Ports & Ships Maritime News

Mar 22, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Extensive Flooding and Damage to Coastal Infrastructure along the KwaZulu-Natal Coast

  • East London port closes for first time in years

  • South African Navy holds Open Day Festival this week

  • SAS Drakensberg in Germany to escort home second submarine

  • Rift Valley Railway comes in for more blame over Mombasa congestion

  • Pic of the day – CHUAN SHENG 66

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    Extensive Flooding and Damage to Coastal Infrastructure along the KwaZulu-Natal Coast

    The Bluff and entrance to the port of Durban, 19 March 2007. Picture The Mercury. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

    By Ian Hunter, SA Weather Service

    Late in the evening on Sunday 18 March 2007 a cut-off low reached its peak intensity off the KwaZulu-Natal coast. Significant wave height was at its maximum at around 00h00 UTC on Monday - in excess of 7m close to the coast. It was at this time that most of the serious damage to coastal infrastructure was inflicted. To cite just a few examples :

  • restaurants on the lower marine parade suffered millions of rands damage. In one case there were still staff inside the building who were trapped by the incoming waves and had to be rescued. A restaurant in Margate was also severely damaged

  • houses located close to the beach along the North and South Coast were flooded and also sustained wave damage. People had to be evacuated - several people had to be rescued from a hotel in Isipingo

  • in Umkomaas the beach road was destroyed

  • although the cost of the damage to coastal infrastructure has already been estimated at half a billion rand, the full extent has yet to be determined. For example it is possible that outfall pipes dumping waste material into the sea have also suffered serious damage

  • amazingly enough only one fatality has been recorded, a man who drowned at Shelley Beach. However there were many injuries - some serious - when people ventured too close to the water and were washed against obstructions by the waves

    Fortunately there were no major shipping casualties, even though vessels off Richards Bay dragged their anchors in winds that averaged over 90 km/ hr on Sunday. Both Durban and Richards Bay ports had to be closed to all traffic.

    Cut-off Lows (COL's)

    The cut-off low, captured by Meteosat-8 at 06h00 UTC on Monday 19 March 2007. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

    This is one of the most important synoptic-scale weather systems to affect South Africa. They are responsible for most large-scale extreme precipitation events. For example in some areas of the KwaZulu-Natal interior the cut-off low of September 1987 caused more flood damage than Tropical Cyclone Demoina in January 1984.

    From a marine aspect COL's are no less important. They are typically paired with a high pressure system that effectively blocks the progress of the low - and increases pressure gradients on its peripheral. Some of the highest coastal wind speeds are associated with cut-off lows. From a wave generation point of view, a semi-stationary fetch zone makes for an increased duration factor and enhanced sea state. Furthermore, the swell generated by these systems is often more perpendicular to the coastline and the greater the angle of the swell to the coast, the less the energy-sapping effect of coastal refraction. The anomalous swell directions associated with COL's can also pose a problem for the ports, which have their breakwaters designed for a heavy SW'ly swell.

    The development of the cut-off low that intensified rapidly south-east of East London on Saturday, and reached maximum intensity some 700 km south-east of Durban early on Monday morning, was already being captured by the global numerical weather prediction models on Thursday 15 March - i.e. 3-4 days ahead. Not only was the location correctly predicted at this stage - the forecast intensity was also very close to what actually transpired.

    Similarly, the global wave models were also foreseeing the 10m waves analysed off the east coast, with a lead time of 3-4 days.

    the rest of this article can be found in The SHIPPING WORLD section of Ports & Ships

    East London port closes for first time in years

    The port of East London and beaches along the Eastern Cape coast did not escape unscathed by the storm surge on Sunday and Monday and the port was forced to close to traffic for the first time in five years.

    Scattered reports with little detail have also been received of wave damage to beaches along the undeveloped Wild Coast of the former Transkei in the Eastern Cape. In the East London area beaches had to be closed although most reopened on Tuesday as sea conditions returned to normal.

    The port was closed to shipping movements for the first time in about five years after the harbour master decided the swells – described as being about 6m and with one wave measured at over 11m – made conditions in the narrow entrance channel dangerous to ship movements. Early Tuesday the port was reopened to traffic and two vessels, a tanker and a car carrier were able to berth.

    But what has been to disastrous to many people whose homes along the KwaZulu Natal coast were destroyed or badly damaged along with other property and beach facilities, becomes an opportunity for others. Surfers along the KZN coast made the most of the opportunity to ride waves much larger than they normally experience while at East London the salvage team removing the remains of the former container ship Safmarine Agulhas, which went aground off the East London port breakwater last year, had reason to be pleased. The excessive waves helped rock the hulk free of sea sand that has gathered around the hull, and it became an easy task to pull the hulk about 60m closer towards the shore from where it will be cut into smaller manageable pieces.

    South African Navy holds Open Day Festival this week

    The South African Navy is hosting another Open Day Festival at the Simon’s Town Naval Base this weekend, which will be open to the public. The Festival starts on Friday and ends on Sunday (23 – 25 March 2007).

