Ports & Ships Maritime News

Oct 10, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Advent of things to come as MSC brings in a big one

  • Mombassa port privatisation takes a knock

  • Port conditions: Cape Town basin out of service

  • Somalia: Islamic Courts warn of possible renewal of civil war

  • ITF takes scrapping of ships to IMO

  • UN calls for international action over people smuggling from Somalia

  • Picture of the day

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    Advent of things to come as MSC brings in a big one

    Ships, especially container ships keep getting larger and South African ports are already beginning to experience this phenomena albeit on a smaller scale than on the East/West trades. What must worry the port authorities however is that these ships are here ahead of time, as it were, even before upgrades at the terminals are done.

    Ports & Ships remarked in an article last year on several large container ship visitors, notably the Hamburg Sud Monte Rosa along with a couple of her sister ships that called on their maiden voyages while being positioned to South America. At 5,500-TEU these ships remain the largest container ships to call at Southern African ports but a notable arrival in Cape Town this weekend will probably become a regular visitor – the 5,100-TEU MSC Benedetta.

    The 54,215-gt ship, built earlier this year at the Hanjin Shipyards, is deployed on the North West Continent (Europe) – South Africa service and marks a steady if unannounced increase in capacity being introduced on this service by MSC.

    The ship, which arrived in Cape Town pretty well loaded to capacity, is expected in Port Elizabeth later today and in Durban on Wednesday (12 October).

    NB see Picture of the Day

    Mombasa port privatisation takes a knock

    Kenya media reports are reporting that the port privatisation process at Mombasa is in trouble and may become stalled.

    In circumstances strangely reminiscent of the port privatisation process in South Africa, Kenya Port Authority boss Abdalla Mwaruwa told reporters that the KPA was studying the whole process. “Initially we have found out that it may not be right to rush the process,” said Mwaruwa.

    The committee handling the process is meeting with stern opposition from influential interested parties as well as political interference led by the Dock Workers Union.

    Mwaruwa said it may be necessary to delay things beyond the government-set deadline of June 2007. “The process may take longer than expected,” he said.

    Among the problems the KPA is facing are some port managers who are opposed to the privatisation process and have been going out of their way to make it fail. Now the KPA Managing Director is unsure in his mind and the whole process may go into limbo.

    "We are only planning to privatise core activities at the port, while the KPA will be the landlord, leaving the private investor to take charge," he said.

    In South Africa both government and Transnet dithered over the privatising of ports and railways (or ‘concessioning’ as it became more politically correct to say). Faced with growing union opposition the South African government eventually backed off and ruled out any idea of Spoornet, the rail operator becoming privatised or concessioned, although both the government and Transnet still talk of branch and secondary lines as candidates for concessioning, but not with much enthusiasm or direction on their part.

    In Kenya one very interested party will be the management of Rift Valley Railway, the private South African-led company that is about to take over management and operation of the Kenya and Uganda rail networks. Much of the success or otherwise of the entire rail operation will depend on strong synergies between it and the KPA, and any lack of improvement at the port of Mombasa, for example, is likely to impact negatively on the operation of Rift Valley Railway.

    Port conditions: Cape Town basin out of service

    The Port of Cape Town has reported that Tanker Basin No.2 (the white oil line) will be taken out of service for a few days between 13 to 17 November.

    Following this Tanker Basin 1 (the black oil line) will undergo the same treatment, being rendered out of service from 18 to 22 November.

    During these periods no ships will be accepted into the basin.

    Somalia: Islamic Courts warn of possible renewal of civil war

    Nairobi, 9 Oct 2006 (IRIN) - The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which controls much of southern and central Somalia, has warned of imminent war between it and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which reportedly took a town close to its headquarters in Baidoa on Monday, a senior UIC official told IRIN.

    "A combined Ethiopian and TFG force has taken Buur Hakaba town [60km north of Baidoa on the road to Mogadishu, the Somali capital] this morning [Monday] at around 8:00 am local time," said the UIC's vice-chairman Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali.

