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Ports & Ships Maritime News

10-11 March 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 – BOW JUBAIL

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The Odfjell products tanker BOW JUBAIL (37,449-dwt, built 1996) seen approaching the SBM anchorage off the port of Mossel Bay. Picture by Aad Noorland

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Piracy: Suggestions of an oversupply of ships and hostages

comment: by Terry Hutson

Piracy remains an important factor in the news and rightly so, as it is having far-reaching effects on world shipping and therefore on the world economy. In a recently published article BIMCO questioned the value of sailing around the Cape of Good Hope as an alternative to running the gauntlet of Somali pirates and the answer is not necessarily clear cut. In any case, some ships simply HAVE to use the Red Sea route, they have no choice in the matter.

But while piracy remains so much a factor in the lives of ship owners, operators and even cargo owners, the question still remains as to the best method of dealing with the matter, with opinions varying from the ‘blow them out of the water’ approach to those who advocate the seeking of political and social solutions ashore.

If truth be known, the answers probably lie in between while utilising a little of both. History should play a more active role however; it’s not as if piracy is anything new or that we can’t learn from the past, but what is evolving in the north-western Indian Ocean has multiple comparisons with what has gone before – much of it in exactly the same zones of geography.

Meanwhile it is interesting to note the suggestion this week that Somali pirates may have reached their upper limits of how much shipping they can cater for at a time, and that this is forcing them to negotiate lower ransoms for the release of ships and crew simply because they are running out of space! If true then ship owners in the unfortunate position of having vessels and crew forcibly idled off the beaches of Somalia ought to take advantage of the bargain basement sales now on offer.

That may seem strange coming from the African nation with the longest coastline but the places where pirates can moor or berth their ships is very limited – ‘ports’ such as Haradhere, Eyl and Hobyo have limited facilities and according to these reports are becoming ‘choked with ships’, leading to the willingness of the pirates to negotiate a little quicker than usual while demanding lower rates.

If true then the reasons for any speeded up negotiations may also something to do with an acceptance by ship operators and owners that they will have to pay up at some stage so they may as well get on with it and speed the process. According to the One Earth Future foundation, the average ransom paid has risen from US$3.4 million in 2009, to $5.4 million in 2010, while hostages have remained at the pirates pleasure three times longer than in the year before, from 55 days rising to an average of 150 days in 2010.

But, goes the theory, these jumps in numbers and subsequent lengthy discussions have resulted in something of a bottleneck in the pirate lairs, and the only way to clear the surplus is to have a basement type sale.

While considering these points it’s interesting to note that currently there are some 820 pirates being held in custody in 16 different countries, compared with 650 seafarers, fishermen and yachtsmen being held by the pirates, along with 24 cargo vessels, four fishing vessels and one yacht. Of course these numbers move rapidly with every ship release or capture.

It is worth considering also that the time taken to prosecute a pirate suspect often takes much longer that the time needed to negotiate the release of hostages.

It might be interesting also to know the number of pirates who are captured on suspicion but then released for want of evidence, or lack of a will or ability to prosecute. And how many of these are repeat ‘offenders’? As Thomas Winkler of the Danish Foreign Ministry recently expressed it, “You have to be able to prove that a person is a pirate for him to be prosecuted.” Isn’t that true of every criminal act? Historians would be able to show that in years gone by, those at danger on the sea lacked such niceties of law, but one doubts that anyone would seriously advocate a return to such drastic measures.

Nevertheless, history can probably show us what it was that led to the general disappearance of piracy – the real question is whether we have the courage to implement those changes.

Maersk Alabama attacked – again

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Maersk Alabama arriving in Mombasa in April 2009 after escaping from Somali pirates

It goes with the territory of course and the MAERSK ALABAMA does operate fairly regularly in such waters, but the US-registered ship has again come under attack by pirates – for at least the third time that we know of!

