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Ports & Ships Maritime News

7 February 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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First View – QUEEN MARY 2

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Cunard’s QUEEN MARY 2 (148,000-gt, built 2003) arrived in Cape Town on Friday on only her second visit to South Africa as part of the 2011 World Cruise. The ship sailed from the Mother City on Saturday and is due in Durban this morning, Monday 7 February. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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Suez Canal remains open but delays at Egyptian ports

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As political uncertainty hangs over the future of Egypt, ship movements through the strategic Suez Canal remain unaffected with no disruption or delays, but port terminal operations at some of the country’s ports have been affected.

According to GAC’s news service container terminals are working during daylight hours of 9am and 2pm local time with delays and congestion resulting from containers being discharged from ships but no cargoes being subsequently released. The report says that breakbulk operations are being permitted only for non-direct delivery cargo, and discharge operations remain very slow due to the shortage of labour and diesel deliveries for shore equipment.

It says that silos for bulk cargo are working and all oil and gas terminals remain fully operational.

“Sidi Kerir and Ain Sukhna along the Suez Canal are also fully operational.” Because of the curfew between 5pm and 7am there are no services for crew change, cash to master, spare parts or provisions “until further notice”. GAC says it is working closely with banks to ensure that funds for Suez Canal transits are transferred without any problems. This despite the banks having remained closed up until at least the past weekend. Despite being ‘closed for business’ banking business has however continued under maximum security by phone.

A late report on Sunday (6 February) said that banking and rail services had resumed that day.

DP World called a temporary halt to terminal operations at its Sokhna terminal as well as those at the southern port of Ain Sukhna.

AP Moller-Maersk whose APM Terminals operates the large Suez Canal Container Terminal, confirmed that by Saturday vessel-handling operations were returning to normal and that ships were moving through the canal without hindrance.

Despite these improvements the shipping industry is watching the unfolding developments in Egypt very closely, mainly because of the Suez Canal. Of particular concern is the safe movement of tankers through the canal, with oil prices having spiked beyond the $100 a barrel level. The maritime industry has long memories and hasn’t forgotten what happened 30 or 40 years ago when the canal was last closed. One or two container lines say they have re-routed their ships away from Egyptian ports, fearing complications. Hanjin Shipping is one which said its ships would bypass Suez and Alexandria. CMA CGM meanwhile set up an emergency response team to monitor the situation but said it was continuing to accept bookings for Egypt and the group’s ships would continue to call at the Egyptian terminals of Damietta, Alexandria and Port Said West and East. It said that once the port of Ein Sokhna reopened its ships would resume making calls there as well.

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Piracy: International frustration over Somali piracy

Hong Kong cargo ship seized

As international frustration builds over the Somali piracy situation, Yemeni sources say that a Chinese Hong Kong general cargo ship named TIEN HAU (18,299-dwt, built 1996) has been highjacked by pirates 11 n.miles from Al-Tair Island off the Yemeni coast.

NATO naval forces meanwhile reported on Saturday two ships under attack by pirates operating from open skiffs, one of which attacks also involved a pirate mother ship. Weapons had been fired at the ships but so far there is no indication whether they have evaded the pirates or their identity.

VLCC escapes narrowly

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USS Momsen fires on the first of two skiffs involved in the attack on a supertanker. The motorized dhow, which had probably been pirated previously and was now being used as a mother ship, was permitted to leave the scene. Picture US Navy

A VLCC supertanker, the Japanese DUQM (310,084-dwt, built 2008) which was en route from Fujairah to South Korea is another ship to have reported having come under attack from pirates in two skiffs in the last few days. Fortunately two US Navy vessels, the guided missile destroyer USS MOMSEN (DDG-92) and cruiser USS BUNKER HILL (CG-52) were able to respond in time to calls for assistance from the tanker and arrived to find the skiffs alongside the tanker with ladders ready for boarding. On seeing the warships the pirates broke off the action and headed for their mother ship, a quite handsome looking Arab dhow. According to the US Navy, the skiffs were fired on and destroyed but the mother ship was allowed to continue away from the scene.

SA Navy goes on piracy patrol

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Picture by Ian Shiffman

Mozambican reports confirm rumours that a South African Navy frigate is patrolling the Mozambique Channel looking for pirates – see our report of 2 February Rumours that SA Navy is to patrol Mozambique Channel

The frigate, SAS MENDI is accompanied by a support vessel, according to the Mozambique report, and is carrying a force of the Navy’s Maritime Reaction Force as well as a Lynx helicopter.

IMO launches new drive against piracy

The Secretary-General of the United Nations says the escalating piracy off the coast of Somalia is “completely unacceptable” and requires an urgent and coordinated response. Ban Ki-Moon was speaking at the launch of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) six-point plan to curb the growth of piracy. The UN Secretary-General said this was a timely and important initiative.

