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Ports & Ships Maritime News

13 June 2011
Author: Terry Hutson



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The Indian flag bulk carrier MANDAKINI seen at her berth in Lyttelton harbour where she was completing loading coal for Haldia, West Bengal. Picture by Alan Calvert


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Port of Mombasa scene

With the restoration of political stability, trade with Kenya is expanding to the level where foreign investors are starting to arrive in the East African country, reports Nairobi’s Business Daily.

Much of the interest is coming from foreign logistics specialists, with several local courier companies having been bought out this year. Airlines are reported to be increasing their investments, Kenya Airways, Saudi Airlines Cargo, Aramex, Transglobal Cargo Centre, Swissport Cargo Services and DHL are among the big players in the logistics business planning or have rolled out new investments in the sector over the past year.

In February, Dubai-based logistics firm Aramex acquired two Kenyan courier firms – In-Time Couriers and One World Courier and is seen as relying on the two firms to grow its foothold in the local and regional logistics market. One World Courier offers international courier services while In-Time focuses on local deliveries.

“These two acquisitions in Kenya position Aramex to introduce its full suite of products and services to the wider East Africa region,” said Hussein Hachem, Aramex CEO for Middle East and Africa.

Aramex said the acquisitions were motivated by the size of Kenya's economy and its regional transport hub status.

Global logistics firm DHL recently announced plans to introduce a road cargo transport service linking Kenya and Southern African countries, targeting delivery of durable goods like electronics, medicine and textiles.

Transglobal Cargo Centre, partly owned by Andy Forwarders, recently completed a US$21.66 million cargo storage and handling facility at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). The facility, which handles 80% of the 300,000 tonnes of cargo warehoused at JKIA per year, mainly targets fresh produce exporters, including flower, fruit and vegetable growers who sell the bulk of their products to European markets.

Swissport Cargo Services also completed a $11.4 million warehouse at JKIA last year with a capacity of up to 150,000 tonnes per year. And after a long absence, Saudi Airlines Cargo Company made a return to JKIA last December targeting cargo business from the Far and Middle East to Nairobi where it will pick up flower exports. National carrier Kenya Airways also announced plans to acquire its first cargo plane with a 19-tonne per trip capacity, targeting cargo volumes from Asian markets.

At the port of Mombasa, sea trade is also increasing despite the onset of piracy in the region. Cargo volumes reached 18,9 million tonnes in 2010. Plans are well advanced to build a second container terminal at Mombasa although the port has experienced problems with its computerised terminal operating system.

“Kenya is growing rapidly as a major transport hub in Africa and is the biggest in the continent outside South Africa,” said Peter Muthoka, the chairman of Andy Forwarders, one of the largest local logistics firm.

Kenya, East Africa's biggest economy, is seen as offering a strategic location for expansion into landlocked countries like Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi while acting as a bridge to East Africa and Asian markets such as China and India whose trade with Africa is expanding rapidly.


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MOL & Hamburg Süd on a slow boat to China

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MOL Heritage. Picture by Ian Shiffman

The service between Asia and South America via South Africa, operated jointly by Mitsui OSK Line (MOL) and Hamburg Süd, has introduced slow steaming on the return leg of the service back to China.

According to information received slow steaming is to commence once the ships leave the South African port of Ngqura, en route back to Singapore. An extra vessel is being added to the loop to compensate, meaning there will now be 13 ships in operation. The port rotation remains at Xingang, Dalian, Qingdao, Busan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ngqura, Santos, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Paranagua, Sao Francisco do Sul, Santos, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Ngqura, Singapore, Hong Kong and Xingang.

Price hike for CMA CGM’s services

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CMA CGM Magellan. Picture by Ian Shiffman

French container carrier CMA CGM will introduce a general rate increase on a wide range of its services as from 1 July 2011.

The rate increase affects the services from Asia to Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.

Increases for containers between Asia and Mozambique will be US$200 per TEU. Other hikes are: Asia (includes Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) to northern Europe - $275 per TEU; Asia to east and west coasts South America, Central America and Mexico - $500 per TEU; Asia to Caribbean and Panama - $490 and $700 per FEU; Northern Europe to Gulf coast of Mexico - $150 per TEU and $225 per FEU; from northern Europe to the Caribbean and Central America and west coast South America - $150 per TEU; from Pakistan to Europe $250 per TEU and $500 per FEU; from Arabian Gulf to Europe a $150 per TEU and $225 per FEU hike.

