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Ports & Ships Maritime News

2 November 2012
Author: Terry Hutson



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The former Antarctic supply ship SA AGULHAS, SAMSA’s cadet training ship has been prepared in new livery ahead of a special charter involving the ‘Seeing is Believing’ Antarctic expedition, in which the ship will soon proceed from Cape Town to the River Thames in London to embark the expedition team.

The expedition is centred around the veteran explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who intends taking on one of the last remaining polar challenges by attempting to cross Antarctica in winter. The six-month expedition is being called 'The Coldest Journey', and will see the team of six crossing nearly 4,000 kilometres, mostly in complete darkness in temperatures as low as -90°C.

On 6 December 2012, the expedition team will set out from London on board the SA Agulhas, bound for Antarctica where on 21 March 2013 the expedition will begin the six month journey to reach the Ross Sea. Their route from the Russian base of Novolazareskaya (‘Novo’) to Captain Scott’s base at McMurdo Sound - via the South Pole – will test the limits of human endurance.

Previously, the furthest any expedition has ever ventured into Antarctica during the winter is 60 miles. The team will have to be entirely self-sufficient. There will be no search and rescue facility available, as aircraft cannot penetrate inland during winter due to darkness and the risk of fuel freezing.

“This will be my greatest challenge to date,” said Sir Ranulph Fiennes. “Britain and the Commonwealth have a strong heritage of exploration, from Captain Cook 300 years ago to the present day. As such it is fitting that a Commonwealth team should be the first to fulfil this last great polar expedition.”

It is fitting also that the SA Agulhas will once again be at the centre of delivering an Antarctic team to the ice shelf.

The exploration team intends to raise US$5 million for Seeing is Believing – a global initiative led by Standard Chartered and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness to tackle avoidable blindness in developing countries.

Every dollar raised will be matched by Standard Chartered, doubling the impact that Seeing is Believing can make on the ground. Since its launch in 2003, the programme has reached over 28 million people.

“I have been on some amazing expeditions and seen many of the beautiful and unique sights the world has to offer. When I discovered Seeing is Believing, what it stood for, and understood how easily avoidable blindness could be prevented it inspired me and my colleagues to undertake this challenge. It is a fantastic cause and I would urge everyone who follows our progress to donate to it,” said Sir Ranulph.

This picture above shows SA Agulhas in her new livery, prior to the ship leaving Cape Town for London. Picture by Glen Kasner

Acknowledgements also to ‘The Coldest Journey on Earth’ by Seeing is Believing and Paul Ridgway in London


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Port of Cape Town. Picture courtesy TNPA/ The Aerial Perspective aerialphoto.co.za

Transnet has declared an 11% increase in a revenue of R24.9 billion for the six months ended 30 September 2012. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) for the half year showed an increase of 7.1% to R10.091 billion.

The increase in revenue was mainly as a result of a 7,5% growth in railed volumes. Cash generated from operations after working capital changes jumped 18,1% to R9,8 billion, offering evidence of the company’s continued ability to generate strong and sustainable cash flows. Transnet said that this was driven by better collections and inflows due to improved working capital management among others.

In line with the drive for higher volumes, increased input costs associated with the Market Demand Strategy (MDS) as well as other external factors, operating expenses for the period were 13,9% higher at R14,8 billion. The primary contributory factors for this increase related to both material and personnel costs. This included wages - as a result of a rise in the number of employees, as well as increased energy costs.

This increase in personnel is set to continue – during the six months Transnet employed an additional 1,752 new people while creating 6,704 new jobs in supplier-related industries, which it says is in support of the objectives of the government’s New Growth Path.

Divisionally, Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) grew its volumes by 19% on the previous period, which the company says is a result of market share gain.

The manganese and iron ore unit increased volumes by 11,2% to 31,7 million tonnes, achieving record-breaking weekly performances along the way and made possible by Transnet’s capital investment programme and improved operational efficiencies. Coal volumes increased by 7,8% to 41,6 million tonnes, compared with 38,6mt in the same half year period last year. The coal line’s performance was also driven by improved efficiency gains due to the arrival of new locomotives and scheduled infrastructure maintenance.

Transnet said that TFR’s volumes performance was achieved despite numerous customer related issues including a protracted dispute between mining giants and key customers, Kumba and ArcellorMittal, over pricing.

