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Ports & Ships Maritime News

18 October 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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PACIFIC MISTRAL, the third of the trio of drillships (the previous two, the Pacifics Bora and Scirroco have already been featured here) which was built by Samsung Heavy Industries and completed in June 2011. The vessel was photographed as she lay out in Table Bay.

The rig is equipped for and capable of operating in water depths of up to 12,000 feet and drilling wells 37,500 feet deep.

Pacific Drilling has announced that its ultra-deepwater drillship the Pacific Mistral has been awarded a three-year contract by Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras) for operations in Brazil. The contract is expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2011, and estimated maximum contract revenues, including mobilization and client requested modifications, are expected to be approximately US$536 million. Picture by Frank Vennard/Videographics

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Cape Town’s Container Terminal (CTCT), operated by Transnet Port Terminals (TPT), has exceeded performance targets in the second quarter of its fiscal year placing the terminal in a better position to compete in the Productivity SA’s National Productivity Awards later this month.

In August 2011 the terminal won a regional award in the Public Sector category in recognition of having produced high levels of productivity. This is despite CTCT currently undergoing a R5.4 billion five-year expansion programme, which entails the introduction of new equipment and reconfiguration of stacks.

During the second quarter the terminal has achieved 28.7 gross crane moves per hour (GCH) against a target of 26, ship working hours (SWH) of 58.2 moves against a target of 44 and truck turnaround time (TTT) of 32.2 minutes against a target of 35.

GCH is the common measure of productivity in the container handling business. It is a crucial factor in container shipping, which requires fast and efficient movement of containers by crane operators to reduce the overall cost of doing business. SWH is the number of containers that have been moved by the number of cranes working on the vessel in one hour. It is a key performance indicator for customers. TTT measures truck service through the amount of time a truck spends in the terminal from A-Check to P- Check.

“This achievement is an indication of the entire team’s determination to continuously exceed shareholder and customer expectations,” says Velile Dube, TPT’s Acting Chief Operations Officer for the Container Sector.

According to Dube, certain operational improvement initiatives were implemented during the second quarter. These include a more efficient manner of handling C Class vessels that led to a realisation of 30 GCH particularly on these vessels. C Class vessels have a trend of working at 18 GCH.

Another contributor to GCH was a training milestone that saw 73% of the annual target met, with all berth operators completing the rubber-tyred gantry (RTG) training. Operators have gained confidence and are currently in the mentorship phase. In addition, the vessel change over (VCO) had improved drastically in the quarter meeting the target of four hours. TPT says this is a result of a collaborated effort by Transnet National Ports Authority, shipping lines and TPT.

The launch of the new Truck Entrance in September 2011, boasting five lanes and the combination of A and P-Check, has added great value in providing a quicker service to trucks. In September alone, the TTT improved to 31 minutes from 33 minutes in August.

Although the terminal encountered wind delays, a more focused approach to its windy recovery plan has paid off. Cape Town’s windy season is experienced in November to May and runs concurrent to its peak season. This year, the terminal has reviewed its windy season strategy and has already begun with implementation of some initiatives. These include a review of a standard operating procedure (SOP), which now entails the monitoring of wind speeds in intervals of 20 minutes instead of 60 minutes.

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Members of the Messina Line team prepare to cut the cake celebrating 90 years in business. Picture by Trevor Steenekamp

Italian Ro-Ro specialist Messina Line recently celebrated its 90th anniversary and to mark the occasion a cocktail party was held for Durban customers on Thursday 13 October at Durban’s 5-Star plus Oyster Box Hotel.

From its earliest beginnings in 1921 Africa has featured high on Messina’s agenda, initially with trading from Italy to North Africa and later extending this into the Red Sea. Still later the line began sailing along the East African coast and then as far as Durban in South Africa.

Messina’s ships are easily recognised – all are ramped ro-ro vessels, painted red/orange and all are named with the prefix Jolly (Joker). Messina today operates a regular service between Italy and Durban with calls made at Djibouti, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Maputo and at other ports on inducement.

The company has just taken delivery of a newbuild ro-ro vessel, the 56,000-gt JOLLY DIAMANTE which is to enter the South and East Africa service immediately. Chief Executive of Messina Line, Stefano Messina, who incidentally is the third generation to take charge of this company, told PORTS & SHIPS that the deployment of Jolly Diamante to the South African service indicated the importance that Messina Line has for East and South Africa.

Accompanying Stefano Messina were the directors of other Messina branches including Johannesburg, Maputo, Dar es Salaam and Mombasa.

Coinciding with their visit, the shipping company has offered to assist the well-known South African explorer Kingsley Holgate with his latest expedition by transporting the expedition’s three Landrover vehicles to Djibouti free of charge. Holgate and party will travel from the Red Sea port, which is also the start of the great Rift Valley of Africa, by land along the entire Rift Valley, visiting remote villages to learn new cultures and meet the people while also delivering mosquito nets to pregnant women and distributing free spectacles to those in need.

The three Landrovers were loaded this week on the Jolly Marrone which is due to sail from Durban today (Tuesday).

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Kingsley Holgate and Stefano Messina. Picture by Trevor Steenekamp

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The small nation of Benin has found itself on the front lines of an intensifying battle against piracy off West Africa's coast, with a spike in attacks raising deep concern in the shipping industry.

The country of some nine million people as well as the region has good reason to be concerned: around 60 percent of Benin's GDP comes from its port, which also serves West African countries further inland.

“At this rate, if nothing is done, ship owners are going to boycott the port," a source in the Benin presidency has said on condition of anonymity.

