Ports & Ships Maritime News
9 December 2014
Author: Terry Hutson
Bringing you shipping, freight, trade and transport related news of interest for Africa since 2002
TODAY’S BULLETIN OF MARITIME NEWS
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FIRST VIEW – CONCORDIA
The steel-hulled barquentine CONCORDIA (413-gt) when she visited Durban in January 2005, was owned by a Montreal sail training academy. The sailing ship was relatively modern, having been built in Poland in 1992, but came to an early and unfortunate end in February 2010 when she capsized and sank off the coast of Brazil, the victim of what was called a weather microburst. All 64 people on board were able to board lifeboats safely and rafts and were picked up after several hours by two MOL woodchip carriers. Picture: Terry Hutson
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CHINA DENIES BUILDING OVERSEAS BASE AT WALVIS BAY
Port of Walvis Bay – a future Chinese naval base?
The People's Daily Online reports that the Chinese Defence Ministry has denied that China was planning to build an overseas base in Walvis Bay, the country's only deep-water port.
“We are aware of this report in circulation,” spokesman Geng Yansheng told a regular press briefing, adding that it had quoted an unofficial article, which had been posted on the Internet two years ago, and had exaggerated and distorted the original source.
However, The Namibian reported that discussions were under way at the 'highest level' regarding plans by the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy to build a base at Walvis Bay in the next 10 years.
Walvis Bay will then be one of 18 naval bases that will be established in various regions: Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Mynanmar in the northern Indian Ocean; Djibouti, Yemen, Oman, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique in the western Indian Ocean; and Seychelles and Madagascar in the central South Indian Ocean.
Namibian Ministry of Defence spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Monica Sheya confirmed these reports to The Namibian, saying that once a decision is made, the ministry will inform the nation. Sheya said Namibia is seen an important outpost for China to extend its influence around the coast of Africa.
“We have read about it. I believe it is being discussed at the higher levels, but that's all I can say now. Once a decision has been made, we will be sure to inform the nation about it, but we cannot say more yet,” Sheya said.
China has several major infrastructure development and resource extraction interests in Namibia. It also has a satellite tracking station near Swakopmund. – Africa Armed Forces Journal
The report comes in the wake of a gradual build-up of Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean, with much of it in support of counter piracy patrolling in the Horn of Africa region. In recent months China deployed submarines in the Indian Ocean for the first (known) time, an act that is causing some consternation among India’s military and political circles.
This was particularly evident when a Chinese submarine called at Colombo in Sri Lanka before departing on patrol further into the Indian Ocean. At the time there were suggestions that the submarine would join other Chinese Navy assets doing counter piracy work off Somalia, though this doesn’t appear to have been confirmed. – P&S
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DURBAN ENTRANCE DRAMA – A FORMER DREDGEMASTER, PILOT AND PORT CAPTAIN’S VIEW
News from Durban this week concerns a problem at the port entrance, which has been the scene of much drama over the 180 years or so that ships have been calling – the entrance channel sandbar. Another ship ‘touched bottom’ this past week, and although Transnet is downplaying the matter, this is the second ship to do so in two months and it ought to be a matter of great concern – comment in yesterday’s PORTS & SHIPS Newsletter
In response to eternal nature’s challenge. The Bluff is simply the original sandbar across the entrance to the mighty valley being the end of the Drakensburg range. During low rainfalls nature accumulated the eternal drift of the Indian Ocean circular currents that swept up from Port St Johns coastline.
During summers of extreme rain patterns the rivers down the Drakensburg valleys swept the overflow drift of sand from the Bluff spillage and into your open deeper water entrance.
As marine staff working vessels through the entrance going back 50 years in my time, we witnessed the incredible speed that the sand drift past the Bluff would accumulate within two days of a westerly blow.
As Pilots we would consider the state of the tide before bringing deeper draft vessels in or wait till the dredgers had done a middle line bar sweep.
The two large dredgers would already have been out at dawn, pipes down, sucking away this drift of collected sand and dropping their loads off the beach off Addington, allowing the sand to continue its natural drift north.