At the country’s ports, container and automotive volumes were slightly lower and flat respectively, in line with the slowdown in economic growth. However, Transnet Port Terminals, the port operations unit, claims to have recorded a substantial increase in efficiency levels across its terminals. It says that average moves per gross crane hour (GCH), the key measure of productivity in container terminals, improved to 28,4 GCH at the Durban Container Terminal’s Pier 2, up from 19,6 GCH in the previous period.

The Richards Bay Dry Bulk Terminal’s loading rate increased by 3,8% from 691 tons per hour to 717 tons per hour.

At Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), revenue decreased by 5,7% to R4,2 billion (2011: R4,5 billion). Transnet says that the reduction is mainly attributable to the automotive and container export rebate programme of R447 million. This was slightly offset by an increase in container volumes of 3,4% and an increase of 15,1% in export coal as well as a 13,0% increase in iron ore exports.

Transnet Port Terminals’ (TPT) revenue increased by 6,1% to R3,8 billion (2011: R3,5 billion) despite a marginal decrease in container volumes to 2,174 451 TEUs (2011:2,203 211 TEUs) for the half year. Automotive volumes increased by 0,3% to 334,165 units (2011: 333,206 units). Bulk and break-bulk volumes increased by 4,8% to 42,6mt (2011: 40,7mt).

Revenue for Transnet Pipelines increased by 26,0% to R1,3 billion (2011:R1,1 billion), which Transnet says is mainly due to the 31,58% increase in allowable revenue granted by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) in its 2012/13 Tariff Determination.

In terms of capital expenditure, Transnet says that it has decided to sustain an aggressive capacity expansion and maintenance programme despite the slowdown in demand for South African exports as a result of a slower global economy. During the period under review, the company recorded an unprecedented 34,5% increase in capital expenditure to R12,8 billion.

The planned dig-out port at the old Durban International Airport site is scheduled so that the first phase of construction will commence in 2016. The new port, which will operate as part of the Durban Port, should receive its first container vessel in 2020.

The project is likely to be South Africa’s flagship Private Sector Partnership initiative.

The company says that it does not expect the recent ratings updates of Transnet and the Sovereign by Moody’s and S&P to affect its ability to access the debt capital markets. Both rating agencies have maintained the company’s investment grade credit rating and the reviews did not indicate any deterioration in the company’s stand-alone credit profile.

“More importantly, Moody’s has decided to maintain Transnet’s rating despite downgrading the sovereign.”


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Mixed results for Japan’s big three shipping lines

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MOL Caledon in Cape Town harbour. Picture by Ian Shiffman

There were mixed fortunes for Japan’s ‘big three’ shipping lines, Mitsui OSK (MOL), NYK and K Line as each announced its half-yearly results this week.

Japan’s largest carrier, MOL posted an operating loss of ¥2.3 billion (US$30.7 million) which nevertheless was a great improvement on last year’s ¥10 billion loss for the same period. Revenues increased 5.5% to ¥756.9-bn year on year but MOL still experienced a net loss of ¥13-bn for the period.

According to MOL the supply-demand environment has improved since the beginning of spring (northern hemisphere) but the Asia-Europe trade remains weaker than expected during the summer peak season.

In response to the container trade conditions MOL has enhanced super slow steaming to further reduce costs. The pressures brought on by newbuilding supply has seen MOL rationalising its services together with other G6 alliance carriers.

“We will continue pushing ahead with rationalisation efforts in the containership business, including reducing the frequency of services, as well as organising and/or expanding shipping routes,” MOL said in a statement. - source MOL


Net loss but operating profit for NYK

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NYK’s reefer vessel Wild Lotus at Durban’s Fresh Produce Terminal

No.2 in the Japanese shipping pecking order, NYK Line has declared an operating profit of ¥17.8 billion ($224 million) compared with a loss of ¥9.6 billion during the same half-year period of last year. This was achieved on a turnover of ¥944 billion on the half year, which reflected a 3.6% increase in revenue.

Despite this NYK recorded a net loss of ¥4.1 billion (¥1-bn in 2011) also for the six months of 1 April – 30 September.

Referring to the container trades, NYK said in a statement: “Shipping companies furthered efforts to restructure routes and consolidate fleets to cope with sluggish shipping demand caused by economic slowdown in Europe and other regions, along with a rise in newbuilt tonnage of large-sized container vessels.”

