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Ports & Ships Maritime News

8 June, 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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Hamburg Sud’s 5,552-TEU containership MONTE PASCOAL (69,132-gt, built 2005) on berth at Pier 1 Container Terminal last week. The Monte class has 1,365 reefer plugs available on board. Picture by Terry Hutson

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Safmarine launches new iPhone application

Safmarine has added another e-product to its range of e-Business accessories with the launch of the Safmarine application for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. The new application will enable customers to download and access their shipment information instantly, from anywhere and at anytime of day.

Benoît Lebrun, Safmarine's Global e-Business said that Safmarine was continuing to expand its range of e-products. “This new tool, not only demonstrates Safmarine's leadership in providing innovative business solutions to the shipping industry, but will also improve customers' access and experience to Safmarine and make it even easier for our customers to do business with us, no matter where they are,” he said.

He explained that customers can look up sailing schedules, track containers or consignments or find contact details for Safmarine offices using the ‘Nearby office’ functionality which uses the iPhone or iPad’s GPS locator to find the nearest Safmarine office.

“An example of one of the application's notable features is the tracking of cargo using a container or booking number. A search can be customised by saving the container/booking number in the 'hotlist'. Then, by enabling the 'push notification', any new moves for tagged containers are automatically pushed to the user (customer),” he said.

The Safmarine application is available free of charge on the App Store by CLICKING HERE. Use your back button to return to this page.

Passenger ship SS Rotterdam for sale

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ss Rotterdam. Picture Wikipedia Commons

Dutch corporation Woonbron said on Monday that it wanted to sell the former flagship of Holland America Line, the ss ROTTERDAM “for a reasonable price.”

The preserved ship was opened to the public in February 2010, since when more than 500,000 visitors went on board during that year alone, about five times the number expected. Sales of tickets and memorabilia amounted to €40 million.

Refurbishment costs amounted to far more than was originally anticipated, partly on account of the large amount of asbestos that had to be disposed of, which delayed the intended opening of the ship to the public in the summer of 2009 (northern hemisphere). Woonbron was also a victim of the economic downturn and was temporarily placed under judicial management.

SS Rotterdam is berthed on the waterfront of the peninsula Katendrecht where it is being used as a hotel. The ship was launched by Queen Juliana in September 1958 and retired from service in September 2000.

Death of Sammy Ofer, father of Israeli shipping

Rumanian-born Sammy Ofer, Israeli business tycoon and owner of Ofer Brothers Group, died on Friday (3 June) at his home in Tel Aviv. He was 89.

The Ofer Brothers Group has remained a family run business since its foundation in 1950. Thought to be Israel’s richest man, he and his brother Yuli ran a corporation involving shipping, oil refineries, chemicals, banking and media. Among their shipping interests are Zim, Zodiac and the Singapore-based Tanker Pacific.

In May this year the US imposed sanctions on the Ofer Brothers Group and on Tanker Pacific because of alleged commercial dealings with Iran. The group was accused of selling a tanker RAFFLES PARK (since renamed EMMA) to Iran. The Ofer Brothers Group has denied the allegation.

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Port of Mombasa Container Terminal

British journal ‘Containerisation International’ is reporting that increasing congestion and delays at the Kenya port of Mombasa is again raising the possibility of surcharges being imposed.

“Mombasa has major issues,” an executive of an Asian-based carrier told the London-based magazine. “Delays are averaging seven to nine days and have been consistent for the past month. There has been active talk about imposing a port congestion surcharge although the quantum is still to be decided."

CI reported that cargo handling rates have dropped to “well under 10 containers an hour – well off the port’s target of 25 container moves an hour. The source said some of the port’s problems go back to the dismissal of crane drivers and support staff following a dispute over wages and the Kenya Port Authority and government’s plans of privatising the port.

Repairs to the quayside are also impacting on berth availability. “It is understood that problems with the KPA's cargo clearing system, and a more rigorous regime for weighing containers before they leave the port, have exacerbated the delays,” said the CI report.

