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Ports & Ships Maritime News

28 February, 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

Bringing you shipping, freight, trade and transport related news of interest for Africa since 2002

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First View – SANTA CLARA

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Hamburg Süd’s recent build container ship SANTA CLARA (85,676-gt, built 2010) seen arriving in Durban yesterday afternoon in time for the planned naming ceremony to be held at Pier 1 today (Monday, 28 February). The ship has a container capacity of 7,100 TEU with 1600 reefer plugs and was the first of ten sister ships planned for the German line. A second vessel, Santa Isabel is already in service. This picture by Trevor Jones


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Transnet’s about turn on Siyabonga Gama

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Siyabonga Gama. Picture by Terry Hutson

It hasn’t taken long for the new Transnet board chairman, Mafika Mkhwanazi and his board to ring the changes and announce new appointments within the transport parastatal.

After more than a year of indecision by government a new chairman of the board was announced (Mkhwanazi, a former chief executive of Transnet), followed swiftly by the appointment of Brian Molefe as group chief executive, a position that had been held in an acting capacity for about 15 months by Chris Wells.

Now comes the news that the new Transnet board, in what must be its first ‘ruling’, has reinstated the sacked former chief executive of Transnet Freight Rail, Siyabonga Gama.

Gama is to be based in the chairman’s office until Mkhwanazi has finalised the makeup of his executive team. Gama’s reinstatement is subject to him being served with an official warning based on the fact that he was not found guilty of corruption and/or dishonesty at the time of his dismissal.

“The Board is of the view that such an agreement is in the best interest of the company,” Transnet said in a statement. The terms of the agreement with Gama are held to be confidential.

Gama was suspended in 2009 after being charged with having allocated a contract to refurbish 50 locomotives to Sibanye Trade Services, a company that allegedly lacks the experience to handle the renovation of the locomotives. In June 2010 Gama was found guilty of a serious breach of governance requirements regarding two procurement contracts. One of these involved having signed off on a R19 million contract to a security company owned by the then minister of communications, General Siphiwe Nyanda, when he (Gama) did not have authority to sign off on contracts greater than R10 million.

Transnet spokesman Mbonio Sigonyela said in a statement, “The board believes the settlement brings finality to this matter and would bring to an end the harmful publicity surrounding it. As a result of the agreement, Transnet management can focus all its time and efforts in keeping Transnet a world class operation.”

Two of the major companies within the Transnet group, Transnet Port Terminals and Transnet Freight Rail have acting chief executives in charge, brought about by Gama’s suspension and subsequent dismissal. Stakeholders, including customers will be anxious for some finality in the management of these divisions as well.

But in a related matter, Transnet board member Juergen Schrempp, a former DaimlerChrysler executive, has resigned barely two months after his appointment, in what the Sunday Times describes as his alleged unhappiness over the manner in which new chief executive Brian Molefe was selected for the position. Chairman Mafika Mkhwanazi has denied the report.


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Leaner year for Grindrod

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Quadrant House, headquarters of the Grindrod Group. Picture by Terry Hutson

Durban-based shipping and logistics company Grindrod has posted a reduced profit of R780.3 million, down 11% on the previous year’s profits of R873m.

Making this announcement last Thursday, Grindrod chief executive Alan Olivier said that trading conditions were improving both locally and internationally and that the demand for commodities remained at a high level. The product and chemical tanker markets were however weak while there was an over-supply of ships generally, which was pushing down shipping rates. Grindrod’s results were also adversely affected by the strong South African Rand.

For the first time in its more than one hundred year history, Grindrod’s non-shipping activities, which have been steadily strengthened as a hedge against a future slump in shipping, have exceeded the shipping activities and have contributed 54% of Grindrod’s attributable income.

Grindrod says it intends continuing investing strongly in shipping, port terminals and logistics businesses by spending up to R8 billion over the following three years to upgrade the port terminals (principally Maputo and Richards Bay) and the shipping division. The Maputo port and coal terminal expansion program includes the completion in January this year of the dredging of the port from 9.4m to 11m, and a joint venture to develop a Maputo container terminal depot (adjacent to the port) by the third quarter of this year.

