foreign currency issuer default ratings at BBB+.

“Fitch indicated that the revised outlook reflects South Africa’s smooth adjustment post the global crisis, and the resilience of the credit fundamentals, which are in line with or better than South Africa’s rating peers,” said Treasury.

“The National Treasury welcomes the announcement, particularly in the current economic climate with rising fiscal risks elsewhere,” it added.

The rating agency’s outlook reflects confidence in South Africa’s credit position as well as future policy direction. – BuaNews


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The Mercy Ships’ hospital vessel MERCY AFRICA has been undergoing an extensive refit in Durban since September at the Southern African Shipyards, which included the replacement of six diesel-powered generator engines with four oil-fired engines, a move that is expected to bring considerable savings for a ship that spends most of its time in port generating its own electrical power. The hospital ship, which is operated entirely by volunteers, and which provides free medical specialist care to the needy, is due to sail from Durban at the end of January, for Cape Town where the ship will provide a ‘show and tell’ exhibit, after which Mercy Africa sails for a stint in Sierra Leone. Picture by Trevor Jones

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The survey vessel GEO CARIBBEAN is a recent arrival in Durban, and has taken up residence at Elgin Brown & Hamer’s shipyard at the Bayhead. Geo Caribbean is a 3D/4D seismic vessel, which has been outfitted with the latest and highest class research equipment. The ship can deploy up to 14 streamers while at sea. The ship entered service in 2008. Picture by Trevor Jones


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