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Ports & Ships Maritime News

3 November 2011
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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The Sharjah-owned and managed tug LAMNALCO MERGANSER (1290-gt, built 2010), flying the Cypriot flag, which arrived in Cape Town earlier in October towing a couple of large barges. The tug was in port to load bunkers and departed with her charge later. Picture by Aad Noorland

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Oranjemund, the last of the coasters to call at Port Nolloth, passes the end of the Bluff as she arrives back home in Durban. Picture by Terry Hutson

There was some surprising and good news yesterday for Port Nolloth, the little port along the west coast south of the Namibian border, which has become so badly silted in recent years that few if any ocean-going ships have been able to call there.

Yesterday (2 November) Tau Morwe, Transnet National Ports Authority chief executive told PORTS & SHIPS that the TNPA was looking at redeveloping the harbour and returning it to service as a working port.

He said that apart from the silting there were a number of facilities at Port Nolloth that required attention and that the TNPA was giving the matter its attention.

“We need to attend to the silting up and there’s some work needed on the quays and other things,” he said.

At present only fishing boats and small diamond industry service boats are able to negotiate the tricky entrance into the small port, which dates back to the 1850s when the port was created to service the copper mining industry of Namaqualand. With the fluctuating fortunes of the copper mining and improvements to the road to Cape Town, the dependency on the port gradually lessened.

In 2006 the last coastal vessel to call at the port, the small tanker ORANJEMUND which had been designed with Port Nolloth in mind, called on her final voyage to Port Nolloth for her Durban owners and another chapter for Port Nolloth came to an end.

Watch this space!

Ngqura Phase 2

In other port news Tau Morwe confirmed that phase 2 at the port of Ngqura, involving the construction of an additional two berths was going ahead. This would double the size and capacity of the Eastern Cape port which opened for business at the end of September 2009.

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If their fishing boat had not been detained and the fishermen not forced to go out and buy a life-raft and other safety equipment, four Sri Lankan fishermen would most probably by missing at sea or dead.

On Tuesday the NSRI was activated to go out and search for four Sri Lankan fishermen adrift in a life-raft at sea between Still Bay and Witsand. This was after their 57.5 foot fishing vessel caught fire late last week, forcing the men to go overboard into a life-raft as their boat, the Deshan Lanka was quickly destroyed by fire.

With the fire spreading the men launched their life-raft, which they had earlier been forced to buy before being allowed to sail from the port of East London. SAMSA visited the boat of a sudden inspection and found it to be lacking safety equipment, including not having any life-raft or lifeboat, no VHF marine radio, no life-jackets, and no red distress flares. The Sri Lankans told SAMSA’s Captain Peter Kroon that in Sri Lanka such things weren’t necessary.

Fortunately for them they were told that they had to abide by local rules and couldn’t sail until the vessel complied with safety requirements, causing them to go out and acquire the necessary equipment.

Last Friday or Saturday, several weeks after being allowed to sail from East London the vessel caught fire and as the flames spread the fishermen were forced to go overboard into their new life-raft, on which they drifted for several days until being rescued by the NSRI about 18 n.miles off Still Bay.

The fate of the Deshan Lanka is not known and may have sunk. The vessel was heavily laden with fuel when she left East London, in preparation for the long voyage across the Indian Ocean to Sri Lanka.

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Liquid Velvet

A chemical tanker, the 11,599-dwt LIQUID VELVET has reportedly been highjacked some 58 n.miles south-east of Aden, and another three ships have reported coming under attack in the area this week.

The Liquid Velvet was attacked by a single skiff carrying Somali pirates, who managed to board the tanker and take control. This was after the crew had retired into a citadel, into which the pirates broke in and took the crew as hostages.

With the control of the ship in pirate hands, the Liquid Velvet was turned towards the Somali coast and was reported to be heading in the direction of the port town of Bosaso.

This was one of several reported attacks on merchant shipping this week, indicating that the Somali pirates are back at sea and once again active. One report said the vessel was sailing within the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor when attacked. Before her highjacked she was heading from Port Suez to Mormugao in Goa.

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FedEx Trade Networks, the freight forwarding arm of global shipping giant FedEx Corp, has established operations in Johannesburg, South Africa; Bologna, Italy; and Ankara and Izmir, Turkey. As part of the company’s global expansion initiative, which began in 2008, FedEx Trade Networks has opened a total of 45 offices throughout Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

“FedEx Trade Networks is more than just a freight forwarder,” said Fred Schardt, president and CEO of FedEx Trade Networks. “We are in the business of providing solutions and that means giving our customers access to the markets that are most important to them. Whether they ship freight via air, ocean or both, we deliver.”

The opening of the new office in Johannesburg marks the Memphis-based company’s entry into the South African market. The offices in Bologna, Ankara and Izmir are all additional locations in Italy and Turkey. FedEx Trade Networks opened an office in Milan, Italy in November 2010 and established operations in Istanbul, Turkey in August of this year.

