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Ports & Ships Maritime News

8 January 2013
Author: Terry Hutson


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Ignazio Messina’s latest ro-ro vessel has entered service between Italy and Durban, JOLLY CRISTALLO (50,700-gt). The ship arrived in the South African port for the first time on 2 January. In October 2011 while Ignazio Messina was celebrating its 90th anniversary with an event in Durban, the head of the company, CEO Steffano Messina gave an assurance that the first of the new ships on order from a Korean shipyard would be deployed on the South Africa service and this promise has been followed up so far with three newbuilds appearing in succession. Already, JOLLY PERLA and JOLLY DIAMANTE have made their appearances, and are now been followed up by Jolly Cristallo.

Whether any more in the series will be seen in these waters remains to be seen but in the meantime the port is brightened in more senses than one each time one of these magnificent new vessels call. Picture by Trevor Jones


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SA Agulhas sets off from Cape Town’s Victoria Basin on Monday, 7 January. Picture by Terry Hutson

South Africa’s well-known Antarctic supply vessel, SA AGULHAS set off on Monday (7 January 2013) on one of its most unusual voyages, back to the ice of Antarctica, carrying sixteen members of the ‘Coldest Journey’ Expedition headed by veteran explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes. On board the ship are fifty young cadets who are obtaining their sea time experience in the most uniquely possible fashion.

The expedition team of which SAMSA has chosen to become a sponsor by way of chartering the vessel to take the expedition team from the setting off points of London and Cape Town, consists of just six members, who will attempt to cross the Antarctic continent on foot during winter, a feat never before accomplished. Assisting the six is a technical team of 10 support personnel who will remain with the ship.

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Sir Ranulph Fiennes, one of the leaders of the expedition. Picture by Terry Hutson

SAMSA’s involvement is not merely a generous token. SAMSA is charged with the responsibility of promoting South Africa’s maritime interests, in addition to implementing national and international maritime safety and marine environment protection standards. On board the ship are scientists who will study conditions and weather patterns in the Antarctic.

In addition, when SAMSA acquired the Antarctic supply vessel in July 2012, it obtained for the first time the means of establishing a pool of young experienced seafarers able to step into the shoes of a older generation of experienced seamen and women. These cadets are now obtaining valuable sea time as required with their advancement into the wider maritime industry.

SAMSA has provided the ship for the duration of the expedition at very special rates. SA Agulhas is manned by a crew of 24 under the command of Captain David Hall along with the cadets from South Africa and other African countries and three training officers.

The ship is operating under a very generous charter to the Coldest Journey Expedition and this in turn is assisting with running SAMSA’s Cadet Training Scheme, thus providing the perfect marriage of interests. Such a proposal is combining with the expedition's requirements, which include the opportunity to undertake scientific research, develop material for educational initiatives and draw attention to the charity ‘Seeing is Believing’.

The expedition’s aim is to complete ‘The Coldest Journey’ – the first-ever trans-Antarctic winter expedition. The Coldest Journey will also attempt to raise USD10 million for Seeing is Believing, a global charitable initiative to fight avoidable blindness. During their sea voyage, the team will undertake a number of scientific tasks to provide unique data on marine life, oceanography and meteorology. Using the very latest technological innovations, this epoch-making journey hopes to re-write the history books and to set a new standard for year-round Antarctic explortation.

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Co-leader of the Coldest Journey expedition, Anton Bowring. Picture by Terry Hutson

“We pay homage to the courageous team as they set sail to take on this unique expedition. SAMSA is proud to be part of this endeavor,” SAMSA CEO Commander Tsietsi Mokhele said on Monday.

“This adventure indeed stretches the limits of human endurance. South Africa is proud to be part of this moment in history to carry out a number of scientific tasks in the extreme polar environment, which will make a significant contribution to our understanding of the true effects of global warming on the Antarctic continent.”

He pointed out that a large part of the Southern and Antarctic Ocean was within South Africa’s orbit of responsibility as far as search and rescue and environmental care was concerned, and that a greater understanding and knowledge of this vast area was both necessary and helpful.

Scientists on board the ice-strengthened Antarctic supply and training vessel will make detailed oceanographic, marine biological and meteorological observations on behalf of a number of research bodies around the world.

