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Ports & Ships Maritime News

16 December 2014
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...

Jing Po He COSCO3 adj 470

With the port helicopter having already taken off the marine pilot, the Chinese COSCO container ship JING PO HE (44,911-dwt, built 1997) slips down the Durban port entrance channel towards the open sea. The picture was taken in January 2003. Picture: Terry Hutson

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Lake Tanganyika June1985 STS51 G 034 0012 Wikiped
Lake Tanganyika from space. Picture: Wikipedia

The death toll in the Lake Tanganyika passenger vessel tragedy is rising with nearly 130 bodies having been recovered.

The Congolese passenger vessel MV MUTAMBALA sank in the early hours of Friday morning last week but news of this only began reaching the outside world at the weekend.

“Rescue workers recovered a total of 129 bodies," Laurent Kahozi Sumba, the transport minister for the Democratic Republic of Congo's Katanga province, said on Sunday. On Saturday, provincial officials had put the death toll at just 26. Sumba also said at least 232 people were known to have survived the accident.

The death toll may rise even further as authorities continue the search for bodies.

MV Mutambala sails on the lake between the towns of Katanga province and the South Kivu province. She was heading for the town of Uvira when she sank.

In addition to hundreds of passengers she also carried cargo and according to some reports she may have been overloaded when she sank. Tanzanian authorities claim she had on board over 500 people. Overloading of the lake vessels is a common practice on all the Great Lakes of East and Central Africa.

There was also a strong wind blowing on the night when she capsized and sank.

Some of the lake ships lack sufficient life vests and other safety features.

Lake Tanganyika is the world’s longest freshwater lake in addition to being one of the largest. In addition to the DRC the lake borders with Tanzania, Burundi and Zambia.

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In a collision just south of the Suez Canal a large cargo ship, at first identified as a Kuwaiti owned or operated, Panamanian-flagged container ship, is reported to have run down an Egyptian wooden hulled fishing vessel named BADR and continued without stopping.

If such was the case the ship may not have even seen the smaller wooden dhow type boat.

The ship, which is now believed to be a large cargo vessel of around 220,000 tons, which suggests a tanker (her identity hasn’t been confirmed), later stopped at the Egyptian port of Safaga where it was detained pending investigation.

The fishing vessel is reported to have been carrying a crew of 45, which is more than anyone would expect on such a vessel unless some were passengers. According to latest reports 13 bodies have been recovered, 11 crew survived and were rescued and the balance are missing. The head of the fishermen’s syndicate, Bakri Abu Al-Hassan, told reporters however that 18 fishermen were missing. He said the Badr was carrying a crew of 40 fishermen.

Badr came from the Al-Matriya region in Egypt’s north-east al-Dakahlia province.

Egyptian naval ships and helicopters have been helping in the search for survivors or bodies.

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Chinese train arriving from Yiwu in Madrid Dec 2
The China freight train from Yiwu arrives in Madrid. Photograph: Xinhua News Agency

Train throws down challenge to sea travel

The longest rail link in the world and the first direct link between China and Spain is up and running after a train from Yiwu in coastal China completed its maiden journey of 8,111 miles to Madrid. En route it passed through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany and France before arriving at the Abroñigal freight terminal in Madrid.

The railway has been dubbed the “21st-century Silk Road” by Li Qiang, the governor of Zhejiang province, where Yiwu is located. Its route is longer than the Trans-Siberian railway and the Orient Express.

The first train was met by the mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, and Spain’s minister of public works, Ana Pastor. It consisted of containers carrying 1,400 tonnes of cargo – mostly toys, stationery and other items for sale over Christmas across Europe.

According to China’s ambassador to Spain, Zhu Banzao, it will return laden with wine, jamón and olive oil in time for the Chinese new year in February.

Yiwu is the world’s largest …
… wholesale hub for small consumer goods and plays host to a vast 4 sq km (1.5 sq mile) market where tens of thousands of traders work daily. The journey was a test run to assess the viability of adding Spain to a route that already links China with Germany five times a week. Those trains link Chongqing, the huge industrial city in south-west China, with Duisburg, and Beijing with Hamburg.

China is Spain’s biggest trading partner after the EU, with bilateral trade worth around £16bn. It is also Spain’s third largest source of imports, after Germany and France. About half of these imports are made up of mobile phones and clothing. The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was in China in September, where he signed deals reported to be worth more than £6.3bn.

A major advantage of the rail route is speed. The train took just three weeks to complete a journey that takes up to six weeks by sea. It is also more environmentally friendly than road transport, which would produce 114 tonnes of CO2 to shift the same volume of goods, compared with the 44 tonnes produced by the train – a 62% reduction.

