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Ports & Ships Maritime News

31 March/ 1 April, 2011
Author: Terry Hutson


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

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Cleantec (closest to camera) and Voge Felix transshipping cargo of wheat. Picture by Clinton Wyness

It has been a number of years since two ships undertook a large transshipment of cargo from one vessel to the other in Durban harbour but that is what is takingplace at Pier 1, berth 102 at the moment. The bulker CLEANTEC arrived in port with approximately 30,000 tonnes of wheat of which 22,000 tonnes is intended for a West African port. Because of port limitations at the West African destination which would have prevented Cleantec from entering the port it was decided to undertake the transshipment within the safety and comfort of Durban harbour, with the remaining 8,000t to be discharged later at SA Bulk Terminals, a division of Bidvest.

The transshipment commenced earlier this week and is scheduled to be completed later today (Thursday, weather permitting). The second vessel, VOGE FELIX (outer vessel in photo) will then sail for West Africa.

The stevedoring operation is in the hands of Bidfreight Port Operations (BPO), one of South Africa’s oldest and largest stevedore companies. When PORTS & SHIPS visited the operation this week it was to witness a slick and efficient operation, with the two ships locked tightly together and heavy plastic tarpaulins preventing any spillage into Durban Bay, while a number of 8-tonne grabs effortlessly transferred the cargo across using ship’s gear, with remarkably little spillage.

In recent years transshipments such as this have become unusual in Durban harbour, especially one involving two bulk ships that are in perfect working condition. Fairship KZN was the agent representing both ships in port.

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One of a number of giant grabs at work in transshipping the cargo across from Cleantex (on left) to Voge Felix. Picture by Terry Hutson

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Indications that Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) is not looking to expand operations at the Richards Bay port beyond the current capacity of 91 million tonnes until at least after 2015, can to be seen as yet another indication of the ineptitude of Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) in meeting the transport requirements of South African business.

Early in 2010 RBCT announced that it had increased the terminal’s annual capacity to 91 million tonnes, an undertaking directed primarily at meeting the aspirations of emerging mines, the so-called ‘junior mines’ within the industry. But in the process, RBCT had far outstripped the ability of TFR to deliver coal to the port, as evidenced when TFR put a dampener on any additional enthusiasm by revealing that it was unable to increase capacity along the line beyond the current cap of 76 million tonnes.

It became apparent that although TFR was investing heavily in infrastructure and rolling stock, it was unlikely that an increase of the line’s capacity to 81mt could be achieved. To reach this target, which remained 10 million tonnes below RBCT’s actual capacity, TFR would have to undertake significant improvements to the coal line itself.

In its defence TFR is correct is assuming an attitude of not embarking on a gearing up of capacity until it is in possession of firm contracts from the mines stating that the increased volumes of coal will be available for export - undertakings that do not appear to be forthcoming.

During 2010 RBCT exported a total of 63,427,448 tonnes of coal, having received 62,860,748 tonnes from TFR. This of course is well below terminal and rail line capacities, and while it is common knowledge that TFR experienced a number of derailments on the line during the year, which severely impaired its ability to deliver coal, there is also more than a suggestion that the mines themselves are guilty of either not having coal for export or not being prepared to sell at the then prevailing prices.

But now, with the price of coal now approaching US$ 130 a ton, it would be a brave or foolish mine that said it was no longer interested in exporting at this time. In an article yesterday Business Report said that by missing out on increased Asian demand for coal, RBCT (and South Africa) was losing about $3.3 billion a year.

Mozambique poised to take on SA

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Nacala port master plan

While South African stakeholders debate the merits of improving transport infrastructure and capacity, neighbouring Mozambique is poised to take upon itself the mantle of a leading exporter of coal. Rio Tinto boss Jan du Plessis this week called the Riversdale deposits, in which Rio Tinto has a 40% share of concession holder Riversdale Mining, “the most exciting new coal field since the discovery of the Bowen Basin in Australia.

That’s powerful talk - Queensland’s Bowen Basin is Australia’s largest coal deposit, from which over 100 million tonnes of coal is exported each year.

When the Moatize and Benga deposits involving Vale and Riversdale were first announced, the anticipated annual exports were modest, but these have since expanded beyond proportion. Current restrictions revolve, as in South Africa, around the means of getting the export coal to the seaport – in this case Beira. The Sena Railway on which refurbishment is nearing completion will shortly be capable of handling six million tonnes of coal annually but CFM, the state-owned port and rail operator says it has plans to spend another $200 million on expanding the capacity to 12mt by 2014.

Of the current capacity, Vale has reserved 4mt with Riversdale taking up the 2mt annual. This is still small change but it is early days yet. Riversdale is meanwhile importing its own diesel-electric locomotives – 11 of them – from Croatia to operate between the mine and the railhead at Moatize.

