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Ports & Ships Maritime News

19 May, 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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The offshore supply sister vessels FAIRMOUNT GLACIER (3239-gt, built 2006) and FAIRMOUNT ALPINE (3239-gt, built 2006) arrived in Durban last week to undergo maintenance repairs at the Elgin Brown & Hamer shipyards at the Bayhead. Here they are doublebanked on the EB&H quay. Picture by Willem Kruk


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Rufus Lekala, who takes up office as the country’s first Chief Harbour Master of colour on 1 June. Lekala has served as a harbour master at South African ports including East London, Cape Town and Durban over the last seven years.

Durban, 18 May - Seven years after becoming the youngest harbour master in the world, Rufus Lekala of South African port landlord Transnet National Ports Authority will again make history when he takes up office as the country’s first Chief Harbour Master of colour. His appointment, effective 1 June, will also make him the youngest person in this position worldwide.

Lekala, 41, succeeds maritime stalwart Captain Mike Brophy who served in the position from 2005 until his recent retirement.

Tau Morwe, newly appointed Chief Executive of Transnet National Ports Authority, said the appointment was one of the most crucial in the port authority’s programme of transformation.

“With Rufus’s background he will be invaluable in helping TNPA to implement its new strategy and vision through a revitalised approach to doing business and achieving our strategic objectives. He will be responsible for strategic thinking around maritime projects in South Africa, setting maritime policy, implementing international best practice and acting as Transnet’s liaison with entities such as the Department of Transport, the International Maritime Association and the International Lighthouse Association,” said Morwe.

Lekala will also be active in developing harbour masters to serve as authorities on navigating vessels safely in and out of South African ports. The harbour masters will have a dotted line reporting to the Chief Harbour Master and a direct reporting line to Port Managers at the respective ports.

Speaking of his latest appointment, Lekala says, “It has been a rewarding journey and I am immensely grateful to those who have helped me to get to this historic point. My focus as I settle into the role will be on stabilising the department structure, while updating the country’s policies on marine resources, dangerous cargo movement, vessel entry guidelines, ship vetting systems, training and development, and much more.”

Lekala is a member of the International Harbour Masters’ Association and has served as its deputy president from 2008, rubbing shoulders with other global harbour masters.

Over the past 10 years, his career trajectory has seen him break the ice as the first black harbour master at several South African ports.

From the small, 25 vessels-a-month Port of East London, to the 300 vessels-a-month Port of Cape Town and eventually the Port of Durban, one of Africa’s busiest, he is now widely recognised as one of the country’s most senior authorities on vessel navigation and safety.

He will also begin reading for a Bachelor of Law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal next year to deepen his understanding of the legal aspects governing maritime issues in South Africa.


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European Commission inspectors on Tuesday unexpectedly raided the offices of leading container lines across several EU countries while probing suspicions of a possible pricing cartel.

Subsequent reports suggest this was just the start of a deeper probe into price fixing and that more shipping lines could expect visits.

Among the companies that were raided were Maersk Line in Denmark, Hapag Lloyd and Hamburg Süd in Germany, as well as French line CMA CGM, and the European offices of Neptune Orient Line.

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has declined to say whether it received a visit.

“The (EU) Commission confirms unannounced inspections in the container liner shipping sector. The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities,” the EUC said without providing any further information on the countries or shipping companies.

“The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated the anti-trust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position,” it said.

Hapag-Lloyd acknowledged that it had been one of the companies raided, and said in a statement that, “Hapag-Lloyd is working closely with the investigating authorities. We are convinced that we are in compliance with EU competition.”

In Copenhagen Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk also acknowledged that the EU raid had been carried out on its premises but said “We can confirm that today the European Commission carried out an unannounced inspection in our offices. However, the fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the company has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself.”

According to the European Union Commission, unannounced inspections are a preliminary step in suspected anti-competitive practices, which do not necessarily imply that companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour.

Shipping lines found guilty of involvement in a cartel could face heavy fines of up to €1 million.

