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Ports & Ships Maritime News

30 September 2014
Author: Terry Hutson

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


Click on headline to go direct to story – use the BACK key to return


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Mercy Ships hospital ship AFRICA MERCY made a return visit to South Africa yesterday when she arrived in the Port of Cape Town for an unspecified stay. Africa Mercy has been in operation at a number of West African ports. She was last in South Africa in 2010/2011 when she underwent a lengthy repair and maintenance refit at Southern African Shipyards in Durban. See also a related article below plus Pics of the Day. Picture: Ian Shiffman

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Durban Container Terminal, where draught limitations have been tightened

Comments in yesterday’s Ports & Ships Newsletter that goes out to over 3,100 readers each day led to some misunderstanding over a report that ships using the Durban Container Terminal will have their maximum keel clearance reduced from 60cms to 30cms.

The comments in the form of an editorial in the Newsletter were intended to be read in conjunction with the article inside the news Bulletin headed ‘Draught limitations tightened at Durban Container Terminal’ where it was emphasised that the matter related to the DCT berths.

At no stage was it intended to suggest these limitations applied to the port entrance channel.

Two of the emails to PORTS & SHIPS:

With regards your comments today [Monday 29 September, Newsletter editorial and article within Ports & Ships] on depth of the channel etc. of Durban Harbour, my comments attached, writes Captain Bill Shewell - former Pilot and Harbour Master.

The issue of minimum clearance being “raised” from 30cm to 60cm horrified me and that Pilots actually were bringing vessels across the bar area on this 30cm calculation. Durban entrance is not a flat pond.

Since the 1970 era when Shell Tankers loaned the pilots a tanker to test the draft set of the keel, which was set at 1.0 metres for all states of the tidal range. In other words if weather conditions on the bar were settled, the vessel could come in on LOW Tide having 1m beneath the keel.

However on deep laden vessels which are a common factor today even with the deepened channel, the TIDE should still be a factor for all pilots entering or moving across the inner basin. The higher tidal range period from two hours after LOW water to four hours after HIGH water is an extra safety FREE increase depth of about ONE metre, still allowing for the extra 60cm.

Logically the Pilot will have assessed the vessel draft and state of tide when boarding a vessel.

The issue of more or less cargo carried is NOT the responsibility of the ship owner who employs the Pilot, and the “cargo owner” or charterer should be fully aware of that ports safety limitations for the ship he has chartered, and not enforce Pilots to take marine risks because of written guidelines for the sake of maybe 4 hours, two hours each side of LOW tide.

Modern ships should have a steering wheel once more, then this issue would not be going around for another 50 years.

With regards deepening of the berth, have you tried digging a hole in a large sand patch without the sides sliding in? Durban Harbour was and is a massive million year old river bed. Of course a dredger could keep digging till the old Post Office slid out of view.
Bill Shewell

Arie Burggraaf, former Transnet Chief Harbour Engineer writes
I am astounded by the statement that the port authorities would allow PORT ENTRY with an underkeel clearance, if I read you correctly, of 30 centimetres or 60 centimetres for that matter. This cannot be true surely. We always used a clearance of 10% of maximum draught while in the entrance we allowed for much more to take into account ship movement such as pitch, roll etc. I never heard of this in my 40 years of port operations or in design of entrance channel and berth depths.
Arie Burggraaf

The Newsletter editorial read in part….
If there were problems before in terms of draught limitations at the key port of Durban, they just got worse. Because (it is thought) of a couple of recent mishaps involving ships on sandbanks and ships touching bottom, the port authorities have tightened up by increasing the amount of water necessary at all times under the keel of a ship, from 30cms to 60cms.

If you think of it, a 30cm gap between the keel of a ship and the harbour sea bed is not very much and 60cms is a tad more comfortable, but on the other side of the coin it means much less cargo for a ship.

One has to wonder why Transnet delayed its plans to strengthen and deepen the container terminal berths. The intention to widen and deepen the harbour entrance was known several years before the contract was awarded but to this time no contract is near being awarded.

