Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 4, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Women power on Pier 1’s RTGs

  • Piracy in African waters

  • Australian yachties rescued

  • Titanium mining on Wild Coast a step nearer

  • FEATURE STORY - Fishing for food in dry seasons


    EMAIL: jhughes@hugheship.com
    WEB SITE: www.hugheship.com

    Women power on Pier 1’s RTGs

    Pier 1 Container Terminal in Durban, which is the first to introduce rubber tyre gantry (RTG) working at any of the country’s container ports, claims also to have marked up another first with the appointment of a number of female RTG operators who have completed their training in time for the terminal’s opening this week.

    Pier 1 closed during December to enable a R2 Billion fast-track development of the terminal from one with little or no infrastructure to a modern well equipped RTG and ship-to-shore crane operation.

    This month the terminal re-opens with one of three berths returning to service, equipped with 2 gantry cranes and 6 RTGs. The other berths will reopen with a total of 12 RTGs and five STS cranes in service by August and a further 6 RTGs and another STS to be delivered by the end of 2007.

    The terminal has already received 33 tractor trailers, 2 Reach Stackers and 2 Empty Container Haulers (ECH).

    In our news report on Wednesday we jumped the gun by announcing the terminal was reopening that day. This was based on information provided by a senior SAPO person but it turns out that the decision has instead been taken to reopen only on Monday, 7 May.

    Although SAPO has been appointed as the operator of the 720,000-TEU capacity Pier 1 it will be run entirely independently of the nearby Durban Container Terminal (DCT), with separate management, berth planners and personnel, most of which have been hired from outside the company. Extensive training under a team from Sri Lanka has taken place and this includes the seven women who are believed to be the first females anywhere to qualify as RTG operators (or so SAPO believes).

    “We have trained RTG operators in India, Sri Lanka and Dubai and this is the first time we have heard of female RTG operators in the world,” said Sri Lankan trainer Errol Ryan.

    “I was very concerned when I saw the female names but after the training I can safely say that the women have performed, in some instances, better than the men. This is definitely a world first and SAPO must be congratulated for giving their female employees this opportunity. SAPO is making history.”

    A total of 42 RTG operators and 15 STS operators have undergone academic classroom and practical training for Pier 1’s opening.

    Either way shipping companies, agents and shippers will be looking for a marked improvement in productivity at the new terminal, one which carries little or none of the ‘baggage’ of the past that has so slowed down operations at DCT over the years. It is going to be an interesting exercise comparing the performances of two terminals side by side, one modern and well quipped and the other much larger terminal working to a completely different process (straddle carriers).

    - see also the report in SAPO News – click on the News button at  http://ports.co.za/port-operations.php

    Piracy in African waters

    Somali pirates or gunmen have seized three Finnish-owned fishing vessels operating off the North-Eastern Puntland region of Somalia this week.

    The three vessels were taken while operating near Baar Madoobe, which borders the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

    The latest attack by pirates marks an increase since the Islamists were forced from political power earlier this year by a combination of Ethiopian and Somali Interim Government forces. At least three other attacks have taken place recently which resulted in the seizure of vessels, while another four attempts were unsuccessful with the victims managing to make their escape.

    In Mogadishu itself, the country’s major city and chief port, a semblance of law and order is returning after fierce fighting between Ethiopian-backed government forces and Islamists resulted in an apparent defeat of the Islamist forces. UN peacekeeping forces made up mostly from Ugandan soldiers have since appeared on the streets of the city helping to return law and order.

    In West Africa an attack on an oil installation took place yesterday (Thursday) at the Okono Terminal in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, where six expatriates were kidnapped off the FPSO MYSTRAS. The terminal operators have reacted by declaring ‘force majeure’ at Okono and the handling of an export tanker which is due there today is now unlikely to go ahead.

    Earlier this week operations on another installation, the FSO OLOIBIRI were also suspended when militants attacked and took six workers captive.