The third phase of the coal terminal expansion from 4m tonnes to 6m tonnes has been commissioned and land has been secured for a future expansion of the coal terminal to handle up to 25 million tonnes of coal a year. In 2010 last year Grindrod and its partners in the Port of Maputo secured an extension of the concession to operate the port until 2043.


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Piracy – SA government admits it is becoming concerned

by Chris Bathembu

Cape Town - The South African government says it remains concerned about the escalating piracy in Somalia, with officials vowing to continue to do everything possible to protect SADC waters and the region’s trade interests.

Two South Africans became victims of pirates when they were abducted from a yacht in the Indian Ocean in November last year. The pirates have since demanded a ransom of $10 million.

A Mozambican vessel was also hijacked in December in what Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu described as a threat to regional seas and security.

Speaking during a cluster briefing last week, the minister said her department has now beefed up its sea and air border management with additional deployments being made. The SS MENDI has resumed patrol along the Mozambican channel to ensure security on Southern Africa waters.

Somali piracy has become big business, with millions in ransoms paid last year and the average payment rising from £100,000 in 2005 to £3.3 million last year, according to reports.

In the first three weeks of this year, 25 ships have reportedly been attacked and five captured.

“Concerns over Somali piracy are also being attended to by the security institutions… we are working other defence forces and security agencies of the region to protect SADC maritime zone,” said Sisulu.

Government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi earlier said Cabinet had agreed to explore initiatives aimed at assisting Somalia to counter some of the root causes of the problem in the area.

It further supported the implementation of the Eastern and Southern African Indian Ocean strategy to deal with piracy along the coast of Somalia.

Sisulu said discussions were underway with the relevant authorities in the region to find ways of combating piracy as championed by the African Union. “The strategy will aim at analysing the threats, and how we should respond to the problems that are fast confronting us,” she said.

On ensuring peace and security on the continent, Sisulu said South Africa will continue to deploy its forces in conflict-torn countries with the focus on peace keeping missions.

She said Pretoria will be sending about 2,240 military personnel to operations in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, and Central Africa Republic. “These deployments are tasked with restoring peace, training and formalising and developing security structures of those countries to stabilize and facilitate economic growth and a better life for the citizens,” added Sisulu – BuaNews

Madagascar launches search for pirated passenger ship

Madagascar launched a search late last week for a small Comoros-flagged ship, the ZOULFIKAR, after the ship’s captain and two Somalis came ashore in the port town of Antsiranana in northern Madagascar seeking help. They were among a group of six in a small boat. Police detained all six for questioning.

It is feared that the Zoulfikar, which is carrying 20 passengers and nine crew, may have foundered after being caught in the tropical cyclone Bingiza. The ship left the Comoros in November bound for Tanzania but was attacked and captured by pirates along the way. It is believed the ship later sailed to Hobyo in Somalia but has since returned to the Mozambique Channel where she was being used as a pirate’s mother ship.

Madagascan authorities subsequently commissioned a search of the ocean for the Zoulfikar and the remaining people on board, using four spotter aircraft but despite a wide area having been covered, nothing further of the ship or passengers has been seen.

According to the Madagascan coordinator of anti-piracy efforts, Rolland Rasolofonirina, the Zoulfikar ran out of fuel while navigating in the path of the recent Bingiza cyclone. He said the action of the two pirates in giving themselves up was surprising. “It’s a first time,” he said.

Pirates agree to pay commission to al-Shabaab

Somali pirates have reportedly agreed to pay a commission of 20% of their ransom money to the radical Islamist organisation al-Shabaab in return for being allowed to use the town of Haradheere for their operations.

This follows a number of the pirate syndicate members being arrested by the organisation shortly after the town fell to al-Shabaab forces recently. It seems a financial arrangement has taken care of any reservations that the political and religious organisation has towards the activities of the pirates.

The United States lists al-Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation under Section 219 of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224 (as amended).


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SA's oil imports from high-risk regions: HSRC

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Tanker PROTEO (99,392-dwt, built 1993)in Cape Town harbour. Picture by Aad Noorland

by Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria - Excessive dependence on imported oil from high-risk regions makes South Africa vulnerable to both economic and national security problems.

