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Ports & Ships Maritime News

16 January 2012
Author: Terry Hutson

Bringing you shipping, freight, trade and transport related news of interest for Africa since 2002

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a happier view of the Costa Cruises ship COSTA CONCORDIA seen here in Lisbon on her maiden voyage in July 2006. Picture by Luis Miguel Correia

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Picture BBC/AFP

The maritime professionals’ union Nautilus International says in a statement issued yesterday that Friday night’s grounding of the cruise ship COSTA CONCORDIA carrying 3200 passengers and a crew of about 1000, just two weeks into the Titanic centenary year, should serve as a wake-up call to the shipping industry and those who regulate it.

Nautilus – which represents 23,000 ship masters, officers, ratings and other shipping industry staff – says the incident involving the Italian-flagged cruise ship off the Italian coast is the latest in a series that have highlighted its long-standing concerns over safety.

By late Sunday five people were confirmed dead and another 15 remained missing. Earlier a honeymoon couple from South Korea were rescued from low down in the ship where they had been trapped and unable to make their way up onto the decks with other passengers. At least one other person remained on board waiting to be rescued. Search parties heard him yesterday calling for help but hadn’t yet managed to locate or identify the man.

Rescued passengers told of panic and chaos on board the ship, and claimed that regulation lifeboat drills had not bee carried out but were scheduled for the next morning.

“In this, the centenary of the loss of the Titanic, major nostalgia industry is already in full flow – but it is essential that everyone recognises that the Titanic offers lessons for today and that there are contemporary resonances that should not be lost,” said Nautilus’ general secretary Mark Dickinson.

In particular, Nautilus says it is concerned about the rapid recent increases in the size of passenger ships – with the average tonnage doubling over the past decade.

“Many ships are now effectively small towns at sea, and the sheer number of people onboard raises serious questions about evacuation,” Mr Dickinson pointed out.

“Nautilus is by no means alone in voicing concern at underlying safety issues arising from the new generation of ‘mega-ships’ – whether they be passenger vessels carrying the equivalent of a small town or containerships with more than 14,000 boxes onboard. Insurers and salvors have also spoken about the way in which the sheer size and scale of such ships presents massive challenges for emergency services, evacuation, rescue, and salvage - and we should not have to wait for a major disaster until these concerns are addressed.

“The growth in the size of such ships has also raised questions about their watertight integrity and fire-fighting protection,” Dickinson added. “In an address to a conference on the safety of large passenger ships in 2000, the then secretary-general of the International Maritime Organisation, William O’Neil, cited 12 passenger ship accidents in the previous six years and noted “…in retrospect we can see that it was to some extent a matter of luck – good weather, calm seas, and other ships in the vicinity, for example – that very few lives were lost.”

“We believe that more attention needs to be given to such issues as the adequacy of life-saving appliances, and the quality and quantity of crews and their training and experience in operating these vessels and dealing with emergency situations, including evacuation,” Mr Dickinson said.

According to Nautilus it is essential that inquiries into the Costa Concordia grounding examine reports of an electrical problem onboard – an issue on which the union raised concern following an explosion and loss of power onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

It is essential that ships are built for safety, with adequate redundancy rather than a prescriptive minimum, the Union argues.

It says the inquiries should also address human factor issues including seafarers’ working hours and adequate manning of bridge and engine room. Investigations also need to focus on crew competence and training issues.

The Union is calling for a thorough review of regulations governing the construction and operation of passenger vessels - in particular, standards of stability and watertight integrity. Attention needs to be paid to existing evacuation systems and more innovative systems for abandonment.

Yesterday the BBC reported experts as saying they are puzzled as to why such a modern and well-equipped vessel should have run aground in well-charted waters.

The report described the ship as having been in calm waters sailing along a familiar route. The mystery is why it diverted from its course by between 3 and 4 miles, and why the ship capsized so quickly. “This will be central for investigators trying to establish the cause of the accident.”

It says the investigation will focus on why a modern ship, “with the latest safety equipment, travelling on the same route it travels 52 times every year, seemingly veered off course and hit what the cruise company has described as ‘a big rock’.

“There are a large number of possibilities ranging from human error, to technical failure, to a combination of the two. “It is possible the crew simply made a mistake and steered off course. They may have been misled by faulty navigation equipment.” The ship’ master is reported to have said that the rock which the ship hit is not on any chart currently in use.

