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Ports & Ships Maritime News

14 February 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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First View – IPHOTHWE

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Transnet National Ports Authority’s latest tug, the locally built IPHOTHWE, seen at the Southern African Shipyards where fitting out is currently underway. Iphothwe is the seventh and last tug to be built of the current order placed by Transnet NPA with Southern African Shipyards.

The seven tugs with their names and designated ports are: Shasa (Ngqura), Orca (Ngqura), Lizibuko (Ngqura), Pholela (Durban), Lotheni (Durban), Lilani (Durban), Iphothwe (Richards Bay). TNPA hasn’t confirmed the destination of the seventh tug but Richards Bay is where she was originally destined. Picture by Trevor Jones

WEATHER WARNING – Cyclone nears Madagascar

Cyclone Bingiza was nearing the north west coast of Madagascar on Sunday afternoon with the centre of the cyclone located approximately 375 n.miles northeast of the capital city of Antananarivo. The tropical storm had accelerated westward over the previous six hours on a course of 260 degrees and is expected to make landfall on Monday 14 February 2011.

The current intensity of the wind is estimated at an average of 100 knots, ranging from 92kn to 102knots. As the cyclone nears the landmass of Madagascar its speed has accelerated from an estimated 45 to 55 knots on Saturday. The system is forecast to continue trackng westward and make landfall and dissipate over mountainous terrain. Maximum wave height is 28 ft (approximately 8.5 metres).

News continues below...

TPT says Ngqura container terminal achieving 28 moves per gross crane hour

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Port of Ngqura container terminal. Picture by Terry Hutson

According to Transnet Port Terminals, the new Ngqura Container Terminal (NCT) operated by TPT has started the year with impressive operational performance, the highest since its opening in October 2009.

“During January 2011 shifts working at the terminal consistently achieved 28 Moves per Gross Crane Hour (GCH). GCH is the common measure of productivity in the container handling business and represents the number of containers each crane moves per hour,” NCT said in a statement.

NCT says it has also enjoyed growth in container volumes. January 2011 saw the terminal handle 30,879 twenty foot equivalent units (TEU’s) of which 4,930 was imports, 6,934 exports while 18,985 was transhipment cargo destined for other regional ports.

The terminal’s previous highest GCH was achieved in December 2009, just two months after opening, when operators topped 25 GCH handling container volumes of 4,748 TEUs.

TPT’s Eastern Cape terminal executive manager Siya Mhlaluka said NCT’s GCH performance had been made possible by teamwork, additional staff and improvements in vessel and yard planning.

“It is pleasing to witness that as volumes grow the performance of our operations teams also improves. We want to offer a consistently excellent service to all our clients, by ensuring quick turnaround of vessels. Already these great improvements are the result of teamwork and integrated planning systems among all key role players to enable an efficient service offering,” he said.

The terminal has employed 376 operational staff who are split over three shifts. This excludes support services staff.

“There is a renewed sense of enthusiasm,” said Hyron Fernando Langeveldt, a ship to shore crane operator who has been at the terminal since inception. “Our morale has been boosted because we do not want to be associated with low performance. There is healthy competitive spirit amongst the three shifts which instils in us the drive to achieve and exceed targets.”

He added there was good cooperation from the various departments such as the planning teams who were willing to implement operational changes and the stevedores who worked to minimise delays to vessels.

Other operators pointed to systems and technology for the improvements. Rubber tyred gantry crane operator Ntombekhaya Makana-Twaku attributed the performance to the terminal’s new Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) which automatically updates the exact location of containers in the terminal while operators move them from point to point. Previously this was done manually.

Mhlaluka said NCT was built as a flagship terminal and TPT would use it as a benchmark where possible to improve performance at other port terminals around the country.

Customers of TPT will be hoping for those improvements at Durban Container Terminal and Cape Town Container Terminals.

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Africa Mercy arrives in Cape Town

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With two TNPA tugs alongside and hundreds of Africa Mercy staff lining her rails, the hospital ship AFRICA MERCY heads out across Durban harbour for the open sea, after completing a five-month refit at Southern African Shipyards. The ship has since arrived in Cape Town. Picture by Terry Hutson

AFRICA MERCY, the Mercy Ships hospital vessel that underwent an extensive refit in Durban, has arrived in Cape Town en route to Sierra Leone.

