Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jul 31, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • It’s confirmed – Safmarine Agulhas now a total loss

  • Dredging lined up for Congo’s Pointe-Noire

  • Sheltam’s takeover of Kenya and Uganda Railways postponed

  • Africa becomes new human hub for smugglers

  • DRC: Vote starts with good turnout

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    It’s confirmed – Safmarine Agulhas now a total loss

    Well, if there was ever any doubt then it’s now clear. The unfortunate Safmarine Agulhas has come to an end on the East London breakwater where she will be unceremoniously broken up by the action of the seas and by a team still to be appointed.

    On Thursday last week those responsible for deciding the fate of this once proud German ship ruled that the vessel be declared a total loss and gave instructions that the owner and insurers must make arrangements for her complete dismantling.

    That will include removing the remaining containers – about 90 are still in the holds – which have defied efforts of the salvage team to remove them because of the oily and dangerous conditions within the ship.

    By early last week it was apparent that this was to be Safmarine Agulhas’ fate, except that no-one yet was saying so officially. Cracks in the ship had developed to the extent that only the surrounds of the hatches prevented the vessel from breaking apart.

    The next step is for a tender to be issued for the removal of the wreck. This may be initiated this week.

    About 85 percent of the ship’s cargo of containers was saved from the wreck by the efforts of the salvage team of Smit Salvage, working with a giant mobile crane brought specially from Gauteng for the job. In this regard the fact that Safmarine Agulhas had come to rest right against the breakwater assisted – in other respects the breakwater probably also hastened the end of the ship.

    The containers were taken to a position within the harbour to be checked before they could be re-sent to their final destination.

    Dredging lined up for Congo’s Pointe-Noire

    The port of Pointe-Noire in the Republic of Congo is to be further improved following the decision by the Congo government to spend US $ 8.7 million for dredging the harbour and its approaches to allow access for larger ships.

    The dredging is in addition to other improvements announced for the port earlier this year, which involve the container terminal, extensions and deepening of Terminal G and the extension of the breakwater.

    The port at Pointe Noire was opened in 1939 with berths for general cargo and containers, two timber export berths, a bulk-handling berth mainly for the export of manganese, and a fishing harbour. In 2005 the port, regarded as one of the best in West Africa was reported as handling 3.3 million tonnes of cargo, an improvement on the figures of immediate years.

    Sheltam’s takeover of Kenya and Uganda Railways postponed

    The takeover of the Kenya and Uganda Railways by South African-based Sheltam Rail, a joint venture with the Grindrod Group, has been postponed for three months until 1 November 2006.

    This surprise development was communicated through a joint government communiqué which said that the postponement was to enable certain outstanding issues to be finalised.

    The statement said the parties had agreed on the delay “to facilitate a smooth transfer of operations from the current management to the concessionaire and to enable fulfillment of all the conditions stipulated in the agreements."

    The three month delay will also give the respective governments additional time to attend to outstanding labour issues, in particular the retrenchment of a section of the workforce. It is understood that an audit on employee requirements under preparation by Deloitte Consulting will only be completed by the end of September.

    In addition to the rehabilitation and operation of the railway, the concessionaire, operating under the name Rift Valley Railways will also have responsibility for a number of ferry operations on Lake Victoria.

    The concession awarded to Sheltam is good for a period of 25 years.

    Africa is new human hub for smugglers

    According to Pakistani sources African countries are being increasingly used for human trafficking, with the East African seaboard as points in West Africa identified as the main areas utilised by the syndicates.

    A number of Pakistanis deported from Spain told authorities they were promised they would receive Spanish visas once they reached Guinea, to which they had been flown.

    Other illegal immigrants reported to Pakistani security agents that they had traveled to Kenya and Mozambique with the promise that they would be taken from there to Europe.

    Spanish authorities in the Canary Islands have recently faced a deluge of would-be immigrants arriving on the islands in small boats having made the perilous crossing from Africa. Once ashore they appeared convinced they would be granted automatic visas to travel on to Spain and from there into the rest of Europe. Spanish authorities began returning some of the illegal immigrants until objections were raised by some West African countries.