Maersk told to drop new container charges

Maersk Line has been instructed by the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) to withdraw a planned extra charge on empty containers.

In a letter to all shippers, Maersk Line said it intended increasing charges for containers that are being held by shippers. The shipping company charged US$6.60 a day for boxes held by shippers for up to seven days – this it planned to increase to $10 a day. After seven days the price would go from $13.20 a day to $15 a day.

Maersk Line said the increase would be used to cushion the cost of building new containers and was also intended to help decongest the Mombasa Container Terminal. However, the KMA said the increases were unjustified and gave orders that they be withdrawn. In a notice published in various Kenya daily newspapers, KMA’s director-general Nancy Karigithu asked shippers not to pay the surcharge.

“As Maersk Line is well aware, factors influencing container dwell time at the port or Container Freight Stations are not influenced by the actions of the importer alone but also by various maritime service providers in the cargo logistics chain,” she said.


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FS La Rieuse arriving in Durban in January this year. Picture by Clinton Wyness

France has donated one of its Indian Ocean patrol ships, FS LA RIEUSE (P690) to Kenya to assist the East African country in its fight against piracy.

La Rieuse was based at the French naval base on La Reunion and recently took part in joint anti—piracy patrols with the European Naval Force, Operation Atalanta off the coast of Somalia. The 370-tonne ship was handed over to the Kenyans last week.

La Rieuse is powered by a diesel engine and has a speed of 24 knots. She was one of 10 of her class commissioned in 1986. Her armament consists of a 40mm gun, a 20mm gun and two 7.62mm machine guns. She carries a crew of 29 and has accommodation for an additional 20 personnel.

The ship is also equipped with a hydraulic crane capable of lifting 2.5 tonnes, which is used for lifting small boats out of the water.

South Africa goes hi-tech in anti-piracy capability

According to defenceWeb the South African Navy has asked for a quotation on the supply of a Sealase marine laser threat deterrent system from Laserec Systems AG of Switzerland.

The journal says if acquired, the system will join a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) acquired from LRAD Corporation of San Diego in the US at a cost of R202,778.63 in September last year.

“The Lasersec Systems SeaLase is a diode-pumped solid-state laser that operates at 532nm in the visible region of the light spectrum. It is reported to have a range of four kilometres. At a range of one kilometre, anyone looking up the 10m-wide beam develops acute nausea and can temporarily no longer see – the weapon at that range having the same intensity as looking into the sun,” writes defenceWeb.

LRAD Corporation described their device, as apparently deployed aboard the frigate SAS Mendi earlier this year, as “a critical part of a layered defence strategy. It is highly effective in giving crew members time to determine the intent of unidentified vessels that do not respond to radio calls. Vessels at up to 3000 metres can be hailed and warned using LRAD’s powerful directed communication system and multiple language capability, guaranteeing that warning messages are clearly heard and understood,” a spokesman told defenceWeb earlier this year. “If pirates continue their approach, LRAD’s warning tones can provide an annoying and deterring effect that has proven successful in fending off attackers on multiple occasions... Recently, the Korean Navy successfully used LRAD during their rescue of the Samho Jewelry 800 miles off the coast of Somalia.”

Dockwise may switch flags because of piracy

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Mighty Servant 3, a Dockwise ship, in Cape Town harbour. Picture by Aad Noorland

The twists and turns of piracy continue. Dutch heavylift specialist Dockwise has advised that it may switch flags to gain better protection for its ships from pirates.

Dockwise CEO André Goedée said that Dockwise vessels, because of their specific nature are recognised as being highly vulnerable in pirate waters, but because of that nature they have also to enter pirate-infested waters most months in the year.

“At this point we are not allowed to protect our employees adequately against pirates, while other nations do allow for added security measures. Our clients, too, request added security measures for their employees and cargoes on-board. In the interest of our employees and because of the increasing pressure from the industry itself, we may be forced to seek other alternatives - such as bringing the vessels under a different jurisdiction and flag - if regulations are not adapted quickly. We would regret having to take such a decision, but we are left with no choice should the Dutch government remain idle.”

Current Dutch laws act as an impediment to the use of armed guards on Dutch ships. In consequence of this Dockwise says it “makes an urgent appeal to the Dutch government to pro-actively seek an effective solution to the problem of vessel protection, including the ability to contract adequate private security. Dutch vessels must be able to offer the same level of security to employees and clients as those vessels that sail under flags of other nations.”

