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Ports & Ships Maritime News

24 August 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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To complement yesterday's black and white picture by Andy Anderson showing a Cadet yacht sailing on the Bay of Natal with the passenger liner KARANJA in the background, Trevor Jones has sent in this photograph of the sister ship KAMPALA sailing in 1969, substituting for Karanja while the latter was out of service having air conditioning installed in her public rooms. Picture by Trevor Jones

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Container trucks delayed outside the Durban Container Terminal. Picture by Terry Hutson

One of the things one learns along the path of being a journalist is never to take anything for granted or at face value, and always to look for underlying factors behind any story.

These thoughts come to mind while reading reports that delays at the Durban Container Terminal are a cause of road accidents owing to driver fatigue and that therefore the terminal management should be held responsible for “killing our drivers”.

Now that’s strong stuff, but is it fair comment? The answer, one supposes, depends on which side of the fence you sit – if you are a cargo owner or road haulier then you might agree while adding that it was high time someone spoke up, whereas someone on the other side of the port security fence might see this as yet more criticism which cuts rather close to the bone.

There can be no question that drivers, forced to wait in their trucks on busy roads outside the harbour, will become fatigued, especially when it is due to circumstances beyond their own control, and by then their level of frustration will have increased. Then, after having been delayed for anything up to an unbelievable 15 hours or so, and after having eventually concluded the purpose of their visit, they will have to start back on their long return journey.

If the delay has been the fault of the container terminal, then surely that’s where the blame lies.

Or does it? Who is really responsible for a logistical system that demands that truck drivers have little option but to remain with their vehicles for return trips of 1200km and more, with tight schedules leaving little or no time for any decent break. And then when the truck is delayed outside the terminal gates, the margin for taking a break becomes further reduced or even eliminated.

At the same time why is it that even now, after years of debating the same issues, as yet no proper truck stop has been made available where drivers on approaching the harbour can relax in relative safety, have a shower and perhaps a meal, watch some television or get some exercise, without losing their place in the ‘queue’ for the terminal. This doesn’t only apply to the container terminal. Maydon Wharf is another with absolutely no truck stop facilities or places to stop, although Transnet has plans to create offroad parking. It also applies to those heavy trucks that are forced to go through the city centre to the City Terminal on the Point, and afterwards incur the wrath of other motorists when they park illegally along the winding Esplanade, obstructing the inner lane and accumulating parking ticket that the fleet owners don’t seem to mind.

To be fair on Transnet, laybye areas will be provided along Bayhead Road with the current road upgrade, still a year away from completion, but will these laybye areas meet the real needs of fatigued drivers or is their purpose intended merely to get them off the road so as to avoid additional congestion?

One should ask whether this is the sole responsibility of Transnet, or should the wider transport industry, such as the Department of Transport be getting involved as well.

According to a report in FTW, on the toll roads of the N3 between Durban and Gauteng there have been “147 deaths in 96 fatal accidents involving trucks in 2010 – one smash every 3.7 days”.

No-one has proved (so far as we know) that fatigue was the cause of those tragic accidents, but accepting that fatigue was probably a contributory factor, then one should be looking all the way along the supply chain for the cause and not at just the ports, and that should include examining managerial pressure on the drivers to achieve cost- saving fast turnarounds.

A holistic examination of the problem at national level is urgently needed and when solutions are sought, national and provincial ministers (and others) must not fall back on statements that this is one more reason why there should be a return to rail. We would all like to support such a notion, but the reality is that until there is a marked improvement from a monopolistic Transnet Freight Rail, then any ‘return’ to something approaching rail efficiency will take years if not decades.

And let’s not forget the only reason that rail remained dominant prior to the 1990s was because cargo owners were forced by legislation to use goods and parcel trains, and road transport could only be utilised after obtaining expensive and hard-to-get road permits. No-one wants that sort of return to rail.

It was deregulation that aimed the shotgun that killed the old rail service, but rank inefficiency by the rail operator pulled the trigger.

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What the proposed new Durban port may look like. Picture courtesy Transnet

According to Business Day, an agreement between Transnet and the Airports Company SA (ACSA) over the price to be paid for the site of the old Durban International Airport can be expected by the end of September.

The agreement will allow Transnet to secure the strategic piece of land on the southern side of Durban for building a new deepwater container port. Business Day talks of the new port costing R75 billion to build, which seems to us an excessive amount.

“We think that by the end of next month we will know,” Department of Transport director-general George Mahlalela is quoted as saying. The DG was referring to how much Transnet would offer ACSA for the land due to be turned into South Africa’s newest port.

