Ports & Ships Maritime News

Nov 12, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Singapore’s Portek takes over West African ports

  • East London back in business as new C-class Mercedes is exported

  • Navy uses ex German minesweeper for target practice

  • Local BEE company expands shipping interests

  • Not enough growth and profit in container trades – Maersk Line

  • Pic of the day – MAERSK WILLOW

    Singapore’s Portek takes over West African ports

    map of GABON courtesy CIA Factbook

    The listed Singapore-based Portek International, which was established in 1988 and has since emerged as a global port operator with operations in Africa, Malta and Indonesia, has taken effective control of the West African ports of Owendo and Gentil in Gabon.

    The 25-year concessions grant Portek through Gabon Port Terminals the management and operation of the multipurpose port of Port Owendo which is situated near the country’s capital of Libreville, and Port Gentil some 160 km south of Libreville. Port Gentil handles much of Gabon’s oil exploration and production activities.

    Gabon Port Terminals paid US$6 million for the concession and is expected to invest between $4m and $6m on new infrastructure, maintenance and refurbishment as well as IT and security systems, which will be funded from its own cash flow.

    "Our challenge is to ensure services undergo a smooth transition and at the same time introduce new equipment and systems. The second priority will be to provide productivity improvements," said Portek chairman Larry Lam.

    East London back in business as new C-class Mercedes is exported

    The first shipment of the latest C-class Mercedes motor car was exported to the United States from the port of East London last week, marking the welcome end to a lengthy period of relative inactivity in terms of exports from the Eastern Cape port.

    The inactivity was brought about by the need to retool the East London plant ahead of manufacturing the latest model of C-class vehicles to be produced by the German manufacturer.

    Almost 400 new vehicles were loaded onto the pure car carrier MAERSK WILLOW for the initial shipment and this will be followed by further shipments every two weeks for the next seven years of the current model’s expected life cycle. The vehicles will be discharged at Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Long Beach in the US.

    Ultimately something like 225,000 of these cars will be exported to the US over the 7-year contract period where they currently sell for US$34,000 (about R220,000).

    Also in East London work has commenced on an R18 million parkade within the port’s car terminal.

    The project under the auspices of Transnet Port Terminals and Transnet National Ports Authority is aimed at increasing capacity ahead of demand and will provide an additional 1000 parking lots. The existing car terminal has parking slots for 2,880 vehicles.

    The new parkade is being constructed on the site of East London’s old West Bank power station, adjacent to the car terminal.

    DaimlerChrysler has welcomed the development and has indicated it will welcome other OEMs to East London because this will create new employment and act as an attraction for young people to stay in the region.

    No doubt the German manufacturer will also welcome a lessoning of the port city’s dependency on itself.

    Navy uses ex German minesweeper for target practice

    The South African Navy recently conducted a weapons testing exercise in front of the media during which live missiles were fired on a derelict vessel, sinking it south of Cape Point.

    The vessel in the firing line was the former German minesweeper KONSTANZ, which had been acquired with a number of sister vessels as replacements and spares for the Navy’s City Class minesweepers.

    The weapons firing exercise took place as part of an annual military exercise code-named Exercise Red Lion, during which two frigates, SAS SPIOENKOP and SAS MENDI each fired one Exocet MM.40 block 1 missile at the target, destroying the wooden ship completely and afterwards leaving only debris floating on the water. The bulk of the vessel sank in deep water where it will become an artificial reef and breeding ground for fish.

    Prior to the sinking all pollutants had been removed from the vessel along with all useable parts.

    The navy said in a statement afterwards that it was necessary to test weapon systems from time to time and to evaluate capabilities. Prior to the exercise permission had been sought and granted in accordance with requirements of the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), which had issued a permit to go ahead.

    Also involved in the exercise were several other ships, including SAS DRAKENSBERG which towed the target to the firing area, and the strike craft SAS ISAAC DYOBHA which conducted range safety clearance with the assistance of an Oryx helicopter from 22 Squadron, Ysterplaat Air Force Base.

    Exercise RED LION is continuing and will conclude on 27 November 2007.

    In another and somewhat unusual event, the navy assisted various other law enforcement agencies with the investigation into suspected drug smuggling off the South African coast.

    The navy was called in to assist with monitoring a fish factory vessel that rounded the Cape and which was believed to have been carrying a cargo of drugs. The ship had been monitored from the air by aircraft of the South African Air Force after intelligence indicated the ship was sailing down the west coast and would round the Cape at a certain time. The frigate SAS ISANDLWANA was sent to follow the ship covertly for 24 hours and when authorities noticed the ship was not carrying a flag or other national identification, the decision was made to board and search the vessel.

