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Ports & Ships Maritime News

14 May 2013
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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News continues below...


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The car carrier ORCHID ACE seen at Las Palmas recently from the decks of the liner Queen Mary 2. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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Port statistics for the month of April 2013, covering the eight commercial ports under the administration of Transnet National Ports Authority, have become available. The total cargo handled by all the ports during the past month amounted to 24.215 million tons, or approximately two million tons more than the previous month. Best performer, volume-wise, was once again the Port of Richards Bay, which handled 7.802 million tons of cargo during the month.

Durban too enjoyed an increase to 6.981 million tons with the container terminal handling an improved (on the previous month) 220,225-TEUs for the month. Ngqura again had a strong month with 78,091-TEUs handled, while Cape Town’s container terminal was busy with a high of 83,851-TEUs processed during the month. Notable also was the large number of vessel movements at Cape Town.

The seven new super-post panamax STS cranes at the Durban Container Terminal have been commissioned and yesterday all three berths 203 – 205 were occupied by container ships, just in time to impress the visiting minister of public enterprises (see story below). Meanwhile, a port notice informs that berths 102 and 103 at Durban are to be out of service for the next five weeks.

The previous April (2012) figures can be found HERE - 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 compared to those provided by Transnet. This is to include containers by weight – an adjustment necessary because Transnet NPA measures containers by the number of TEUs and does not reflect the weight.

To arrive at such a calculation, PORTS & SHIPS uses an average of 13,5 tonnes per TEU, which probably 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 emphasise this distinction, without which South African ports will continue to be under- reported internationally.

Port Statistics continue below…

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Cape Town’s Duncan Dock

Figures for the respective ports during April 2013 are:


Cargo handled by tonnes during April 2013

PORT April 2013 million tonnes
Richards Bay 7.802
Durban 6.981
Saldanha Bay 5.576
Cape Town 1.346
Port Elizabeth 0.990
Ngqura 1.055
Mossel Bay 0.230
East London 0.194
Total all ports 24.215 million tonnes

CONTAINERS (measured by TEUs) during April 2013
(TEUs include Deepsea, Coastal, Transship and empty containers all subject to being invoiced by NPA

PORT April 2013 TEUs
Durban 220,225
Cape Town 83,851
Port Elizabeth 24,185
Ngqura 78,091
East London 4,054
Richards Bay 3,661
Total all ports 414,119 TEUs

SHIP CALLS for April 2013

PORT April 2013 vessels gross tons
Durban 331 10,316,081
Cape Town 351 4,688,534
Richards Bay 155 5,968,447
Port Elizabeth 98 2,893,181
Saldanha Bay 55 3,377,062
Ngqura 45 2,551,942
East London 23 655,377
Mossel Bay 107 350,049
Total ship calls 1165 25,284,570

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

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  Month's exports YTD exports Annualised estimate Ships Trains
January 2013 4,213,728 4,213,728 49.62 38 787
February 2013 5,451,541 9,665,468 59.79 50 757
March 2013 7,490,334 17,155,802 69.58 68 815
April 2013 6,240,613 23,396,415 75.93 57 742

source: RBCT

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Port of Richards Bay. Picture TNPA


Public Enterprises Minister, Mr Malusi Gigaba yesterday unveiled Transnet’s seven new state-of-the-art ship-to-shore (STS) cranes at the Durban Container Terminal – Pier 2 as part of the company’s drive to boost productivity and efficiency in one of the southern hemisphere’s biggest and busiest ports.

The cranes, which were supplied by China-based original equipment manufacturer, ZPMC following a competitive tender process in 2011, are part of Transnet Port Terminals’ accelerated crane fleet acquisition programme targeted at replacing its ageing fleet.

Six of the seven cranes have been handed over to operations while the remaining one was handed over yesterday after undergoing Transnet’s operational readiness and endurance tests. The readiness tests are conducted by the company’s engineering teams in partnership with the manufacturer. Transnet operators are also undergoing intensive training on the cranes to ensure maximum benefit.

