Ports & Ships Maritime News

Aug 10, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Militants strike in Nigeria – four men seized off ship

  • Middle East war affects shipping

  • Strong swell outside Cape Town harbour delay FPSO Dalia

  • Douala port installs its first container scanner

  • Capacity still a challenge as government moves to complete roll-out of basic services

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    Militants strike in Nigeria –four men seized off ship

    Militants from the Niger Delta region have struck again at foreign oil workers operating on an offshore vessel with two Norwegians and two Ukrainians abducted.

    This was announced yesterday by shipping company Trico, the operator of the supply vessel hit by militants. A spokesman for Trico declined to say how the men had been abducted or where exactly the vessel was at the time, but said no demands had been received as yet.

    In the past year there has been a spate of abductions of foreign workers, sometimes taken on land and on other occasions militants had approached oil rigs and platforms by boat and seized hostages – up to a dozen hostages at a time on occasion.

    The people seized have always been released unharmed – the militants using the kidnappings to force foreign oil companies to suspend operations in Nigerian waters. As a result of these and other incidents including the blowing up of installations and pipelines about a quarter of Nigeria’s oil production has been lost.

    Middle East war affects shipping

    Protracted fighting in the Middle East threatens the shipping economy and should raise concerns about contracts among ship owners, charterers and shippers operating in the area, Shepstone & Wylie's Anisa Govender said on Tuesday.

    Govender said the huge cost to life following the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon mirrored the economic backlash on international commerce, specifically shipping trade.

    Anisa Govender

    "Apart from the huge increase in fuel prices which is likely to be passed onto ships, ship-owners, charterers, traders, consignees and insurers will no doubt be rifling through contracts and insurance policies to determine what effect the hostilities will have on war risk and ‘force majeure’ clauses in their contracts,” she says.

    Lebanon and Israel border the Mediterranean Sea, a shipping hub with traffic flowing from Europe to the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal. The canal is currently Egypt’s third-largest revenue source, recording a record US $ 3,5bn in annual transit fee income to June.

    However, Govender said returns in the second half-year depended on whether or not a ceasefire was secured for the region.

    In light of the recent conflict, she said the bulk of international shipping contracts excluded loss, damage or expenses caused by war or civil strife, but could be covered under a separate clause. When hostilities were threatened or ongoing, the insurance company may impose an additional premium to maintain the cover.

    She believed the insurance companies would declare ships may not currently call on Lebanon and Israel without paying the additional premium. This placed the onus on shipping lines and owners to disclose information regarding a vessel’s intended voyage into a war zone.

    However, she countered that ship owners and charterers ensure that any risk clause within their contracts contained several basic elements. These included a method that identified when the war risk clause came into effect; a provision that allowed the owner or caption to refuse venturing into dangerous ports; details on who incurred the additional costs associated with war risk activities; cancellation rights; details on dealing with the cargo in the case of war and particulars on dealing with terrorism.

    Govender said there were several situations in which contracts between ship owners and charter companies could be cancelled in the event of war and that both parties should examine their contracts to establish whether the current conflict was applicable.

    Shippers beware: Most war risk clauses allow the vessel to discharge cargo at the first safe port or to deviate from the intended voyage at the shipper's or merchant's risk and cost.

    Historically, the canal has borne the brunt of Middle East hostilities, closing down during the Arab-Israeli War in 1967 and again three years later when hostilities erupted between Egypt and Israel. Reopened in 1975 after being cleared of mines and war wreckage, the canal suffered due to the closure and traffic volumes declined during the 1980s.

    Govender is an attorney specialising in maritime law with Durban firm Shepstone & Wylie

    Strong swells outside Cape Town harbour delay FPSO Dalia

    As more than a few readers have pointed out, our report on Monday, 7 August that the FPSO Dalia and its entourage of three tugs had sailed from Cape Town for Angola, was somewhat premature.

    Due to adverse weather offshore which has whipped up strong swells, the planned departure at the weekend was postponed first for a day and then the next and now, according to one report received, until the coming weekend at the earliest.

    Even this weekend will remain in doubt given the anticipated arrival of another cold front at the Cape on Friday (11 August), which could further delay things.

    FPSO Dalia in Cape Town harbour on 4 August 2006. Picture by Ian Shiffman. Click image to enlarge

    Port authorities planned to close the port to all other traffic for a number of hours to accommodate the sailing of this giant 300m long, 60m wide Floating Production, Storage & Offloading vessel.

    Dali has been undergoing maintenance and final fitting out in Cape Town harbour before going into operation at Block 17 off northern Angola. The vessel has storage facilities for two million barrels of oil.

    Douala port installs its first container scanner

    Customs officers at the port of Douala in Cameroon, West Africa have a new tool to assist them with the checking of containers. An electronic scanner has been installed at the port, Douala’s first.

    According to the director-general of Customs, Antoine Manga Massina, the new scanner will reduce the time taken with customs inspection at the port and will inhibit the number of false declarations and other malpractices. He said it would now be possible to inspect a container within 30 minutes compared to the average of four hours taken by manual inspection.

    Massina said it had become the practice in recent years for unscrupulous importers to exploit the system by providing false information on their import documents. This was done with the complicity of some Customs inspectors, where were bribed to either not select or to not look too deeply in containers if they were opened.

    He said importers also exploited the belief that customs officials would be unable to physically inspect more than a few containers each day. The arrival of a scanner meant that would change and far more boxes would be inspected.

    Where the state had been losing large sums of revenue in the past, the scanner could be expected to generate income in future.