    Among the star attractions this year is the navy’s latest ship, the submarine SAS MANTHATISI which will be available for the public to inspect for the first time. Other ships including the new frigates, strike craft and other vessels will also be open to visitors. All ships will be dressed for the occasion.

    Some of the highlights include a display of parachuting by the SA Special Forces which takes place tomorrow at 11.00 and a Right of Entry Parade through the streets of Simon’s Town on Saturday at 10.00.

    Other highlights include a Night Gunnery Shoot from the Lower North battery on Saturday evening at 20.00 and a display by the Silver Falcons Aerobatic team of the South African Air Force on Saturday and Sunday at 12.00. The Retreat Ceremony will be held on Sunday at 17.30.

    For those who prefer something more lighthearted there is a Navy Band Dry Dock Concert on Friday evening at 20.00.

    There is no parking available within the Dockyard and visitors are advised to find parking at Cole Point Café, Martello Gate, Sea Forth car park and along the main and side roads.

    Full details of the Navy Festival can be found at http://www.navy.mil.za/forecastle/navyfest/article.htm

    SAS Drakensberg in Germany to escort home second submarine

    SAS DRAKENSBERG, the combat support ship of the South African Navy which is currently in European waters. Picture taken in Simon’s Town by Terry Hutson

    SAS DRAKENSBERG, the South African Navy combat support ship has held final farewell ceremonies in Emden prior to escorting home the navy’s latest new ship, the submarine S102.

    The support ship arrived in the German port on 7 March after a voyage from Simon’s Town that included courtesy visits to Walvis Bay, Luanda and a cargo call at Brest in France. While in Emden she has been berthed opposite S102 and S103.

    S102 was officially handed over to the South African Navy on 6 November 2006 since when she has been undergoing sea trials with her new crew ahead of the long journey home. The Officer Commanding the submarine is Cdr Roland Shortt.

    These sea inspection trials were completed on 24 February.

    SAS Drakensberg, which is under the command of Capt Charl Coetzee, also accompanied home the first submarine, S101 which was named SAS MANTHITISI on arrival.

    The two ships sailed from Emden last Friday, 16 March bound for Rota in Spain after which they head south towards Simon’s Town.

    Rift Valley Railway comes in for more blame over Mombasa congestion

    Rift Valley Railway (RVR), which in November last year took over the management and operation of the Kenya and the Uganda railways, formerly operated by the respective government parastatals, must be finding the going tough, to say the least.

    Barely four months into the 25-year concession RVR is taking the heat for massive congestion at the port of Mombasa from shippers who are justifiably upset over having their cargo sit in the port uncleared and undelivered. As a result doubts are now being raised in several quarters as to whether the South African-led consortium has bitten off more than it can chew.

    The criticism comes at a time when there appears to be a rethink among governments in some parts of Africa concerning the advisability of privatising the former state-owned entities. In Mozambique the transport ministry has gone out of its way to level criticism at the concessionaire operating the Nacala railway between the port of Nacala and Malawi and have also found reason to complain about the Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC) which holds the concession to operate Port Maputo.

    In Tanzania the government appears uncertain over privatisation while the Kenya Government has reversed its former decision regarding the concessioning of the port of Mombasa and other Kenya ports.

    The challenge facing the RVR is that it is expected to show an immediate improvement in rail operations, notably involving help clear excess traffic from the port, but has to do this before it has time to introduce new rolling stock and operating systems. Part of the problem with the railway is said to be a lack of wagons for both containers and bulk cargoes.

    Containers can still be moved by road, although shippers point out that it costs US $ 3,500 to deliver a 20ft container by road from Mombasa to Uganda, which is almost twice the amount wanted by rail. On the other hand bulk cargo is not seen as suitable cargo for road haulage, especially given the general conditions of some of the roads.

    One manufacturer complained to the Kenyan newspaper East African that it had 150 containers at Mombasa that have been delayed for 60 days so far because, it said, of a lack of rail wagons. The company pointed out that a former shorter and quicker route via Kisumu to Port Bell on Lake Victoria was also not viable because only a single ferry is in operation, following an accident in which another sank and has not been recovered or replaced.

    RVR is also responsible for a marine division operating on the lake but has inherited only a single ship from the Uganda Railways Corporation remains in service. A second vessel, mv KABALEGA sank in 2005 and two others remain grounded.

    Shippers in Uganda can’t even look to their southerly neighbour Tanzania because the port of Dar es Salaam is also heavily congested, so much so that ships with cargo for the Tanzanian port are adding to Mombasa’s problems by diverting to the Kenyan port. Added to this is that the Tanzanian Railway operation is also said to be in a poor state as is the Tanzanian lake ferry operation.

    Pic of the day – CHUAN SHENG 66

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    CHUAN SHENG 66 in Cape Town harbour February 2007. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    NB Shipping pictures submitted by readers are always welcome – please email to info@ports.co.za

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