Ports & Ships Maritime News

Sep 10, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Drama off Pondoland coast as cargo ship AMUL is abandoned

  • Kenya grain trade opens to bidders

  • Crackdown on people smuggling in Puntland

  • Turnaround as Malawi donation keeps WFP food aid flowing

  • International maritime news

  • Pic of the day – AMUL

    Drama off Pondoland coast as cargo ship AMUL is abandoned

    The abandonment of the ill-fated general cargo ship AMUL (3,086-GT) off the Pondoland coast on Friday is the latest in a long saga of ships finding themselves in trouble off this difficult coast. But suggestions of another ‘triangle’ akin to the so-called Bermuda triangle should not be taken seriously.

    There is usually a logical explanation for accidents at sea including those that have occurred along the Wild Coast and more often than not it turns out to be human error that is to blame.

    The same may prove so of the latest drama, in which the crew of 18 abandoned the ship when she began taking large amounts of water, as the ship battled her way from Port Elizabeth towards Durban.
    The vessel was about 20 miles off the coast opposite Port St Johns when the decision to abandon was made. The crew were subsequently rescued by the fishing trawler IRTYCH and products tanker ROSA TOMASOS (23,217-gt) while Air Force helicopters from Port Elizabeth also assisted and plucked two men from the sea.

    The human error side in this latest incident might well be, assuming the reports of her condition to be true, that the ship was allowed to sail such a long and dangerous journey under her own steam in the first place. Somebody somewhere decided the ship was in good enough condition to make it to India and the breakers torches.

    While in Port Elizabeth harbour officials and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) became aware of certain shortcomings and further repairs were ordered, with the ship being detained until these were carried out. Apparently this wasn’t enough for the conditions the ship was shortly to encounter (stiff winds and moderate swells of 4 – 5 metres) and according to reports water began to ingress at a disturbing rate while at the same time the cargo of scrap metal began shifting dangerously in the hold – in particular the hold immediately in front of the engine room, where badly corroded bulkheads provided only flimsy protection from this loose cargo.

    Under the circumstances it is not surprising that the crew opted to face the elements in a lifeboat rather than stay on a ship that they must have thought could break up at any moment.

    One year ago the ship was detained with eight deficiencies by port state authorities in the port of Hartlepool in the UK – at that time she was under the ownership of Transonega Shipping and flying the Russian flag. Having satisfied Port State Control in the UK that repairs had been satisfactorily carried out, she was ultimately allowed to sail from the port.

    The ship is now registered in the Comoros and her name changed from Amul 2511 to simply Amul – a common practice when ships are sold for one last journey to the breakers.

    What needs to be examined perhaps is whether these old ships should be permitted to make one-way trips to the scrappers when their condition is sadly neglected. In this case the ship appeared to be little more than a rust bucket.

    The expression used by an observer in Port Elizabeth – someone with experience of the sea and ships from her time as a member of the South African Navy, was that “This is one dicey looking vessel” – which proved to be prophetic words indeed. See PIC OF THE DAY below for her long range photograph.

    Meanwhile the savage tug SMIT AMANDLA is reported to have taken the vessel in tow and was moving the ship away from the coast at the weekend, while the crew have since been landed safely in Durban.

    Incidentally, in the UK the Maritime and Coastguard agency (MCA) publishes full details of any foreign flagged vessels detained in UK ports each month. This results from one of the recommendations of the Lord Donaldson enquiry into the prevention of pollution from merchant shipping, and is also in compliance with the EU Directive on Port State Control (95/21/EC as amended).

    Perhaps it is now time that port detention lists were made public in South Africa – perhaps on the SAMSA website.

    Kenya grain trade opens to bidders

    Grain handling at the port of Mombasa, which has been in the hands of a single operator for an extended number of years, will be open to tender, says a Kenya government spokesman.

    This follows the rejection of an application by Grain Bulk Handlers (GBHL) to have its contract extended until 2028.

    However would-be bidders for the service have been warned that while the process will be competitive, with each application treated on merit, grain handling requires having the right infrastructure in addition to modern technology. Applicants must apply to the Kenya Ports Authority.

    "They must have the capacity that is effective in providing quick and massive services in line with the expectations of the users of the port," said the spokesman.

    The current contract with GBHL expires in February 2008 and government has made it clear it would like other operators to bid. GBHL’s application for an extension to its five year contract was rejected by the port authority two months ago, a decision the government says is final as it wants the process opened up to other interested investors to make bids.

    The move follows concerns expressed in parliament at what was dubbed a lopsided arrangement with GBHL. The spokesman however made it clear that the firm had provided a good service of handling grain imports over the years.

    Also at issue with the new tender will be the question of tariffs, with the KPA likely to increase its rates. Under the existing contract GBHL pays the equivalent of US$2.08 per tonne for grain handled.

    The report presented by parliament says that the ports authority (KPA) ‘must ensure that the tariff payable by GBHL and other handlers of similar commodities are reviewed to reflect the prevailing competitive market realities’.

    source – The Nation

    Crackdown on people smuggling in Puntland

    Nairobi (IRIN) - Somalia's self-declared autonomous region of Puntland has cracked down on people smugglers who have been using its ports as a springboard to get illegal migrants into the Gulf States, the head of police said.

    The crackdown is intended to stop the smuggling of Ethiopian and Somali migrants to countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia, a phenomenon that peaks at this time of the year.

    "We have increased our patrols to deal with this problem before the [people smuggling] season starts in earnest," Gen Abdiaziz Said Gaamey, Puntland's police chief told IRIN from Bossaso, Puntland's commercial capital, on 6 September. "We have so far confiscated five boats and three trucks used by the smugglers to ferry the migrants."

    The smuggling season usually runs from this month until December.