“The discussions are now about how much of the land do we want and what do we want to do with the rest,” said Mahlalela.

While there is common agreement that the land should be secured for a new port which would be built when the time was right – estimates suggest that it will be required before 2020, Transnet and ACSA were reported to be at odds over the amount that the old airport site of 620ha is worth. ACSA was initially asking for at least R3 billion but is understood to have come down to R2 billion. Transnet was prepared to pay around R1 billion.

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As many as 60% to 80% of ship owners are in favour of arming their vessels even though the cost can be as high as US$50,000 per passage, a leading Danish ship owner has claimed.

“We took the decision three to four months ago that we could not defend our ships without contracting-in armed guards with light machine guns and who will shoot back,” said Per Gullestrup, CEO & Partner of Clipper Ferries/Ro-Ro.

“I hear that 60% to 80% of owners are in favour of arming their ships, which is a lot, and if you figure out that every time you do, it costs an owner between $30,000 and $50,000 to put armed guards on each passage then you are talking about a lot of money,” he said.

Gullestrup has built up first hand knowledge of dealing with pirates after he negotiated with Somali pirates over the release of the CEC Future back in 2008. Pirates held the CEC FUTURE for 71 days, and only released the ship after negotiations and the payment of a ransom of nearly DKK 9 million.

Per Gullestrup was heavily involved in negotiating with the pirates in 2008. A Somali pirate now faces a 25 year prison sentence in the US after he was convicted. “Despair is a good word,” to describe the way ship owners feel about the whole piracy issue, he told SMI.

“It is a hard word but there are times in a quiet moment when you say, look what is going on here. It is 2011 and we are five years into this (more, actually –editor) and we are still being run around by a bunch of criminals because that is all they are – extortionists, murderers and criminals. And even the largest naval powers in the world haven’t been able to do anything about it and they won’t until we do something fundamentally ashore in Somalia. Until then, we will not solve this problem,” he said.

“We now have the monsoon season and this will have a strong reflection on the level of activities going on. But even when the monsoon settles down, I suspect you will see a lot of the ships being armed now. But what will that do to the equation? Hopefully it will put a dampener on activities but it won’t solve anything. Because the pirates might start to lose too much money and the investors will stop getting the returns they want, they will retrench and ease off. The naval forces will then say the situation is better and the pirates will be back in action and we will be back where we started.

“We as ship owners are very frustrated. If this kind of criminal activity happened anywhere else on this scale something would have been done about it but 94% of the seafarers involved in this are from developing countries and that is the reason. If the 94% of seafarers were from Europe or the US, I guarantee we would not have been talking about it now. It is a disgrace,” he added. - source : Ship Management

Pirates attack second ship at Salalah

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Fairchem Bogey, seized in the port of Salalah on Saturday

Somali pirates, emboldened by their success in highjacking the products tanker FAIRCHEM BOGEY from within the port of Salalah, have had a go at a second tanker just outside the port.

“Pirates in a skiff chased and fired upon a chemical tanker,” reported the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) anti-crime arm. “The pirates made several attempts to board the tanker and finally aborted the attack due to the evasive maneuvers made by the tanker.”

On Saturday pirates seized the in ballast Fairchem Bogey chemical oil tanker from its anchorage in the port, taking 21 Indian crew members on board hostage and heading south to Somalia, Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern Ship Management has confirmed. It has since been reported that the Fairchem Bogey has arrived off Somalia and that all the crew are safe and unharmed but remain onboard.

The tanker went to anchor a little north of Bandar Beyla on the Somalia coast on Monday afternoon.

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MSC Vanessa. Picture by Trevor Jones

Drewry’s latest annual report predicts big increases in vessel operating costs with oil prices remaining high, pirates driving up insurance premiums and the environmental regulators imposing costly unfunded mandates.

“In 2010, vessel operating costs remained static,” said the Drewry report. “However, in 2011 commodity price increases will push up lube, repair and maintenance costs. With some owners having to take additional insurance cover for kidnap and ransom, overall costs are forecast to rise by four to six percent, depending upon vessel sector.”

Tighter sulphur emission controls for vessels sailing within some areas came into effect last year. This raises fuel costs and has made record keeping on ozone depleting substances on board mandatory, said Drewry.

“Fleet operators know that the many conventions that abound on safety, emissions and manning will result in increased costs. Like low demand and high commodity prices, regulation is a brutal fact of maritime life,” said the report.

