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Ports & Ships Maritime News

5 April 2013
Author: Terry Hutson


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



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The US-registered research ship from Woods Hole Oceanographic, KNORR (2518-gt, built 1970) slipped quietly into Cape Town harbour recently. Knorr is owned by the US Navy department and is managed by Woods Hole. Picture by Ian Shiffman


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The full intake of 16 trainee Transnet helicopter pilots at the Port of Durban heliport. Picture TNPA

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has received its first intake of 16 trainee helicopter pilots who will learn to fly the fleet of Agusta 109 helicopters used for transferring marine pilots to and from ships at the ports of Durban and Richards Bay.

The training programme, announced this week but already underway, is aimed at ensuring continuity of a critical skill. In the past the South African Air Force provided a source of well trained and experienced pilots but this source is no longer available.

The first intake of 16 trainee pilots was selected from across the country and is being trained by Starlite Africa Aviation. They have completed the initial theoretical leg of their training at Durban’s Virginia Airport and have transferred to Starlite’s advanced international training facility in Mossel Bay where they will complete the 14 month course.

The use of helicopters at two of the South African busiest ports has become a key element in their operation. It is proven to be the most efficient means of transferring marine pilots onto incoming ships and is a function that has been outsourced for years, says Agrippa Mpofu, TNPA Marine Aviation Manager.

“TNPA owns a fleet of helicopters but we do not have our own personnel to operate and maintain these. With the future in mind it was decided to build this capacity within the organisation and up-skill our own people. These trainees are the first step towards that goal and we have a long way to go,” says Tau Morwe CE Transnet National Ports Authority.

“Not only is this a first for Transnet National Ports Authority but it is the first civilian helicopter aviation training initiative in the country, which is exciting for the aviation industry and we are thrilled to be part of it,” says Kate Odendaal, Managing Director and Chief Flying Instructor at Starlite Africa Aviation Training Academy.

“This is a very special group of outstanding students who have been given an opportunity of a lifetime by TNPA. No-one or company, until now, has taken youngsters with the right qualifications off the street and trained them to become pilots. They come from diverse backgrounds and have quickly and easily formed a team and camaraderie,” says Odendaal.

At Starlite’s Mossel Bay Academy the trainees are learning to fly R22, R44, R66 and Agusta109 type helicopters. They will also be the first to train on the aviation company’s new certified FNPT II twin IFR helicopter simulator that was commissioned on 1 April. It is the first of its kind in the country and in Africa.

The course will see the trainees complete 240 hours of flying time, qualify with private and commercial helicopter pilot licenses with specialisation in night ratings, instrument ratings, single and twin helicopter ratings and underslung training.

These students who were selected from 6000 applicants not only excelled in matric math and science but have passed a rigorous psychometric screening.

Of the 16 trainee helicopter pilots 13 have no aviation experience at all while three have obtained their private pilot license for fixed wing aircraft although this gives them no credit towards the helicopter training except for a few theoretical examinations. In keeping with Transnet’s gender criteria eight of the trainees are women.

Helicopters need specialised maintenance and a group of six students (equally split on gender) have embarked on a mechanical engineering course at Denel Aviation that will, in three years, license them to maintain helicopters.

The helicopter pilot and engineer training programme is an expansion of TNPA’s student bursary scheme which currently supports students through tertiary maritime studies leading to careers as marine pilots and tug masters.

It also supports the human resources pillar of Transnet’s Market Demand Strategy which seeks to create and develop core skills that will drive performance and ensure that Transnet has adequate and skilled personnel, said Morwe.

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Two of the intake, Dallyn Pillay (above) and Marce Greyson (below)
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Bulk Carrier Catches Fire, Sinks off Oman

A Liberian-registered bulker, ATLANTIK CONFIDENCE (27,209-dwt, built 1996) has caught fire and sunk off the coast of Oman.

The Atlantik Confidence caught fire of 30 March while in the vicinity of the island of Masirah. Shortly after sending out a message to say his ship was on fire the master announced that he and his crew of 21 Turkish sailors were abandoning ship, with the fire, which had started in the engine room, now reported to be ‘out of control’.

