Ports & Ships Maritime News

Dec 10, 2007
Author: P&S

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  • Revamp and promises for Durban passenger terminal

  • Navy ships undergo change of command as other shortages bite

  • Chinese importers fined for illegal timber

  • Acergy awarded major offshore contract in Angola

  • CMA CGM buys out US Lines

  • Pic of the day – AMDERMA

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    Revamp and promises for Durban passenger terminal

    Melody, the first ship of the 2007/08 summer cruise season arrived in Durban on Saturday (8 December), one day after Transnet National Ports Authority revealed that the N-Shed Passenger Terminal had undergone a comprehensive refurbishment.

    The revamp consists of more than just a cleanup or paint job, although both those activities took place. Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been kind and quite a lot of work on the outside of the building remains incomplete, but N Shed is still looking good under a new coat of paint, new aluminium windows and a sizeable awning fronting the building onto the berth where passengers will disembark.

    Additional awnings are planned for the outside to provide shelter from either the sun or rain but it is inside the terminal where most attention has been given, not only with cleaning and repainting but also to matters of security and ease of processing arriving and disembarking passengers.

    Whenever a cruise ship calls the terminal becomes an official entry point into South Africa, which requires the presence of immigration officials, customs officers, a visible police presence as well as systems to handle passengers efficiently and professionally.

    Drawing on the experience of what takes place at international airports the port terminal has now been divided into three sections. The first is a large hall in which passengers can congregate on arrival (or departure) in which a number of upmarket souvenir type shop points are catered for and where passengers can exchange currency, make phone calls, have a cup of tea – much like the general area within an International Airport.

    Next comes the booking hall, into which departing passengers will move to book in and hand over their main luggage. As with an airport all baggage will be scanned at this point before being taken to a secure area ahead of loading on board the ship. The baggage area is in an additional section of the building which remains highly secure and which will shortly be covered by CCTV cameras, while sniffer dogs will give the bags a final once over to ensure no drugs, explosives or other contraband are taken on board (or brought ashore).

    The third hall is for processing passengers through immigration and customs and now has proper facilities for inspections. From this point departing passengers will proceed on board ship and once they have entered this section there is no going back into the public area - again as with airports.

    Hennie Strydom (left) and port manager Ricky Bhikraj. Picture Terry Hutson

    Port Manager Ricky Bhikraj explained that the terminal remained a work in progress which is costing millions of rands. He also pointed out that the terminal had been turned into a liquor free zone which meant that there would be no leasing it out for parties and functions in future.

    “There are obligations under the ISPS Code (International Ship and Port Facility) and it is therefore a requirement on us to handle the passenger terminal as a normal port facility,” he said.

    “We have to create the correct image for South Africa, as this is a tourist port of entry and it is important for foreign visitors to be given a positive impression of the country right from arrival.”

    He said that cruising was coming off a low base in South Africa but was growing. The Port of Durban was looking at a partnership with the Port of Cape Town to work with the cruise companies regarding future fly/cruise options.

    Bhikraj said there were three distinct types of cruise visitors coming to South Africa. The first were those who went on short ‘booze cruise’ types of holiday (the Melody) and who didn’t become involved with local tourism.

    The second were those from ships that spent just a day in port, where passengers went on half or one day tours of the region (including to shopping malls), and the third sector was the serious and usually well educated passenger with an interest in additional tourism in the country. These passengers would spend a week or so in the port city undertaking detailed tours of the region to places like the battlefields and game parks.

    This third sector was the one that the Port of Durban would particularly like to grow, he said, adding that between now and 2010 the port intended offering excellent facilities at the passenger terminal. Beyond this there were plans to develop a specialised terminal at A Berth on the Point.

    “The A berth area is not available right now because of the channel widening project but once that is complete after 2010 we intend developing it as a dedicated passenger terminal. That is my commitment.”

    “When a cruise ship arrives in port we must greet it as a part of South Africa Pty Limited; not meet it separately as SARS (Customs), Immigration, SA Police Services etc. In other words we must project South Africa as a destination with excellent facilities and a warm welcome.”

