Ports & Ships Maritime News

Sep 27, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • SARS caught flat-footed by Chinese quotas

  • Department denies ban on helicopters using fishing harbours

  • Spoornet plans a substantial gear-up of resources

  • Richards Bay faces tug shortage

  • Relief for Tanzanian freight forwarders

  • Picture of the day

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    SARS caught flat-footed by Chinese quotas

    The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has been caught flat-footed and off-guard by the government’s turnabout on Chinese textile imports, saying it will need millions of rand to increase Customs capacity to implement the new policies.

    Government recently announced restrictions on 31 categories of clothing and textiles from China which will now come into force from the beginning of 2007. The ban will last until the end of 2008 by which time the South African clothing and textile industry is intended to have reorganised itself to compete with Chinese manufacturers.

    That’s at least is government’s idea, whereas the clothing industry says this is too short a period while its detractors doubt that the industry will ever be able to compete equally with the Asian country.

    Now SARS in the form of its commissioner, Pravin Gordhan, has entered the fray by saying that SARS is simply not equipped to handle the additional administration and physical checking necessary to implement government policy. Gordhan said last week that SARS would be forced to rely on China to do the policing of illegal exports (of textiles) to South Africa prior to the goods leaving Chinese soil.

    SARS also pointed out that it currently possesses a single scanner at South African ports – at the Durban Container Terminal.

    Additional scanners were to be purchased but the process was slowed by SARS themselves when it cancelled a R1.5 Billion tender process for outside suppliers and operators. Instead SARS says it can do the job itself at a much lower cost but has yet to issue tenders for the supply of scanners and training of its own personnel.

    However Gordhan received encouragement from another quarter at the weekend when Governor of the Reserve Bank Tito Mboweni spoke out against the banning of Chinese textile imports, calling it ‘ill-advised’ and unlikely to assist the local industry to become more competitive. Addressing the parliamentary portfolio committee on finance, Mboweni warned against protectionist activity and reminded members that cheap imports helped bring down the inflation rate. “What goes around comes back… any notion of protectionism against Brazil, India or China is very ill-advised.” he said.

    Department denies ban on helicopters using fishing harbours

    “Allegations about the banning of landing of rescue helicopters on fishing harbours lack substance, we want to put it on record that the department has never placed a ban on the landing of any rescue helicopters. In fact the SAPS and the SANDF frequently launch landing/take offs from fishing harbours."

    Responding to media reports yesterday morning about the alleged ban on rescue helicopters, the Acting Chief Director of Communications at the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Blessing Manale accused the media of a lack of substance and bias on the matter.

    "It compromises cordial relations and professional conduct to have the media spreading baseless allegations and innuendo without an investigation into the crux of what they want to report on" said Manale.

    The story first appeared on the front page of the Cape Times of 24 September 2006 written by Melanie Gosling and alleging that the department has banned the landing of rescue helicopters at fishing harbours. These allegations were repeated on a radio broadcast by a representative from the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) on 25 September 2006.

    "We would like to put the record straight and this time we expect the media to report factually and with substance on this issue," said Manale in outlining the departmental position on the matter. He stated the following:

    1. The department has never placed a ban on the landing of any rescue helicopters. In fact the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) frequently launch landing/take-offs from fishing harbours.

    2. The department is responsible for the management of fishing harbours, 12 in total. Contrary to what the Cape Times have reported, the Mossel Bay harbour is not one of the fishing harbours managed by the Department. The management of the fishing harbours involves ensuring the facilitates for fishing vessels are adequate, launching and docking processes of fishing vessels, loading and recording of fish catches and other related aspects.

    3. The South African Civil Aviation Authority is the mandated institution authorizing flights and approving declared areas for landings and off- takes for air traffic. The SA Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for regulation of air traffic - not the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

    2. Requests from private helicopters operators to land/takeoff from the fishing harbors for purposes of private business use have increased recently. Coupled with this is a dramatic increase in the unauthorized landing and take-off from such private operators, the majority of whom do not have clear identification, a requirement as per aviation regulations.