Clearly the port authority didn’t anticipate the sudden growth in ship size, exacerbated by the cascade effect as much larger ships were diverted onto the South Africa trades. It seems TNPA was caught with its pants around its ankles and there’s still no clarity as to when even one of the container berths will be deepened to the required -14.5 metres alongside.

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The photograph was taken midway through the loading process and shows the mv Constantinos loading with two of Bulk Connections ship loaders.

Durban’s Bulk Connections terminal, which is situated at the Bluff near the harbour entrance, completed a record load for a bulk ship at this facility.

The vessel, the bulk carrier CONSTANTINOS is a gearless bulk carrier, 229 metres long and with a beam of 36.8m. The bulk carrier arrived last week at berth number 4, which has a draught of only 10.3 metres. In the subsequent cargo operations, an all-time record for the largest uplift of cargo at the terminal was achieved by more than 8,500 tons.

Iain Geldart, managing director of Bulk Connections said that it was necessary to keep a watchful eye on the tides as well as a careful balance between air draught on arrival and water draught on completion of loading.

“The vessel which took 144 hours to load chrome and manganese ore into six of her seven hatches, finally sailed with 61,987 tons of cargo.”

PORTS & SHIPS can recall publishing an article dated in the early 2000s where some excitement was caused by loading a bulk carrier with something in the order of 48,000 tons of coal at Bulk Connections, which was considered a record back then.

Bulk Connections is a part of the Bidvest Group.

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Damen-built cutter suction dredger (CSD) at work for a Nigerian customer

A Nigerian customer has added his 9th Damen dredger to its fleet. The CSD500 type cutter suction dredger was chosen due to the availability of Damen Field Services in Nigeria.

This local presence is very valuable as well as practical in view of the challenging assembly conditions.

The Damen Shipyards Group maintains a spares stock in Nigeria for standard dredgers such as the CSD500. Damen field service engineers are also continuously available locally. With the cutter suction dredger maintenance contracts are offered to keep the dredgers in tip top condition.

The most challenging side of this job has been the dredger assembly, says Damen. It was planned at a scrap yard on a swampy side branch of a river. The local conditions were worsened by the rainy season. The locally sourced cranes of 250 and 500 tonnes were stuck in the mud more than once.

When the cranes arrived on the assembly side, the ground had to be strengthened. Moreover the dredger had to be hoisted 25 m from the river bank as conditions were too swampy right next to the bank.

The Damen cutter suction dredger is a CSD500 model, capable of dredging at a maximum depth of 14 m. The standard dredger has been fitted out with an accommodation unit. The unit includes a kitchen, a sitting area and sanitary facilities.

The dredger is currently working on a land reclamation job near Warri.

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Africa Mercy arriving in Cape Town harbour yesterday. Picture: Aad Noorland

A 160-ton floating hospital has arrived on Lake Victoria where it will take up service providing medical care among the hundreds of isolated small islands that dot the lake.

The vessel was built in Scotland and transported to Africa with the help of Aberdeen oil company, the Wood Group, which has operations in Africa and which provided technical know-how on moving the vessel.

The ship arrived in Mombasa on 22 January this year where it was partially dismantled for the overland journey to Kisumu on Kenya’s banks of Lake Victoria. There the vessel has been re- assembled and is now expected to sail to the Tanzanian port of Mwanza on the southern end of the lake.

The ship is the joint responsibility of the Africa Inland Church (AIC), Geita Diocese and a Scottish charity organisation called the Vine Trust.

AIC Bishop Mussa Magwesela said the medical services to be provided from the ship would be free. “It is expected to serve about 400,000 people a year on the islands of Lake Victoria in Tanzania,” he said. The islands currently receive minimal medical care. There are over 150 island communities with over 500,000 people in the Tanzanian area of the lake alone.

The ship will cater for medical services covering HIV/AIDS, dental services, laboratory work, maternal and child health care in the regions of Geita, Mwanza and Kagera.

