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Ports & Ships Maritime News

5 July 2011
Author: Terry Hutson


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

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The containership CONTI HARMONY arrives in Lyttelton, the harbour for Christchurch (and home to the all-conquering Crusaders, but that’s another story and another game). The ship’s visit was on 17 June, four days after further damage to the port and city of Christchurch was caused by two earthquakes. Conti Harmony was the first ship to be worked at the container terminal after the most recent quakes. Picture by Alan Calvert

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Port of Richards Bay showing the finger jetty berths 801/804) and MPT berths 706-708. The open area on right is where a ship repair facility has previously been identified.

South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine is the latest entry into the great Richards Bay ship repair saga.

The Department of Transport is reported to have confirmed the visit to South Africa of a delegation from the Korean giant to pursue their interest in establishing a ship repair facility at the Zululand port. From reports it appears that Daewoo has its sights on the Capesize vessels that either use the port or pass close by.

The Department of Transport’s director-general George Mahlalela said the Koreans are “pushing” to set up a shipyard. “They are keen,” he said.

In 2010 Daewoo acquired a 49% stake in the Impinda Group, which is controlled by President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma. At the time there were reports of Daewoo being interested in ship repair in South Africa, although Richards Bay wasn’t necessarily highlighted.

Richards Bay has the land, space and waterside necessary for large ship repair and/or building. Several years ago a Chinese group was in serious discussions with government over the development of ship repair in Richards Bay, including a giant dry dock, which would be developed by a consortium set up by Imbani Projects. As far back as 2006 it was reported that Transnet was close to closing the deal with Imbani, yet despite the confirmed interest by the Chinese, nothing further has come of this with either government or Transnet.

Transnet had earlier called for expressions of interest, following an initiative originally launched by the Richards Bay engineering company Rowley Morgan Engineering. Three groups of companies submitted bids with Imbani Projects being selected as the preferred bidder. Imbani was partnered with Chinese. The consortium then consisted of Imbani Projects (South Africa), Ningbo Industry Investment Liability Co (China), Ninth Design and Research Institute (China), Chec Guangzhou Port Construction Co (China), Semane Consulting Engineers (South Africa) and Ingeprop Africa Consulting Engineers (South Africa).

Following that announcement little more was heard of this initiative, with Transnet remaining silent on the subject and the Chinese investors maintaining an equally inscrutable demeanour.

Based on this potted history therefore, and the lack of any progress with ship repair at Richards Bay after more than 15 years of effort, the likelihood of the Koreans establishing their ship repair facility at Richards Bay must remain questionable, although if the well-connected Impinda Group remains involved it could well become a reality. Watch this space.

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Maersk Line expects double-digit growth in containerised palm oil, sugar and rice to Africa

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Maersk Line – looking to Africa for growth. Maersk Danbury in Cape Town by Ian Shiffman

According to reports from Europe, Maersk Line is expecting double-digit growth in certain commodities on its Asia-Africa trades this current year,

Asia operations chief Thomas Knudsen said that Africa is strong for commodities.

“We are seeing more cargo moving in containers pretty much everywhere in Africa - East Africa, South Africa and West Africa," he said at a conference in Singapore. The commodities identified include containerised palm oil, sugar and rice.

According to Knudsen the increased trade with Africa has helped to compensate for lower volumes on Asia-Europe routes, something which was forecast earlier in the year by Maersk.

In China, said Knudsen, Maersk has noticed a trend where business is migrating from southern China more to the east and north, “so perhaps [there’s] a change in sourcing patterns” he said.

Greek owner orders slow steaming engines for new container ships

Greek ship owner Thenmaris has placed a ‘surprise order’ for 6G80ME-C9.2 slow steaming engines to power four new 5,000-TEU ships ordered from Hyundai, reports New York-based MarineLink.com

Slower tankers and bulkers have been usual buyers of MAN B&W S-type engines with their long stroke and low engine speeds, while containerships have favoured shorter-stroke engines for their higher engine speeds, said a company statement.

But with the price of oil rising, and freight rates falling most carriers have adopted the economies offered by slow steaming which significantly reduces bunker burn. But at the same time, the practice also increases wear and tear on to engines built to perform at higher speeds.

While the new G-type engines are capable of delivering ship speeds of 21.5 knots, their longer stroke can produce 13 knots efficiently and bring fuel-consumption savings of four to seven per cent, said MAN Diesel & Turbo vice president Ole Grone.

The G-types have designs that follow the principles of the large-bore Mk-9 engine series that MAN Diesel & Turbo introduced in 2006, said the report. “Their longer stroke reduces engine speed, thereby paving the way for ship designs with high-efficiency,” said the company.

“We are delighted with the market response. We viewed its introduction as both viable and timely and are pleased that the market has seen fit to back this up,” said Mr Grone.

