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Ports & Ships Maritime News

8 April 2014
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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The Port of Cape Town’s second new pilot boat RED BISHOP being tried out at speed in the port. The name is given for one of the bird species and not an ecclesiastical of far left leanings. Picture: Ian Shiffman

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MSC Agadir (112,150-dwt, built 2012), an 8,900-TEU container ships among those cascaded onto North/South trades. Picture: R Smera

The container shipping industry is stuck in a ‘vicious cycle’, according to London's Drewry Maritime Research as freight rates remain volatile, and although the new breed of super-sized ships may produce lower slot costs, supply and demand dynamics are still out of kilter.

The conclusions drawn in its first quarter Container Forecaster report highlights that the industry remains in an extended down cycle. This is being accentuated and extended by the constant delivery of new ships.

The global cascade is now hurting the balance of the north/south trades.

“Some of these trade routes have also not lived up to expectations in terms of cargo flows and the sharp influx of many new ships of at least 8,000 TEU has resulted in significant declines in spot freight rates, particularly on the Asia to East Coast South America trade.

“On the one hand, bigger ships may be delivering carriers the lower unit costs carriers seek, but the supply/demand imbalance coupled with the desire by most operators to protect their market share is a toxic mix for overall profitability.

“This is why all focus is now on reducing costs and Maersk Line remains the best in class,” it said.

It forecasts 5.7 per cent global supply growth for 2014, followed by 6.7 percent next year, with the emphasis on the delivery of 115 more ultra large container vessels (ULCV) and a large number of ships in the 8,000-10,000 TEU category.

For this year it anticipates global demand growth of four percent, “but we do not see any real opportunity for the industry to recover and draw breath until 2016, and this is still dependent on what happens with the orderbook,” the analysts concluded.

“Although scrapping rates are at record levels, the delivery profile in the next 24 months will continue to cause damage and carriers will have little if any long-term success with their constant general rate increase initiatives.

“On the contracting side, we also hear anecdotally that many contracts in the core east-west trades have been signed at the same level as in 2013 or in many cases, significantly lower,” said Drewry analysts.

“Two major fights will continue for the carriers this year - to win contract and spot business,” said container research chief Neil Dekker . “The larger battle will be waged in the spot market arena, which suggests that rate volatility will continue for the time being.”

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Pretoria - South Africa has welcomed the announcement that Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, is now the biggest economy in sub-Saharan Africa after it rebased its gross domestic product (GDP).

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and African Development Bank (AfDB) have endorsed Nigeria's new gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately US $509.9 billion released on Sunday, making the West African country the biggest economy in Africa.

According to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics after a rebasing, Nigeria surpassed South Africa with a 2013 rebased figure of US $370 billion.

The new figures show that the biggest oil producer in Africa climbed to the 26th largest economy in the world.

“The announcement gives concrete expression to the fact that Africa is indeed rising. The announcement resonates with South Africa's consistent message since 1994 that we want to see more African economies grow and live up to their potential, just as we continue striving to do so with our own economy.

“South Africa has been and will continue to benefit from faster economic growth in the rest of the continent. Furthermore, the South African government and the private sector continue to play no small a part in the growth and development of the continent,” said the Ministry of Finance.

In Nigeria's case, the wholesale and retail and the telecommunications sectors -- the two largest components of the services sector -- have big participation by South African firms, who have played a big role in the growth and development of the two sectors.

“This is a positive story of African countries contributing to re-shaping each other's economies through increased investment. South Africa will continue to nurture mutually beneficial trade and investment ties with Nigeria and other African countries,” said the ministry. – SAnews.gov.za-Xinhua

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The collection of barges being loaded at Shanghai before shipping to West Africa and Rotterdam. Picture: Damen

On 4 April a shipment of pontoons and other Damen vessels arrived in Rotterdam from China, where it left seven weeks ago. The shipment consisted of new Damen Stan pontoons and other Damen vessels – all built for stock to uphold the Dutch shipbuilder’s reputation for meeting ultra-short delivery times.

The original shipment consisted of 13 Stan pontoons, six Stan tugs and four Stan tenders but along the way the shipment diverted to West Africa where certain items were sold ‘on the hoof’.

In total Damen has made 170 deliveries in 2013, upholding the shipbuilder’s reputation for short delivery times. The company sold 37 pontoons and barges in the last two years and production has increased with an even larger amount of vessels currently under construction at four different yards in the Middle East, Vietnam and China.

