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Ports & Ships Maritime News

12 April, 2011
Author: Terry Hutson



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The magnificent Crystal Cruises cruise ship CRYSTAL SERENITY (68,000-gt, built 2003) is due in South Africa from today when she arrrives at Durban from India via Mauritius. Described by Conde Nast Traveller journal as the world’s best cruise ship, she will call also at Port Elizabeth, Cape Town (where she stays over for three days) and Walvis Bay, before heading for West African destinations.

Although Crystal Cruises is owned by one of the world’s largest shipping companies, Japan’s NYK, the cruise division remains small and dedicated, with just two ships, the older Crystal Symphony (51,044-gt, built 1995) and the larger and younger Crystal Serenity. Crystal Cruises ships are noted for their spaciousness, and excellent quality and service but it’s one of those oddities of life that when their ships call at our ports they are largely unheralded, unnoticed and ignored. And yet, only recently Crystal Cruises announced a ’standby’ programme that enables last-minute travellers to sail at up to 75% off brochure fares on five May-June sailings in Alaska, the Baltic and North Cape. That’s surely sufficient reason to make most people interested in a cruise to sit up and take notice?

These standby fares are based on availability, they require a US$ 500 per guest refundable deposit on reservation, and will be confirmed on a ’first requested, first confirmed’ basis no less than45 days prior to departure. For anyone looking to cruise in quiet understated comfort and luxury, can there be a better offer?

The greatly reduced tiered pricing offers fares as low as $ 2995 for 12-day cruises.

Go to Crystal Cruises for details. Use your back button to return to this page.

For the Record

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Odessa, the former East London pilot boat AC Craigie. Picture by Neville West

In yesterday’s ‘First View’ of the former pilot boat AC Craigie, now operating as a workboat at Moma in Mozambique, we ssid the craft had formerly been a Cape Town pilot boat. In this we erred, so it seems. Captain Brian Phipps, a former senior pilot in East London, who now operates a port tour guide business at Port Elizabeth and Ngqura, points out that AC Craigie served in East London, having arrived there on 15 January 1963, and did not, as far as he is aware, work in Cape Town.

Capt Phipps adds that there was an identical pilot boat stationed in East London at the same time, the HTV Horner. He describes them as having been excellent boats as far as the pilots were concerned.


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South African port statistics for the month of March 2011 are now to hand courtesy of Transnet NPA. Total cargo handled at all ports amounted to 21.468 million tonnes (23.591mt for February) and containers totaled 313,775 TEUs (383,413-TEUs for February).

Both sets of figures are well down on previous months and the reason can be found mainly at Durban, where the container terminal handled just 182,207-TEU, compared with 235,788-TEU the month before and had a gross total weight of cargo handled at the port of 5.772 million tonnes compared with 7.468mt in February.

Just why the port of Durban went so down compared with the previous month is not clear but the problem seems to lie with containers, if figures only are anything to go by. Ship calls at Durban show a slight drop of around 20 vessels, which is negligible so the answer comes back to the number of containers handled for the month. This was before the introduction of the Navis system at DCT at the end of March so that system can’t be blamed – not yet.

The port of Ngqura appears to have settled at around 40,000 TEUs a month, slightly down on January and February but it may be too soon to draw any conclusions here.

The country’s two bulk ports had goodish returns, with Richards Bay handling just over 7 million tonnes (6.5mt total bulk cargo) and Saldanha 5,8mt –both ports comparing well with previous months. Richards Bay achieved its exports despite another derailment along the coal line, with RBCT drawing on its stockpile to meet export orders.

As usual the figures shown in this report reflect an adjustment on the overall tonnage to include containers by weight – an adjustment necessary because Transnet NPA measures containers in terms of the number of TEUs and no longer by weight and so the value of container cargo by weight is ignored in the Transnet reports, meaning that they are consistently under-reporting the volumes by weight of each port.

To arrive at such a calculation, PORTS & SHIPS has used an estimated average of 13,5 tonnes per TEU to reflect tonnages, which may be a case of under-reporting but until the IMO enforces the weighing of containers at all ports we will have to live with these estimates. Nevertheless, we consider it important to make this distinction to avoid South African ports from being under-reported internationally.

For comparative purposes readers can see statistics from 12 months ago by clicking HERE for March 2010 figures.

Use your BACK button to return to this page.