    Police sniffer dogs found no evidence of anything in the nature of drugs and the ship‘s master produced papers indicating his vessel was registered in Conakry in Guinea. As nothing untoward had been found the vessel was allowed to proceed, but shortly afterward turned round and retraced its path up the west coast, arriving in Abidjan where a search by Ivory Coast authorities revealed nothing suspicious.

    It is suspected that if the ship was carrying drugs they were thrown overboard once those on the ship became aware they were under surveillance. Since then a parcel of cocaine has been washed up on the beach near Gansbaai near Hermanus on the southern Cape coast, which South African authorities believe may have come from the mystery ship.

    Local BEE company expands shipping interests

    SANKO OASIS in Richards Bay harbour

    Cape Town based BEE shipping company, Marine Bulk Carriers, has expanded its interests in the international bulk shipping business by adding two more vessels to those already under its commercial management. These agreements require MBC to employ these vessels on a worldwide basis and be responsible for all aspects of freight and vessel operations.

    MBC’s relationship with Sanko Steamship Company of Japan has been furthered by being awarded another Cape size vessel for full commercial management. MBC has also independently chartered a Panamax size vessel for a period of two years.

    Lester Peteni, Company chairman and major shareholder says “While the world shipping markets are at an all time peak driven by the commodity boom and imports to China, MBC has been able to establish itself as a mover in the bulk business. These latest moves will boost our capital base for further expansion. MBC now has an annual turnover of R400 million and has come a long way since its establishment four years ago.”

    Marine Bulk Carriers’ Director Jan Rabie says in terms of an agreement with Sanko, MBC will be taking over the commercial management of the 162,000 ton Cape size vessel SANKO OASIS. “We already have the 150,000 ton SANKO SPARK under our commercial management and the latest agreement is further confirmation of Sanko’s commitment to our business.”

    Sanko owns a 20 percent share in Marine Bulk Carriers, in what the Sanko company chairman and CEO, Mr Steve Matsui, described as a long term commitment to the South African shipping business. The Sanko investment in MBC gave MBC access to a fleet of more than 120 bulk carriers, tankers, LPG gas carriers and offshore vessels for the development of its international business, including focusing on Southern African business.

    Sanko also committed a significant number of training berths on its vessels for South African cadets who require experience at sea before they are able to qualify as officers.

    Rabie says the fact that the Sanko Spark and Sanko Oasis each represents earnings potential of more than US$150,000 per day to Sanko, places a huge responsibility on the South African company and is an indication of the confidence Sanko has in MBC`s ability to manage the employment of these vessels.

    “Sanko has also asked us to utilise these two vessels to create more job opportunities for South Africans,” he says. “By 2008 MBC will have 16 officer cadets and five qualified officers working in the Sanko fleet. These officers and cadets are all products of the training, development and placement programme of our sister company, Marine Crew Services, for South African seafarers.”

    Despite the complete lack of support from government and the discredited TETA organisation, MCS has already created 105 seafarer jobs for South Africans and a further 102 jobs for other Africans, mainly Angolan. According to Deanna Collins, director of MCS, “Job creation for us is a reality, not just a slogan.”

    Collins says it is also MBC’s intension to utilise the Sanko Spark and the Sanko Oasis to create more opportunities for South African ratings.

    MBC has also chartered the Panamax size vessel, ELINAKOS, of 73,780 tons for a period of two years. The Elinakos is presently loading coal at Dalrymple Bay in Australia for shipment to Brazil. Rabie says the Elinakos will add a new vessel size category to Marine Bulk Carriers’ business.

    Not enough growth and profit in container trades – Maersk Line

    Until recently he was CEO of Carlsberg Brewery before being brought into the troubled AP Moller-Maersk job to sort out the company’s troubles. Now he says that there is not enough growth in the container business and not enough profits.

    At least that is what Nils Smedegaard Anderson told London’s Financial Times within a day of assuming office.

    Anderson was appointed CEO after a management shake-up in June in which several senior executives were shaken out of the company and another, Anderson’s predecessor Jess Soderberg, sent off to pasture two years early.

    Maersk Line’s problems are considered to have arisen from the takeover by AP Moller-Maersk of rival company P&O Nedlloyd, which then occupied the number three position among container lines behind Maersk Line and MSC. Maersk Line’s problems came with not properly integrating the computer systems of its former rival, problems that haven’t quite gone away.

    But according to the new chief executive the real challenge facing AP Moller-Maersk is that container shipping is not growing fast enough and not making enough money. He sees his first priority as improving returns and says the container line will have to identify the right routes to operate along with better pricing mechanisms.

    One of the routes on which the line has lost money is believed to be to the United States.

    Pic of the day – MAERSK WILLOW

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The pure car carrier MAERSK WILLOW (52,691-gt) seen at Durban’s R berth on 9 November 2007. Earlier in the week this ship had loaded 382 of the new C-class Mercedes motor cars for export to the United States – see report above. Picture Terry Hutson

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