IMO’s action plan for 2011 has six prime objectives:

1] increase pressure at the political level to secure the release of all hostages being held by pirates;

2] review and improve the IMO guidelines to Administrations and seafarers and promote compliance with industry best management practice and the recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures ships should follow;

3] promote greater levels of support from, and coordination with, navies;

4] promote anti-piracy coordination and co-operation procedures between and among States, regions, organizations and industry;

5] assist states to build capacity in piracy-infested regions of the world, and elsewhere, to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships; and

6] provide care for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and for their families.

The IMO said that among other things, during 2011 it will focus on promoting further co-operation between and among states, regions and organisations in reducing the risk of attacks on ships through a variety of mechanisms including information-sharing; coordination of military and civil efforts; and development and implementation of regional initiatives, such as the IMO-led Djibouti Code of Conduct.

IMO’s action plan will build on efforts to tackle the problem that have been underway for some time. Through the Djibouti Code of Conduct, for example, information-sharing centres are being established in Yemen, Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as a regional training centre in Djibouti. In partnership with the UNODC, IMO is helping to develop the legal framework necessary to prosecute pirates.

Mr Ban took the opportunity to emphasize where the real source of the piracy problem lies. “Although piracy manifests itself at sea,” he said “the roots of the problem are to be found ashore. This is a complex issue. But in essence, piracy is a criminal offence that is driven by economic hardship, and that flourishes in the absence of effective law enforcement.”

“The only truly successful way to address the problem in the long term,” said Mr Ban, “is through a strategy that focuses on deterrence, security, the rule of law and development. Our common goal must be a sustainable solution.”

Industry says enough is enough

In a joint statement issued by BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping, Intercargo and Intertanko, attention is drawn to the new methods being employed by pirates of using large captured ships as ‘mother ships’ from which they are able to range far and wide in their pursuit of ships for plunder. The pirates are also making regular use of firepower and have introduced harsher treatment of captives.

"This situation calls for immediate action by governments before these tactics make trading in the area almost impossible. Over 40% of the world's seaborne oil supply now passes through waters at high risk from pirate attack at a time when studies are indicating that piracy is costing the global economy US$ 7-12 billion per year," said the joint statement. "We call on the world's governments to note the extent to which additional international naval assets in this region are desperately needed and how they should be empowered to enforce a truly robust response against the pirates before ships are successfully hijacked," the group said.

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Monrovia terminal opens to shipping

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Monrovia, picture by Kingsley Holgate

The port of Monrovia in Liberia has officially been ‘reopened’ by port and terminal operator APM Terminals, with the arrival in port of the container ship CHARLOTTA.

APM holds a 25-year concession to operate the port following the Liberian government’s ratification of last October’s agreement. See the report APM Terminals wins 25-year Monrovia concession CLICK HERE

In terms of the agreement the Danish company will invest US$ 120 million to improving the facilities and infrastructure including the port’s marine services.

This includes rebuilding the quay wall and developing the container and general cargo facilities at the port.

APM now operates ports and terminals in the following African ports: Abidjan (Ivory Coast); Cotonou (Benin); Tema (Ghana); Apapa (Lagos), and Onne (Port Harcourt - both Nigeria); Douala (Cameroon); Monrovia (Liberia); Pointe-Noire (under development) (DRC); and Luanda (Angola).

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Ship collision at Richards Bay, anchor chain snags propeller

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anchor chain wrapped around Dong-A Rhea’s propeller

In an incident last week outside the port of Richards Bay, the South Korean dry bulk carrier DONG-A RHEA (149,505-dwt, built 1993) collided with the bulk carrier vessel AFRICAN LION (26,300-dwt, built 1995) owned by Enterprise Shipping.

In the course of the ships coming together, Dong-A Rhea fouled her propeller with the anchor chain of the other ship, which damaged the propeller blades and wrapped itself around the shaft.

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The accident took place 4 – 6 n.miles from the port among a group of ships at anchor waiting for entrance to the port. It appears that as the Korean bulk carrier was coming to anchorage off the port when at reduced speed the strong current caused her to drift down onto the African Lion which was at anchor. The two ships came together with Dong-A Rhea suffering denting and cracking of the hull amidships.

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underwater view

In the process the African Lion’s anchor chain was fouled to the Dong-A Rhea’s propeller and was severed, leaving lengths of the chain wrapped round the propeller and shaft.