Figures for the respective ports during March 2011 are (with February 2011 figures shown bracketed):


PORT March 2011 mt Feb 2011 mt
Richards Bay 7.031 7.321
Durban 5.772 7.468
Saldanha Bay 5.821 5.708
Cape Town 1.086 1.201
Port Elizabeth 0.825 0.920
Ngqura 0.540 0.624
Mossel Bay 0.184 0.163
East London 0.210 0.185
Total all ports mt 21.468 million tonnes 23.591 mt

(TEUs include Deepsea, Coastal, Transship and empty containers all subject to being invoiced by NPA


PORT Mar 2011 TEUs Feb 2011 TEUs
Durban 182,207 234,788
Cape Town 59,330 68,600
Port Elizabeth 23,434 27,204
Ngqura 39,920 46,219
East London 4,548 4,994
Richards Bay 4,336 3,608
Total all ports TEUs 313,775 TEUs 385,413


PORT March 2011 vessels Gross Tonnage Feb 2011 vessels Gross Tonnage
Durban 341 10,044,123 368 11,274,255
Cape Town 205 4,242,364 224 4,621,192
Richards Bay 146 5,219,514 172 5,611,204
Port Elizabeth 101 2,389,314 103 2,246,491
Ngqura 31 1,406,047 38 1,364,087
Saldanha Bay 50 3,267,364 46 3.038,435
East London 21 474,418 26 661,777
Mossel Bay 57 341,820 55 236,415
Total ship calls 921 25,978,986 994 2,768,771

- source TNPA, but with adjustments made by Ports & Ships to include container tonnages



Throughput at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal showing exports in tonnes

MONTH Monthly Exports YTD Exports Annualised M/T/a Ships Trains
Jan 2011 4,389,925 4,389,925 51.55 45 57
Feb 2011 4,567,950 8,957,875 55.27 44 705
Mar 2011 5,364,676 14,322,549 57.93 57 710



India now wants to sink MSC Chitra in deep water

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MSC Chitra aground in the approaches to Mumbai port

After a long rethink about the matter Indian authorities have abandoned any salvage ideas for the grounded container ship MSC Chitra and have decided they want the ship taken to deep water and sunk.

MSC Chitra was involved in a collision with another vessel, the bulker Khalija 3 off the port of Mumbai in August last year. The collision left the MSC container ship severely damaged and which developed a list and went aground, with over a hundred containers falling overboard in the process. Some of these sank and have not been recovered while others floated in the sea, creating a maritime hazard to other shipping and lengthy delays at Mumbai’s two ports. See our report of the collision from an August 2010 News Bulletin Mumbai ports to reopen following collision

MOL ship with radiated cargo gets okay to enter port of Hong Kong

MOL Presence has passed radiation tests at the port of Hong Kong and has been able to enter the harbour. Earlier the container ship was refused permission to enter the Chinese harbour at Xiamen after failing a radiation test of the ship’s cargo.

The 6,350-TEU ship arrived in the Far East from the US West Coast and called at a Japanese port where it is believed some of the containers became contaminated. On 21 March the ship approached the port of Xiamen and was required to undergo a test for radiation of the cargo because the vessel had previously called at a Japanese port. After failing the test MOL Presence was refused entry. It was recommended that the vessel remained offshore and ‘cleaned’ the cargo. On 27 March MOL Presence left for Kobe in Japan where a further test was undertaken, which showed a radiation level “significantly lower than the level detected in Xiamen.”

As a result the ship sailed for Hong Kong on 1 April and has been able to berth there.

Australia, Singapore, China and the US all have bans on Japanese produce imported from areas close to the affected nuclear power plant at Fukushima. India which had previously placed a ban on all Japanese foodstuffs has since relaxed its requirements and now asks for radiation free certificates. – schednet

Oliva crew lifted off Tristan da Cunha

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Oliva shortly after going aground. The ship quickly began to break up even before a salvage tug could leave from Cape Town. Picture by Sean Burns and tristandc.com

The crew from the ill-fated bulker Oliva which went aground and broke up on Nightingale Island (one of the Tristan da Cunha group in the South Atlantic), has been uplifted from Tristan da Cunha by another ship of the same company, the Samatan, which was en route to Brazil and diverted slightly to collect the seafarers.

While ashore on the main island the crew assisted their benefactors by helping clean penguins soiled by oil from the Oliva, and doing odd jobs for the islanders. As they sail away the 22 men from the Oliva and the people of Tristan da Cunha will have differing memories of their sudden arrival on one of the loneliest islands on earth.


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Inaugural Cruise Ship Forum in Durban - first of its kind on the African continent

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Stefano Vigoriti, MSC Cruises South Africa managing director

Stefano Vigoriti, managing director of MSC Cruises South Africa, and Allan Foggitt, marketing director of MSC Starlight Cruises, will be among the line-up of keynote speakers at Africa’s first ever Seatrade Cruise Forum to be held in Durban next month (May).