The magazine’s source said he was giving things another week to see if the situation improved, after which he said he would not be surprised if some carriers began by-passing Mombasa “since the cost of calling will outweigh the benefit.” – source Containerisation International

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Pirate’s mistreatment of seafarers is grossly underreported – study

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According to a new report issued on Monday (6 June), seafarers being held by Somali pirates are being systematically ill-treated and the matter is getting worse.

The report, commissioned by think-tank Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) said thousands of seafarers have been subjected to gunfire, beatings, extended periods of confinement and, in some cases, torture in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden at the hands of their captors.

It says that during the course of 2010, 4,185 seafarers were attacked with firearms and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). Of these 342 survived incidents in citadels, or ship reinforced security rooms. Just over one thousand seafarers (1090) were taken hostage while 516 were used as human shields. OBP says that the crimes at sea faced by seafarers can be compared to similar crimes on shore using United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) categorisations. “The rates of kidnapping and major assault (where life is put at risk) are the highest in the world in the waters off the coast of Somalia. While the murder rate at sea was below the world median in 2010, it is expected to rise precipitously in 2011.”

It says that seafarers subjected to armed attack on vessels equated to 697.5 persons per 100,000 – the next worst according to the UN study is South Africa where 576 persons were subjected to Major Assault per 100,000.

The cost to the Somali community was also concerning, the report said. “Piracy affects food security and endangers Somali youth.”

According to the UNODC, between 200 and 300 pirates have not returned from their expeditions since the resurgence of piracy off the Horn of Africa. It said that there is evidence of coercion and exploitation of Somali youth, and gives the example of the capture by the Indian Navy of 61 pirate survivors from the highjacked Mozambique fishing vessel Vega-5, which was being used as a pirate mother ship. Of the 61 survivors, 25 pirates were suspected to be under the age of 15 years, and at least 4 were as young as 11.

The economic cost of piracy is now well known, the report adds, but it makes clear that the extent of the human cost is much less well-known and is staggering.

Shipowners holding back on ill-treatment of seafarers

Coincidentally, a security company spokesman talking at a conference on piracy says that shipowners are holding back some of the worst news about the treatment of seafarers taken hostage by Somali pirates.

The claims made by Andrew Palmer, CEO of UK security firm Idarat Maritime have been firmly denied. Nevertheless his statement that the truth is not in the interests of shipowners is a difficult one to refute, particularly considering that providing details of the known physical and psychological suffering results in alarm among seafarers and their families.

It’s also been widely observed that shipowners are extremely reluctant to speak about a vessel that has been highjacked (there are some exceptions) and instructions are regularly issued to agents to avoid having crew from a previously highjacked vessel interviewed by media at the next port of call. This is undertaken even to the point of spiriting the crew away the moment they arrive in the first port after being released. In many cases crew are required to sign confidentiality agreements upon their release.

According to the International Shipping Federation (ISF), which represents shipowners in labour matters, there is no evidence to back these claims and the ISF says it has no information concerning the torture or suffering set out in the Oceans Beyond Piracy study.

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Latest statistics made available by Richards Bay Coal Terminal RBCT) indicate a sharp decline in coal exports, presumably as a result of maintenance on the railway that saw its closure for three weeks. See our report Transnet Freight Rail to shut down the coal line for three weeks During May RBCT exported 3.572 million tonnes of coal after having received 4.406mt from TFR. In the previous month RBCT exported 4.807mt of coal indicating a sharp drop, while in May 2010 it shipped 4.569mt. At the current rate if annualised, RBCT will achieve exports of 54.72mt of coal this year, compared with 63,427mt for 2010.

These figures stare in the face of the terminal having upgraded its facilities to handle up to 91mt a year. There is mounting concern among analysts and business interests whether South Africa’s state-owned rail unit is able to cope with the fluctuating demands of coal exports.

TFR, or Spoornet as it was then called, has handled well in excess of the 62 million tonnes of export coal shipped to RBCT each year over the past few years. A series of derailments, as well as claims that some of the mines do not have compatible rail systems or are unable to handle block trains, have led to setbacks that each year has impacted on export figures.