The US Navy frigate USS NICHOLAS (FFG-47), which was about 80 n.miles from the burning ship, sent its helicopter to assess the situation, while the frigate sped to the scene. USS Nicholas, which visited Durban and Cape Town a few years ago, is on duty assisting with anti-piracy patrols in the Arabian Sea and Horn of Africa region.

By the time the frigate has reached the scene the bulker was partly sunk but still floating, with the crew in no danger and aboard life-boats.

The crew was subsequently taken on board an oil tanker PLUTO when it appeared on the scene to assist. There were no injuries reported among the sinking tanker’s crew.

It has since been reported that Atlantik Confidence has sunk approximately 150 n.miles south-east of Masirah Island.


MSC ship sets biggest record

The visit to Durban this week of the MSC FABIOLA has again raised the limit in terms of container ship sizes to call at the port. The previous largest box ship to call at Durban was the 11,660-TEU MSC Luciana, whereas MSC Fabiola can carry up to 12,562-TEU.

Obviously the ship was not fully laden otherwise the port would not have been able to accommodate the ship. The deepest berths at the Durban Container Terminal are 12.8m and those at Pier 1 are about the same.

MSC Fabiola is a charter vessel and is currently deployed on MSC’s pendulum service between Northern Europe and Singapore via Durban, Cape Town and Ngqura. The rotation is Northern Europe ports, Cape Town, Ngqura, Durban, Singapore, Durban, Ngqura, Northern Europe.

The next objective to aim at is to have the 14,000-TEU box ships deployed on the South African service, defying all previous projections, as indeed has been the case with the 12,500-TEU MSC Fabiola.

Of course, the main obstacle in having these post panamax ships calling at Durban is that the country’s main container port lacks a deepwater berth. This is despite the entrance channel having been dredged and widened several years ago to -19m decreasing to - 16.5m in the harbour inside entrance. In the process South Africa has once again been exposed by rapidly moving circumstances and questions need to be asked as to why the process of providing Durban with deep water berths is being delayed.


Daff patrol vessels to go back to sea during April

Cape Town – Deep-sea fishing patrols by the fisheries department are expected to resume later this month, following the signing of an agreement with a local shipyard to carry out urgent maintenance repairs on its vessels.

The agreement between the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) fisheries branch and Damen Shipyards in Cape Town follows the expiry of the year-long operating memorandum of understanding between the fisheries branch and the SA Navy.

Damen Shipyards has been tasked with getting the SARAH BAARTMAN offshore fisheries patrol and the AFRICANA fisheries research vessels operational so that they can return to sea.

Greta Apelgren-Narkedien, the department’s deputy director general of fisheries management, said the contract with Damen Shipyards was awarded in accordance with Section 16A, 6.4 of the Public Financial Management Act and the National Treasury Practice, Note 8 of 2007/6 paragraph 3.4.4, which reads that “in urgent or emergency cases or in case of sole supplier”.

Apelgren-Narkedien said the five-year tender for the maintenance of the vessels would still go out, adding that the process was likely to be concluded in July.

She said the department had opted to go with Damen Shipyards as they had manufactured five of the six vessels – with the Africana, which is over 30 years old, being the sole ship that was not built by the local shipyard. [Not all DAFF vessels were built by Damen locally, Sarah Baartman being one of those that was built in Europe – editor]

Apelgren-Narkedien said the department plans to have the Africana, which is 50% ready – operational by next month. Deep-sea patrols could start later this month, as three of the patrol vessels – RUTH FIRST, VICTORIA MXENGE and ELLEN KHUZWAYO – were 80% ready, she said.

However, should the work on the Africana not be completed in time, the department’s fall back plan is to contract Fish SA to carry this task out on behalf of the department.

Keith Govender, the department’s deputy director of fisheries patrol vessels, said the agreement would run for six months and cost between R4.5 million and R5 million in repairs.

Govender said the department had during the year paid the SA Navy R23 million for repairs and short trips that the vessels had taken during the time they were operated by the navy.

