Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jun 23, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Salvage tug expected at Tristan da Cunha to refloat grounded oil platform

  • Security strike ends after 3 months

  • Stakeholders brought up to date over Setsuyo Star salvage

  • Matadi strike comes to end

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

    Salvage tug expected at Tristan da Cunha to refloat grounded oil platform

    The salvage tug Zouros Hellas was expected off Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean yesterday (Thursday) to take over of the recovery of the semi submersible oil platform Petrobas XXl, which went aground on the south-east of the island near Trypot Bay.

    The platform, which was being towed behind the tug Mighty Deliverer from Brazil to Singapore via Cape Town, became separated in March during a patch of adverse weather. Visual contact was maintained until mid May when further bad weather separated the two vessels.

    A second tug Ruby Deliverer subsequently arrived to assist in locating the whereabouts of the missing PXXl and to help secure a new tow but neither had any success – the rig had disappeared into the vastness of one of the world’s emptiest oceans.

    That was the position until early June when a group of islanders, visiting the largely uninhabited southeast of the island to round up cattle ahead of the coming winter, came across a strange sight – an oil platform firmly aground on a sloping sandbank some 250m off the rocky coast.

    After notifying the local authorities on the island the platform’s owners were informed that Petrobas XXl was no longer missing. It was however firmly aground on what was originally believed to be a reef but which is now thought to be a sandbank.

    A small diesel slick visible near the platform was also reported. The platform is otherwise chemically inert and has no-one aboard.

    The owners appointed SMIT Salvage of South Africa to refloat PXXl and they have dispatched the tug Zouros Hellas which was expected at the island yesterday afternoon (22 June). During the crossing extremely rough seas were encountered leaving many of the tug’s crew stricken with seasickness.

    With the tug on the scene salvage operations are expected to get underway, weather permitting – but possibly as early as this weekend. Once the platform has been refloated the plan is to take it to Cape Town for a full survey and any necessary repairs before continuing the interrupted voyage to Singapore.

    Security strike ends after 3 months

    One of the longer national strikes in recent South African labour history came to and end last night after a settlement was reached bringing to an end a three month-long strike by security sector members.

    The strike left key transport areas such as some port entrances and rail services without or with reduced security for the duration.

    The dispute raged on over poor pay and work conditions for the country’s private security sector and by the end more than 50 security guards had lost their lives in circumstances suggesting it was a result of the dispute.

    The reasons for their deaths is not always clear – some are alleged to have died as a result of action by the police and others died, so it is also alleged, when small groups of security guards or individuals continued working and were singled out by strikers.

    Whatever the cause and whatever the reason for their deaths, it should remain a blot on the collective conscience of all concerned, from an unbending management willing to pay some of the lowest wages of any sector in South Africa while reaping fat rewards and profits, to rioting strikers taking out their anger on innocent bystanders and property.

    There can be little question in the minds of ordinary reasonable South Africans that many of the problems associated with the strike resulted from an over-heavy hand by the police and an apparent unwillingness by government to become involved in bringing about a settlement.

    Similarly most reasonable South Africans dismiss as absurd claims by the unions that their members were not involved in the illegal acts perpetrated by ‘persons unknown.’

    The unions referred to the negotiations just ended ‘one of the most difficult collective bargaining rounds and negotiations that we have engaged in since our country’s historic democratic breakthrough in 1994.’

    The agreement reached granted employees 9.25 percent increases for year one, 7.25 percent for years two and three and raises the minimum wage for grade E workers in rural areas from R1050 to R1171 with immediate effect. This remains a paltry sum.

    Other issues such as maternity leave, study leave, meal intervals, overtime and night shift allowances also reached finality.

    In a statement issued yesterday the unions said the agreement was not an end in itself and that the protracted ‘struggle’ towards transformation would continue. It is a warning that should be carefully noted. The country and the industries that were caught up in the ensuing dispute cannot afford furtherdisruption. Not the least the port and transport industry on which so much of the country’s economy is reliant.

