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Ports & Ships Maritime News

26 April 2011
Author: Terry Hutson


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

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Wednesday is another public holiday in South Africa, as is the coming Monday, 2 May. Our next news bulletin appears on Thursday 29 May and then again on Tuesday, 3 May 2011.

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The ex-Dunedin tug RAKANUI which appeared unexpectedly just before the Easter Weekend in Lyttelton harbour, New Zealand. During the day when visited the tug was unattended at her berth in the harbour. She has reportedly been sold to Wellington interests and was possibly on her way to the North Island port. Picture by Alan Calvert

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Pretoria - Cabinet has given approval for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to fine-tune its strategy to protect South African waters from piracy.

Speaking at a post-Cabinet briefing today (Thursday), cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said the country needed to “have a balanced naval capability to effectively respond to maritime security threats affecting South Africa.”

He said Cabinet had noted the incursion of maritime crime into South African waters, which might affect the country's trade routes through the seas.

A strategy was presented to Cabinet on Wednesday. However, SANDF Admiral Refiloe Mudimu (chief of the Navy) said details of the strategy were expected to be revealed at a later stage.

Speaking during a cluster briefing in February, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said her department had beefed up its sea and air border management with additional deployments being made. The SS MENDI had resumed patrol along the Mozambican channel to ensure security on Southern Africa waters. – BuaNews

The above statement by a government spokesman confirms what is already known about the navy’s involvement in anti-piracy activity in the Mozambique Channel, where a forward base has been established at the northern port of Pemba (the old Porto Amelia) from where the frigate SAS MENDI and several reconnaissance aircraft of the South African Air Force have been operating.

This is clearly with the support of Mozambique which feels threatened by piracy after the large domestic fishing vessel VEGA-5 was highjacked on 28 December last year off the coast of Beira, well into the Mozambique Channel. Other attacks have taken place north of this position and it must be considered only a matter of time before the pirates venture further south.

According to sources, a second frigate SAS AMATOLA is about to, or has already replaced SAS MENDI on this patrol – this would be purely on rotation. What is not clear is the extent to which the South African Navy is in contact with other naval forces operating to the north of this position. It appears that Tanzania has made an official approach to South Africa through diplomatic circles for assistance, as that country lacks the naval strength to carry out effective patrols. Tanzania has recently undertaken the placing of its own military personnel on board any foreign vessel requesting it and on the ships and vessels involved in the search for oil and gas off its coast.

Whether the South African Navy is otherwise acting independently or is in operational contact with the Kenyan Navy, the Seychelles Coast Guard/navy, and NATO and EU Navfor forces remains open to conjecture.

Another matter that is unclear is how the South African Navy would deal with any pirates it captures or takes into custody, or under what jurisdiction any arrest would be made. The ships on patrol are carrying a contingent of Special Forces and Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) commandos to conduct boarding operations, which rather makes a mockery of the official defence department statement that the South African Navy is in the Channel to ‘gather information about the pirates’.

Nevertheless, with the releasing last week of a large number of pirate suspects by the European Naval forces operating on anti piracy patrol, on the grounds that no suitable country was willing to prosecute them, one wonders if this matter has received the attention of South African legal authorities.

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Pemba port and town with the bay on the right. Picture by Terry Hutson

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New name for pocket cruise ship PRINCE ALBERT II

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Silver Explorer, I Monte Carlo and still in the colours of Prince Albert II

The Monaco-based Silversea Cruises has decided to rename the cruise ship PRINCE ALBERT II (6,139-gt, built 1989) to be in line with the other ships currently in the fleet. The smallest ship in the fleet will in future operate as SILVER EXPLORER, which fits more in line with the company naming policy.

Marketed as a purpose-built expedition ship, Silver Explorer has been owned by Silversea since 2007, and is claimed to have been designed specifically for navigating the more remote waters of planet earth, including both the Arctic and Antarctic. The ship has a strengthened hull and carries a Lloyd’s Register ice-class notation (1A) which equips her for this task.

Silver Explorer carries a small fleet of zodiacs for ‘getting even closer’ and to provide guests with that unforgettable experience.

Her renaming has received some criticism from the usual purist quarters nevertheless her new name ‘feels right’ – Prince Albert II gave suggestions of this being the Prince of Monaco’s private yacht.

She is currently undergoing a refit during which the renaming is expected to take place.

Passenger dies after being dropped into ocean from cruise ship The 71-year old passenger on board the OCEAN COUNTESS (16,979-gt, built 1976) who was dropped into icy seas during an Arctic cruise, has died in hospital.

Janet Richardson became ill with internal bleeding during a voyage to see the Northern Lights and the ship’s master and medical staff decided to arrange a transfer ashore for medical treatment. Norwegian authorities arranged to have a lifeboat come alongside the ship at sea and transfer the passenger across before taking her to hospital.

Unfortunately the transfer appears to have been bungled, with possibly fatal results, and the elderly passenger spent several minutes in sub-zero seas before being rescued. What occurred was that as the transfer was being made the lifeboat moved away from the ship, probably due to the action of the seas, and the stretcher with Mrs Richardson strapped in place, fell into the sea.