The most recent attempt took place on Tuesday, 8 March as the ship was sailing between Madagascar and Kenya. This time there were armed guards on board the vessel and as the suspect skiff approached they commenced firing warning shots in the direction of the approaching boat, which took the hint and made off. The ship also came under attack in September last year but was able to make its escape.

Maersk Alabama came to fame in April 2009 when pirates succeeded in boarding the vessel. The crew however fought back and managed to evict the pirates who made off with the ship’s master, a Captain Richard Philips. He was held hostage in one of the Alabama’s lifeboats for five days until US navy snipers shot and killed the pirates. Other pirates were captured and one, Abduwali Abdiqadir Muse, pleaded guilty and last month was sentenced in a New York federal court to 34 years in prison.

The 2009 incident catapulted the name of the ship and its crew into brief celebrity status and, more importantly, focused the world’s attention more fully onto the Somali piracy stage.

Tanker escapes being pirated

Despite being fired upon with rocket grenades, the tanker AEGEA (115,878-dwt, built 2009) has managed to evade capture by pirates while sailing in the Arabian Sea. The attack happened approximately 400 n.miles off Porbandar in India.

This incident took place on either 4 or 5 March and according to reports the ship was struck by at least one rocket propelled grenade which failed to explode against the superstructure. Specialists from the Indian Coast Guard later boarded the tanker and disarmed the missile.

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West African News – Nigerian dockworkers call off strike

Port strike called off

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Apapa container terminal, Lagos

A strike by Nigerian port dockworkers was called off this week after just one day following intervention by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

The dockworkers had called for a strike to take effect on Tuesday 8 March as a protest against the refusal of terminal operators to review dockworker wages – the one exception being the terminal operators in the port of Onne, where unions said that operators had complied with a request for a review of worker conditions.

According to Adewale Adeyanju, president of the Maritime Workers Union the strike was cancelled as a result of the intervention by the NPA. He said the terminal operators had agreed to review the condition of service for dockworkers. “This review should have started since June 2010, but for nine months nothing was done, so that was why we embarked on the strike. With the intervention of the NPA, we are back to work and what this means is that the least dockworker will be earning N30,000 (R1,343) pm. The allowances and other conditions of service will be improved,” he said.

Nigerian govt is committed to developing maritime sector – Goodluck Jonathan

The Nigerian government says it is committed to developing the maritime sector and has sent three maritime bills to the National Assembly as a sign of its commitment.

Without specifying the nature of the bills, Transport Minister Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman said on behalf of Federal President Goodluck Jonathan that the bills, when passed, will bring stability to the Nigerian maritime sector while boosting the economy. He said the federal government was working on the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund as another boost to the maritime industry.

Sierra Leone – hospital ship AFRICA MERCY arrives

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Africa Mercy. Picture by Terry Hutson

The hospital ship AFRICA MERCY has arrived in Freetown from South Africa and is to set up a floating hospital service for the local community at the request of the president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bay Koroma.

The extended visit by the ship is aligned to the West African country’s current five-year health care plan and will provide free health care for local people until November this year. The ship is fully equipped with modern operating theatres and recovery facilities and specialises in tumour removal, cleft lip and palate correction, cataract removal (in which ship’s doctors have developed new far-reaching technology), orthopaedics and plastic surgery.

Advance teams have already screened more than 5,000 patients in six up-country locations.

While in Sierra Leone specialists on board the Africa Mercy will also provide training for local medical doctors and care givers.

For more information about Mercy Ships click on one of the returnable banners in PORTS & SHIPS.

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Shipping News : Beluga boss faces 10 years jail if found guilty

Beluga Shipping management face fraud charges

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Beluga Intonation, one of 65 ships in the German company’s fleet, seen sailing from Durban in February this year. Picture by Trevor Jones

The founder and owner of Germany’s Beluga Shipping along with six of his senior managers have been charged with fraud in a Bremen court after an investigation dating back to 2009. If found guilty they could face sentences of up to ten years in prison.

Founder and chief executive officer Neils Stolberg last week took a leave of absence from the company and has been replaced in an interim move by chief restructuring officer Roger Lliffe with Michael Maynard as acting chief financial officer.