Following strong demand for last year’s shipment of pontoons and barges delivered to Rotterdam, this new shipment of built-for-stock vessels that arrived in Rotterdam ensures continuous availability in Western Europe and North America.

On the journey from Shanghai, the semi-submersible vessel also had room to transport a further six Stan Tugs and four Stan Tenders. Before reaching Europe, the ship stopped in West Africa to deliver a number of pontoons and tugs, which had already been sold to repeat clients while the vessel was en route.

The shipment carried eight different models from the range of high quality Stan pontoons, including Damen’s largest built-for-stock pontoon measuring 120 x 32.2 x 8.1 metres which has a deadweight of 20,150 tonnes.

The ‘cargo’ was carried on board the Chinese semi-submersible heavylift vessel ZHEN HUA 29.

All Damen pontoons are fully ballastable and the majority is already fitted with a ballast system. The vessels are prepared for the plug & play installation of pumps and generator sets and can be commissioned within a very short time.

Custom-built pontoons and barges
In addition to its stock-building programme, Damen completes custom-designed one-off projects that can literally be built anywhere. Current examples include an 80-metre Crane Barge and a 140-metre module offloading facility transition pontoon. In close cooperation with the client Damen designs, constructs and delivers built-for-purpose projects.

The Dutch company has also recently introduced a new standard range of Bunker Barges. The range is optimised for short delivery times and can easily be equipped with plug & play options. They can be towed or operated in combination with a specially designed pusher tug.

Another new design, the Transshipment Crane Barge 6324 with a Liebherr CBG 350 crane, is also available as of now. Developed in close cooperation with Liebherr, the barge is for the transshipment of containers or dry-bulk materials. It is perfect for ship-to-shore, ship-to-barge or ship-to-quay operation and has a maximum turnover of up to 1,000 tonnes per hour.

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It will be a first-ever MSC Cruises Cape Town to Southampton voyage and – no surprise - it’s almost booked solid! MSC OPERA completes her SA cruising season when she heads for the Solent on 25 April.
And – according to MSC’s Allan Foggitt - if you book right now you can sail Cape Town to Southampton “for fares from around R3,500 per person…an outer-limits cruise bargain.” Why not get hold of MSC Cruises today?

Wouldn’t you also want to be out there on deck aboard MSC OPERA (pictured leaving Cape Town last year) when she sails for England?...’Oh, to be in England now that April’s here.’ It’s one of the great sights of the world, as Table Mountain gently disappears into the blue distance…and excitement will be running high as a fully- subscribed ship readies itself for much fun in the sun and a crossing of the Equator and two Tropics.

The 59,000-grt MSC OPERA’s South Africa cruising season is about to end. She leaves on Friday, 25 April, for Britain’s fabled port of Southampton…“packed with happy passengers eagerly anticipating a splendid West Coast of Africa voyage. She’ll call at Walvis Bay, Dakar, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Funchal, Lisbon, Vigo and the French port of Cherbourg, before crossing back across the English Channel to Southampton.

MSC OPERA has all but completed a successful season in the Mozambique Channel and Cape waters. “More than 130,000 passengers having enjoyed cruises on both MSC OPERA and MSC SINFONIA, a South African record for one year….and it was an inspired idea to cruise to Southampton rather than Genoa, the usual end destination after a South African season,” he told Ports & Ships.

Why not cruise south from Southampton in October…?
Cashing in on a popular new idea, MSC OPERA will sail south to Cape Town on 7 October…via Ijmuiden (Netherlands), Le Havre (France), Bilbao (Spain), Lisbon (Portugal), Funchal (Madeira), Mindelo (Cape Verde) and the Namibian port of Walvis Bay….all simply fascinating ports of call. “Demand locally and overseas manifested soon after the voyage was opened for booking,” says Allan, “and fares are understandably higher than the April northbound route.”

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Picture: Vernon Buxton
MSC OPERA (pictured at the historic N Shed Terminal on her maiden call to Durban in November, 2012) on the day this correspondent joined her inaugural cruise from Durban (as Allan’s guest.) The vessel exceeded my expectations by far. There are several lounges – most on the same deck - offering a diverse choice of musical entertainment. It’s great fun trolling between them looking for your kind of music. The holiday atmosphere is well enhanced by two large restaurants and another topside with expansive floor-to-ceiling glass windows on three sides. The discotheque high up aft is an astonishing full-width-of-the-ship enclave seating plenty of late-night revellers. ‘A luxury resort that moves’ is an apt description for MSC OPERA…one of four MSC vessels to be lengthened in the next two years. In October MSC OPERA is back with us (operating solo).