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British firm says sorry to Eritrea

British security company Protection Vessels International has issued an apology to the Eritrean government for four of its ship guards that were arrested by the Eritrean Navy after their vessel made a call in Massawa.

The men were arrested on 24 December and accused of entering Eritrean territorial waters with illegal weapons. The four have reportedly admitted their guilt and are still in detention. In an apparent effort of speeding up the process of having them freed, Protection Vessels International has issued an apology to Eritrea, saying it “deeply regretted” the incident.

Pirated ships freed

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The oil tanker Zirku, freed this week after a record ransom was paid

Several ships have been freed by their pirate captors after ransoms have presumably been paid. The most notable of these is the 105,846-dwt oil tanker ZIRKU which was released after a ransom of US$12 million was paid over, making this one of the biggest ransoms paid so far. The crew of 29 were also released with the UAE-registered ship.

A Chinese cargo ship, YUAN XIANG has also been released along with the crew of 29 after an agreed ransom was received by the pirates. Yuan Xiang had been held for about seven months after being captured last November off the Horn of Africa.

A third ship to be released is the SUEZ (17,300-dwt), which is reported to have been ransomed for a very small amount. The ship was able to sail away from Somalia on Saturday (11 June) together with its crew of 23, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Indian nationalities. The Panama-flagged Suez was captured while sailing inside the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor in Augusta 2010.

Russian Pacific fleet sails for home

After completing its mission in the Somali region for four month, the small Russian squadron of ships that have been engaged in anti piracy patrols and escort duty has sailed for Vladivostok. The detachment, the fifth Russian naval group to engage in anti-piracy duty, consisted of the large anti-submarine ship ADMIRAL VINOGRADOV, the navy tug SB-522 and the replenishment tanker PECHENGA. The Admiral Vinogradov carried two helicopters that were able to carry out aerial reconnaissance. Aslo on board were units of the marines and special task forces (Spetsnaz) of the Pacific Fleet.


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Tema port. Picture courtesy OTAL

Ghana is rapidly earning a proud reputation as an efficient transshipment hub for the West Africa region, its ports authority reported last week in an article in China Daily.

Strategically positioned, the West African country relies on its ports for trade, industry and now energy. Playing a major role in Ghana's development, and providing excellent sea links for its landlocked neighbours, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) is the national organisation charged with overseeing all port planning, development, management and operations in the country.

As the country has developed at pace in recent years, GPHA says it is rising to the challenge of growing and handling volumes of cargo passing through the ports. In 2009, the ports handled 12.5 million tons of cargo and in 2010, the total tonnage to be handled stood at an estimated 13 million tons.

GPHA, in its master plans for the two ports of Tema and Takoradi, is endeavouring to build bigger and better facilities, especially in Takoradi as a result of the oil find off Cape Three Points in the Western Region.

Responsible for Tema Port, Tema Fishing Harbour, Golden Jubilee Terminal, Tema, Takoradi Port and the Sekondi Fishing Harbour, GPHA continues to implement master plans that will contribute to the Ministry of Transport's overall vision to make Ghana the maritime and overall transport hub in the sub region.

All types of transport - sea/maritime, rail, road and air - are being integrated into one seamless mode to facilitate the movement of goods, passengers and services for Ghana's economic development.

With around 90% of Ghana's foreign trade being carried by maritime transport, it is an important time for GPHA, which is firmly committed to Ghana's success as an energy producer to provide adequate facilities at the ports, especially Takoradi Port, to support the emerging oil and gas industry.

“Although the ports are wholly owned by government, the act which established the authority mandates it to operate as a viable commercial entity,” said Nestor Percy Galley, director general of GPHA. “We are currently working on the expansion of the ports of Tema and Takoradi. We are also working with Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) and other state institutions to create a deep sea port to serve the oil and gas industry and other industrial activities to be developed in the Western Region.

“We expect financial support from the government for our expansion and modernisation projects, as well as the deep sea project. The funds from the China Development Bank (CDB), which total $13 billion, will be used for the port development and expansion projects among others, including the expansion of the railway system and development of the energy and oil sectors.”

Securing energy

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Port of Takoradi, important port and rail terminus. Picture courtesy OTAL

Situated 230kms from the capital, Accra, the port of Takoradi will continue to play a crucial role in the development of the oil fields until the new deep sea port is completed, although it needs refurbishment, expansion and modernisation to play a more active role.

Clearance of cargo has been simplified by the Ghana Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) with the introduction of the Ghana Community Network - GCNet - electronic clearing system. It now takes just a few hours to clear goods if all documentation is complete.