Such vessels may be compatible with propellers with larger diameters than those designed today which would bring higher efficiencies following adaptation of the aft-hull design to accommodate a larger propeller, said the company. – source HKSG

CMA CGM expands eco-container fleet

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CMA CGM Africa Two. Picture Terry Hutson

French container carrier CMA CGM has acquired an additional 18,000 eco-containers for use by customers, bringing the eco-container fleet to almost 140,000 TEUs.

“The CMA CGM Group is still leading the way in development of eco-containers. We were the first to develop bamboo floors and are constantly on the look out for new technologies, such as the new water-based paint. The Group’s primary aim is to reduce the footprint of its activity on the environment while offering customers solutions that are adapted to their needs,” explains Alexis Michel, Senior Vice-President Container Logistics at the CMA CGM Group and a member of its Environment Committee.

CMA CGM also owns 4,500 light steel containers made from strong high tensile steel, which saves 550kg on a high-cube’s tare weight without compromising its structural qualities.

The group has invested in 3,500 containers fitted with low energy-use motors, reducing electricity and fuel consumption by up to three times. It has also equipped 15,000 standard reefers with software to optimise energy consumption, that’s 20 percent of the group’s reefer fleet.

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Tema container terminal in Ghana, operated by award-winning APM Terminals. Picture OTAL

APM Terminals was named winner of the “Best Port Operator in Africa” award at the Transport Africa Awards ceremony held in Johannesburg, South Africa on 29 June.

The criteria for the award were “operational efficiency and effectiveness, and the ability to demonstrate best practice in Africa’s ports sector”.

“We are very proud of this tremendous recognition of our efforts and growth in Africa,” said APM Terminals Africa-Middle East Region CEO Charles Menkhorst, adding ”We are only just getting started.”

The APM Terminals Global Terminal Network is well-established in West Africa with facilities in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Cotonou, Benin; Tema, Ghana; Apapa (Lagos), and Onne (Port Harcourt), Nigeria; Douala, Cameroon; Monrovia, Liberia; Pointe-Noire, Republic of the Congo; and Luanda, Angola.

APM Terminals is one the largest terminals operators in West Africa, with container throughput of 2.6 million TEUs (weighted by equity share) in 2010.

In February, APM Terminals began operations at the Port of Monrovia under a 25-year concession ratified in October 2010. The Liberian port is the first 100% APM Terminals- owned concession in the region.

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Plain coils of barbed wire on the MV Leopard – see 6 below. This is an example of a failed attempt to keep pirates off the ship.

By John Beadon

an examination of the respective methods available for preventing access to control of a ship by pirates.

There are different levels of ship hardening that increase the ship’s protection against attack by pirates. I refer to these as ‘layers’. The list below is by no means complete – there will always be more that can be done if there is an unlimited source of funds, personnel and time, but this list lays out the more common and effective methods of protection.

1/ Basic ISPS Code adherence. This would include locking all exterior access doors, making sure that a good lookout was kept at all times, performing regular drills and briefing the crew on their individual duties in case of attack. Preparation by the captain and officers, knowledge of the correct station to call in the event of attack, proper use of double lookouts will all go towards keeping the ship. This basic layer of hardening would include the appointment of a well trained SSO, a vital element in the ship’s preparation.

2/ Fitting out of a ‘citadel’. This is a costly change to an existing vessel, but an inexpensive extra for a vessel under construction. The citadel should have separate air and water supply, methods of monitoring activities on deck, good communication by VHF radio and Sat phone and preferably a way of controlling the ship. If this last is not possible, a way to cut power to the engines and generators should be provided.

3/ External floodlights and CCTV. The floodlights can merely be additions to the ships working lights, but should certainly light the whole deck and the ship’s rails. While the Somalis do not seem keen on boarding at night, off the coast of Benin night attacks are common. CCTV cameras are vital to the effectiveness of a citadel, but there should also be repeaters on the bridge. Cameras should be directed over the sides from the bridge wings, and onto the access points for the accommodation and stairways to the bridge.

4/ Bridge protection. If the bridge is to be manned in case of attack, which would be vital if trying to manoeuvre the ship to make boarding harder, the bridge must be adequately protected. Drop-down steel screens for the windows, or Kevlar panels, combined with plastic film inside the glass can help protect the bridge team and any security specialists on board. If the bridge wings are very open, sandbags will provide good cover for lookouts or security personnel. Body armour and helmets are not expensive items to purchase for a bridge team, and go a long way towards giving the seamen confidence to keep striving against the attack.

5/ Exterior stairways to the bridge can be made into ‘no go areas’ by the simple expedient of hanging razor wire coils and the lashing in position of fire hoses. VP Systems produce the ABD2, which makes deploying and storing razor wire simple and quick in areas such as stairwells. As long as the accommodation remains unbreached, pirates have to reach the bridge to take command of the ship. One of the most important factors in a pirate attack is time. The longer the pirate group takes to reach the bridge, the more likely the ship is to be intercepted by one of the Euroforce naval vessels, cutting short the attack.