    Gamaey said a few thousand Somalis from southern Somalia and Ethiopians were already in Bossaso and the surrounding area.

    According to a report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), at least 3,000 Ethiopians, and an unknown number of Somalis fleeing ongoing fighting in and around Mogadishu, the Somali capital, have gathered in the northern port town of Bossaso to attempt a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.

    The police chief said they had been getting reports of migrants in bad condition on the roads north and south of Bossaso. "We had to rent trucks to pick them up. Sometimes we find them in a terrible state."


    Gaamey said the Puntland authorities repatriated 3,000-5,000 migrants last year "but more seem to come". However, he said the problem was bigger than Puntland and needed to be addressed internationally.

    "Puntland is doing its bit to address the problem," he said. "What is missing is the international community. This is a huge problem and Puntland alone cannot contain it."

    Despite the crackdown, many migrants were still arriving in Bossaso, according to local sources.

    The police have, meanwhile, started a campaign to explain the dangers of the journey facing the migrants, said Gaamey. "Detained migrants have officers assigned to them to explain the dangers," he said.

    Sources said most migrants were a mixture of political and economic refugees in search of safety, refuge from persecution, or improved economic conditions. Many of them are Ethiopians and Somalis trying to reach the Middle East or beyond.

    According to the UNHCR, at least 367 people have died crossing from Bossaso to Yemen since January.

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

    Turnaround as Malawi donation keeps WFP food aid flowing

    Lilongwe (Malawi) – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) last week warmly welcomed a donation of 10,425 metric tons of maize worth US$1.8 million from the Malawian government, which will ensure that tens of thousands of vulnerable Malawians continue to receive crucial food assistance until the end of 2007.

    "WFP is extremely grateful for this generous donation from the Malawian government as it will allow us to meet the needs of all our nutrition and HIV/AIDS beneficiaries until the end of the year," said Dom Scalpelli, WFP Country Director in Malawi.

    "This latest contribution demonstrates the government's continued support for WFP's vital food assistance programmes in Malawi and reaffirms its position as one of the major donors to our operations in this country."

    The Malawi government is the second largest donor after the United States to WFP Malawi's current activities under the three-year protracted relief and recovery operation (PRRO), having so far contributed US$25.6 million to the operation, which finishes at the end of 2007.

    Under the PRRO, WFP is currently providing assistance every month to over 110,000 people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS in eight districts across Malawi, which has an adult HIV/AIDS prevalent rate of 14 percent. In addition, WFP is helping around 1,500 malnourished mothers and children in therapeutic feeding centres countrywide.

    This donation will enable WFP to continue providing assistance to all of these beneficiaries over the next four months and to gradually scale up its operations as planned to reach a peak of 203,000 people in November and December.

    Along with increased numbers of beneficiaries under its HIV/AIDS and therapeutic feeding activities, WFP will also provide food assistance to vulnerable people under a food-for-assets programme that is due to start in November.

    "Food is absolutely crucial to the fight against HIV/AIDS and this donation will allow WFP to provide assistance to thousands of poor, hungry families affected by the pandemic," said Scalpelli. "WFP has made a huge difference to the lives of so many Malawians over the years and now we will be able to help even more people in the coming months."

    International maritime news

    Crew shortages - A shipping conference in Singapore heard last week that the only way to prevent future shortages of seafarers and to sustain the supply of human resources in the industry is to have a minimum mandatory intake of two cadets per ship.

    This was the opinion of Anglo-Eastern Ship Management's Quality Assurance & Training director Pradeep Chawla, who said that for the past three years organisations and individuals such as BIMCO/ISF had predicted a serious shortage of ships officers. Shortages of 10,000 seafarers were predicted in a 2005 BIMCO/ISF study, he pointed out.

    “The warnings fell on deaf ears in most cases. Calls to recruit more cadets and spend on training were ignored by the industry in general. Well, the predictions have come true and today we are in the middle of a very severe shortage of officers. The stock market may go up or down in the next twelve months, but the chances for finding good quality officers is certainly going down in the next twelve months!”

    Chawla said that the situation was the same everywhere in the world. “Every officer could find a job easily. Retired officers are being wooed to come back to sea with the lure of high wages and short contracts. Younger officers are being poached by companies willing to pay higher wages, or willing to offer quicker promotions. Owners/managers with small fleets hardly have the choice of ‘selecting’ good quality officers. They have to take whoever is available, and on the conditions demanded by the seafarer.”

    Chawla said that many young Indians still wanted to go to sea. “In August 2007 we received over 2,000 applications for 300 trainee vacancies that we advertised for.”

    source – Maritime Global Net

    Liberia a man down. Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has annulled the nomination of John Stewart, whom she had appointed only last week, to head the Bureau of Maritime Affairs.

    This follows charges of professional misconduct being brought against Mr Stewart relating to when he was practicing as a lawyer in the United States.

    Stewart has also been removed of his post as deputy maritime commissioner, according to reports, but has denied any wrongdoing.

    “My professional competence and capability are not in doubt or have in any way been impeded in whatever assignment I was undertaking. The Legal profession is one of trust and that I have strived to uphold in all my practice. My ability to perform as a legal expert and Maritime professional speaks for itself. My experience in maritime law and policy is unparalleled. My record at the Bureau of Maritime Affairs, dating back to 1988 is impeccable. It must also be made absolutely clear that there has never been any misconduct, be it criminal or otherwise in my professional career,” he said.

    source – Maritime Global Net

    Pic of the day – AMUL

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The general cargo vessel AMUL seen in Port Elizabeth harbour in late August, where the ship was detained until certain deficiencies were made good. The photographer said at the time “This is one dicey looking vessel.” Prophetic words! Picture by Dayle Coombe

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