The ship left Durban on Thursday after a five month stay in port. Her visit to Cape Town is expected to be much shorter as the ship is due in West Africa where medical care will be provided. Make use of the Africa Mercy banners and buttons on this site to remain in regular contact with the ship and her activities.

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Piracy: Russian sailors union call for boycott of pirate-infested waters

As piracy continues unabated across the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and into the Mozambique Channel, attitudes are hardening among seafaring nations over the inability of the authorities to contain, let along reduce the incidents of pirate attacks on ships.

From Russia’s Interfax comes new that the Russian Sailors’ Trade Union has taken a stand by saying that it will do all it can to prevent Russian seafarers from being sent on ships to the affected areas.

Referring to the attack on the German-owned ship BELUGA NOMINATION on which a Filipino seafarer was shot and killed, the union says it is convinced that the deliberate, cold- blooded murder of a Philippines sailor by pirates “should change the international community’s attitude towards Somali pirates.”

Until this case, the Union continued, sailors seized as hostages were not killed. When fatal instances occurred, they did so without prior intent, or due to accidents or a combination of circumstances.

“It seems the Somali pirates have changed, and now piracy at sea can no longer be distinguished from terrorism. But whereas every state battles against terrorism on its own territory, the battle against piracy in international waters should be conducted by all states: both the states of the ship-owners' countries, and the states of countries whose sailors are working on the vessels and being captured,” the union said in a statement.

“To stop piracy, it is not enough to defend vessels in the Gulf of Aden. The terrorists' bases on shore need to be destroyed. We know of examples whereby such operations to destroy terrorist bases were carried out by the US Armed Forces. We, the maritime trade unions, representing the interests of sailors, should demand that the UN and countries' governments take any measures which they consider necessary to ensure the security of sailors in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.”

“Until the safety of sailors in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia has been ensured, I believe that sailors should not work in those dangerous regions. The Russian Sailors' Trade Union will use all means available to the trade union to ensure that Russian sailors do not go to work in the aforementioned areas. But this action can only have a result if all sailors' trade unions pursue the same policy and support such a campaign, when there are no strike-breakers among sailors,” the head of the trade union said.

The appeal has been sent to the acting chairman of the Associated Marine Officers' and Seamen's Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), the chairman of Ukraine's federation of shipping workers' trade unions, the chairman of Ukraine's shipping workers' trade union and the secretary-general of the International Transport Workers' Federation of (ITF) and the maritime coordinator of the ITF. - source Sunatimes

Intertanko says piracy is a threat to global oil supplies

The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) says that ship highjackings by pirates poses a global threat to the supply of oil and calls on governments to do more to eradicate the threat.

This follows the capture by pirates of the 319,000-dwt VLCC supertanker IRENE SL while en route to the United States. The supertanker, which is carrying US$ 200 million of Kuwaiti crude oil – two million barrels - has since been turned into a pirate mother ship, according to some reports.

“If piracy in the Indian Ocean is left unabated, it will strangle these crucial shipping lanes with the potential to severely disrupt oil flows to the US and to the rest of the world,” said Joe Angelo, head of Intertanko, whose members own the majority of the world's tanker fleet.

According to Intertanko, pirates are now using more than 20 captured ships to range out further into the Indian Ocean in search of new targets.

Piracy a ‘perfect business model’

Pirates are making millions of dollars a year in what has become a highly organised business involving a wide range of people, the BBC was told recently.

Wing Commander Paddy O’Kennedy, speaking on behalf of EU NAVFOR, told the BBC, “What we are dealing with here is a business model that is so good, that for a matter of tens of thousands of dollars you can put together a pirate action group, you can send it to sea and if you are lucky and hit the jackpot, you can come back with a vessel that within six months will bring you a return of nine-and-a-half million dollars.”

“And we (EU NAVFOR, the European Union naval force operating anti piracy patrols) are the first to admit we are not deterring piracy,” he said.