US$ 186 million First Quarter loss for CSAV

It’s not been a good start to the year for Chilean shipping company CSAV which has posted a net loss of US$ 186m for the January-March period.

This second consecutive 1st quarter loss follows a return to profitability in the second quarter of 2010 for the South American line, whose ships are regular callers in South Africa, and shows that all is now yet rosy in the container shipping industry just yet.

Hapag-Lloyd secures loan to buy ships

German box-carrier Hapag-Lloyd has secured a $ 925 million loan to enable it to buy a series of large container ships from a South Korean builder.

The loan which has been arranged with a consortium of five European banks, Citibank, HSBC, UniCredit, KfW IPEX-Bank and Deutsche Bank, will pay for ten 13,200-TEU ships from Hyundai Heavy Industries and will become the largest ships in Hapag-Lloyd’s fleet. Delivery is from mid-2012 through to the end of 2013.


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Queen Mary 2 and MSC Sinfonia in harbour together at Durban. Picture by Brian Spurr

A number of aspects stand out from last week’s first Seatrade Africa Cruise Forum held at Zimbali in the north of Durban.

This was the first such gathering of cruise executives on sub-Saharan African soil – a surprising fact when you consider the expansive nature of cruising and the demand for ‘new’ destinations to sail to. Anyway, the egg has been broken and now it remains to be seen what sort of omelette will emerge.

A second aspect was the inevitable call for a new cruise terminal for Durban, with much emphasis being placed on the need for improved infrastructure in Durban and at the other ports along the Indian Ocean coastline. Cruise terminals are the very thing to attract strong headlines – it seems they are seen to be the be-all and end-all for cruising success yet this is far from reality. More about this in a moment.

Another aspect that received some, but perhaps not enough attention is that South Africa’s ports are seen by the cruising operators as expensive. The cruise operator’s cousins in the cargo trades have of course been saying this for some years, with little result so far. Who has forgotten Captain Salvatore Sarno’s outspoken comments at a business breakfast, hosted by Transnet, when he said with his usual forthrightness that South Africa’s ports, and Durban in particular were among the most expensive in the world.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that we pay for a first class ticket and then we travel in third class. It is unacceptable that Transnet thinks that we are like cows to be milked,” said the head of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) in South Africa.

That’s the same MSC that runs the biggest fully-South African cruise operation, with two ships during the summer months.

Something else that featured among the wish lists of the cruise operators is a more varied programme of attractions ashore. As Matt Grimes of Fred. Olsen Cruises put it, many of his passengers were making repeat visits to southern Africa and, perhaps becoming a little too familiar with local experiences, were seeking ‘new adventures’.

“They are looking for more personal and intimate experiences. Tours could be built around local cuisine and cooking, food and wine,” he told the 180 or so delegates.

Probably the aspect uppermost on everyone’s minds, and particularly those who came from the Seychelles, from Kenya and from Tanzania, was that something has to be done about piracy if the cruise industry in their areas is to survive. It’s a refrain that is repeated across the cargo shipping world, but so far no-one has come up with an answer.

But if this glance across an all-day meeting suggests something of a negative, criticising outlook, then it should be clarified. The cruise forum, which was hosted by Seatrade, a British specialist in maritime and cruise publishing, events and conferences, provided a unique opportunity for southern and east African nations to showcase their cruise opportunities and to interface with some of the world’s cruise line leaders.

Although the list of cruise line representatives was impressive, there were a few notable absentees such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Cunard, Celebrity, Crystal Cruises and P&O Cruises. Missing also were the German cruise companies whose ships frequently do venture this way. But among those that were here were important names in the industry and if this was the first such gathering, then it suggests there will be others. Indeed that was one of the desires expressed at the end of a long but highly interesting day.

The shipping companies present would have returned home more greatly aware that there is a new and profitable market awaiting their ships should they venture here, but that much work needs to be done in developing the market. Much work also is required to negate sometimes negative perceptions of Africa and what it offers. That was part of the purpose of holding the cruise forum here, to expose Africa and South Africa in particular, in a positive light to the cruise lines.

