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Ports & Ships Maritime News

9 November 2012
Author: Terry Hutson


Great rates and a large, widespread dedicated maritime sector readership. During October 2012 Ports & Ships enjoyed the company of 54,360 readers on this site, readers who made 206,735 page views and recorded 956,532 ‘hits’ during the month. With your company banner on these pages you could have benefited by reaching out to this readership.
Another advantage of advertising with us is that we never take down our pages so your advert continues to work for you, month after month, year after year. Check it out on site – it’s not an exaggeration. Ports & Ships goes back 10 years in December. For a Rate Card please contact us at info@ports.co.za info@ports.co.za


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




Click on headline to go direct to story – use the BACK key to return



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The 8580-TEU capacity container ship HANJIN ROTTERDAM (91,621-gt, built 2011) being manoeuvred into the harbour in Cape Town recently. Ships of this container capacity are becoming commonplace at South Africa’s container ports. Pictures by Aad Noorland

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Port statistics for the month of October 2012, covering the eight commercial ports under the administration of Transnet National Ports Authority, are now available. They reveal that the total volume of cargo handled by all the ports was similar to that of the previous month, although port by port there were some fluctuations.

Comparing October year on year with 2011 however presents a different story, with the total volume this year of 23.264 million tonnes representing a marked increase against the 19.487mt achieved last year for the same month.

October’s containers were marginally ahead of September 2012 by about 20,000 TEUs but there was a decrease of approximately 30,000 TEUs when compared with a year ago month on month. The overall increase in volumes therefore didn’t come from the container trade but with bulk exports, with iron ore exports through Saldanha in particular having had a strong month.


To compare the 2012 October figures year on year with those of 2011, please go to the following link HERE.

September 2012’s figures can be found HERE - In both instances use your BACKSPACE button to return to this page.


As is always the case with figures reported in PORTS & SHIPS, these reflect an adjustment on the overall tonnage to those provided by Transnet. This is to include containers by weight – an adjustment necessary because Transnet NPA measures containers by number of TEUs and does not show the weight.

To arrive at such a calculation, PORTS & SHIPS uses an average of 13,5 tonnes per TEU, which does involve some under-reporting but until such time as the IMO enforces the weighing of containers at all ports we will have to live with these estimates. Nevertheless, we continue to make this distinction, failing which South African ports would continue to be under-reported internationally.

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Port Elizabeth Container Terminal and harbour


Figures for the respective ports during October 2012 are:


Cargo handled by tonnes during October 2012

PORT October 2012 million tonnes
Richards Bay 7.944
Durban 7.104
Saldanha Bay 6.028
Cape Town 1.221
Port Elizabeth 0.862
Ngqura 0.732
Mossel Bay 0.184
East London 0.189
Total all ports 23.264 million tonnes

CONTAINERS (measured by TEUs) during October 2012
(TEUs include Deepsea, Coastal, Transship and empty containers all subject to being invoiced by NPA

PORT October 2012 TEUs
Durban 227,999
Cape Town 67,555
Port Elizabeth 26,982
Ngqura 54,221
East London 4,393
Richards Bay 1,032
Total all ports 382,182 TEUs

SHIP CALLS for October 2012

PORT October 2012 vessels gross tons
Durban 345 10,796,013
Cape Town 216 4,558,534
Richards Bay 141 5,776,637
Port Elizabeth 85 2,289,519
Saldanha Bay 48 3,338,957
Ngqura 38 1,816,385
East London 17 470,245
Mossel Bay 44 205,820
Total ship calls 932 29,227,591

- source TNPA, but with adjustments made by Ports & Ships to include container tonnages



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Richards Bay Coal Terminal. Picture TNPA

  Month's exports YTD exports Annualised estimate Ships Trains
January 2012 4,463,987 4,463,987 52,56mt 44 813
February 2012 6,087,111 10,551,098 64.19mt 63 678
March 2012 6,239,646 16,790,744 67.35 58 810
April 2012 5,174,739 21,965,483 66,26 48 778
May 2012 4,627,648 26,593,131 63,86 46 509
June 2012 5,454,166 32,047,297 64.27 47 725
July 2012 6,279,244 38,326,541 65,68 54 777
August 2012 5,883,215 44,209,756 66,13 51 791
September 2012 5,239,216 49,448,972 65,87 52 765
October 2012 5,563,800 55,012,772 65,83 53 694

source: RBCT


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The Cape Chamber of Commerce has expressed misgivings with the Transnet National Ports Authority’s new pricing strategy, which it says will leave exporters who ship out their products in containers no better off that they were before the plan to reduce export cargo dues by 43 percent.

TNPA has applied for tariff increases of 5.4% for most goods but a 43.21% reduction in tariffs for containerised exports, a reduction of 14.3% for containerised imports and a reduction of 15.71% on motor vehicle exports.