One of the first challenges ahead of SA Agulhas once it arrives at the icepack is to get the expedition and its equipment, including two Caterpillar tractors which will haul the team’s equipment and stores and ‘mobile home’ across the darkened and icebound continent. Temperatures are expected to average around the -70° mark but will reach extremes of -90° at which stage the team will go into a form of hibernation within a specially designed home designed in South Africa.

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Next stop Antarctica. Picture by Terry Hutson


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A boarding team from the frigate BNS Louise Marie heads off to detain a suspected pirate crew on board a small skiff. Picture EU- NAVFOR

The incidents of piracy off what might loosely be called the ‘coast of Somalia’ but which includes the Arabian Sea and areas south towards the Seychelles and into the Mozambique Channel, lessened last year when compared with previous years, a development which has been ascribed to a strong naval presence in the area, the use of guard ships and increasingly, to the use of armed guards on board the merchant vessels.

It is arguably the use of armed guards on board ship that is the more responsible for the decrease in successful pirate attacks, although this is something difficult to measure, but whatever the reason, the number of ships highjacked by Somali pirates went down dramatically in 2012 when compared with recent years.

Nevertheless, the threat continues and this was borne out in the last week of the old year when the Belgian frigate BNS LOUISE MARIE intercepted its second suspicious skiff in succession in international waters off the Somali coast.

In the first incident the warship took into custody five suspected pirates operating from a small skiff. In the latest case, the ship was directed to the scene where a suspicious skiff had been noticed by a Swedish maritime patrol aircraft. After reaching the area, a team from the warship, which is part of the European Union’s Operation Atalanta, boarded the skiff and removed three suspected pirates who were later dropped off onto a Somali beach.

A spokesman for EUNAVFOR said afterwards that there was not sufficient evidence to have sought a legal conclusion, hence the setting free of the suspects.

In recent weeks there have been a number of reported incidents where ships have been approached by suspicious craft thought to have been pirate vessels. In each case the ships were able to escape by employing evading tactics, or by the showing off of armed guards on board. Despite this lack of success by the pirates, it does indicate that they are present in the area off the Horn of Africa and still constitute a major threat to shipping.

Areas of concern have been posted to the NATO Piracy Attack Group (PAG) map in the Gulfs of Oman and Aden and off the Somali coast. The PAG map is available at CLICK HERE and is updated regularly.


Iceberg 1 crew set free after 33 months of captivity

After being held hostage for 33 months by Somali pirates, Puntland government armed forces raided the highjacked ship ICEBERG 1 (4500- dwt) on the Puntland coast just before Christmas and set free the crew.

A Puntland government statement said “Puntland government forces conducting a humanitarian rescue operation have safely rescued 22 hostages on board the MV Iceberg 1 vessel.”

The Panamanian-flagged ro-ro ship and her crew were captured on 29 March 2010 just 10 miles off the port of Aden. Since then the ship’s owner, the flag state and the respective governments of the crew (mainly Filipino, Indian and Pakistani) seemingly chose to forget the men and there has been no suggestion of them and the ship being ransomed. At the time Ports & Ships recorded a crew of 24 as being on board.


Nigerian pirates seize ship and take hostage four seafarers

Four Italian seafarers were taken hostage by Nigerian pirates after the offshore vessel ASSO VENTUNO was attacked some 40 n.miles offshore of the Pennington Rover mouth in Nigeria’s Niger delta region.

This is just the latest in a series of ship attacks and hostage taking off the Nigerian coast, which shows no sign of abating.


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Maersk replaces large bulbous bows

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Maersk Boston in Durban harbour. Picture by Trevor Jones

How do you design a ship to last 20 years while remaining efficient in changing conditions? That is the poser facing ship designers having to adjust to rapidly changing market demands.

The advent of super large container ships in recent years is just the point. Initially they were designed to carry as many containers as was thought possible – up to 15,000 and more TEUS in the case of the Maersk E-class and later CMA CGM ships. They were equipped with powerful engines capable of high speeds, to lessen the time spent unproductively at sea.

Then came the economic crash of 2008/09 which saw demand for container shipping plummit on the major trade routes, and with it profitability. Shipping lines were losing money due to low freight rates and too much container space on board too many ships. The answer became slow steaming, especially on the empty return voyages, as lines sought to drastically reduce operating costs. Since then there have been increased efforts at what is ingeniously referred to as ‘freight restorations’ whereby shipping lines seek to increase freight rates which they themselves cut in order to place containers on board vessels and to stay ahead of the competition.

