Ports & Ships Maritime News

Feb 21, 2006
Author: P&S


  • Gauteng and northern provinces strike goes into second day

  • Sale of P&O runs into difficulty with American legislators

  • Yet another Richards Bay coal line derailment

  • UN Food & Agriculture Organisation warns of spread of bird flu across West Africa

    EMAIL: jhughes@hugheship.com
    WEB SITE: www.hugheship.com

    Gauteng and northern provinces strike goes into second day

    As the Transnet workers strike in the provinces of Gauteng, Northwest, Limpopo and Mpumalanga enters its second day today, there are hopeful signs that a compromise may be reached by the unions and Transnet.

    This emerged yesterday when Transnet said it was willing to seek mediation in the dispute over its restructuring programme. Earlier the unions called for mediation by a third party.

    Yesterday commuter train services and freight trains along the main freight railways in an around Johannesburg were considerably affected by the stayaway. Metrorail’s plan to replace the service with buses hired for the three days fell short when too few buses were available. Other smaller business units also reported staff shortages as workers acceded to their union requests.

    In a letter to all Transnet staff Transnet chief executive Maria Ramos thanked those who continued to report for duty, and reminded all workers that a no work no pay policy applied and that picketing rules had to be followed. She told employers that they had the right to work should they choose and said that employees guilty of intimidation would be dismissed and might face criminal prosecution.

    Ramos repeated that the turnaround strategy was based on transforming the business into an efficient, publicly-owned freight transport company, of which Spoornet, SA Port Operations, National Ports Authority, Petronet, Protekon and Transwerk formed the core of the new Transnet.

    “SAA will move to the Department of Public Enterprises, and Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl (the long distance passenger train service) will fall under a new entity reporting directly to the Department of Transport. Some of our non-core companies (such as Autopax and Freightdynamics) will be sold, and employees will move with these companies.”

    “Let me say once again that at no point have your benefits been under threat and that any claims that these disposals will result in massive job losses or changes to your benefits, are absolutely wrong. We have always said, and say again, that we are committed to ensuring that the jobs and benefits of Transnet employees will not be negatively affected as a result of being transferred out of Transnet to new owners in government or the private sector.”

    Sale of P&O runs into difficulty with American legislators
    It was okay when P&O was a British company with a strong Australian heritage, but not so now that the Arabs are about to buy it.

    That’s the message coming out of the United States, apparently still suffering from a xenophobic fear of anyone that looks or even sounds like an Arab, be it an ordinary seafarer earning his income on a ship visiting an American port or some innocent student or traveller ‘cursed/blessed’ with a dark complexion and beard and attempting to visit the ‘land of the free.’

    Two prominent US senators intend submitting legislation that aims at preventing the sale of P&O Ports US holdings to Dubai Ports World (DP World). One of those senators is Hillary Clinton, the other a Robert Menedez who intend prohibiting foreign companies from owing or controlling port operations in the United States because, so they claim, it will endanger the security of the United States.

    The Bush administration says the US Coast Guard and Customs & Border Protection has come up with safeguards and pre-conditions that address all security concerns involved with the sale of P&O Ports in the United States and has given it its stamp of approval. However, the good senators from the north of the country obviously disagree and intended proceeding with their bill. Elsewhere in the United States media commentators have taken up the challenge by expressing concern that terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda will be able to use the port terminals as a friendly conduit into the United States.

    It makes it appear that it’s alright to buy your oil from the Arabs and sell your merchandise (including weapons) in the region, and even invade their countries; but don’t let them into your home. Those opposing the sale also seem to conveniently forget the positive role the emirates played in recent and ongoing military operations in the Middle East.

    Yet another Richards Bay derailment

    Yet another derailment occurred along the Richards Bay coal line at the weekend, resulting in the line’s blockage until late yesterday when one line was reopened. The second line is expected to reopen today.

    UN Food & Agriculture Organisation warns of spread of bird flu across West Africa

    The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation FAO) said last week it was concerned that the bird flu virus H5N1 would soon spread across other countries in West Africa, following the discovery of the virus in Nigeria. It said the effects that this would have on a region already facing severe malnutrition would be devastating.

    “We should provide incentives to poor African farmers to report immediately if they suspect an outbreak among poultry, and discourage them from rushing to sell birds on the market,” said Joseph Domenech, FAO’s chief veterinary officer while visiting Nigeria.

    The UN organisation said the country of greatest concern is Niger, which directly borders the affected areas in Nigeria and where over two million people are already vulnerable to acute hunger.

    “The highly pathogenic avian influenza virus poses a very serious threat to animal health in West Africa. If a poultry epidemic should develop beyond the boundaries of Nigeria the effects would be disastrous for the livelihoods and the food security of millions of people,” said Domenech.

    The agency noted that since the first report of H5N1 outbreaks in Asia at the end of 2003, nearly 200 million domestic poultry have died or been culled in order to contain its spread. The economic loss of affected Asian countries has been estimated around US billion.

    In contrast to Europe, where most poultry production takes place on large commercial farms, African poultry is often raised in backyards and is therefore more difficult to control. Widespread public awareness campaigns regarding safe farming practices and improved hygiene are essential to help contain the spread of the virus.

    The avian flu virus has now also been reported in Egypt which reported its first case on Friday 17 February.

    Southern Africa is not regarded as a high risk area at this time unless infected birds are brought illegally into the region. This assumption is based on the migratory habits of birds – those that migrate from the north are already here and will soon be returning north. The greatest risk therefore comes with their return next spring as they return from countries in Europe where outbreaks have already been confirmed.

    However, Birdlife South Africa warned recently that the illegal smuggling of exotic birds into South Africa posed great risks of introducing the H5N1 virus and Port Elizabeth was described as one of the most vulnerable points of entry. It said that finches and parrots caught in West Africa are among the most common birds smuggled into South Africa and the very nature of the smuggling brings the birds into close contact with humans.

    Chinese fishing boats are regarded as among the chief perpetrators of illegal smuggling of wild birds into South Africa. In the past year some of the crew on board a cargo ship trading between West Africa and South Africa were arrested for smuggling parrots into South Africa.

    - source FAO

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