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Ports & Ships Maritime News

22 October 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...


J R MORE by Trevor Jones 470

For a period of just 21 years the Durban harbour tug JR MORE operated as one of the largest and most powerful in the South African Harbour service. With an overall length of 53.7 metres she was almost twice the length of the diesel tugs that followed, which are in the 30 – 32 metre range. Yet today her bollard pull of 29.5 tonnes would be dismissed as puny for modern harbour work, with her smaller but younger counterparts pulling 40 and 70 tons and even more.

JR More had her moment of fame, when together with another Durban tug, FC STURROCK, they pulled the American freighter AIMEE LYKES off the Aliwal Shoal, south of Durban, on which the ship had gone aground on 26 October 1963. Within two days the tugs had the ship off her rocky perch, rather the worse for wear and necessitating a lengthy spell in the Durban dry dock, where over 800 tonnes of South African steel went into repairing the American ship’s hull.

This weekend JR More will have pride of place at a commemorative exhibition being held at Durban’s Port Natal Maritime Museum, which will mark 50 years since the Aimee Lykes drama began (see below). The tug has been on display at the museum since she was decommissioned on 22 November 1982. Although in recent years the exhibits have weathered from a lack of proper maintenance, a programme of bringing them back to their former glory is now underway.

The museum is open to the public seven days a week and can be found off Durban’s Esplanade, providing an excellent window into the harbour. Other ships on display include the tug ULUNDI and the ex SA Navy mine sweeper SAS DURBAN. This picture is by Trevor Jones.

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Walvis Bay’s floating dock alley

October marks a milestone in the history of ship repair company Elgin Brown and Hamer (EBH) Namibia, with the much anticipated commissioning and inauguration of its newly-acquired Panamax-sized third floating dock.

After having successfully completed the pre-commissioning of the Panamax size dock, known as ‘Namdock 3’, the new dock, which arrived in Walvis Bay on 5 July, has been declared fully operational and is set to change the face of the west coast ship repair industry. “We have been waiting since 2012 to be able to announce the successful commissioning of our new floating dock. Now, having successfully overcome numerous challenges, she has been shifted to her berthing slot as proudly ‘Namdock 3’ and is ready for work,” says Hannes Uys, chief executive officer of EBH Namibia.

“A total number of 421 workers worked night and day, meeting stringent deadlines to ensure that she was fully commissioned before lifting her first vessel. This was a truly great team effort,” says Uys.

The Panamax floating dock, at 195 metres in length, has a lifting capacity of 15,000 tons, substantially increasing the company’s infrastructural capacity and enhancing its ability to compete on a global scale.

Part of the DCD Marine cluster, EBH Namibia now has three privately-owned floating docks, well-equipped on site workshops and a highly skilled work force, and is earning a reputation as a safe, reliable and world class shipyard. According to Uys, the third floating dock is further proof of a commitment to the success of customers through continuous development of capacities, technical competencies and a motivated workplace.

“We pride ourselves not only in continuously improving our customer service offering, but also being part of a global trade network that will provide much needed job creation and revenue for Namibia,” he says.

Africa has evolved into one of the biggest potential growth markets in the world, and the shipping industry, largely driven by the oil and gas industry, is growing accordingly. The acquisition of the third dock will ease EBH Namibia’s shipyard capacity demands and ensure a more sustainable level of output. It will also cater for a broader spectrum of vessels requiring shipyard services along the west coast of Africa.

“Our order book has confirmed bookings until mid-July 2015 which is testimony to EBH Namibia not only maintaining its current market-share along the west coast of Africa, but being well on its way to becoming the preferred shipyard in Africa,” says Uys.

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Namdock 3, due to be commissioned this week

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Aimee Lykes on a later visit to Durban, seen here sailing from port. Picture by Trevor Jones

Our older readers will recall an event that took place on 26 October, 1963, when a newly built American freighter, Lykes Line’s AIMEE LYKES (10,590-dwt) went aground on the Aliwal Shoal off the south coast of Natal, 40 n.miles from Durban.

The ship was on her maiden voyage and according to legend was racing a Royal Interocean Line ship in an attempt to be the first at Durban.

Aimee Lykes was named for the daughter-in-law of one of seven brothers who founded Lykes Bros Steamship Co Inc. The ship was the first of eight fast steamers being built in the Avondale shipyard and the 16th of a planned 50 ship replacement programme. She was designed as a fast liner vessel, having steam turbine engines that could drive her at a service speed of 20 knots, which was fast for the time. The plan was to shave six days off the 22 day transit time between New Orleans and Cape Town.