So how do ship designers allow for such circumstances today, at a time when there remains an imbalance in trade between the Far East and Europe, and where there is an over abundance of shipping lines competing for a still reduced level of trade? Do they call for less powerful engines capable of operating efficiently at lower speeds, or do they take their chances that things will pick up and everything will return to the chaotic heights of pre-2008? One of the responses comes from Maersk Line, which has often proved to be the trendsetter in container shipping. It is now reducing the size of the bulbous bows on five of its 4,000-TEU Boston-class container ships in an effort to reduce resistance.

Apparently on large ships bulbous bows are best at 25 knots, but are unfit for slow steaming. Reducing their size reduces resistance, which reduces fuel burn, thus saving on costs.

Maersk intends reducing the size of the bulbous bows on five of its Stepnica-class 8,400-TEU ships later in the year.


The Ross Bay picture

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Ross Bay in Durban , in August 1969. When this was published in Ports & Ships on 19 December 2012 we said we didn’t have any subsequent information about the ship, other than the photographer Trevor Jones having thought “she looked Scandinavian”. In the event of us asking, there were several ‘takers’ out there to provide the missing information.

It seems the ship was indeed Norwegian – Lloyds Register for 1966 showing her to be:
Norwegian owned tanker, port of registry, Sandefjord, gross tonnage- 12,657. Owner - A/S Bergens M/V - Bergen. Built 1959 by Hvalfanger A/S Rosshavet & Vestfold. Service speed 14.5 knots.

The ship was later sold and became CATE BROVIG when it appears that she was converted to a livestock carrier, with the forward deckhouse pushed well forward in the process.

Thank you to those that responded with information.

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Ross Bay, converted to a livestock carrier and renamed Cate Brovig. Picture supplied by David Cheslin


Sea Rescue kept busy

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has remained busy over the festive season, with many call-outs to assist with bathers in difficulty and even hikers on rocky stretches of the coastline. Here are a few of the reports:

East London, Station 7

At 13h00 on Thursday 3 January the East London NSRI duty crew were called out after reports from members of the public of a vessel in difficulty off Kayser’s Beach, approximately 40 km south west of East London.

East London METRO rescue and Port of Entry Police were also activated.

According to East London station commander Geoff McGregor, the sea conditions were very bad with a seven metre swell running and a 57 knot South Westerly wind blowing.

The East London rescue vehicle was sent down to coast to monitor the progress of the vessel, which turned out to be the small tug NORTH STAR and the 13 metre Sea Rescue boat Spirit of Lotto was launched from East London harbour.

The Sea Rescue vehicle was able to monitor the progress of the tug from land, and as sea conditions were so bad, the Sea Rescue boat Spirit of Lotto returned to the safety of East London harbour after 1,3 hours.

The North Star was on route from Cape Town to Durban and safely entered East London harbour in the late afternoon. Once it was ascertained that the crew was uninjured and the vessel was safe NSRI stood down at 17h00.


Port Elizabeth, Station 6

Spare a thought for the Port Elizabeth NSRI duty crew who spent their New Year’s Eve at sea, forgoing their celebration to help a sailor who needed to be medivaced from a ship near Koega.

At 21h50 on Monday, 31 December, the NSRI volunteers at Port Elizabeth were called out for a medivac from the 202 metre Liberian-flagged container ship PRIWALL (28,701-gt, built 1997).

The crewman who needed to be taken ashore was complaining of bad headaches. He was transferred to the PE rescue boat Spirit of Toft at 23h20 and handed over to the ships agent at 00h05 on 1 January 2013. The agent took him to hospital for evaluation.


Durban, Station 5

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Station 5’s rescue boat MEGAN II in Durban harbour. Picture NSRI

At 21h55 on Wednesday 2 January the Durban NSRI duty crew were called out by Durban’s Port Control for a craft that was reported to be sinking in the harbour near the Sugar Terminal. The SAPS Waterwing had already been called to assess the situation and was with the boat.

According to Durban station commander Clifford Ireland, the owner of the boat, a four metre ski-boat named Yaallahu, had finished fishing in the bay and was making his way from opposite the Sugar Terminal back to the Point Yacht Club slipway when he was swamped by a wave and then blown towards the central sand bank.