“Unfortunately it seems that to compensate for this the NPA wants to increase charges in other areas of its business and these areas do not fall under the control of the Port Regulator,” said Michael Bagraim, President of the Chamber.

At present cargo dues produce 61% of the revenue for the ports but in terms of the new application to the Ports Regulator that will be reduced to 41 percent.

To compensate for this, the share of revenue from shipping lines will be increased from the present 20% to 21%, but the big adjustment will be an increase in rental charges to ‘tenants’ who will then provide 33% of the revenue for the ports instead of the present 19 percent.

Mr Mike Walwyn, chairman of Cape Town’s Port Liaison Forum, says it is likely that Transnet Port Terminals, the main tenant, will have to pass on the increases to cargo owners in the form of higher terminal handling charges and they may be no better off than they are now.

The Chamber says that port tariffs in South Africa are among the highest in the world and that there is evidence that Transnet has used the ports as a cash cow to subsidise other loss-making operations.

In recent years the Port Regulator has rejected applications for high tariff increases. In 2010, for instance, the NPA applied for a 10.6% increase but the Regulator granted only 4.42 percent. In 2011 the NPA asked for 11.91% and were granted only 4.49 percent. Transnet applied for an 18.06% increase for the present year but the Regulator granted only 2.76 percent.

As the Port Regulator has no say on what the TNPA can charge its subsidiary company, Transnet Port Terminals, its authority could effectively be bypassed. – source CBN


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Pier 1 Container Terminal in Durban. If the balance of trade swings the way of Africa at the expense of overseas foreign markets, what effect will this have of South Africa’s logistics. Will the region’s road and rail infrastructure stand up to the greater volumes, and will intra-African shipping take off at last? Picture by TNPA

International credit insurer Coface projects that by 2016, South African exports into Africa will increase significantly but will be offset by an equivalent drop in trade with Europe. There will also be an increase in trade with Asia but trade with the US will remain at the current levels.

Garth de Klerk, CEO of Coface South Africa, says China will play an important role in SA’s economic future. Currently, 13% of total SA’s exports are to China. They consume 65% of all primary aluminum produced in SA and 70% of all iron ore mined in SA.

China’s biggest export markets in 2011was the EU at $356-billion followed by the US at $324,5-billion and Hong Kong at $268-billion. China is therefore reliant on the health of these three economies.

China’s imports from the EU in 2011 were $211-billion, Japan $194-billion, South Korea $163-billion, Taiwan $125-billion and imports from the US were $122-billion.

China did not feature in SA’s top ten export destination countries in 2008. SA exported by value to Japan, USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Australia and Zimbabwe.

In 2012 this changed dramatically. SA’s top export destination was China, followed by the US, Japan, Germany, UK, India, Switzerland, Netherlands, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

By 2016, Coface projects that SA’s top ten export destinations will be by value: China, the US, Japan, Germany, Mozambique, India, UK, Angola, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Two European countries will exit the list, Switzerland and Netherlands, replaced by two additional African countries, Angola and Zambia, with Coface projecting that four out of SA’s ten trading partners will be African countries by 2016.

Coface forecasts that SA’s annual GDP growth from 2012 to 2014 will increase from 2,6% to 3,1%, slowly returning to the 2008 level of 3,6%. Inflation will rise from 6% to 6,4% during the same period, unemployment will remain unchanged at 25%, and public debt will increase to its highest level from 40% as a percentage of GDP in 2012 to 42% in 2014, dramatically up from 27,5% in 2008. The current account deficit as a percentage of GDP will increase from -4,5% in 2012 to -5,5% in 2014, down from -7,2% in 2008.

Coface says one of the biggest threats facing SA is the increase in unsecured lending. Bank income from unsecured debt has risen 30% year-on-year from 2010 to 2012. This could be an indication of another credit bubble. But this time it will not be an international housing and derivatives credit bubble, but the inability of poorer people to pay back loans which could have a dramatic effect on South African banks, much worse that the worldwide credit crisis of 2008.

Coface says that rising food prices will almost certainly exacerbate the unsecured lending risk and mass action contagion. This could result in a waning of foreign investor confidence.

Dumping of imports are negatively affecting local manufacturers and Coface sees the local agriculture sector as another risk with this industry continuing to shrink. source Cape Business News (CBN)


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The Sena railway before rehabilitation

Mining group Vale has been forced to halve its projected coal export target for 2012 to 2.6 million tonnes on account of the limited rail capacity along the Sena Railway.

Announcing this in Mozambique last week, Vale’s director of operations told Reuters that the original target of 4.6 million tonnes was now unattainable because of limitations with the railway, which have been problematic from the start. “We cannot produce at our full capacity while we have transport limitations,” he said.

