Ports & Ships Maritime News

Mar 20, 2006
Author: P&S


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  • Government stalls for time with unions

  • Somali pirates ‘attack’ US Navy ships

  • Nacala railway reopened

  • Comoros: AU military electoral observers for presidential election

    Tuesday (tomorrow) is a public holiday in South Africa. There will be no news bulletin on that day

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    Government stalls for time with unions

    The risk of further immediate industrial action and strikes involving the four Transnet trade unions has been staved off as a result of an agreement with government and Transnet to delay the transfer of commuter rail operator Metrorail out of Transnet.

    The postponement of the transfer came about after intervention by public enterprises minister Alec Erwin, who agreed to set up an inter-ministerial task team to ensure that workers pension fund concerns would be addressed.

    The four unions involved in the dispute with Transnet, Satawu, Utatu, Uasa and Sarwhu maintain they are not against the transfer or sale of the so-called non-core companies but want workers rights including pension benefits fully protected. Earlier Transnet antagonised the unions by announcing that it was going ahead with the transfer of Metrorail and would also proceed with selling or transferring the other non-core companies.

    Although the delay in proceeding with the transfer of Metrorail has not solved any of the latent problems in the dispute, the unions regard the meeting with Erwin last week as having been frank and constructive.

    Somali pirates open fire on US Navy ships

    In an audacious incident off the Somali coast at the weekend, Somali pirates in three small boats opened fire on two US Navy warships after being challenged and told to prepare for boarding. The two US Navy ships, the guided missile cruiser USS Cape St George (CG 71) and the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) returned fire and sank one suspected pirate vessel and captured two others some 25 miles off the coast of Somalia on Saturday, 18 March.

    one of the Somali skiffs that opened fire on two US Navy warships – picture US Navy

    During the skirmish one of the pirates was killed and 12 others were taken into custody.

    The action took place at 5.40am local time on Saturday while the US ships were conducting maritime security operations in the area as part of Combined Task Force 150, a maritime coalition task force currently led by an officer of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Cmdr Hank Ort.

    The ships intercepted a fishing vessel which was towing two smaller skiffs and heading in the direction of the coast. According to a navy spokesman the location and action of the three craft mirrored recent pirate activity, which they regarded as suspicious.

    As the Gonzalez approached and prepared to board the vessels for inspection they noticed that some of the men were armed with what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade launchers. When these men opened fire on the US ships, both Cape St George and Gonzalez returned fire using small arms.

    The fishing type vessel quickly caught fire after which boarding teams from both American ships took 12 suspects and the two skiffs into custody. Five of the Somalis suffered injuries. There were no injuries among the US sailors but the US ships took hits from small arms fire leaving a few bullet holes visible on the destroyer’s superstructure. The navy boarding team subsequently confiscated an RPG launcher and automatic weapons.

    a suspected pirate vessel burns to the waterline after coming under fire from two US Navy warships on Saturday 19 March 2006 – picture courtesy US Navy (chief journalist Daniel Sanford) – click to enlarge

    The captured men were given medical treatment and a medical crew from the Royal Netherlands ship HNLMS Amsterdam was later reported to be on its way to the scene.

    On 15 March the United Nations Security Council sanctioned naval forces operating off the coast of Somalia to take action against acts of piracy. Pirates have remained active on this coast despite the recent recapture of an Indian vessel seized earlier by pirates, which led to ten pirates captured on that occasion having to face trial in a Mombasa court.

    In an incident that appears to be unrelated, pirates last week attacked a ship on charter to the United Nations food aid agency. The vessel, the mv Rozen was making for Somalia with a cargo of food aid when it came under attack by five heavily armed pirates operating from a small boat. Despite being fired upon with RPGs and machine guns the Rozen managed to out-manoeuvre the pirates and actually rammed the smaller vessel, before making an escape.

    Nacala Railway reopened

    The flood damaged Nacala railway between the port of Nacala and the Malawi border was reopened to traffic last week just a few days after heavy rains washed away a section of track.

    The repairs are of a temporary nature – permanent repairs will take another month to complete. The repairs were made with the use of concrete pillars supporting the suspended rail track and trains are able, albeit it slowly, to traverse the damage section and continue with their journey.

    Comoros: AU military electoral observers for presidential election

    JOHANNESBURG, 17 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - At the request of the Comoran government, the African Union (AU) will send 500 troops to ensure the archipelago's upcoming elections are free and fair.

    The AU force will be under the general leadership of South Africa, which will provide the bulk of the soldiers, with Mozambique, Rwanda and Madagascar also expected to contribute personnel. "The force will consist mainly of military electoral observers and a small police contingency," an official at the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs told IRIN.

    "Within the mandate of the AU, the Comoran government requested an international presence to oversee the elections; from the 19th [of March] onwards we will gradually start deploying military observers," the official commented.

    Presidential primaries are officially due on 16 April and the presidential election will be held on 14 May.

    "There has always been a question of confidence between the islands that make up the Comoros. There is mistrust between the islands so it is important to build legitimate security to ensure the electoral process goes well," he said.

    The history of Comoros has been plagued by successful and attempted coups, and the more recent temporary secession of two of the three islands - Anjouan and Moheli.

    In a power-sharing agreement brokered by the AU's predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, the Comoros constitution was amended at the end of the 2001 to give the individual islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli their own semi-autonomous government and president.

    In March 2002, Assoumani Azali from Grand Comore, the largest island, was elected the federal president of the new union. According to the agreement, the presidency rotates between the three islands and Azali is expected to stand down in the coming elections.

    The presidency will now go to Anjouan, and the preliminary election on 16 April is reserved for its 270,000 inhabitants. They will elect three candidates to run for the Union presidency on 14 May, when the total Comoros population of 670,000 will vote.

    (This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations)

    - source http://www.IRINnews.org

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