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Ports & Ships Maritime News

October 20, 2010
Author: Terry Hutson

Shipping, freight, trade and transport related news of interest for Africa

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The Pakistan Navy destroyer PNS SHAH JAHAN which called at Durban on Monday this week on a short visit. Picture by Clinton Wyness


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Mercedes-Benz SA achieves export milestone

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East London Car Terminal, with the Mercedes-Benz SA plant on the hill above

The recent weekend saw two important milestones involving exports of Mercedes-Benz motor vehicles from the port of East London, with the largest ever single consignment of Mercedes-Benz vehicles from South Africa as well as the 100,000th South African-built Mercedes-Benz C-Class car to be exported to the United States.

According to MBSA spokesperson, Annelise van der Laan, the consignment loaded on board the car carrier MARTORELL numbered 3,280 East London-built motor cars.

And according to Rainer Ruess, manufacturing site leader at MBSA's local automotive plant, this latest shipment reaffirms that US customers are very satisfied with the South African build quality. In July J D Power and Associates presented the platinum Award for Initial Quality to the MBSA plant, following a US survey conducted among over 80,000 new US car owners earlier this year. The Eastern Cape plant was thus named the best plant in the world - best among all brands and manufacturers serving the US.

The increase in exports has justified the efforts by Transnet National Ports Authority which recently deepened the west quay at the East London harbour to make it possible for larger car carriers to use the terminal, says Terry Taylor, manager of corporate affairs at the port.

“The new depth allows more flexibility for larger vessels. Together with this we also added another 1,200 parking bays in close proximity to the quay-side - the total cost of the development was just over of R40 million,” Taylor said.


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Law & Order, Sierra Leone style

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The Tombo Community along the coast of the peninsular a few miles from Sierra Leone’s Freetown has over one hundred fishing boats, of which a majority of the artisanal fishermen and boat owners are refusing to obtain fishing licenses. As a result Lt Philip S Tairu of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) Navy wing has threatened to clamp down hard on them.

In an interview with the Sierra Leone newspaper Awoko the navy lieutenant confirmed that he had promised to come down hard on all fishing boat owners who violate the rules and regulations of the Maritime Department.

He said that he has also instituted certain measures to discourage public nuisance at the Tombo wharf, such as fighting and the use of abusive language. He noted that most of the drugs cartels previously operating from the wharf have disappeared.

“The Navy wing deployed at Tombo is currently mapping out strategies to discourage the use of children at the Wharf,” he said. He said that most of the children spend long hours at the wharf either playing on fishing boats or mending damaged fishing nets, while others risk swimming in the filthy and contaminated sea.

He claimed that most of the children were not going to school or helping their parents with domestic work at home. “I have started flogging some of them and also sending out warnings to their parents to control their children at home or we will do so,” he told Awoko.

The lieutenant warned boat owners to ensure their documents from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources are correct and in order, or else, he said, no fishing boats will be allowed to fish on Sierra Leone territorial waters.

On the question of surveillance and marine protection Lt Tairu said the navy usually patrols the territorial waters to ensure that trawlers do not poach within the IEZ zones. He encouraged the Tombo community to work with the navy personnel deployed in the area.

Several parents spoken to at Tombo expressed gratitude to the no nonsense attitude of the commanding officer of the Navy wing at Tombo for bringing discipline to the Tombo wharf and for not condoning any lawlessness at the wharf. – Awoko


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Piracy: VOC Daisy freed and RFA ship destroys pirate craft

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VOC Daisy

The EU naval force operating on patrol and anti piracy control off the Somali coast reports that the captured bulk carrier VOC DAISY (47183-dwt) has been released by its Somali pirate captors.

The Liberian-registered ship, with a crew of 21 Filipinos, who are all reported to be in good health, has sailed away from Garacad. The ship was highjacked on 21 April 2010 while sailing approximately 190 n.miles southeast of Salalah in Oman.

A ransom is presumed to have been paid.

RFA vessel boards and destroys suspected pirate boat

According to the Combined Maritime Forces, naval forces from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA FORT VICTORIA (A387) have boarded, cleared and destroyed a suspected Somali pirate boat in the Somali Basin.

Fort Victoria is deployed on a counter-piracy operation with the Royal Navy frigate HMS NORTHUMBERLAND (F238) as part of the counter-piracy group, Combined Task Force (CTF)) 151.

The suspected pirate boat was intercepted during routines patrols off the Somali coast by a helicopter flying from one of the British ships, which located a whaler towing a skiff. The whaler was seen to have large numbers of fuel barrels on board, usually a sign that it is acting as a mother ship on piracy activities. As the helicopter approached four of the nine people on board tried to hide themselves.

