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Ports & Ships Maritime News

7 December 2012
Author: Terry Hutson



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Image and video hosting by TinyPic The Russian polar research diesel-electric icebreaker AKADEMIK FEDOROV (12,660-gt, built 1987) which arrived in port at Cape Town this week and has since sailed. The vessel is owned and operated by Russia’s Arctic & Antarctic Research organisation of St Petersburg and is the flag ship of the Russian Polar Research fleet. Picture by Aad Noorland


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Looking across the Port of East London’s small container terminal to the grain elevator on the west bank of the Buffalo River

The first shipment of coal from the Eastern Cape Elitheni mine at Indwe is expected to be loaded from the Port of East London later this month.

The consignment of anthracite coal is destined for a client in Brazil and marks the first shipment in many years (possibly the first ever- does anyone know?) from South Africa’s only river port.

The development of the mine is also noteworthy. Coal was mined in earlier years at Indwe but production ceased on account of it being ‘unproductive’ and was only resuscitated thanks to an emphasis on developing economic opportunities in the Eastern Cape.

Mining company Strategic National Resources’ chairman, Richard Latham, said that the sheer scale of achievement in transforming from essentially an exploration company to a production company within the last 12 months has been most impressive to witness and a large number of practical challenges have been met and overcome to keep the company on track and on schedule of its stated goals.

This involved opencast mining of about 100,000 tonnes of raw coal to create a mine site followed by the assembly and construction of a coal washing plant on site. Underground equipment arrived later and will shortly be commissioned, and the mine has an annual target volume of 800,000 tonnes of coal.

The coal is taken to the Port of East London using specially designed tipping containers which are being transported by rail and on the road.

Latham said that once the first shipment has been completed and systems are in place, the mine will be able to bring additional underground operations on stream.

The contract to ship coal from East London is of high significance for the port, which in recent years has been battling with small volumes and a dependency on automotive traffic from the adjacent Mercedes Benz plant. Coal will become the first new cargo for the port in many years. The Port of East London recently took possession of its first Liebherr mobile crane.


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Two views of the Durban International Airport site – what it looks like now in 2012 (above) and what it could look like on completion. Transnet group executive of Planning and Monitoring Mark Gregg-MacDonald has emphasised that this is a preliminary plan and the eventual shape of the new port may differ. The existing Durban Harbour can be seen in the top left hand of each graphic.

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The first steps along the path of building a new port on the site of the old Durban International Airport south of Durban, were taken yesterday (Thursday, 6 December 2012) when Transnet officially took ownership of the site.

The plan is to build a superport on the old airport site, with 16 container berths and a container terminal capacity of 9.6 million TEUs. The port will also have several berths for an automotive terminal, and berths for tankers and associated vessels for a liquid bulk terminal as the site is adjacent to the Sapref and Engen oil refineries.

The project to build a new deepwater port on the site has been on the go for several years, after an equal period of being an on/off development as Transnet deliberated whether to expand the existing Durban port into the Bayhead or go the greenfield route.

The decision to build a superport in phases, with four container berths constituting phase 1 and commencing around 2016 with the first ship expected by 2020, is not without its challenges. Not only does Transnet have to undertake a full environment impact assessment but it also has to answer a growing support-base for activists vehemently opposed to the development.

The new port will mean the expropriation of a small number of residential properties as well as several business concerns, but it is the back-of-port activities that mainly concern the affected parties, in particular the remaining residents of Clairwood, a once- iconic Indian residential area built along the flats which were once the floodplain for the three rivers feeding Durban Bay.

Clairwood was and is a largely Indian area but in recent years warehouses and container depots have crept in as local residents sold out and today any vacant ground quickly becomes a new container park, despite having inadequate roads to service the area.

Another potentially controversial mountain for Transnet to climb is its statement that it is investigating various funding options for the development. One of these includes a Private Sector Partnership (PSP) on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis.

These are words we’ve all heard before on other port related projects – Ngqura being one such example. Simply put, what this would amount to is a form of concessioning of the ports, which is an anathema to the trade union movement.

In a statement issued at yesterday’s handover Brian Molefe, Transnet group chief executive said the company was investigating various business models for the funding and development of the port and expected to make an announcement on this during the first half of next year.

Another statement by Transnet that will be watched with strong interest is the claim that when the port is in operation it expects that 80% of containers destined for the Gauteng region will leave or arrive at the port by rail.

Transnet Freight Rail currently carries about 20% of containers by rail along the Natal Corridor – meaningful figures are difficult to come by for various reasons and a lot of marketing will have to take place in the next seven years to ensure that these predictions are achievable.

