Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 21, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Govt increases spending on infrastructure

  • Richards Bay line reopened after computer crash

  • Maiden visit by car carrier Tombarra

  • Big success for Durban Bay cleanup

  • Pic of the day – SA WINTERBERG

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    Govt increases spending on infrastructure

    by Shaun Benton (BuaNews)

    Cape Town - The Department of Public Enterprises is launching a local Competitive Supplier Development Programme, as government embarks on a massive infrastructure spending programme that may require an import requirement of as much as 40 percent of the capital goods needed.

    "The magnitude of the investment programme cannot be understated," said Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin, delivering his department's budget vote Thursday (17 May).

    He outlined a number of reasons behind the need for the development of South African suppliers to a point where they could not only supply a bulk of the capital goods needed in the R420 billion infrastructure upgrade, and be competitive about doing so.

    Internationally, the market for capital goods for infrastructure expansion is very tight, he said, with a number of other major developing countries also embarking on their own upgrades, most notably China and India.

    This is resulting in "supply constraints", he said, as a squeeze on the capital goods available internationally is pushing prices up and lengthening delivery times.

    In his state of the nation address on 9 February, President Thabo Mbeki warned of such a situation and spoke of "a determined drive to increase our national capacity to produce capital goods".

    Mr Erwin said Thursday that there is a "powerful logic to this strategy", saying that the best way to secure the country's supply lines for vital equipment is to develop local capacity, adding that this will also boost economic growth.

    Local supply industries have not seen such high expenditure for at least 30 years and as a result their capacity has been reduced, but current high demand is expected to revitalise these industries, with ongoing government support.

    According to the DPE, its research has indicated that a only "modest increase" in the contribution of national industry to the capital expenditure programmes led by Eskom and Transnet will bring about a large increase in economic growth.

    The capital expenditure (capex) programmes are being led by Eskom, which is spending R150 billion over the next five years, and Transnet, whose five-year rolling investment plan has been revised this year to R78 billion, Mr Erwin said.

    Eskom's investment is focusing largely on its build programme, including "proliferation resistant" nuclear build, with "tight" timelines as the country's growing economy begins to exhaust current supplies.

    Transnet's investments are aiming to turn the transport giant into a "provider of world-class freight logistics" as it advances its implementation of programmes in rail, ports and pipelines.

    This includes South Africa's iron ore and coal lines, improving port infrastructure and terminals and enhancing the pipeline from Durban to Johannesburg, Mr Erwin said.

    Progress in other Transnet projects is "satisfactory", he added, pointing to the Saldanha port/rail line, the Cape Town container terminal, the new container terminal at Durban pier one, the widening of Durban's harbour entrance and the development of the port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape.

    About R8 billion is to be spent on a new container terminal at Ngqura, he said, which will have two berths, expandable to four. Before further expansion the terminal will be able to handle up to three million containers, Mr Erwin told a media briefing earlier.

    Government wants the terminal at the deepwater port to start operating in 2009 and will be used to supplying the R19 billion Alcan aluminium smelter construction at Coega, he added.

    With all the infrastructure developments under way, the Competitive Supplier Development Programme is to focus on demand-side and supply-side measures aimed at boosting the competitiveness, capacity and capability of the local supplier base.

    Underscoring the seriousness and scale of the massive infrastructure programme - the largest in the country's history - Public Enterprises has warned that while it will provide as much support as possible to local industries, they will need to be globally competitive.

    Government would not provide "preferential price premiums" to local industries, and would not accept sacrifices on delivery times, compromises on quality or increasing costs.

    If local suppliers proved to be uncompetitive, undue preference to them by state-owned enterprises (SOE) would undermine economic growth as it would increase the costs of the SOEs' investments.

    This would mean the SOEs would need to charge their own customers more, thus "crowding out" investment in the industries which would be the customers of the SOEs.

    Rather, if local industries became competitive as they supplied the domestic infrastructure programmes, they would build export capacity which would serve them well on the long term.

    The SOEs would thus be leveraging expenditure to develop competitive local industries to this end. And the competitiveness of supplier industries is the key if SOEs are to maintain strong balance sheets and the ability to source capital from local and international capital markets.

    But it is not a simple issues and challenges remain, "since if the enterprise is defined by a long range strategic intent then it needs to maximise economic outcomes rather than the narrower financial bottom line".

    "Balancing enterprise sustainability and strategic intent is an art," Mr Erwin said.

    Richards Bay line reopened after computer crash

    A computer crash resulted in 13 coal trains to Richards Bay being cancelled last week.

    But at least the glitch with the computer did not produce the same disastrous effects as derailment crashes for which the line has become notorious in recent years and according to a Spoornet spokesman the company was able to restore services by Thursday evening.