He called Durban Port Control via cell phone which sent the SAPS Waterwing to investigate. They found the boat semi-submerged on the sand bank and attempted to pull it free. It was pulled into the middle of the channel where it started to sink.

The occupants of the ski-boat, local Durban men, got onto the SAPS vessel.

The Sea Rescue boat Megan II was launched at 22h30 and found that another craft had attached a line to the casualty but were forced to cut it when the vessel sank.

At 00h05 the NSRI volunteers dropped an anchor and marking rope in the area where the ski-boat sank so that the position could be located in the morning of 3 January. The NSRI volunteers returned to the Sea Rescue base at 01h15.

The Harbour Master temporarily closed the Maydon Wharf Channel and sent Transnet divers at first light to try and remove the boat from the channel. The submerged ski-boat could not however be found and it is thought that the boat, while remaining partly buoyant, had floated away in the underwater current. A hazard warning was subsequently posted.


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Eastern Cape ports end 2012 on high note

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Port of Ngqura Container Terminal, with Port Elizabeth in the far distance.

The Eastern Cape container terminals at Ngqura and Port Elizabeth ended 2012 on a high note by achieving performance records, reports the port operator, Transnet Port Terminals (TPT).

According to TPT, Ngqura Container Terminal (NCT) achieved 37.7 container moves per gross crane hour (GCH), which is a 66% improvement on its container handling rate since it opened in 2009, while the nearby Port Elizabeth Container Terminal (PECT) achieved an average of 29 GCH – a 27% improvement over its average performance during the same period.

“Sustained performance improvements are resulting in growing volumes,” says TPT’s Eastern Cape General Manager, Siya Mhlaluka. He ascribes this to an increase in confidence from customers in the two container terminals.

TPT claims that year on year figures indicate a strong growth in volumes at both terminals, and while the latest December and 2012 calendar year figures were not available when this was compiled, Ports & Ships’ own statistics suggest that Ngqura has grown notably during the past 12 months while Elizabeth has shed turnover, probably to its near neighbour.

Ngqura is being marketed as a transhipment terminal for other regional ports, and has enjoyed some considerable success in this regard.

Mhlaluka says that TPT was introducing some of the best technology and systems available at any African ports. It was also addressing productivity challenges through staff programmes that encourage motivation and accountability. As part of capacity creation Port Elizabeth Container Terminal took delivery of two used Impsa cranes from Durban on 26 December 2012, he said.

“The Eastern Cape has been a star performer in terms of operational performance at the ports. In the container sector alone TPT’s Eastern Cape terminals have seen handling norms improve every year, showing that our various interventions are bearing fruit,” said Mhlaluka.


IMPSA cranes for Port Elizabeth

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Zhen Hua 27 arriving at Port Elizabeth with two IMPSA cranes ex Durban. Picture by Capt Chris Savage


As reported above, the destination of the Chinese heavylift ship ZHEN HUA 27 with two IMPSA ship-to-shore cranes on board was confirmed as Port Elizabeth when the ship arrived at the Eastern Cape port a few days after sailing from Durban in December – see earlier report here Durban’s IMPSA cranes leave port.

The Durban cranes are in the process of being replaced with seven larger superpost-panamax cranes obtained from China.


Durban Container Terminal berths remain OOU

Two of Durban Container Terminal’s (DCT) berths remain out of use and have had a major effect on the congestion outside the port and with delays with container shipping generally.

The two berths, numbers 203 and 204 are having seven new super post-panamax ship-to-shore cranes installed, of which the first three arrived recently from China. The latest cranes require new ground rails to be laid as they have wider legs than the previous cranes in service at Durban. This has necessitated each berth being taken out of service while the rail is cast and installed. Somehow the job has escalated to having two berths out simultaneously with only berth 205 available on the North Quay.

Once work is completed on berths 203 and 204, work is expected to move to berth 205, resulting in the lack of facilities at DCT to continue for some time to come. The North Quay may also undergo deepening of the quay and water alongside to enable the larger container ships with draught in excess of 12.5m to use the terminal. This work of deepening the fraught to -16.5m is expected to commence as soon as the regulatory processes have been completed.


Tragedy in Durban Harbour

One of Transnet Port Terminals container haulers fell over the side of the harbour at Durban’s B shed this week, resulting in the death of the driver who drowned in the vehicle before divers could reach him. The cause of the freak accident is being investigated.


