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Ports & Ships Maritime News

17-18 March, 2011
Author: Terry Hutson


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

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Readers are reminded that Monday is a public holiday in South Africa. The next edition of this News Bulletin will therefore appear on Tuesday, 22 March 2011


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The Cape Town harbour tug CHARDONNAY (429-gt, built 1980) which assisted in manoeuvring the oil rig PRIDE SOUTH SEAS, under whose legs the tug is seen resting. The tug’s name is taken from one of the grape varieities used to make a white wine that has become highly popular in the Western Cape. Picture by Aad Noorland

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West Africa in the news

Namibe’s port fees to be reviewed

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CIA map of Angola showing port of Namibe

Angola’s Customs department has agreed to review port fees at the southern Angolan port of Namibe in addition to other concerns regarding overbearing bureaucracy. It is reported that the fees charged by Namibe port are four times higher than those in Walvis Bay in Namibia. Complaints have also been made by importers and exporters about the delays in processing cargo through Customs.

Cameroon-Nigeria highway planned – will boost West and Central African trade

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map showing the towns of Bamenda in Cameroon and Enugu in Nigeria that will be linked by the first phase of this section of the Trans African Highway. Map Commonwealth

A new east-west highway connecting Cameroon with Nigeria and funded by the World Bank, the African Development Bank and Japan’s Agency for International Development, is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Work on the highway project, long envisaged but equally long in getting underway, commenced last June and when completed will open a new transport corridor between East, Central and West Africa. Benefits are expected to accrue to the millions of inhabitants living along the route.

Ultimately the highway is intended as part of the Trans African Highway connecting the Nigerian port of Lagos on the Atlantic coast with the Kenyan port of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean. The current section of 433 km connects the town of Bamenda in north-western Cameroon with Enugu in eastern Nigeria, with a joint border post linking the two countries.

Proponents of the road say it will increase trade exchanges and strengthen cooperation between the respective nations of the region.

ECOWAS awards contract to build two border posts

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has awarded contracts for the building of two border posts linking Nigeria and Benin, and Ghana and Togo. The aim of the two posts, which are being funded by the European Union, is to harmonise border controls and Customs practices with an aim of facilitating the movement of trade among the West African states. ECOWAS says that real transport facilitation will be realised only when each country removes illegal roadblocks and other unnecessary checks.

Takoradi received new cargo handling equipment

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Port of Takoradi in Ghana. Picture courtesy OTAL

The Ghana port of Takoradi has inaugurated new cargo handling equipment at the port including mobile cranes, reach stackers, Mafi tractors and fork lift trucks. Alhaji Abukari Sumani, chairman of Ghana Ports & Harbours Authority said the port would be redesigned and dredged to enable larger ships to use the port. Additional cargo handling equipment is expected in the near future.

Sierra Leone port workers concerned about possible privatisation

Port workers at Sierra Leone Ports Authority say they are concerned about possible privatisation of the Queen Elizabeth II harbour quay. The Port Workers Union and the Sierra Leone Labour Congress are in talks with the National Privatisation Commission and the Government of the West African country concerning service and redundancy benefits for some 800 workers who will be affected by the move.

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Delays likely along already congested Bayhead Road as road construction commences

Bayhead Road congestion ahead

Notice has been given that with effect yesterday, 16 March 2011 (this information became available on the day on which construction commenced) the traffic flow on the severely congested Bayhead Road in Durban will be sequentially reduced to one lane in either direction.

The reason for this is that construction of an additional lane adjacent to the Cutler Complex’s (Island View Tank Farm area) parabolic wall was to commence.

Bayhead Road is the only road route into the Bayhead region of Durban Harbour, which is home to the two container terminals, the vast Island View tank farm area known as the Cutler complex, the ship repair yards and various warehouses and container depots. The road beyond the Langeberg Road junction, which leads to Pier 2 and the Durban Container Terminal, narrows from four lanes (two each way) to a single road with two wide lanes. It is this section that is being widened to accommodate four lanes in total.

Notice has also been given that stopping in this area will not be permitted under any circumstance and is to be enforced by metro police. The road is notorious for large heavy duty tipper trucks that congregate along the side of the road, while waiting for their turn to enter the Cutler complex.

