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Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jan 25, 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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First View – THOR OMEGA

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An unusual flag being flown in Durban harbour at present is that of the Faeroe Islands, from where this offshore supply tug THOR OMEGA (1061-gt, built 2008) hails. Other than being at the Elgin Brown & Hamer ship repair yard where she was photographed alongside another auspicious visitor, the seismic survey vessel GEO CARIBBEAN, we have little knowledge of the vessel’s purpose in our southern waters. Thor Omega has since gone onto the Eldock floating dock. Picture by Trevor Jones


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Port Regulator rules on TNPA tariffs

The Ports Regulator’s decision to cut the amount of Transnet’s tariff application by over half has been met with approval by the wider maritime industry. Transnet had applied to the Ports Regulator for approval of a 11.91% increase in tariffs for services and facilities provided by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) for the 2011/2012 financial year, which commences on 1 April 2011.

Instead, the Ports Regulator has ruled that a 4.49% tariff increase was a reasonable figure and more appropriate and has therefore rejected the 11.91% application.

Before arriving at its decision, the Ports Regulator considered a substantial number of written comments from TNPA stakeholders. These ranged from outright rejection of the proposal of a 11.91% increase, to requests for time to present more detailed comment.

In its summing up the Regulator said that a review of the tariff methodology to be used in subsequent applications would be undertaken with stakeholders in February 2011. This is presumably to find common ground and understanding of the methodology used so far in the tariff applications, where the decisions arrived at using different processes don’t necessarily correspond.

“The methodology for determining proxy betas in particular, needs to be agreed in the 2011/12 process,” said the report.

It also highlighted that Transnet should ensure a higher level of detail on its capex for the tariff application, to enable a greater scrutiny. A breakdown of the capex programme must, it said, show the amount of money that is transferred internally on every project, such as fees paid to either Transnet or any of its subsidiaries and divisions.

The Ports Regulator emphasised that real estate must be included in future applications. “All subsequent tariff assessments shall include all aspects of the NPA business,” it ruled. “The NPA has excluded the real estate business from its application. Though the Regulator has agreed to accept this for this application, all future applications shall include all aspects of the real estate business, and the Regulator shall assess the application on the basis of the entire NPA business. For purposes of clarity, any future application that does not include the real estate business or any other business of the NPA falling within the ambit of the regulatory framework for assessment by the Regulator, shall be rejected as non-compliant, and shall not be assessed.”

A lot of unhappiness exists among leaseholders faced with large increases in rent, as has been expressed to Ports & Ships in the months prior to this ruling.

Likewise internal transfers for services and other party transactions including temporary cash holdings in other divisions or groups must be disclosed separately.

In its initial reaction Transnet is reported as saying it is disappointed and warns that this may impact on its future capital expenditure programme affecting the ports.


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Country faces road freight strike this week

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picture by Terry Hutson

The South African transport industry is set to face further disruptions if the four unions involved in the road transport sector decide to go out of strike.

A decision on the strike is expected by tomorrow (Wednesday) and if consensus between the unions and Road Freight Employers’ Association (RFEA) is not reached then some 70,000 drivers are expected to be called out on strike.

The threatened strike is over a wage dispute that has reached deadlock, with the unions asking for a 10% increase a year for the next two years while the Road Freight Employers’ Association (RFEA) is prepared to offer 7.5% a year. There is also a dispute over the use of labour brokers, which the unions wants done away with.

Unions involved in the dispute are the Motor Transport Workers Union (MTWU), SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), the Transport and Allied Workers Union of SA (Tawusa), and the Professional Transport Workers Union (PTWU).

RFEA is believed to be making last minute attempts at preventing the strike from going forward after a deadlock was reached in December. A strike certificate was issued in mid December by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Unless last minute negotiations are reopened, and time is not on the RFEA’s side, the strike could start at the end of the week. Several unions indicated they would meet early this week before going to the bargaining council and advising members of the strike.

If the strike goes ahead it will have an adverse effect on a number of different sectors including the transportation of fuel from the coastal refineries to Gauteng, and the movement of long distance bulk cargo to the ports, notably Richards Bay and Durban.


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Piracy – a news twist to the tale

In a new twist to the pirate story, the Somali al Shabaab Islamist movement has issued a claim that international naval forces off the coast of Somalia are there for the real purpose of ensuring that al Shabaab does not gain complete or effective political power in Somalia.

Hassan Dahir Aweys, an official of the Somali Islamist organisation, said also that the warships were somehow involved in fishing and were robbing Somalis of their natural resources.

In a matter somewhat related by chance or otherwise, reports from central Somalia at the weekend say that a unit of United States armed forces entered an area called Gaan, 18 km from Haradhere, the port where the pirates frequently take their captured ships.

Gaan is a former base of the pirates and is currently occupied by al-Shabaab. Shabelle Radio says the Americans arrived by helicopter and took into custody three Somali youth that were standing next to a vehicle that had broken down. One of the men, named as Mohamed Bashir Mohamed said they were flown to an American ship where they were questioned for about three hours, with their interrogators repeatedly asking whether they were pirates.

After saying they weren’t the men were later asked details about how the pirates spend their money, and who was in control of the town of Haradhere. They had their photographs taken and were told they were wanted men, before being returned to the mainland.

