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Ports & Ships Maritime News

9 November 2011
Author: Terry Hutson


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As tropical storm clouds gather overhead and the skies darken Costa Cruises’ white-hulled COSTA ROMANTICA (53,049-gt, built 1993) stands out sharply in Port Louis, Mauritius. Costa Romantica was based in Port Louis during the 2010/11 summer months and undertook 14-day cruises from the Mauritian port to the other Mascarene and Madagascan islands. Similar cruises will be handled this summer using the smaller COSTA ALLEGRA (28,597-gt, built 1969), commencing on Christmas Day. Picture by Capt Mkhulu


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Mystery surrounds the circumstances and whereabouts of the container ship SARAWAK (33,405-gt, built 1983, IMO 8124917), which arrived at Durban under charter to one of the shipping companies and was promptly attached by the Durban sheriff acting on a court order.

The Sarawak, which is owned by a company listed as Venus Shipping Co Ltd, care of Tianjin Centrans Shipping Management Co Ltd, 5th Floor, Gang'ao Building, 18, Zhengzhou Dao, Heping Qu, Tianjin, China was arrested on behalf of two firms of Durban attorneys, Shepstone & Wylie and Cox & Yeats, acting on overseas principals. The arrest was for being ‘in association’ with another party or vessel elsewhere.

In defiance of her arrest the crew of the Sarawak upped anchor at the weekend and sailed away from Durban, heading eastwards, destination unknown. Shepstone & Wylie which brought one of the two arrests against the vessel, has since managed to trace the ship as far as the south east coast of Madagascar.

Immediately following her arrest in Durban the Sarawak had been moved to the outer anchorage to free up her berth in port, and when it became obvious that the matter was going to drag on, the shipping company which had the ship under charter arranged for her to be brought into harbour to have her cargo of containers discharged.

At some point the Sarawak was taken off hire or charter by the shipping company.

The ship then returned to the outer anchorage but is understood to have re-entered port last week to take bunkers. No-one thought anything of this although it now seems likely that the Sarawak’s crew and probably her operators were making preparations to make a run for it.

PORTS & SHIPS understands that prior to the Sarawak’s disappearance at least one arresting party was considering seeking an order allowing them to have the ship sold by judicial auction. Instead an attempt may now be sought to take up the matter at intergovernmental level.

The case of the Sarawak highlights the risk of sending arrested ships to anchor outside port. This is usually done on the instructions of the port harbour master arising from concerns about having berths occupied by arrested ships for lengthy periods of time. In the event the sheriff may remove some of the ship’s papers but it is not permissible or advisable to have the ship immobilised in any manner.

The incident also highlights South Africa’s inability to enforce its laws on ships that are outside of a port and which refuse to obey an instruction. South Africa lacks a coastguard and apart from a small SA Police Services motor craft in Durban there are no vessels available along the entire eastern seaboard capable of forcing the arrest or detention of a ship under these circumstances, or to pursue a fleeing vessel. It is doubtful whether the South African Navy would become involved even if they had assets in the area.

That was evidenced a few years ago when another Chinese ship upped anchor and escaped from South African waters just ahead of the sheriff who was on his way to the ship to serve the court arrest papers. The ship which was carrying arms for Zimbabwe (which were the subject of the arrest order), simply disappeared and remained a mystery for some weeks with reports of her being seen at various points along both the eastern and western coasts.

According to Shane Dwyer of Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys this is not the first time an arrested ship’s crew has taken matters into their own hands and sailed away from port. He said that a Chinese ship had ignored a detention order a year or so ago and another vessel had absconded about 10 years back. There was also a case at Saldanha Bay quite a long time ago, he said, in which an Air Force crash boat was sent to chase an escaping vessel and force it to return.

In 2005 the coaster UMFOLOZI was in collision with the Transnet departmental dredger INGWENYA outside the Namibian port of Walvis Bay, and later sank on her berth inside the harbour. The container ship was subsequently raised, repaired and sold. Having been renamed MICHAEL S, her new owner placed a crew on board under the guise of being ship repairers, who then calmly sailed out of harbour and disappeared. You can read that story HERE. Use your BACK BUTTON to return to this page.


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The submerged Sri Lankan trawler Deshan Lanka offshore of Witsand on Tuesday. Picture NSRI

The fishing trawler DESHAN LANKA which allegedly caught fire and sank and subsequently resulted in the rescue of her four Sri-Lankan crew members from their life-raft between Witsand and Still Bay - see original report Sri Lankan fishermen saved by life-raft that SAMSA forced them to buy - has been found floating submerged beneath the sea surface with just her nose sticking out of the water four nautical miles from Witsand (in the direction of Still Bay) and two nautical miles off-shore (out of eye-sight from land), reports the NSRI.

NSRI Witsand was contacted by fishermen who had come across the submerged vessel on Monday night. At first light on Tuesday NSRI Witsand launched their sea rescue craft Queenie Payne to investigate the discovery.

NSRI Still Bay then set about arranging an anchor from Mossel Bay to secure an anchor in an effort to prevent her from drifting further. Later a Cape Nature Conservation dive team dived on the wreck which has now been anchored to prevent it from drifting further.

Maritime Radio Services have broadcast a navigational warning to ships in the area to warn of the navigational hazard. The trawler is 72 feet (18 metres) long.