The problem is a result of a lack of forward planning and a reluctance by Transnet to construct a laybye parking area where trucks could be staged. The planned construction of the road was delayed in 2008 as a result of the economic downturn, when this was probably the best time to undertake the construction.

Cape Town Navis hiccups

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Maersk Line’s container ship MAERSK DAESAN (54,214-gt, built 2005) seen sailing from Durban harbour. Picture by Trevor Jones

In the port of Cape Town, which suffers frequent stoppages because of the region’s notorious winds (over 15 hours lost on Tuesday/Wednesday this week), headaches for importers and exporters have been compounded by a blockage of trucks outside the A-check facility early yesterday, at about 6.15am.

It appears that the number of containers arriving for the Maersk Daesan on the line’s stamped CTO’s was in excess of those recorded in the Navis operating system and no-one was available who had the right authority to fix the problem. So everyone had to sit tight for several hours until the shipping line office people were available (after 8am) to rectify the matter via an update for Navis.

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Piracy Report: Crew rescued from VEGA 5 were all Mozambican

The Mozambican government says it has received information from the Indian authorities that all 13 crew rescued from the pirated Mozambican fishing vessel BEGA 5 were from Mozambique.

This is despite a Spanish newspaper report that one of the crew was Indonesian. A total of 19 of the original crew of 24 were from Mozambique, two were from Spain and three were from Indonesia, but when the vessel was sunk by the Indian Nay only 13 crew were on board.

Vega 5 was engaged by the Indian Navy after skiffs from the fishing vessel are thought to have made an abortive attempt on a merchant ship off the Indian coast. A Dornier reconnaissance aircraft from the Indian Coast Guard reported the presence of the mother ship and two Indian Navy ships were despatched to intercept.

In the resultant gunfight the fishing vessel caught fire and is presumed to have sunk, but all the pirates (61 in total) and 13 crew were rescued. Now comes a worrying time as families of the crew await details of who was rescued, and others will be left wondering where the other 11 crew members are. It is presumed that they were taken ashore in Somalia, leaving the fishing vessel with sufficient crew to operate her under pirate command. Susana Carimo, wife of crew member Olivio Alves, is quoted in Tuesday’s issue of the independent Maputo daily O Pais, as saying, “I don’t know whether my husband is alive or dead, if he is among the 13 crew members rescued, or is still in Somalia, or is floating somewhere in the water”. source AIM

Indian Navy gets go-ahead to storm pirated ships with Indian crew

The Indian Government has given the nod to the Indian Navy to storm pirated ships if it believes there is Indian crew on board or if the ship is carrying Indian cargo.

The instruction comes at a time when the Indian authorities are still deciding whether to permit armed guards on board Indian merchant ships. Some countries have given this the green light but others have yet to decide and some have said no. There are conflicting views of the wisdom of escalating the level of violence involved with dealing with piracy, as a realization sets in that current passive methods including the release of captured pirates is not helping to solve the matter.

With regards the go-ahead given to the Indian Navy there will possibly be some confusion when a pirated ship is known to have mixed crew and cargo, some Indian and some not.

Heavy sentences for five convicted pirates

Five Somali pirates have been sentenced to life in prison in an American court – the harshest sentence yet handed down. The men were found guilty of having attacked a US Navy ship, the frigate USS Nicholas in April last year.

The US court made use of rarely-used 19th century maritime laws in what have become the first cases of piracy tried in the USA since the US civil war. In February a Somali man, Abduwali Muse received a sentence of 33 years for his role in the attack on the Maersk Alabama.

Most ships ignore recommended guidelines while in pirate waters

More than 60% of ships entering pirate-infested waters ignore the recommended Best Industry Management Practice (BMP), according to IMO secretary-general, Efthimios Mitropoulos,

NATO says it has estimated that it would take 80 warships on patrol to provide an hour’s arrival response time to a pirate attack in the zone of operations. The pirates meanwhile ignore these zones and have cast a much wider net, making it an impossibility for the combined navies to be everywhere all at once. There are seldom more than 30 warships in the zone anyway, and of these only 15 are usually operational.

The IMO has suggested that the time may have come when the BMP should be made mandatory for all shipping.

Don’t guffaw just yet, but… Tom Hanks may be riding to the rescue

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Maersk Alabama arriving in Mombasa shortly after the event described below

According to movie industry news, Hollywood is about to make a movie in which Tom Hanks will play the part of Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama which was attacked by Somali pirates in 2009.