Seatrade is the leading global cruise marketing agency responsible for organising cruise tourism trade shows such as the annual Cruise Shipping Convention in Miami which attracts over 10,000 delegates from around the world, Seatrade Europe and Seatrade Asia.

Vigoriti and Foggitt’s combined knowledge and expertise of the local industry is formidable. MSC Cruises is the only international cruise ship company operating full time out of South African ports during the Southern Hemisphere summer months and MSC Starlight Cruises has operated as sales and marketing agents for cruise liners in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands for over 30 years.

They also have considerable international backing through MSC Cruises CEO Pierfrancesco Vago, who is an executive committee member of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise association dedicated to the promotion and growth of the industry. Mr Vago is also vice-chairman of the European Cruise Council.

“Our commitment to the South African market and influence in the steady growth of cruise tourism and job creation in related industries is well known. When we started out in 1978 just under 3,000 passengers were cruising locally but this has grown to a new record of over 120,000 passengers this season when we offered two ships, 69 departures, and a range of new destinations out of Durban and Cape Town,” said Foggitt.

He said cruising had become the vacation of choice for increasing numbers of South Africans and the deployment of both the 2,100 capacity luxury MSC Sinfonia and smaller 1,00 capacity MSC Melody had proved a phenomenal success. Both ships will return for the 2011/12 season.

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Allan Foggitt, Starlight managing director

Cruise tourism’s ‘new frontier’

Stefano Vigoriti added that the region’s potential as a world class cruising destination is increasingly coming under the spotlight: “In Miami recently Christopher Hayman, the Chief Executive Officer of Seatrade, was even reported as describing the eastern and southern coastline of Africa as cruise tourism's new frontier.”

The Seatrade Africa Cruise Forum takes place from 10 – 12 May. It is being organised in conjunction with the Cruise Indian Ocean Association with support from the KwaZulu- Natal Tourism Authority, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and the South African Department of Tourism.

It will bring together executives from major cruise lines and regional stakeholders. Topics under discussion will include Africa as a world class cruise destination, terminal operations, infrastructure, hospitality, shore excursions and regulatory environment, as well as the region's own potential as a source market for cruise passengers.


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Intertanko says piracy is out of control

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Irene SL. Picture courtesy EU NAVFOR

Intertanko, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, which represents the vast majority of the world’s tanker fleet owners and operators, said in a statement that it is delighted that the Somali pirates who hijacked the IRENE SL and her two-million-barrel oil cargo in February, have released the tanker, and that the master, officers and crew are in good health after 58 days in captivity. This was especially so after they had endured 12 days of being used as a pirate mothership.

At the time (of the highjacking) Intertanko’s managing director Joe Angelo remarked that the Irene SL hijacking marked a significant shift in Somali piracy, which took the crisis into the middle of the main sea lanes coming from the Middle East Gulf. Her crude oil cargo represented 20% of total US daily crude oil imports, or 5% of total daily world seaborne oil supply.

But, says Intertanko, further developments are taking place, and seafarers are today closer than ever before to saying enough is enough. These latest developments in pirate tactics include the systematic torture of seafarer hostages, leading in some cases to execution/murder. The systematic use of pirate motherships means that the Somali pirates’ outreach now extends right across the Indian Ocean. No ship in this area is safe from the risk of pirate attack. There is no alternative route any more for the 17 million barrels of oil a day that come out of the Gulf – 40% of the world’s oil supplies have to pass through the Indian Ocean.

“The seafarers’ role in keeping world trade flowing in this area goes largely unrecognised by governments,” says Intertanko’s chairman, Capt Graham Westgarth. “Imagine if a 747 jumbo jet had been hijacked with 400 people onboard, held for millions of dollars in ransom and that hundreds of other planes had been attacked week in week out over the last year in unsuccessful hijacking attempts. Would there be government action?”

There is little public outcry and therefore relatively little effort by national governments around the world to stop Somali pirates. National governments hold the key to resolving this crisis. But they seem unwilling to face reality and act, says Westgarth. Their brief to the naval forces has, in most cases, been simply to deter and disrupt unless it involves a national interest. Even when caught red handed by naval forces, 80% of pirates are released to attack again. Why? Because the world’s politicians don’t realise the severity of this critical situation. How many ships need to be attacked? How many hostages taken, tortured and killed? How much is enough for national governments to take real action?

Governments might take note of India’s very recent actions. Three days after the decision by India’s government to crack down harder on piracy, a pirate mothership was re- taken by an Indian naval vessel. The hostage crew was released unharmed and 62 pirates were detained and taken to India where they await trial.

