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Ports & Ships Maritime News

20 January 2015
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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d s republic inbound, blt 2001 ex csav petorca

The container ship DS REPUBLIC (80,551-dwt, built 2001) inbound at Cape Town on Sunday afternoon – the ship has previously operated with the names CSAV PETORCA and before that HYUNDAI REPUBLIC. Picture: Ian Shiffman

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Mombasa Container Terminal before expansion

The signing of a US$270 million loan agreement between Japan and Kenya on Friday (16 January) means that construction of the new Mombasa port expansion project can move further forward.

This comes shortly after news that the existing Mombasa Container Terminal has just handled one million TEU during 2014, the first time the port has achieved this milestone and making it the second busiest container terminal in sub-Saharan Africa behind Durban.

This marked an 11.9 percent increase in container handling for the year versus 2013. The port serves not only Kenya but also the East African state’s neighbouring countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Eastern DRC and South Sudan.

Kenya Ports Authority which administers the port says that if projections are correct, Mombasa will enjoy a 30 percent hike this year reaching 1.3 million TEU.

The port is building a second container terminal to augment the first which has reached close to its capacity. The Japanese loan will be used to provide cargo handling equipment in additional to helping pay for the second container terminal, of which construction is already underway.

Kenya isn’t pinning all its hopes and intentions on Mombasa, despite the present expansion project and despite Kenya’s intention of building a new standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Nairobi and on to Uganda and Rwanda. Instead, the KPA is planning to build a new port to the north of Mombasa near the town of Lamu, which is close to the Somalia border. This will offer connections to South Sudan and to Ethiopia, including a planned pipeline to connect with the oil fields in South Sudan.

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GNS Garinga, one of the Ghana Navy’s fast patrol ships

Ghanaian naval forces freed a tanker which had been captured by armed pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. Eight pirates have been taken into custody and the crew of the tanker are reported to be safe and unharmed.

Details of when the tanker MARIAM was captured or exactly where has not been disclosed.

Then only tanker operating under the name Mariam as recorded by the French Equasis databank is a 2141-dwt vessel built in 1991 and owned and operated by Opal Shipping & Trading of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

According to a Ghanaian naval spokesman, Colonel Aggrey Quarshie, the small tanker’s onboard tracking device was triggered as the ship was being boarded by the pirates, who are thought to be Nigerians.

“The Ghana Navy responded swiftly with a patrol team to the area and they were able to overpower the pirates and free the ship. But when they got there, the cargo had already been transferred to another vessel,” Quarshie said at the weekend.

He said the pirates were armed with AK-47 rifles but didn’t say whether they had resisted the intervention by the navy. The pirates were placed in detention and handed over to Ghana’s Bureau of National Investigations (BNI).

Apparently several navies in the region from Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Ghana are all taking part in a search for the other vessel involved in the transfer of the cargo.

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Apapa container terminal

Container volumes achieved at the Lagos port, Apapa Container Terminal, which is operated by APM Terminals, are reported to have reached a record 970,000 TEU in 2014.

This is the result of a 16.2 percent growth in container volumes handled at Nigeria’s busiest port.

The majority of containers handled were imports carrying building materials, refrigerated food items, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and other manufactured goods.

According to Charles Edike, Customs are Controller in Apapa Area 1 command, 400,000 import TEU were sent to bonded container depots outside the port to assist with handling the large volumes and to avoid congestion.

“We will continue with the policy of transferring containers to off-dock facilities to avoid congestion at the terminals because the revenue, which is generated from both the port and bonded terminals, goes to the Federal Government through the service from wherever it is collected. So it is in the overall interest of the nation’s economy that we will continue to transfer containers when the need arises,” he said.

Edike said that the Customs command’s revenue increased to N301.3 billion, an increase of N71.2-bn on the N230.1-bn recorded in 2013.

“This command will continue to do without revenue from rice imports, which accounted for about N35 billion out of a total of N301.3 billion generated in 2014. We are optimistic that the command will do better in 2015,” he said.

He praised the performance of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) system one year after its introduction, which he said has overcome its initial challenges.

“PAAR has definitely outgrown its teething problems and it is now yielding positive results to the nation’s economy, and Customs from other parts of the world have been coming here to copy it,” he added.

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Damen FCS 5009
Damen FCS 5009 patrol vessel outside Cape Town

Damen Shipyards Cape Town (DSCT) has completed building two FCS 5009 Patrol vessels, the first of their type to be built in South Africa. Another of the same class is already in operation with the Cape Verdean Coast Guard.