It took about four minutes to get her on board the lifeboat, the whole action being watched and filmed by horrified passengers on board the Ocean Countess. Once on board the lifeboat she was taken ashore at Bodo in Norway where her heart stopped beating. After mouth to mouth resuscitation the patient was admitted to a hospital and then airlifted to another in Cumbria, UK where her condition worsened before dying.

It seems that Norwegian authorities initially intended using a helicopter but for whatever reason changed their minds and sent a rescue lifeboat. But questions are also being asked as to why the cruise ship did not put into a nearby port instead. There are reports that the Ocean Countess was running late on her schedule but these haven’t been confirmed.

A spokesman for the current operator of the ship, Cruise and Maritime Voyages said a full investigation would take place. The ship is Greek-owned and managed by Majestic International Cruises.

Ocean Countess will be remembered in South Africa as the unfortunate OLYMPIC COUNTESS, which was brought out for the 2003/04 cruising season by Starlight Cruises. It was during this period that creditors caught up with the company owning the ship and others in the fleet, and one Thursday morning early in January as Olympic Countess returned to Durban she was met by the sheriff of the court with a detention order arresting the ship.

Almost a thousand passengers were left stranded at the docks that day, unable to board her for their expected holiday along the Mozambique coast. Others disembarked from the ship unaware that they had avoided a similar fate by the luck of timing.

All affected passengers were reimbursed for the moneys paid for expected voyages on the ship, which lay in Durban for several weeks before coming up for auction under the hammer of Admiralty Sales. There were only three serious bidders and Olympic Countess was knocked down later that month to a Greek concern for US$ 9.650 million

Read the 2004 report in PORTS & SHIPS HERE and also about her sale HERE

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The day of the auction of Olympic Countess, also known as Olympia Countess. The three gentlemen slightly left of centre, bent over documents, were the successful bidders. Picture by Terry Hutson

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Rosalia D’Amato highjacked

The Italian owned and flagged bulk ship ROSALIA D’AMATO (74,716-dwt, built 2001) was highjacked early last Thursday by Somali pirates about 350 n.miles south-east of Salalah in the north-western Indian Ocean.

The ship was en route from Paranagua in Brazil to Bandar Imam Khomeini in Iran. The ship has a crew of 21 on board, of which 6 are Italians and 15 Filipinos. The ship was attacked by a single skiff carrying an unknown number of pirates. There are no reports of injuries. According to EU Navfor Rosalia d’Amato was registered with MSC(HOA) and was reporting to UKMTO.

Hanjin Tianjin captured then released

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South Korean frigate Choi Young

Another ship to have been highjacked was the South Korean container ship HANJIN TIANJIN (74,962-gt, built 2007) which was seized by pirates operating from two skiffs while the ship was 275 n.miles east of Socotra Island. This attack also took place last Thursday morning.

The ship was en route to Singapore with a crew of 20 – 14 Koreans and six Indonesians. In the event the crew managed to secure themselves in a ‘citadel’ on board the vessel. Messages had also been sent out advising naval forces nearby of her condition.

The South Korean frigate CHOI YOUNG responded and on approaching the container ship the pirates abandoned the vessel and made their escape. After boarding the ship the South Korean Navy was able to restore control of the ship to its crew.

While reports indicate that in this case the ‘safe room’ technique worked well, the crew lacked access to CCTV during their time in the citadel and were unable to monitor events on deck.

Even more worrying is that Hanjin Tianjin is now reported to be carrying French-manufactured nuclear power plant equipment to be used in nuclear reactors already in use. The incident has raised fears over the security surrounding the transportation of such sensitive cargo on ordinary merchant ships. The ship was not carrying any security staff.

EU NAVFOR releases 18 pirates

EU NAVFOR announced at the weekend that it has released 18 pirates who were captured and detained by a Finnish minelayer, the POHJANMAA on 6 April. EU Navfor said it was forced to release the Somalis because it could not find a government willing to prosecute them.

The pirates were captured after making an attempt on the Singapore-flagged tanker PACIFIC OPAL south-east of Oman.

Bulker EAGLE released

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The Greek bulker EAGLE (29,905-dwt, built 1985) has been successfully ransomed by its owners for a reported amount of US$ 6 million and is now steaming away from Somalia together with all 24 crew. The vessel was highjacked on 17 January 2011.

Somali boat attacked by French

French forces are reported to have launched an attack on a pirate boat at the town of Hobyo which left at least four dead and six wounded. The French believed the boat to have been in use as a pirate ‘service ship’ which was being used to take supplies to a highjacked ship nearby. The attack took place last Wednesday, 20 April.

Reports say that an exchange of gunfire took place between the French frigate and the pirate boat, following which two helicopters were called in to assist. The pirate service vessel was left badly damaged.

Seychelles Coast Guard rescue fishermen

Seychelles Coast Guard forces intercepted the pirated vessel GLORIA about 150 n.miles north-east of Mahe Island early last Wednesday, 20 April. In the engagement three Seychellois fishermen were rescued and seven pirates were detailed.

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The distinctive colours of the container ship TROYBURG (18,037-gt, built 1988) seen entering Durban harbour on Easter Monday. Picture by Trevor Jones.

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Another image of the Ro-Ro- vessel ATLANTIC IMPALA (17,075-gt, built 1993), this time sailing from Durban on Easter Monday. A regular caller in South Africa, the Russian- owned Atlantic Impala also called here previously under the name ROTORUA. Picture by Trevor Jones

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