Ports & Ships Maritime News

Mar 3, 2006
Author: P&S


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  • Nigerian militants release six hostages but hold on to another three

  • Indian ship collides with Maputo wharf

  • French tanker refloated and in Durban for repairs

  • Angolan railway equipment arrives

  • Chinese scuttle loco deal with Zimbabwe

  • Transnet strike on Monday

  • United States Must Remain Highly Engaged in Africa

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    Nigerian militants release six hostages but hold on to another three

    Warri, 2 March 2006 (IRIN) – Armed militants in Nigeria’s turbulent oil-producing region have freed six foreign oil workers after 11 days in captivity but the group is holding on to three others, continuing threats of more attacks to cripple oil exports.

    The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) on Wednesday initially released 69-year-old US national Macon Hawkins to a group of visiting journalists, and later released five others – two Egyptians, Shalky Aly and Faysal Mohamme; two nationals of Thailand, Damsak Mhaduho and Arak Suwanna; and Filipino Anthony Santos.

    The group said they released Hawkins due to his age and poor health and the remaining five because they were considered "low-value" hostages whose countries have no interest in the oil region. The three still being detained are two US nationals and a British citizen.

    The released men appeared haggard but not injured, and said they were treated well by their captives.

    All nine hostages, employees of US oil service company Willbros Inc., were seized on 18 February from a barge used in laying pipelines on the Forcados River.

    Nine oil workers who were taken hostage by Nigerian Delta militants – six of whom were released this week. This picture was distributed by the militants and comes courtesy of IRIN. Click image to enlarge

    MEND is demanding that President Olusegun Obasanjo free two ethnic Ijaw leaders held for alleged offences against the state. The group is also insisting on local control of oil wealth and wants Shell to pay USD 1.5 billion in compensation for pollution damage; a Nigerian court last week ruled that Shell must make the payment.

    MEND, who said no negotiations or discussions have taken place with any government representatives to date, has threatened to carry out more attacks in the coming days.

    "We demand the intervention of a neutral arbiter in the resolution of this conflict," the group said in an emailed statement. "We will commence with attacks in another area of the Niger Delta with an aim to ensuring the total discontinuation of export of onshore crude oil."

    MEND claims to be fighting for the interests of Ijaws, the majority ethnic group in the oil-rich delta, whose impoverished inhabitants accuse oil multinationals in joint ventures with the Nigerian state of polluting their environment and cheating them out of oil wealth produced in their own backyard.

    The group’s attacks in recent weeks have forced Shell to close its operations in the western Niger Delta, accounting for some 445,000 barrels daily or about 50 percent of its Nigerian output. The group’s rupturing a gas pipeline feeding three state-owned power generating plants has cut a quarter of national supply, forcing even longer than usual power cuts.

    MEND said its latest attacks were in direct response to air strikes on Ijaw villages by the Nigerian military helicopters days earlier. But the Nigerian military had said the attacks targeted barges used by criminal gangs to siphon crude oil from pipelines in the delta for sale to vessels waiting offshore.

    Security agencies say the illegal trade in crude oil is financing armed groups in the oil region in recent years. Nigeria estimates that as much as 10 percent of its daily exports of 2.5 million barrels are lost to the illegal trade.

    [This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]

    - source http://www.IRINnews.org

    Indian ship collides with Maputo wharf

    The Panama-registered Indian-owned bulker Protector received damage to its bulbous bow yesterday when the 24,942-gt ship suddenly altered course while proceeding down the channel and rammed the steel pile jetty alongside the MIPS (P&O Ports) container terminal at the port of Maputo in Mozambique.

    One report suggests that the ship’s rudder jammed shortly after the vessel got underway and was heading down the river out of Maputo harbour. Earlier the vessel had completed discharging a cargo of wheat at one of the bulk berths higher upstream.

    Surveyors were busy yesterday assessing the damage to the ship and according to a senior port spokesman it appeared the ship might be permitted to sail later. This has not been confirmed.

    Definitely requiring more serious repairs is the steel jetty, which came off second-best in the engagement. A section of the steelwork has crumpled and collapsed with a large volume of backfill slipping into the harbour.

    One estimate suggested that as much as 50,000 cubic metres of backfill had collapsed into the harbour but the port spokesman told Ports & Ships this sounded excessive.

    French tanker refloated and in Durban for repairs

    The French oil products tanker Tugen (5412gt, built 1999) has arrived in Durban under tow after being grounded on the West coast of Madagascar. The ship is due to enter the Eldock floating dock for damage assessment and repairs.

    Tugen is owned by French company Intershipping and managed by Socotra Ship Management. She was refloated by a salvage tug with the assistance of a Durban dive company team and subsequently towed to Durban for repairs.

    Products tanker Tugen pictured in Genoa, Italy in happier times – image courtesy www.shipspotting.com – the world’s largest shipping image archive. Click image to enlarge

    An assessment of hull damage is due to be made today once the vessel is on the floating dock. According to reports the propeller blades are badly damaged and will need extensive repair and the rudder, which was initially lost in the grounding but later recovered by the dive team, will be repaired and refitted with a new stock, which will be fabricated in the Elgin Brown & Hamer yard. While on the dock an examination of possible damage to the ship’s hull will also be made.

    Angolan railway equipment arrives

    Additional construction material for the refurbishment of the Benguela Railway has arrived in Lobito, according to Angola’s Press Agency.

    The equipment from China will be used on the refurbishment of the railway which runs from the port of Lobito south along the coast to Benguela before heading inland through Huambo and Kuito to the Congo border at Luau/Dilolo, some 990 km away.