    Stakeholders brought up to date over Setsuyo Star salvage

    Stakeholders in the Setsuyo Star salvage operation attended a briefing held in Simon's Town on Wednesday.

    The stakeholder group that met included representatives from the South African Maritime Safety Authority, the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, TSAVLIRIS Salvage International, SMIT Salvage, CapeNature, the City's Disaster Management team, the South African Navy, SANCCOB, SANPARKS, Simon's Town Civic Association, Simon's Town Publicity Association and Local Ward Councillor Alderman Nicki Holderness.

    At the briefing, the stable condition of the bulk carrier was discussed and all were updated as to the progress of the repair operation. Good co-operation and communication between authorities, salvors and other stakeholders is ongoing. The threat posed by the bulk carrier to the environment is considered by authorities and salvors alike to be minimal given the fact that the structural integrity of the vessel remains intact, damage is isolated, minimal and in hold No.1 only and the repair process is progressing well.

    Despite the low risk posed, proactive precautionary measures are in place and these include:
    - Stress monitors on board monitoring the structural integrity of the vessel
    - 700 metres of deep sea oil booms on board
    - Oil pollution abatement equipment on site in Simon's Town
    - Emergency submersible pumps on board
    - Tanks containing fuel oil now sealed
    - Tug Smit Amandla made fast and being used to position the Setsuyo Star so as to offer her port side protection from weather and sea conditions
    - Site specific weather forecasting taking place daily
    - Strict access and safety procedures in place
    - Vessel's crew maintaining normal watches
    - Strict anti-littering and garbage disposal control measures in place
    - Request to public to maintain a safe distance from vessels involved in salvage operation as a personal safety precaution

    A good weather window has aided efforts to repair slight damage to the shell plating of the bulk carrier Setsuyo Star, currently at anchor in False Bay. A full repair team is permanently onboard and working in shifts to ensure that the repair operation proceeds according to schedule. It is anticipated that weather permitting, the operation should be completed in the first week of July.

    The Setsuyo Star entered False Bay on Sunday 11 June after permission was granted to the vessel's owners by the South African Maritime Safety Authority after onboard assessment of the vessel revealed a well-run ship with no threat to the environment if protection from weather and sea elements was timeously afforded.

    This followed the determination by the Master that there was slight damage to the structure that supports the shell plating of hold No.1. The structural integrity of the bulk carrier is not in danger and the vessel's hull remains intact. The bulk carrier was built in 1985. It is carrying a cargo of iron ore and was en route to the Far East from Brazil.

    The Master and crew remain on the casualty and continue to be responsible for the normal day-to-day running of the ship. The bulk carrier is at anchor approximately 2 miles off of Millers Point in a depth of 30 metres. The Setsuyo Star is carrying 166,000 tonnes of iron ore and has 1000 tonnes of fuel on board.

    - source SMIT Salvage

    Matadi strike comes to end

    The strike which began in Matadi port in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the beginning of June has ended after agreement was reached between the unions and the National Transport Office (ONATRA).

    The strike, which affected all areas of the port, was called by workers protesting against management whom they accused of malpractice and mismanagement.

    It has been estimated the strike cost the port US $ 500,000 a day throughout the duration.

    As with most of the combined transport parastatals in Africa, the port of Matadi contributes most of the income derived by ONATRA, which also has responsibility for the state railway and river transport services first introduced by the Belgians from 1886.

    Despite its vast size the DRC possesses a very small coastline of about 40km. Matadi is the DRC’s major port and is situated 140km upstream from the mouth of the Congo River, being linked with the capital Kinshasa by rail as the river in between is unnavigable due to rapids..

    Despite the lifting of the strike delays at the port of Matadi as well as that at Pointe Noire in neighbouring Congo Brazzaville are expected to continue until the backlog of cargo has been cleared. OT Africa which has extensive operations in the region suggests the delay in transshipping cargo at Pointe Noire for Matadi might be as long as six weeks.

    Did you know that Ports & Ships lists ship movements for all ports between Walvis Bay on the West Coast and Beira on the East Coast?

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