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Picture by Yvonne de Kock

That Captain Jan Mors, who passed away after a long illness last Sunday (30 December 2012), was highly respected and held in great esteem, was more than evident by the unexpectedly large turnout of people who attended a memorial service held at short notice in Durban.

The service corresponded with the actual funeral taking place in The Netherlands, where Capt Mors had returned to spend his remaining days closer to family. Previously he had retired to Belvedere near Knysna after a long and successful career in the maritime industry.

Mors was born in Holland on 5 July, 1942 and went to sea with Royal Interocean Lines, where he obtained his master’s certificate. He remained with RIL although serving in a number of ships before coming ashore in Durban in 1971, where he worked ashore as a stevedore before joining the then South African Railways & Harbours in the Harbour Service, as a fourth mate on the tugs. There was no fast promotion in those days and despite his seatime and experience he had to work his way through the ranks.

Later that year he was transferred to Walvis Bay, where he spent an enjoyable four years until 1975, from where he moved back to Durban having gained the rank of tugmaster. He was later transferred to head office in Johannesburg where he worked in the marketing department of the Harbour Services.

In 1986 Mors returned to Durban, this time as port manager, or port director as it was then called. In this capacity he came into contact with a wide spectrum of the maritime industry in South Africa, and in Durban in particular. In 1993 he was transferred to head office as executive head of marketing but later spent another year in Durban due to the lack of a port manager at the time.

During his time as port manager/director at Durban he was involved with Transnet’s first moves into the IAPH – International Ports & Harbours Association, which Transnet was later to become a full and active member. In international affairs he served on the committee that led to South Africa ceding the Walvis Bay enclave to Namibia.

Mors was also a strong advocate of bringing the port and city closer together. During his period in charge at Durban Transnet proposed a major waterfront development along the Esplanade, of which Mors was a strong champion. Ultimately the city was to turn its back on the idea which had it gone ahead would in all likelihood have altered the face of the port and the CBD for the better. Sadly it wasn’t to be and the opportunity was lost.

In 1997 he left the service of Transnet to join ICTSI (International Container Terminal Services, Inc) where his wide experiences in South Africa saw him appointed as CEO of ICTSI subsidiary in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Port Services Ltd, followed by his appointment as CEO of ICTSI Tanzania in Dar es Salaam in 2000. He later moved to ICTSI in Gdynia, Poland to focus on group expansion, particularly in Africa, before transferring his office to Johannesburg.

On his retirement he settled in Johannesburg before moving to his new home in Knysna.

Tributes described him as a true manager, a role model, a gentleman and a leader of the highest calibre. An official in ICTSI, on hearing of his death, said that Jan Mors was a very big part of why ICTSI is what it is today.

He leaves two daughters and three grandchildren all who live in the UK.
Terry Hutson


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Once again the Cape Town Ship Society of South Africa has produced an excellent 2013 Calendar, which is available at a very reasonable R20 plus R23.40 for posting and packing in a tube.

If more than one calendar is ordered then the price goes down to R15 each, plus the p&p cost which remains as a once-off. This year’s calendar features a painting of the RMS Windsor Castle sailing from a Cape Town of Yesteryear, from an acrylic on canvas by artist Jeremy Day. The size of the calendar is 590 x 420mm For more details or to place orders contact the Hon. Secretary, Pauline Brueton at brupa@telkomsa.net


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Cape Town was host to no less than three Chinese heavylift ships in port or at anchor on the same day last week One of these was the HAI YANG SHI YOU 278 (40,307-gt, built 2012) seen above and below in these two angles. The vessel, which was carrying a smaller vessel named SAPURA 3000, was in port to load bunkers. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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The second Chinese heavylift vessel in port on the same day was the ZHEN HUA 11 (37,743-gt, built 1981) with several large ship-to- shore cranes as cargo. With Zhen Hua 9 and Zhen Hua 13 recently discharging cranes in Lobito, and Zhen Hua 27 dropping three new STS cranes off at Durban before loading two IMPSA-built cranes for Port Elizabeth, Africa appears to be a lucrative place for the Chinese company which builds cranes and shoreside handling equipment as well as having its own fleet of heavylift vessels to effect delivery. This picture by Ian Shiffman

At anchor in False Bay at this time was the heavylift NANG RUI KOU (35,568-gt, built 2011).


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