“This continues our policy of building in Africa for Africa,” said Friso Visser, Sales Manager Africa for Damen, “and its makes us very proud to see our South African facility maintaining the Damen tradition of building technically advanced vessels to the highest standards.

“The versatile FCS 5009 Patrol boats have consistently shown themselves to be an ideal solution for patrolling an EEZ,” he said. “They have low operational costs, are very fuel efficient, have a competitive purchase price and, crucially, are easy to maintain. Overall, they provide a reasonable Total Cost of Ownership, making them attractive to countries that have a requirement to patrol an EEZ.”

DSCT has prepared the vessels for outfitting with Sea Rogue weaponry; a system that includes a 20mm cannon forward of the wheelhouse and two 12.7mm Browning guns fitted respectively port and starboard of the wheelhouse. The Sea Rogue can be operated by a hand controller and has an accurate target-tracking feature. Working with manufacturer Reutech, DSCT can install the weaponry in a matter of days.

“The FCS 5009 is deliverable in two formats. It can be either a fast crew supply ship or a security patrol vessel,” says DSCT Chairman Sam Montsi, explaining that, though the vessels are complete and ready to go, they still possess flexibility.

He said that DSCT is able to carry out the final conversion for either option within a matter of weeks. They are also the first in their class to be outfitted with MTU engines that offer a lighter weight-to-power ratio for increased speed. “What this shows is the flexibility of Damen vessels,” continues Mr Montsi. “Even though we build for stock, the design of the vessels means they are capable of accommodating a range of different features to match specific requirements.”

Proven designs with full customisation potential
Damen builds a wide range of both inshore and offshore patrol vessels and maintains stocks of many of the most popular models, enabling it to supply them to customers on a commercial off-the-shelf basis. This allows it to deliver vessels that take advantage of proven, standardised designs and technology, while at the same time enabling clients to specify custom features that can be added prior to delivery.

Enhanced capabilities
DSCT is also continuing to invest in its facilities. The latest addition is Shed 9; its largest production hall yet that will allow it to work on vessels of all types up to 90 metres in length with full protection from the weather, dust and other adverse environmental factors.

The completion of the FCS 5009 Patrol boats and the opening of Shed 9 with its additional capabilities mark the start of a new phase for Damen Shipyards Cape Town aimed at demonstrating the strength that comes with being a member of one of the world’s leading shipbuilding groups.

Damen Shipyards Group
Damen Shipyards Group operates 32 ship building and repair yards, employing 8,000 people worldwide. Damen has delivered more than 5,000 vessels to over 100 countries and delivers around 160 vessels annually to customers worldwide. Based on its unique, standardised ship-design concept Damen is able to guarantee consistent quality.

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9-metre long pressure tanks being loaded on board Safmarine Longa in Durban harbour

A Natal-based, family-owned, specialist engineering company is confident of growing its business with the African oil and gas sector in 2015. This is after having invested significant resources in building its reputation as a local supplier of high value, African-made and internationally-accredited steel tanks and pressure vessels for the African oil and gas market.

FP Engineering, which recently celebrated the successful shipment of its first, internationally-approved, ASME accredited, South African-built steel tanks/pressure vessels to Gabon.

According to Mark Potter, Director/Owner of FP Engineering, the company has been shipping to sub-Saharan Africa for more than a decade. “The ASME certification which our company achieved at the end of 2013 for the construction of boiler and pressure vessels has demonstrated that a South Africa company has the capability to not only build the specialist pressure vessels needed by the African oil and gas sector, but to do so at international standards and at a lower cost when compared to many other countries,” he said.

The massive, 9m long and 3.2m wide tanks, valued at more than R2.2 million, were shipped on board the SAFMARINE LONGA from Durban to Port Gentil at the end of December 2014.

Safmarine MPVs Pamela Yerushalmy believes FP Engineering’s ASME certification has greatly enhanced South Africa’s reputation as a quality provider to the discerning West Africa oil and gas market.

“FP Engineering’s quest is to become a preferred African supplier of steel tanks and pressure vessels to the African oil and gas industry and its ability to provide the industry with the specialist products it needs, at the right quality and the right price. This bodes well for both its and South Africa’s business prospects with the West African oil and gas sector in 2015.”

Safmarine MPV has provided a dedicated West Africa multi-purpose service for more than a decade and Yerushalmy believes FP Engineering’s decision to appoint Safmarine MPV as its preferred carrier for 2015 is “valuable recognition of Safmarine MPV’s continued commitment to and confidence in the local multi-purpose market.”