NYK has expanded its Asian routes in the face of increased demand but the Asia-Europe trades have been rationalised under the G6 alliance. The company was “optimising route planning through the use of weather forecast data and optimising vessel management through the use of vessel operational data.” - source NYK Line


Operating profit and net loss for K Line

It is a similar story with Japan’s third largest carrier, K Line which made an operating profit of ¥12.1 billion ($156.6 million) compared with an operating loss of ¥18.4 billion for the half year ended 30 September in 2011.

This was made on the back of a 9.9% increase in revenue to ¥546.2-bn.

K Line’s container division recorded an operating profit of ¥3.8-bn compared with a loss of ¥16.8-bn in the division for the half year in 2011. The division reduced services on unprofitable trade routes leading to a 10% decrease in volumes on north-south routes and introduced rate restoration on most trades, in particular the Asia-Europe and Asia-US routes.

The company is in the process of introducing mega ships to replace older vessels and has applied slow steaming to reduce energy costs.

“The global economy was in a slump: Europe was stagnant amid the prolonged sovereign debt crisis, the US recovery was decelerating in a persistently harsh employment environment, and the yet-growing emerging economies including China, India and other countries began to slow down in the face of the stalling European and US economies,” said K Line in a statement. - source K Line


Tragic ending for HMS Bounty

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HMS Bounty sinking. Picture courtesy US Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd class Tim Kuklewski

It was a loss of another nature for the replica sailing ship HMS BOUNTY which was trapped by the super storm that struck the eastern seaboard of the United States this week, resulting in the loss of the ship and the death of two people, including the ship’s master.

HMS Bounty was built in Nova Scotia in 1960 specially for the making of the movie Mutiny on the Bounty and featured in several other full length films including the Pirates of the Caribbean’ series. The 55-metre long, three-masted ship was sailing off Cape Hatteras when she was caught in the storm and began sinking.

The 16-person crew donned cold water survival suits and lifejackets before launching two 25-person lifeboats. One of the crew however, a Ms Claudene Christian, died before she could be rescued and the master, Captain Robin Walbridge was reported to be missing overboard as the vessel began to sink. Ms Christian was said to have been a descendant of Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutineers on the original HMS Bounty.

The remaining crew were rescued by the US Coast Guard helicopters. Sea conditions were described as rough with 5-metre swells and winds of 40 mph.

The sailing ship was operated by Tall Ships America.

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Cyclone Anais, the first of the summer for the southern Indian Ocean. Picture NASA/Goddard/MODIS/Rapid Response Team

With the devastating hurricane named Sandy fresh in the news this week, it is worth considering that the southern Indian Ocean has already experienced its first cyclone of the 2012/13 summer. Cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes are essentially the same.

Cyclone Anais was born about 100 miles west-southwest of Diego Garcia, which lies close to 8.3S, 70.6E or approximately 2000 n.miles east of the Tanzania coast. Anais was born a few weeks earlier than usual for a tropical cyclone in the south western Indian Ocean.

In the picture above there are several features to note. One is the blue colouring, caused by phytoplankton concentrations. Note also in the upper quadrant the internal wave crests. According to DeepSeaNews.com these are not caused by the cyclone but are generated by the tides. The picture was taken on 15 October during a spring high tide as the cyclone passed over the Seychelles/Mascarene Plateau, a large bump in the deep Indian Ocean that generates internal waves as the tides slosh back and forth over it. DeepSeaNews.com adds that the picture was taken at the perfect time to capture the powerful phenomena of a cyclone and the internal waves together.

Deepseanews.com describes the phenomena of the internal waves this way. “It’s spring tide. These are some of the largest tides, so water is racing up and down and rip-roaring back and forth, causing some big-ass internal waves. These waves are so ridiculously large and have so much energy, that they change from regular internal waves into highly energetic internal waves known as solitons. Solitons are found all over the world and it’s actually pretty common to see them from space. In fact, there is a whole bunch of physical oceanographers that use satellite imagery such as this to find and track solitons.”

At its peak Cyclone Anais proved to be a powerful tropical storm with the highest sustained winds reaching an estimated 115 knots (about 133 mph) on Sunday, 14 October, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), which indicated that this was the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.