However, an honest analysis will suggest that all the problems may not be caused by TFR. During May when the terminal shipped just 3.572 million tonnes of coal, it received from TFR 4.406mt and was left with a reserve stockpile of 4.407mt at month end. On the face of things this suggests that RBCT could have exported up to 4.5 million tonnes in May without compromising the stockpile. Did falling coal prices perhaps have a role to play, having declined 8.7% so far this year and 4.6% in the final three weeks of May? These figures are according to London researcher HIS McCloskey, which reported an increase in the first week of June to US$118.49 a tonne.

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by Stephen Timm Cape Town, 7 June 2011 - A grand free trade agreement among African states – under discussion next weekend – could boost intra-continental trade and investment.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for East African States (Comesa) are to meet in Pretoria on June 11 and 12 to discuss the idea of a tripartite free trade agreement (FTA) first mooted three years ago.

But, while South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, and some trade analysts believe such an agreement, along with work on several trade corridors in and around southern Africa, will boost trade and investment on the continent, some trade experts are of the opinion that Africa is not ready for such a deal.

“What the combined FTA will do, is it will create a larger regional market where we can operate in those 26 countries with a combined GDP (gross domestic product) of $833 billion and 530 million people,” said Davies this week.

SADC has a partial free trade agreement which has been implemented since 2008 that allows for goods to be traded across member countries either at zero or very low tariffs, but Davies said these tariffs only applied in SADC and not between the three communities.

Though he declined to reveal South Africa’s approach ahead of the summit, he said the summit would be an opportunity for South Africa to expand its market to assist other least-development countries and therefore meet some of the needs of the Doha Development Round. This could go some way to fulfilling commitments proposed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), particularly after Davies announced last month that he did not expect the Doha round to be concluded this year.

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Rob Davies, minister of trade and industry

Davies said regional economic co-operation was all the more important given that the growth in the domestic market was an important driver of Africa’s resurgence, but he pointed out that any move to boost regional trade would be contingent on infrastructure development.

McKinsey’s Lions on the Move, released last year, revealed that African governments and the private sector were investing $72 billion a year on infrastructure, but that the continent still needed to spend another $46 billion a year to meet energy, water and transportation needs.

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African Development Bank logo

According to the African Development Bank, trade between African countries remains low, making up just 10 percent of the continent’s total trade, compared with North America where trade between that continent’s countries makes up 40 percent, or Western Europe where intra-continental trade makes up 60 percent.

Added to this the bank points out that because of poor roads and railways Africa has some of the highest transport costs in the world, with freight costs representing 13 percent of African import costs, compared to 9 percent for Asia, 7.5 percent for Latin America and 5 percent for western countries.

Nepad, the AU and African Development Bank have teamed up to address the infrastructure backlog and last year the three launched the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa to develop regional and continental infrastructure policies.

More recently President Jacob Zuma was chosen by Nepad and the AU to champion the North-South trade corridor, which traverses eight countries in eastern and southern Africa – linking the port of Durban to the east African port of Dar Es Salaam.

The trade corridor is being backed by US$262 million that the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) has pledged to the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) to finance the upgrading of five major roads in Zambia and South African companies are already involved in the bidding process for three roads in Zambia, which form part of the corridor.

Roelof van Tonder chief executive of the Built Environment Professions Export Council, who also chairs the Nepad Business Foundation’s infrastructure working group, says there had been a number of expressions of interest from South African contractors for the projects when the tender process opened recently.

He says the foundation was focusing on the Zambian projects as it is where the big gaps in roads infrastructure in southern Africa lies.

Gilbert Khadiagala, head of Wits’ international relations department, believes setting up a free trade area with a mega customs area on the continent is a more realistic way to bring about economic integration on the continent, rather than the African Economic Community the AU wants in place by 2028.

He says that by working together to improve infrastructure between countries will enable African states to conclude a tripartite trade deal of this kind.

But other trade experts believe Africa’s goal of regional integration is still a distant dream. Standard Bank economist Simon Freemantle says though regional integration is much needed on the continent, the idea of concluding a grand FTA is “slightly premature”.

SADC and each of the regional blocs should rather focus on getting customs regimes in their own individual regions right, he says.

He says although the three respective regional blocs had all put in place trade tariffs – with the EAC being the most recent of the three groupings to do so, in January – these took time to take effect as awareness of the tariffs and the necessary infrastructure needed to then be put in place.