Tankers Front Shanghai pic by TTS Group 470

Oil traders are shipping West African crude to the United States to be store until prices recover, as the global glut forces them to source any tanks available and as seaborne cargoes are able to compete better on price with US crude.

According to ship brokers, oil firms such as Italian major ENI, Swiss-based Glencore and Canada’s Suncor are lining up tankers to transport at least 10 million barrels of West African crude to North America.

The development has helped reinvigorate a trade that was largely shut off following the US shale boom. West African crude was one of the first oil to be closed out of the American market by shale oil from Texas and North Dakota.

Even though US oil inventories remain high, the United States has far more spare storage capacity than in Europe and Asia.

Refiners in the United States and Canada are also looking for cheaper barrels as US benchmark West Texas Intermediate has roughly hit parity with international marker North Sea Brent after having traded at a discount to seaborne cargoes for over four years. “There is so much storage capacity in the United States and so little in northern Europe that apparently the differential between Brent and WTI has gone,” said Anthony Gurnee, chief executive of Ardmore Shipping Corp, which owns and operates a fleet of oil product tankers.

With spot oil prices down almost 60 percent since June to below $50 a barrel and future contracts for delivery next year trading far higher, the incentive to store crude has risen.

While traders have already booked tankers to store at least 25 million barrels of oil at sea this week, land-based storage may be a more economical option for those who can find it. – Hellenic Shipping News


Lake Tanganyika 420px

It is feared that fourteen people have drowned after the vessel they were sailing on in Lake Tanganyika sank in Nkasi District in the Rukwa Region.

The accident occurred on 11 January but the news is only now being made available after the Rukwa Regional Police Commander, Jacob Mwaruanda, confirmed the incident.

Those feared dead, all from Burundi, were among the crew of the Burundian-registered MV MBAZA, which had sailed from Kasanga port in the Kalambo District at around 11h45 on 11 January. It appears that the vessel sank about two hours later near the village of Kala.

On board the vessel was a crew of 13 and two passengers and a cargo of 437 tons of maize. One member of the crew was saved when he was picked up by another Burundian ship named MV TEBZA which was sailing from the Zambian port of Mpulungu.

According to reports there was a sudden change in the weather two hours after MBAZA sailed, and it is thought that this may have been the cause of the vessel sinking.

Radio conditions along the borders of the lake are notoriously poor and there are few telephones available.


Airport Site Overall 1 470
One of the projects that we will be watching and following is the proposed new Durban Dig out Port on the site of the old Durban International Airport

Looking into the year ahead

By Terry Hutson

Another year looms in the life of the South African ports – Durban and Richards Bay in particular. But like any other, time goes by leaving its own legacy, with issues that have still to evolve and unfold. These will be among the stories that will feature in the coming months:

The Dig Out Port (DoP) on the site of the old Durban International Airport is one. This R100-billion project has disappeared from the headlines but shouldn’t be seen as having stalled. You can be sure that both Transnet and eThekwini Municipality are jointly moving ahead with this project but under the radar, and will re-enter the public arena with new decisions and developments.

This is definitely one of the key topics to feature in port news during 2015. The DoP has more potential to marginalise the people of Durban than any other, and while both sides prepare for the political and social disputes ahead, port and city engineers and planners will be quietly taking plans to finality. The need for a Dig out Port will certainly be one of our topics of discussion in 2015.

The design of the DoP will also feature. Much of its huge expense comes from the requirement for a breakwater protecting the harbour entrance. Part of the challenge facing the engineers is the need to relocate the existing single buoy mooring (SBM) which lies too close to where they want to build the entrance channel. To move it is not only an added expense but raises the question of where to move it. South towards Isipingo and Amanzimtoti, or north towards the Umlaas Cutting? Both pose environmental issues of their own.

An alternative is to provide berthing facilities inside the new harbour for the 300 000-dwt supertankers, but this would require a much longer breakwater costing a huge amount extra. Transnet once entertained hopes that the oil companies would come to the party by assisting with the cost of these changes but it seems they were quietly disillusioned.

Another issue facing Durban …
… and its port in the months ahead concerns the construction of a new cruise terminal at the Point. This is not likely to be as controversial as the DoP – the site at the Point is already agreed and what remains is to see what proposals if any are forthcoming from the private sector – a tender document is currently being assessed.