    Capacity still a challenge as government moves to complete roll-out of basic services

    by Shaun Benton (BuaNews)

    With an end in sight regarding the roll-out of basic services - including water, sanitation, and electricity - to all South Africans, the key issue facing government now, President Thabo Mbeki has indicated, is one of capacity.

    Around 70 percent of households in the country are now electrified, the bucket sanitation system in formal areas was reduced to around 165 000 by the end of June with the target of complete eradication by December 2007 well in sight, and the proportion of households with access to potable water now stands at 83 percent (up from 59 percent in 1994).

    On Sunday in a briefing to the media following a three-day Cabinet lekgotla, President Mbeki said there was "a continuing focus on improving the capacity of the state" to overcome some of the obstacles holding back faster economic growth and a completed roll-out of service delivery.

    Municipalities, which are at the coalface of service delivery, take first place in a queue of institutions targeted for various interventions by national government aimed at boosting their ability to operate more effectively.

    While government was pleased that 92 percent of municipalities had now adopted their Integrated Development Plans - "an important planning instrument" regarding local development at municipal level - the lack of senior management staff and professionals in local government remained a pressing concern that was being rapidly addressed, said the president.

    While IDPs brought together the three spheres of government in an important interaction around local development schemes, there was not sufficient data available when it comes to revisiting IDPs.

    Again, this was seen as a lack of capacity, not just of skilled people but of systems (which in turn need to be built and implemented by people with the requisite skills).
    Municipalities are to receive "special attention" to expedite the filling of posts.

    The Auditor-General identified several weaknesses in terms of municipal debt and the systems they need to implement to ensure data cohesion and debt recovery.

    The cabinet lekgotla agreed, said the president, that the Department of Provincial and Local Government, the National Treasury and provincial governments would come together to assist those municipalities identified by the Auditor-General for increased support.

    Already, the National Treasury is playing a key role in building skills capacity among municipalities, with a number of training schemes in place, particularly around municipal finance, to build up a skills base at the level of senior municipal staff.

    And more broadly, new councillors and mayors - voted in since the last local election in March - are undergoing a targeted induction that will educate them on their legal obligations and improve capacity through a greater understanding of IDPs.

    This process is ongoing and will be completed by June next year.

    Part of the problem, said the president, was the number of vacancies at senior management level and in posts requiring professionals. But this was being looked at, along with a continuing focus on eliminating corruption before it gets a chance to set in.

    The departments of Public Service and Administration, Provincial and Local Government, and National Treasury were working together with local government "to look at local government anti-corruption strategies", said the president.

    Part of the strengthening of capacity at local government level - including the skilling of personnel in financial and technical ability - is to ensure that public-sector investment goes ahead.

    "We want to ensure that monies voted for infrastructure development are properly utilised at that level," said President Mbeki.

    And the focus on capacity has widened to look at national government as well, with cabinet continuing to have a detailed look at some capacity problems as they affect national departments.

    Again, the capacity-related question of vacancies not being filled had arisen, said the president, adding that he was concerned about the vacancies at the Department of Trade and Industry, which resulted in owners of small businesses not getting the support they required in time. This was a weakness in capacity, he said.

    He went further by suggesting that the Department of Trade and Industry set up a directorate to track global economic trends in the fast-changing climate of globalisation, similar to a unit operated by National Treasury.

    Another matter where capacity has been a constraint is with the finalisation of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), the completion of some of which had been pending for up to six years, keeping developers waiting to the point where potential investment is lost to the economy.

    This had resulted in "a quite considerable slowing down of possible economic activity", Mr Mbeki said.

    New EIA regulations now coming into effect will revamp the system and speed up the process of EIAs, while the lekgotla agreed to appoint a number of consultants who would finalise EIA applications and remove the existing backlog of cases requiring EIAs, especially in the provinces.

    These additional personnel - in the form of consultants hired even on short-term contracts - would reduce current backlogs while the new regulations just legislated would prevent such backlogs from building up again.

    Another area where government is acting to remove capacity constraints is with general skills in the economy. This is "part of what the corporate world is raising with government", said the president, adding that Home Affairs was to complete by next month a scarce skills immigration quota list that would list the skills required and fast-track the visa applications of the relevant people in order to attract these skills.

    This falls in line with the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition, a key initiative of Asgisa (Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa), which some time ago identified an increase in certain skills as being vital to faster economic growth.
    In further addressing this challenge, a register has been opened of South Africans in the diaspora, and of those who have retired, in an all-out strategy of attracting people back to the job market by indicating available work opportunities.

    "You can't treat these people [those with specific skills desired by the economy] as ordinary [in terms of immigration processes]," said President Mbeki, adding that the process of bringing them into the economy must be expedited.

    Moving back to the question of the capacity of the state, the president indicated some changes regarding the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), a big-spending project that has successfully put many thousands of people into work while at the same time operating as a mass-based training scheme through imparting entrepreneurial skills such as tender-soliciting.

    Up to now, the Department of Public Works has handled the EPWP as a coordinator, with EPWP funds essentially being handed to provinces.

    Now, Public Works would become the "driver" of the project, rather than coordinator, said the president, signalling the importance of the EPWP to government and to employment and mass skills acquisition in the country.

    The capacity of the country's microfinance institutions would also be scaled up, said the president, adding that they "must reach people at grassroots level".

    The National Treasury recently indicated that it is to review the various developmental finance and banking institutions in the country, such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa, to facilitate a wider reach for these.

    Policing also came in for scrutiny on the level of capacity, but here the president said he was "satisfied"" with the police capacity to deal with certain crimes, particularly violent and contact crimes.

    What required strengthening, he said, was the criminal intelligence arms of the police services, as well as greater social cooperation and strengthened cooperation with communities.

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