Phillips became something of a hero for his role as hostage for the remainder of his crew. During this period and while accompanying the pirates in the ship’s lifeboat (not by choice), US Navy snipers shot and killed his three captors, while a fourth who was on board the USS Bainbridge negotiating with the Americans was taken prisoner.

Now Sony Pictures wants to make a movie based on Phillips’ book, A Captain’s Day: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea, written about the event. Sony wants Hanks to play the part of the ship’s captain – John Wayne being unavailable!

What Phillips’ fellow officers and crew think of the matter is not clear – not all believed the captain to be the hero of the occasion. Some accused him of having been reckless and responsible for placing the ship in danger – the ship was sailing within 400 miles of the Somali coast at the time.

It was said that sailing beyond the 600-mile threshold then recommended would have added more than a day to the Alabama's voyage to Mombasa, Kenya, and used extra fuel.

“He caused this, and we all know it,” the ship’s chief engineer Mike Perry was quoted as saying. “All the Alabama crew knows about it.” The ship’s navigator was equally critical of Phillips ignoring warnings not to sail so close to the coast. But the captain’s second in command, Captain Shane Murphy defended his captain, saying “I don’t think he was negligent. Maybe just stubborn.”

Now we can all wait and see just how Hollywood will retell all the facts.

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Company News: Beluga goes into insolvency; PPG expands global footprint

Beluga files for insolvency

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Beluga Intonation, in Durban recently. Picture by Trevor Jones

German ship owner and project cargo specialist Beluga yesterday filed for insolvency protection for Beluga Chartering.

This follows the sudden resignation of its founder and CEO Neils Stolberg on a leave of absence after he and six senior managers were charged with fraud in a German court. See our report of 10-11 March Beluga boss faces 10 years jail if found guilty.

The company chose the insolvency route after talks with banks and tonnage providers broke down. As a result more than 40 chartered container and multipurpose ships have been withdrawn from the Beluga stable after dissatisfaction with Beluga’s main investor, US company Oaktree Capital Management, which took control of Beluga several weeks ago.

PPG expands global footprint

Heavy-lift freight forwarding network, the Project Professionals Group (PPG), has announced several new appointments in a strengthening of its global footprint.

Egyptian Marine Agency Services (EMAS) had been appointed as new Project Support Member in Egypt and NSCL Shipping Agencies & Investment Company limited in Sudan, both for their ship agency expertise.

General Manager Kevin Stephens said Interfreight Group companies had been appointed as new project forwarder members for Southern Sudan (Interfreight Limited); Eastern Congo (Societe TMK); Burundi (Sodetra Burundi SPRL); and Tanzania (Freight and Logistics Limited). Interfreight are already PPG members for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Additional new project forwarder appointments included Oman (Maple Shipping & Logistics LLC); Ecuador (Solot Logistics Ecuador S.A.); and Egypt (All In Shipping).

Stephens said all new appointees delivered a range of project forwarding services and had proven experience.

The Project Professionals Group will be gathering in Rio de Janeiro from 15-17 June for its annual conference.

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MSC Cruises CEO takes a European perspective to Seatrade Miami

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MSC Magnifica

Miami - The announcement that North American cruise liners would move to European waters this summer confirmed that ‘the Old World is now becoming the New World’ of cruising, Pierfrancesco Vago, CEO of MSC Cruises told the annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping in Miami on Tuesday.

Vago, who was invited as a first time guest speaker to bring a European perspective to the prestigious event which attracts over 10,000 international delegates and 983 exhibitors, said he was proud to give an overview of the Old World which had become the fastest growing cruise market globally with a dramatic 163% increase in passengers alone in just 10 years.

“Europe was declared ‘the hottest story in cruising’ two years ago by the authoritative publication USA Today and there is absolutely no doubt that it has remained so,” said Vago, who was recently appointed to the executive committee of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise association dedicated to the promotion and growth of the industry.

“The cruise industry in Europe has overcome the economic storm with remarkable resilience, skill and success. The market is second only to North America, accounts for 30% of the global share and keeps on growing. In addition its cruise-ship capacity will be up by an astonishing 23% this year.

“Our current level of 5 million European cruisers was achieved in North America in 1997, so in many ways we can say that Europe is becoming the new Caribbean as a destination of choice,” said Vago.