What is known is that the accident occurred while some passengers were still at dinner in the various restaurants. Others were being entertained at a magician’s show in the theatre up in front of the ship. When the collision occurred and the ship began to list, the magician disappeared and some passengers said they thought it was all part of the show.

Others would have been in their cabins or staterooms, or on deck. Passengers described a long rumbling grating noise coming from underneath the ship. It was later discovered that a 41m gash had opened part of the lower hull, admitting the sea and leading to the ship ultimately capsizing. The collision was followed by all electrical power being lost, which added to the chaos among passengers. About an hour later, with the ship’s list becoming pronounced, the order was given to abandon ship but by then the list was too great for lifeboats on one side to be lowered.

A number of passengers or crew jumped overboard amid some reports of panic among passengers. Later reports said the master of the ship had left the vessel before all his passengers were safely in lifeboats or had been lifted ashore.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, and first officer, Ciro Ambrosio, have meanwhile been arrested and could face multiple homicide charges and having abandoned the ship before the passengers were rescued, the Italian police and media reported.

Costa Cruises, the Carnival Corporation division that operates the Costa Concordia has begun to apportion the blame, saying “It seems that the commander made errors of judgement that had serious consequences,” while adding that he had not followed company procedures in his management of the emergency.

Carnival Corporation, the owner of Costa Cruises said in a statement that it was deeply saddened by the accident and was working to fully understand the cause of what happened.

It said that “on 13 January 2012, Costa Cruises’ vessel, the Costa Concordia, departed from Civitavecchia, Italy with approximately 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members on a seven-day voyage. At approximately 10:00pm CET, the vessel struck [a] rock off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Italy and sustained significant damage causing the ship to list severely. The order was given to abandon ship and deploy the lifeboats.”

One of the drawbacks of accident enquiries is that they are conducted by the flag state concerned – in this case Italy. With passenger ships such as Costa Concordia carrying a large number of people from other parts of the world it might be preferable if a neutral body was appointed by the IMO to look into such incidents and accidents. There is sometimes too much national pride involved for total confidence that all flag states will set about understanding and explain all the relevant facts.

An accident such as this one can take up to a year before the inquiry reports are completed, despite the existence of a so-called ‘blackbox’ which contains a large amount of technical and human information up to the moment of the collision and capsizing. This includes voice monitoring from the bridge. Source BBC, Nautlius, Paul Ridgway (London) and own source

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The terminal at Apapa, among those affected by the strike. Picture OTAL

The crippling Nigerian strike, called in protest over the federal government’s decision to remove a fuel subsidy from the retail price of petrol, looks set to continue today following the failure of talks held up to and including Sunday to resolve the dispute.

Affected by the nationwide strike are the country’s seaports and airports, with reports of ships having to wait outside some of the ports such as Lagos, Port Harcourt and Onne. At the same time many of the berths in Apapa and Tin Can Island at Lagos are occupied by ships but it couldn’t be determined whether cargo working was taking place there or elsewhere.

One promising sign from the weekend’s discussion on the strike is that a threat by workers to halt oil production has been placed on hold. A trade union had threatened to stop production on Saturday night in solidarity with the rest of the unions.

“The meeting is not deadlocked, but we have not reached a compromise,” Nigeria Labour Congress president Abdulwahed Omar told journalists after the weekend meeting broke up. Present at the meeting held at the presidency were a range of government officials as well as union representatives.

The strike began on 9 January over the removal of a government subsidy on fuel, which has resulted in the cost of a litre of petrol increasing from US 45 cents to 94 cents. This is in an oil rich country where many people are said to exist on an income of US$2 a day.

Meanwhile ships are waiting at anchor or have diverted to other West African ports. Five Maersk and Safmarine ships are said to be among those at anchor waiting for news of a berth, but CMA CGM company vessels have been diverted. Three CMA CGM ships were diverted to Abidjan, Tema and Lome to discharge containers intended for Lagos. The wider- hulled Maersk and Safmarine ‘Wafmax’ ships have little choice in the matter, being unsuitable for some of the region’s other ports.

Inside the ports terminal operators have closed their gates and sent staff home. Containers in Europe intended for Nigerian ports are being held back until there is some clarity on the situation.

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Brian Molefe, Transnet Group CE

The following of a transcript of the speech given by Brian Molefe, group chief executive of Transnet, on the occasion of the commissioning of the new multi-product (NMPP) pipeline between the port of Durban and Heidelberg just southeast of Johannesburg.