However, the cargo had to be transferred three times during the journey as a result of incompatible rail gauges. The locomotive also had to be changed on average every 500 miles.

The service is being operated …
… by InterRail Services and DB Schenker Rail and in Spain by DB’s Spanish offshoot, Tranfesa.

At the welcoming ceremony, the mayor of Madrid pointed out that a majority of the city’s 30,000 Chinese residents hailed from Zhejiang province. Relations between Spain and China took a dive earlier this year when a judge sought international arrest warrants for former president Jiang Zemin and four top officials in relation to alleged genocide in Tibet. The Spanish parliament took barely 10 days to throw out the case. - The Guardian

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Market expectations for China to meaningfully reduce domestic iron ore production in favour of imports proved to be overly optimistic, says John Dragnis, CEO of shipping company Goldenport Holdings. He was commenting on the third quarter results of the company.

Dry bulk freight rates during the third quarter of 2014 were weaker than in the first half of the year, as demand lagged net fleet growth, Dragnis went on to say, as reported by World Maritime News.

“Coal imports to China have been affected by adverse policies and the Indonesian nickel export ban remains in place. In this environment, Supramax rates were once again more resilient than Capesize and Panamax rates, reflecting their versatility and reduced earnings volatility, while containership rates remained broadly stable, but at levels close to all time lows,” he added.

During the quarter the utilisation rate of Goldenport’s fleet reached 96%, while a small improvement in the time charter equivalent rate for the fleet was offset in dollar terms by a slight increase in average daily operating expenses.

“We have continued to employ our dry bulk fleet on a short term basis under 3-6 month time charter agreements and have recently extended the charters for several of our containerships for another 8-12 months. In line with our strategy to reduce our exposure to older containerships, we concluded the sale of the 2,452 TEU, 1998-built vessel THASOS to an unaffiliated third party and the vessel was delivered to the new owners on 1 December 2014,” Dragnis said.

Dry Bulk Sector Outlook for 2015 is Uncertain …

Furthermore, the outlook for 2015 is uncertain, according to Dragnis, and the long-awaited recovery in the dry bulk sector may not materialize in the near term as the orderbook casts a shadow over subdued demand.

This is reflected in the Capesize and Supramax FFA for calendar year 2015 which are currently trading at US$12,200 and US$ 8,825 per day, respectively.

“We remain nevertheless optimistic about the dry bulk sector and believe that increased coal imports to India, long-haul Brazilian iron ore imports to China and South American grain exports could lead to a sustainable rally,” he pointed out.

The outlook for the containership sector hinges on geopolitical uncertainties receding and global economic growth picking up, but at the same time, tonnage providers are being squeezed by liner companies that have formed themselves into alliances focused on increasing profitability and efficiency.

During the third quarter …
… of 2014, deliveries reached approximately 10.5 million DWT (139 vessels) while demolition levels were approximately 3.9 million DWT (70 vessels). As a result there was a net increase in the fleet of approximately 6.5 million DWT or 0.9% in terms of capacity and approximately 70 units in terms of number of vessels.

New orders showed a noticeable decrease from Q2 and reached around 78 units of 8.0 million DWT compared to 120 units of 10.5 million DWT.

The current orderbook stands at about 2,092 units representing about 20% of the world fleet in terms of number of vessels and about 23% in terms of carrying capacity.

During the nine-month period to 30 September 2014 there have been 242 orders placed in the wider Handymax sector and the current orderbook of 820 units represents about 26% of the operating Handymax fleet.

With regard to containership demand, the report said that in the third quarter, the world containership fleet increased by approximately 2% in terms of the number of vessels to 5,110 units and 2.3% in terms of capacity to 18.0 million TEU. This is the result of larger vessels being introduced into the market and utilised by the liner companies, and smaller vessels reaching the end of their economic life being scrapped.

During the third quarter of 2014, about 39 new building contracts were signed, equivalent to about 287,000 TEU. This represents a 21% decrease from the first quarter and it is mainly attributed to the increase in the price of newbuildings.

The current orderbook …
… stands at about 465 vessels of about 3.5 million TEU and this represents approximately 20% of the world fleet in terms of capacity. The vast majority of the investment in the container segment is focused in the asset class of over 8,000 TEU, which represents about 82% of the current orderbook in terms of capacity.

“From a chartering point of view, there has not been any significant movement in the freight market. Despite the ongoing cascading effect, whereby larger vessels substitute smaller ones, and the delivery of more “eco” vessels throughout the quarter, the majority of standard feeder vessels continue to find employment albeit at historically low rates,” the company said regarding the market outlook. – WMN


It's been called the final frontier for trade growth — the only place in the world where exponential economic and cargo growth is still possible and major trade is still evolving.

