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Ports & Ships Maritime News

9 June 2015
Author: Terry Hutson

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


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SEVEN EAGLE aad noorland 08 06 2015 (3) 480

The unusual shape of the offshore supply vessel SEVEN EAGLE (9,556-gt, built 1997) seen in Cape Town harbour yesterday. The vessel is owned and operated by the UK’s Subsea 7 International Contracting and is flagged in Liberia. Picture: Aad Noorland

Acergyu Eagle now Seven Eagle 1966191 shipspotti

Another earlier full view of the ship, when she was named ACERGY EAGLE. Picture courtesy: Shipspotting

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ocean freashwater aquifiers 480

Yesterday was World Oceans Day, a day to remind us of the importance of our oceans and of maintaining their health.

South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Thomson used the opportunity to remind us that the oceans around South Africa have the potential to unlock the country’s economic development opportunities.

“We need to develop a proactive approach to understand our oceans capacity and role to ensure socio-economic emancipation while protecting this vast and fragile environment,” the deputy minister said.

She was speaking yesterday during the celebrations of World Oceans Day in Port Elizabeth. She said that the use of various marine resources in the country’s ocean space had increased.

“We aspire to create partnerships while strengthening existing ones to develop means and ways to share the wealth of the ocean for the benefit of all South Africans.”.

She said the Department of Environmental Affairs will continue its efforts to protect and maintain the country’s marine biodiversity.

“Aspects of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, unsustainable coastal area development and unwanted impacts from resource extraction need to be addressed for human well-being, environmental prosperity and integrity,” Deputy Minister Thomson said.

World Oceans Day is aimed at raising awareness about the significance of the marine environment and promoting the role of the oceans as well as the importance of conserving and protecting the marine environment.

The event is celebrated under the UNEP’s theme “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet”.

The department strategically customised the theme to “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet: Enabling Sustainable Ocean Economy Development,” as a way of highlighting government’s commitment to sustainable ocean economy through Operation Phakisa.

This promotes economic growth and job creation in line with the goals outlined in the National Development Plan.

Operation Phakisa’s oceans economy lab is estimated to have the potential of contributing up to R177 billion to the Gross Domestic Product and creating just over one million jobs by 2033.

The oceans economy lab has four priority areas, which include marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture as well as marine protection services and ocean governance. – SAnews.gov.za

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Looking across to where the new port of Nacala-a-Velha is rising

The port of Nacala could potentially be in a position to compete with Durban, South Africa.

That’s the claim of Mozambican company Portos do Norte’s chief executive officer, Fernando Couto.

Couto argues that shipping lines’ choice of port depends on several factors, including the distance from the markets they intend to serve. Therefore, any market located north of the Zambezi River requires at least two days at sea from Durban, which is a lot of money - about US$50,000 for a normal-sized ship.

“In addition, within the current context which is expected to remain unchanged for at least the next five years, we are all of us counting the money and in need to spare it, hence all the conditions are in place for the port of Nacala to be positioned with advantage.”

He said this is the reason why Japan has decided to invest in the rehabilitation of Nacala’s infrastructure. “The large investors and shipping lines are eyeing Nacala port, not only due to its deep water but also due to its access to the rest of the country,” Couto said. - O País

In other news from the northern Mozambique port, the new port of Nacala-a-Velha and its coal terminal is a step forwards in the industrialisation of the country, declared Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Friday.

On the first day of his working visit to the province, Nyusi toured the new port receiving detailed explanations on how it will function to export coal from the Moatize coal basin in the western province of Tete.

“This undertaking employs 98 workers, of whom 60 to 70 percent are from Nampula province”, Nyusi said. “This is turning into reality the dream of jobs for young Mozambicans.”

The port is connected to Moatize by a 912 kilometre long railway which runs across southern Malawi. Taken together, the port and railway employ 1,909 workers, of whom 90 percent are Mozambicans.

The port and railway have been leased to the Nacala Integrated Logistics Corridor (CLN), in which the shareholders are the Brazilian mining giant Vale, the Japanese company Mitsui, and the publicly owned Mozambican ports and rail company CFM.

The Nacala-a-Velha coal terminal can handle 18 million tonnes a year. CLN’s projections are for about 20 coal trains a day, requiring a fleet of 100 locomotives and 2,700 wagons.

Twelve ships a month are expected to call at the terminal.

