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Ports & Ships Maritime News

12-13 May, 2011
Author: Terry Hutson


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The Belgian/Dutch Ro-Ro ship SARDAUNA (16,947-gt, built 1979) which called at Cape Town this week. Picture by Aad Noorland

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Durban, Thursday 12 May - Transnet has created a ring-fenced business unit to accommodate increasing demand for container and automotive services by rail, it was announced today.

To be known as the Container and Automotive Business (CAB), the new unit will be headed by Themba Gwala, a widely experienced and respected leader in the industry and previous General Manager for TFR’s container unit.

The announcement follows on the success of the turnaround of the container business unit which has seen it increase its market share from 17% to 34% nationally and the number of trains ramped up from 4 trains per day to 22 per day on the Natal corridor. The unit achieved record volumes in the 2010/2011 financial year with TEU’s increasing to 628,000, up from 525,000 in 2007/08. The company expects to handle 1.118 million TEU’s by 2016.

Increased volumes in the automotive sector were also achieved, with volumes rising from 102,000 units in 2009/10 to 131,000 units 2010/11 – a 29% increase.

Commenting on these achievements, TFR’s Chief Executive, Siyabonga Gama, said “These impressive gains can be largely ascribed to reductions in transit times which saw the average transit time on the Natal corridor being reduced from 30 hours to 18 hours as well as the introduction of the ‘Anaconda’ (see below) which created an increase in capacity from 40-wagon to 75-wagon train,” he said. “Close collaboration with the industry has also provided customers with confidence in the unit’s capabilities and enhanced Intermodalism.”

Gama explained that with more and more major companies committing to the carbon footprint route, TFR has strong evidence to support its competitive argument in the rail versus road debate. “Depending on volume, significant carbon footprint savings can be achieved. We estimate that a rail offering is 90% more eco-friendly than road on major routes,” said Gama.

CAB encompasses strategic departments within the sector made up of Sales and Marketing, Planning and Operations, Strategy and Capacity and Support Services. It is based on four key pillars – aggressive marketing; a totally integrated supply chain; expanded services involving strategic alliances with logistics service providers; and expanded services to Kaserne, the Pretoria complex and to over-border terminals.

Summing up the rationale behind the establishment and ring-fencing of the CAB unit, Themba Gwala referred to the relationship with Transnet and Industry as a key enabler to meeting the demand. “Industry is buoyant and high growth is expected, and the launch of CAB is a symbol of the unveiling of this fully fledged business unit to honour its commitments to customers as a world class logistics provider,” he said.

TFR Increases Capacity for Railing Containers

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Siyabonga Gama, Transnet Freight Rail CEO

In another development, Transnet Freight Rail has significantly improved its container rail service offering between the Port of Durban and Johannesburg by introducing 75- wagon container trains.

The service called the ‘Anaconda’ runs four trains a day (two to and from) three days a week moving 1800 TEU’s per week. An additional service is being rolled out on the Pretoria/Durban route which will move a further 2,100 TEU’s per week.

Commenting on the service, TFR CEO Siyabonga Gama said the Anaconda was launched in June 2010 as a pilot. “It was fully implemented in August 2010 after exhaustive tests and training for train drivers and section managers and the signing off from the Railway Safety Regulator.

He said the service will contribute towards TFR’s efforts to maximise capacity using limited resources to meet the growing demand of containerised traffic and will bridge the capacity gap. “This most certainly creates a ‘win/ win’ opportunity for both TFR and its customers and is positioned as a key enabler to accommodate future container growth,” said Gama.

“Due to the implementation of this train and it’s characteristics of mass evacuation, the TFR Container Business has managed to break its tonnage record by achieving 628,000 TEU’s against a budget of 587,347 TEU’s in 2010/2011. This record was achieved without any additional resources and relied purely on efficiency improvement initiatives. Furthermore, the Container Business budget for the 2011/2012 financial year has been increased to 800,000 TEU’s. These targets will be achieved by means of additional Anaconda type of trains,” Gama said.

“The Anaconda brings with it the immense evacuation capability to the terminals and harbours thereby reducing container dwell times. This has resulted in the optimal utilisation of resources by improving Wagon Turn- Around-Time and Locomotive Gross Ton Kilometres. In addition it demonstrated faster throughput on the Durban to Johannesburg corridor and is a safer option even for a longer train,” he continued.

Gama said the implementation of the Anaconda is part of a program aimed at converting the Natal corridor into a mini heavy haul and this initiative is a catalyst in achieving the concept. Its success gives confidence that TFR can convert other commodities into mini heavy haul using the lessons learnt on the export coal and iron ore lines which have been benchmarked as amongst the most productive in the world. Some of the commodities in the plan include: 65-wagon trains for manganese; 65-wagon trains for domestic coal and 50-wagon car trains.