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Ricky Bhikraj, Durban Port Manager

Coming back to the matter of a cruise terminal, there was lots of talk about improved infrastructure at the destination ports, but I’m not sure that any of this meant building a new and fancy passenger terminal. Yes certainly, Ricky Bhikraj, the Durban port manager explained at some length the plans that Transnet has for enabling such a facility to be built at Durban’s A and B berth areas, which have been set aside for cruise ships. These include a feasibility study for the 32,000m² area on which, he said, a 9,000m² terminal could be built. Transnet is even prepared to consider joint public private partnerships, or other models in building this, he said, and the port authority might consider becoming an anchor tenant in the building – that was one option that could be considered.

It is this sort of thing that attracts the headlines, because attractive glamorous buildings add prestige to a city and suggest that lots of money is going to be spent locally, which is what readers presumably want to hear.

But the message from the cruise lines was a little different. When they talked of infrastructure, they seemed to refer more to things like having good quality buses available to whisk the passengers away on their excursions, reliable buses with working air-conditioning and headsets so that passengers can hear the commentary on what they were to see. After all, many cruise passengers are getting on in years and the hearing is not always what it once was.

Infrastructure also refers to things like clean, well surfaced docksides and easy access for passengers who choose to walk or take a good taxi into town or to the local attraction, such as uShaka and the Point Precinct would provide. It also means having efficient tugging and port piloting services that avoid lengthy and costly delays outside port.

For cruise ship visits that don’t involve the embarking or disembarkation of new groups of passengers, a welcoming hall is totally unnecessary as visiting passengers will leave the ship and enter immediately into the waiting buses, with the reverse process applying later on. Terminals will hardly be noticed.

For ships that are catering for passengers who are joining them at a port however, then adequate facilities are the order of the day. But for this one doesn’t require a multi-storey building, simply one with sufficient space to process swiftly the arriving or departing hundreds or thousands of passengers through Immigration and Customs. Some basic and simple low-rise examples of this were shown by one of the speakers.

According to Bhikraj, Transnet is looking at a terminal that can handle 5 000 people at a time, for those occasions when two large ships arrive together, as happened this year with the Queen Mary 2 and MSC Sinfonia. On that occasion though, Queen Mary 2 passengers did not require the use of N-Shed Passenger Terminal and simply boarded their buses, although a larger more open area would have been preferable in the circumstances.

In light of what was discussed last week one hopes that those making decisions about providing terminals won’t go overboard with another white elephant structure for Durban, of a costly building that is in use for just five or six months in the year.

Of course, the upper floors of the terminal could be used as offices, which changes the equation a little but the point is that with a simple yet attractive low-rise building at the Point, Durban can have its new terminal up and running very quickly, and long before the 2015 date that Transnet has set.

This article first appeared in The Mercury Network Ports & Shipping supplement on Wednesday, 18 May 2011.


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A study undertaken by the American MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics Global Risk Survey has identified power outages, theft and labour dispute as the primary concerns facing the South African supply chain.

The survey was undertaken in South Africa jointly by the Association for Operations Management of Southern Africa (SAPICS) and Imperial Logistics, in collaboration with MIT.

It found that extended loss of electricity is five times more likely to occur in South Africa, compared to the world average. Employee theft/executive misdeeds come in four times higher than the international average. Protracted labour disputes are 2.5 times more likely to transpire and disease/infestation, 2.3 times higher.

South Africa is rated more like developed than a less developed country, but power failures and software systems breakdowns are problems more typical of poor countries. The survey also found South African companies rated raw material supplier failure as the top supply chain risk, followed by finished goods manufacturing failure, product quality failure, transportation carrier failure and economic recession/market collapse.

In a separate but related report, Transnet Freight Rail has now acknowledged that the company has resorted to railing coal in containers – an increasing trend among private coal and other mineral producers. The coal is loaded into specialised three-metre containers placed on 50 flat-bed wagons, using front end loaders. On arrival at Camden’s rail terminal containers are removed from the wagons using reach-stackers and are placed on road trailers to be taken to the stockpile.

