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Ports & Ships Maritime News

2 February 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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One of the more stunning design type ’workboats’, if one may use that term so loosely, to visit these parts is the Subsea Construction Vessel SKANDI ACERGY, which arrived in Cape Town about a week ago for bunkers and supplies.

Unfortunately no-one was able to photograph her arrival and stayover, with the ship departing in darkness. While in port she was berthed at A berth where it is difficult to get an ’alongside’ picture. Thanks go to reader Alan Moule of Cape Town however for bringing this ship to our attention and with the help of the internet (our lifeblood in more ways than one), we have managed to put the following together.

Skandi Acergy was completed at the Aker yards in Norway with the hull constructed at the same company’s yard in Romania and is regarded as among the world’s most advanced subsea construction vessels in her class. This is no small workboat, that description does not properly fit as she is 157 metres in length and has a beam of 27m, making her a large ship by any stretch of imagination.

The ship is environmentally friendly with emphasis on low fuel consimption and is designed for deepsea construction work at depths of more than 3,000 metres. She is owned by DOF Subsea ASA and was launched into service in 2008. A total of eight ships in this class are planned. Skandi Acergy is currently on an eight year charter to Acergy, hence her name. Full details of this remarkable ship are available at Rigzone.com Picture courtesy Aker


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Egypt: Maersk calls Port Said a no-go area

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With the political and social situation in Egypt remaining highly fluid and uncertain, and hundreds of thousands or more people massing in Cairo and other cities to voice their protest over the continued rule of President Hosni Mubarak, shipping lines are having to take decisions on their future operations with regards the ongoing situation at Egyptian ports and the Suez Canal.

With regards the canal it appears that operations are continuing normally with no disruption appearing likely, but at the ports it may be different.

On Tuesday this week it was announced that Maersk Line was declaring Port Said as closed to operations as a result of rioting and unrest that has affected most large cities in Egypt. In its advisory to customers called ‘Egypt Situation’ Maersk said “Due to the situation in Egypt, Port Said Terminal is closed for operations at the moment. Operational prospects are not yet clear and we will currently ask our export customers not to gate-in to Haifa Port containers to or via Port Said. Today, there are no terminal operations in Egypt and Maersk Line, Safmarine and Damco offices are closed.” The AP Moller-Maersk Group employs about 7,000 people in Egypt.

It is not clear whether any other shipping lines have taken similar action.


One of the greater fears is that the effects of what is happening in Tunisia and now Egypt will spread throughout other Arab countries, with those along the Red Sea coast posing the greater risk to international shipping. In a worst-case scenario, should the canal be closed its effect would be felt globally, with raised shipping costs as vessels are forced once again around the Cape of Good Hope. It’s effect on the oil price, already increasing steadily in recent weeks is another factor that will have many feeling concerned.

Meanwhile it is being reported that vessels at the Egyptian port of Suez are unable to pick up military escorts for the journey through the Gulf of Aden. One report said there were no immigration officers of customs officials on duty at Suez and that crew changes for ships have been affected or even prevented. Other workers in the docks are being prevented from reaching their workplace because of mass gatherings.

In a year more than 34,000 ships pass through the Suez Canal. Not all of those going south towards the Horn of Africa make use of military or private escorts including armed guards on board but many do.


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Nacala gains tantalum exports over Walvis Bay

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Tantalum mining in operation

Jersey-based mining company Noventa said on Monday that it had successfully concluded negotiations to export tantalum concentrate through the port of Nacala in future.

Tantalum is a rare speciality metal widely used in the consumer electronics industry. It is mined in northern Mozambique at Marropino, about 600km from Nacala. Noventa reopened mining operations at this mine in April 2010. Until April 2009 tantalum concentrate for export was transported by land to Walvis Bay, a journey of 3,900 km which took between seven and ten days to complete. Changes in navigational schedules of the bulk cargo ships also added to delays and costs to the product, says Noventa.

As a result discussions took place with a view to using the port of Nacala because it is nearer. With a world-wide shortage of raw material, exploration of the Marropino mine was re-launched in April last year, after the mine was connected to the national electricity grid. Noventa says it has invested US$ 65 million in creating the only industrial scale tantalum mine in the country.


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Cape Town shipping and harbour news

Cape Town gets new crew boat

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Ocean Express, Cape Town’s latest fast service vessel. The red vessel towering in the background is SKANDI ACERGY – see First View above. Picture Aad Noorland

CMS (Carrier Marine Services), one of South Africa’s leading offshore service companies, has just introduced a new fast offshore crew boat/launch, the OCEAN EXPRESS which was built for them at Port Alfred by LeeCat Boat Builders.