    Head of Security in the port, Hennie Strydom said it has been a challenge to find the correct scanners for hand and main baggage, owing to the worldwide demand for security equipment. He said there was still a lot of work to be undertaken, especially outside the terminal where 17 days had been lost in November owing to rain.

    The season’s inaugural cruise ship Melody sailed again later on Saturday on the first of a number of two, three and four day cruises out of Durban which will continue until April. A number of other cruise ships are booked in the months ahead, including the Italian luxury ship Silver Cloud, the Kenyan cruise vessel Royal Star, the c Columbus, Island Sky, Van Gogh, Black Watch, Delphine Voyager and Oriana. Also returning to Durban for a three day visit is the cruising apartment ship The World, making her second visit to the city.

    Navy ships undergo change of command as other shortages bite

    Amidst reports that the South African Navy is suffering from an acute shortage of trained and qualified personnel, particularly in the submarine service, several changes of command of surface ships have taken place in the last week or so.

    The frigate SAS AMATOLA (F145) has a new officer commanding – he is Commander Michael Girsa who was appointed OC of the ship at a Change of Command ceremony at Simon’s Town last Tuesday (4 December), taking over command of the country’s first Valour class ship from Captain DG Jamieson who had been appointed to the ship as Delivery Captain in 2003, later bringing her out from Germany.

    Cdr Girsa joined the navy as a rating in 1983 and has since risen through the ranks before completing the SAN senior command and staff programme while serving on the third new frigate, SAS SPIOENKOP. Before that he served as executive officer on board the Amatola.

    The following day Cdr George de Voogt handed over command of the anti mine measure vessel SAS UMHLOTI to Lt Cdr Khwaedi Lotta Mabula. Cdr de Voogt had been in command of the Umhloti since 2005 – he joined the Mine Counter Measures Flotilla after completing his basic training as a junior rating before going on an Officers Course at Naval College.

    Lt Cdr Mabula comes from Limpopo Province and is a former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) activist who was integrated into the navy post 1994. He completed Military Officers’ Training in 1999 before completing the Combat Officers’ Course Qualifying Part 1. In 2001 he was promoted from Ensign to Sub Lieutenant and then completed Combat Officers Course Qualifying Part 2. In 2005 he was Acting First Lieutenant on SAS UMKOMAAS for six months and was then appointed First Lieutenant of SAS UMHLOTI in July that year. He also obtained his Mine Hunter Endorsement in 2005 and completed Command detachment training on SAS Umhloti in early 2007.

    The full CV’s of these officers can be found at http://www.navy.mil.za/

    Reports of a shortage of skilled personnel within the navy have been circulating for some considerable time, with strenuous denials by the navy. On one occasion the navy went so far as to fly media to Simon’s Town in an effort of convincing the public that the situation wasn’t quite so bad.

    Among the reports are suggestions that the SAN lacks sufficient crew to maintain more than one submarine at sea at any time (the navy has recently acquired three diesel submarines from Germany, of which one has still to be delivered). PORTS & SHIPS was told by a senior serving officer that these reports are basically true and he gave some credence to reports that one or two submarines may have to be mothballed.

    About a year ago the SAN introduced incentive schemes to attract technical and combat staff into the service but this has apparently not been altogether successful. More recently the navy went on a recruitment campaign to attract divers to the service, which according to some reports met with some success.

    At the same time the navy has successfully put the new frigates to good use, participating with other navies and also making protracted visits as far afield as the UK and South America. Similarly the navy has acquitted itself well in exercises with various other navies.

    One of the reasons for a shortage of trained and experienced personnel can be put down to remuneration, with private industry able to entice away trained personnel at will – but it can’t help when the navy boasts of helping to train people who can then move into outside industry.

    Another reason for the loss of personnel is that of transformation within the navy, in which white officers believe their own ambitions towards promotion and command are now limited. How the navy will manage these challenges in the future will determine how it will continue manning its ships.

    In November a navy spokesman told a Cape Town newspaper that the navy had embarked on a recruitment drive that was focusing on the technical and artisan fields of the navy. He claimed that SAN was managing the shortage of skills satisfactorily.