While taking members of the media through a tour and of the capabilities of the tandem-lift cranes, Minister Gigaba said the Durban Container Terminal – Pier 2 had in the past experienced significant productivity challenges which affected the overall performance of the port. This, he said, was mainly due to old and outdated equipment used.

Minister Gigaba said the new equipment could simultaneously handle two 12 metre containers or four 6 metre containers and lift up to a maximum of 80 tons. They are the biggest in Africa and can handle new generation vessels with 24 containers stowed across the width of the deck.

“These capabilities will see a massive jump in productivity with gross crane moves per hour (GCH) - a key measure of terminal efficiency and how well equipment is used - jumping from the current 26 to 33 GCH over the next three years. This is a 27 percent improvement,” he said.

“Ship working hour (SWH), the rate at which a terminal is able to load and offload container ships in an hour and a key consideration for our customers, will improve from the current 68 containers to 85 once our operators are fully conversant with operating the equipment and newer generation vessels with larger parcel sizes call to our ports – that will be a 25 percent increase,” the minister said.

Through further innovation and optimum planning, the terminal is able to stretch the cranes’ capability to carry four 12 metre empty containers simultaneously through vertical twin lift.

Previously, terminal operations, especially in Durban (Pier 2) and Port Elizabeth were restricted by ageing crane fleets and the resultant high probability of equipment breakdown. The acquisition and employment of these cranes will enable the country’s port productivity to compete and be benchmarked against leading terminal operators’ high performance standards.

The cranes are part of Transnet’s rolling R300 billion seven year investment programme – the Market Demand Strategy. Over the next 20 years, Transnet Port Terminals, which currently operates 45 cranes in seven ports across the country, will buy 39 new cranes including STS and other types.

In line with Transnet’s commitment to the Competitive Supplier Development Programme - the DPE-led initiative to localise the manufacturing of imported equipment - the contract with ZPMC had significant local manufacturing, skills transfer and supplier development elements. These allowed for various agreements, including technology transfer for the manufacture of spares and key components; intellectual property rights; use of local expertise and labour in the various stages of assembly and a significant training element in both Durban and Shanghai.

Transnet is currently expanding its handling capacity at the Cape Town Container Terminal and is positioning the Ngqura Container Terminal in the Eastern Cape as a trans-shipment hub. The company has also acquired the old Durban International Airport site for the construction of a dig-out port to cater for projected rise in demand. The latter will be built in phases between 2016 and 2039.

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One of the shipments bringing seven new STS cranes for the Port of Durban. Picture Roy Reed

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US Locomotive builder General Electric (GE) says it may build locomotives for Angola and Mozambique in South Africa under the terms of a partnership with Transnet Engineering.

GE holds orders from Mozambique state rail and port company Portos e Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique (CFM) for 10 diesel-electric locos and another undisclosed number for Angola, thought to be 100. The first 15 of these could be built in South Africa along with the ten Mozambique locomotives.

In terms of the order placed with GE by Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) for the construction of 143 locomotives, these are being built at Koedoespoort outside Pretoria.

Chairman and chief executive of GE for Southern Africa, Tim Schweikert said the agreement to build the TFR locos in South Africa is aimed at helping to revive the rail industry in South Africa.

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General-Electric diesel-electric Class 43 of Transnet Freight Rail, being built outside Pretoria. Picture by Charles Baker

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The International Transport Federation (ITF) and its affiliated maritime unions in Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine are exposing substandard working conditions and fighting for improved safety in what they have described as the ‘Black Sea of shame’, this week, from 13 to 15 May.

The Black Sea is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a seafarer, and is the focus of an intensive ITF campaign to increase safety and drive up standards. This action is the latest move in that campaign, and will involve joint inspection teams made up of ITF inspectors and union activists visiting ships in Black Sea ports.