    3. This is posing serious and increased safety risks to members of the public and those such as the fishing industry who make use of fishing harbours facilities. It further poses a safety risk also to those making use of such unauthorized helicopter landings/off leading use, such as tourists. This resulted in numerous complaints being lodged with the department.

    4. As a result of the above, the department has contacted the South African Civil Aviation Authority for guidance in respect of this issue.

    5. The Department was advised that authorization for flights must first be obtained from the Civil Aviation Authority, and that such take off/ landing without such authorization is illegal.

    This will enable Civil Aviation Authority to alert the department regarding flight plans which will enable the department to take adequate precautions. Note that only one harbour (Kalk Bay) out of the 12 fishing harbours has an area which is approved by CAA as a helicopter landing area (Helipad).

    6. The department has never said rescue helicopter landings in situations of emergencies will not be allowed. This is completely untrue.

    It is regretted that such misconception has been published and broadcast, said. Manale.

    - issued by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism

    Spoornet plans a substantial gear-up of resources

    Spoornet plans to increase its capital expenditure from R31,5 Billion to as much as R40 Billion in the next five years to better position itself for grabbing back general freight traffic from the roads as well as increasing capacity on the iron ore railway to Saldanha.

    CEO Siyabonga Gama revealed this at a media function in Johannesburg, saying that details of the new capex would be made available in November.

    Spoornet has set a target to achieve a 25 – 30 percent market share within the next five years, up from the current 11 percent share now held.

    Gama admitted that general freight had suffered from under investment, having been treated as the orphan within the Spoornet family at the expense of the two ore lines. He said the Durban – Gauteng main line corridor was now carrying five container trains a day, compared with one a day a year ago and travelling time had been brought down from 22 hours to 17 hours. Spoornet hoped to carry an additional six trains a day on this corridor on a journey taking 13 hours in future, he said.

    (Eight years ago Spoornet regularly ran seven container trains per day each way on this corridor. Since then rail has steadily lost market share to road.)

    He referred to Spoornet’s handling of coal on the Richards Bay line, calling it ‘brilliant’ in spite of the age of the locomotive fleet which varied between 14 and 45 years. A week earlier Spoornet had hauled 1.45mt along the line during the week, compared with an average of 1.1mt per week during 2005. This had been achieved without adding additional locomotives to the line. By 2010 Spoornet intended carrying 1.6mt a week along the railway to Richards Bay.

    Gama reported that a fortnight ago Spoornet had been forced to stop running trains on the coal line because the mines were unable to supply sufficient coal.

    Regarding the haulage of motor vehicles and components between the ports and inland destinations Spoornet enjoys a much healthier position, currently handling about 60 percent of the traffic.

    Richards Bay faces tug shortage

    The port of Richards Bay is currently operating with too few tugs and the National Ports Authority will have to ‘step up’ to match the improvements and increased volumes expected from the dry bulk and multi purpose terminals.

    This was said at a meeting of clients at the port last week, as reported by the Zululand Observer. The meeting was told that when the port was first opened it had seven berths and two tugs, later increasing to four tugs and a helicopter for piloting services.

    “Now there are 19 berths and we are back to two tugs and no helicopter and with the major capital upgrade by SA Port Operations at the two terminals, there needs to be some synergy between the roleplayers to ensure efficiency within the port,” said one port client.

    Relief for Tanzanian freight forwarders

    If you are a forwarding agent and based in Dar es Salaam or one of the other Tanzanian port, you can afford to smile.

    The Tanzanian Ports Authority (TPA) has just reduced its licensing fee for local and foreign freight forwarding companies operating within Tanzania. Instead of an annual fee of 0 excluding VAT, freight forwarders will now have to fork out a mere 0, in a move said to be aimed at easing trade facilitation.

    Of course freight forwarders cannot be expected to be totally happy – for more than ten years they’ve been agitating for the fee to be dropped completely, without success so far. Nevertheless the Tanzanian Freight Forwarders Association says it is happy about the move although it still thinks zero tax would be better.

    The reduction has been backdated to July this year.

    - source The East African

    Picture of the day

    Adeline Delmas sailing from Durban after loading bunkers in June 2006. Picture Terry Hutson. Click image to enlarge

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