Under the assumption that this was a pirate group, permission as given to the Fort Victoria to conduct a boarding, following which Royal Marines from the Fleet Protection Group approached the suspected pirates, who tried to make a break for the Somali coast but were quickly surrounded.

On boarding the whaler it was found to have onboard six AK47s, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with four warheads, and six RPG booster charges, plus two hand-held GPS units, three make-shift ladder sections and four mobile phones. After transferring the suspected pirates to the smaller skiff and disabling the brand new outboard motor, the pirates were handed oars and told to row for the nearby Somali coast.

Once the pirates were safely ashore the whaler was rigged with explosives and blown up along with the various pirate equipment.

Dutch ship completes successful escort duty

EU NAVFOR, the EU naval force operating off Somali reports that the Dutch warship HNLMS AMSTERDAM has successfully completed an escort of a merchant ship, CAPTAIN SAID which was under charter to the UN World Food Program (WFP).

Captain Said, sailing under the flag of the Comoro Islands, was transporting a substantial amount of food aid for Somalia. HNLMS AMSTERDAM waited for the ship outside the port of Berbera and safely escorted it to the port of Boosaaso. A total of 6,997 metric tons of maize, corn-soya blend, palm oil and flour were delivered onto the Somali shore.

EU NAVFOR’s priority mission is to escort WFP merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid, along with vessels of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). A considerable part of the Somali population is living in poverty and millions of people are dependent on the help offered by the international community. It is therefore of particular importance that these food transports arrive at their destination safely, without being targeted by pirates.

Since the beginning of the operation in 2008, 95 WFP chartered vessels have already been safely escorted by EU NAVFOR warships. These escorts helped in the delivery of 460,000 metric tons of food to Somali, feeding on average 1,350,000 Somalis each day.

Cost of piracy ‘uncertain’

The true cost of the Somali pirate attacks on international shipping in the Gulf of Aden is still unclear, new research has revealed.

According to a report by the Actuarial Profession, due to be published at the General Insurance Research Organisation conference later this month, the lack of statistics on maritime piracy make the estimation of the risk difficult.

“Piracy attacks have been on the increase in the last 15 years. But, since 2006, the level of attacks has increased by an average of 125% and this is almost entirely due to the attacks by Somali pirates,” said Neil Hilary, a staff actuary with the profession and one of the authors of the report.”

“However, the challenge to the actuaries involved in pricing maritime insurance products is considerable. Firstly, actuaries are used to working with statistics which number thousands and tens of thousands. Despite the increase in piracy attacks, the numbers are still relatively small.

“Secondly, the information about the attacks issued by shipping owners is often vague. Understandably, shipping owners don’t wish to encourage further acts of piracy, but without knowing the full details we cannot come up with the true cost.” – source Waves.


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Capespan slides into the red

Bellville-based fruit exporting giant Capespan, which appeared to be holding up fairly well in recessionary trading conditions, slipped into the red in the half-year to end June 2010.

Although the comparison is probably not fair, one cannot but contextualise Capespan’s performance by noting that KWV Holdings – another export heavy former co-operative – fared far better over in the second half of its full year to end June.

Revenue was down 13% at R1.16 billion with the strong rand dampening sales revenue. At constant exchange rates the picture was slightly better with the group reporting revenue down only 2% at R1.3 billion.

Capespan acting MD Louis Kriel says during the first half of 2009 the group generated good results despite the global economic meltdown.

But he explained that the impact of the global financial crisis only started to affect Capespan in the latter half of 2009.

“The world outside of fruit is recovering from the crisis but the fruit trading environment is lagging and trading conditions remains difficult in certain key markets.”

He says erratic fruit supply patterns as a result of unseasonal weather in South Africa and other source countries also hampered the interim performance. Probably the most worrying aspect of the interim performance is that trading margins were badly eroded, leaving a mere R2.6 million in pre-tax profits compared with the hefty R77 million recorded in the corresponding interim period in 2009. The after tax line showed a loss of R2.2 million (previously R52.5 million).

Things don’t exactly look promising for the second half either. Kriel says the remaining six months will be challenging for Capespan – although he does expect the group will generate a reasonable profit in spite of dour global trading conditions and the continued strength in the rand.

“We are continuing to focus on growing our revenue and our footprint and in this regard there are certain acquisitions that are being pursued.” (See accompanying article of Capespan’s Far East expansion.)

The breakdown of Capespan’s interim performance shows strain across most operations. Kriel says the Logistics Division showed a 21% decrease in revenue as a result of the reduced revenues generated from shipping activities.

But he points out that the previous year’s performance included revenues of R120 million from vessels operated on long-term charter. “The decline in the Logistics Division is as a result of the shipping activities in the prior year generating significant profits in the first half of the year, due to the cyclical nature of the market, which were not repeated as we have no vessels on long-term charter.”