    Australian yachties rescued

    The South African Antarctic research and supply vessel SA AGULHAS has successfully rendezvoused with an Australian yacht that was dismasted in heavy seas midway between Marion Island and South Africa.

    The yacht Cowrie Dancer lost its mizzen mast in seas of 8 metres in which one crewman was lost overboard and the skipper and another crewman received quite serious injuries. A fourth crewmember, a South African woman who was on the yacht to gain sea time for her skipper’s license, was not injured.

    SA Agulhas met up with the yacht approximately 700 n.miles off the South African coast and transferred the crew across to the ship, leaving the yacht abandoned at sea while the supply ship continues its journey to the remote Marion Island weather station. Because of the sea conditions it was not possible for the SA Agulhas to hoist the yacht on board using the ship’s crane.

    Should the yacht owner decide to have the yacht salvaged a tug will have to be dispatched, probably from Cape Town.

    Titanium mining on Wild Coast a step nearer

    Wild Coast mining for titanium and other minerals came a step closer this week when the Department of Minerals and Energy accepted the Australian mining company Mineral Commodities application.

    The proposed sand mining is to take place immediately south of Port Edward on the KwaZulu Natal coast, close to the Wild Coast Casino complex. The Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project has become highly controversial and is receiving strong opposition from environmentalist groups opposed to the development of mining along the pristine coast.

    The area concerned involves a 22km stretch of beach between the Wild Coast Sun complex and Mkambati in the Eastern Cape where it is estimated that something in the order of nine million tonnes of ilmenite valued at R11 Billion is available, from which titanium can be manufactured.

    However the project is by no means a certainty and a number of further steps have to be successfully negotiated before the license to mine is given.

    Another proposal to build a toll road through the adjacent Pondoland countryside to shorten the existing road between Durban and East London, has somehow been linked to the mining proposal and is also receiving fierce opposition from environmentalists, who believe that some of South Africa’s best preserved natural countryside will be destroyed.

    What the local and largely impoverished Pondo people think of the matter doesn’t appear to receive much attention and publicity, even though a drive through existing roads (Port Edward to Port Sty Johns via Flagstaff and Lusikisiki) shows marked progress and development for the people living near the tarred road compared with other more isolated areas of the former Transkei.

    FEATURE STORY - Fishing for food in dry seasons

    Zambian fishmongers display their wares along the roadside. Pic by IRIN

    Johannesburg (IRIN) - With food security often at the mercy of erratic weather patterns, Southern Africa could bank on its "tremendous" potential to farm fish to sustain its predominantly agrarian communities, according to aquaculture experts.

    "Aquaculture in Southern Africa is unfortunately still underdeveloped but there is good potential, as there are adequate inland water resources in most parts of the region," said Erik Hempel, team leader of the regional office of INFOPECHE, an intergovernmental organisation providing marketing information and a cooperation service for fishery products in Africa, set up in 1985 as a United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) project.

    Hempel pointed out that aquaculture could complement existing sources of income and food as well as provide alternatives to impoverished communities of subsistence farmers in the region. "We know of a subsistence farmer at the foot of the Hardap Dam in southern Namibia who uses the water not only for his fish farm, but recycles it for his crops - he grows vegetables and farms fish in combination."

    According to the FAO, southern Africa has an estimated 20,000 small bodies of water, mostly reservoirs built to provide water for domestic use, watering cattle and irrigating crops. Some of these were stocked with fish, but, lacking adequate management, production remained low.

    Besides inland water resources, countries along the east coast of Africa, like Mozambique and South Africa, have the potential to develop shrimp farming, but Hempel said aquaculture along the west coast, which is "exposed to the elements, would require a great deal of investment".

    He pointed out that "there is good potential to develop oyster and mussel farming, which is already happening in South Africa", but said subsistence aquaculture could be developed mainly in inland freshwater bodies.