Today or tomorrow or next year or next generation of dredgers will need to get off their berths at dawn, get out on the sand bar and dig like hell to suck off the last storm drift, and then continue digging a pit behind the bluff drift considerably deeper than twice the new depth of the channel in the hope that they have dug or sucked out sufficient sand flow area to allow our normal deep draft vessels safe entrance.
Transnet simply doesn’t seem to “hear” this scenario, looking maybe at budget restraints and hoping the might Indian Ocean will shut down for the New Year, this year and generations ahead.
It is not a mystery, it’s a working challenge. If you want ships to cross the bar, dig the sand away, but remember it will come back, and the dredgers must be one step ahead again, budget or no budget.
Before they dig out Toti harbour, the same will apply there, just like Richards Bay and Durbs now.
Capt Bill Shewell
Ex Dredger Master, Pilot, Harbour Master retir’d.
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MITSUI BUYS STAKE IN VALE AND NACALA RAILROAD
Vale’s Moatize open cast mine
Japanese group Mitsui & Co plans to acquire a stake in a coal project of Brazilian group Vale in Moatize, in Mozambique’s Tete Province, according to Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei.
The newspaper said that Mitsui would buy a 15 percent stake in Vale Mozambique, the Mozambican subsidiary of Brazilian group, for US$450 million.
The same source also said the Japanese group would acquire half of the 70 percent that the Vale group has in the Nacala Corridor, which has Mozambican state port and rail company CFM as a partner.
The Nacala Corridor includes a railway between Moatize and Nacala, via Malawi and the deep water port of Nacala. A test train successfully completed a round journey on this route last week.
Mitsui & Co group is involved in natural gas exploration in Mozambique and has a 20-percent stake in the Area 1 concession of the Rovuma Basin, led and operated by US group Anadarko Petroleum. - macauhub
RICHARD BRANSON ANNOUNCES VIRGIN CRUISES
Britain’s Richard Branson’s Virgin Group said last week that it was about to enter the cruise industry, after having hinted its intentions more than a year ago.
The Group says it has formed Virgin Cruises and with the support of Bain Capital, will kick things off by building two ‘world class’ cruise ships.
This means that Virgin Cruises is unlikely to start operations for at least two years – the time it takes to place orders and have built the ships it needs.
Unless Virgin goes out and buys some second-hand tonnage of course, although that now sees unlikely.
Virgin has declined to provide more information for competitive reasons but Branson said “we plan to shake up the cruise industry.”
When the new line commences operation it will be the first major new entrant since Disney Cruise Line started up in 1996. Virgin will come into the industry with the benefit of instant credibility based on its successful airline and other Virgin activities including health clubs, travel agencies, financial services, food and beverage, media and communications.
Heading up the new business will be Tom McAlpin, who was a founding member of the management team at Disney Cruise Line where he served as its president. His title will be that of chief executive officer and he will be based in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area.
“Cruise guests deserve something better and different to what is being offered today,” he said.
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MSC CRUISES 90 PERCENT SOLD FOR SEASON
Facilities on Portuguese Island
MSC Cruises says the current South African season is already 90 percent sold out. With the majority of the cruise departures going from Durban to Portuguese Island, it says it is no wonder that this is one of South Africa’s favourite holiday escapes.
MSC OPERA which arrived in South Africa on Tuesday, 28 October, is undertaking a total of 27 voyages up the East coast of Africa to Mozambique during her current season.
The Inhaca Archipelago which includes both Inhaca and Portuguese Island has long been a favoured destination for South African cruises, with over 90,000 people visiting the islands during the previous 2013/14 cruise season.
MSC Cruises has committed to substantial investment into Mozambique which includes supporting the local traders and service providers, training, education and job creation.
Revenue generated and paid to local Mozambicans from 2012 to 2014 includes just over R2.5 million for Portuguese Island alone, with infrastructure development on the island totalling just over R20 million.
For the 2014 season …
… there are bigger local markets, a better beach bar, an additional 650 metres of decking under shade, a new and improved kitchen, women’s ablutions and fresh water showers.
New landing craft are also being introduced to ensure greater comfort for all passengers disembarking and heading to the island.
