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Ports & Ships Maritime News

13 February 2012
Author: Terry Hutson

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

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HMS Montrose (F236) arrives in Simon’s Town on Thursday 9 February after completing her deployment to the Falklands. The type 23 frigate is returning to the UK. Picture by Bob Johnston

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The State of the Nation address given by President Jacob Zuma has strong positive implications for the maritime and transport industries, with its emphasis on building the country’s infrastructure.

The president said that the work done last year indicates that if South Africa continues to grow reasonably well, “we will begin to write a new story about South Africa—the story of how, working together, we drove back unemployment and reduced economic inequality and poverty.”

He said that the government’s infrastructure plan will be driven and overseen by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission, (PICC), which was established in September, bringing together Ministers, Premiers and Metro Mayors under the leadership of the President and the Deputy President.

The PICC has identified and developed projects and infrastructure initiatives from state-owned enterprises as well as national, provincial and local government departments. These have been clustered, sequenced and prioritised into a pipeline of strategic integrated projects.

He said five major geographically-focussed infrastructure programmes had been chosen. The first involves developing and integrating rail, road and water infrastructure centred around the Waterberg and Steelpoort areas of Limpopo which is aimed at unlocking the enormous mineral belt of coal, platinum, palladium, chrome and other minerals in those regions of Limpopo.

This will see the expansion of rail transport connecting these regions to rail services in Mpumalanga, and from there to the respective seaports, of which Richards Bay, Maputo and to some extent Durban can expect to be the main beneficiaries.

The second area identified by government involves the movement of goods and economic integration through a Durban-Free State-Gauteng logistics and industrial corridor.

“This project is intended to connect the major economic centres of Gauteng and Durban/Pinetown, and at the same time, connect these centres with improved export capacity through our sea-ports.”

“I am pleased to announce the Market Demand Strategy of Transnet, which entails an investment, over the next seven years, of three hundred billion rand in capital projects,” Zuma said.

“Of this amount, R200-billion is allocated to rail projects and the majority of the balance, to projects in the ports.”

Turning to the necessity of reducing port charges the president said the issue of high port charges had been raised by the automotive sector.

“I am pleased to announce that the Port Regulator and Transnet have agreed to an arrangement which will result in exporters of manufactured goods receiving a significant decrease in port charges during the coming year, equal to about R1-billion in total,” he said.

The third area indentified by government is to develop a major new South Eastern node that will improve the industrial and agricultural development and export capacity of the Eastern Cape region, and expand the province’s economic and logistics linkages with the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

This includes the phased development of a new 16 million tons per annum manganese export channel through the Port of Ngqura in Nelson Mandela Bay (Algoa Bay).

The fourth area of focus is in the North West, where government intends expanding the roll-out of water, roads, rail and electricity infrastructure. Ten priority roads are to be upgraded.

Finally, President Zuma drew attention to South African infrastructure work extending beyond its borders. “South Africa champions the North-South Road and Rail Corridor, which is part of the African Union’s NEPAD Presidential Infrastructure Championing initiative,” he said

He said the massive investment in infrastructure must leave more than just power stations, rail-lines, dams and roads. It must industrialise the country, generate skills and boost much needed job creation.

“I will convene a Presidential infrastructure summit to discuss the implementation of the plan with potential investors and social partners,” Zuma said.

. Finance is available – Gordhan

Speaking afterwards to BuaNews the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan said South Africa has the money to spend on the infrastructure projects in the five regions outlined by President Jacob Zuma.

“We already know that for the past five or six years that for every three-year period we have had something around R800 billion to R900 billion being spent, largely by our state-owned enterprises (on infrastructure).

“So we’ve demonstrated the ability to bring resources in which is what will be required to get these projects going,” Gordhan stressed that these key infrastructure projects would be developed over a number of years.

Among other things, the projects would help develop better economic links between outlying areas and the main urban centre and to make it easier for companies to export and do business locally, he said.

“If we get this right it means that many areas of the country will have a heightened level of economic opportunity and there will be all sorts of job opportunities and there will be opportunities for people to manufacture the things that go into the infrastructure development that has been outlined,” he said.

Gordhan also defended the state getting more involved in the economy.

