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Ports & Ships Maritime News

1 August 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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The grounded tanker PHOENIX on the rocks of Sheffield Beach, with the beautiful KZN North Coast looking south towards Durban. Picture by Steve McCurrach www.airserv.co.za

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As operations involving getting the grounded tanker PHOENIX’s bunker tanks free of 400 tonnes of fuel move forward, and about half the fuel already removed by Sunday, serious questions are being raised over whether the shipwreck was entirely an accident.

One of the unanswered questions has been why a salvage tug and crew of the calibre of SMIT AMANDLA was unable to get a line aboard the vessel after the Phoenix began to drag its anchor on Monday last week.

These questions have been put to SAMSA and Capt. Nigel Campbell, Regional Manager of the Southern Region responds as follows:

“The following facts are now in our possession:

“The Smit Amandla fired eight rocket lines to the Phoenix while attempting to reconnect, Six of these lines have been found on board the Phoenix.

“Two messenger lines were then put on board the Phoenix in order to allow them to pull the towing gear on board. The Phoenix reported that on both occasions the messenger rope “slipped off” the drum end of the winch. Various maritime experts have been consulted and none of them can recall this happening in previous operations, in these conditions it is possible that the messenger line would part.

“The Master of the Smit Amandla had to instruct the Master of the Phoenix to pay out more anchor cable when the vessel started dragging. A very junior officer knows that this is the first action that is taken when a vessel starts dragging anchor. “It would not be the first time that an unscrupulous ship owner was prepared to sacrifice a vessel in attempt to realise the insured value.” He adds that the Smit Amandla Marine salvage crew on board have been suspicious that there is still one person still on board, all the crew were accounted for when they were evacuated from the vessel. On Friday night a medical kit was left in the accommodation prior to the salvage team being flown ashore. On Saturday morning some of the medication was missing. As the salvage team are totally consumed in removing the fuel from the vessel, the South African Police Services has been requested to search the vessel. “It is not unusual for vessels coming from West Africa to have stowaways on board.”

“Contrary to recent newspaper reports the documentation in our possession indicates that the owners of the vessel are either A & L Shipping Inc. of Panama or A & L Shipping of Belize. We have also been contacted by Lloyds Casualty Intelligence of London as they can find no records of the Phoenix, however a vessel of the same type, size and name was scrapped in India in November 2010.”

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Concel Pride in Algeciras. Picture by Simon Smith

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Phoenix (or is it Concel Pride?) on the rocks of Sheffield Beach on Saturday. Picture by Trevor Jones

Meanwhile, ship enthusiast Trevor Jones and a colleague in the UK Simon Smith have done some sleuthing of their own. With their intimate knowledge of ship types, they immediately began to suspect that the description given of the Phoenix was incorrect, namely that the ship was 164m in length. Instead they say the ship resembles a Japanese built class such as the AKUADA, IMO 7903316. This ship was abandoned at Lagos and has since been reported as sold to the breakers.

Another more likely candidate was considered to be the CONCEL PRIDE, IMO 7371123, which was reported as laid up abandoned on the mole at Algeciras for some time. This ship is 134.55m in length.

Trevor Jones subsequently drove up to Sheffield Beach on the KZN North Coast to take some photographs of the ship and to see her for himself. Among other things he could make out what appeared to be the name EVERENYE 1 that had been painted out on the ship. Simon Smith has since confirmed this was a former name of vessel IMO 7371123, which arrived in Algeciras on 6 April 2005 as the Concel Pride (14,506-dwt, built 1974) but was subsequently abandoned. He reports that a Shipping Index suggested that the ship was to be towed to Algiers for repairs sometime after September 2007.

Our trusty Equasis ship guide and reference records the change of name to Concep in August 2008 with unknown flag. Smith asks what her current port of registry is and says his money is on a Tanzanian flag.

The pictures supplied by Simon Smith and Trevor Jones suggest with strong certainty that the Phoenix is indeed the Concel Pride – readers can make their own conclusions from the two images provided.

The most recent SAMSA report makes the following comments regarding the response from Sheffield Beach residents, which speaks for itself. At Ports & Ships we have taken a few calls of what one might call the whingeing variety. It’s therefore refreshing to read SAMSA’s comments:

“The vast majority of Sheffield Beach residents have been fully supportive of the effort being extended to avoid a massive pollution incident which has led to disruption to their lives. “SAMSA and the salvage team would especially want to salute Mr & Mrs Don and Carolyn Spier, the vessel is beached directly opposite her house. She has opened her house to the salvage team and her lounge is the operations centre, they are also being offered food and coffee continuously. The fuel lines run through her garden into her house and then to the road tankers. This unselfish gesture is making a difficult operation much easier and we are extremely grateful for her support.

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Apapa Container Terminal

Following dredging of the berths alongside the container terminal at Apapa, Lagos, the port now boasts the deepest container berths in Nigeria.

With a depth alongside of 13,5 metres the terminal is now fully geared for the new generation ‘Wafmax’ 4,500-TEU ships expected on the Maersk and Safmarine services to Nigeria, recently announced.

APM Terminals, which operates the Apapa Container Terminal says it has seen berth productivity increase by 50% in the past 12 months while crane productivity at the terminal has improved 25%. Port volumes meanwhile grew by 26%.

APM Terminals has invested a total of US$190 million so far in expanding and improving facilities at Apapa since acquiring the concession in 2006. The terminal’s capacity is now 750,000-TEU.

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Hamburg Süd names latest 7,100-TEU Santa class

Hamburg Süd has named another of the 7,100-TEU Santa class container ships, the SANTA CRUZ, in a ceremony held in the port of Shanghai, China.