Another related issue is the reopening of the North Pier to the general public. The North Pier was once one of Durban’s favourite viewing sites where the public could watch ships come and go while admiring views across Durban’s Golden Mile. It was closed to allow for the widening and deepening of the port entrance channel, which was completed in March 2015 – almost five years ago.

Since then there has been a series of promises from port managers and other senior port personnel but otherwise no indication of opening this excellent facility to the general public. Perhaps we should take note of how the Indian fishermen of Durban marshalled themselves and were bringing a class action against Transnet before being giving access to the breakwater to fish.

One of the reasons given for keeping the public from the pier is that it is a construction site for the sandpumping scheme. This is turning out to be one of the longest most drawn out construction projects in Durban’s history!

On a similar tack …
… is the lack of any action in reopening the Bluff viewsite overlooking the harbour. This offers the finest view that one can have of Durban, its port, its beachfront and its city, yet it has remained closed to the public ever since the days of apartheid and sanction-busting in the 1970s. Where once city buses took tourists to admire the city, port and beachfront, it is now overgrown and derelict.

Claims of this being a military base were surely made nonsense of when Google Earth first appeared - in fact there were nothing hidden from the thousands that overflew the Bluff daily when the old Durban International Airport was still open.

Looking at other items that we will feature there is definitely the matter of safety involving ships entering the port when a strong swell is running. In the latter part of 2014 a couple of ships touched bottom when approaching the harbour.

This is what gave Durban such a notorious reputation between 1842 and the early 1900s. Dredging finally overcame the problems of the notorious sandbar that once made Durban infamous.

Having recently widened and deepened the entrance channel to enable much bigger ships with deeper draughts to enter, one might have assumed that such things were very definitely of the distant past.

It also raises the question as to why the seabed has shallowed so quickly. Durban has modern dredgers designed to prevent this from happening.

Saying that a ship touched bottom on the seabed might sound innocuous but it is actually fraught with danger. A ship can easily break her back in such a way, rupturing fuel tanks and causing widespread pollution to Durban’s Golden Mile and inside the harbour. Think only of the 150 000-dwt bulk ship Smart which did exactly this while sailing from Richards Bay in August 2013. She lost power on sailing and drifted until touching bottom on a submerged sandbank near the entrance channel. Thousands of tons of coal were spilled into the sea.

Other stories we may expect …
… to follow include whether the South African Police Services -, what we used to call the Water Wing - can get their act together and resume an OPL (Off Port Limits) police service to vessels at sea outside Durban.

For some time SAPS has stopped providing OPL services – one of the excuses being that they lacked serviceable boats. This matter concerned a requirement for SAPS to accompany the delivery of arms and ammunition to ships waiting outside port limits which were taking on guards to protect the ships against pirates further north. The handling of the weapons by ships agents on behalf of shipping companies is already strictly controlled and part of the procedure is that the police accompany the delivery using their own police launch.

SAPS has at least three boats in Durban harbour, one a modern launch acquired a few years ago, and the other two being RIBS or rubber inflatable boats. The RIBS are seen frequently in Durban harbour as they go about their patrols.

According to correspondence between the South African Association of Ship Operators and Agents (SAASOA) and SAPS, it was suggested to SAPS that the reason why this service was no longer being made available has been to frustrate the implementation of the current SAPS OPL policy, in which police boats had performed this duty.

According to SAASOA …
… it is “bemused by SAPS attitude in relation to the OPL service,” despite that fact that Government policy clearly recognises that … “commercial ports play a crucial role in South Africa’s transport system and its economic development and are therefore treated as strategic entities by this policy…”

Other issues likely to feature in our pages during this year include Durban’s ship repair facilities. We have written previously about the Durban dry dock and its broken caisson gate. There are other issues relating to this facility which we won’t go into now but suffice it to say that a port with Durban’s importance, as affecting present government policy, needs to have its ship repair facilities in an efficient and economically competitive condition.

Transnet has glibly responded saying that the matter is in hand as part of a comprehensive repair programme, and then quotes the terms of Government’s Operation Phakisa programme, saying that it will be put to tender in the near future.

In terms of Operation Phakisa one would have expected a little more urgency.

On the positive side we look forward to progress with the upgrading of Maydon Wharf berths and also resolution on the matter of deepening a couple or more berths at the Durban Container Terminal.

* This article appeared in The Mercury of 14 January 2015


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Gateway port

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The German-owned and flagged container ship LISBON (67,979-dwt, built 2003) seen arriving in Cape Town harbour this past week. Pictures: Ian Shiffman

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