Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jul 11, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Radebe talks of short-sea transport as South African solution

  • Navy honours a tradition as minesweepers enter Knysna Heads

  • Two UN agencies call for co-ordinated action against Somali pirates

  • African countries can benefit from more trade

  • Pic of the day – GREEN MAJESTIC

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    Radebe talks of short-sea transport as South African solution

    Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe says that South Africa needs to look at short-sea shipping as a solution to some of its transport problems.

    Speaking at the South Africa Transport Conference in Gauteng on Monday, Radebe said South Africa had become a victim of its own success with unintended consequences.

    “The unintended consequence of our economic fundamentals has led to unparalleled and sustained economic growth. As government, we had not forecasted on this rapid growth and we have consequently been founding wanting in having appropriate policy responses,” he said.

    “As an unintended consequence, our transport system is bursting at the seams and is increasingly becoming inadequate in responding to the export led growth. Our road network is increasingly becoming congested while we have not made the correct policy response to the usage of one of our underutilized endowments – our ocean for coastal shipping.”

    He said he was waiting for recommendations from the maritime experts as to how Government can harness “and efficiently massify the use of this resource for short sea transportation”.

    Radebe said that he was confident that the massive investments the government was making in infrastructure would prove to be sustainable in the long term, and in transport in particular he anticipated witnessing these dividends in the shortest time possible.

    He accused the private sector of not having come to the party in so far as the provision of public infrastructure is concerned.

    “We acknowledge that by its own nature, the private sector is risk averse, is interested in the highest rate of return with the shortest period. We will however, continue to champion the cause of public private partnerships. We call on the private sector to come to the party and share the risk with us, as government, so that we both can reap, in the long term, the benefits that will accrue from infrastructure investment.”

    You can read Minister Radebe’s speech in full here

    Navy honours a tradition as minesweepers enter Knysna Heads

    Two minesweepers of the South African Navy, SAS Umkomaas and SAS Umhloti honoured a long-held tradition this past weekend when they sailed through the Knysna Heads and into the waters of Knysna Bay.

    The two River class minesweepers berthed at Thesen’s Jetty where they became part of the attractions at Knysna’s annual oyster festival.

    Visits to Knysna have become something of a naval tradition, particularly since Knysna was deregistered as a port in 1954. The navy periodically undertakes surveys of the difficult entrance channel between the heads and ships of the navy including mine counter-measure vessels and strike craft have continued to sail through and into the estuary, the Algerine class minesweeper SAS Pietermaritzburg having become the largest navy ship to do this honour only a year before Knysna ceased being a port.

    SAS Pietermaritzburg was later converted into a training ship.

    In respect of this tradition the town of Knysna ‘adopted’ the mine-countermeasure flotilla in 1989, further cementing the close ties between the former port and the navy.

    Also attending Knysna’s annual oyster festival was the South African Navy Band, which paraded down the town’s streets and later that evening gave one of its world-renowned performances at the Knysna Quays on the waterfront.

    The crews of the two minesweepers used the visit to assist with various upliftment programmes among the local community.

    SAS Umkomaas (M7001) and SAS Umhloti (M7004) are both River Class mine countermeasure vessels. Umhloti was built in Durban at the Sandock Austral shipyard and commissioned in 1981, while Umkomaas was built by Abeking & Rasmussen in Germany the same year and fitted out in Durban. Because of the UN arms embargo then in place the four ships of this class were initially described as research vessels and given the names NAVORS I – IV while being placed on the Durban registry and flying the South African flag instead of the SAN ensign.

    Two UN agencies call for co-ordinated action against Somali pirates

    Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Efthimios Mitropoulos announced in London yesterday that the IMO would seek official sanction for foreign warships to pursue pirates into Somali waters.

    This drastic action is defined in Article 107 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - to enter the country's territorial waters when engaging in operations against pirates or suspected pirates and armed robbers endangering the safety of life at sea.

    Providing permission is granted by the Somali Transitional Federal Government, foreign warships and other ‘ships in government service’ will be permitted to chase pirates deep into Somali waters and make arrests, instead of standing by and taking no action as at present.

    Mitropoulos was addressing a press conference in London during which he and Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, another UN organisation, announced in a joint communiqué that a joint call was being made for concerted and co-ordinated international action to address the threat of piracy and armed robbery against ships in international waters off the Somali coast.

    Sheeran explained that piracy and robbery was preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia, with two-WFP contracted ships that were delivering aid being taken hostage by pirates this year along with a number of other commercial vessels. On land roadblocks controlled by militia groups have hampered the delivery of food convoys.