This is revealed in the Policy Brief which the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) is currently developing based on the risks associated with South Africa's reliance on oil imports from mainly political volatile countries.

Reducing this vulnerability, according to the policy brief, requires a different approach to energy security.

The brief explores the nature of South Africa's oil-import risks and the impact on oil prices; potential government diversification strategies to diminish such risks, and the impact of such strategies on South Africa's oil-import diversification policy.

The petrol price in South Africa is linked to the price of crude oil in international markets.

Rising oil prices and price volatility as is the case currently, with Brent crude passing the US$100 mark for the first time since 2008, has been shown to stifle economic activity and reduce asset values.

For South Africa, oil is key to the country's energy security. High oil prices are a major threat to the country's overall energy security and lead to high direct costs for consumers.

There has been a gradual decrease in South Africa's oil-import diversification index, an indicator of the number of sources from which the country imports oil.

The index reached its lowest value of 0.68 in 2007, which is an indication that the country has increased the diversity of the number of sources from which it imports crude oil supplies.

The extent to which import portfolio risk is reduced by diversification is dependent on the nature and extent of market and political relationships between supply sources.

The risk of importing crude from a particular source is defined as a function of geopolitical factors, foreign direct investments in the country's oil sector, and the country's membership of OPEC.

Imports from the Middle East carry the highest risk weight (34.7 percent), followed by Africa (19.2 percent), South America (14.7 percent), Russia (10.3 percent), North America (10 percent) and Europe (5.4 percent).

High risk weight implies high costs and lack of consistency, a situation that can imply higher prices in oil-related products, hence high direct costs to consumers.

The policy brief suggests that South Africa should aim for supply sources with low risk-weights.

The increase in import specific risks can be attributed to South Africa's obtaining its crude oil imports from only two sources, the Middle East (82.2 percent) and African (17.5 percent) regions, both of which experienced oil-supply disruptions in 2004.

Results also indicate that while diversification of supply sources contributes to a lowering of the oil-import portfolio risks, a diversification strategy that increases supplies from relatively risky oil-producing regions of the Middle East and Africa, would only serve to enhance the specific risk of South Africa's oil imports.

However, the study recommends that South Africa should diversify imports from risky regions such the Middle East, to the relatively less risky regions of Europe and North America in order to achieve a significant reduction in specific risk of oil imports.

South Africa needs to advance strategic partnerships and cooperation between subsidiaries of the government-owned Central Energy Fund (CEF) and private firms in the sourcing of crude oil.

The country also needs to establish specific bilateral relations with less risky oil suppliers such as Russia, Europe and North America, while at the same time taking other cost factors into careful consideration, suggests the policy brief. – BuaNews


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Border Management Agency now set for 2014

By Leon Engelbrecht

Government says the establishment of a Border Management Agency (BMA) “is receiving due consideration and will be finalised by 2014”.

President Jacob Zuma announced the BMA in his inaugural State of the Nation Address, in June 2009. Since then, there's been little news and many rumours of infighting regarding the budget, function, placing and structure of the agency. In October last year, Cabinet's justice, crime prevention and security cluster said an “interim structure of a BMA is expected to be established by next year”. Now, it seems, this has been put off a further two years.

Addressing the media on justice, crime prevention and security matters rising from President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address, cluster chairman Jeff Radebe noted a task team “has been established to ensure a co-ordinated and integrated approach is implemented to ensure border post security and borderline integrity”. The justice minister added the task team included the South African Revenue Service – responsible for customs, the Department of Defence, the police, the departments of Public Works and Home Affairs and the State Security Agency.

“The objectives to have a stable, safe and thriving democratic dispensation rest on our shoulders as the JCPS cluster, as we are custodians of the Constitution and all laws of the Republic,” Radebe said. “We are charged with ensuring that the relevant defence, police and correctional mechanisms are in place and work efficiently and effectively. We have pledged and committed ourselves to the President and to the country towards curbing any threat to our people's citizenship and their physical integrity – this extends to our economy and the national territory. It remains our continued obligation as a cluster to ensure that the appropriate foundation, reflective of our constitutional principles and ideals, is laid down and sustained.”