Santa Cruz is the fourth of a series on 10 ships with a 7,100-TEU capacity including 1,600 reefer plugs. Hamburg Süd has been naming the ships in different ports where the vessels will trade, which included the port of Durban for vessel number 2, the SANTA CLARA in March this year.

The Santa class ships are being deployed on the company’s New Good Hope Asia – South Africa – East Coast South America service.

Santa Cruz is named for one of Argentina’s provinces in Patagonia. The ship was built by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering in South Korea.

Beluga Nomination sails from Durban

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Two of the yachts from on board the pirated Beluga Nomination, now in Durban’s dry dock for repairs. Picture John van der Meer

After undergoing repairs at the Southern African Shipyards and a dry docking in Durban, the general cargo ship BELUGA NOMINATION, which was highjacked and later ransomed from Somali pirates, has sailed from Durban to continue her interrupted voyage.

The ship was attacked while approaching the Seychelles and seized by a group of pirates. Later a Seychelles Coast Guard craft approached and opened fire on the vessel trying to force the pirates to surrender or leave the ship. During this engagement three of the Beluga Nomination’s crew were killed. After several months of captivity the surviving crew and ship were ransomed.

The ship was carrying a cargo of steel and a number of luxury boats, some of which were damaged by the pirates and also had to undergo specialist repair.

Seafarer evacuated from passing bulk carrier

A 27 year old sailor on board the bulk carrier TLEIADES has been evacuated from his sip by the East London NSRI after he suffered a suspected allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). The transfer took place 15 n.miles offshore of East London in 2 metre swells and a 10-knot south westerly wind.

The seafarer was transferred to a hospital in East London in a stable condition.

First Quarter loss for MOL

Mitsui OSK Line (MOL) has reported a net loss of ¥8 billion (US$103m) for the first quarter which it ascribes to bunker increases, poor freight rates and Japan’s tsunami.

This compares with a net profit of ¥20.8bn for the same quarter in 2010. The company says it views the future with concern because of the strong yen and continuing high levels for bunker prices, a softening of supply and weakness in volumes for the container sector and a slowdown in the tanker and bulker markets.

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Precious Dube (left) and Pinky Zungu are two of the three women from Transnet National Ports Authority to qualify as Africa’s first black, female Open Licence marine pilots. The third, Bongiwe Mbambo, was absent when photographs were taken.

Three Durban women have made history by becoming Africa’s first female marine pilots to obtain an open licence that enables them to navigate ships of any size and type into South African waters.

Not only are Precious Dube, Bongiwe Mbambo and Pinky Zungu three of only five female marine pilots in South Africa, but their open licence gives them authority to guide anything from the very smallest vessels to the biggest supertankers and container ships into port.

The three were among the earliest development candidates introduced by Transnet National Ports Authority in the late 90’s to encourage more black participation in the country’s ports.

Tau Morwe, Chief Executive of Transnet National Ports Authority, said the achievements of the three illustrated the successes of the port authority’s programme of transformation and employment equity.

“The maritime sector used to be one that was closed off to the historically disadvantaged, including women, but this is changing and we are geared for even greater success stories like this,” he said.

Women are now found across all levels of the country’s maritime sector, from crane operators to senior executives.

Dube, age thirty something from Inanda Newtown, was the first female to qualify with an open licence and said she was very excited when told of her historic achievement.

“The captains of foreign ships can be very sceptical when you’re a woman because it’s not common for them to see a female marine pilot, although I’ve heard there are a few in the United States and possibly Australia,” she said.

She said she was used to being quizzed about her experience as a pilot.

“But once you exchange information with the captain and make him feel confident that you know the port like the back of your hand and can get his ship into the port safely, you win him over easily enough,” she says.

Mbambo, 29, is originally from Esikhawini on the North Coast of KZN but now lives in Glenwood, Durban. She laughs when she recalls the amazement of the captain of the first vessel she guided in after qualifying as an open licence pilot recently.

“The captain actually took photographs and recorded a video while I was performing my job alongside him. It was very funny,” she says.

Zungu was the latest to qualify and echoed the proud sentiments of her peers.

“Being at sea was difficult at first. I was the only cadet and the only female on a Russian cruise ship where only the captain spoke English well. But I eventually befriended another South African woman who joined the ship later and together we focused on achieving our career goals despite the challenges,” she said.

“Today I love my job and can imagine myself still doing this at the age of 65,” she says.

The three followed similar career paths, first receiving bursaries from Transnet to pursue a one-year maritime studies programme.

They then completed experiential training as cadets out at sea with shipping lines such as Safmarine and Unicorn, sailing between South Africa, Europe and the Far East.

After a compulsory oral examination with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) they obtained Class 3 tickets to be junior deck officers responsible for auto piloting vessels and managing safety equipment.

They then trained and worked as tug masters at Transnet, manoeuvring ships in and out of the port.

After a one year pilot training programme they qualified as junior pilots before progressing through the various licence grades, starting with smaller ships of around 16,000 gross tons, then 20,000, 25,000, 35,000 and eventually finishing with an open licence.

Rufus Lekala was also part of that first development group and now holds the position of Chief Harbour Master for South Africa.

He applauds the women’s progress saying, “South Africa is leading the pack in terms of equity and transformation in the maritime field.

“Pilots Dube, Mbambo and Zungu have put us on the map once more and should be very proud of their achievements.”

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Two more views of the grounded tanker PHOENIX on the rocks at Sheffield Beach, about 55km to the north of Durban, showing the proximity of the ship to houses overlooking the beach. Pictures by Steve McCurrach www.airserv.co.za

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