Ports & Ships Maritime News

Jul 9, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • South Africa toughens its act on bribery and corruption

  • COMESA heads for Customs Union

  • Feature: SA business has strong foothold in Ghana

  • Railroad Development Corporation to suspend rail operation in Guatamala

  • NSRI assists yacht into port

  • Pic of the day – ORIANA

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    South Africa toughens its act on bribery and corruption

    South Africa has become the first African country to become a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions. If that last title feels like a mouthful, think of them as OECD, an international organisation that has assumed a leading role in fighting international bribery and corruption.

    Adopted in 1997 and ratified so far by 36 countries, the Convention outlaws the bribing of foreign public officials in international business transactions, with South Africa becoming the latest member and an active member of all its regional and international anti-corruption instruments.

    Recognising that corruption ‘respects no borders, knows no economic distinctions and infects all forms of government’ and that in the long run no country can afford the social, political or economic costs that corruption entails, the OECD takes a multidisciplinary approach in fighting corruption.

    “The accession to the OECD anti-bribery instruments enables South Africa to pursue the anti-corruption and good governance agenda in the available multilateral mechanisms of the world. This drive is underpinned by the national priorities of fighting corruption, discharging our international obligations and creation of ‘A Better Africa for A Better World’,” a South African government spokesman said after South Africa took its seat.

    One of OECD’s focuses is directed towards the bribing of foreign officials in international business transactions. Should a South African businessman now bribe a public official in another country then that businessman will be deemed guilty of a crime in South Africa. Similarly should a foreign person bribe a South African official in pursuant of his or her duty then they would also be deemed guilty of committing a crime in South Africa, no matter where the act of bribery took place.

    To add relevance to this report, the bribing of a port official in any African port (or elsewhere) by a South African-based company will be treated as if that crime was committed in South Africa itself.

    COMESA heads for a Customs Union

    The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is to become a Customs Union as from December 2008, and is being seen as another step in regional integration and development.

    The development of a Customs Union for the ten member states of COMESA will integrate and unify the current separate customs territories into a single common external tariff (CET), said Ethiopia’s acting State Minister Musa Mohamed at a recent workshop in Ethiopia.

    He said the objective of the customs union was to become regionally competitive and to increase economic efficiency and establish closer political and economic ties between member states, and promoting domestic and cross-border trade while fostering direct investment.

    Mohamed said that ‘discriminatory commercial practices founded on protectionism were slowly collapsing in the face of surging and superior nom-discriminatory multi-lateral trading arrangements.’

    The regional African trading blocks are Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central States (ECCAS/CEEAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Union du Maghreb Arabe (UMA).

    At last week’s meeting of African Union Heads of State held in Ghana regional rivalries were highlighted, leading to a compromise agreement over the ambitious issue of a United States of Africa. Members agreed to seek greater co-operation between the various regional trading blocks.

    Feature: SA business has strong foothold in Ghana

    BuaNews, 2 July - South Africans travelling in Ghana are not at a loss for home comforts as many South African companies have established a strong presence in the west African nation, writes Lavinia Mahlangu.

    Familiar corporations in the retail and financial sectors have branches in Ghana, while even more consumer products from the Southern African Development Community nations have found their way to the stores of its counterparts in the Economic Community of West African States.

    South Africa's Standard Bank has a local subsidiary, known as Stanbic Bank which offers only the Mastercard service in the country.

    Other banks in Ghana offer only VISA services, as opposed to Stanbic Bank which accepts cards from both Mastercard and Visa, including their linked products such as Maestro and Electron, respectively.

    However, it is not all sunny skies for the local venture in Ghana.

    Stanbic Bank's parent company has been in the spotlight recently after making an unsolicited offer to buy shares in the Ghanaian government owned Agriculture Development Bank (ADB).

    The ADB Bank is the umbrella bank for 123 rural community banks and supervises them throughout Ghana.

    The ADB's branches in the capital Accra are now emblazoned with massive banners declaring "NO WAY Stanbic Bank".

    The offer followed government's announcement to derive more value from the ADB Bank by possibly unbundling shares.

    An official approach of how this would be carried out was, however, not revealed, although the government has privatised its entities for a profit in the past.

    The new Accra Mall currently under construction between the capital and the nation's largest port in the town of Tema, boasts branches of macro-retailer Game and the Shoprite supermarket as flagship stores.

    Branches of Woolworths, which is a multinational, are also present in Accra and Tema. These particular branches are backed by South African business interests.

    On the high-street of Osu, the commercial and tourist hub of Accra, both Woolworths and MTN stores can be found.

    MTN's operations in west and central Africa include Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia, amongst others. MTN entered the Ghanaian market following the acquisition of Investcom in 2006.

    In the fast food industry, a massive new Steers restaurant, owned by South Africa's Famous Brands group is currently under construction, also in the vibrant Osu high-street.

    Another restaurant chain which can be found at Total filling station food courts around the country is the chicken outlet, Gallito's.

    Total's "Bonjour" Food Court business model includes the South African Pizza Inn, Chicken Inn and Creamy Inn, as well as the convenience stores which stock Amarula Cream, the local "Saints" range of wines and Gallito's hot sauces.

    There are almost boundless investment opportunities for South African businesses in Ghana, Charles Sam, the anchor of Good Evening Ghana and an investment consultant, told BuaNews.

    "For instance Ghana has a massive timber industry but not a single local company manufactures something as simple as toothpicks here.

    "We import every single toothpick you will see in homes, offices and the hundreds of restaurants here," said Mr Sam, who visits South Africa regularly for business purposes.

    "This country is a great investment opportunity for South African companies to bring their operations here and manufacture for the regional market. They may even find it cheaper to manufacture products here and export them back to South Africa."