Rising African container volumes are increasingly showing the limits of freight infrastructure on both the East and West African coasts, where ports are experiencing trouble dealing with the rise in ship calls and freight volume.

Container volume on the Asia to Africa trade 470
Asia to Africa container volumes are up 21 percent in the last two years.

Africa’s answer to infrastructure problems, however, seems to be a position that is becoming more popular in developing regions around the world: sit back, and wait for the Chinese to handle it.

African ports are critical to China’s $40 billion “Maritime Silk Road” investment. China envisions the ports of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Maputo, Mozambique; Libreville, Gabon; Tema, Ghana; and Dakar, Senegal; as critical nodes in its strategy to cement global trade lanes.China's infrastructure financing in sub-Saharan countries tripled between 2007 and 2010, the International Monetary Fund said, accounting for about half of the external funding for infrastructure development. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said trade between China and Africa will double through 2020, and Chinese investment will quadruple to $100 billion.

“Chinese investors are particularly well-positioned to take advantage of the improved economic environment in Africa," an analyst from Pricewaterhouse Cooper said. "They do have a major competitive edge: they can avail themselves of subsidized credit from their deep-pocketed home government, enabling them to out-compete other bidders for African procurement contracts, not only foreign investors but also African firms.”

Despite some African countries’ scepticism …
… of the true intentions of China’s investment, they are left little choice, and the money being spent by the Chinese is staggering.

Most recently, China announced a government-backed development project in Tanzania. The governments signed an agreement on Oct. 25 that will allow China Merchant Holdings International to invest $1.7 billion in the country; the investment includes the building of an entire satellite city in Bagamoyo.

Construction will include a $460 million seaport with a capacity of 20 million TEUs, and is expected to be completed in 2017. The port will become eastern Africa's largest port, rivalling Chinese-funded development of a port on the Senegal-Ethiopia border.

There are other instances of investments by the Chinese where they opt to gain control of existing infrastructure. China Merchant Holdings purchased a 50 percent stake in the Lome Container Terminal in Togo. Expansion on the terminal, which is under construction, will expand the LCT to four berths, with terminal capacity of 2.2 million TEUs.

Even South Africa, which is widely seen as the country with the most sophisticated infrastructure, is opening its hands for Chinese aid. South Africa's Department of Trade recently announced it would work with the Bank of China to attract more Chinese investment into the country.

The rate and size of investments are spurring questions as to intent. Chinese investments lack strategy and are overwhelmingly focused on helping Chinese interests, rather than guiding sustainable African economic growth, Yun Sun, a fellow in the Brookings Institution's African Growth Initiative, wrote in a research paper. The Chinese have not engaged in political risk assessment associated with African investment, Sun wrote, and have no comprehensive commercial strategy, which could lead to a mismatch of infrastructure expansion projects and volume growth.

Mombasa TEU graph 470px

The influx of cash from the Chinese could only partially solve the problem facing West Africa and sub-Saharan Africa ports. From 2012 to 2013, global exports to sub-Saharan Africa grew 8.9 percent to 6.4 million TEUs, data from Container Trades Statistics show, making the region the fastest growing in the world. Seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund, which expects, on average, Africa to have the world's fastest-growing economy of any continent over the next five years.

In the 2013 World Economic Forum’s global rankings for port infrastructure, only four countries — South Africa, Morocco, Kenya and Namibia — ranked were given satisfactory marks. On the WEF survey, which asked business executives to rate worldwide port infrastructure, no country on the continent scored higher than a five on a scale of one (poor) to seven (advanced). On the same list, 37 sub-Saharan African countries were listed as a stage one economy, with economic success based on unskilled labor and natural resources.

The port of Mombasa …
… has had trouble dealing with exponential volume growth. In the first half of 2014, volume at the port is up 11.5 percent year-over-year.

It’s no secret that African countries lack the capital and, in many respects, the organisation to make the investments themselves, but some initiatives could aid in solving port problems domestically. South Africa’s state port and rail operator TransNet agreed to aid Kenya, Namibia, Mozambique and Ghana in bringing their ports up to international standards. Nigeria launched several committees to look into how to relieve congestion at its Lagos port, specifically eyeing the prospect of enhancing businessat its satellite ports.

Ocean carriers are investing as much as possible into bolstering networks to be able to move freight in Africa, as well. CMA CGM and Safmarine/Maersk Line, which combine to represent about 45 percent of the capacity on the Asia-Africa trade lane, have invested heavily in building a complete logistics network in sub-Saharan Africa and on the West Africa coast to enable easier transport.