With a length of 14.5 metres and a beam of 4.8m, Ocean Express is capable of carrying up to 20 passengers in addition to the four crew. She can carry up to 4,000kg of cargo including 150 litres of fresh water. Her twin Cummins Mercuiser diesel engines give the vessel a service speed of 20 knots and a top speed of 25kn. The boat is built to passenger specifications.

CMS says that with a fast service speed of more than double that of their existing boats, transit times will be significantly cut to just 15 minutes for a one-way journey to Anchorage 1 in Table Bay. This has been of benefit not only regarding crew changes but also with ships agents needing to go out to vessels in the bay. Because of Cape Town’s reputation for severe weather conditions the vessel was built large enough to handle poorer weather conditions. The catamaran hull provides a more stable platform for boarding passengers as they roll much less than mono hulls.


Cable Layer in port

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The French cable layer ILE DE BREHAT (13,978-gt, built 2002) arrived in Cape Town harbour last Thursday accompanied by a rather stiff south-easterly wind. Owned by Alda Marine the ship is operated and managed by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs. Ile de Brehat will be engaged with cable-laying operations off the west coast in the area opposite Namibia through to northern Angola and opposite the DRC until later in February.


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Piracy report: Rumours that SA Navy is to patrol Mozambique Channel

SA Navy may begin anti piracy patrols off northern Mozambique

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SAS Mendi leaving port. Picture by Ian Shiffman

Reports of a South African Navy frigate, SAS MENDI taking up patrol work off the Mozambique coast cannot be confirmed. An Independent Newspaper report yesterday (Tuesday) said the frigate, which has been in Durban since the weekend, was to leave shortly for the Mozambique Channel with the support of a logistical supply vessel. The frigate would be carrying members of the navy’s Maritime Reaction Force, it said.

This follows news of incursions into the channel by Somali pirates that have seen them attack and capture ships much further south than ever before.

If SAS Mendi or another frigate is to go on patrol in the Mozambique Channel it won’t be for the first time, as previous patrols have been undertaken with the collaboration of the Mozambique military in support of fishery controls and basically to demonstrate that the region has the capability of protecting the region.

Doubts persist over taking of Beluga Nomination

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Beluga Nomination while in the hands of the pirates. Picture from Der Spiegel

There is still no clarity of what really happened after the German heavylift cargo ship BELUGA NOMINATION was captured last week by Somali pirates. There is confusion over the number of seafarers from the ship who managed to escape, but more sinisterly, there is uncertainty about who killed one seafarer on the ship when a Seychellois naval patrol boat and a Danish frigate approached the ship.

According to the pirate-reporting agency Ecoterra International, a Russian crewmember on the ship and one pirate were killed by gunfire from a Seychelles Navy patrol boat and the Danish frigate HDMS ESBERN SNARE on 26 January. Other reports however say the crewman killed was a Filipino, but there doesn’t appear to be disagreement as to who shot him.

According to Ecoterra four crewmen from the Beluga Nomination attempted to escape during the confusion caused by the approach of the two navy ships. Two of the crewmen launched themselves in a self-launching lifeboat from the stern of the vessel. Other reports say the other two crew jumped overboard to join the lifeboat – there is however no clarity on this or whether a search was later carried out by the naval ships for the men in the water. Only a count of the remaining crew on the German ship will provide the answer and they are in the hands of the pirates.

The real issue though is why was the ship fired upon knowing that it contained not only pirates but the original crew, being held hostage. There is suspicion that all the firing came from the Seychelles ship – if so were they trigger happy or insufficiently trained in such operations? There is a disturbing tendency for some navies to open fire with deadly effect, even when those doing the firing have no absolute knowledge about who they are shooting at.

Beluga has responded to this latest attack on one of their ships – not the first or even the second – by advising that in future Beluga vessels sailing in pirate waters will carry armed guards on board. Their crew will say, not before time!

This is what the European Naval force operating on anti-piracy patrol had to say prior to the incident referred to above:

‘After four days of uncertainty regarding the exact status of the crew, MV BELUGA NOMINATION is now believed to be pirated.

‘On the afternoon of 22 January 2011, the MV Beluga Nomination was attacked by a skiff, with an unknown number of suspected pirates on board. Small arms were used against the vessel during the attack.

‘The attack took place in the Indian Ocean, 390 nautical miles north of the Seychelles. The MV Beluga Nomination is an Antiguan and Barbudan flagged, German owned, general cargo vessel which was on passage to Port Victoria in the Seychelles at the time of the attack. There is no information on the condition of the mixed crew of 12 (Polish, Filipino, Russian and Ukrainian) at this time. EUNAVFOR are monitoring the situation.