    Apart from timber the other natural resources in Ghana are gold, industrial diamonds, bauxite, manganese, fish, rubber, hydropower, petroleum, silver, salt and limestone.

    South African farmers could also reap large benefits by starting up operations to grow vegetables with a view to exporting them. Local vegetables are considered rather exotic to South African palates.

    "Your farmers can invest here and grow cassava, plantain and yams for instance and then sell them in your designer supermarkets as premium crops," he suggested.

    Ghana is quite an attractive investment destination boasting a growing, wealthy middle class as can be seen in the construction of literally hundreds of multi-storey manors in Tema.

    The country's infrastructure includes 42,623 km of roads, of which 3,267 km is tarred and 39,356 km is untarred according to 2004 estimates.

    This indicates that much work and investment still needs to take place, although judging by the number of industrial cranes and domestic building sites, it would appear development is rapidly forging ahead in the west African nation.

    Another major infrastructure achievement is Lake Volta, which is the world's largest artificial lake.

    Kotoka International Airport is strategically located, being about seven hours from the United States and South Africa and about six hours from Paris.

    According to estimates, Ghana has roughly twice the per capita output of the poorest countries in the ECOWAS region.

    However, the country remains heavily dependent on international financial and technical assistance.

    Gold, timber, and cocoa production are major sources of foreign exchange and the domestic economy continues to revolve around subsistence agriculture.

    This accounts for 37 percent of GDP and employs 60 percent of the work force, who are mostly, small-scale landowners.

    In terms of import partners, 2005 figures put Nigeria first at 15.2 percent, China 12.5 percent, the US at 6.3 percent, United Kingdom at 5.2 percent, South Africa at 4.5 percent, Brazil 4.1 percent and the Netherlands 4 percent.

    These figures are promising and indicate that South Africa would do well to step up its investment efforts and take advantage of the opportunities Ghana's emerging economy presents.

    Railroad Development Corporation to suspend rail operations in Guatamala

    Henry Posner III is chairman of US-based Railroad Development Corporation, a principal shareholder in the Nacala Corridor Development Company (CDN) which holds the concession to operate the Nacala railway corridor between the port of Nacala and the Malawi border in northern Mozambique. CDN came under fire in recent months from the Mozambique minister of transport Rui Fonseca with accusations of slow delivery with regards to performance improvements (see PORTS & SHIPS News Bulletin dated 12 February 2007). Last weekend Mr Posner copied the following message to PORTS & SHIPS

    From Henry Posner III, chairman, Railroad Development Corporation

    Friday, 6 July - From our latest press releases and news clips you have seen the unfortunate events unfold concerning our railroad interest in Guatemala. Today we are sharing with you a letter that is being translated into Spanish and distributed to the customers, employees and friends of Ferrovias Guatemala.

    As you know, nearly a year ago, on August 25, 2006, the Government of Guatemala promulgated a Declaration of Lesividad with regard to our usufruct contract for our rolling stock and equipment; this action was reflective of the Government's determination to put us out of business. As a result of this Declaration, our shipments have declined and our operating difficulties have increased. Among the problems created have been an inability to obtain credit; an increase in squatters of all types, ranging from families to private companies; judicial interference; and police indifference and neglect. Most significantly, and fundamental to our profitability, our ability to attract additional investment and revenue from various uses of our right of way has disappeared.

    Through the tireless efforts of our employees and the determined support of Railroad Development Corporation (RDC), we have continued to operate in order to see whether there was anything that we could possibly do to overcome the effects of the Declaration of Lesividad. Unfortunately, we must report to you that, instead of improving, matters have gotten worse; it is therefore impossible for FVG (Ferrovias Guatamala - the Guatamala railway operation – P&S) to continue operations under the current circumstances.

    At present, FVG has a commitment to move traffic that will require approximately 12 weeks to complete. RDC has agreed to continue its support of FVG to enable us to satisfy these commitments; this support will enable us to satisfy any other customer needs during that period and to enable our employees to plan for the future. Therefore, FVG will continue rail operations until October 1, 2007, at which point rail operations will be suspended until further notice.

    On its part, RDC will continue with the actions necessary to vindicate its legal rights. RDC will also continue to set the record straight about the grave violations and abuses committed by the government of Guatemala that have obstructed the vision that we have had as a company to make the revival of the national rail system a reality.

    As one who has personally dedicated himself to the cause of railways in Guatemala since 1995, I felt that I should be the one to deliver this news. This has been a personal burden as well as a financial one, but because of the Government's action and the lack of rule of law in Guatemala, we have no other alternative.

    NSRI assist yacht into port

    Durban, 8 July, 2007 – The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) reported late yesterday afternoon that one of its rescue craft EIKOS RESCUER II had been launched to assist a Hout Bay registered catamaran yacht, TI BAY into Durban port after the yacht reported engine failure on one of its two engines off the Durban Bluff and in 35 knots winds. A Vodacom Netcare 911 helicopter was also dispatched to assist if necessary.

    The couple on board the TI BAY, Claus and Beryl Thaler were found to be in no immediate danger, according to Alex McNamara, duty coxswain at the Durban NSRI station. He said the couple managed to motor their catamaran into port on one engine and was escorted to a visitor’s anchorage in harbour by the rescue craft EIKOS RESCUER II.

    The Cape yacht is expected to continue to Richards Bay once the engine has been repaired.

    source – Craig Lambinon, media spokesman for NSRI

    Pic of the day – ORIANA

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    P&O’s cruise ship ORIANA (69,153-gt,2,108-passengers) always makes a grand site wherever she goes – in this case the ship was at Richards Bay on 29 March 2006. The picture was taken by Arrie Burggraaf, former chief engineer of Portnet, forerunner of the National Ports Authority

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

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