The news comes at a bad time for ocean carriers, with many in the container sector now losing money and vessel charter rates falling, said London's Containerisation International. Since the end of May, the average charter rate for a 4,250 TEU vessel has fallen from US$26,800 per day to $20,250 per day, according to the New ConTex index.

To put this in perspective, Drewry estimates that shipowners would have had to pay $8,586 per day out of this in vessel operating costs alone last year.

Although low market demand has kept crew wage levels down, the large number of new vessels now entering service, some of them delayed from last year, is reopening the gap between supply and demand, forcing wages up.

“With the next STWC [Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping] round as well as ILO MLC [the UN's International Labour Organisation's Maritime Labour Convention] regulations cutting in next year, owners and managers will come under wage and staff cost pressure - particularly in the areas of travel, training and food. Schednet

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<NSRI Mossel Bay

The NSRI, assisted by the Metro EMS have evacuated an injured fisherman from a fishing trawler at sea off Mossel Bay. Andre Fraser, NSRI Mossel Bay deputy station commander, reports:

“At 01h01 (Tuesday, 23 August 2011) our NSRI Mossel Bay volunteer duty crew were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority following a request for medical assistance from the 20 metre local fishing trawler NIMO reporting a 71 year old male crewman onboard suffering a fractured arm, sustained by deck gear that had allegedly collapsed onto the fisherman, while fishing at fishing grounds 30 nautical miles off-shore of Mossel Bay.

“The trawler had begun heading towards Mossel Bay and we launched our sea rescue craft VODACOM RESCUER in a calm sea state and making good headway. Accompanied by a Metro EMS rescue paramedic, we rendezvoused with NIMO at 03h17, 13 nautical miles off-shore of Mossel Bay.

“On arrival on-scene an NSRI rescuer and the Metro EMS rescue paramedic were transferred onto the fishing trawler and the patient was found to be in a stable but serious condition suffering a fractured left arm and contusions to the head and upper back.

“Treatment was initiated by the Metro EMS rescue paramedic and the patient was stabilised and secured into a Stokes basket stretcher and transferred onto our sea rescue craft and brought to our sea rescue base, arriving at 04h30 where he was transferred into a Metro EMS ambulance and transported to hospital for further treatment.

“The fishing trawler has [since] come in to dock in port.”

NSRI Station 6 Port Elizabeth

The NSRI at Port Elizabeth has evacuated an ill fisherman from a passing ship. Justin Erasmus, NSRI Port Elizabeth deputy station commander, reports:

“At 18h19 (Sunday, 22 August, 2011) our NSRI Port Elizabeth volunteer duty crew were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority following a request for medical assistance from the bulk carrier GLOBAL COMMANDER reporting a 49 year old Chinese male crewman onboard suffering abdominal pains suspected to be appendicitis and the ship reporting to be 30 nautical miles off-shore of Port Elizabeth.

“The TNPA harbourmaster ordered the ship to head towards Algoa Bay and we launched our sea rescue craft EIKOS RESCUER IV in 4 to 5 metre rough sea swells and rendezvoused with the ship 4.5 nautical miles from Port.

"On arrival on-scene our sea rescue medic found the patient to be stable suffering from abdominal pain suspected to be related to his appendix. He was taken aboard our rescue craft and brought to the sea rescue base where the ships agent transported the sailor to hospital for further evaluation and treatment.”


A male passenger on board the Holland America cruise ship RYNDAM faces possible jail time of 20 years plus a $250,000 fine after he dropped the ship’s stern anchor while in a drunken state.

Forty-five year old Rick Ehlert has pleaded guilty to a single charge of attempting to damage a maritime facility. He said he was drunk at the time and explained that the ship’s anchor system was similar to what he had on his own 50ft boat.

Ehlert donned gloves and dropped the anchor while the ship was sailing for Tampa from Mexico’s Costa Maya, on 27 November last year. A cctv camera caught him in the act of entering a restricted area and releasing the 18-tonne anchor.

Investigator’s say that the stern anchor could have damaged the ship’s hull, causing it to take in water and possibly sink. They said the anchor fortunately did not reach the ocean floor, thus preventing possible serious damage to the vessel.


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The bulker F ELEPHANT was a recent caller at the port of Cape Town, where she berthed in the Duncan Dock. Shortly afterwards the vessel, the former VLCC WORLD PROSPECTOR proceeded to the outer anchorage after having been placed under arrest. Once the detention order had been lifted the ship reentered port to take bunkers before finally sailing again on 17 August. It is suspected that she may be heading for the breakers. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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