A gathering place of ocean giants…the port of Southampton receives calls from virtually every major cruise line. Access via a fabled waterway known as The Solent adds glamour and excitement to the approach, and MSC OPERA passengers will be among many others to experience such cruising joy in the weeks to come…and again this coming October when she heads back to Cape Town again. The picture shows three Cunard Line vessels, QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 on the left, with QUEEN MARY 2 and QUEEN VICTORIA.

Lisbon’s harbour is situated near the mouth of the River Tagus, one of many unforgettable calls MSC OPERA will make on her voyage back to South Africa this October. Day tours are offered to Portugal’s capital, where architecture is exemplary and the Portuguese cuisines are there in great variety to tempt your palate. Every port of call promises fascinating harbour scenes and exciting local sightseeing.

Northbound 2015
In just less than a year from now, MSC OPERA will complete her 2014/2015 cruise season in South Africa. Her northbound itinerary has been revealed, sailing from Cape Town on 28 March, with a final arrival in the Italian port of Venice. Calls en route are at Walvis Bay, Dakar, Cadiz, Valetta, Corfu and Dubrovnik. “These repositioning cruises remain incomparable cruise value,” says Allan Foggitt, “and what better way to start an Italian holiday than arriving in romantic Venice. Early booking is highly advised… European demand is increasing exponentially.”

MSC Cruises has just announced that MSC SINFONIA will return to South Africa for the 2015/16 cruises season, and not MSC ARMONIA as was initially mooted. “SINFONIA has a business centre that we want and is faster,” said Allan, “ and she has a fan-base of passengers who will wish to return to her.”

News of an almost 100% occupancy for MSC OPERA’s imminent northbound repositioning cruise from Cape Town to Southampton comes as no real surprise…given that this fabled route was so popular with international travellers up until the mid-1970s, when the advent of the Boeing 707 brought about a rapid end to this splendid service. Many vessels plied these waters, as they did on the east coast of Africa, and this is a recollection of some of the great vessels that brought joy to many thousands of travellers over a period of at least four decades.


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Did you get a chance to sail on MSC’s MELODY? Your correspondent did (thanks to Allan Foggitt) some years back. It was an immensely satisfying foray up the Mozambique Channel and, for her time, she felt so completely contemporary. A sliding all-weather magrodome roof did much to enhance the perception of ‘modern’ and this 1982-built vessel offered South Africans a big step-up in the local cruise experience. However, later in 2012, when MSC SINFONIA arrived in SA waters to take over from MELODY, a further uplift in cruising had truly come our way…and cruise-lovers in this country responded, in droves. Here’s MELODY…just about to exit Durban harbour on 21 January, 2012, a wonderful view of the departing vessel captured by Durban ship enthusiast, Trevor Jones. The entrance to Durban harbour had by then been considerably widened, allowing access to the world’s largest container ships…and cruise liners!

A Romantic Era Ended…
Suddenly, and sadly, the lure of an 11-night voyage between the Solent and Cape Town lost its appeal to an overnight ‘sardine tin’ ride on the new four-engined Boeings. The fortunes of Union-Castle Line and Safmarine (who ran the SA VAAL, ex TRANSVAAL CASTLE), and before that the SA ORANJE (ex PRETORIA CASTLE) waned rapidly as passenger number fell markedly…in line with those of companies like Holland-Afrika, Lloyd Triestino, Ellerman & Bucknall and so many others.

The Union-Castle Line was a prominent British shipping line that operated a fleet of passenger and cargo ships between Europe and Africa from 1900 to 1977. It was formed from the merger of the Union Line and Castle Shipping Line. Its shipping operations ceased in 1977…much to the dismay of all who shared a common love of sea travel.

A Natural Travel Transition…
The new jets were indeed exciting innovations, and the chance to go so far, so rapidly, was a concept that was destined to catch on with everyone. The inter-continental sea routes had been intact for a long time and were about to be superceded by a ‘natural historic progression’, which also signaled the demise of Cunard’s transatlantic routes…and I was on the penultimate QUEEN ELIZABETH crossing of The Pond in October, 1968. I felt the end of an era on the run from Southampton to New York and when she returned, that was it, The End!