‘MV Beluga Nomination was registered with MSC(HOA) and had reported to UKMTO. When the pirates boarded the vessel the crew went into a citadel which the pirates were eventually able to enter. It should be stressed that the use of a citadel by crew members does not guarantee a military response. Detailed guidance on the utilisation of citadels can be obtained from the Maritime Security Centre (Horn of Africa MSC(HOA).

‘The nearest EU NAVFOR warship at the time of the attack was over 1000 Nm away. The warship was waiting to escort a World Food Programme (WFP) vessel delivering vital humanitarian aid to Somalia, which is EUNAVFOR’s primary task within its mandated mission. The remainder of the EUNAVFORs warships was even further away carrying out tasks in the IRTC (Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor), which is their secondary task within the mandated mission.’


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Cruise News: Celebrity to name new ship in Hamburg

Celebrity Cruises have announced that for the first time it will hold a naming ceremony for one of its ships in Germany.

The new 122,000-gt ship, one of the Solstice class will be named CELBRITY SILHOUETTE and will be named in Hamburg on 21 July this year. Previous Celebrity ships have all been named either in the United States or in the United Kingdom. The ship is being built in Germany at the Meyer Werft shipyard.

Another cruise ship in trouble in the Antarctic

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Polar Star – picture Maritime Bulletin

Yet another cruise ship has run into trouble while cruising in the Antarctic. According to the Argentinian Navy the ship, the POLAR STAR (4998-gt, built 1969), with 80 passengers on board, ran aground in Matha Strait. A rescue team left the port of Punto Arenas to help evacuate the ship before salvage efforts were attempted to refloat the vessel. Early reports claimed the ship’s hull was intact and there were no leaks.

Yesterday it was reported that the ship was being pulled clear of the rocks on which she grounded and that her outer hull was in fact breached. Booms have been deployed around the vessel as a precaution.

Polar Star, which is owned by a Norwegian company with an address in Canada, has gone aground in Antarctica previously. In July 2010 she ran aground but was able to refloat herself later that same day. The ship flies the Barbados flag.


New owner for SS UNITED STATES

The Wall Street Journal has reported that a small group of ship lovers is taking over ownership of the historic ocean liner and holder of the Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, the SS UNITED STATES.

The preservationist group known as SS United States Conservancy acquired the ship for US$ 3 million from cruise line operator and previous owner, Norwegian Cruise Line (a division of the Carnival Group). Had they not stepped in it is likely that the ship would have made one last voyage under tow to a ‘ship recycler’.P> A spokesman for the preservationist group said they now faced the major challenge of finding a suitable place to moor or berth the giant ship and to “fill it with hotels, restaurants, classrooms or offices.” They face another challenge however, and that is to rid the ship of toxic PCBs before converting the ship to further use and they only have 20 months in which to do it.


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One for the road….Physicists believe they have discovered how Vikings navigated in bad weather

Physicists think they have found the answer to how the Vikings navigated their way around the coast of Britain and explored North America in bad weather – a crystal ‘sunstone’ on board their longboats.

It was thought the expert seafarers used sundials and/or simply hugged the coastline on long journeys.

But researchers have used an old Viking saga called the Sigurd legend to help them answer the question.

Some types of crystal create birefringence – a double refraction of light.

By splitting light into an ordinary and an extraordinary ray, they were able to work out where the sun was and navigate through sunlit fog. The naked eye can’t see birefringence. Researchers ran experiments and tests with sunstones in the Arctic, Finland, Hungary and Tunisia.

“Vikings undoubtedly often had to sail under totally overcast conditions, perhaps for days on end and in the open water far away from land,” said Dr Gabor Horvath, of Eotvos University in Budapest.

Using the crystal, he reported that: “To our great surprise, the patterns of the direction of polarisation under totally overcast skies were very similar to those of the clear skies.”

In the Sigurd legend Holy Olaf, the king sent out somebody to find the Sun in the sky but they couldn’t locate it.

It is thought the first compass didn’t arrive in Europe until about AD1200. - source metro.co.uk



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Saga Cruises’ handsome cruise ship that certainly lives up to her name, SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE was in Durban last week, fresh from an adventure of evading Somali pirates near Madagascar. Picture by Trevor Jones

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What is it that links the two ships in today’s Pics of the Day, other than both having been photographed in Durban? Maybe nothing, but there’s a strong suggestion that it is…. piracy! EATON (787-gt, built 1965), which is shown in Equasis as a ‘patrol ship’ is currently at the Durban repair yards being fitted out, some say to take up anti- piracy patrols further north. You didn’t read that here. The ship is owned and managed by one of those mystery Liberian ship owners, Afloat Leasing. Go back a bit further and you find the owner and manager as having been the US Government Maritime Administration (Marad). The picture was taken by Trevor Jones, who BTW had nothing to do with writing the caption


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