Observers have become convinced that Somali piracy is no longer a matter of a number of Somali fishermen going to sea in the hope of capturing a small ship and crew that can be held for ransom. Instead there are now investors, accountants, lawyers, political or social leaders on the land, gun merchants and even possibly persons working within the shipping industry that are aiding and abetting piracy; even to the effect of arranging and organising the strikes against selected ships.

According to some reports pirates specifically targeted the attack on the tanker SAMHO JEWELRY recently. The Korean tanker came under attack shortly after pirates received a ransom of US$ 9.5 million for the release of another Samho supertanker, the 319,360-dwt SAMHO DREAM. Pirates captured by South Korean security forces who retook the Samho Jewelry are reported to have admitted that they planned an attack on the ship for more than a month before the event, and even underwent special training to hone their skills. This claim has however not been confirmed.

Nigerian militants release captured seafarers

Nigerian militants have released two ships officers from the Greek-managed PERSEUS after they were kidnapped from their ship on 26 January this year. Two Egyptian seafarers were wounded in the attack on the ship which was moored off the port of Onne waiting to load cargo. The released officers are the ship’s Ukrainian captain and the vessel’s Greek chief engineer. They were taken to a naval base for a medical check up but appeared to be in good health.

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Road freight strike starts today

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Without trucks (and drivers), South Africa stops. Picture Terry Hutson

As things stand on Sunday, 13 February (when this report is written), trade unions involved with the road freight industry say their members will be out on strike as from either later today or early on Monday, 14 February.

The unions are demanding pay increases of 20% over two years plus a ban on the use of labour brokers. In return the Road Freight Association (RFA), representing the trucking companies has offered 15% over two years but insists that labour brokers are essential to the business.

According to the RFA a national strike will have disastrous consequences for the country’s economy. The unions say that the truck drivers are poorly paid and the labour brokers help to perpetuate the use of temporary drivers who, they say, should be employed permanently.

The RFA’s slogan on its letterhead and website reads: ‘Without trucks, South Africa stops’. A union representative told PORTS & SHIPS on Sunday that it should include ‘Without drivers, South Africa’s trucks stop’.

Therein lies the problem. Less than a year ago the Transnet national strike took place with a standoff between the unions and Transnet, arguing over wage demands. Eventually agreement was reached but not before it had cost the country billions of rand. Need we go through this drawn out business again or could not the antagonists find common ground a bit quicker?

Meanwhile, Transnet says in a letter to clients that while it was difficult to assess the effects of a strike on Transnet Port Terminal’s’ operations, it nevertheless called on clients to clear containers and cargo at the ports to minimize any effects of a possible industrial action.

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Port news – Cabinda to spend one million dollars on training

Angola’s Port Cabinda to spend on training

The Angolan port of Cabinda has made available US$ 1 million for the training of technical and administrative staff.

Announcing this last week, the CEO of Cabinda Port, Nazareth Neto said the training would be undertaken at Luanda and Cabinda and also abroad. In future he said the port intended implementing a new qualifying occupational regulation requirement.

Egypt’s ports go back to normal

Port operations in Egypt are reported to be returning to normal after the eventfull happenings in the North African country. According to a customer update issued by MSC on Friday the port of Alexandria and the Red Sea port of Sokhna which is operated by DP World, had resumed normal operations. Meanwhile it is reported that Port Said and its strategic container terminal, operated by APM Terminals, has also returned to normal following the political upheaval and strikes.

Indian Cochin transhipment terminal opens on schedule

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Picture DP World

DP World’s new transhipment container terminal at Cochin has opened as per schedule despite a strike that closed the port for a week prior to the opening.

The Vallpardam International Container Transshipment Terminal, to give it its full name, is DP World’s first dedicated transhipment and gateway hub into India. The opening took place in style before 5,000 customers and guests, headed by India’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. The terminal is a partnership between DP World and the government of India.

DP World also opened the Prem Nagar Dry Port in Lahore the same week.

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The US-flagged bulker SHEILA McDEVITT (37,244-dwt, built 1980) seen relocating up the Esplanade Channel on Thursday, 11 February. Picture by Trevor Jones

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CSAL’s Ro-Ro bulk carrier ATLANTIC IMPALA (24,111-dwt, built 1997) sailing from Durban. Picture by Trevor Jones

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