Fortunately there was little land mass in the path of the storm which began to weaken at about the time the above photograph was taken. By then the winds had slipped to 100 knots (115 mph) - still strong enough. Anais was then over the south Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles east of northern Madagascar. The storm continued to weaken thanks to the relatively cool early season sea surface which was unfavorable for sustaining serious tropical cyclones.

By Wednesday, 17 October Anais was 405 n. miles north-northeast of La Reunion, and the maximum sustained winds had reduced to 45 knots because of adverse environmental conditions. The storm was moving west at 12 knots, weakening as it went.

Apart from islands such as Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion, the landmass of Madagascar experience as much if not more tropical storms than most other places on the planet. What the eastern United States around New York endured this week is what the people of Madagascar have to bear not once a year but three, four, five or more times on average. Yet there is seldom much publicity given to these and some storms go by unreported, despite thousands of people being left homeless and devastated.

Approximately 60 percent of all storms that form in the Indian Ocean basin, strike Madagascar. An average of between 3-4 intense tropical storms with winds of up to 200km/h have come ashore on the island each year since the 1990s and computer modelling suggests that Madagascar will experience over 260 cyclones by the year 2100.

Earlier this year, as reported on this site, Cyclone Giovanna displaced an estimated 40,000 people after coming ashore and crossing the country. One of the worst storms ever recorded was Cyclone Geralda which came ashore in 1994 and left tens of thousands homeless while destroying an estimated 300,000 hectares of cultivated land.

It has been suggested that cyclones in the western Indian Ocean are changing their trajectory and that this is partly a result of global warming.

Sources: http://www.africareview.com; http://deepseanews.com; http://www.accuweather.com; Navy Research Lab Monterrey – NRLMRY


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MSC Opera, now on her way to South Africa

MSC Opera sets sail on maiden voyage to South Africa

One can safely suggest that the luxury cruise ship MSC OPERA is set to become the next favourite cruise ship among a more discerning South African public.

Bidding farewell to Venice, Italy, MSC Opera set off yesterday (1 November 2012) on her maiden voyage to South African shores. During an 18-day/19-night grand voyage, MSC Opera will sail from the Mediterranean Sea to the North Atlantic Ocean and down the west coast of Africa to the South Atlantic Ocean, before arriving in Cape Town on 20 November 2012.

To mark the luxury cruise ship’s maiden call in Cape Town, on 20 November MSC Cruises is hosting a special charity event in aid of abandoned and abused children. Proceeds from tickets to the event and its action-packed auction will go to the Ukuthemba Foundation, a local organisation providing safe and loving home environments for orphans and neglected and abused children.

There will also be a traditional crest exchange between Captain Sabelo Mdlalose, harbourmaster at the Port of Cape Town and Captain Ciro Pinto, the master of MSC Opera. The crest exchange is a time honored maritime tradition and involves an exchange of commemorative plaques between MSC Cruises and the Cape Town port authority.

“We look forward to welcoming the MSC Opera to the beautiful Mother City, and to South Africa for the first time,” said Captain Sabelo Mdlalose.

Following the Ukuthemba and crest event, MSC Opera will set sail for her new homeport in Durban, where she will host an exclusive party on 23 November for media, VIPs and travel industry representatives in celebration of her arrival. MSC Cruises CEO Pierfrancesco Vago will be in attendance to celebrate MSC Opera’s first season in the region.

MSC Opera then has a full schedule of three and four night cruises, operating out of Durban from 24 November 2012 until early March 2013. She will take over the popular cruises to Maputo, Portuguese Island and Barra Lodge in Mozambique from sister ship MSC Sinfonia, who will in turn replace the smaller MSC Melody, allowing guests from the Cape Town region to experience a totally new product from their own home port.

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a tranquil Mozambican beach

MSC Opera is slightly larger than her sister ship MSC Sinfonia and can accommodate over 1,700 guests. South African cruise lovers are eagerly awaiting her first call in the region and the new elegance she will bring, with her glamorous décor and public areas enhanced by a sweeping marble reception area and magnificent open spaces with glass walls for spectacular ocean views sure to please local cruisers.

In addition to the change in vessels, the ever popular Christmas cruise itinerary has also been modified slightly and will now sail to Portuguese Island and then on to the tiny beach village of Anakoa in Madagascar. The 11-night festive New Year cruise will now include the celebration of New Year’s Eve under La Reunion skies and a call in Mauritius on New Year’s Day, where MSC Opera will remain in port for 3 nights.