This latest round of office openings will offer FedEx Trade Networks customers increased access to major global markets, both inbound and outbound. Customers will also benefit from the company’s wide range of ocean service options and flexible air freight forwarding solutions that employ a variety of value-added services, including the ability to manage their supply chain and control their goods in transit from point of origin to final destination. Customs brokerage, purchase order management with Global Order Logistics, surface transportation, warehousing and distribution are other multimodal solutions offered by FedEx Trade Networks.

In addition to its more than 70 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, the operations in Johannesburg, Bologna, Ankara and Izmir join an ever-increasing global network of company-owned offices.

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Port of Cape Town – picture TNPA

South African ports have an international reputation for “high costs and low performance” and it is time something was done to change this, says the Cape Chamber of Commerce.

According to a study by Mihalis Chasomeris for the National Ports Regulator, port tariffs for container vessels in Durban are twice as high as an average for 12 international ports, but Gordon Metter, deputy president of the chamber, says the situation is actually worse than that.

“If you look at the graph in Chasomeris’s report you will see that our port charges are about six times as high as those for Antwerp, five times as high as New York tariffs and four times as high as Rotterdam. These are all ports in the developed world where labour costs are high, but they do reflect the real costs of docking ships and handling containers.”

He pointed out that port tariffs were often used to make imports more expensive in a bid to get round international trade regulations which limit import taxes. “South Africa used this device when the old government was trying to promote import substitution. Instead of taxing the imports they simply increased port tariffs for cargo being unloaded in our harbours.”

In the US, for instance, port tariffs in the west coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were between three and four times as high as those for New York. “This puzzled us until we realised that all the US imports from China, Korea, Japan and other Asian countries were being landed at these ports. Instead of an import tax, the port tariffs were bulked up to give some protection to local industry.”

The New Jersey ports on the east coast handled cargo from Europe which had similar manufacturing costs so no non-tariff barrier was necessary.

Metter said this meant that port tariffs in Los Angeles and Long Beach, the only ones where tariffs were comparable to those for Durban, were inflated and did not represent the true costs of handling imported containers. “If you take Los Angeles and Long Beach out of the graph then our port tariffs are three times as high as the average for international ports and that is a shocking situation.”

From this it was quite clear that either South African port tariffs were loaded with hidden taxes or the port operations were amazingly inefficient.

“In either case it is clear that the time has come for a radical review of port costs and operations,” Metter said. “We need to strip out the extraneous costs and determine the real costs of port operations. If there is a case to load the tariffs for strategic reasons it must be justified in a transparent process. If revenue is being used to subsidise other services we want to know the details.”

A further concern was the way in which the ports included an amount for a ‘return on capital’ in their accounts. This would be in order for a private-sector business built with borrowed capital, but in the case of the ports, the infrastructure was paid for by the taxpayer and there could be no justification for a ‘return on capital’ on investments by previous generations of tax payers.

Metter said port costs were a vital factor in the economy because there was no way of avoiding them. source – CBN


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map source: Global Awakening

The Security Council has condemned all acts of maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea and welcomed the intention by states in the region to convene a summit to consider a comprehensive response to the menace.

In a resolution adopted unanimously, the Council this week encouraged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) to develop a strategy against maritime piracy.

The strategy will entail the drafting of domestic laws and regulations - where they do not exist - which will criminalise piracy and armed robbery at sea and develop a regional framework to counter piracy and armed robbery, including information-sharing and operational coordination mechanisms in the region.

The regional anti-piracy effort will also include the development and strengthening of domestic laws and regulations to implement relevant international agreements on the safety and security of navigation, in accordance with international law.

The Council encouraged ECOWAS, ECCAS and the GGC to counter piracy in the Gulf of Guinea through bilateral or regional maritime patrols, in line with relevant international law, while ensuring that such activities do not hinder the freedom of navigation on the high seas or the right of passage in the territorial sea to vessels of other States.

The 15-member United Nations body urged states, in cooperation with the shipping industry, the insurance industry and the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), to issue to ships entitled to fly their flag, appropriate advice and guidance on avoidance, evasion and defensive techniques and measures to take if under attack or threat of attack.

The Council called on Member States of ECOWAS, ECCAS and GGC, in conjunction countries where ships are registered and states of nationality of victims or perpetrators of maritime piracy to cooperate in the prosecution of suspects, including facilitators and financiers, in accordance with applicable international laws, including human rights law.

The Council also encouraged the international community to assist, on request, countries in the region, as well as other relevant organizations, in strengthening their efforts to counter piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea.

It also welcomed the intention of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to deploy a UN assessment mission to examine the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and explore options on how best to address the problem, saying it looked forward to receiving the mission's report with recommendations on the issue.

Earlier this month Mr. Ban urged States and regional organisations in the Gulf of Guinea to develop a comprehensive and integrated strategy to combat maritime piracy, which he said was threatening to hinder economic development and undermine security in the region. source – UN News Service


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The container ship MSC JENNY (39,990-gt, built 1988) in Cape Town harbour during October 2011. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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