    An illiquid potential resource

    Alec Forbes, a marine biologist and aquaculture consultant, said aquaculture was prevalent in Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, "all with some degree of success, but falling short of the real potential". Most efforts to kick-start fish farming for subsistence farmers have been stumped by lack of resources, skills and funding.

    The FAO has developed a strategy to promote subsistence aquaculture in Africa, according to Lahsen Ababouch, Chief of the Fish Utilisation and Marketing Service at the FAO. "We are trying to replicate [in Africa] the success of aquaculture in Southeast Asia and Asia," he added. Fish as a source of protein is critical for improving food security, "which is our mandate" in least-developed countries.

    Investment in aquaculture is critical, as the FAO's annual report on fish farming last year found that nearly half the fish consumed worldwide were raised on fish farms rather than caught in the wild. Dwindling fish stocks and rising demand have increased the pressure on aquaculture. The FAO was still in talks with donors on its plans for Africa, he added.

    Despite its natural potential, Africa is a minor player in fish farming, according to the FAO's 'State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2006' (SOFIA) report. "Even aquaculture of tilapia, which is native to the continent, has not developed significantly." Nigeria is the continental leader, with reported production of 44,000 tonnes of catfish, tilapia and other freshwater fish.

    Ababouch said there was a growing global demand for fish like tilapia and catfish, which are cost-effective species and suitable for subsistence aquaculture.

    "The tilapia in all its different forms lends itself to aquaculture, being a hardy and forgiving creature, able to survive in the harshest of conditions and being the foundation pillar of the aquaculture diet," said Forbes. "Catfish and bass are also excellent aquaculture candidates, as well as carp and some invertebrates, but tilapia spp. remain the cornerstone of the poverty-alleviation and food-security programmes."

    The SOFIA report noted that there "are some encouraging signs in the continent: black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) in Madagascar, and Eucheuma seaweed in the United Republic of Tanzania, are thriving, and production of niche species such as abalone (Haliotis spp.) in South Africa is increasing. In the Near East and North Africa, Egypt is by far the dominant country in terms of production (providing 92 percent of the regional total) and is now the second biggest tilapia producer after China, and the world's top producer of mullets".

    Unlike Southeast Asia, where aquacultural integration with poultry and animal husbandry dates bank thousands of years, Ababouch said Africa lacked the technology and investment.

    Getting in the swim of things

    However, there were countries in the region, like Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, which have been experimenting with aquaculture since the 1950s, when the first attempts were made to raise indigenous species of the Cichlidae family, mainly tilapias, in dams and earthen fish ponds, according to an FAO profile.

    A number of donors have taken an active part in assisting the Zambian government to encourage farmers to adopt aquaculture by introducing pond culture in rural areas as a way of enhancing nutrition. The government has provided extension services, which have made a marked improvement: Zambia has more than 6,000 small-scale fish farmers with over 13,000 fishponds.

    The Mozambican government built hatcheries and demonstration farms in the early 1960s, and renewed its interest in freshwater fish farming in the late 1970s, particularly as a means of supplying fish to the rural population, which was deficient in animal protein and beyond the reach of existing marine and freshwater fish distribution networks.

    But INFOPECHE's Hempel noted that most government-driven projects have foundered. "Aquaculture needs 24-hour surveillance, while governments function nine [a.m.] to five [p.m.]. We are dealing with living organisms; it needs a lot of commitment." He suggested that governments rather help out with funds and training; small-scale farmers could be assisted with supplies of fingerlings to kick-start their farms.

    "An enthusiastic government approach is vital to the success of all aquaculture ventures in southern Africa, without which efforts will come to naught," said marine biologist Forbes. "Incentive packages must be put into effect to attract foreign currency investors and, indeed, local investors."

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


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    An unusual sight even in Cape Town harbour where rigs have become fairly common callers as they are towed in to receive attention from the respective professions making up Table Bay’s busy ship repair industry. On this occasion there was not one rig but two in line – ESSAR WILDCAT in the forefront, and ATLANTIC VENTURE behind, photographed by Dale Bassett/Jotun Paints

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