Britons and South Africans were so much the poorer for losing the exemplary Union-Castle and Safmarine services that provided slow passage between hemispheres and across the Equator. But that’s how ‘the tide turned’ and I count myself among the fortunate to have sailed to England on the sublime SA VAAL in 1966.

The SA VAAL (30,212-grt) was originally the TRANSVAAL CASTLE, sailing on her maiden voyage from Southampton to South Africa for the Union-Castle Line in January 1962. Four years later she was taken over by South African Marine Corporation (Safmarine), though remaining on the same route and still managed by Union- Castle. She was sold in 1977 to Carnival Cruise Lines, rebuilt and renamed FESTIVALE for Caribbean cruising from 1978. From the late 1990s she sailed for other cruise lines, being renamed ISLAND BREEZE and later BIG RED BOAT III (the horror, the horror) and finally sold to scrappers in 2003. My 18-day voyage from Durban remains one of the highlights of my life. Facing reality again on arrival in England was difficult to deal with and I was in a depressed fug for at least three days. The entertainment was simple…deck quoits, bingo, dancing and competitions, yet it was more than enough to keep one satiated…to say nothing of the splendid, extremely extravagant, table fare. A day-long call at Las Palmas was a major highlight and the notorious Bay of Biscay, in a ‘bad mood’, showed how naturally buoyant the SA VAAL really was.

Durban-based ship-lover and maritime expert, Trevor Jones, was aboard the WINDSOR CASTLE on her last coastal voyage in 1977. He captured these evocative views of the flagship Union-Castle vessel as she was about to chart a course for Southampton. A few days earlier, it had been a sorry moment indeed when I, as a reporter on The Natal Mercury, stood in Durban harbour with a colleague, photographer Terry Haywood, waving ‘Bon Voyage’ to WINDSOR CASTLE. Terry and I had that day been rostered to cover the event and I do recall a patent awareness of an era ending. The grand flagship sailed with a full complement (Trevor Jones included, but he disembarked in Cape Town) down to Cape Town and on to her home-port, Southampton. At the time, everyone spoke of the divine ‘country house’ elegance of this ship… with ’flop’ furniture and drapes accentuated by floral patterns and ‘Regency’ reds. Separate First Class and Second Class dining rooms served expansive a la carte meals (all sit-down with a menu card…nothing as vulgar as a buffet!) with a wide choice of hors d’oeuvres, soups, fish choices, roasts and stews…and an impressive array of hot and cold puddings, brought to your table on multiple-level trolleys. A huge tray of assorted cheeses led to the offer of a glass of Port. WINDSOR CASTLE was a 5-Star hotel that moved…and she moved many thousands of Britons and South Africans across the hemispheres in great comfort and style.

Another unforgettable final view from Trevor Jones as the-then familiar lavender-hulled RMS WINDSOR CASTLE eased out of Cape Town’s Duncan Dock for the last time in 1977. The magnificent old South African Railways & Harbours tug was the T. H. WATERMEYER. Contemporary cruise liners are magnificent structures, but the ships of 50-odd years ago had something incomparably special about them…and those of us who were around to witness the era were indeed privileged…were we not? Perish the thought of losing her along with the other CASTLE vessels I remember some of the Castle vessels calling at Durban…ATHLONE (built 1936), BLOEMFONTEIN (1950), CARNARVON (1926), DUNNOTTAR (1936), DURBAN (1938), EDINBURGH (1947), GOOD HOPE (1965), KENYA (1951), PENDENNIS (1958), PRETORIA (1948, later SA ORANJE), RHODESIA (1951), SOUTHAMPTON (1965), STIRLING (1936), TRANSVAAL (1961, later SA VAAL) and WINCHESTER, built in 1930. (The latter, with her square bulkhead, looked really historic…and I remember observing her in Durban in the 1950s, see below.)

My earliest Union-Castle memory was of the WINCHESTER CASTLE in Durban during the 1950s. Her first arrival at Cape Town was in 1930 and she sailed for the last time in 1960, and was broken up in Japan soon after. The tug, according to this reproduction of a stamp, was the T. S. McEWAN, in Cape Town, of course. Note the last of the square superstructures, which later gave way to elegant curves. The nostalgia…the nostalgia.