Cargo to landlocked countries is also monitored using an electronic satellite tracking system. GPHA is also improving upon its IT platform to ensure the fast processing of documentation, all aimed at cutting down on the cost of doing business in the ports. “In terms of efficiency and productivity in the ports, Tema Port is comparable to that of most developed countries. Port prices and charges are also competitive,” NP Galley said. “We also offer a lot of incentives for transit and transshipment cargo passing through.

“The Bui Dam is a major example of China's presence in Ghana and the machinery for the project would be shipped through the ports. We believe that economic activities and cooperation between the two countries will increase since China is a big market and an economic giant.”

The financial assistance provided to Ghana will boost economic activity in the country and lead to more trade between both countries from which the ports will benefit.

Tema Port, situated along the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean is 30km from the capital city of Ghana, Accra. Tema has port facilities for bulk, break bulk, general cargo and containers. The Container Terminal, which came on line in 2007, is equipped with state-of-the-art ship to shore (STS) container cranes, yard gantries and computerised operating systems.

The port handles a wide range of products from crude oil at the oil berth or the SBM located 15km outside the port, petroleum products, cement, iron and steel, aluminium and aluminium products.

It also handles textiles and containers among others for both domestic trade and transit markets of the landlocked Sahelian countries, north of Ghana.

Both Tema and Takoradi Ports are earmarked for expansion in accordance with the master plans for both ports. A consulting firm is being appointed to carry out the detailed designs for tendering. The projects will commence by mid 2011.

The facilities to be provided in Takoradi include: Oil Service Terminal and Supply Base; Bulk Cargo Terminals for export of ores such as manganese and bauxite and imports like clinker, quick lime and wheat; General cargo terminals with transit sheds for storage of break bulk cargo; Open stacking areas for plant and machinery, iron and steel products; Container Terminals with STS cranes and yard gantries for handling containers; and a Passenger Terminal for Cruise ships.

For Tema, similar facilities will be provided except the Oil Service Terminal and Supply Base.

Reducing traffic costs

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Port of Takoradi. Picture courtesy OTAL

To reduce the cost of doing business in its ports, GPHA is installing a new IT platform which will speed up transactions in the port. The GCNet, installed by CEPS, has greatly facilitated clearance of goods from the ports. Goods can be cleared within a few hours when all documentation is correct instead of the days and weeks it took in the past to do so.

Electronic tracking via satellite is also being used to monitor transfer of goods from the port to the bonded warehouses outside the port premises instead of using customs escorts and to the landlocked transit countries.

A major shift which will take place in the near future is how goods are transported to the regional landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger which depend on Ghana's ports and road systems for their goods.

The Ministry of Transport is working on an integrated transport system where the Volta Lake will be linked to Tema port via rail so that goods can be transported by rail to Akosombo; by ferries on the Volta Lake to the northern region, then by road to their final destinations. There are also plans to extend the railway system to the north. This will facilitate movement of large volumes of cargo cheaply.

Using the railway and the Volta Lake will not only reduce the cost of transportation but will also take out a lot of the trucks from Ghana's roads, thus reducing accidents on the roads and the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

GPHA and Ghana Shippers Authority are also working on the development of the Boankra Inland Port, a project which is aimed at decongesting the ports and reducing the transit time of goods to the northern sector and therefore for importers/exporters.

The Boankra Inland Port will be linked by rail and all customs documentation and clearance will be carried out there.

Chinese links strengthened

As trade and industry between China and Ghana increases, activity within the ports will obviously grow. This is something NP Galley is excited about.

“A lot of our business people are buying from China now. The Bui Dam Project is a major example of China's presence in Ghana. We believe the equipment, plant and machinery for the project will pass through our ports and the volume of business will increase.” The DG is visibly upbeat about the ports and indeed the country's future.

“Strategically, Ghana is in excellent position, equidistant from most parts of the world and therefore extremely accessible,” he said. “We enjoy political and economic stability and our people are friendly. The climate for investment is good; therefore we could become the 'Golden Gateway'. We have gold and black gold is around the corner. Why shouldn't we become the Golden Gateway?”


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The products tanker TORM ESBJERG (51,505-dwt, built 2008) in Cape Town harbour recently. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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The Ro-Ro car carrier DUANA (16,947-gt) shortly after being renamed from SARDAUNA and re-registered in Zanzibar. The ship is believed to be on delivery to the breakers. Picture by Ian Shiffman


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