The coast of Benin has seen at least 20 piracy incidents so far this year compared to none in 2010, with the risk long associated with the waters off oil-rich Nigeria having seemingly spread to its much smaller neighbour.

The country has received help not only from Nigeria -- with joint patrols launched last month -- but also countries such as France, the United States and China.

Said Djinnit, the UN secretary general's representative in West Africa, has also pledged the world body's assistance.

Speedboats armed with automatic weapons now patrol the waters, while the joint Nigerian-Benin patrols were also to include a support ship equipped with a radar and helicopter.

According to a Benin navy source, the initiative is expected to last six months, by which time Benin is supposed to have acquired the means to supervise its territorial waters.

“It's very much a cause for concern,” Michael Howlett of the International Maritime Bureau said of the increase in attacks off Benin.

“The security arrangements in Nigeria have been beefed up and that may have forced or displaced the problem temporarily to Benin.”

He called the Nigeria-Benin joint patrols “a very welcome move -- exactly the type of reaction we need to see.”

The problem was illustrated again on Friday (14 October) with the announcement that a tanker hijacked off Nigeria nearly a week before with 20 Eastern European crew members had been released.

Details of the release were unclear, but the Georgian foreign ministry said negotiations had occurred, with the crew including 12 Georgian seamen. The crew was unharmed, officials said.

While the surge in incidents is a reminder for some of the explosion in pirate attacks in recent years off the coast of Somalia on the eastern side of the continent, there have been key differences.

The West African pirates involved in the recent attacks have so far not seemed to be after ransom payments. Instead, fuel cargo has been stolen for sale on the region's lucrative black market and ships have been robbed.

That is not to say the incidents have not been dangerous. The pirates tend to be heavily armed, and crews have been held hostage and beaten.

Benin officials say they are taking the problem seriously, and President Thomas Boni Yayi is ‘determined’ to deal with the situation, a source in the presidency said.

“Benin will never become Somalia,” said Jean-Michel Abimbola, minister of maritime reform.

Yayi recently visited Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and is to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris in late October. French firm Bollore was in 2009 given the concession for the container terminal at the port at Cotonou.

In August, the French and US navies provided training for Benin in a bid to boost its capacity, while France has also made two navy officials available to help.

China provided a grant of four million euros in September for the purchase of a patrol boat.

“France is accompanying Benin in this battle because the phenomenon of piracy is an international concern,” said Jean-Paul Monchau, the French ambassador in Benin. source – AFP

Highjacked tanker CAPE BIRD released

Nigerian reports said the Marshall-Island-registered tanker CAPE BIRD has been released from captivity along with its crew of 20 seafarers.

The tanker was captured while 90 n.miles off Lagos on 9 October. There is as yet no indication why the ship was suddenly released but highjacked ships in West African waters are seldom held for very long, with robbery often the reason for the attack.

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Picture by Trucko

Construction of the new deepwater port of Kribi in Cameroon has begun, following a launch ceremony held recently on site and in the presence of Cameroonian President Paul Biya and Chinese Ambassador in Cameroon Xue Jinwei.

Construction of Phase 1 is being undertaken by China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd, to develop a 50,000-TEU capacity container terminal and a quay capable of handling 40,000-dwt multi-purpose vessels. The new port, which will serve as Cameroon’s iron ore terminal will also have support facilities including the usual port infrastructure and equipment.

The new port is situated 30km south of the town of Kribi and is costing an estimated US$489 million and has a construction time of 36 months.

On completion Kribi’s new port is expected to play a positive role in promoting Cameroon’s economic development as a large container transit port and integrated hub port in Central and West Africa.

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A balance has to be struck between the commercial advantages of shipowners' selecting a particular flag state and the need to discourage the use of flags that do not meet their international obligations, warns the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

Speaking at the 14th Russian Register Seminar on Quality Shipping in St Petersburg, Simon Bennett, ICS Director of External Relations, said: “Shipping is one of the safest and most environmentally friendly modes of transport, yet several high profile casualties have prompted questions from politicians and the media about the performance of flag states. There is understandable concern about shipping companies' use of flags that may not comply fully with international regulations.”

However, he stressed that distinctions between open registers and so-called national or traditional maritime flags are unhelpful. “The industry's Flag State Performance Table suggests that open registers such as the Bahamas, Liberia and the Marshal Islands enjoy the same very high standards of performance and responsibility as flags such as Denmark or the United Kingdom,” he said.

ICS has previously developed Shipping Industry Guidelines on Flag State Performance, to accompany its annual Flag State Performance Table. The Guidelines outline what a responsible shipowner should expect from a responsible flag state, including ratification and implementation of core maritime conventions. The Guidelines are intended to encourage shipowners to examine whether a flag state has sufficient substance before using it and to encourage ship owners and operators to put pressure on their flag administrations to effect any necessary improvements.

Mr Bennett told delegates in Russia: “The industry makes no apology for subjecting flag states to scrutiny, in the same way that ships and company procedures are rightly subjected to inspection by governments. Our over-riding interest in promoting high performing flag states is that they are less likely to tolerate sub-standard operators. This small minority of shipping companies enjoys an unfair commercial advantage over the vast majority of fully compliant operators and damages the overall reputation of the industry.

“While it is shipping companies that have primary responsibility for the safe operation of their ships and the welfare of their crews, it is the flag state that must enforce the rules,” Bennett said. source - courtesy Paul Ridgway, London


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The container ship HANJIN CHONGQING (74,962-gt, built 2008) in Cape Town harbour last Wednesday, 12 October 2011. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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