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Port of Mogadishu

In other Somali news, Shabelle Radio reported that truck drivers arriving at the port of Mogadishu have been told not to load their vehicles with heavy cargoes. They were advised that any overloaded vehicles found at the port would be prevented from leaving. One of the truck drivers complained that police were on every street corner asking for money and that bribery at the port was rife.

Meanwhile, NATO has reported that the previously pirated ship BLIDA was still being used as a pirate mothership and was in action near position 09’54”N 052’56”E on 22 January. A later report says the pirates are negotiating with the ship’s owners for the release of the seafarers. The European Union naval forces EU NAVFOR report that during the afternoon of 20 January, the bulk carrier KHALED MUHIEDDINE K was pirated in the North Arabian Sea approximately 330 nautical miles south east of the Omani port of Salalah.

The vessel is Togo flagged and Syrian owned and has a deadweight of 24,022 tonnes. Authorities were made aware of the attack when the master reported being fired upon with small arms and seeing pirates on board. All contact with the vessel was then lost. The Khaled Muhieddine K has a crew of 25 (22 Syrian and 3 Egyptian), and had registered with MSC(HOA), was reporting to UKMTO and was on passage from Singapore to Hudaydah, in Yemen.

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Hoang Son Sun

A second ship believed to have been pirated is the bulk carrier HOANG SON SUN, which came under attack on 20 January approximately 520 nautical miles South East of the port of Muscat, Oman. The 22,835-tonne bulk carrier, which is Mongolian flagged and Vietnamese owned, has a crew of 24 Vietnamese nationals. No further details of the attack are known at this stage.

MV Hoang Son Sun was not registered with MSC(HOA) and had not reported to UKMTO.

There are now 30 vessels and 723 hostages being held by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

NIMASA mandated to crack down on criminal activities in Nigerian waters

Nigeria has mandated the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to reduce criminal activities in Nigerian waters. NIMASA director-general Patrick Akpobolokemi announced this while complaining that the agency lacks patrol boats to patrol the creeks and territorial waters.

He said it was imperative that NIMASA partners with the Nigerian Navy in carrying out the presidency’s instruction. “Whatever should be done to enhance cooperation between us and the Navy would be facilitated,” he indicated, adding that NIMASA would partner with the Navy to put the moribund dockyard in Apapa back into service, so that ships and patrol boats no longer have to go to Ghana for repairs.

This is the same dockyard that NIMASA has been in talks about with Southern African Shipyards.


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Maritime law expert to speak at African Logistics Summit

Distinguished maritime arbitrator and law expert Mr José M Alcántara will be a guest speaker at the African Logistics Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, from 10 – 12 March.

Mr Alcántara, an attorney in maritime law and maritime law adviser to the Spanish Government, is based in Madrid, and a member of a number of industry organisations. Summit spokesperson, Mr Ukata Christian, said Mr Alcántara had a distinguished international record as a guest speaker, author, and lecturer in maritime law.

“Attendees at the Summit will gain an invaluable insight into maritime law, security, regulation and insurance issues that are impacting on the global business environment,” Mr Christian said.

Mr Alcántara will make two presentations. One is entitled: The legal logistics in the transport chain.

The African Logistics Summit is endorsed by the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents and a number of African shipping associations, and supported by Pan African freight forwarding group, African Cargo and Logistics Alliance.

The Summit offers professional networking and business links with some of the most successful independent general freight forwarding organisations in the world and seeks to deliver a one-stop shop that focuses on win-win partnerships throughout the supply chain in Africa.

Further details can be found in our EVENTS DIARY and Registrations can be made HERE


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DP World downplays sale of Australian terminals

Dubai World has downplayed the sale of 75% of its Australian businesses, saying that this is not an indication that the company is in trouble or needs to raise cash urgently.

Rumours have mounted about DP World ever since its associate and parent companies revealed huge debt problems. This was at the height of the economic downturn and some thought the entire company might have to go into bankruptcy.

In the event DP World has gone to great lengths to distance itself from problems within the group, stressing that it remains independent and viable and that there is no pressure on it to raise cash or to refinance its debt. “We're not compelled into a position or being pushed into a corner due to any circumstance,” Anil Wats, executive vice-president and chief operating officer, told journalists. “If at all we decide to do anything, it would be in line with the strategy or the philosophy of the organization.” His statement comes after DP World sold 75% of its Australian companies for US$1.5 billion. DP World continues to have extensive interests in Australia and still manages container terminals in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle.

DP World manages a total of 49 cargo terminals in various ports across the world. The port company is owned by government-owned Dubai World, around which most of the financial rumour-mongering extends – much of it justified considering the size of the parent company’s debt. In 2010 the group managed to talk lenders to agree to new terms on $25 billion of debt. The port company DP World and one or two other subsidiaries are however separate from this process.

One of the companies involved with debt challenges, Nakheel, holds the majority interest in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront and is in talks with creditors to restructure at least $10.5 billion in debt. Source JOC online


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Pics of the Day – BULK FLOWER

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The Turkish bulker BULK FLOWER (16,042-gt, 22,000-dwt, built 2010) in Cape Town earlier this month. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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