Picture: Trevor Jones

The last ships to be built for the Union-Castle Line were actually mail ships! They were the GOOD HOPE CASTLE and the SOUTHAMPTON CASTLE (pictured galloping towards Durban in February, 1975) which joined the fleet in 1965 under the title of ‘Intermediate Mail Ships’ They were, however, actually very fast cargo vessels of 10,558-grt and, as planned, were to have no passenger accommodation at all. This was because of the great fall off in the number of passengers between Britain and South Africa, owing to the intrusion of air travel as a much faster and, later, cheaper means of travel. They did, however, provide passage for 12 passengers, so that a service via St. Helena might be kept intact. There was no passenger dining room, you ate with the officers. In 1977, the mail contract was terminated and container ships took over. In 1976 SOUTHAMPTON CASTLE left Cape Town for the last time, followed by the GOOD HOPE CASTLE (badly damaged by fire off Ascension Island in 1974) in 1978, thus putting an end to a mail-service that had actually started in 1854. These two ships were then sold to the Italian line COSTA ARMATORI S.P.A and renamed PAOLA C. and FRANCA C (once again, the horror, the horror.)

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In earlier years, 1961 to be precise, perhaps my most unforgettable sailing was a two-nighter from Beira to Durban aboard the BRAEMAR CASTLE, sister of the KENYA CASTLE and RHODESIA CASTLE, all of which did the east coast run via Suez. Aside from the fact that she arrived in Beira four days late (our family friend, the port captain, Jose da Silva, mercifully offered interim accommodation to two young and cash-strapped travellers) but we had no sooner sailed from Beira than we realised we were in for a rough ride. The tail-end of a cyclone in the Mozambique Channel threw the vessel around like a top and none of us got much sleep on the first night. These vessels (and most earlier Union-Castle ships) were ventilated by a ‘punkah louvre’ system, with forced circulation commencing from forward-facing vents placed around the decks. It worked, and the punkah was either ‘Open’ or ‘Closed’. They were one-class vessels, offering the highest standards of service and cuisine. Would that one could have done the entire Union-Castle east coast route before pirates put a strain on those fabled waters…indeed, before jet airplanes scuttled the historic service. All three of approximately 17,000gt, their itinerary would include Las Palmas, Ascension, St. Helena, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Lourenco Marques, Beira, Dar-es- Salaam, Zanzibar, Tanga, Mombasa, Aden, Port Sudan, Suez, Port Said, Genoa, Marseilles and Gibraltar. I loved the BRAEMAR CASTLE, and the cruise ended all too soon two days later.

Another captivating picture of BRAEMAR CASTLE, not taken by Trevor Jones but supplied to him as a transparency. “It's of some interest, as it shows the intermediate steamer on the bunkering pontoon off ‘Steamer Point’ in Aden, where these vessels called for bunkers after transiting the Suez Canal and the Red Sea,” wrote Trevor. “As a 13-year old, I did just that on her sister-ship, RHODESIA CASTLE, on our way back to South Africa in late 1962.” (Great recollection, Trevor, thank you!...and for the other splendid pictures too. Ed.)

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Picture: Trevor Jones
Around 1964 I enjoyed a coastal jaunt from Durban (pictured leaving that port in 1969, in her original CNN livery) sailing to Beira and back on the Portuguese-owned PRINCIPE PERFEITO Built in 1961 by Swan Hunter on the River Tyne, she first entered service for the Companhia Nacional de Nevegacao (CNN), which later merged with others to become the Companhia Portuguesa de Transportes Marítimos. The first voyage of PRINCIPE PERFEITO began in Lisbon to Africa, with calls at nine different ports and then ended at Beira, which became her normal run. Owing to political instability in the Portuguese African colonies, the vessel was laid up in Lisbon in 1976. An unremarkable life followed, with various sales to other companies before she was sent to India for scrapping in 2001. The ship was something of an old crate, with no décor or facilities to wax lyrical about. There was a marked engine-room vibration (ghastly, in fact) in the main lounge, but where this service shone above so many others was in the dining room. The Portuguese cuisines were exemplary and our Christmas Eve dinner involved turkeys fully carved but reconstructed to look normal…and a starter of asparagus came out of the galley atop a procession of lit-up ice castles to – if you please -a trumpet fanfare. It was an awe-inspiring presentation, and the food throughout the voyage was exceptional…hence my intact memories. In Lourenco Marques (Maputo), the fast-flowing river caught the aft end, sending the bow swinging hard to port and crashing right into a crane…which came thundering down onto the dockside, mercifully with no operator in it! We sailed on, regardless.