Eskom plans to introduce a conveyor system from the rail siding to the stockpile.

Train handling time is said to be in line with bulk handling norms, though at lower throughput volumes. Thus far 7 million tonnes has been delivered to Camden and Majuba and by the end of the 2011/12 year 10 million tonnes will have been delivered.

The delivery of coal and minerals by container is an open secret in Southern Africa though hardly ever spoken of out loudly. Small and emerging miners are increasingly resorting to its method as a means of getting minerals and ores to the harbour. The full extent of this practice is not yet known. At Durban’s Bulk Connections plant at the Bluff, coal and other ores are regularly taken by rail from the stockpile to the ship’s side using containers. Two former Transnet ship-to-shore gantry cranes have been converted to pick the containers from the waiting rail wagons and convey the ore to the ship’s hold, using a twist device installed into the STS gear by the Bidfreight division. The system has worked well for several years and demonstrates that a quick and efficient means of discharging ore from an open top container is possible.

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USS Bulkeley (DDG-84)

A US destroyer, USS BULKELEY came to the aid of a German tanker, ARTEMIS GLORY after the tanker was attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Oman on Monday this week (16 May 2011).

The tanker was sailing from Saudi Arabia to China and sent off a distress signal when it came under attack. Reports of what happened next are scant, apart from saying that on arrival the US ship dispatched a helicopter which opened fire and killed all the pirates. There were no injuries to crew on the tanker.

Iranian warships aid Iranian merchant ship under attack

A group of Iranian warships sailing together came to the rescue of an Iranian merchant ship under attack from pirates in the northern Indian Ocean.

The statement issued by the navy’s Public Relations Office this week said that ships of the 14th Flotilla responded to a call for assistance by the cargo ship ATTAR and on arrival on scene a short while later they were engaged with gunfire from the pirates. It took 55 minutes for the Iranian warships to subdue the pirates – there are no details available of how many pirates and what number or type of boats were involved.

What is known is that the 14th Flotilla consists of the replenishment support ship IRI BANDAR ABBAS and the destroyer IRI SHAHID NAQDI.

Pirate mothership sinking

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Jih-Chun Tsai 68

Ecoterra Intl reports that the pirated Taiwanese fishing vessel JIN CHUN TSAI 68 has been abandoned by pirates and was floating partially submerged and adrift in position 08- 51.18N 054-33.25E as of 12 May.

The fate of the original sailors on board the vessel, a Taiwanese captain, two Chinese and 11 Indonesian seamen could not be ascertained. Nor have details of the engagement with anti pirate forces that led to the vessel being abandoned been made clear.

Rescued seafarers landed at Mombasa

Sixteen Iranian seafarers rescued from Somali pirates by the Danish warship ESBERN SNARE after an engagement that saw the fishing vessel known as JELBUT 24 blown out of the water, have been landed at Mombasa and taken to Nairobi for repatriation to Iran.

It appears that the Danish ship engaged with the fishing vessel on Thursday last week, 12 May. Four Somalis were killed and another 24 captured and are being held at present on board the Danish ship (see our News Bulletin for Tuesday this week).


SAS AMATOLA passes through Durban for Pemba

The South African frigate SAS Amatola was expected to pass through Durban yesterday en route to Pemba to take up station on anti piracy patrol. SAS Mendi returned from her deployment in the past week after spending the past three months based at Pemba, where the navy has established a forward camp.

The news coincides with reports that the head of the South African Air Force, Lt General Carlo Gagiano has said that the air force urgently needs to find affordable and suitable long-range reconnaissance aircraft ‘in a hurry’. The talk is that South Africa may look to leasing the aircraft to avoid long lead-time in delivery. The aircraft are need to replace the aging Douglas C47 turbo-prop aircraft currently in this use, of which at least one is currently on station in northern Mozambique.



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The Dutch van Oord hopper dredger VOLVOX OLYMPIA (4,967-gt, built 2003), which arrived in Durban at the end of April for maintenance and repairs at Elgin Brown & Hamer’s shipyard at Bayhead. Pictures by Trevor Jones.

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