He said he was utterly confident that the European Cruise Industry had a brilliant future, which could well be illustrated by the record-breaking growth experienced by MSC Cruises itself since 2003. Indeed passenger numbers has leapt from 127,000 to 1,220,000 in seven years and a brand new 12th MSC cruise ship would be launched in 2012.

“Europe is undoubtedly the top destination on anyone’s dream vacation list. Cruising the Mediterranean and Baltic seas has become the new iconic way to do the traditional Grand Tour especially for Americans, and increasingly for the Chinese and Indians too,” said Vago.

Europe has also become a year-round destination. In 2009 there were a total of 152 cruise ships sailing in Mediterranean waters carrying 3 million passengers on almost 8,000 cruises. This was not surprising considering the high number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy (45), Spain (42) and France (35).

“The proposed move by North American liners to Europe is a further confirmation that ours is a healthy and vibrant market. This move will certainly heat up the competition. All competitors are all most welcome. But let me warn you: do not underestimate Europe as the ‘new kid on the block’,” was Mr Vago’s provocative closing note.

“Our cruise ships are decidedly European in style with a focus on the highest standards of service, onboard gourmet experiences and dreamy cultural excursions in enchanting cities like Rome, Venice and Barcelona. This is quite different to the ‘Wow and Fun’ factor of the American way.

“We also have the unique capability of embarking from multiple ports and pride ourselves in dealing with more than six languages at the same time. The European market distribution follows a very special door-to-door pattern and our VAT rules can be complicated and disparate.

“But having said that, we welcome the opportunity for all of us to get the most out of our products and the chance to offer a bigger choice at a lower price.” said Vago.

MSC Cruises is operating in Southern African waters with two ships during the current summer season, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Melody – the latter has just returned to the Mediterranean after a highly successful summer sailing out of Durban and Cape Town. MSC expects to have carried between 100,000 and 110,000 South African passengers by the time MSC Sinfonia sails back to Europe at the end of April.

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The UK P&I Club’s latest ‘Legal Briefing’ homes in on the Ballast Water Management Convention

The UK P&I Club has chosen to focus its latest Legal Briefing publication on the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, adopted by the IMO in 2004. Implementation of the Convention is now probably just two years away and ship owners and managers are coming under increasing pressure as they struggle to be ready in time.

Over the past 20 to 30 years, the consequences of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) travelling around the globe in ships’ ballast water have become increasingly apparent. Fisheries are being damaged, river banks are being eroded and power stations are spending millions of dollars keeping their water intakes clear. Global pressure persuaded the IMO to act and this 2004 Convention was the result.

The Convention will come into force one year after 30 states, representing 35 per cent of the world’s tonnage, sign up without reservation or have ratified it. So far 27 countries representing just over 25 per cent of the world’s tonnage have done so. It is impossible to know for certain how much longer it will take to reach the target of 30 states/35 per cent of the tonnage because to become a signatory, each government must find time in its own legislative process to address this subject. However, with outstanding states such as Panama having already enacted national legislation and the EU likely to urge its members to act, developments could be rapid.

Jacqueline Tan, UK Club senior claims executive and author of the Legal Briefing, warned:

“The ratification of the Convention and unilateral adoption of ballast water regulations in other countries means the time available for adopting the operational and documentary procedures is diminishing quickly.

“It could place shipowners and crews under considerable pressure to achieve compliance let alone get to grips with the operational complexities of ballast water regulations.”

Standards to be applied and shipowners’ responsibilities

The Convention recognises that ships differ in type, size and configuration and so initially allows for two standards of ballast water management: the Ballast Water Exchange Standard (BWE) – which is only acceptable until January 2014 or 2016 depending on the ballast capacity of the ship - and the Ballast Water Performance Standard (BWP) where ballast water must be treated prior to discharge. Details of both standards and the relevant methods for conducting ballast water exchange are outlined in the UK P&I Club’s Legal Briefing.

In order to check and assist with compliance to the afore mentioned regulations, the Convention imposes strict requirements in relation to documents that should be on board the ship at all times. These are a Ballast Water Management Plan specific to each ship, a Ballast Water Record Book, which may be in the form of an electronic record system or integrated into another record book or system, and an International Ballast Water Management Certificate. This certificate may be issued by the flag state or by surveyors or organisations nominated by the flag state.