    Transportation by sea ought to be cheaper and safer, said Sheeran, but the recent increase in attacks has resulted in higher delivery costs and a dramatic reduction in the use of ships.

    “Today we’re calling on the people of the world to put these pirates out of business,” he said

    Mitropoulos was expected to meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon today (Wednesday) and the subject of Somalia comes up on the UN Security Council agenda for next week. Mitropoulos said he did not think the Somali Transitional Federal Government would object to the request but would see it as an act of compassion by the UN.

    The full communiqué from the IMO can be read at http://www.imo.org

    African countries can benefit from more trade

    by Andrzej Zwaniecki, USINFO Staff Writer

    Washington - African countries have much to gain from a global trade liberalisation accord if they are willing to open up their economies to trade and investment and press other developing countries to do the same, according to a US trade official.

    Such an accord, negotiated under auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), “will open up tremendous opportunities for less-developed countries to expand their exports,” said Florizelle Liser, assistant US trade representative for Africa.

    But how much African nations can gain from trade liberalisation will depend on how much more access to large emerging markets they can obtain and how far their own policy reforms will go to strengthen their international competitive positions, Liser told USINFO.

    The WTO negotiations known as the Doha Development Agenda stalled again in late June, as talks among negotiators from India, Brazil, the European Union (EU) and the United States collapsed. Although US and European negotiators had hoped to make real progress in Potsdam, Germany, the meeting broke up earlier than scheduled after Brazil and India strongly affirmed a hard-line position resisting cutting duties currently applied to industrial goods.

    Least-developed African countries already enjoy preferential access to rich-country markets under programs such as the US African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the EU Everything But Arms program. For example, in 2006, more than 98 percent of US imports from AGOA-eligible countries entered the US market duty-free.

    Therefore, Liser said, the Africans could gain most from increased access to big emerging markets, particularly in Asia.

    However, in the Doha negotiations most African nations – out of solidarity or shared past experience – have aligned themselves with large developing countries such as Brazil and India, who are reluctant to lower their tariffs significantly, she said.

    Liser said the United States and the EU Economic Commission for Africa have provided the Africans with studies that show what markets have the greatest potential for their goods, mostly agricultural products.

    “If they analyze [this information] and draw appropriate conclusions, their negotiating position will be much more nuanced and will much better reflect their real economic interests,” Liser said.

    She said African countries, as the largest regional grouping in the WTO, have significant negotiating power, yet they have taken a defensive stance on many issues, focusing on preserving and expanding preferences and special treatment.

    A global trade liberalisation deal would reduce the competitive edge some less-developed African countries currently enjoy relative to major developing countries under existing preference programs, according to US officials and independent studies. But the net effect of a global trade accord would be an increase in real incomes in sub-Saharan African nations proportionately larger than in other developing or high-income countries, according to a 2006 World Bank study. Net farm incomes would rise substantially, alleviating rural poverty in the region, the study said.

    African countries trade the least with each other of any regional group, something that leaves them largely ill-prepared for a more competitive global trade system, Liser said.

    Even though a Doha agreement would not require most African countries to make substantial tariff cuts, the trade liberalisation in Africa would bring substantial economic benefits by lowering barriers to intraregional trade, she said.

    Several studies note the short-term costs from a global trade accord to less-developed countries, particularly net food importers and those with preferential access to rich-country markets.

    Liser said these studies take a narrow view of the Doha round as limited to market access for goods. Actually, the round also aims to increase access for services and improve trade facilitation, all areas from which African countries can benefit, she said. This would be particularly true as they move from raw commodity exports to value-added goods, which generate more revenue but require more sophisticated financial, transportation and distribution services.

    For many less-developed countries, Liser said, a WTO global trade liberalisation deal also would provide impetus for politically difficult financial, legal and regulatory reforms necessary to put them on a more equal footing with competitors from other regions. Some nations such as Ghana, Mauritius and Tanzania already have initiated such reforms. But even they could benefit politically from a global trade liberalisation agreement, she said.

    The full text (PDF, 32 pages) of the World Bank report Doha Merchandise Trade Reform: What’s at Stake for Developing Countries? is available on the organisation’s Web site.

    For additional information, see the full text (PDF, 140 pages) of the 2007 Comprehensive Report on U.S. Trade and Investment Policy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa and Implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act on the USTR Web site and a US Department of Agriculture fact sheet on AGOA trade in farm products on the department’s Web site.

    - USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, US Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov

    Pic of the day – GREEN MAJESTIC

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The 5,089-gt Seatrade reefer vessel GREEN MAJESTIC in Cape Town harbour during June 2006. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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

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