This initiative is aimed at meeting the growing customer demand as a result of the current trend of larger and lager container vessels and having more capacity. It also serves to support the Government’s mandate and strategic objectives, such as the road to rail strategy, which is aimed at achieving amongst other things, the following strategic objectives:


  • Relieve the road infrastructure (N3) of the heavy traffic, which leads to high maintenance costs
  • Improve safety on the roads, by reducing the high volume of trucks on the road
  • Support the Green Economy, by reducing traffic congestions on the road, as well as carbon emissions.


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    SAS Isandlwana returning to Simon’s Town. Picture Bob Johnston

    by Bob Johnston

    Simon’s Town, Wednesday, 11 May 2011 - The South African Navy frigate SAS ISANDLWANA (F146) has returned safely to Simon’s Town Naval Base after carrying out a successful rescue mission that started on 29 April.

    On that day Taiwanese authorities notified SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) that one of their fishing vessels, LAI CHING, was in need of assistance after an explosion onboard, in which a number of fishermen were injured, some seriously. It was reported that at least five had died and four were missing. The injured fishermen were landed ashore on the island of Tristan da Cunha by their sister ship, HSIANG MAN CHING.

    Cmdr Tsietsi Mokhele, CEO of SAMSA contacted the SA Navy and spoke with R Admiral B Mhlana, Director Fleet Force Preparations, to assist. His first action was to allocate a vessel for the task. SAS Isandlwana was identified for this purpose and was then made ready for the mission which would last for some eight days and would cover a total distance of more than 3000 n.miles.

    Under the command of Capt MA Boucher, Officer Commanding SAS Isandlwana, the task began of fuelling up the ship, provisioning, and preparing the sick bay and other accommodation for an unknown number of personnel or their medical state. In addition the ship was to carry SAAF personnel as well as a Super Lynx helicopter from 22 Squadron, two doctors and 11 Metro Health people. On 3 May at 18h30 SAS Isandlwana was able to set sail for her destination the island of Tristan da Cunha.

    Even with a heavy swell running, the ship managed to proceed at 21 knots arriving off the island some four days later. Upon arrival, the sea was again in such state that rescue by boat from the island was not possible. It was then that Air Force Major Brian Bell and his crew undertook to fly five sorties in total. The first was to land the two doctors so that they could assess the condition of the injured fishermen, prioritise those who were in need of immediate attention, and then medivac them to the ship.

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    One of the more seriously injured fishermen is assisted from the frigate in Simon’s Town by medical personnel. Picture by Bob Johnston

    It turned out that there were 11 fishermen that needed to be flown out, of which four went immediately to the sick bay with two being placed on a drip. The rest were accommodated in the Junior Rating area which had been converted into a hospital type ward.

    During the four day return trip to Simon’s Town the injured seamen were constantly monitored but on arrival only one required assistance. The remainder were able to walk down the gangway unaided.

    Congratulations must go to all the different disciplines involved who worked in a very coherent and professional manner. It is certainly testament to the rigorous and ongoing professional training that the SANDF and others are subject to. The speed with which this operation was completed proves that both the SAN and SAAF are in a constant state of readiness.

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    SAS MENDI (F148), the South African Navy frigate that has been on anti-piracy patrol in the Mozambique Channel for several months, returned to Durban this morning (Friday 13 May) soon after first light. SAS Mendi was operating out of the northern Mozambique port of Pemba during her tour. It is believed but not yet confirmed that SAS AMATOLA (F145) has replaced Mendi on this patrol.



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    Chris Hayman, Seatrade chairman speaking at the Thursday night dinner. Picture by Clinton Wyness

    The first ever Seatrade Africa Cruise Forum opened its doors on Wednesday to over 180 delegates, gathering from 15 countries for in-depth conference discussion on the region’s cruise market development, and workshops between regional destinations and cruise line decision makers.

    Setting the scene, Seatrade’s Chairman, Chris Hayman said, “The Seatrade Africa Cruise Forum in Durban is the first event of its kind to spotlight Africa’s current role and great future potential in cruise tourism. As the globalisation of cruise ship deployment continues, Africa represents the next frontier in the expanding geography of the cruise industry.”

    Key cruise line decision-makers from a cross section of the major brands, including Silversea, Azamara, Seabourn, The World, Princess, MSC Cruises, Fred. Olsen, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity gathered in Durban on Monday evening for a dinner hosted by the Cruise Indian Ocean Association and the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, Seatrade’s organising partners for this groundbreaking event.

    Commitment to work together and develop potential

    During Wednesday’s robust conference sessions, cruise line speakers demonstrated a strong commitment to the region as well as a willingness to work together to resolve issues affecting development, namely the ongoing threat posed by piracy off the north eastern and central African coast and the changing geopolitical landscape in the north of the continent.