    Nevertheless the cancellation cost the line about 100,000 tonnes of cargo that should have been delivered to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal. Spoornet says it intends ‘upping’ the schedule to make up the loss over the next few weeks, which is an interesting observation suggesting that Spoornet is acknowledging some spare capacity along the line.

    Shipments of coal from the port at Richards Bay increased by 22 percent to 6.26 million tonnes during April, according to figures recently released. This compares with 5.13mt achieved in April 2005.

    The previous month of March however, as has been previously reported, was a poor month due mainly to freak adverse weather which saw the port close over four days.

    RBCT maintains a stockpile at the terminal and delays along the railway do not generally have any immediate effect and can usually be accommodated.

    Maiden visit by car carrier Tombarra

    TOMBARRA at Durban’s R berth (car terminal) on 17 May 2007. Picture Terry Hutson CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

    Wallenius Wilhelmsen Line’s pure car carrier TOMBARRA arrived on the South African coast this past week on the new ship’s maiden commercial voyage which commenced in Goteborg, Sweden in March.

    The 61,321gt ship is one of, if not the largest car carrier to call in South Africa so far, with a loading capacity of 6,800 motor vehicles. She is one of three ships in the class and was built in Japan. Tombarra is also one of 42 new builds under construction for the Swedish-Norwegian partnership that includes Eukor and American Ro-Ro carriers (ARC). Only two ships have so far been delivered – the 42 will ultimately be divided among the three associated companies.

    Another of the large WW new builds, the Polish-built 6,500 vehicle capacity TARIFA also called at South African ports a week or so earlier (see our PIC OF THE DAY in the News Bulletin for 14 May).

    Back in Durban after a gap of four years is the combined cargo/passenger ship MAURITIUS TROCHETIA which is to undergo a routine dry-docking on the Eldock floating dock.

    The 5492-gt ship has a capacity for 112 passengers using ferry style seating and normally operates a service between Mauritius and neighbouring islands of La Reunion, Rodriguez and Madagascar.

    Having entered service in 2001 after being purchased from China Mauritius Trochetia also carries a respectable cargo including up to 165 TEU (twenty foot equivalent containers).

    Big success for Durban Bay Cleanup

    Schoolchildren fan out to help clean one of the several beaches fronting the mangrove and heritage site section of Durban Bay. Picture Terry Hutson CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

    The annual clean up of Durban Bay on Saturday, undertaken by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife with the assistance of a number of sponsors (not the least of which are dozens of schools and some scout groups from around Durban) had a successful outcome when about 1500 people turned up to help clean the harbour of accumulated refuse.

    The late inclusion of the Bayhead area proved to be something of an eye-opener for many, such was the vast amount of rubbish that had collected among the mangroves in the area of the Silt Canal. Much of this had come downstream via the Umhlatuzana and Umbilo rivers which feed into Durban Bay via the Silt Canal.

    About half the volunteer ‘work force’ of schoolchildren and some adults was ferried to the Bayhead by bus while the remainder of the work force cleaned the area between the Bat Centre and Wilson’s Wharf.

    It was still only a token, although the ‘token’ of an estimated 8-10 tons of rubbish was removed. Within a few months refuse will again have accumulated, especially following the first heavy rains and although the National Ports Authority will clean much of it a lot gets washed by tidal flow into those forgotten backwaters of the bay.

    What is really required is for the municipality to take stronger action in preventing much of this from entering Durban Bay in the first place, by placing screens across more drain outlets in the city streets and introducing some form of catchment in the Umhlatuzana canal.

    A group of schoolkids together with one or two adults who helped with last Saturday’s big Durban Bay Cleanup organised by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. That’s Maydon Wharf in the background. Picture Terry Hutson CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

    Several Durban companies lent their support to the harbour clean up – hopefully the next occasion will see more shipping firms taking part.

    Those out in force on Saturday included Alpha Shipping, Vector Logistics, DEAT, SA Container Terminals, Cooey (cool drinks), Global Marine, Green Africa, AG Distributors, Lions (cooking), Dormac (the skips) and of course the main sponsors being Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and all those schools – but where were the former white schools which went mostly unrepresented?

    Pic of the day – SA WINTERBERG

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    Safmarine container ship SA WINTERBERG, one of the original ‘Big Whites’ that helped introduce international container services to South Africa in the mid 1970s, on berth at 205, Durban Container Terminal. Although now deployed to the company’s SAFARI service which is operated jointly with Maersk Line (South Africa – Far East), and no longer owned by Safmarine, SA Winterberg and her three sisters remain in service at least for the time being. Picture Terry Hutson

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

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