Transport minister Ben Martins said at the handover that the development formed part of government’s Strategic Infrastructure Projects and would have a positive effect on the national economy while contributing to regional integration in southern Africa. He said the Department of Transport was exploring opportunities to improve the country’s competitiveness.

It is claimed that the dig out port will create 64,000 jobs during construction and a further 28,000 operational jobs. The potential container handling capacity of the Port of Durban will be increased to 14.5 million TEUs. “Future generations of Durbanites, South Africans, Africans as well as business people will applaud this watershed investment for its foresight in that they will say we acted in this fashion to invest in the future today, to create jobs, skills and logistics capacity that changed the economic and social landscape of our country in a decisive manner,” said Public Enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba. He said the capacity being created at the new port will tremendously enhance the capabilities of the Dube Trade Port as well as the Special Economic Zone that will be served both by the King Shaka International Airport (Durban’s new airport) as well as the expanded Durban Harbour.


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Medical evacuation off Port Elizabeth

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Echalar at Walvis Bay, waiting to go on the synchrolift. Picture by Capt. Hilmar Snorrason/Shipspotting.com

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has confirmed that an emergency evacuation of a seaman from the South African-registered fishing trawler ECHALAR took place yesterday (Thursday) off Port Elizabeth.

This followed reports that a 45-year old Spanish seaman on the vessel had taken ill with suspected angina. The vessel was then deepsea off Cape St Francis and requesting medical assistance. Transnet National Ports Authority authorised an emergency helicopter flight to evacuate the seaman and a BK-119 helicopter of the South African Air Force 15 Squadron Charlie Flight responded with two NSRI swimmers and a Netcare 911 paramedic joining the flight crew.

The air force helicopter rendezvoused with the trawler 20 nautical miles south of St Francis Bay, which is about 60 n.miles south of Port Elizabeth and after the swimmers and paramedic were airlifted onto the deck of the trawler in very rough seas, the patient was stabilised and airlifted aboard the aircraft and taken to a hospital in Port Elizabeth, where his condition is described as the result of pneumonia in one lung and not a heart attack. He is expected to make a full recovery.

Meanwhile the Echalar has continued to the fishing grounds.


Port of East London power outage warning

The Port of East London has given notice of a planned power outage on 16 December 2012 which will affect the port.

As a result of the maintenance of adjacent electrical sub-stations there will be disruption of electricity between the hours of 6am and approximately 6pm affecting the port and its tenants, says Dirk Botes, the port’s CRM manager.


Ships queue outside Durban

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Reconstruction of various Island View (tanker) berths at Durban is ongoing. Picture by Terry Hutson

Seasonal high winds and other adverse weather conditions have contributed to the accumulation outside the port of Durban of 35 vessels yesterday morning, almost double the average of 18 – 20 at other times.

Durban experiences strong wind conditions during spring and early summer, which coincides with the port’s peak season before Christmas and year end. Adding to the delays, one berth on the North Quay of Durban Container Terminal is temporarily out of commission while work on providing wider rail beams for the new ship-to-shore cranes is provided

So far berth 203 has been completed and work has now commenced on berth 204.

Similar reconstruction of the older dolphin berths at Durban’s Island View has added to the delays and accumulation of tanker ships outside the port, although some of this is a result of the oil industry importing greater volumes of refined fuel in place of local refining, which sees an average of 10 or more tankers waiting outside port on many occasions.


Transnet pilots, tug masters and civil engineers graduate

A total of 41 graduates emerged proudly from the Transnet School of Ports 2012 Graduation ceremony held at Sibaya, Durban on Wednesday, 5 December.

For the 13 civil engineers who completed their training in port engineering at the School of Ports after completing engineering degrees at tertiary level, Transnet National Ports Authority GM of Infrastructure, Hamilton Nxumalo said that their future lay in their own hands. Transnet will need more and more engineers in the future with the company’s investment in infrastructure helping to create greater opportunities. He said he hoped not only to see the graduates advancing in their career paths but one day to see his future replacement coming from within this group.

A total of 12 marine pilots graduated in 2012, helping to swell the numbers of pilots available at the various South African ports. Chief Harbourmaster Capt. Rufus Lekala said he expected the new pilots to advance to having open licences within the prescribed period.

Sixteen tugmasters also graduated and will take up their duties among the respective ports. Evident at the ceremony was a fierce sense of pride in their achievements which was displayed by all the graduates.