    Neil Palomba, Corporate Operating Officer for MSC Cruises, which has seasonally deployed ships in South Africa for more than a decade, has seen local passenger traffic grow to over 110,000 this past season and a gradual extension of South African itineraries to include Mozambique, Madagascar, Reunion, Mauritius and Namibia. “However, we need more and better port facilities and a greater range of shore excursions,” he said, to grow the market further. Palomba urged stakeholders to work together to address this expansion.

    Silversea has been visiting the region on world cruise programs for over a decade, normally staying for eight to ten weeks annually from January to March. “Africa is one of the most highly rated of those destinations we visit,” noted Mary Shaw-Delaney, Director Shoreside Programs, “and guests are clamouring for more.”

    Claudius Docekal, Manager of Deployment & Destinations for Azamara Club Cruises, said, “Africa holds great potential particularly when cruise lines are looking at new winter destinations.”

    The World is visiting Southern Africa for three months (November 2011 to February 2012) so our guests are not in a hurry when taking land experiences, remarked David Vass, Director Destination and Enrichment Services of The World. “Our residents love South Africa and the Seychelles and we have been here three times in nine years,” he said.

    Crystal, Silversea, Spirit of Adventure and Fred. Olsen are amongst a growing list of lines operating itineraries originating in South African ports and sailing up the west and east coasts. “As a destination and as a source market Southern Africa has great potential and this is why we have supported this historic event to see how we can move it forward,” said James Seymour, KwaZulu-Natal General Manager Tourism Information.

    On Wednesday night delegates were treated to a nautically themed gala dinner, sponsored by Transnet.

    Yesterday morning (Thursday) a programme of workshops were held to foster and develop relations between regional destinations and the numerous cruise lines in attendance. Pre-scheduled, one-to-one meetings meanwhile gave participants a unique chance to present their products and services to the people making decisions on ship deployment in the region.

    The Seatrade Africa Cruise Forum is organised by Seatrade under the auspices of the Cruise Indian Ocean Association and the Province of KwaZulu Natal. The event is sponsored by The Abercrombie & Kent Group of Companies, Durban Invest, Express Shipchandlers, Intercruises, Springbok Atlas and Transnet, with South African Airways as official carrier.


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    Plettenberg Bay NSRI members being hoisted by an SA Air Force 15 Squadron, Charlie Flight helicopter in an exercise over the sea

    Mossel Bay - A sea rescue exercise involving six sea rescue stations will be held on the night of Saturday 14th of May in Mossel Bay.

    The sea rescue exercise will take place between 20h00 Saturday 14 May and ending at approximately 06h00 on Sunday morning 15 May.

    The host sea rescue station is NSRI Station 15 – Mossel Bay.

    The sea rescue exercise takes place in the vicinity and surrounds of Mossel Bay (off-shore sea rescue exercises and shore-line sea rescue exercises).

    Attending sea rescue stations are NSRI Mossel Bay, NSRI Plettenberg Bay, NSRI Knysna, NSRI Wilderness, NSRI Witsand and NSRI Still Bay.

    The sea rescue exercise will involve sea rescue scenarios for simulated exercises in two phases – Phase 1: a Mass Casualty Incident (a passenger aircraft accident at sea); and then Phase 2: 4 scenarios of – a critically Injured Patient Transfer/Evacuation off an Oil Tanker at sea scenario; a Scuba Diving accident scenario; a High-Angle steep cliff patient rescue scenario; and a capsized boat sea rescue scenario.

    All of the attending sea rescue resources will be involved in Phase 1 (which will take place between 20h00 and Midnight on Saturday 14th May) and then for phase 2 four groups of sea rescue volunteers will rotate between the four Phase 2 scenarios which will each take about an hour and this should begin at around 02h00 and go on until about 06h00 (on Sunday 15 of May).

    Over 100 sea rescue volunteers, from six sea rescue stations, 12 sea rescue craft, six sea rescue 4x4 vehicles, an oil tanker (arranged by Smit Amandla Salvers), the Transnet National Ports Authority, two private fixed wing aircraft, and a flotilla of private boats (including an old boat that will be physically capsized at sea) will be involved in the exercise.

    The purpose of the exercise is normal ongoing training by the National Sea Rescue Institute in ongoing preparedness for sea rescue operations. The National Sea Rescue Institute is South Africa's Primary First Response to all Sea Rescue Emergencies and this training exercise intends to exercise the response and execution of the NSRI's role in sea rescue emergencies.



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    Pictured arriving in Cape Town at 11h30 on Thursday last week (5 May) is the Mitsui passenger ship NIPPON MARU (22,472-gt, built 1990). In 2009/2010 the ship underwent a four-month renovation before returning to service on 21 March. The renovations included the introduction of suite rooms and deluxe single rooms as well as the public spaces such as lounge, spa and dining room. Upper decks were added to accommodate the additions.

    Verandahs were installed and the hull was repainted in dark blue replacing the former white. Pictures and comment by Ian Shiffman


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