The ship left New Orleans early in October and arrived at Cape Town on 21 October, having accomplished that task. After working her cargo she sailed for Durban amid reports that a wager was on between the RIL vessel’s master and the captain of the Aimee Lykes.

In the event the Dutch ship would collect whatever prize had been agreed, for at around 10am on the 26th, while attempting to take the inside channel of the Aliwal Shoal, Aimee Lykes struck the seabed and came to a juddering halt.

The ship’s No.3 hold, containing a cargo of rice and caustic soda in drums was flooded to above the ‘tween deck while the No.4 hold tanktops were pushed up by more than a metre with bulkhead frames and stiffeners bent and buckled. The ship was carrying over 600 tons of heavy fuel oil in a ruptured tank with the oil being held up by the pressure of the water below, but which posed a threat to the environment as it was seeping out slowly.

Several Durban harbour tugs steamed to the aid of the stricken ship, FC STURROCK and JR MORE among them. Within two days and with the two mentioned tugs hard at work and the Aimee Lykes using her own engines to good effect, the ship came off her rocky perch and was able to steam slowly towards Durban, with the tugs in attendance.

On arrival in Durban where the dry dock had been hurriedly emptied, the ship underwent what was to become the biggest ship repair in the country since World War 2. Over 800 tons of Iscor steel went into her repair, which was awarded to the Durban firm of James Brown & Hamer – now Elgin Brown & Hamer.

In April 1964, with repairs completed, Aimee Lykes held successful sea trials and was able to complete her round trip voyage to Africa. She wasn’t to return for another eight years, although several of her sisters continued on the service.

For whatever reason, the ship’s grounding and her repair captured the imagination of the people of Durban like nothing else since the end of the war. Newspapers covered not only her grounding and refloating, but every step of the long repair and then her sea trials and eventual departure. It wasn’t unusual for large numbers of the public to visit the dry dock and gaze down at the workmen busy far below while noting the progress being made.

Meanwhile, the two tugs, which had been designed for ocean salvage purposes as well as harbour work, continued with their more mundane duties. Eventually, in 1982 the JR More was decommissioned and handed over to the newly opened Port Natal Maritime Museum, where she took pride of place as a floating museum exhibit in Durban harbour.

FC Sturrock, the other tug involved with the refloating saw out her last days at Walvis Bay where she was broken up in 1984.

This Saturday, 26 October it will be exactly 50 years since the Aimee Lykes wrote her name into local lore and maritime history. Coincidentally it was a Saturday as well. The Port Natal Maritime Museum is using the opportunity to hold a special exhibition based on this notable event, which became a household topic throughout the six months that the ship spent in Durban harbour undergoing repairs.

An amazingly large collection of press cuttings and other reports has been gathered and will go on display in the exhibition hall at the museum, along with ship models and photographs, with the museum ‘dressed’ for the occasion and the public is invited to come along and join in a celebration of the event. At 11am a number of discussions and short talks will be presented in front of the moored JR More, detailing some of the factors and background behind the ship’s grounding and her repair. Topics to be discussed include a background of Lykes Line itself, which operated for over fifty years on the trade route between North America and South and East Africa.

Some background will also be given on the Aliwal Shoal, and also why it is so important that a port like Durban retains a strong ship repair industry that can cater for unexpected emergencies involving ships. Talks will also be presented on the harbour tugs.

Durban has an impressive maritime history and background, of which surprisingly little has been told. It is therefore important that a record of all that has passed is kept and made available for current and future generations. The maritime museum, one of only a few in the country, holds a unique collection of items in an easily accessible position overlooking the harbour, with plenty of parking next to the museum. In fact, this is just another of the important reasons why the maritime museum needs to be well maintained and utilised, for it provides an excellent ‘window’ into one of the world’s busiest and most impressive harbours, with a passing parade of ships and boats of every description.

The general public is invited to come along on Saturday, 26 October and enjoy the exhibition and hands-on exhibits of tugs, small boats, a pictorial history of the Port of Durban, a display on whaling and many other exhibits. It is hoped that visitors may be able to share some of their own memories of the event. The museum is open between 9am and 4pm and costs R5 per adult and R3 for children. Secure parking is available. – Terry Hutson

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A scene from the Port Natal Maritime Museum. Picture by Terry Hutson

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Fourth Triple E delivered

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Marie Maersk, latest in the 18,270-TEU Triple-E class container ships. Picture by Shipspotting

South Korean shipbuilder DSME has delivered the fourth in a series of 20 Triple-E class container ships to Maersk Line.

The latest ship, the 18,270-TEU MARIE MAERSK will phase into Maersk’s AE10 Far East to Europe service, where the ship will replace the 15,500-TEU EUGEN MAERSK.