SAMSA (The South African Maritime Safety Authority) has been informed and any environmental threat will be investigated and a decision on what is to become of the vessel will be decided, said the NSRI.


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Maydon Wharf 12 where work has already commended on deepening the berth from its current -5.5m to -14.5m. Picture courtesy TNPA

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has embarked on a massive boost to the provision and upgrading of infrastructure at the port of Durban. On Monday we reported that investment worth R10.73 billion was underway, and highlighted that some of these involved the deepening of berths 203 to 205 on the North Quay of Pier 2, Durban Container Terminal.

Among the other projects underway is the reconstruction of the Island View petrochemical and oil berths, which have become inadequate in the face of modern shipping and the larger vessels. In addition the berths are ageing and in some cases require complete rebuilding of the dolphin berths.

Island View handles about five million tonnes of oil and petroleum products each year and has a high strategic value to the country, including having a connection to the oil pipelines that run from Durban to the Gauteng area.

Reconstruction of the berths began with berth 6 which has since been fully re-commissioned, with the construction team moving to berth 5. Each rebuilt berth will be 300m in length and capable of handling ships of up to 45,000-dwt in future. The project involving these two berths is worth R363 million.

Reconstruction of berth 2 is also underway and involves a new deck on pile structure for the provision of a third dolphin berth to provide additional length, with the draught alongside being increased from 10.9m to 14.5m CD. This will enable tankers of up to 60,000-dwt in size to use berth 2. This project is costing R263 million and is due for completion in March 2012.

One of the major and most exciting projects in the port involves the historic Maydon Wharf area, where TNPA has undertaken to rebuild seven of the 15 berths while deepening them at the same time. Costing R1.6 billion the project will see berths 12 – 14 and berths 1 – 4 being deepened using sheet pile quay walls to provide a draught alongside of -14.5 metres and to handle ships of up to 65,000-dwt.

Work has already commenced on berth 12 – the contractor Stefanutti Stocks moved on site in July and the entire project will be complete by July 2016. One might expect that a further contract to attend to the remaining berths might then follow.

Port manager Ricky Bhikraj says that one of the key areas that TNPA faces is how to manage the logistics around the rejuvenation of the berths while the reconstruction of each berth is taking place. Cargo working that is displaced has to be accommodated elsewhere.

The area between berths 9 and 13 is likely to become a new stand-alone container terminal once the berth deepening is complete. Container ships have already begun using berths 10 and 11 for this purpose.

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Panoramic view of Maydon Wharf looking across berths 7 on the right, to 11 on the left, with berths 12 to 15 around the corner. The narrow Maydon Channel is also visible. Picture courtesy TNPA

Other projects involving Maydon Wharf include back of port operations. A large number of non-port related activities take place within the 120ha precinct and TNPA is in discussion with these firms to encourage them to relocate away from the harbour so that port spaces can be utilised for import/export activities instead.

This may take a number of years to bring to fruition but in the meantime the road and rail system within the area will also undergo rejuvenation, with the redesigning of Maydon Road to include adjacent truck staging areas. This is to alleviate the chronic road congestion along Maydon and Johnson Roads as heavy-duty vehicles arrive from upcountry to load or discharge grains, minerals and chemicals. As they can only access the respective terminals two or three at a time it forces other arriving vehicles to wait on the roads outside, resulting in traffic congestion.

Meanwhile work on widening and realigning the Bayhead Road beyond the turnoff to Durban Container Terminal Pier 2 is continuing and several new truck staging areas are also being prepared. A further project beyond this involves the building of the talked-about link road connecting the container terminals on Piers 1 and 2 with Edwin Swales VC Drive to the south, to alleviate some of the heavy traffic from Bayhead Road.

Other projects for Durban include the construction of a new passenger terminal on A berth along with new administration buildings, but that can be dealt with in a future report.

Good news for the people of Durban however was that the North Pier, which provides some of the best views across Durban’s famous Golden Miles of beachfront and holiday-land, is due to be reopened to the public from June 2012. That’s according to the port manager who said that all that remained to be settled was the question of road traffic flows and parking, and the provision of suitable railings along the pier.


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Here’s a heart-warming story to close-off today’s news. It comes from the Namib Times, which covers the port town of Walvis Bay and neighbouring Swakopmund.

A brave Labrador Retriever has survived at sea after he fell or was pushed from a trawler off the (Namibia) coast. The dog, still shivering and fearful after swimming for his life, was picked up by a Namib Marine Services vessel on Friday.

The dog was frantically swimming close to the barges at Anchor on the Bay at about 8.30am. He had no tags.

Allan Louw said it is the first time in over 40 years of seafaring that he had found a dog at sea. He suspects that the dog may have either fallen from a trawler or he was put out to sea by his former owner.

The dog is well fed, his nails are short and well kept and he looks in a very healthy condition. Louw said he may have slipped off his collar or may have lost it during his ordeal.

He said he would take the dog to the vet and then to the SPCA to have it ‘checked out’. - story by Ashley Smith / Namib Times


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The stylish bows of the UK-owned and flagged research vessel JAMES COOK (5401-gt, built 2006) on her berth in the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town recently. Picture by Aad Noorland

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The COSCO container ship HANIHE (36,772-gt, built 1997) which has been a regular caller in South African ports for a number of years, is seen here in Cape Town harbour. Picture by Aad Noorland


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