“Everyone sees the future possibilities,” Safmarine North America President Jonathan Yock said. “The growth and the investment in ports has been substantial. The people who can throw money at it, who are positioned to invest, are now more than ever before.”

Though ports have talked of modernization for decades, the deadline for improvements has come and gone. CMA CGM enhanced its service loops from Asia to eastern Africa in early December, as did Evergreen Line and Emirates Shipping Line.

Not only are more ships than ever before heading to Africa, but larger ships are poised to make an appearance in the trade within the next year. CMA CGM's largest ships in the trade are 5,700 TEUs, and the Mediterranean Shipping Co. recently consolidated its West African loop and will be running 10 vessels with capacity of up to 6,500 TEUs into Lome, Togo.

Container terminals …
… in Mombasa, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria, are already congested. Both ports are experiencing growing pains from extra vessel calls and added volumes, which is creating delays of up to three weeks.

The growth shows no sign of slowing. Ships as large as 8,000 TEUs could be used on a regular basis in East and West Africa, Mathieu Friedburg, vice president of CMA CGM’s Africa lines, told JOC.com. By 2020, there could even be 10,000-plus TEU ships servicing Africa, he added.

According to both Friedburg and Yock, it’s no longer a matter of if those ships are coming; it’s a matter of when. And when the post-Panamax ships are warranted, the biggest question is whether African nations will have the infrastructure to serve them.

“By 2017 or 2018, if the dredging on tap and the other projects are completed, some of these ports will be able to handle some of [Maersk Line’s 18,000-TEU] Triple Es,” Yock said. “Making improvements to the ports will attract that kind of volume, which will drive the need to improve the railways, improve the roads. If these ships discharge thousands of containers, they will have to have a way to move inland.” - Journal of Commerce


queen elizabeth 470
Enlarged Vista series Queen Elizabeth of Cunard Line

MSC Cruises has placed orders with STX St Nazaire in France for two newbuilds to join the expanding cruise fleet.

The order is for two of the Vista class ships and will be delivered in 2017 and 2019 respectively. No details are available but the Vista class is the most widely used cruise ship design and is in use extensively with Carnival Corp associated cruise companies, including Holland America, Cunard, P&O Cruises and Costa.

The enlarged versions of the design are generally in the 90,000-gross ton range and utilised an azipod propulsion system. Passenger capacity is around 2,000 to 2,400 with between 800 and 950 crew.

No other details are yet available but the two new ships are said to be costing MSC Cruises a neat €1.1 billion.

Insignia cruise ship fire

insignia oceania cruises cruise ship photos 2014
Oceania Cruise Line’s Insignia

The fire that damaged the engine room of Oceania Cruises’ INSIGNIA while the ship was berthed in St Lucia in the Caribbean last week, has resulted in the next planned cruise being cancelled, Oceania Cruises has announced.

The fire led to the death of three persons, two contractors and a crew member. Another crewman was hospitalised but has since been discharged. Oceania was forced to fly all 656 passengers back to Miami at the weekend, bring to an abrupt end their much look-forward –to holiday cruise.

An investigation is underway to find the cause and circumstances of the fire, led by administrators from the Marshall Islands flag company, the US Coast Guard and the (US) National Transportation Safety Board.

On completion Insignia will have to enter dry dock and undergo necessary repairs. “Insignia’s 17 December 2014 voyage has been cancelled and guests/travel partners have been notified. Guests have the option to select from a range of alternative Oceania Cruises itineraries or receive a full refund. In addition, guests will receive a 25 percent future cruise credit. We apologise for any inconvenience and appreciate our guests’ understanding,” said Oceania in a statement.


Gateway port 470
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.


mocambique 470

A couple of ‘Oldies’ to contemplate upon during the December 16 holiday. In the upper picture we see the somewhat worse-for-wear passenger liner MOÇAMBIQUE (13,078-gt, built 1948) as she departs Cape Town bound for Lisbon. Along with her sister ship ANGOLA, Moçambique was built by Hawthorn Leslie in Newcastle, UK for the Companhia Nacional de Navegacao to operate a fast service between Portugal and her African colonies. The ships provided very good air-conditioned first class accommodation for 105 passengers plus 141 in Tourist class and 300 in Third. Fitted with Doxford type diesel engines the ships ran at 17 knots. Picture: Ian Shiffman

arundle final dept 470 paintnet

In the lower picture is one of South Africa’s favourite’s, Union-Castle’s ARUNDEL CASTLE (19,023-gt) assisted by tugs on her final departure from Cape Town in 1959. The ship entered service in 1919, underwent a modernisation refit in 1937, survived World War 2 and was retired in 1958 before going to the breakers in Hong Kong in 1959. Picture submitted by Ian Shiffman.

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