While some ramping up of the Beira line may occur as demand grows, the long term vision is in the direction of Nacala to the north, where a natural deep water bay affords the opportunity of building a coal terminal port that might one day rival Richards Bay, and if those estimates about the worth of the Mozambique reserves are correct, the day might be much sooner than expected.

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Chinese Navy frigate Zhoushan (FFG 529)

The Chinese Embassy in Pretoria has advised that the planned visit next week by two Chinese Navy missile frigates will not include calls at other South African ports.

The two ships, the ZHOUSHAN (FFG 529) and XUZHOU (FFG-530) of the Chinese PLA Navy 7th Escort Task Force, will arrive in Durban on 4 April and depart again on 8 April 2011. During their visit, the ships will be open to the public between 4 and 6 April.

They are returning from the Gulf of Aden where they have been taking part in anti-piracy patrols and escort duties. During the time spent on these duties the two ships accompanied 38 convoys involving the protection of 578 merchant ships and took part in a number of rescues from pirates.

One of the ships, Xuzhou recently sailed into the Mediterranean to perform escort duties for the Greek passenger ship VENIZELONS while it was evacuating 2142 Chinese from Libya.

En route to Durban the two Chinese frigates have visited the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

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Maersk names first ship for Wafmax (West Africa) service

Maersk Line has named the first of 22 Wafmax size container ships under construction for Maersk and Safmarine at the Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea.

The lead vessel in this series, referred to as ‘Wafmax’ to denote the largest container ships able to call at West African ports, has been named MAERSK CONAKRY, the capital city of Guinea.

The new 4,500-TEU vessels have been designed to be more fuel-efficient than their predecessors, using 30% less fuel per container moved than the industry average on the Asia- West Africa trade.

“Maersk Line has served Africa for more than 30 years. We will continue to develop our services and support our customers' increasing business in the trades between Africa and Asia, Europe and the Americas. The Wafmax vessels with their greater capacity and energy efficiency support that ambition and extend our commitment to these important growth markets,” said Hanne Sorensen, CCO of Maersk Line.

Each ship is to be 250m long and has a draught restriction of 13.5m, the maximum size allowable for West African ports. Some of the vessels will be self-geared, others gearless to enable those with gear to call at the smaller ports that lack ship-to-shore cranes.

The ships are to be delivered during 2011 and 2012.

Turnaround for China Shipping Container Lines

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CSCL Lima arriving in Durban harbour. Picture by Trevor Jones

After posting a loss of 6.49 billion yuan in 2009, China Shipping Container Lines has reversed its fortunes with a profit of 4.2bn yuan in 2010 (US$ 640 million).

Container volumes increased by 6.9% year-on-year totalling 7.2 million TEU handled. The results were filed with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. But despite the encouraging results, the company has cautioned that the changing situation in the Middle East and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami makes continued growth uncertain.

COSCO posts US$ billion profit for 2010

In another reversal, and another Hong Kong Stock Exchange posting, China COSCO, the shipping division of China’s biggest shipping group, has turned a 2009 loss of 7.47 billion yuan into a 6.86 billion yuan ($1 bn) profit for 2010.

Containers handled by China COSCO increased to 6.2 million TEU, up 18.7% year-on-year while the company carried 280.1 million tonnes of drybulk cargo commodities which is up 3.15% on 2009.

The company said in a statement that new ships would add 1.3 million TEU in capacity during 2011 and the company was confident that drybulk cargo would increase by 6% on the back of China’s strong demand for coal and iron ore.

Released Beluga ships unlikely to hurt sector – Drewry

Shipping consultants Drewry says that the release of about 50 Beluga ships back into the market in unlikely to have any adverse effect on the sector. Drewry’s comments come as approximately 50 ships from the Beluga fleet of 72 have been returned into the market by the individual ship owners – Germany’s KG shipping funds and other vessel owners.

“The vessels that Beluga has contracted on a charter basis are likely to be released back into the market. But demand levels are such that these vessels will be sought after and are expected to be utilised by other operators,” said Susan Oatway, editor of the Drewry ‘Multipurpose Report’.

Meanwhile, of two Beluga ships currently in South African waters are both at Richards Bay, with one vessel, BELUGA LONDON under arrest. The second ship is BELUGA FESTIVAL. A third vessel, BELUGA FAITH is due at Richards Bay on 5 April.

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Viking Bay in Cape Town. Picture by Aad Noorland

Following our recent update about the fishing vessel VIKING BAY More on the longliner Viking Bay, the author of the article Jay Gates has received several items of correspondence containing small corrections to the above report. Mr Gates writes:

“My email to you of last week regarding the background to the long-liner ‘Viking Bay’ had some inaccuracies in it. After some extremely interesting correspondence with Richard Ball, South Africa’s Fishing Industry representative to CCAMLR and a current board member of COLTO, I was contacted by Cheryl Roberts, one of the owners of Beauchene Fishing of the Falkland Islands, and CCAMLR license holder under which the ‘Viking Bay’ operated between 2001 and 2010 in South Georgia waters.