The shipping industry-backed campaign to draw government attention to the crisis that is Somali piracy (SOS SaveOurSeafarers) is sending letters to heads of government via the SOS website http://saveourseafarers.com.

India is the number one receiver of the total of 8,500 SOS letters sent so far, with 1,460 letters received to date by India’s Prime Minister’s Office. We encourage as many as possible to send a letter to their government – just two clicks will do it.

Of course governments should be engaged in efforts to tackle the root causes of piracy. But this work may take years to have effect. “In the meantime piracy is out of control,” says Westgarth. “International trade is threatened. Governments need to protect the world’s shipping lanes by showing political will, not political indifference.”

Pirates raise ransom demand

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Sinar Kudus – pirates keep raising the price of the ransom

Somali pirates have increased their ransom demands for the release of 20 crewmembers from Indonesia’s SINAR KUDUS, which is owned by Samadera. The ship was highjacked on 16 March this year

Initially the pirates demanded US$ 2.6 million for the ship and crew. Then it was raised to $3.5m but has since increased to $ 9m. And according to reports 12 of the crew have taken ill. Indonesia’s government says it is doing its best to secure the safety of the crew.

Another score for Finnish ship Pohjanmaa

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With the Finnish ship Pohjanmaa in the background, special forces stand off after setting the pirate dhow on fire. Picture Finnish Navy

The Finnish minelayer POHJANMAA which is deployed with EU NAVFOR in providing escort duties to food aid convoys and general assistance for other shipping off the Somali coast, has been back in the action once again.

On 9 April the warship destroyed a dhow type vessel which was being used by a pirate action group (PAG). Pohjanmaa took the dhow into custody several days earlier and was towing it pending a fuller investigation. The 18 suspected pirates found on board were meanwhile being held in detention.

After coming to the conclusion that the dhow was indeed being used for piracy, preparations were made to destroy the vessel by blowing it up, after first removing any material that might be dangerous to the environment. This material will be sent to a suitable place for recycling. The dhow was then destroyed and the suspected pirates are being held while discussions over a possible prosecution take place.

Irene SL released – crew safe

The VLCC IRENE SL which was highjacked on 9 February has been released following payment of a ransom for the ship, its cargo of oil and crew of 25, who are reported to be in good health. The ship was captured 350 n.miles south east of Muscat in the Arabian Sea.


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Ivory Coast

As news came through last night (Monday) that former President Laurent Gbagbo had been taken prisoner, which possibly marks the end to hostilities in the Ivory Coast, the EU announced that it has decided to lift sanctions on two key ports, as requested by Alassane Outtara, the West African country’s internationally recognised president.

The EU has also set into motion a fast tracking procedure to remove the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro from a list of entities subjected to an assets freeze.

In addition the country’s cocoa and coffee CGFCC management and marketing body and the Ivorian Refining Company were also removed from the list. The EU imposed sanctions against Laurent Gbagbo and several economic entities to pressure him to step down following November elections, which the international community says Ouattara won.

By partly removing the sanctions (all sanctions may soon fall away following the capture of Gbagbo) the EU hopes to help revive Ivory Coast’s damaged economy. The country is the world’s top cocoa producer and cocoa and coffee together represent 40% of Ivory Coast’s export revenues and a fifth of its gross domestic product (GDP).

Ivory Coast has potentially one of the stronger economies in sub-Saharan Africa, but internal strife has eroded much of that potential.


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HMNZS Canterbury, in Lyttelton harbour during the recent earthquake that rocked and damaged Lyttelton and adjacent Christchurch. Picture by Alan Calvert

Australia’s Defence Ministry has announced that Australia has been successful in a bid to acquire the amphibious ship LARGS BAY from the United Kingdom. The ship has cost Australia £65 million (US$ 100 million).

Largs Bay, which is a relatively new ship, having been commissioned in 2006, displaces 16,000 tonnes and was the lead ship in a class of vessels replacing the four Sir Lancelot class landing ships. The ships are built to commercial standards and are manned by civilians, with a crew of 60, Each vessel is capable of transporting up to 350 troops. There is an aft helicopter deck. Largs Bay became surplus to requirements after the UK’s 2010 Defence Strategic Review.

The Australian Navy expects to introduce the Canberra-class amphibious landing helicopter dock ships from 2014, in addition to the single Bay class vessel acquired from the UK. Australia recently was forced to place personnel in training on a New Zealand LHD, HMNZS CANTERBURY as it lacks the type of vessel itself.



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The container ship MSC JENNY (39,990-gt, built 1988) in Cape Town harbour during March 2011. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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