Stolberg and his six senior officers face charges of having misled investors since 1009 by falsely recording revenues that total ‘in the hundreds of millions’. According to reports US company Oaktree Capital Management invested US$ 280 million in Beluga in equity in July 2010. When Beluga asked Oaktree for additional money, Oaktree obliged but also conducted investigations which led to the discovery of financial irregularities regarding turnover and company liquidity.

Beluga operates with a fleet of about 65 ships and has another nine vessels under construction.

PIL boss asks for more monetary support

Singapore’s Pacific International Line (PIL), which is reported to be in discussions with Dalian Shipbuilding in China for the construction of up to six 4,800-TEU container ships for delivery in 2013, has called on the Singapore government to provide greater monetary support to Singapore’s maritime sector.

PIL Managing Director Teo Siong, who is also a nominated member of parliament and is chairman of the Singapore Shipping Association, urged the government to relax qualifying criteria for the recently introduced Maritime Sector Initiative, which offers tax exemptions on interest payments on loans to buy or build new ships, with the intention of luring ship owners to Singapore. The non-renewable exemption is valid for just five years, unlike the 10 years under the Approved International Shipping Enterprise known as AIS scheme.

Siong said the past two years had shown that shipping is heavily dependent on the health of the global economy and shipping companies making use of the Maritime Sector Initiative might require longer periods than five years to qualify for AIS, he suggested.

MSC raises Europe to South Africa bunker surcharge

Mediterranean Shipping Company has announced an increase in its bunker surcharge on shipments from Europe to South Africa, as from the end of March.

At that time the surcharge will become US$ 560 per dry TEU and $747 per reefer container. MSC has also raised the bunker surcharges of shipments from Europe to Australia and New Zealand which will now become $893 per TEU.

COSCO reassess its THC charges to and from South Africa

COSCO Container Lines announced this week an assessment of its terminal handling charges (THC) on shipments to and from South Africa.

The fees will become US$156 per TEU and $230 per FEU for general cargo and $218 per TEU and $323 per FEU for dangerous cargo, all with effect 1 April 2011.

Maersk Constellation still detained in Lobito

The container ship MAERSK CONSTELLATION was still in Lobito, Angola on Tuesday (8 March) after having been detained on account of four properly declared containers loaded with ammunition.

The four containers, which are destined for Kenya have not been returned to the ship even though the Kenyan government has issued a statement saying that it is expecting the shipment. While under detention in port the ship has been guarded by an armed Angolan patrol ship and has had to move from an anchorage to the pier on several occasions to enable further inspections of the remaining cargo, which is mostly relief aid grain. See related article Mystery over four containers of American weapons found on Maersk Constellation

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Does the bell toll for labour brokers?

If the Labour Relations Amendment Bill is introduced without amendment the effect it will have on temporary employment services (TES) or labour brokers will be significant. For instance, the changes to the definition of employee and unfair labour practice will make it difficult for a client using the service of a TES to distance itself from any claims being raised by a TES employee, and so using temporary employment services may not be that attractive in future. Michael Maeso* head of Employment Law at Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys looks at some of the key issues.

The Labour Relations Amendment Bill seeks to repeal section 198 dealing with temporary employment services (TES) or labour brokers. We are told the reason for this is that some labour brokers have manipulated the section to such an extent that some employees have been significantly prejudiced by being employed by labour brokers.

The effect on the TES industry if the Bill is introduced without amendment is significant. The definition of TES will fall away and TES employees will no longer be deemed to be employees of the TES. The changes to the definition of employee and unfair labour practice will make it difficult for the client to distance itself from any claims being raised by the TES employee and so using TES may not be that attractive.

A further limitation on the ability to use a TES is the proposed introduction of section 200B which requires employees to be employed permanently unless the employer can establish a justification for employment on a fixed term. Those TES operations that provide labour to companies on an indefinite basis will no longer be able to do so and these employees will have to be employed by the client.