Cheryl kindly filled in all the gaps and corrected my inaccuracies regarding ‘Viking Bay’. All of which would add to the interest of the readers, especially from an educational point of view in regard to the Toothfish Industry, and CCAMLR/COLTO’s attempts to stop IUU fishing activities by unscrupulous and unlicensed operators (remember ‘Viarsa 1’ back in 2003?) Pursuit of Viarsa 1 nears end.

The information sent to me from Cheryl is as below:-

Dear Jay Long-liner Viking Bay EAWJ ,Year of build 1999, Owner, Spanish company, Copemar S.A. Viking Bay has held a licence to fish in South Georgia since 2001 under licence with Falkland Island company, Beauchene Fishing Company Ltd and through charter to Falkland Company, South Atlantic Squid Ltd. This company is a Joint Venture company between Copemar and Beauchene Fishing.

The South Georgia toothfish season runs from May to August. She (Viking Bay) reports via VMS to the Spanish authorities as well as direct to CCAMLR. She has not received a licence for South Georgia for 2011 season due to the fact that the South Georgia Government has drastically reduced the TAC which has resulted in three vessels being removed from the Fishery, of which Viking Bay is one.

MSC certified and legally controlled toothfish has long been and still is of the utmost concern to the owners and charterers of Viking Bay. Consequently Viking Bay and all companies involved with her have been MSC accredited since July 2007. South Georgia Toothfish Fishery was certified as a sustainable fishery in March 2004. Beauchene Fishing and Copemar are also both long term members and staunch supporters of COLTO.

Outside of the South Georgia season Viking Bay fishes for various species, one being swordfish. She has recently completed a swordfish season and is now currently in Cape Town where she is expected to remain until mid April.

Viking Bay always fishes under licence and has never had any involvement with IUU fishing.

Furthermore Viking Bay has only ever been owned by Copemar. Marfrio is the Spanish marketing company through which all her catch is sold. There is no subsidiary company known as Copemar of Milford Haven in UK.

Cheryl Roberts
Beauchene Fishing Co Ltd

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Interest is rising about who will be the next International Maritime Organisation secretary-general.

At this stage it appears a strong possibility that current IMO secretary-general Efthimios Mitropolous, who has held the post since 2003, will stand down in December 2011 at the end of his current term.

Nominations for secretary-general were to be handed in by the end of today, 31 March and an election for the post will be held during the 106th session of the IMO Council, which is scheduled to meet from 27 June to 1 July 2011. The names of those nominated will become available after today.

The US State Department has announced that it has nominated Jeffrey Lantz, the US Coast Guard’s director for commercial regulations and standards.

Mr Lantz has long been engaged with IMO issues, and currently serves as Head of the US delegation to the Organization’s principal technical bodies, the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee. His knowledge and credibility on international maritime issues, including piracy, maritime security, greenhouse gas emissions, etc., is well-established and contributed to his election as Chairman of the IMO Council, the organization’s second-highest governing body, the State Department said in a media statement.

“The International Maritime Organization plays an increasingly important role on issues related to international maritime safety, security, and environmental protection. The United States believes that Jeffrey Lantz possesses important qualities and the necessary background to lead the Organization in these challenging times,” the State Department said.

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Does this sound familiar? It should, and it seems that Durban and Cape Town are not the only container terminals with road traffic congestion problems.

Members of the PierPass forum, which groups together terminal operators, exporters, importers and trucking companies, are considering a proposal to extend the appointments system requiring drivers to use a gate at a designated time, to all 13 terminals at the twin port complex of Los Angeles and Long Beach, reports newsgroup HKSG.

At present the appointment system is in effect at four of the terminals at the two US west coast ports.

“We are looking at an appointments system and at how this can better handle volumes,” said PierPass president Bruce Wargo. “At most terminals, there is an unregulated environment where drivers turn up when they want. The appointment system might work as it is a more controlled system.”

But the proposal has met with resistance from truck drivers, reported London's Containerisation International. “Some truckers do not like this as it forces them to commit to a time. If they miss their appointment they have to make another. While we are considering this system, it is political and some don't want it,” Mr Wargo conceded.

“We are talking about it with shareholders but we don't want to do something that causes major upheaval. Individual terminals are checking the benefits and they will need to decide on an individual basis as to whether to adopt it,” he said.

The report added that the PierPass system was downscaled to four gates during the Chinese New Year at the beginning of last month. According to Mr Wargo, a fifth gate will be reintroduced in late April or early May. – HKSG


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The container ship MAERSK DANBURY (54,271-gt, built 2005) in Cape Town harbour. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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Mitsui OSK Line’s container ship MOL DIRECTION (42,220-gt, built 2010) in Cape Town harbour. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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