Vale opted for a new port and railway when it became clear that the existing Sena line, from Moatize to the port of Beira, could not possibly cope with the forecast coal exports. Although the line to Nacala is about 330 kilometres longer than the Sena line, it could be cheaper to use because it will allow much longer heavy-haul type trains.

CLN is planning for trains of up to 150 wagons pulled by four locomotives. Such trains will be over one and a half kilometers long.

CLN had hoped that the railway and port would be fully operational by now. The transport capacity should have been 11 million tonnes a year by the end of 2015, rising to 13 million tonnes in 2016, and 18 million tonnes in 2017.

The line was successfully tested in November – but catastrophic flooding early this year swept away sections of the line, thus postponing the start of coal exports from the new terminal. – AIM

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The 1998 German-built DEUTSCHLAND, familiar in South African waters, is to be converted for Semester at Sea. The 22,400gt Deutschland has found a new life…and the educational institution confirmed that from this August, they will operate the vessel as the WORLD ODYSSEY. The Deutschland had been best suited to German-speaking couples and single travellers of mature years looking for a very traditional cruise ship with appealing itineraries and destinations, good food and attentive service. The interior décor had been successfully designed to re-create the atmosphere of 1920s ocean liners. There are dark woods and intricate brass and wrought-iron staircases that remind one of an old-style gentleman’s club. What, one wonders, will happen to the real statues and the many works of art on display? “The World Odyssey meets all statutory standards to operate throughout the world,” said a statement from Semester at Sea. The ship will be repainted, with red replaced by blue. This correspondent captured an evocative early morning view of Deutschland from a balcony cabin aboard MSC OPERA in November 2012.

Vernon Buxton for Ports & Ships

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recovery 480

The death toll from the Chinese cruise ship EASTERN STAR, which capsized during a storm on the Yangtze River has reached 431, with a further 11 missing, feared dead.

With the ship refloated and the right way up, divers and other officials have been able to go through the wreckage of the ship to search for the missing passengers and crew. Other officials have turned their attention as to the cause of the accident.

It seems likely that a tornado, coupled with the manoeuvring of the ship, led to the Eastern Star suddenly capsizing. Available radar data indicates that during a storm over the river area a tornado did strike. Data shows that wind reached speeds in excess of 117 km/h, which were capable of generating large waves on the river.

While there is no certainty that the tornado actually struck the ship, there is evidence that Eastern Star made a sudden change in course, doubling back immediately before capsizing. The 76 metre long ship has four decks above the waterline and a high centre of gravity but had just 2.5 metres below the waterline, which could make her susceptible to losing balance when making sudden changes in course.

Critics say this is an inherent design flaw in many cruise ships, and not only those that are designed for river cruising. While having shallow draught in order to be able to navigate shallow waters, they are often top heavy by having as many decks above as can be added, in order to maximize the number of passengers that can be carried.

Reports in China suggest that Eastern Star had undergone several modifications to her design by shipyards other than the one that built her.

A Chinese wind engineering scientist, quoted by the Chinese media, said that it would be rare for even a tornado to topple a ship like Eastern Star, though it was not impossible. Tornados are considered rare over China’s mainland but they do occur. Only 97 tornado accidents that caused casualties or financial damage were recorded from 1949 to 1990. There were on average less than three hits a year.

Professor Cai Wei, a ship design researcher with the Wuhan University of Technology, said the section of the Yangtze River where the accident occurred was an ‘A-level navigation zone.’

This meant the maximum expected height of waves within the zone was up to 2.5 metres.

Acknowledgements to the South China Morning Post

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African Union regions 400px

The free trade agreement reached between three African economic blocks in Cairo this month has been hailed as a potentially game-changing common market that spans the continent.

The deal between the East African Community, Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa will create a market of 26 countries with a population of 625 million and a gross domestic product of more than US$1-trillion.

The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) is to be inaugurated at a summit of heads of state and government in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt tomorrow (Wednesday) after four years of negotiations to establish a framework for tariff preferences and other commitments.

“The launch of the TFTA is a significant milestone for the African continent,” the South African government has said.

“We believe that this sends a powerful message that Africa is committed to its economic integration agenda and in creating a conducive environment for trade and investment.”

The move was welcomed by business leaders at the World Economic Summit for Africa in Cape Town last week, with participants highlighting the fact that just 12 percent of African countries’ total trade is with each other — compared to some 55 percent in Asia and 70 percent in Europe.

“The tripartite trade agreement is really important as a first step for Africa... which then can engage with the European Union and others on a global basis,” Michael Rake, BT Group chairman and a co-chair of the forum, said.