Regarding the South African National Defence Force, Radebe noted it will “continue to safeguard our borders, through a four-phase deployment plan. The 1st and 2nd phases involving borders with Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland have been finalised. Phases 3 and 4, which involve borders with Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana, will be rolled out soon. The cluster will also be looking at alternative ways, including the use of technology, to safeguard our borders.”

Some success with the latter includes the Movement Control System and Advanced Passenger Processing System, operationalised ahead of last year's Soccer World Cup. Radebe said these continued “to be invaluable in ensuring that we detect and prevent undesirable persons from entering South Africa. We now have a more reliable system capable of providing updated statistics on traveller movements.”

For more on the practical effects of this further delay, consider attending the defenceWeb Border Control Conference at Gallagher Estate, Midrand, on 8 and 9 March 2011.

* Leon Engelbrecht is the editor of defenceWeb


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Those Bounty Hunters

Several readers were able to solve the question of the origin of the term ‘Bounty Hunters’. You may recall we asked whether you knew the origin of the term ‘Bounty Hunters’. As a clue it was mentioned that it has a maritime history.

No prizes for those who got it right except… well done!

Thanks go to Jay Gates of Cape Town for the question and answer. Here it is in his own words:

A brief background for you to understand the phrase origin…. It’s a great story!!

HMS Bounty left the UK in May 1788 for the South Pacific under Captain William Bligh, calling at Simonstown on her way to Tahiti. The ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ took place on 28 April 1789 and Bligh then undertook his famous 47 day, 3618 nautical mile ‘open boat’ voyage and reached the Dutch East Indies on 14 June 1789. He was transferred to the VOC ship ‘Vlydte which called in at Cape Town between 17 December 1789 and 2 January 1790. Bligh finally arrived back in the UK on the ‘Vlydte’ on 14 March 1790 where he reported the mutiny and loss of the Bounty to the Admiralty.

As nobody would be allowed to get away with such a crime against the King, the Admiralty sent out HMS Pandora, under Captain Edward Edwards to find the ship and her mutineers in order to bring them back to justice in the UK. HMS Pandora left the UK on 7 November 1790 for the South Pacific via Cape Horn. After discovering and arresting 14 mutineers on Tahiti, but failing to find the ship (Pitcairn Island was unknown!!), the ship began her return to the UK but struck the Great Barrier Reef, off Australia, on what is today known as Pandora Reef, on 29 August 1791 and sank. Edwards conducted his own ‘open boat’ voyage and with 10 surviving mutineers, he sailed 4 boats to the Dutch East Indies, arriving there on 16 September 1791.

He was transferred to the VOC ship ‘Vredenburg’ with the mutineers and they sailed for Cape Town arriving in March 1792. From there the mutineers were transferred to HMS Gorgon, which was at anchor in Table Bay, and they sailed for the UK on 6 April 1792, arriving in June 1792. Of the 10 Bounty Mutineers, 3 were hung and the rest were acquitted or pardoned.

For the whole journey, Captain Edward Edwards was determined to see his Admiralty mission through to the end, and that included having to endure shipwreck, disease and misfortune. At no time did he ever veer from completing that which he was tasked to do… and that was to go out and find the Bounty mutineers and bring them back to face trial.

As a result of his efforts, Edward Edwards was forever known as ‘The Bounty Hunter’, which is where the origin of the phrase comes from! I told you it was a great story!


Davy Jone’s Locker

Now here’s another marine related question to have you scratching through those old nautical almanacs or surfing with Wikipedia. We’ve all heard of the expression ‘Davy Jone’s locker – what does it mean and more importantly, from whence did it come? Email your answers toinfo@ports.co.za> It’s one of those questions that may have more than one explanation. Answers here later this week.



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The Greek bulk carrier MARE DORO (42,628-dwt, built 1985) makes a fine summer’s afternoon arrival in Durban yesterday. Picture by Trevor Jones

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The German owned, Dutch operated container ship NILEDUTCH SINGAPORE (25,630-gt, built 2002) arriving in Durban yesterday. Picture by Trevor Jones


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