Ports & Ships Maritime News

Oct 16, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Cruel blow for Indian tug families

  • Durban port delays bring frustration

  • Coal Terminal ship loaders down

  • Lobito port personnel to receive port training in Portugal

  • Feature: Kiwi economist suggests SA joins free trade agreement

  • Picture of the day

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    Cruel blow for Indian tug families

    In a cruel twist to an already unhappy story, the families of the missing crewmen on the Indian tug Jupiter 6, which disappeared somewhere off the South African coast in September last year, were told that all of the crew were alive and were being held in a Portuguese jail on charges of drug smuggling.

    An air of mystery has surrounded the fate of the Jupiter 6, which disappeared while towing the bulker Satsang to the ship breakers. The first clue came with the discovery of Satsang, adrift in the Indian Ocean south of Port Elizabeth, with tow cables draped over the side showing they had broken. A subsequent search in the area organised by South African authorities failed to turn up any sign of the missing tug and the 13 crew on board – 10 Indians and three Ukrainians. A belated signal about a month later from the EPIRB on board the tug only succeeded in adding to the mystery.

    Some of the families refused to give up hope and held out that their relatives were safe, having been highjacked or adrift in a vessel with no power and no means of communication. As the months went by they refused to give up hope despite logic suggesting that the tug had foundered and sunk with all hands.

    Then came this unfortunate twist in the tale – an Indian ships’ master is reported to have informed Indian authorities who then advised one of the family members that the ten Indian seafarers were safe and in jail, having been arrested by Portuguese authorities on charges of smuggling.

    After official enquiries had been made it transpired that the people in jail were from another vessel, the Lunar Delmar and have been in detention since 2002. It was all a case of mistaken identity and someone unfortunately jumping to conclusions.

    Even before this latest development the families of the missing Indian seafarers had agreed to take the matter to the Indian Supreme Court to try and determine what had happened to the tug. They say they have been forced to live with the uncertainty and in addition the manning agents have refused to pay out salaries and other monies due.

    Every ocean has its mysteries and the Indian Ocean is no exception. That part off the south eastern coast of Africa, with a notorious stretch of sea that gives rise to frequent freak waves, holds the potential for adding more stories with no answers. The story of the missing tug Jupiter has already joined a long list of ships that have simply disappeared.

    Durban port delays bring frustration

    There has been no confirmation of reports that shipping lines are poised to reintroduce a container surcharge because of delays at the Durban Container Terminal.

    The report was made in a business paper last week which quoted the MD of Maersk Line in South Africa, Per Heisselberg as saying the delays were costing an average of US $ 50 per 20ft container. He said that the lines were in constructive discussion with SA Port Operations and if nothing was achieved they would have to look at reintroducing a container surcharge.

    Shipping company sources approached by Ports & Ships agreed there was unhappiness with the situation, which saw container ships having to wait outside the port of Durban for up to three or four days at times. In recent weeks our daily Ship Movements reports for Durban show there have been 30 or more ships at anchor in the roadstead of which a dozen or more have been container vessels. They pointed out that a forum was in existence for dealing with such issues – CLOF (Container Lines Operators Forum), which was in consultation over the matter.

    Another source within SAPO, who asked to remain anonymous, said the delays had begun in August when strong winds began buffeting the port combined with a period of strong swells. He pointed out that the weather conditions were not abnormal for the time of year and could be expected to continue until the end of October or even later. This, combined with the traditional time when the port and the container terminal in particular was busy, added to the problem.

    He said that SAPO had introduced a number of contingency measures that had helped reduce some of the delays.

    A number of container lines have begun using the City Terminal at the Point for container handling in an effort to alleviate some of the delays but it is doubtful whether this ploy has been successful. Ports & Ships understands that on one occasion a ship was delayed for almost two weeks while trying to work container cargo at the Point.

    Coal Terminal ship loaders down

    Two of the ship loaders at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) are reported to have developed structural cracks and are undergoing maintenance repairs, rendering them out of service.

    As a result delays at the coal terminal are expected until the two machines have returned to service.

    Meanwhile the advertised temporary closure of the Durban port entrance channel set for yesterday (Sunday) did not take place. The port was scheduled for closure between 17.00 last night and 07.00 this morning to allow core samples to be drilled in the entrance channel, ahead of the planned widening and deepening of the channel.

    However strong sea swells were forecast for the period and the exercise has been postponed. The situation is to be reviewed this morning when a decision to drill the test hole later in the week will be taken.

    The National Ports Authority has promised to provide as much notice as possible should it be decided to drill the test hole this week.

    Lobito port personnel to receive training in Portugal

    The Angola Press Agency reports that technicians and other personnel from various departments in the Port o Lobito, Angola are to receive training at Leixoes Port in Portugal.

    The announcement was made by the chairman of the Port of Leixoes administration council, Ricardo Fonseca, who said last week that with the impending recommencement of full operations by the Benguela Railway, which is currently being refurbished, the port at Lobito will have need of professionals who are capable of mastering the techniques of modern equipment.

    He said the list is headed by the necessity to upgrade operators at the container terminal in Lobito.

    The Director-General of the Port of Lobito, Carlos Gomes said his management board intended taking full advantage of the experience of its counterparts in the port of Leixoes.

    Feature: Kiwi economist suggests SA joins free trade agreement

    Cape Town (BuaNews) - As Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka prepares to travel to New Zealand and Australia for a visit that will focus on economic opportunities, a former chief economist in New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says South Africa should consider joining a Free Trade Agreement that exists between Singapore, New Zealand, Chile and Brunei, writes Shaun Benton.

