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Ports & Ships Maritime News

30 October 2012
Author: Terry Hutson


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The South African Navy Fishery patrol ship SAS RUTH FIRST undergoing trials in False Bay last week in the face of a strong 35kn south-easter. The crew appeared to be practicising boarding at sea procedures as shortly after this photograph was taken they lifted a Rib out the water. Ruth First has until now been used mainly for crew training – it is not clear whether the navy will continue with this practice. Picture by Clinton Wyness


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Continent-wide customs seizure of illegal medicines

A Customs enforcement operation spanning 16 African countries led to the seizure of more than 82 million doses of illicit medicines, reports the World Customs Organization (WCO).

The medicines included antimalarial and antiparasitic drugs, antibiotics, cough syrups, and even contraceptive pills and infertility treatments, estimated to be worth over 40 million US dollars. The WCP said these results are alarming and serve as a reminder of the scale of the traffic in illicit medicines in Africa and the danger this illicit trade represents to consumer health and safety.

Operation VICE GRIPS 2 was organised by the WCO in partnership with the Institute of Research against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM). Sixteen Customs administrations in Africa joined in the operation: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Togo.

The operation was conducted simultaneously at 16 major seaports on the East and West coasts of Africa from 11 to 20 July 2012, leading to the seizure of more than 100 million counterfeit products of all categories. Of a total number of 110 maritime containers inspected by teams of Customs officials, 84 were found to contain counterfeit or illicit products, with the biggest shipments being discovered in Angola, Togo, Cameroon and Ghana. The vast majority of shipments seized originated from South and East Asia and the Middle East.


Warning placed on iron ore from Sierra Leone

According to the London P&I Club, recent cases have confirmed that ships loading iron ore in Sierra Leone can be offered cargo which is unsafe because the actual moisture content exceeds the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML).

The report, published in the London P&I’s Stoploss Bulletin points out that there is a lack of local expertise and technology in the West African country, as well as poor communications.

Two shippers have resumed exports of iron ore from Sierra Leone. One of these trucks iron ore concentrate from its mine at Marampa to the Thofeyim River terminal, where it is loaded into barges and transported to geared ships at the Freetown inner anchorage. The other shipper transports iron ore by rail from its mine at Tonkolili to the Pepel River terminal from where 35,000-dwt self-discharging ‘transfer ships’ transport the ore to larger ships at the outer anchorage.

It said that while the IMSBC Code requires samples of Group A cargoes to be properly analysed in order that appropriate certification and information on TML and actual moisture content is available to the ship’s master prior to loading, it had nevertheless learned that no suitable laboratories capable of measuring the moisture content exist in Sierra Leone.

“One attempt at confirming compliance with the IMSBC Code involved a surveyor sampling the cargo for the first time during transhipment at anchor and then seeking to establish the moisture content by drying out the samples in an oven in the ship’s galley. The resultant uncertainty over the characteristics of the cargo and whether it was safe to load led to very extensive delays during loading.

“At a simple level, where owners/charterers have felt compelled to verify the condition of apparently wet cargo offered for shipment, there are significant logistical problems in accessing the stockpiles either at the mines or at river terminals. The long and difficult journeys can involve both road and river transport and, because of the lack of on-site accommodation, these journeys may need to be repeated frequently.”

Both Sierra Leone shippers are now aware of their obligations under the IMSBC Code and appear to be trying to avoid offering wet cargo and/or inadequate certification. However, the London Club says it expects some difficulties to persist, particularly as both shippers plan to increase their export volumes. Owners and charterers considering fixing iron ore loadings from Sierra Leone are therefore advised to give early notice to the club, which can help to establish whether proper sampling and testing has been conducted properly.


Seafarer evacuated off ship near Saldanha

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Picture NSRI Mykonos

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) at Mykonos Station (Langebaan) was activated on Saturday (27 October) to evacuate an injured seafarer from the freighter NILEDUTCH SHANGHAI, sailing between Cape Town and the Congo.

It appeared that the seafarer had fallen from a container on board the ship, breaking his leg. The NSRI Mykonos Station sent out its rescue craft Spirit of Freemasonryto rendezvous with the Dutch ship 15 n.miles off-shore, where the injured man was examined by a paramedic travelling with the NSRI, stabilised and then transferred by means of a Stokes basket stretcher, using high angle rope technique, onto the sea rescue craft and transported to shore.

The seaman, a 41-year old Filipino was discovered to have suffered a fractured right femur and an injured right knee. His condition as considered serious but stable when admitted to hospital.