    DRC: Vote starts with good turnout

    Kinshasa, 30 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - In the first democratic elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in more than 40 years, people started lining up early in the morning in many voting stations in Kinshasa and the east.

    "I voted for the first time in my life!" shouted one man with excitement as he left the voting station at the Roman Catholic school next to St Anne’s Cathedral in the centre of Kinshasa. "Thanks be to God. Long live the Congo."

    Voters stood in long queues in the hot sun in various Kinshasa suburbs, including Lemba, Matete and Ngaba. Many expressed joy and pride at being able to choose their country’s leaders.

    "After being colonised and oppressed we are finally the masters of our own destiny," Pierre Sungu, an elderly man waiting in the queue next to the cathedral, said.

    Voting was so heavy at the school that by 11:00 (14:00 GMT) ballot papers could not fit into the ballot box. The proceedings continued once an official had taken a stick and squashed the ballots into the voting boxes to make room for more papers.

    Voter turnout was also high 2,000 km east of Kinshasa. Long queues started forming in the early morning in and around Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu. "I thought it was important to come early," Nanamie Bitendanwa, 30, said as she lined up at a voting station near the city centre. "We had been mistreated by yesterday’s leaders. Now I hope we can choose more responsible people who will have to answer to us."

    Lines were also long at voting stations in Bunia, capital of Congo’s troubled northeastern Ituri District. Voting was interrupted at one station in the suburb of Nyakasanza by a drunken policeman but the situation was otherwise calm.

    In rural areas around Bunia people faced more serious obstacles. A militia set up a roadblock at the village of Loribi, 20 km south of Bunia. IRIN talked to a group of 100 people who had walked 10 km to get to a voting station but the militia had forced them to turn back. "We are very disappointed," Joel Mandro, one of the would-be voters, said.

    In the western port town of Matadi, Bas-Congo Province, many people could not vote because their names were not on the voter registration list. The Independent Electoral Commission had said that at least 1.2 million of the 25.7 million names on the voter list had gone missing but that the index numbers on their voter cards could still be used as identification. Even so, officials at the polling stations turned them away.

    Similar problems were being reported in the towns of Tshikapa, in Kasia Occidental Province, and in Kinshasa.

    The head of the electoral commission, Apollinaire Malumalu, said at a news conference in Kinshasa on Sunday that some people in the town of Gemena, Equateur Province, were trying to vote by force in stations where they were not registered. "They have to realise that they can only vote were they are registered," he said.

    Malumalu also said he had heard that people in Kinshasa and Kalima, in Maniema Province, were paying people to vote for their party. Two people at the news conference said they had seen a representative from President Joseph Kabila’s party paying voters. Afterwards a representative from the party denied the accusation.

    There appeared to be low turn-out in the capital of Kasia Occidental, Mbuji Mayi, the stronghold of long-time opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi, who, along with his party, the Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social (UDPS), did not participate in the elections.

    "The only way we can have a voice is to stay away from the polls," a Tshisekedi supporter said.

    Tshisekedi had called for a boycott, then decided to run, but by then the electoral commission had said it was too late.

    On Saturday in Mbuji Mayi a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a truck full of electoral material. The truck caught fire and exploded. The vice-president of the electoral commission, Norbert Basengez, said on Saturday that the truck only contained voting booths and kits, not actual ballots.

    "The incident will not disrupt the voting," he had said.

    Three of the vice-presidents in the current transitional government, who were former rebel leaders, boycotted a meeting on Saturday with the head of the commission to protest at the shooting of bodyguards of one vice-president, Azarias Rubewa, by President Kabila’s guards. However, in a joint news conference, the vice-presidents said people should still vote.

    "We ask all citizens to vote even though there are security concerns and many technical problems with the elections," Arthur Z'ahidi Ngoma, one of the four vice-presidents in the outgoing transitional government, said.

    With 25.7 million registered voters, UN officials say this is the largest election it has supported and logistically the most difficult. "There are almost no roads in this country," said Michel Bonardeux, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, MONUC. "Hundreds of tonnes of election material had to be sent by air."

    The logistical challenges mean results will take time. "We have promised the results for the presidential elections will take no longer than three weeks," Malumalu said on Saturday. "Partial results for the parliament could come in sooner.

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

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