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the crack in the hull. Pictures W Kruk

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Transnet issues US$ 750 million bond

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Mafika Mkwanazi. Picture by Terry Hutson

Transnet Limited announced on Friday (4 February) that it has successfully issued an inaugural US$ 750 million five-year bond through its $2 billion Global Medium Term Note Programme (GMTN). The issue confirms international investor confidence in the Company and South Africa.

The bond issue followed successful road shows to investors in Europe and North America, the state owned transport and logistics Company said in a statement.

The cost of funding for this bond will not significantly impact the overall cost of debt for the Company as the bond was priced at 4.50% coupon. This is 80 basis points above the South African Government’s international cost of debt.

Commenting on the milestone, Transnet Chairman Mafika Mkwanazi said: “Funding is one of our focus areas and today’s milestone is testament to the progress we have made in executing our well defined growth strategy together with an appropriate funding programme. This, we believe, will ensure that the company delivers on its mandate in line with South Africa’s economic growth objectives set out in the New Growth Path.”

“Crucially, we have now achieved yet another one of our funding objectives of diversifying our funding sources in a cost effective manner, by emphasising our commitment to raising funds when opportunity arises ahead of requirements. It is even more encouraging that we are able to raise funds at these rates in international debt capital markets without any government guarantees but on the strength of the Transnet balance sheet,” Mkwanazi said.

Transnet requires R41 billion in funding for the next five years, of which in excess of R22 billion has now been raised through a variety of sources including Export Credit Agencies, domestic and international bonds, bank loans and Development Financial Institutions.

The proceeds of the funding initiatives will be used primarily to finance the company’s rolling five-year R93,4 billion capital investment programme which is focused on rejuvenating and modernizing its rail, port and pipelines logistics infrastructure.

Barclays Capital and Goldman Sachs International were joint lead managers.

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Ship movements: Africa Mercy leaves Durban; US Navy frigate due Cape Town

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Africa Mercy arrives in Durban, 1 September 2010. Picture by Terry Hutson

We could create a column of interest devoted entirely to ship movements at the harbours of the Africa region, such is the variety of unusual and interesting ships that we see. But without going down that route entirely right now, here are three ship movements that are likely to have strong interest among certain readers.

The first is the expected arrival of the US Navy frigate USS STEPHEN W GROVES in Cape Town harbour this morning (Monday). There have been indications of a visit by a US warship – in recent years different ships of the Africa Station or other task forces have called at this time.

USS Stephen W Grove is an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate similar to the USS Nicholas that called in South African ports about a year ago. We have no indication where this ship is proceeding at the conclusion of her visit to Cape Town and any news would be welcome.

Apart from the arrival of QUEEN MARY 2 in Durban this morning, which has been commented on above, other interesting ship movements in the next few days include the expected arrival of STENA TRANSPORTER which is due to take bunkers on Wednesday, 9 February. Stena Transporter (34,700-gt, built 2011) is a newbuild passenger ferry on her delivery voyage to northern Europe and makes a highly unusual visitor to these parts. Flagged in the Netherlands she is owned and managed by Swedish companies.

Staying with Durban, and with ferries, or rather a former rail ferry, the hospital ship AFRICA MERCY is due to sail from Durban tomorrow morning (Tuesday) for Cape Town and later to Sierra Leone in West Africa. The former rail ferry converted to become the world’s largest privately owned hospital ship, has undergone an extensive refit at Southern African Shipyards in Durban which included replacing six diesel generator engines with four new oil-fired generators.

Africa Mercy carries a staff and crew of 450 including a number of families, all volunteers that man the ship and hospital. The latter provides specialist treatment in regions where such medical assistance is most needed.

Just a reminder that ship movements at the South African ports and those of neighbouring countries all the way up to Mombasa and including Port Louis in Mauritius are always available on this site. Use the navigating bar on the left of PORTS & SHIPS’ pages and click on SHIP MOVEMENTS and then the port of your choice. This service is free and is updated daily.


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Another vessel to qualify as very unusual and worth seeing is the McDERMOTT DERRICK BARGE No 50 which arrived in Cape Town on Sunday morning, 6 February. Aad Noorlad who took this photograph explains he heard about it too late to arrange a ‘right-side sun’ image. The vessel as might be expected is used in the offshore industry. Picture by Aad Noorland.

As a BTW before we sign off, can any reader explain the origin of the term ‘derrick’ for these and other ship cranes. Not a description of the crane please but what (or who) was the ‘derrick’ that lent its name to the equipment (and no, this is not a quiz)?

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A different view of the container ship SAFMARINE NOKWANDA, seen here on Cape Town’s Eastern Mole while probably undergoing minor repairs. Picture by Aad Noorland

Don’t forget to send us your news and press releases for inclusion in the News Bulletins. Shipping related pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – please email to info@ports.co.za

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