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Andrew Sturrock, who will head the merged business as chief executive officer

Grindrod and Sturrock Shipping have jointly announced the merger of their respective ships agency operations under a 50/50 joint venture. Sturrock Shipping is owned by the Sturrock family and the Calulo Group, Grindrod’s existing BEE partner.

The merger is expected to take effect from 1 November 2012, with the portion of the merger relating to the Namibian agency company still being subject to Namibian competition commission approval. This merger follows on from the successful acquisition by Sturrock Shipping of a 15% shareholding in Röhlig-Grindrod (Pty) Ltd.

“We are extremely pleased to have cemented the relationship with Sturrock Shipping and our BEE partner, Calulo,” said Hylton Gray, CEO Grindrod Logistics. He said the joint venture will present many business opportunities across both local and international markets, as well as achieve the two companies’ collective aspirations of a minimum level 3 BEE rating for the South African operations.

The combined ships agency business is represented across Africa and Australia through long established brands, with both Grindrod and Sturrock Shipping having brands that are over 100 years old. The independent brands will continue to be operated under the combined business.

Where Grindrod has a strong market presence in the dry bulk space, providing services to both liner and non-liner clients, Sturrock Shipping is primarily involved in non-liner wet bulk activities. Whereas Sturrock Shipping has a significant footprint in Sub-Saharan Africa and Australia, Grindrod’s ships agency operations are conducted in southern Africa only. As a result, significant synergies and market opportunities are expected to arise from the merger of these two businesses.

“Amassing a significant amount of expertise across the ships agency spectrum allows us to offer increased services to the global shipping industry, said Andrew Sturrock, who has been appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the merged business. “Combined with Grindrod’s port and infrastructure thrust into Africa we look forward to continued expansion of the agency business into emerging markets.”


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US official suggests all ships should be armed

A US State department official in charge of counter-piracy policy, Thomas Kelly, says the advent of armed guards on board merchant ships was a turning point in the battle against piracy.

“There was a lot of reticence in a lot of places about using these crews but people learned through experience that this was a critically important factor in reducing the number of instances,” Kelly said.

“Its hard enough to climb up the side of a ship with a Kalashnikov on your back but it’s harder when you have some someone shooting down at you.”

He revealed that 80% of container ships and tankers now carry armed guards, leaving pirates with fewer targets to go after.

“Pirates break off attack and look for softer targets. We estimate 80% of ships are using private security. We’d like it to be 100 percent.”


The difficulties of identifying pirates at sea

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Checking out the credentials of a dhow at sea – in this case the Spanish Navy was able to identify the men as genuine sailors and provided assistance by way of food and water. Picture EUNAVFOR

An incident in the Gulf of Oman has once again focused attention on the difficulties under which ships with armed guards embarked can find themselves in these pirate-infested waters, says BIMCO

Pirates who operate far from their bases on the coast of Somalia tend to blend in with the fishing activities that are encountered in these seas. Omani authorities estimate that up to 40,000 fishing craft might be found at sea in the north-western sector of the Indian Ocean.

Many of these craft are indistinguishable from the skiffs and other local craft employed by the pirates, with only a close inspection identifying boarding ladders and firearms providing a reasonable assumption that the fast craft approaching is a pirate skiff and not an innocent fisherman speeding back to shore with his catch. And it would not be the first encounter that saw a furious fisherman whose lines or nets had been damaged by a passing ship speeding alongside to remonstrate with those aboard the ship that had caused him such damage.

With those aboard a ship in a high state of alert and armed guards readying their weapons, such an action by an angry fisherman might be extremely foolhardy, but it is then easy to see how mistakes might be made and a situation escalate into something hazardous or even fatal.

Pirates will, of course, capitalise upon such confusion and there can be no doubt that such incidents as that which saw a ship report it was under attack from a large group of pirate craft was just one consequence of the climate of fear that their activities have inflicted upon the region. It is apparently not unusual for such fishermen, in an area where the uncontrolled spread of weaponry has become endemic, to carry small arms in their boats as they themselves need to defend themselves from time to time against both pirates and other lawless elements that are found in these seas.

For the crew of any merchant ship the situation is doubly difficult, but such incidents do once again underline the need to closely comply with best management practice, to have the most vigilant lookouts and to be absolutely sure of any hostile intent before permitting armed response units embarked to engage. For the Masters of such ships, these are not situations for which their professional training has necessarily prepared them.