Africa’s share of global trade stands at around 3 percent. Boosting trade has long been an ambition of the African Union (formerly the Organisation of African Unity), and backers of the latest move are aware of scepticism surrounding its prospects.

“I think Africa will surprise the world,” Fatima Haram Acyl, the African Union’s commissioner for trade and industry, said at the WEF.

“We’re going to have our continental free trade area.”

British colonialist Cecil Rhodes originally dreamt of unifying Africa from "Cape to Cairo" in the 19th Century under imperial rule from London — a far cry for the diverse group of nations that will make up the Tripartite Free Trade Area.

Member states will range from relatively developed economies such as South Africa and Egypt to countries including Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique, which are seen as having huge potential growth.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said in a 2013 report that one reason for weak intra-African trade is that the focus has been more on the elimination of trade barriers than the development of capacity.

“If African governments want to achieve their objective of boosting intra-African trade, they have to create more space for the private sector to play an active role in the integration process,” the report said.

The point was supported at the WEF by Jean-Louis Ekra, president of the African Export-Import Bank, who emphasised the need for African countries to add value to their exports rather than simply sell commodities.

He used the example of two major African cocoa producers who would be unable to sell cocoa to each other, but if they processed it into chocolate they would be able to sell it across the continent.

The need for the industrialisation of African economies was a significant issue at the WEF.

Delegates noted that although the continent’s growth has outstripped global GDP expansion by nearly three percentage points over the past 15 years, it faced falling commodity prices, power shortages, political instability and corruption.

WEF’s biennial African Competitiveness Report said Africa’s prospects for long-term growth are under threat from weakness in the core conditions for competitive and productive economies.

Despite the challenges, Africa’s overall economy is expected to expand by 4.5 percent this year, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the African Development Bank and the UN Development Programme. AFP/Club of Mozambique

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Arctic Sea Routes 480

Global warming and Arctic ice melt have received worldwide attention in recent years. The opportunity that receding ice presents for the shipping industry with regards to alternative voyage routes is enormous, reports Fathom cTech.

Ships are starting to utilise Arctic passages for much lengthier periods of time and the development of new passages which were previously unnavigable is driving shorter trading times and fuel cost savings. Furthermore, the risk of piracy can be avoided by using Arctic routes. For, instance, sailing from Shanghai to Hamburg through the NSR eliminates the risk of encountering Malaysian/Indonesian or Somali pirates – a significant threat to many seafarers when using the Suez Canal route.

However, the arising environmental concerns and safety implications of operating in the fragile ecosystems provide a reminder that the reality of exploiting the ‘New Arctic’ for shipping may not be as fruitful as first anticipated.

In this week’s spotlight Fathom* explores both the opportunities and the challenges that the Arctic region is bringing to the shipping industry and takes a look at why ship owners should remain cautious when it comes to capitalising on the Arctic as an alternative route of shipping.

What are the current Arctic shipping routes?

The key routes currently connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are the Transpolar Sea Route, the Northwest Passage, the Northeast Passage or Northern Sea Route (NSR), and the Arctic Bridge. The NSR and Northeast Passage are essentially the same route, with the additional Barents Sea included in the Northeast Passage, and are therefore used interchangeably. In light of increasing ice recession throughout the summer months, the NSR has experienced high levels of interest and activity as a viable trading route for all-year round voyages.

How have Arctic shipping routes developed?

In 2005, the NSR first opened as a passage for international shipping. Since then, the Arctic ice melt has continued at a rapid pace, with the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre finding that in 2012 ice recession in the Arctic fell to 5 million km², lending itself to a longer period of navigation. In 2012, it was also reported that a liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier was the first to sail through the NSR from Norway to Japan. Using the route they saved approximately 20 days of operation compared to their usual route using the Suez Canal.

Providing a ship was escorted by an icebreaker, the increased shipping in the Arctic has been relatively straightforward. However, melting sea ice is facilitating easier navigation in Arctic routes meaning that ships do not have to have quite the same level of ice-resistance as they did a decade ago, sparking interest among a wider range of ship owners and operators for the potential of Arctic operation.

Ecosystem fragility, regulatory restrictions and ship modifications – what you need to know

Despite the expansion of Arctic shipping routes, ship owners and operators should remain cautious when it comes to utilising the unprecedented changes the Arctic region is experiencing. The coupling of untapped resources in the Arctic and the fragility of the eco-system make it a challenging environment for humans and nature to synergistically operate in harmoniously.