Towards the end of the season, MSC Opera’s itineraries will include Port Elizabeth and she will also sail a small number of cruises out of Cape Town to Mossel Bay, Walvis Bay, and Luderitz before leaving South African shores for the European summer.

MSC Opera has 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 and boasts the sumptuous MSC Aurea Spa, a disco, video games room, internet café, casino, team building facilities and a medical centre. The ship has a wonderful array of duty free shopping and caters for kids with the Buffalo Bill children’s play area, special dining options for children and families, and four different kids clubs. Additional facilities include the Cotton Club bar and a stage on deck for outdoor entertainment.

Bookings for the 2012/13 season are now open from your travel agent or from Starlight Cruises.

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La Caravella, one of MSC Opera’s four restaurants


Another Classic ship arrested

Thousands of West and South Australians are faced with the possibility of having to cancel their travel plans after the Sydney-based Classic International Cruises Australia (CIC) went into voluntary administration on Wednesday (31 October 2012).

The problems for CIC Australia began to stack up once the cruise ship ATHENA, which is under charter to CIC Australia to undertake a summer season of cruises in Australian waters, was arrested in Marseilles in mid-September for unpaid bunker fuel, crew wages and other supplies.

A total of four CIC cruise ships are under arrest in various European ports and although the financial woes affecting the four classic ships involve the Lisbon-based owners and not CIC Australia, the non-availability of Athena to carry out her contracted season of cruises has adversely affected the Australian branch of the company.

Earlier, CIC Australia said that it was negotiating for the DELPHIN to take over the cruise season but these plans have since fallen through because of scheduling problems.

According to CIC Australia managing director Grant Hunter, the decision was taken to place the Australian company under voluntary administration mainly to isolate its money from the problems of the European owners. He claimed that the money paid by some 6,000 passengers who had booked on the Athena was now ‘ringlocked’ and was therefore secure. There was still time to find another suitable ship, he believed.

The 550-passenger Athena was under charter to operate from mid-December until mid-April and was due to sail from Marseilles for Australia on 12 November.

The other three CIC ships under arrest in Europe are PRINCESS DANAE which is under arrest also in Marseilles, ARION which has been detained in the Port of Kotor in Montenegro, and PRINCESS DAPHNE which is arrested in Souda in Crete.

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The Classic International’s ATHENA when she visited Cape Town in April this year while re-positioning from Australia back to Europe. The ship sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the dangers of pirates near the Horn of Africa. Picture by Ian Shiffman



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The anchor handling supply tug Bourbon Liberty 249

The seven crew members from the offshore vessel BOURBON LIBERTY 249 (1733-gt, built 2011) were released yesterday, Bourbon has confirmed.

The seven crew, six Russians and one Estonian were kidnapped on 15 October by a group of pirates who boarded the offshore supply vessel off the coast of Nigeria. Although details of their release, where they were held and by whom have not been disclosed, Bourbon did confirm that all crew appeared to be in good health. They are being looked after by the members of the Bourbon Emergency Unit in Nigeria where are undergoing medical and psychological check-ups.

The report said that the seven would be returning to their homes within the next few days for a reunion with their families and friends. Bourbon thanked the various organisations involved in the release of the crew, which included the Nigerian local authorities and the Nigerian, Russian, Estonian, Luxemburg and French governments.

“For reasons of confidentiality and in order to preserve the privacy of the families, no information will be given about the demands, the context, the released crewmembers and their families,” said Bourbon in its statement.

In other words, the crew will be kept away from the media and questions about whether a ransom was paid to secure their release will go unanswered.

The French offshore vessel was attacked by seven pirates on 15 October while 40 n.miles south of Brass. Those taken away involved only expatriates who were on board the vessel - nine Nigerians also on board were left behind. It is not clear who the ship is currently under charter to although Total appears to be the most likely. Earlier it was reported that the vessel was under charter to Chevron but this has been denied.


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The France Telecom Marine cable layer LEON THEVENIN (5887-gt, built 1983) which has taken up station in Cape Town following the fire and grounding of her predecessor, Chamarel off the Namibian coast. These pictures by Ian Shiffman

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