Peter Draper, senior fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs (Saiia), says African economic integration suffers from a “litany of problems”, ranging from overlapping memberships, through unfulfilled commitments, to unrealistic goals.

He says many African countries were still run as authoritarian states which meant building viable national states, never mind intra or inter-regional organisations, is a challenging proposition.

Draper believes Africa should mould its own version of regional integration, and not look to emulate the successful EU.

In a paper titled “Rethinking the (European) foundations of sub-Saharan African regional economic integration”, published in March by economics website voxeu.org, Draper argues that an African model on regional integration should be underpinned by a security regime and should prioritise trade and regulatory cooperation.

Draper argues that while regional economic integration in Africa could yield net benefits, it is not likely to drive economic development in the manner of East Asian economic growth, unless it is complemented by north-south economic integration.

Martyn Davies, chief executive of Frontier Advisory, says the idea of a free trade area between SADC-Comesa and EAC is very far from conclusion.

Davies believes a lack of political will and understanding of the benefits of liberalised trade was what was holding back the regional trade agreement and was why African countries maintained bureaucratic procedures and “rent seeking” practices when it came to trade.

He believes that in South Africa the failure of business and the government to partner successfully together – as China was doing – was also a major stumbling block to regional integration.

China, and to some degree India, had the capital, focus and ability, says Davies and were driving regional integration – which he pointed out didn’t just mean improving infrastructure links, but also integrating capital markets by for example setting up a regional stock exchange.

He singled out the recent setting up of a stock exchange in Angola as a case in point, saying Angolan companies would perhaps be better of listing on the JSE.

“The Chinese and the Indians are going to chomp us up if we don’t understand capital markets,” explains Davies.

In May, state-owned China’s Export and Import Bank announced that it would lend Zambia $180 million to upgrade a road that should help boost trade with central African countries. Work is scheduled to begin next month.

A working paper by Richard Schiere and Alex Rugamba for African Development Bank’s released in April, and titled “Chinese Infrastructure Investments and African Integration” revealed that China had last year pledged $50.7 billion in commitments for African infrastructure projects up 32 percent from last year.

In 2008 China received 21 percent of the African Development Bank’s total procurement contracts and 35 percent of its civil engineering projects.

However the authors said most of China’s investments are with single countries, the disadvantage being that regional infrastructure projects are often overlooked, including various trade initiatives in the Eastern and Southern Africa and the North South Corridor.

India too is getting in on the action. In May Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced during the 2nd Africa-India Forum in Addis Ababa that it would offer $5 billion over the next three years to help Africa to set up new institutions and to help capitalise the AU and regional economic communities to achieve regional integration on the continent.

And Brazil plans to invest $300 million in Mozambique to develop infrastructure in Mozambique to support its coal and biofuels projects in that country, according to a report in Business Times Magazine in November last year.

The magazine also reported that the Brazilian government had in May last year pledged to support infrastructure development in the EAC. International companies are also getting increasingly involved in work on the continent.

Ian Donalson, regional managing director of global quantity surveying firm Turner Townsend, says the international company was doing far more work on the continent than it was 10 years ago.

He says the company was handling 12 projects on the continent, outside of South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe – where it has regional offices. This is up from the three or four it was handling in 2000.

Most of the projects were in pipelines, transportation and building construction – with about half of all projects in the mining sector.

However Donaldson says his company’s push into the continent was driven more by saturation in the South African market, than opportunities created by trade corridors and other infrastructure projects.

He says while red tape and bribes were still a problem on the continent, such that the company avoided doing work for certain governments, Lindsey Dyer, technical director of infrastructure development for consulting engineering firm Aurecon SA, believes the capacity of African governments had improved in recent years such that many were now “extremely well developed and professional”. – BuaNews

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FAIRMOUNT ALPINE (outer tug) and FAIRMOUNT GLACIER at the ship repair wharf on 24 May this year, prior to going on the Eldock floating dock in Durban harbour where they are at present. Here they are seen moored at Elgin Brown & Hamer’s quayside prior to docking. Pictures by Steve McCurrach www.airserv.co.za

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