One might confuse a private employment agency as contemplated in the Employment Services Bill as a TES. The private employment agency has limited functions associated with a recruitment service only. One of the distinctions with a TES being that the work seeker placed by the private employment agency becomes the employee of the employer and is not employed by the agency.

Any attempt to ban TES is unlikely to withstand a constitutional challenge. An attempt to ban TES in Namibia was proven to be unconstitutional and there is no reason to believe that a similar challenge to the South African Constitutional Court, in the event of a total ban of TES, would not be successful.

* Michael Maeso is head of Employment Law at Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys

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Durban man gets top Wilhelmsen Ships Service job as Area Director

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Prean Pather, Wilhemsen Ships Service’s area director

Wilhelmsen Ships Service has appointed Prean Pather to the position of Area Director of East and South Africa area, covering Egypt, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia and the Islands off East Africa.

Pather, who will be located in Durban, South Africa, was previously General Manager of Wilhelmsen Ships Service in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. He holds a Diploma in Container Management and is continuing his studies towards obtaining his degree specialising in Entrepreneurship through the University of South Africa.

He has been instrumental in establishing a strong sales and operations organisation in the region.

“The trade relations between India and South Africa continue to grow from strength to strength,” says Pather. “We are seeing a lot more exports of commodities such as coal being exported from South Africa to India. The same is happening in Mozambique with many projects in the pipeline for coal being controlled by large Indian companies.

“Africa plays an important part in the global economy and as many of the countries in Africa are developing economies, we expect to see much better GDP growth rates in the years to come. South Africa, as an emerging market, has a very positive impact on the whole continent.”

Wilhelmsen Ships Service supplies ships agency services, maritime logistics, Unitor marine products, Nalfleet chemicals, and technical services.

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SAS ASSEGAI now an official museum submarine

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SAS Assegai, now berthed and ready to receive visitors. Picture by Bob Johnston

by Bob Johnston

Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu accompanied by Flag Officer Fleet, Rear Admiral Philip Schoultz, recently had the honour of officially opening the SA Naval Museum Submarine, SAS Assegaai.

The opening ceremony was performed on Tuesday 1 March 2011, in Simon’s Town.

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Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral J Mudimu, cutting the ribbon to mark the opening of the sub as a museum. Picture by Bob Johnston

SAS Assegaai (formerly SAS Johanna van der Merwe) the third of three Daphne Class submarine built in France for the SA Navy, was commissioned in 1971. She served her country well and with the acquisition of three new Type 209 submarines and was decommissioned in November 2003. Unlike her two sisters which were cut up for scrap, the last survivor of the Daphne class has been retained for preservation as a museum exhibit at the SA Naval Museum.

As the first naval vessel to be preserved at the Naval Museum she will continue to serve as a reminder of South Africa’s rich naval heritage and as a centre of technology for the youth, promoting the sciences.

The formal opening marks the first step in her eventual placing ashore at the museum. She is currently afloat in the East Yard ahead of the Cable Restorer.

The ceremony was attended by the Naval Command Council, Directors of Fleet Command, local dignitaries and retired officers who served in submarines. The guest of honour was R Admiral (JG) Theo Honiball (Ret) who as a Lieutenant Commander was her first officer commanding.

The short colourful ceremony was concluded with a walk through the submarine and a champagne reception.

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Inside the submarine - Lt Cmdr Theo Honiball (Ret'd) the first Officer Commanding the S 99 way back in 1971 (top Left), R Admiral B Teuteberg, Vice Admiral J Mudimu (lower left) and Flag Officer Fleet R Admiral Phillip Schoultz (lower right). Picture by Bob Johnston


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The container ship BUNGA SEROJA DUA (89,776-gt, built 2007) which is owned and managed by MISC, a Malaysian company whose ships were once prominent callers in South African ports but not so frequent at present. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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The Norwegian offshore support vessel BOURBON OCEANTEAM 101 (8,575-gt, built 2007) on berth in Cape Town harbour during February 2011. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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