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Picture: Trevor Jones
In the late 1950s, my parents and I often (down on holiday from Rhodesia) dined aboard the INFANTE DOM HENRIQUE in Beira harbour, thanks to a close association with the-then port captain. Security was not pervasive as it is today, and boarding ships was encouraged. The INFANTE DOM HENRIQUE (captured at A Berth in Cape Town, her hull looking a touch weather-worn) was Portugal’s largest liner and certainly the biggest of her type to be built. She was ordered by Cia Colonial, Lisbon, in 1957 and built in Belgium by the same company that had already built both the VERA CRUZ and SANTA MARIA. She continued her regular Africa services until early 1976, when she was laid up in Lisbon as she was no longer cost affective to operate on this service…and the company did not see any other use for her at this time. So many of these fine vessels went out of service around the mid-1970s. Like other Portuguese vessels, the food was of the best, with distinctive Portuguese cuisines being given full vent in flavoursome dishes with tomato, garlic and olive oil. The Portuguese sure got that part right!

The cargo/passenger Ellerman Bucknall vessels were also much coveted by passengers on the Britain to South Africa run. Coastal calls in Port Elizabeth, Durban and Beira were well patronised, and visitors were able to dine on board in the Portuguese port. The CITY OF DURBAN and CITY OF EXETER were two of the regulars on the route. Beautiful wood-panelled public rooms were exceptionally elegant and the dining room fare was highly rated, with white-glove service, of course. I dined on these vessels in Beira harbour several times, and on each occasion I felt reluctant to go ashore…feeling the urge to stay aboard all the way back to England. We had well-heeled friends in Salisbury, the Yeatmans, who sailed to England on these vessels at least twice a year. Those were the days…and the Ellerman Bucknall ships were indeed classic passenger/cargo liners.

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The Ellerman family in Britain clearly did well out of their shipping interests, because they bought a less-than-modest anything but modest residence overlooking Table Bay in Cape Town. Today, Ellerman House (it became a hotel in 1992) at Bantry Bay is a much-coveted stopover for the top-end traveller…very top- end, if you’re interested. The Cape Edwardian-style complex was built in 1906 and bought by Sir John Ellerman in 1962, quite one of the most splendid properties in the western Cape. Sir John and Lady Ester planted a very traditional English garden when he bought the house (since considerably extended) and they donated all the removed indigenous plants to Kirstenbosch Gardens.) Today the complex houses of one most important South African Art collections in the world, dating back to the 1800’s (Maggie Loubser, Irma Stern, Pierneef, and so on.)

Picture: Trevor Jones
How many of you remember Lloyd Triestino’s AFRICA (seen racing towards Durban on a summer afternoon) and sister-ship EUROPA on the Italy-South Africa route? Both ships were particularly popular on the coastal run from Cape Town, with voyages ending in Durban. Passengers loved the real Italian fare, with large wine carafes on every table, home-made pastas and plenty of ‘gelati’ for the little ones. Sadly, these fine vessels went the way of all others at the time and the services from Genoa were terminated when costs overran profits. My one regret is that I did not savour a Lloyd Triestino experience….with lots of fresh pasta and gelati…and, of course, a large carafe of Vinho Verde on my dinner table!

So, with MSC Cruises using Southampton as a point of arrival and departure this year, here is your chance to join a route entirely redolent of the Union-Castle service, with a lot more calls en route to add spice to this great maritime pathway…one that has been followed by many of the major contemporary cruise lines…Cunard Line, Holland America Line, P&O, Crystal Cruises, Silversea, Fred. Olsen and so very many more. It goes without saying that MSC OPERA will most likely be fully subscribed on her October southbound cruise…but you may just be lucky to get aboard if you get your booking in now.

Meanwhile, Bon Voyage at the end of this month to MSC OPERA, a vessel which, along with its sister, MSC SINFONIA, has indeed changed the face of cruising in South African waters.

Vernon Buxton for Ports & Ships

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East London harbour

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.

In the case of South Africa’s container ports of Durban, Ngqura, Ports Elizabeth and Cape Town links to Stack dates are also available.

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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P&O Cruises’ lovely AURORA arrived in South Africa in the past week, calling first at Port Elizabeth and then at Cape Town on her 2014 World Cruise. From the Mother City the ship has moved on to Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, where she departed last night (Wednesday 9 April), bound for Cape Verde islands wher she is due next Thursday (17 April). These pictures taken by: Ian Shiffman

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