Today (11 January) is an occasion to mark the achievement of significant milestones in the construction of the New Multi-Product Pipeline (NMPP). We are here to celebrate the commissioning of the NMPP, one of the country’s most significant capital investment programmes, a legacy asset, with an economic lifeline that will last more than 75 years.

Please allow me to briefly highlight the following significant achievements which we believe are crucial for us to share with you and your audiences. Firstly, we have completed the construction of the 16 inch network, which has been running for the last nine months between Kendal and Waltloo; Jameson Park (Heidelberg) to Alrode; and Alrode to Langlaagte. Secondly, we have finished the construction of the 555-km 24 inch trunk line between Durban and Jameson Park. Lastly, we have completed the building of all three pump stations at Tweni in Durban, Hilltop near Pietermaritzburg and Mnambithi Pump Station near Ladysmith.

Most importantly, all construction of the 712-km pipeline network of the project is complete and commissioned.

In addition, two terminals will be completed in 2013. These are: The coastal terminal at Island View in the Port of Durban; and the inland terminal here at Jameson Park which is already under construction.

When it is completed in its entirety, the NMPP will be able to carry five products. This includes 95 and 93 unleaded petrol, 500 and 50 PPM diesel and jet fuel. The forecast cost of this project is R23.4 billion which is within the approved budgeted cost.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have completed one of the most cutting-edge and innovative infrastructure investments in the world. Today we are initiating the flow of fuel from Island View in Durban to where we are, Jameson Park.

In delivering the NMPP to South Africa, Transnet is fulfilling two commitments, firstly, ensuring that the inland market demand is met or – as my colleague Charl Moller likes to put it – keep Gauteng wet. Secondly it is to ease road congestion by reducing the number of tankers on our roads.

In short, the NMPP is the greenest, safest and most cost effective method of fuel delivery. Of this we are proud.

We are now able to concurrently run the Durban-to-Johannesburg pipeline and the NMPP with petroleum products that will see some 3 million litres per hour, 112 million litres of fuel flowing between Durban and Johannesburg every week. The total capacity will be 26.7 billion litres per annum.

In 2009, Transnet committed to securing inland fuel supply by 2011, and today, we affirmed that commitment.

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Pirates surrender to Spanish marines after trying to board a fleet tanker. Picture EUNAVFOR

Following an attack on a Spanish fleet tanker, EUNAVFOR has taken the political decision to hand over the evidence pack to Spanish authorities for them to decide whether to prosecute the captured pirates in Spain.

The matter refers to an attack last week on the fleet tanker SPS PATTINO shortly after the naval vessel, which is attached to the EUNAVFOR naval forces operating on anti- piracy patrols and escort duties in the Somali region, came under attack from a skiff carrying a number of armed pirates.

SPS Pattino was still in the vicinity of Mogadishu after successfully completing escort duties for a World Food Programme ship carrying aid supplies into Somalia. The skiff appeared and after opening fire on the Spanish ship the pirates onboard attempted to board the vessel. While it may seem ludicrous that the pirates should attack a naval ship, which is not for the first time, in this instance the ship they were attacking, a tanker, could be easily mistaken for a commercial vessel. Nevertheless, the pirates discovered their error once marines on board the Spanish ship began firing back.

A number of Somali pirates were wounded in the exchange of fire, causing them to hastily return to their skiff and make off in a hurry. The Spanish ship launched its Sea King helicopter to track the skiff after which the pirates surrendered. Six pirates were taken prisoner and one remained missing, lost overboard during the attack by the helicopter.

A spokesman for EUNAVFOR said the pirates had been given medical treatment for their wounds and two would require additional medical treatment ashore. They are all reported to be in a stable condition.

Fairchem Bogey released by pirates

The highjacked chemical tanker FAIRCHEM BOGEY, which was captured by Somali pirates on 20 August 2011 has been released after a ransom was paid and the ship together with her crew has sailed away from the African coast.

Readers will recall that Fairchem Bogey was seized while at anchor in a designated anchorage at the port of Salalah in Oman, while awaiting berthing instructions. The tanker had carried armed guards but on arrival off Salalah they were released ashore.

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The Arctic and Antarctic container supply ship MARY ARCTICA (10,308-gt, built 2008) seen arriving in Cape Town this weekend. Picture by Aad Noorland

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