    According to Benguela Railways (CFB) the railway to the border town of Luau could be reopened within three years. This could create much greater traffic for the south Angolan ports with Congo traffic being re-routed here for the first time since the start of the Angolan civil war. Currently the line is open for 197km to Cubal and work is underway on the next 230km section to Huambo.

    Refurbishment operations include having to perform demining operations, clearing overgrowth and bush and replacing damaged sections of rail.

    Chinese scuttle loco deal with Zimbabwe

    A deal that appeared signed and sealed between Zimbabwe and China has been suspended after Zimbabwe failed to find enough cash for the first deposit payment.

    Zimbabwe is desperately short of cash and only last month the government resorted to printing money in order to pay the interest on an international monetary fund loan.

    Zimbabwe agreed in a memorandum of understanding to pay a deposit to the Chinese to secure work on the Bulawayo – Victoria Falls section, which involved replacing badly needed signal equipment. However the government was only able to raise ZD 5 Billion which the Chinese say is not enough for them to proceed.

    Transnet strike on Monday

    Unless there is a last minute reprieve, the four Transnet trade unions will go out on a national strike on Monday, 6 March, resulting once again in a major shut down of operations at port terminals and rail commuter services.

    The unions and Transnet have agreed to the appointment of a mediator, labour dispute consultant Charles Nupen, and will begin meetings as early as tomorrow but it is not likely this will have any effect on Monday’s planned strike.

    The terminals most likely to be severely affected are the Durban and Cape Town container terminals. A lack of rail commuter services in Johannesburg, Tshwane (Pretoria), Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban will however impact across all industries and commercial operations as workers try to make their way to places of work.

    According to the unions the only weapon they have left to assert their power is the right to strike once other mechanism have failed. So far there has been no indication that Transnet will budge from its intention of transforming the company, which involves selling off a number of so-called non-core companies to private enterprise or, as in the case of SAA, hiving others off to different government departments.

    The unions have not indicated what action is intended to follow Monday’s planned strike. Monday will be used to stage mass marches through the respective cities.

    United States Must Remain Highly Engaged in Africa

    Continent is valued as economic partner and ally against terrorism

    by Bruce Greenberg
    Washington File Staff Writer

    Washington -- Sub-Saharan Africa must be a primary component of U.S. foreign policy because it will continue to grow in importance to U.S. economic and strategic interests as the decade progresses, a panel of policy specialists stressed on 22 February.

    The panel discussion, organized by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and held at its Washington headquarters, spotlighted CFR's recently published independent task force report, More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa.

    The report's two project directors, CFR's Princeton Lyman and J. Stephen Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), discussed many of the report's themes and recommendations.

    Morrison mentioned U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent policy address on "transformational diplomacy," with its emphasis on reallocating a heavily weighted U.S. diplomatic presence in Western and Northern Europe to less-developed areas of the world, such as Africa. He said this reallocation would fill a gap in terms of US security in the region and would increase U.S. public diplomacy engagement.

    "To have the secretary say, 'Let's step back and take a new look at the way we do foreign aid and how we engage in countries and regions,' is refreshing, because in Africa there are a lot of resources flowing and new ways to coordinate our aid and trade programs," he added.

    Lyman complimented Rice “on this new phase of engagement” with the developing world. "What you have," he said, "is a big switch in American foreign policy, away from Russia and Europe to the areas where our interests are heavily engaged in a new way."

    Africa always has been a bipartisan issue in the United States, unlike Iraq, Lyman said. “If you look at all the recent initiatives on Africa -- MCC [Millennium Challenge Corporation], AGOA [African Growth and Opportunity Act] or PEPFAR [President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] -- you have strong bipartisan support. That’s a plus.”

    African Leadership in Conflict Resolution

    Responding to a question from the audience on conflict resolution in Africa, Lyman said US involvement needs to be more flexible so that “we can deal with more than one crisis at a time.”

    Lyman also recognized "a tremendous growth in African leadership in conflict resolution -- the Africans who have been in the forefront in helping to negotiate an end to war in the Congo, as they are in the lead in trying to bring a political solution in Darfur." African leadership in the political process has been critical "in whatever progress has been made" in these and other conflicts, he said.

    In regard to supplying foreign aid to energy-rich areas of Africa, Morrison said, “We are calling for a high-level forum that would begin to get leadership committed to norms of accountability and transparency. We need to find the reformers and support them."

    He called for "greater flexibility" and "the kind of geopolitical shift that puts a much higher priority on this region within the White House and within the upper reaches of the State Department.”

    Commenting on the progress of democratisation on the continent, Lyman called for a doubling of resources in the region to help Africans demand accountability from their governments.

    China was mentioned as a very real competitor with the United States because of its aggressive economic programs in sub-Saharan Africa, but Lyman was critical of the country for seeming to ignore human rights and corruption in favor of "business for business' sake."

    Morrison said that Sudan has been an example "where China and the US have collided" in terms of blocking effective sanctions on the Khartoum government in response to armed militias' violence in Darfur. Similarly, "with [President Robert] Mugabe in Zimbabwe."

    "We believe that in the broader context, a serious and strategic dialogue with China can begin to bring those issues forward," he said.

    “They want to be seen as a major ‘player’ in the world, and to be a major ‘player’ you have to carry a certain degree of responsibility," Lyman said.

    With regard to the proper role for the US private sector in Africa’s development, Lyman said that even though American business largely has been involved in the extractive industries, “we should encourage involvement on a grander scale” and prod African states to come together to invest jointly in the United States.

    He added that the Bush administration’s Millennium Challenge Corporation is playing a positive role in the development of democracy in Africa.

    (The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, US Department of State.) Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov

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