Damen Shipyards’ repair and service manager Gary Atkins said the vessels are not damaged, but have not yet been maintained for some time, which has resulted in them losing their annual seaworthy certification or class. – source - SAnews.gov.za


If all that is required is to bring the DAFF vessels back into class, why is it taking so long to award the contract which would have these vitally important patrol and research ships back at sea and performing as they were intended? One cannot escape the conclusion that the problem lies within DAFF and not with the respective outside companies that have been associated with it. To talk of July before a new contract can be awarded is ludicrous.


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MSC sells 35% stake in its terminal business

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has agreed to sell a 35% stake in its terminal operating division TIL – Terminal Investments, the world’s sixth biggest container terminal operator, to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) and a group of its co-investors.

The 35% equates to a figure of US$1.929 billion.

In a statement, MSC said that the agreement, which will include payments contingent on TIL’s future performance, is expected to close in the middle of the year and remains subject to approval.

“We’re extremely pleased to have joined forces with GIP, one of the largest and most experienced infrastructure funds,” said MSC vice president Diego Aponte.

He said that through this partnership MSC was reinforcing its terminal division, which will enable MSC to capitalise on future opportunities and growth.

In related news, Alistair Baillie, who helped develop P&O Ports into a major terminal operator and is now with GIP, will be joining TIL as president.


Autonomous body set up to manage development of Lamu Port

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Lamu waterfront scene – the new port will be built at a location well away from this picturesque scene. Picture by Jimmy Kamude/IRIN

Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki has established an autonomous body to manage the construction and development of the Lamu port project to improve trade with South Sudan and Ethiopia.

According to a report in the East African nation’s Business Daily, the Lamu Port and Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) Development Authority will have its headquarters in Nairobi with field offices in Lamu, Isiolo, Lokichoggio, Marsabit and Moyale.

The president will be appointing a board of directors to run the agency, consisting of five state officials, five private sector representatives, and a chairman.

The port project envisages the development of a new deepwater port at Lamu in the northeast of the country and the extension of railway, road and airport infrastructure. Source Sabahi


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Pirates attack ships off Singapore

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Bay of Bengal

Somali pirates have been so much in the news in recent years that the words Somali and pirate now seem synonymous. Yet piracy continues to exist elsewhere in the world, in isolated incidents and as regular occurrences. More than one area has become a ‘no- go’ area.

At one stage the Malacca Strait between the Malaysian archipelago and Sumatra was considered among the most at risk areas for piracy, with ships and crew sometimes disappearing, not to be seen again. A concerted effort on the part of the Malaysian and Indonesian governments brought much of this problem under control but never completely, as an attack on a Luxembourg-registered ship last week bears out.

The ship, the anchor handling tug BOURBON LIBERTY 308 came under attack last Saturday (30 March) just 50 n.miles off the port of Singapore on the island’s north east coast. Fortunately there were no injuries among the crew of fourteen seafarers – one Ukrainian and 13 Indian nationals, and after ransacking the vessel they were left to continue their journey some hours later.


Pirates kill 21 crew

Not so fortunate were the crew on three trawlers in the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Bangladesh Navy has so far recovered the bodies of 21 crew but another ten are listed as missing. It appears they came under attack from a group of pirates, according to what three survivors have been able to tell Bangladeshi authorities.

The bodies which were recovered from the sea had their hands tied behind them and it appears they were thrown into the sea in that condition and left to drown.

In another case of piracy off the coast of Chittagong, pirates, or robbers if you prefer, boarded a products tanker in Chittagong Anchorage A and made off with ships stores and seafarers property.

Somali piracy reports

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The NATO Shipping Centre has issued two alerts following attacks on a fishing vessel which was rescued by a naval vessel in the area, and a merchant ship, name not given by NATO, which was attacked by a skiff carrying eight pirates. Those on the skiff opened fire on the ship and came under fire themselves when security personnel on board the vessel fired warning shots in their direction. The skiff then broke off the attack and left the scene.