The first three Triple-E class ships, Maersk McConnell Moller, Majestic Maersk and Mary Maersk are already on this service. The ships are 399m long and 59m wide, able to stack containers in 23 rows across the width and can operate at a speed of 22 knots.

P3 Alliance Network unveiled

Although it is still subject to regulatory ruling, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has disclosed some detail of how the P3 Network alliance between MSC, Maersk and CMA CGM will work.

The three companies will operate with a fleet of 255 ships and a TEU container capacity of 2.6 million TEUs across 29 loops in the Far East – Europe, trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic routes.

The alliance will be launched, subject to approval from the regulatory authorities in Europe, the US and China, as from the northern spring of 2014.

Details can be studied HERE - the document is 72 pages long. Use your Backspace key to return to this page.

Ship undergoes name change in Port Louis

The Singapore-owned bulk carrier STELLA ELTANIN (46,685-dwt, built 1999), which is currently in Port Louis, Mauritius, is undergoing a name change. The vessel is to be renamed FSL DURBAN and is due in Richards Bay on 30 October, where the ship is being listed under the old name.

MSC’s Aponte awarded Italian Order of Merit for Labour

Aponte Order award image003 470
Italian Minister of Economic Development Flavio Zanonato, MSC Group President and founder Gianluigi Aponte, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, and President of the National Federation of Knights of the Order of Labor Merit, Benito Benedini

MSC’s group president and founder, Gianluigi Aponte has been awarded the Order of Merit for Labour (Ordine ‘Al Merito del Lavoro’) for his remarkable achievements in international shipping over the last 40 years.

The order was presented by Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano at the official residence of the Italian president, the Palace of Quirinale.

MSC remains a family owned business that employs 50,000 people and operates with a fleet of 460 cargo ships that serves 200 ports across five continents, in addition to the world’s largest privately-owned cruise company, MSC Cruises.

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Grindrod’s Dave Rennie

The Competition Commission last week approved the transaction enabling Grindrod to acquire the majority shareholding in RACEC Group Limited, the AltX-listed engineering services group.

This follows the joint announcement in July 2013 stating that Grindrod intended to acquire the entire issued share capital of RACEC, other than 25.1% held by black empowerment group Solethu Civils Holdings Pty Ltd, and would then delist RACEC.

The consideration amounts to 20 cents per share, totalling R27,138,573.

Grindrod has since 2005 been engaged in the rail sector in Africa and has significantly expanded its rail service offerings and increased the scale of its existing operations. RACEC, an industry leader in rail track engineering and construction complements Grindrod’s current service offering which includes locomotive & wagon manufacture or refurbishment; locomotive leasing & maintenance and rail operations and presents synergies in respect of track maintenance and signalling contracts.

“The last few months have been challenging for RACEC due to contract disputes and cash flow pressures. With an extended service offering and the financial backing of our new shareholder, we look forward to expanding our client base and growing our business,” said RACEC CEO Gary Harrod.

The historic under investment in rail, together with the proliferation of large mining projects, supported by general economic growth, has provided a favourable environment for growth in the rail sector in Africa.

“This acquisition supports Grindrod’s Africa growth strategy to invest in strategic infrastructure assets along development corridors connecting commodities, countries and clients across Africa,” said Dave Rennie, CEO Grindrod Freight Services – Port, Terminals and Rail.


IS Sabalan ( F 73) 1977 470
Iranian Navy destroyer IS Sabalan

IS Sabalan ( F 73) 1977 470 The Iranian Navy is reporting that ships from its 27th Flotilla have engaged with a group of pirates intent on attacking the Iranian LPG tanker BOOTANON.

The LPG tanker was sailing through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait near the entrance to the Gulf of Aden when pirates in eight skiffs attacked. The Iranian naval vessels were providing escort services for vessels coming through the narrow waterway and engaged with the pirates over a period of several hours before the pirates withdrew.

The naval vessels involved were the helicopter carrier IS KHARK and the destroyer IS SABALAN, which form the navy’s 27th Flotilla based operating out of Port Sudan.

Ships of the Iranian Navy have been operating independently of other naval forces operating in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, providing escort services to mostly Iranian merchant ships sailing in the area.


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Picture by Steve McCurrach www.airserv.co.za

Ports & Ships publishes regularly updated SHIP MOVEMENT reports including ETAs for ports extending from West Africa to South Africa to East Africa and including Port Louis in Mauritius.

You can access this information, including the list of ports covered, by going HERE - remember to use your BACKSPACE to return to this page.


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MOL’s 4,700-TEU container ship MOL TYNE (59,622-gt, built 1995) departing Cape Town earlier in October. Pictures by Ian Shiffman

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