The ship has medical examination rooms, a dental theatre and a laboratory. The ship will be staffed by a team of mainly Tanzanians including doctors and volunteers provided by the charity.

The Vine Trust was established in 1985 as a local community response to the famine in Ethiopia and Sudan by churches in Bo’ness, Scotland. – East African Business Week

Mercy Ships vessel arrives in South Africa

Another medical ship, Mercy Ships’ 16,572-gt AFRICA MERCY arrived in Cape Town yesterday from West Africa, where the ship has been operating for much of the year since last leaving South Africa in 2011 (see First View and Pics of the Day) in this issue.

Africa Mercy is also a Christian-operated vessel and is staffed by medical and other professional volunteers who provide essential medical and dental care, including surgery.

Medical professionals have provided expert dental care in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province in recent times.

The ship, which is the world’s largest charity hospital ship, was built in 1980 as a rail/car ferry, the Dronning Ingrid and has been considerably modified since then. The organisation previously operated three other hospital ships, the Anastasis, the Caribbean Mercy and the Island Mercy, all of which have been retired from service since the acquisition of Africa Mercy.

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new diesel loco ex USA
New loco at the Moçâmedes Railroad

The fleet of the Moçâmedes Railroad has been increased with the arrival of three new locomotives acquired in the United States, the chairman of the rail management company has announced.

Daniel Quipaxe said that six locomotives, which were recently acquired in China and India, were currently in service and that the three new American units would streamline “the process of movement and transport of people and goods in between the port at Namibe, Huila and Kwando Kubango.”

The chairman of the Moçâmedes Railroad said there were enough tanker trucks to carry fuel and water, but there is a shortage of wagons to carry black granite, because those available are cramped and demand is starting to increase, a situation that will be remedied with the arrival of new wagons.

On the occasion of the 109th anniversary of the company, Quipaxe told daily newspaper Jornal de Angola that in the future a branch line over 300 kilometres long would be built between Tchamutete, Jamba, to the border with Namibia, and that currently studies were being conducted for its construction.

The work to rebuild and modernise the railway line is almost at the final stage and by the end of October the contractor is due to deliver most of the infrastructure.

The contractor, Chinese company China Hyway, is completing the construction of over 800 homes along the rail route between the city of Namibe (the current name of Moçâmedes) and Menongue.

The Moçâmedes Railroad links the coastal town and port of Namibe with Menongue, the provincial capital of Kwando Kubango provincial capital in eastern Angola. Construction of the railway began on 28 September, 1905 but was finally completed on 6 December, 1961.

The line is 860 kilometres long, including branch lines to the old mining areas of Jamba and Cassinga. - macauhub


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Landing jetty at Moma, where minerals are loaded into feeder vessel which transfer cargo to large bulk carriers in deep water.

Australia’s Iluka Resources has made an offer of US$780 million to buy Irish company Kenmare Resources, whose main asset is the Moma heavy sands mine in Nampula, Mozambique, the Australian company said recently.

The Moma mine has an expected lifetime of over 100 years and currently produces more than 900 tons of heavy mineral ore, mostly ilmenite and zircon.

“The potential transaction involving Kenmare Resources is compatible with the Iluka Resources mineral sands exploration strategy,” said the statement from Iluka, which noted it was not certain that “any transaction will be made.”

Kenmare Resources last August announced an operating loss of US$17.9 million in the first half, after a profit of US$6.9 million in the same period of 2013.

The losses incurred were, according to Michael Carvill, CEO of the Irish firm, due to prices in the international markets for the minerals extracted by the company falling 23 percent for ilmenite and 7 percent for primary zircon.

Listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, Iluka Resources is the world’s largest producer of zircon and one of the largest producers of titanium dioxide, with mining operations in Australia and the state of Virginia, in the United States of America. - macauhub


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Gateway port

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 container 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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Another two pictures of the hospital ship Africa Mercy arriving at Cape Town yesterday. Pictures: Ian Shiffman

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