The Convention allows Port State Control officers to board the ship to check that the ship has on board a valid certificate, to inspect the Ballast Water Record Book and to take a sample of the ship’s ballast water. Should any concerns come to light during an inspection, a more detailed inspection may be carried out but all efforts should be made to avoid undue delay to the movement or the departure of the ship.

Timetables, sanctions and allowed exceptions

The Legal Briefing also gives details of the timetable for compliance and the sanctions that apply in case of non-compliance or violations. Sanctions are established under the law of the flag state for the ship concerned and these sanctions will be applicable wherever the violation occurs.

There are of course times when exceptions have to be made such as when a ship finds herself in an emergency situation or there is an accidental discharge despite all reasonable precautions having been taken. Ships are also allowed to discharge untreated ballast water if the discharge location is the same as where it was taken onboard.

Time is running out

There are many things a shipowner needs to do before the Convention comes into force and some are now becoming really urgent says the UK P&I Club. For example, a shipowner needs to conduct a study of all ballast water treatment systems available. Modifying or installing a ballast water treatment system is very costly and the Club warns that many uncertainties are making the choice of a suitable system extremely difficult. Furthermore there are not enough installation facilities to cope with the necessary work and a first-come, first-served system would not favour indecisive owners.

There is now, the Club believes, a sufficient choice of equipment for ships with ballast capacities below 5,000 m3 but this is still not the case for ships with ballast capacities above 5,000 m3. To make matters worse, new systems submitted for approval are not being approved sufficiently quickly, thus limiting choice.

Recent US legislation has further added to the confusion. The current New York State ruling requires a performance standard up to 1,000 times more stringent than the BWP standard in the Ballast Convention. There is however at present no known equipment capable of meeting this standard.

The owner then needs to devise a Ballast Water Management Plan and have it approved by the ship’s classification society. The classification society, if authorised by the flag state to do so, will then issue the ship with a complying certificate. When this is completed, all crew members and staff who will be involved in operating the ballast water management system onboard the ship must be properly trained to do so.

It can be seen that the time frame involved is not easily reduced in length.

Background to Invasive Alien Species (IAS)

The transfer of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) by ships has been a known problem for centuries. In the days of wooden sailing ships, IAS would travel the world hidden in holes that had been bored into the hull planking or in the layers of weed that were common on ships’ hulls – wood and steel alike - until just a few decades ago. Only when modern biocides were applied to hulls did this aspect of the problem diminish but by then, IAS had established other ways of travelling the globe, most notably in ballast water.

Ballast has always played a role in the transfer of IAS, notably plant species in the days when ballast consisted of solid bulk materials. Roughly speaking, the migration of marine organisms and crustaceans really took off with the widespread adoption of water ballast tanks in the 1950s/60s and the growth of ship sizes in the 1980s onwards.

Once established, IAS can have a massive negative effect on local environments. No doubt because of its size and the fact that it is edible, the Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) is perhaps best known but the North American Comb Jellyfish (Mnemiopsis leidyi) and Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis) are just two other species that cause serious headaches for the human populations that live alongside their newly adopted habitats.

All three interfere with commercial and private fishing activities while the mitten crab is also well-known for damaging river banks even in urban areas. The North American Comb Jellyfish wreaks havoc by feeding heavily on zooplankton and has contributed significantly to the collapse of fisheries in the Black and Azov Seas while the North Pacific Seastar has arrived in Southern Australia to feed on shellfish including commercially valuable scallop, oyster and clam species.

Another traveller in ballast water is the Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). Originally from freshwater lakes in Russia, it is believed to have arrived in North America via the Great Lakes. According to the Center for Invasive Species Research at the University of California, Riverside, it costs the US over $500 million per annum as it has further migrated to other lakes where build-ups of mussels restrict water flows into power stations and other water-dependent facilities.

To download a .pdf copy of the Legal Briefing: New regulations for the control of ships ballast, go HERE

Pics of the Day – E.R. SEOUL and TUPERNA

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The container ship E.R. SEOUL (67,660-dwt, built 2000) arriving in Durban harbour. Picture by Trevor Jones

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The much smaller general cargo ship TUPERNA (3345-dwt, built 2006), with the port pilot helicopter hovering overhead, sails down the Durban port entrance channel earlier this month. Picture by Trevor Jones

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