    Dr Ron Sandrey, now a professor at Stellenbosch University while working with the Stellenbosch-based Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa, told BuaNews today that South Africa "should start looking at joining the free trade agreement between New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and Brunei".

    The reasons for this are two-fold, he said: "There are big complementarities there, such as with food exports such as fish and fruit. The link to Singapore I think is also important because South Africa would benefit from a linkage with an efficient Asian economy and one which poses less of a direct threat - in terms of competition in manufacturing such as clothing or footwear - than that posed by China or India."

    "Singapore is not a low-wage structure country, and so the clothing sector [in South Africa], for example, would not be under threat."

    "A modern FTA," he says, "is about much more than merchandise trade as it should concentrate on numerous issues such as services and investment cooperation, for example."

    It is his belief that New Zealand sets the high-water mark for FTAs globally.

    Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka lefte on Sunday for an official, five-day visit to Australia and New Zealand, where she will meet her counterparts there and explore opportunities for a range of partnerships designed to boost South Africa's Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative (ASGISA).

    Apart from meeting Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile, who is also Minister for Trade, and his New Zealand counterpart Michael Cullen, she is also expected to pay courtesy calls on Australia's longstanding Prime Minister, John Howard, and Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

    The South African delegation will be in Australia from 16 to 18 October and New Zealand from 19 to 21 October.

    The official visit to the two south Pacific countries comes within the context of South Africa's "commitment to extend our relations with many countries and many regions to get support for Nepad [the New Partnership for Africa's Development]", Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said on Thursday.

    As the two south Pacific nations are fellow members of the Commonwealth, South Africa will explore ways to mobilise these countries to ensure that the Commonwealth also becomes "actively involved in the process of Nepad and help us to consolidate the African agenda" he said.

    Mr Pahad was accompanying the Deputy President on the five-day visit, as wasl Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa and Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena.

    Australia is South Africa's third-largest trading partner in Asia, after Japan and the People's Republic of China. Globally, it is South Africa's seventh-largest trading partner, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

    Fifty per cent of Australian exports to Africa are earmarked for South Africa, which is by far the largest and most dynamic market in Africa for Australian products.

    South African exports to Australia have been increasing over the past few years, pushing the country into a positive trade balance with the south Pacific nation.

    Last year, South African exports to Australia totalled almost R10 billion, according to the DFA, while imports from Australia amounted to R7,3 billion.

    Trade with New Zealand has increased dramatically since 1990, with the trade balance between South Africa and the dairy-producing and sheep-farming nation remaining more or less equal.

    Dr Sandrey has just completed a paper for the National Agricultural Marketing Council of South Africa, where he points out potential lessons to be learned from New Zealand's agricultural reforms.

    His analysis explores why these reforms have benefited New Zealand substantially while reforms in South Africa's agricultural sector have changed very little, especially where subsistence agriculture is concerned. He says he recognises and supports the importance of agri-BEE in South Africa but feels that there are profitability problems with small-scale farming.

    In New Zealand, Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka is expected to hold discussions with the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Bollard, Minister of Economic Development Trevor Mallard, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr Michael Cullen, and the Governor-General.

    There are also strong linkages between South Africa and New Zealand and South Africa and Australia in terms of the large number of South Africans there, not to mention the strong sporting ties, said Dr Sandrey.

    It is estimated that there are at least 100,000 South Africans in Australia alone, many of whom are in high-ranking managerial positions and play a significant part in the Australian economy.

    Partially because of this, he said, the relationships between the tourism and also the services sector were strong. However, South African investment in Australia still exceeds Australian investment in South Africa by about two to one.

    The deputy foreign minister said promoting South Africa's AsgiSA and the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition will feature top of the agenda of the South African delegation, and partnerships will be explored in infrastructure development, sector investment strategies, skills and education initiatives, "second economy" interventions, macro-economic issues and public administration issues.

    South Africa would also be exploring opportunities for investors in both countries and identifying new markets for South African exports. Australian investment in South Africa has increased significantly over the past few years, mainly in mining, mining equipment, agriculture, agribusiness and infrastructure and services and trade.

    Australia is also a big investor in South Africa, and the merger in the 1990s of Australian BHP Billiton and South African Gencor, has created the largest mining company in the world.

    So influential is BHP Billiton now that the chairman of the South African unit, Dr Vincent Maphai, suggested in parliament this week that South Africa's Department of Foreign Affairs and BHP Billiton SA Ltd set up a small forum through which its representatives could interact with foreign affairs officials to see where their interests intersected on foreign policy.

    Last month, the longstanding Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello, visited South Africa and held extensive talks with Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, who will be taking over from Mr Costello the chairmanship of the Group of 20 (G20) countries next year.

    While in Australia, Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka is also expected to hold discussions with the Governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Roslyn Bashir and with representatives from the Queensland State Government on Queensland's Skills Development Programme.

    She will also meet the Governor of the Australian Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens, and will participate in a business forum co-hosted by the Premier of the New South Wales Parliament and the President of the New South Wales Legislative Council.

    With South Africa embarking on a massive overhaul of its infrastructure, the Deputy President will also participate in an infrastructure roundtable in Australia.

    "We expect that since this has been one of the first high level visits of [involving] the presidency going to the region after many years, we will use this visit also to strengthen the political, cultural and trade links between our countries; and in the context of that, how do we cooperate further in all the multilateral institutions and how do we improve south-south cooperation," Mr Pahad said.

    Picture of the day
    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The container ship Conrad S in Durban harbour – picture Terry Hutson

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