“You know if the state didn’t get involved in all the economies of the world, particularly the major ones, since in 2008 you would have had no economy or country left,” he said, pointing out that it was the state backed by tax-payers’ money that helped save banks in the 2008 financial crisis.

“So the story about the state getting too involved is an old story, what we need is the right balance,” he pointed out.

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Saldanha as a base for oil industry maintenance and repair. Picture courtesy Dormac Marine

There is still no clarity over the dispute between Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and United African Lines (UAL) following UAL’s decision to withdraw from the Saldanha Oil and Gas Service Base project at Saldanha Bay.

In a statement TNPA said the decision by a critical player such as the United African Lines to withdraw from the Saldanha Oil and Gas Service Base project is regretted. It said however that following discussions between the two parties, UAL had agreed to reconsider its decision to withdraw and to reconfirm its intention in two weeks.

That was on 31 January and UAL’s decision will be expected this week.

Tau Morwe said that from the outset TNPA had indicated the anticipated delays in concluding the agreement. EIA approvals, which were out of TNPA’s control, and construction timeframes had the potential of drawing out the implementation of the project, he said.

The dispute revolves around the question of whether UAL would be enabled to set up a servicing hub at Saldanha for the oil industry. There have been cries of unnecessary red tape – a familiar story with any dealing concerning Transnet – while Transnet intimated that the deal involved two pieces of harbour land and a berthing quay, both tied into a 15-year lease, which Morwe is reported as saying is non- negotiable. UAL meanwhile apparently wants a two-year lease.

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The Durban dig-out port project – one of the largest infrastructure opportunities ever. Image courtesy TNPA

Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma has urged South Africans to take advantage of the opportunities that will be created by a massive new infrastructure build programme.

Addressing a breakfast event at Grand West Casino hosted by the New Age newspaper, Zuma said South Africans should take advantage of the “window period” created by the government with his announcement in the State of the Nation Address last week on infrastructure projects, and participate in building the economy.

On Thursday, Zuma announced that the country would spend billions of rands over the coming years on rail, road, and economic links in five regions in the country and on building new universities and refurbishing hospitals.

“We believe it [the key infrastructure projects] is going to change the economic landscape of the country and connect it to the continent,” said Zuma, adding that it was now clear for anyone where investment had to be placed in the economy.

“There are massive opportunities that are coming, let us take advantage,” he said, pointing out that for example South Africa had a significant coastline but was not servicing commercial shipping on a big scale.

He said the setting up of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission in September last year showed that it was “no longer business as usual” for government, as the commission had already started identifying projects which had clear timeframes.

Zuma called on big companies to help develop small businesses and pointed out that large firms that did so would benefit and grow bigger.

South African firms should also enter Africa with more vigour, he said, adding that the continent was one of the most promising investment regions in the world at the moment. He said while many felt that South Africa was not a powerful country, he believed otherwise.

“I believe we are very big. I have always said if Japan, an island economy, can grow, why can’t we?” said Zuma of one of the countries that rapidly rebuilt itself after the Second World War to become one of the biggest economies in the world by the 1980s.

He believed South Africa had made progress but added that the country still faced challenges. With rapid urbanisation following the end of apartheid, the country found itself with a major infrastructure shortage, he said.

In answer to a question on why the country did not create many jobs last year, Zuma said he believed that South Africa “did very well” in the face of the challenges globally.

“The fact that we were able to create jobs even in that situation tells you that we didn’t do too badly.”

In answer to a question from a caller on whether factories that were closed down in Queenstown and Butterworth in the Eastern Cape would be started up again, Zuma said the government would be revitalising the rural areas and stimulating economic growth there.

In response to whether the government would be considering nationalisation, he said nationalisation was not the government’s policy.

“We have been saying this inside the country and outside the country. It doesn’t mean because one [ANC member] has a view, that it is national policy,” he said, adding that the government’s policy was one of a mixed economy where the state and business partnered together.

In answer to another question from someone on the floor on what keeps him awake at night, Zuma said it was the problem of the poor.

“Every night I think what can we do to alleviate their plight,” he said. – BuaNews

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MSC Sinfonia enters Durban harbour for the first time in 2009. Her slightly larger sister, MSC Opera is set to follow in her footsteps later this year. Picture by Trevor C http://www.nauticalimages.co.za

Gone are the days when the best that South Africa could look forward to were ageing and tired cruise ships that were generally not over welcome elsewhere. In recent years South Africa has been introduced to modern cruise ships that are not just passing through on their way to someplace else, but are also being brought into local waters for the summer months.