    "War is expected at any time," he said.

    Buur Hakaba, some 180 km from Mogadishu, was in the hands of a local militia sympathetic to the UIC, according to a local resident, until around 7.30am, when the militia left. The resident said TFG and Ethiopian troops had since entered the town.

    The takeover of Buur Hakaba comes two weeks after the UIC itself took Somalia’s southernmost port and third-largest city, Kismayo. The Islamic Courts established control of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in June.

    Peace talks between Somalia’s beleaguered government and the Islamic courts had been scheduled to resume in the Sudanese capital on 30 October, but now, Sheikh Ali said all UIC forces across Somalia had been put on high alert, and called the taking of Buur Hakaba "an attempt to derail the Khartoum peace talks and any hope for a reconciliation."

    In Mogadishu, the chairman of the Islamic Courts, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, appeared dressed in military uniform, apparently for the first time. Journalists who saw him said Sheikh Ahmed accused Somalia’s largest neighbour, Ethiopia, of aggression, and declared a Jihad [holy war] against it.

    A TFG source, who wish to rename unnamed, confirmed the taking of Buur Hakaba by TFG forces, but denied they had Ethiopian assistance or any intention of attacking UIC positions elsewhere. "Our forces have taken Buur. It is for defensive purposes and not to mount an attack on the courts," said the source.

    An Ethiopian government spokesman also denied the involvement of Ethiopian troops. "No Ethiopian troops have been assisting the TFG soldiers. No Ethiopian troops crossed the border [between Ethiopia and Somalia],” Salomon Abebe, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said.

    Humanitarian agencies worry that renewed fighting in Somalia could cause a worsening of existing humanitarian problems there. Larger numbers of Somali refugees have been arriving in Kenya in recent days to escape possible violence.

    The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for Somalia, told IRIN: "We cannot comment on military movements as such, however, in humanitarian terms, in the case of conflict seriously escalating, we would expect to see large displacement among the affected populations and an exacerbation of an already dire humanitarian situation in south-central [Somalia].

    "We would be especially concerned about civilian populations becoming targets or hostages in such fighting," OCHA said, adding that the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization had recently predicted that if widespread conflict were to erupt, the total number of people in southern Somalia facing humanitarian crisis, could double, "rising as high as 3.6 million."

    This military activity has increased tension in southern Somalia, with many people worried about renewed conflict. "We are indeed worried that this new development could lead to a wider war on many fronts. Any new fighting would be catastrophic for the already suffering Somali people," said Abdulkadir Ibrahim Abkow, president of Civil Society in Action.

    Resumed warfare "would take Somalia back to 1991 [the start of Somalia’s civil war] with the humanitarian implications that has," Adkow said. He called on both sides "to think of the interests of people first and foremost and to go to Khartoum instead of going to war".

    Somalia’s transitional government was installed in late 2004 but in June this year, the Islamic Courts’ militias defeated warlords who supported the TFG and had controlled the city since 1991, following the collapse of a long lasting regime headed by Somalia’s last real president, Muhammad Siyad Barre.

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

    ITF takes scrapping of ships to IMO

    Ship breakers visited the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in London yesterday (Monday) to ‘show and tell’ the often horrific and sometimes deadly conditions under which they work. Their purpose is to ask the IMO to speed up reforms that could save lives across the industry.

    The IMO intends considering the draft text of a mandatory instrument to provide globally applicable ship recycling regulations for international shipping and for recycling activities, which it plans to adopt by 2008/9. However the ITF and the International Metalworkers’ Federation want quicker results.

    The ITF workers who went to London came from India, and while in the capital they held a brief ceremony in which flowers were thrown into the Thames in memory of the hundreds who die each year as a result of injuries received in breaking up ships or from illnesses resulting from environmental degradation caused by a largely unregulated industry.

    At a media conference the delegation intended providing photographs to the media showing unprotected asbestos removal and similar work practices.