6/ Obviously first prize goes to the ship that prevents the pirates from even gaining the main deck. This can be done by using razor wire around the ship, although this has been circumvented by use of a ballistic blanket or even a coir mattress. A better bet would be to use a commercially available product such as the Anti Boarding Device by Vessel Protection Systems www.vpsystems.co.za, the Electric fence by Secure-Marine www.secure- marine.com, or one of the other patented products available. Some of these are hideously expensive, while others are pretty reasonable.

Manoeuvring so as to utilise the bow wave and the turbulence at the stern to disrupt the ability of a skiff to come alongside has proved to be very effective, even in ‘low and slow’ vessels. ‘Bottle’ is a key ingredient here, and the success stories that are heard almost all apply to captains and crews who have really tried to keep the pirates off the ship.

7/ Finally there is the use of an armed security detail. This last is an expensive form of protection, but a very effective one. With a well trained and prepared team on board, pirates will not try to push home an attack, as there are still plenty of other ships for them to try that do not have a security detail on board. To date, there have been no ships taken that have had an armed team on board at the time.

Conclusion: While the hiring of an armed security team might seem to be the simple solution, it is vital that ship-owners and shipmasters understand the advantages of using various ‘layers’ of protection. All the eggs in one basket is never wise practice.

There has been voiced recently the fear that the pirates may escalate the violence in order to nullify the effectiveness of the armed security teams. By using large and well armed mother-ships, carrying enough pirate personnel, a small security detail of 4 might well be overwhelmed, and if there was no lower scale protection, the vessel could then be taken easily.

By observing the basic good sense rules to be found in the ISPS Code and in the BMP3 manual, a strong security foundation can be laid. This can be built on in ways to suit the pocket of the ship-owner, and depending on the vulnerability of the individual ship, the vessel can be well protected and prepared.

Mr Beadon is the developer of several anti-piracy systems, notably the Anti Boarding Device and the Climb Stopper

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Somali pirates are smarter than they are given credit for. That’s the view of British Major General Buster Howes, Royal Marines, who says that over a period of time the Somali pirates have become intellectually cunning.

“They sometimes out-think us in terms of, ‘If we do this, what will they then do?’ They can certainly react more quickly than we can,” said Howes, who leads the EU naval taskforce in the Gulf of Aden.

General Howes was addressing the UK Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

He is shortly to address the International Institute for Strategic Studies on the issue of ‘How to erode the pirates’ sense of impunity.’ Some analysts think this to be a hint of imminent military action.

General Howes said that targets would be the so-called mother-ships, most of them seized by pirates and then used to venture out further into the oceans where they can launch skiffs to attack commercial shipping. Some of these have been more than a 1000 n.miles from the Somali coast.

According to the general, merchant ships can do more to defend themselves, even if it meant carrying armed guards. However, such a development would require a change in UK law and would also create other problems when the ships reach their destination with weapons on board. Nevertheless the use of armed guards has considerable support even among several of the shipping associations.

The director-general of the UK Chamber of Shipping told the same committee that merchant ships should make use of ‘strong military action’ to protect themselves against marauding mother ships.

Piracy had cost the world economy at least £4.5 billion, he said, and ransoms were now up to £7 million for larger vessels and that 440 crew members, mostly from developing countries, were being held.

Ecoterra, an independent group that monitors maritime human rights and the environment and which is able to source its information from within Somalia, says that at least 573 hostages are being held, along with 34 large and 17 small foreign-owned ships. There is also a stranded barge in pirate hands. Ecoterra says the international naval forces operating in the region tend to ignore the smaller ships and craft such as dhows in their analysis of which vessels have been attacked or targeted.

Ecoterra describes Somali piracy as nothing other than “cut-throat capitalism”.

The organisation points out that since the arrival of strong naval forces in the region, piracy has actually escalated.

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Port of Mombasa – strike suspended for further talks

Heeding a request by the Kenya Ports Authority, Mombasa port dock strikers on Sunday called off their planned strike pending a meeting that was to be held yesterday (Monday) with port management.

“The government has called us to a meeting on Monday. We will have to suspend our planned strike so we can hear what they have for us," said union chairman Jeffar Kiti.

Last week the trade union warned that it intended blocking all road access to the port. The union wants 360 employees who have been working as temporaries for the last 15 years to be provided with permanent positions enjoying pensions and other benefits.

There are another 2,100 casual workers who have been working in the port in various positions for the past three years that the union is demanding be given permanent jobs.


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The South Korean bulker AGIA (45,296-dwt, built 1994) sailing from Cape Town harbour recently. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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