There are around 2,400 vessels working the Black Sea, many of which are over 20 years of age, and around 800 are over 30 years old. The shipping market is characterised by ancient vessels moving low value goods, with rock bottom and unpaid wages where sinkings are not uncommon, and the risk of death and injury is deemed to be part of the job. This week’s action seeks to expose such unacceptable conditions and bring them to the attention of the public and governments – to put them on notice that things will have to change with the coming into force on 20 August 2013 of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.

ITF acting general secretary Steve Cotton said: “Some of the worst ships in the world are to be found plying the Black Sea. Work conditions are often shameful and safety non-existent. The human cost is enormous.”

“This event is intended to shine a light on malpractice and make seafarers aware of their rights and how to exercise them under the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006,” Cotton said.

The ITF and its unions in the Black Sea littoral states launched a campaign to tackle the often woeful standards of shipping in the area last year. They also released the report Black Sea of Shame, which details a litany of abuse, accidents and sinkings, allied with a lack of P&I cover and non-payment or delayed payment of wages.

According to the report ‘The severe impact of a substandard industry on seafarers and their families cannot be underestimated. The intentional non-payment of wages amounts to a situation of bonded labour or slavery and should be unthinkable in the 21st Century. … As the entry into force of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 comes ever closer, the situation in the ‘Black Sea of Shame’ can no longer be tolerated.’

The ‘Black Sea of Shame’ can be downloaded at Black Sea of Shame - use your BACKSPACE button to return to this page.


Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto plans to reduce the number of workers it has in Mozambique due to losses posted in 2012 and projections of a similarly negative outlook this year, the group said in a statement issued Thursday in Maputo.

The losses are being attributed largely to the inability of Mozambique’s rail network to deliver coal to the port at Beira as well as low export prices for coal.

In a statement Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique (RTCM) said that staff cutbacks would mainly affect the prospecting and surveying area of the business as part of structural changes underway in the company, and that replacement of foreign staff by Mozambican workers was happening in an increasing number of roles at the company.

“Due to a drop in prices of raw materials and constraints created by coal transport and logistics infrastructure, RTCM posted losses in its operations in 2012 and, in anticipation of difficulties in the remaining months of 2013, steps are being taken to ensure the business is profitable by the end of 2013 and sustainable for the future,” the statement said.

In 2012 Rio Tinto posted losses of over US$3 billion following a downward review of coal reserves at the Benga mine, in Tete province, along with difficulties in transporting the coal away from the mine.

Transport restrictions are due to the reduced capacity of the Sena railroad, the main means of carrying coal from Tete province.

The disappointing results of Rio Tinto’s business were also a result of the Mozambican government refusing to allow the coal to be transported along the Zambezi River, due to environmental concerns. Source – macauhub

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The Benga opencast coal mine. Problems with getting the coal to the coast for export saw Rio Tinto take a loss last year


South African logistics specialist Imperial Holdings Limited has acquired a 49 percent stake in MDS, a Nigerian logistics specialist operating in Nigeria. The deal was sealed for a cash consideration of US$26 million and gives Imperial an additional footprint in Africa.

MDS is a wholly owned subsidiary of UAC of Nigeria Plc, which is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

“MDS has a quality customer base with a strong new business pipeline. Through the transaction, Imperial has also secured a specialist management team which strengthens and complements the group’s existing skills set in the logistics business,” said Marius Swanepoel, Imperial Logistics chief executive.

MDS has warehousing and a unique distribution setup involving a network of 50 distribution centres that link companies with their customers in more than 600 towns and villages across Nigeria.


The coal export railway to the Port of Richards Bay faces a maintenance closure for a 12-day period as from today, Transnet Freight Rail has reported.

The closure of the double track line is necessary for TFR to catch up on maintenance backlogs and to replace sections of ageing infrastructure, TFR said. On the single section of the line at Overvaal and in the Ermelo exchange yard there is critical work to be performed.

The coal line is expected to be closed to traffic between today, 14 May and Saturday, 25 May.


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Two views of the Chinese heavylift semi-submersible vessel XIA ZHI YUAN 6, empty of cargo (above) and fully loaded (lower). Pictures by Piet Sinke

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