The trend was certainly begun with MSC SINFONIA when the 2002-built passenger ship took up residence in 2009 to undertake that year’s Starlight Cruises’ season of sailing out of Durban. And now, from next summer even newer standards in local cruising will be set with the introduction of a second of the same class of cruise ship, the 2004-built MSC OPERA which arrives for the 2012/13 summer season.

She will join her popular sister ship MSC Sinfonia, which is already a familiar name in South African cruising.

“The decision to send both MSC Opera and MSC Sinfonia to South Africa for the upcoming 2012/2013 season shows the level of commitment MSC Cruises has to the South African market. We will continue to invest in the destinations, and the development of port infrastructure to continuously improve the product and the guests’ overall experience,” said Allan Foggitt, head of Marketing for MSC Starlight Cruises South Africa.

The operation of both MSC Opera and MSC Sinfonia for the 2012/13 South African cruise season will enable an extra 135,000 passengers to experience Mediterranean style MSC hospitality over the course of the season, says MSC Starlight. “This will set a new record for local cruising, surpassing the previous record by nearly 25,000 passengers.”

The 251 metre MSC Opera will arrive in Cape Town, South Africa for the first time ever on 19 November 2012 and will operate out of Durban from 22 November 2012 until early March 2013, taking over the popular Mozambique three and four night cruises from MSC Sinfonia.

MSC Opera

MSC Opera is slightly larger than her sister ship and can accommodate over 1,700 guests. The ‘Lirica Class’ ship will bring added elegance to local cruising and South African guests will enjoy the glamorous décor of the stately ship, with public areas enhanced by a sweeping marble reception area and magnificent open spaces with glass walls for the most spectacular ocean views.

MSC Opera hosts 856 cabins of which 172 are balcony cabins and 28 are balcony suites. The ship has four restaurants, eleven bars, two pools, and two whirlpools. The liner boasts the MSC Aurea Spa and Solarium, a disco, video games room, internet café, casino, team building facilities and a medical centre. She has a wide array of duty-free shopping and caters for kids with the Buffalo Bill children’s play area. Additional facilities include the ‘Cotton Club’ bar and a stage on deck for outdoor entertainment.

MSC Sinfonia

The already popular MSC Sinfonia, which holds over 1,500 guests*, will arrive in Cape Town on 28 November 2012 and operate out of Cape Town until mid-April 2013. MSC Sinfonia will replace the smaller MSC Melody which has operated the Cape for the past two seasons, allowing guests from the Cape region the opportunity to experience a totally new product from their own home port.

MSC Sinfonia will offer cruises to Mossel Bay, Hermanus, Walvis Bay, Luderitz, and, for the first time ever, an 11-night roundtrip cruise to Walvis Bay and St Helena, the remote unspoilt island where Napoleon was exiled and is buried. It is expected that the introduction of the MSC Sinfonia to the Cape will entice many more Gauteng residents to experience the different ports of call in the southern Atlantic and Indian Ocean waters.

MSC Sinfonia will also operate longer cruises from Durban to Madagascar, Mauritius and La Reunion, plus a number of coastal cruises between Durban and Cape Town, calling in at Port Elizabeth and East London.

MSC Sinfonia hosts 777 cabins, of which 132 are balcony suites. The ship also boasts four restaurants, 10 bars, two swimming pools and the luxurious MSC Aurea Spa. Guests can enjoy world class performances in the San Carlo Theatre and take advantage of the state-of-the-art fitness centre, golf simulator, casino, mini club, teen's club, disco, internet cade and luxury shopping. Additional facilities include a business and conference centre and medical centre.

* MSC Sinfonia is listed as catering for 1500 passengers but on her South African seasons the ship is shown as carrying 2000 passengers. The discrepancy is thought to be the result of additional bunks being added to some cabins to enable families of five to cruise.

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The container ship JULIANA (16,137-gt, built 2009) arriving off the port of Cape Town on 4 February this year. Robben Island can be seen beyond the Juliana in the top picture. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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