    The ITF says that thousands of shipbreaking workers die, are injured or fall ill when recycling old ships in one of the world’s most dangerous, dirty and largely unregulated industries. Ninety-five per cent of old ships are broken up and recycled on the beaches of Bangladesh, India, China, Pakistan and Turkey. In the most appalling conditions, earning less than a dollar a day, shipbreaking workers face hazards such as fire, explosions, falls from great heights and exposure to asbestos, heavy metals and PVCs.

    Vidyadhar Rane, one of the delegation and Secretary of the Mumbai Port Trust, Dock and General Employees’ Union, intended calling on IMO members to deliver a mandatory set of regulations that set clear standards and protect the lives of shipbreaking workers immediately. He explained: “People here don’t have goggles, they don’t have helmets, masks or safety boots – many don’t have any kind of boots. There should be work, but there should be no compromise on safe work. I am appealing to the developed countries who send their ships to Asia to take some responsibility and save lives.”

    IMF General Secretary Marcello Malentacchi said: “In many countries the state of shipbreaking is an open scandal. The answer is not to shut it down - to call for that is to ignore that it is a vital industry for tens of thousands of people for whom no alternative employment exists. The solution is to reform, train and support.

    “Negotiations are underway at the IMO to develop internationally agreed regulations on the recycling of ships. However, adoption of the regulations is not expected until 2009, and proper implementation by 2015 at best, if at all.”

    ITF General Secretary David Cockroft commented: “We’re all behind the IMO in tackling this terrible problem, but 10 years is too long. Many of these workers – men, women and children – aren’t going to live that long.”

    - source ITF

    UN calls for international action over people smuggling from Somalia

    UN News Service (New York): With some 35 smuggling boats carrying over 3,500 people on the sometimes deadly trip from Somalia to Yemen in the past month, the United Nations refugee agency last week reiterated its calls for international action and donor support to tackle the root causes of the problem, including protection for the victims and prosecution of the smugglers.

    At least 54 people have died and 60 others are missing since the smugglers once again began sailing rickety, overcrowded boats across the Gulf of Aden with the onset of calmer weather at the beginning of September, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported.

    The new arrivals said a smuggling crackdown by local militia and police was under way in Bossasso, in the self-declared autonomous state of Puntland, north-eastern Somalia. They told UNHCR staff in Yemen that many people irrespective of nationality, gender or status had allegedly been sent to Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, or detained in Bossasso, apparently as a result of a Puntland decree banning human smuggling.

    UNHCR has repeatedly called for international action and donor support to tackle the root causes of people smuggling in the Gulf of Aden, including protection for the victims and prosecution of smugglers. "Any crackdown should target the smugglers, not the refugees, asylum seekers and desperate migrants they prey upon," UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva.

    Earlier this year UNHCR launched an awareness campaign in Puntland aimed at potential passengers warning them of the dangers involved in using smugglers to cross the Gulf of Aden. Despite these efforts, many people continue to take the risk and some are dying before reaching shore.

    The UNHCR has repeatedly cited reports in which smugglers have killed their passengers. Last month refugees on one boat reported that 15 people died during the voyage, 10 of them beaten to death by the smugglers with wooden and steel clubs. The bodies were thrown overboard.

    The smuggling increased significantly in the first four months of this year when 10,500 Somalis and Ethiopians made the perilous journey and hundreds were reported to have been hurled overboard to drown by the gun-toting traffickers.

    The migrants are mostly men who cite insecurity, drought and economic hardship in Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan as reasons for leaving. The fees charged by the smugglers dropped by 50 per cent in late September but have reportedly gone up again, from US $ 50 to $ 70, in the last few days. With the Bossasso crackdown, boats now appear to be leaving from other departure points along the 700-kilometre Puntland coastline.

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

    MSC Benedetta on arrival in Cape Town on her maiden voyage to South Africa – picture Ian Shiffman

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