Nigeria: US and its allies considering upping the ante because of terrorist fears

According to a report issued by Associate Press, the US and its allies are considering proposals to increase anti-pirate activity off West Africa because of fears that ransom moneys are being funnelled into Islamic terrorist organisations such as al-Qaida.

The report said that a Nigerian insurgent group, Boko Haram was under close scrutiny because of its alleged links with al-Qaida and the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). US military advisers have been active among West African countries in assisting to improve naval resources. The Head of US Africa Command, General Carter Ham recently warned the US Congress that the terrorist threat in Africa was real and was ‘heating up’. If left alone it will grow in time to become increasingly dangerous and a threat to US interests, he said.

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North Pier to be opened for Queen Mary 2 visit

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Queen Mary 2 arrives in Durban on an earlier visit. Picture by Terry Hutson

The Cunard liner Queen Mary 2 will be arriving in Durban on Saturday morning for the fourth year in succession and in view of the crowds of people expected to turn out to welcome and later bid farewell to the ship, the port authorities have agreed to open the North Pier temporarily for the occasion.

The pier will be opened between 04h30 and 06h30 in the morning and again between 17.00 and 19.00 that afternoon, with access from near the NSRI.

The ship is expected outside the port at 04h45 and should be alongside the T-Jetty by 06h00 - Queen Mary 2 will not be open to the public who are advised to use Festival Island (next to the maritime museum) and Wilson’s Wharf during the day to view the ship. Festival Island offers the best close-up view.

After sailing from Durban on Saturday evening, Queen Mary 2 will make her maiden call at Port Elizabeth on Monday, 8 April. From the Windy City she proceeds that evening for Cape Town.

Meanwhile, another of the world’s top cruise ships, Holland America’s AMSTERDAM (60,874-gt, built 2000) arrived in Richards Bay on Wednesday and Durban yesterday and is currently heading south for Cape Town.


Nothing triumphant about Carnival Triumph

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Carnival Triumph dead in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico – see below

Bad luck continues to dog the cruise ship CARNIVAL TRIUMPH, which broke its moorings at Mobile’s BAE Shipyard and was blown across the river. Three workmen on the ship fell overboard into the rive and had to be rescued, while tugs scurried to prevent any further damage to the ship.

One of the workmen had to be taken to hospital.

Reports said the ship suffered damage to her bow and there was a hole in the starboard side of her stern. Once again the US Coast Guard has become involved and is looking into the incident.

Carnival Triumph was in the news recently and for all the wrong reasons, after an engine room fire caused the ship to lose all power as the ship crossed the Gulf of Mexico with passengers on board. The damage to the ship resulted in the vessel having to drift with no power for several days until the coast guard could get enough generators on board to restore some lighting and electrical power. Before that passengers were resorting tio sleeping on deck to avoid the stench from down below.

The ship was eventually taken in tow and taken to a US port where passengers could disembark after a cruise they will never forget.


Carnival axes 12 cruises

Carnival Cruise Lines has been forced to cancel 24 cruises planned for the CARNIVAL TRIUMPH following the fire that left the ship without power in the Gulf of Mexico. At first it was hoped the ship would be returning to service by mid April but this date has now been put back until 3 June.

The fire on board the Triumph has resulted inn CCL undertaking a fleet-wide assessment of engine room redundancies and emergency generator power.

In addition to the problems with the Carnival Triumph, two voyages for CARNIVAL SUNSHINE (ex Carnival Destiny) have been cancelled as the ship is delayed in dry dock and is now expected to return to service now on 5 May.

Carnival Destiny completed her last passenger voyage on 22 February before heading for Fincantieri’s Trieste dry dock, where she is undergoing a transformation after which she will reappear as Carnival Sunshine.

The ship is having a complete revamp which will give her an additional 150 staterooms, thus increasing her passenger capacity by between 300 and 500 people. That’s means more money per cruise, and as the ship hasn’t been lengthened, one can guess it has been achieved at the expense of making the original cabins smaller or losing some of the public rooms.


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Holland America’s cruise ship AMSTERDAM arrived in Durban yesterday on the South African leg of her world cruise. Pictures by Trevor Steenkamp www.nauticalimages.co.za

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