The landing craft have a faster transfer time, and accommodate up to 85 passengers at a time all seated in individual seats. Disembarking at the island is undertaken by means of a ramp which allows passengers to exit directly onto the beach. MSC says it aims to have a total of four of these landing craft in use by November 2015.
Working closely with local university officials, MSC Cruises SA has introduced improvements aimed at ensuring the fauna and flora is preserved and that the environment is undisturbed. All services are integrated and structures are raised to protect the dunes. Sewers use a bio degradation system. Water is sourced from the sea and solar panels supply necessary power.
These improvements allow Mozambique to boast a world class holiday destination, with research showing that 50 percent of cruise travellers return for land based holiday options. The local economy sees substantial income over the course of the cruise season and ultimately this benefits the country’s economic growth as a whole.
The 2015/16 season will see the return of the newly refurbished MSC SINFONIA for an extended season.
DENMARK’S DSV IN TALKS TO BUY OUT UTi WORLDWIDE
DSV has confirmed it has been in talks with US-based logistics and forwarding group UTi Worldwide regarding the acquisition of the American company. It added that no ‘current’ discussions were taking place.
The confirmation from DSV followed an article published in financial news service Bloomberg, in which Bloomberg revealed that DSV and UTi Worldwide had been evaluating the possibilities of entering into an agreement concerning DSV’s acquisition of UTi.
However, according to Bloomberg talks between the two companies ended after news of DSV’s potential acquisition sent UTi’s shares surging, citing “a person with knowledge of ‘the matter’ as its source. It said the two sides had been negotiating a deal that would have valued UTi at $13 to $14 a share, but the discussions had stalled after Bloomberg News reported the two were in advanced talks, sending UTi’s stock as high as $14.75.
Bloomberg reported that UTi had been in sale discussions since mid-2014 and could have potentially reached an agreement with DSV as soon as this month, until news of the discussions became known. UTi shares closed up 20% yesterday at $13.88, after earlier soaring as much as 28%.
UTi has a market value of about US$1.5 billion compared with Denmark-based DSV’s market value of about $5.5 billion. Before last week’s share-price surge, Bloomberg reports that UTi had lost about one-quarter of its market value since disclosing on 25 February that it had breached some loan covenants. The company issued new debt, as well as convertible preferred shares to P2 Capital to fix the liquidity crunch - making P2 UTi’s biggest investor.
Bloomberg reported that UTi hired Morgan Stanley a few months ago to explore options including a sale.
DSV has expanded through acquisitions to become one of Europe’s largest freight transport, forwarding and logistics providers. It was reported earlier in the year to be on the acquisition trail.
FRENCH COURT ORDER RELEASE OF SOMALI PIRATES
The European Court of Human Rights has ordered France to pay a 10 Somali pirates compensation for failing to immediately present them to a judge after capturing them and bringing them to France.
The French authorities were ordered to pay the pirates between 2,000-5,000 euros damages plus legal costs each.
The men were captured by French soldiers in 2008 in two separate hijackings of French boats - the Ponant and the Carré d'As - 6,000 kilometres from French territory, which the European court acknowledged amounted to exceptional circumstances.
But the court complained that it took 48 hours to bring the pirates before a judge once they arrived on French soil and that the delay constituted a “violation of their rights to freedom and security.”
Maritime law expert Michel Quimbert described the authorities' behaviour as inexcusable.
“They try to get the first elements of the case while they are detained without charge, that's a practice that can't be justified,” he told RFI. “It's pretty easy when people are in a position to be presented to an independent judicial authority to do so.”
The pirates' lawyer Antonin Levy said that he hopes the ruling will have a long-term impact on French custody law. - RFI
EXPECTED SHIP ARRIVALS and SHIPS IN PORT
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PICS OF THE DAY – IBSA QUINTO, SEA AXE 26 and 25
The good looking modern trawler IBSA QUINTO alongside in Cape Town harbour last week. Picture: Aad Noorland
Three fast crew boats DIAJAMA, SEA AXE 26 and SEA AXE 25 moored alongside each other at the ‘Damen’ quay in Cape Town. Picture: Aad Noorland
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