Ports & Ships Maritime News

Dec 11, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Africa, the Outside Edge

  • African, European trade talks falter

  • IMB calls on Nigeria to investigate tanker attack

  • Somali standoff as pirates face Coalition naval forces

  • Dar es Salaam blamed for some of Mombasa’s ills

  • Pic of the day – INKUNZI

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    Africa, the Outside Edge

    Internationally known adventurer Kingsley Holgate recently reached the halfway point of his epic voyage around the perimeter of Africa.

    The journey is being undertaken on land using Land Rovers and rubber inflatable craft for the numerous river crossings and has so far seen the small party travel up South Africa’s west coast into Namibia, along the Skeleton Coast (where they visited the scene of the World War II shipwreck of the DUNEDIN STAR) and across the Cunene River into Angola.

    The expedition later crossed into the two Congos on the way further north, along the Gabonese coastline and into Cameroun and then swinging west into Nigeria. After several adventures along the West African coast the team diverted inland into the headwaters of the Niger to make a special trip to Timbuktu in Mali before racing back to a position where they could find a television set and watch the rugby World Cup final!

    These lively and highly interesting accounts can be are made available as they arrive and can be found in our SEA STORIES column – where you will be able to follow the entire year long journey around Africa, via the Outside Edge.

    To read all of Kingsley Holgate’s illustrated reports in PORTS & SHIPS

    African, European trade talks falter

    Talks at the weekend between members of the African Union and the European Union failed to achieve any new harmonious relationship, and a deep sense of distrust became evident on the part of the African nations with regards future trade agreements.

    The issues revolved around a new economic partnership agreement (EPA) by the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which would replace a current preferential system that according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is now illegal.

    Of the 78 countries being asked to sign the EPA only 15, of which 13 are in Africa, have actually done so. The agreement would result in African markets being opened to European goods on a gradual basis, a situation that many of the African states fear would bring harm to their economies unless guarantees were built in.

    The proposed trade-off between the EU and the Caribbean, African and Pacific region countries would have seen them being granted open access to European markets, with the exception of certain commodities such as sugar and rice. The EPA would have replaced the Cotonou agreement, under which African countries currently trade with the EU, as well as certain bi-lateral agreements between individual countries and their former colonial masters. Without any new deal however Africa would come under the more strict General System of Preferences.

    European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso admitted at the conclusion of the summit that the EPA negotiations had proved “difficult”. There has been no indication given as to the way forward following the summit.

    The other member countries of the South African Development Community (SADC), with the exception of South Africa and Namibia, are among the 13 African states that signed the interim agreement and those who signed also included the other members of SACU (Southern African Customs Union). Observers are now questioning whether this will bring strain to the world’s oldest customs union.

    Both South Africa and Namibia say the EPA will undermine their respective wfforts towards industrialisation on account of making possible cheaper European imports into the region. They also say it will impact on SADC’s regional integration drive. More than one critic has accused the European Union of implementing divide and rule tactics against Africa.

    IMB calls on Nigeria to investigate tanker attack

    The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has reported that a product tanker was recently boarded by armed attackers at anchorage off Lagos.

    The vessel was hijacked after twelve persons in military fatigues approached the vessel aboard what appeared to be a military launch. Nine of those boarded the vessel and attempted to coerce the tanker’s Master on to the launch. The Captain refused and managed to escape. As he fled towards the accommodation, the hijackers opened fire on him. Fortunately, he managed to get into the accommodation block unhurt and proceeded to the bridge and initiated security alert procedures.

    The attackers managed to take three crewmembers hostage, whose ordeal ended when their release was secured with a ransom of cash and cigarettes. Whilst in custody of the hijackers, it was made clear to the hostages that the attack was specifically targeted at the vessel and was not opportunist.

    During several hours of looting, the robbers made further grave threats to crew members demanding substantial sums of money. These threats were repeated the following day, after the attackers had departed, in a telephone call to the master. A further attack was threatened at the vessel’s next port of call, Port Harcourt.

    “This is a totally unacceptable situation,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau which runs the Piracy Reporting Centre. “Nigeria has one of the best armed forces in the region, widely deployed in peacekeeping missions in Africa. We call upon the Nigerian Navy to investigate this incident and punish those responsible. It is a disgrace that persons wearing military uniform, normally trusted by Ship’s Masters, should get away with such criminal acts.”

    The IMB says it recommends that all vessels calling at Nigeria facing similar problems should inform the IMB so that a more complete picture of these abuses can be passed on to the authorities for their action.

    Somali standoff as pirates face Coalition naval forces

    A standoff continues near the port of Bossaso in Puntland in northern Somalia after a coalition of Puntland forces and US and German warships have set up a blockade of the pirate-held Japanese chemical tanker GOLDEN NORI.

    The pirates, reported to number 60 heavily armed men, are held up on board the tanker near Bossaso after they captured it on 28 October. At the time an American warship opened fire on the skiffs attacking the ship but then ceased fire on learning of the volatile nature of the ship’s cargo of benzene.

    With the pirates in control the tanker was able to make its way towards the Puntland coast where coalition naval forces subsequently set up the blockade. But in a unusual twist the pirates now claim the highjacking of the ship was in response to the murder of two of their men and the destruction of a fishing vessel owned by the Somalis (presumably by the American warship).

    They have demanded ‘payment’ for the loss of the boat and the men killed which they say the owners of Golden Nori have agreed to make, after which they would release the hostages on board the ship – Filipinos and South East Asians.

    Puntland administrators however have dismissed the claims saying the men holding the ship are pirates and that the ship will be taken by military force unless they surrender. But a Kenyan spokesman for the Seafarers’ Association says the presence of coalition naval ships is complicating the issue of securing the release of the crew and ship. The escape of a Korean seaman from the ship has added to the complications, he added.

    Yesterday (Monday) the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a statement saying the pirates were demanding a ransom of one million dollars for the release of the ship and crew.

    Puntland is a semi autonomous state on the northeast of Somalia, straddling the Horn of Africa.

    Dar es Salaam blamed for some of Mombasa’s ills

    Efforts to relieve the congestion at the Kenyan port of Mombasa are being undermined by ongoing inefficiencies at the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, says a report in the East African Business Daily.

    A report by the Inter Governmental Standing Committee on Shipping (ISCOS) and quoted by the paper says that what goes on at Dar es Salaam has a direct impact on Mombasa because so many ships are diverted to the Kenya port.

    As a result of congestion delays at Mombasa shipping lines recently introduced a container surcharge, which was later placed on hold until the end of December following an appeal by a high level delegation from the Kenya Ports Authority which met with the respective shipping lines. There are fears now that the lines will go ahead and introduce the surcharge on the expiry of the moratorium on 31 December 2007.

    Kenya Ports Authority in the meantime has taken measures to reduce the delays with appeals to importers to remove overstay containers from the port. These measures are reported to have resulted in mixed success. The port authority has set about introducing new equipment at Mombasa’s container terminal and recently announced that a second container terminal would be built using Japanese finance at the port.

    A 10-year programme of upgrading the port includes dredging to a depth of 15m to enable larger ships access to the terminals but in the meantime the prospect of the surcharge from January remains hanging over the port.

    Pic of the day – INKUNZI

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The Port of Cape Town floating crane INKUNZI as photographed this week by Aad Noorland. The crane is one of two similar machines, the other named INDLOVU being based at Durban. A third and smaller crane is now owned and operated by the ship repair company of Elgin Brown & Hamer in the port of Durban. Picture Aad Noorland

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