But it also emphasises the importance of keeping a close weather eye on fishing boats in the vicinity and keeping, where possible, well clear of them. This itself may be quite difficult, as these tiny craft, which can be encountered a long way offshore, can completely disappear in the long swells and providing no radar echo, can only be seen when a ship is almost on top of them. If ever there was a case for the sharpest eyes being employed in a visual lookout, this must be it! - source: BIMCO


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The Tanzania Daily News reports that the Tanzanian government is planning to build three fishing harbours that will assist with the monitoring commercial fishing in the country.

According to the Deputy Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Development, Mr Benedict Ole Nangoro, the three fishing harbours will be built in Dar es Salaam, Tanga and Lindi or Mtwara. Without saying how much the project will cost, he said the government will ensure it is implemented within the next four years, using local funds or loans from financial institutions.

Mr Ole Nangoro said that although the country has made some strides in the fishing industry, it still faces a number of challenges including lack of current data on fish. He noted that although there is a database managed by the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI) and the Tanzania Deep Sea Fishing Authority, headquartered in Zanzibar, the data is not sufficiently current to enable proper monitoring of commercial fishing in the country.

“With fishing harbours across the major coastal cities in the country, it will be easier to monitor commercial fishing, because they will have to go through the harbours to get the fishing licences and also once they have their catch, to ensure it is the right type and amount agreed,” he said.

He noted that with such tools in place, it will be much easier for the government to ensure conditions in the fishing industries are adhered to, as well as monitoring of the amount of fish obtained from the sea and lakes across the country. Not involving other security organs in the country, such as police in controlling illegal fishing is another challenge facing the fishing industry in the country, said Olenangoro.

“We need to ensure security organs in the country are involved in curbing illegal fishing, like what Norway has done, looking at illegal fishing in a broader sense and bringing in law enforcement organs to work together to address the issue, including Interpol,” he said. source Tanzania Daily News


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On 20 November 2012, MSC Cruises will celebrate the arrival of luxury cruise ship MSC OPERA in South Africa by hosting a special on board charity event in Cape Town in aid of abandoned and abused children.

Following a delicious lunch, guests will take part in a fun-filled auction during which they will be encouraged to outbid each other for one of the fabulous items on offer, supporting an incredibly worthwhile cause in the process. Guests will be spoilt for choice in terms of what to bid for, with a weekend in a 10th century chateau in France, stunning jewellery, flights and tickets to an AC Milan match, collector’s wine, and a number of MSC cruises amongst the auctioned items.

All proceeds from tickets to the event and from the auction itself will go to Ukuthemba Foundation, a Cape Town based organisation which provides safe and loving home environments for orphans and neglected and abused children. Previously named Building Blocks Children’s Homes, the foundation works in conjunction with local authorities to rescue babies and toddlers who face incredibly difficult situations, including extreme poverty, abuse, neglect and disability.

“MSC Cruises is the market leading cruise company in South Africa and we recognise that with leadership comes responsibility to the country and its people,” said MSC Cruises CEO Pierfrancesco Vago. “As a family company based on family values, our social priorities are children, families and education, which is why we are delighted to support Ukuthemba Foundation in keeping vulnerable children safe and offering them a stable home life.”

“Ukuthemba is a Xhosa word which means to believe, trust and hope. It is one of those words that is not easy to define because it represents the essence of all that we cherish in humanity, in the absence of which we find heartbreak and despair,” said Kim Killeen, chairman of Ukuthemba Foundation. “Fortunately, through the work of our organisation and with the assistance of donations and fundraisers, those born into despair can be raised to believe that there is hope.”

After the charity event in Cape Town, MSC Opera’s next port of call will be Durban where she will be based for the summer season, operating the popular three and four night cruises to Maputo, Portuguese Island and Barra Lodge in Mozambique.

MSC Sinfonia will arrive back in South Africa on 28 November 2012 for her fourth season, offering Cape Town based guests a more luxurious cruising option out of their home port. She will operate a series of cruises to Mossel Bay, Walvis Bay, Luderitz, and, for the first time ever, an 11-night roundtrip cruise to Walvis Bay and St Helena. MSC Sinfonia will take over the Portuguese Island, Maputo and Barra Lodge cruises from MSC Opera on 18 February, operating out of Durban until 12 April 2013.

Bookings for the 2012/13 season are now open.


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The Cape Town harbour tug ENSELENI (378-gt, built 2000) ‘leads’ the Japanese container ship MOL GATEWAY (59,307-gt, built 2011) as the ship moves from the Eastern Mole to a berth on the container terminal. Picture by Aad Noorland

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The UAE-owned and managed POLARCUS NADIA (6578-gt, built 2009), a 12-streamer seismic survey vessel, arrives in Durban for a short visit to the repair years at Bayhead, before leaving again a few days later. Picture by Terry Hutson


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