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Picture by Ian Edwards

A new floating dock for the Port of Walvis Bay is expected in 2013, bringing to three the number of docks available in the Namibian port. The dock has been acquired by Elgin Brown & Hamer: Namibia from Forgacs Dockyard in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia where it has been out of use for almost two years.

According to reliable sources the dock will first be towed to the Bantam Shipyard in Indonesia for refurbishment before heading across the Indian Ocean and round the Cape of Good Hope before arriving at the Walvis Bay port, where EB&H already has two floating docks in service. The dock is expected in Walvis Bay in May next year.

The third dock is larger than the others, being Panamax in size with a length of 200 metres compared with the 150m each of the other two. The new dock has a workable width of 44 metres

The floating dock comes complete with a floating crane with a 100 tonne capacity, which will prove to be a useful addition at the port.


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Study results are nothing less than startling.

Shipping lines could save millions of dollars in fuel costs if time spent in ports was decreased by even the most marginal amounts, claims new analysis from container shipping consultancy SeaIntel.

The company, in conjunction with industry group the Global Institute of Logistics and software provider Cirrus Group, set out to discover what the effects would be on a scheduled liner service if the time it took for a port to berth a vessel was incrementally reduced.

The study focused on time savings that could be made through the optimisation of the berthing process, from the point a ship arrives, on time, at its station. The results are nothing less than startling. By reducing the berthing time of a vessel in and out of ports, an extra lag is created in the liner’s schedule which the shipping line can use to slow down the vessel en route to its next port of call by the equivalent amount of time saved in the previous port.

“If the berthing process is systematically reduced in a given port, this will allow vessel operators to slow their vessels down slightly, and still be able to berth in a timely fashion. Of course, this is only possible if the process improvement is a genuine time saving, and hence the port changes the time set aside for the berthing process,” the paper says.

The study had to make a few assumptions, given that the possible financial savings made by carriers would be derived from subsequent fuel savings made by being able to cut vessel speeds between ports. In this case, it used the fuel consumption data for the 11,400-TEU CMA CGM Andromeda.

The cost of fuel consumption does not work in a linear fashion – the savings made from reducing a vessel from 18 knots to 17.9 knots are greater than reducing from 14 knots to 13.9 knots. So the savings made by shipping companies on fuel costs depend on the speeds that the ships are able to reduce from. If a port was able to reduce berthing time by two hours, which was then built into a 200-mile trip to the next port, the line would save $2,000 per port call if the vessel was steaming at 14 knots, and nearly $6,000 if it was steaming close to 19 knots.

But when this type of saving is multiplied across a scheduled container liner service, where vessels of identical size would be calling at the same port on a weekly basis and steaming at the same speeds, SeaIntel calculates that a 11,400-TEU vessel would see annual savings of between $150,000-$300,000, depending on the currently scheduled speeds, at that one port – although there appears to be something of a ceiling on savings, depending on the distances from the previous port in the string.

“We find that savings tangentially reach a maximum level after a certain distance. However, that distance depends on the time saving obtained in the port. Generally we find that more than 90% of the savings are obtained with a port-to-port distance below 500-600 miles,” it said.

Nonetheless, if berthing time reductions can be achieved across a string of ports on a particular service, the savings can be magnified. A typical Asia-Europe service calls at eight to 12 ports. If five of those ports can reduce berthing times by half an hour, the study concluded that almost $10m can be saved annually from reduced fuel consumption on the trade as a whole. If those five ports can reduce berthing times by three hours, the annual savings on the trade would jump to $40m.

The next step was to extrapolate that calculation out to the global liner industry, with the result that if five ports per string were to reduce berthing times by three hours the industry would stand to save $180m by improved optimisation of slow-steaming techniques. Clearly, the actual savings remain hypothetical – sailing speeds vary according to a variety of factors; fuel consumption depends on the ratio of laden and empty containers; port productivity can vary wildly and so on – but the potential benefits to the liner shipping through even marginally improved, but consistent, berthing efficiencies are huge, and would give ports an important competitive tool.

“A port which improves berthing times by a few hours can easily argue that instead of offering a carrier a reduced handling charge, the carrier is getting the value straight from the bunker fuel savings,” it concluded. source: The Loadstar.


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In rainy, overcast conditions the cruise ship MSC OPERA made her maiden visit to Durban, ahead of a summer of cruising from the port to destinations among the islands and beaches of Mozambique. Trevor Steenekamp was up before dawn to take the pictures.

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Later that afternoon MSC Opera sailed from Durban on her maiden cruise, a two-day cruise to nowhere. All pictures by Trevor Steenekamp www.nauticalimages.co.za

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