Problems dogging the Sena railway resulted in the Indian construction company RICON having its concession cancelled by CFM, the Portuguese rail and port authority. CFM took on the completion of the contract ‘in-house’ but has yet to complete the full restoration and rehabilitation of the railway that was first developed from 1912 to connect the then protectorate of Nyasaland (now Malawi) with the port of Beira. The line also reached deep into Tete province ending at the town of Tete not far from Moatize, an area and town with extensive coalfields now under development.

Apart from Vale, Riversdale and several other mining groups are currently active in the Moatize area and it is highly unlikely that the Sena Railway, unless extensively rebuilt, would ever be capable of handling the anticipated volume of export coal. The projected final capacity of the line has been given as 6.5 million tonnes. In addition it is not likely that the Port of Beira, with its draught problems could ever become a completely successful export port for coal. As a result plans have been announced to build an extension railway into Malawi to connect with that country’s rail system, which in turn connects with the northern Mozambique deepwater port of Nacala, where there are also plans to develop a coal export terminal.

Meanwhile, Vale says that it expects the Sena line to be completed by the end of this year following which it will increase production and export levels to 4.9 million tonnes in 2013.

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The magnificent Dona Ana Bridge at Sena, halfway between Moatize and Beira. Measuring 3.67 kilometres in length, this was at one time the longest bridge in Africa and was built to take the railway across the Zambesi River as it was extended towards Nyasaland and Tete respectively. Built in 1935, the railway bridge was badly damaged during the Mozambique civil war but was later repaired and converted as a single lane motor and pedestrian bridge, as seen here. With the completion of a new road bridge further downstream at Caia the 33-span Dona Ana bridge has since been returned to its original use by the Sean Railway. Picture Wiki Commons


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The second of three former missile strike craft of the South African Navy, SAS MAKHANDA (P1569) has arrived under tow in Durban for refurbishment ahead of her conversion into a patrol ship for the navy.

She follows SAS ISAAC DYOBHA (1565) which arrived in October and is now at the Southern African Shipyards at Bayhead. A third vessel, SAS GALASHEWE (1567) is due at the shipyard in December.

The vessels are undergoing a full maintenance and overhaul including machinery, electrical and hull ahead of being refitted by the navy for patrol duties. It appears they will be armed with one 76mm OTO Melara gun, two 20mm cannon and two 12.7mm machine guns.

Completion of the contract is given as end March 2013 after which defenceWeb reports that they will remain at the Salisbury Island naval station in Durban. The article says that apart from being used for offshore patrol purposes the three ships will be useful in training up crews for newer patrol vessels under Project Biro. It says that navy personnel will also gain experience at sea while on duty with the DAFF fisheries research and patrol vessels.


Fisheries vessels were in poor condition, says navy

Talking of the DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) vessels, which have been transferred to the navy pending various disputes between DAFF and the former operator of the vessels, Smit Amandla Marine, the South African Navy has justified the length of time in getting the fleet ready for sea patrols and says that it was surprised at the poor condition of the craft.

It has taken more than half a year to ready the vessels, some of which are for fishery patrol purposes and others for research patrols. But according to Rear Admiral (Jg) Bravo Mhlana, the vessels were far from being in the excellent condition that was reported to them at handover. He said that an inspection had indicated the ships did not reach up to the required naval maintenance standard.

His comments to defenceWeb echoed those of the Defence Minister who in replying to questions in parliament issued a report concerning the condition of the vessels and why they had been unable to carry out sea and fishery patrols. Each ship was listed showing its operational condition.

The minister also indicated that most of the fleet would be ready to return to service by the end of October, although he said that a few patrols had been carried out during this period.


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The Israeli-owned and managed container ship MSC ALTAMIRA (108,000-gt, built 2012) which spent an unprecedented 11 days at Durban’s Pier 1 Container Terminal last week, before sailing for Cape Town. Picture by Trevor Jones

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The sun came out very briefly yesterday (Thursday) but just as this Astarkhan-type Russian-owned and managed ro-ro freighter ATLANTIC HOPE (15,893-gt, built 1987) came down the entrance channel into Durban harbour. Note the railings along the side of the North Pier – a hopeful indication perhaps that the pier is soon to be reopened to public use. Picture by Trevor Jones

The Astarkhan type is an interesting ro-ro tweendeck vessel designed for military sealift cargoes but with built-in flexibility for merchant use including the carrying of containers, heavylifts and other general types of cargo. In recent years several of this type have been deployed by the Russian owner in operating services between North America and South Africa, taking advantage of the gap left by the departure of CCAL and Lykes Line. Atlantic Hope is in fact one of the former Lykes Line ships, LYKES HUNTER which operated between Canada and the US to South Africa in the early 2000s.


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