The Fruit Division’s revenues increased marginally by 0.3% but fared much better on a constant currency basis with 6.2% growth being achieved.

Kriel says there was good growth in North America and farming operations – although these gains were offset by a reduction in Japanese markets. – source Cape Business News


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Tanzania confirms plans to build new port at Bagamoyo

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map courtesy IRIN

The Tanzanian government will go ahead with plans to build a new port at Mbegani in the Bagamoyo district north of Dar es Salaam and lying opposite the southern end of the island of Zanzibar.

The proposal, which PORTS & SHIPS first reported in June 2007 Tanzania plans new port at Bagamoyo, is designed to both alleviate congestion at the existing port of Dar es Salaam, while providing the country with modern and deep draught cargo handling facilities that are capable of processing Tanzania’s growing import/export trade, says Cargosystems.net

The publication reports that Jakaya Kikwete, Chama Cha Mapinduzi presidential candidate, has confirmed that the project was in place during a campaign rally in Bagamoyo on Saturday.

The Mbegani port project is an integral part of the government’s 20-year transport improvement master plan. It is expected to be a catalyst for economic development in the region north of Dar es Salaam.

Cargo Systems says it understands a location has been identified for the construction of the port and some surveying has been undertaken, but details of its layout and cargo- handling facilities and throughput capacities are not yet known.

Bagamoyo has in history been a most important harbour on the East African coast and the region has recently been designated as Tanzania’s 7th World Heritage Sites. It was once an important slave trading post – in fact the Swahili name means in English ‘Lay down your heart’ and for many thousands of slaves this was the last place on African soil before being taken off to the markets of Zanzibar or to foreign lands, never to return. Slave trading along this coast continued right up until the early part of the 20th century, despite slavery having been abolished in the area in 1873. It is said that Bagamoyo has a presence all of itself, which is hard to forget once you have been there.


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Sea Cow, origin of mythical mermaid, threatened with extinction, UN warns

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New York - Dugongs, or sea cows, believed to be the source of mermaid legends, are threatened with extinction within 40 years, and an arsenal of measures, from replacing fishing nets that trap them to setting up marine reserves, are vital for their survival, a United Nations-backed forum has warned.

“Man-made threats pose the greatest risk to the gentle sea cow,” the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said, summing up a meeting earlier this month in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), of Governments, international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) convened by the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) on the seemingly clumsy animal, the world’s only herbivorous mammal living in marine waters.

“Illegal poaching, unsustainable hunting by local communities, severe injuries from ships and vanishing sea-grass beds are accelerating a critical loss of habitat and threatening populations,” it said, stressing that enhanced regional cooperation among countries hosting dugongs is essential to ensure the survival of the creature that sailors once took for a mermaid when spotted from afar.

A newly developed toolbox to mitigate threats includes incentives to replace harmful gillnets with alternative fishing gear to reduce so-called by-catch and minimize the mortality rates. Use of gillnets has led to incidental entanglement in fishing gear. As fisheries become increasingly commercialized, by-catch will become even more frequent and serious, UNEP warned.

The second largest threat is unsustainable direct consumption which can result once a dugong is caught in the nets. In addition, dugongs are also legally hunted by local communities in some countries for traditional consumption.

“Simple innovative tools and new incentives for local fishermen have been presented to the signatories to the CMS dugong agreement, which might prevent this rare species from becoming extinct,” CMS Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema told the gathering.

Steps include protecting breeding and feeding areas by setting up marine reserves, temporal limits on fishing, and loans to fishermen to buy new boats and use line-fishing gear.

According to an assessment undertaken in 2008, the dugong is now extinct in the Maldives, Mauritius and Taiwan, Province of China, and declining in other waters in at least a third of the areas where it is found. But current information is too limited to even assess completely the threats. Man-made risks are exacerbated by the dugong’s low reproduction rates. Even a slightly reduced survival rate of adults from habitat loss, disease, hunting or drowning in nets can trigger a dramatic decline.

Data from fishermen in 20 countries in the Pacific Islands, South Asia, and the UAE to assess the threat of fishing on the dugong’s survival in parts of its migratory range will be combined into a geographical information system to identify the trouble spots, provide crucial information on existing populations and map important habitat areas such as sea-grass beds. In 2011, the survey will be extended to East Africa, the western and north-western Indian Ocean and South Asia.

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Dugongs swimming in their natural habitat



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The South African shipping company MUR’s general cargo/container ship AFRICAN CHEETAH (16,802-gt, built 2002) seen in the Durban Esplanade Channel. Picture by Trevor Jones

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Taking the place of African Cheetah in the channel, but going in the opposite direction towards Maydon Wharf is the Greek owned and operated IMPERIUS (26,566-dwt, built 1997). Picture by Trevor Jones


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