The increased impact to endangered species such as bowhead whales and ringed seals is a particular concern as the NSR requires interruption to whale foraging zones and migration corridors which can have detrimental consequences to the long-term health of the Arctic environment.

In the event of an oil spill, the Arctic is at increased peril compared to other marine waters due to the difficulties associated in cleaning up oil from icy waters. Furthermore, the US Coast Guard’s closest station is situated more than 900 air miles away, limiting its ability to respond rapidly in an oil spill incident. A lack of current research on how oil behaves in the Arctic exacerbates the uncertainty of long-term impacts.

It is for the aforementioned reasons that the potential for increasing regulations to incorporate stringent limits on environmental impact is high. Although the draft International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) for environmental provisions was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 68th session in May 2015, the Code is yet to enter into force. IMO anticipates that it will enter into force by 1 January 2017 where the requirements for ships operating in polar waters will be heavily regulated to minimise environmental impact. For example, ships will require ice-strengthened hulls and measures to avoid harm to Arctic ecosystems, along with qualified onboard ice navigators and capacity to participate in search and rescue and spill rescue operations.

Any ship considering operating in polar waters should incorporate highly technical and innovative management and monitoring systems which are able to function under the abrasive conditions of these areas. This will require structural modifications to the ship to make it Arctic-safe (which could indeed become mandatory under increasing regulatory requirements), and the installation of monitoring equipment to limit disruption to the ecological surroundings.

These measures will incur additional costs and potential downtime due to installation which could offset the advantages gained from utilising a shorter sea route. Furthermore, although the ice is more easily navigable, for much of the journey the ship will still require an icebreaker escort. At a cost of around US $400,000, using an ice breaker for a shorter route may outweigh the fuel and cost savings achieved from using a shorter Arctic route.

Extreme climatic and weather conditions create unique hazards which regular ocean-going ships are unlikely to be prepared for. Even with the most recent technology and the structural integrity used in new ship design and development, ships in the Arctic are likely to be subject to floating ice, thick fog and brutal storms, leaving them vulnerable to damage and machinery breakdown.

The risks crew face when operating in the Arctic may also present more challenges than initially considered. The training that crew will require to operate in such conditions will likely inhibit the ability for ship operators to make an immediate switch to Arctic operation, even if their ship is Arctic-ready.

What does the future hold for Arctic shipping routes?

In 2008, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) developed a paper to assess the changes in the Arctic and the need to establish new cooperative management to ensure sustainable development and protection of the natural resources. They agreed that although the new routes provide considerable advantages for the shipping and oil & gas industry, social, cultural and environmental concerns are likely to rise as marine access increases. This may lead to future lobbying for further enforcements to control the environmental and ecological impact of shipping.

Furthermore, under the Russian administrative system, international shipping through the NSR is expensive and confusing. Using the NSR across the top of Russia is often viewed as a better option for transporting goods from the Pacific Ocean to Europe as it is less ice-bound, and increasingly becoming so, when compared to the Northwest Passage across the top of Canada. However, in order to do this, a ship owner must contact Russia’s NSR Administration several months in advance. This not only involves a lengthy and complicated process of approval but is also extortionally expensive as it involves paying a tariff which can reach up to US $500,000 a voyage.

The northern indigenous people in the Arctic have previously sought, and gained, greater political representation in their home countries as well as on international bodies, such as the Arctic Council. The influence indigenous people are having on the science community and policymaking has risen in recent years and it is probable that future regulation for environmental provisions may be driven by the indigenous as they lobby to preserve the area for both environmental and cultural reasons. Further enforcement of Arctic regulations to limit environmental impacts of shipping should therefore be considered before ship owners immerse themselves in the idea of the ‘New Arctic’ for shorter shipping routes.

Despite the array of benefits the northern ice recession brings for Arctic shipping, it is vital that ship owners and operators consider whether using the shorter sea routes are realistically a viable route for their future operations. As well as the safety considerations for both ship crew and the modifications which a ship would require, the prospect of future environmental regulations may halt the feasibility of the ‘New Arctic’ shipping routes. – source*: Fathom Shipping

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Mediterranean Shipping Company’s 8,900-TEU capacity container ship MSC ALTAMIRA (112,150-dwt, built 2012) presents an impressive sight as she arrives in the port of Cape Town last week. The ship was built by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries Co Ltd., South Korea and is owned by the Israeli Ofer Group. Picture: Ian Shiffman


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