    The problem facing the SAN is not unique and budget cuts have seen even the chief of the Royal Navy issuing warnings recently that further staff cuts could result in that navy, with its long and proud history becoming unable to perform all its given duties.

    Perhaps the South African Navy needs to cast a wider net in its search for trained personnel and others that can be trained. With all the talk of South Africa assuming a regional role in naval affairs – perhaps it’s time to encourage personnel with suitable abilities from neighbouring states.

    Chinese importers fined for illegal timber

    The Chinese importers who tried to ship 543 containers of logs out of northern Mozambique in October have succeeded in having the containers returned to them but only after receiving a fine from the courts equal to a little more than half a million dollars. See our related report

    The containers were seized by Mozambique authorities at the port of Nacala in September after the boxes had already been delivered to the harbour. Local timber operators immediately staged a protest outside the Nacala offices of the provincial agriculture directorate, pointing out that Chinese importers only buy timber in log form, not sawn wood. They said the Chinese had not yet paid for the logs and as a result the timber companies would be unable to pay workers for their labour in cutting the trees.

    Mozambique’s Environment Minister Luciano de Castro however defended the country’s ban on exporting unprocessed hardwoods, which he said was having good results in terms of the country’s beneficiation programme. He said there were now 44 timber processing companies in Mozambique.

    The court tribunal decreed that the containers can be returned to the eight Chinese firms once they had paid over the fine of 13.5 million meticais. Once this had been done they would still have to go through the correct procedures in arranging for the cut logs to be exported. However it turns out that 210 containers have hardwood timber that according to Mozambique law may not be exported in an unprocessed form.

    source - Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)

    Acergy awarded major offshore contract in Angola

    The firm of Acergy SA has been awarded a US$670 million contract for engineering procurement, fabrication and installation of the export line, rigid in-field pipelines, riser, manifolds and control umbilicals in water depths from 20 to 1,200 metres offshore from Angola.

    Fabrication will be undertaken at the Sonamet yard in Lobito. Offshore installation is scheduled to commence in the fourth quarter of 2008, using the ACERGY POLARIS and the POLAR QUEEN.

    In other Angolan news members of EWATA (Europe West Africa Trade Agreement) have agreed on an emergency terminal congestion surcharge of €170 / ₤120 per TEU at the port of Lobito to recover costs resulting from off dock stacking of empty containers. This has come about due to heavy congestion in the port of Lobito which has resulted in a ban on stacking of empty containers inside the port.

    EWATA says the surcharge, which comes into effect on 1 January 2008, will be cancelled once the situation is back to normal.

    Member lines of EWATA are CSAV, Delmas, Hapag Lloyd, Libra, Maersk Line, NileDutch, OT Africa Line and Safmarine.

    CMA CGM buys out US Lines

    French shipping giant CMA CGM is continuing on the growth path by acquiring the interests of US Lines (USL), a container line based in Santa Ana, California. USL is also a vessel sharing partner with another CMA CGM subsidiary, ANL on the Australia – New Zealand trades.

    The purchase of US Lines gives CMA CGM, already the world’s third largest container carrier, an additional 100,000 TEU a year.

    USL and ANL jointly operate a weekly tri-continental service using eight ships, connecting the US West Coast with south China and Australasia.

    The statement said that both lines will continue to operate under their own brands, with USL managed by its existing management team.

    USL consists of five companies with an estimated turnover for 2007 of US$145 million. The line operates seven chartered ships in the 1,000 – 1,350-TEU range and employs 113 people.

    Pic of the day – AMDERMA

    Click on image to enlarge – with some browsers click twice

    The Russian polar supply ship AMDERMA (18,627-gt), owned by FESCO was recently in Cape Town preparing for another supply trip to the Antarctic, just one of an extraordinary large number (6) of Antarctic supply ships gathered in port together. FESCO is one of Russia’s oldest and largest intermodal transport companies with something of the order of between 60 and 70 ships in service, of which five are icebreakers. Amderma is classed as an ice-breaking cargo ship, one of six in the fleet. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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