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Ports & Ships Maritime News

16 June 2015
Author: Terry Hutson

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

Today (Tuesday) is a public holiday in South Africa. There will be no News Bulletin tomorrow but we will be back on Thursday, 18 June.


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africa mercy bow 470 Mercy Ships’ hospital vessel AFRICA MERCY arrived in Durban on Monday (15 June) to undergo maintenance and a survey at Dormac Marine’s ship repair quay. The hospital ship has completed a stint at several ports on the coast of Madagascar after having spent a number of years of providing medical care in various countries in West Africa.

It did not prove possible to obtain pictures of her arriving in Durban early Monday morning, but this picture was taken when the ship called at Cape Town en route to Madagascar last September. Picture: Ian Shiffman

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In a development of some significance, Ghana has granted a British security company with which it has a close association a license to place armed guards on board ships within Ghana’s economic exclusive zone (EEZ).

Watchwood Resources Ltd has strong ties with Ghana’s police force and other government departments and provides training courses for Ghana’s marine police.

In terms of the agreement Watchwood will operate together with armed Ghana Marine Police in boarding commercial ships at any location within Ghana’s EEZ and will provide security to commercial ships.

Until now West African countries have been reluctant to allow armed guards to secure commercial ships from possible attack by pirates or robbers. This has created uncertainty in an area that has much ship activity owing to the oil industry activity taking place in the Gulf of Guinea.

The training that Watchwood will provide to Ghana’s Marine Police is a modular course covering all aspects of international protocols, regulations and standards and forms part of Watchwood’s ISO9001 training program centering on Commercial Anti-Piracy Operations.

Watchwood Resources maintains offices in the port of Tema which are staffed by a highly qualified mixed team of British and Ghanaian security experts.

Watchwood says that the Ghanaian Marine Police are fully versed, trained and certificated in the most up to date anti-piracy methods and protocols required by the International Shipping Community, complying with BMP4 and the International 100 Series in relation to the Rules for the use of Force.

“Instead of waiting out in a state of vulnerability in hostile waters, often up to two hundred nautical miles from their destination port, vessels can now take refuge under armed security in the Ghanaian EEZ until a berth is allocated and then steam straight to their destination, with a minimum fear of attack, in just a few hours. An added advantage is that logistical support can arrange Embarkation / Disembarkation anywhere within our area of operation,” Watchwood said in a statement.

It added that the operations will be monitored under Watchwood’s PMSC specific ISO9001 and a BIMCO Guardcon contract for full compliance and peace of mind for commercial ship-owners and operators.

The initiative has been driven by the Ghanaian Government who are committed to ensure that their waters are safe for the international commercial shipping community.

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Transnet National Ports Authority’s bed leveller vessel Impisi. Picture: Terry Hutson

Container ships calling at Durban are facing additional restrictions because of berths that have silted up. All of the berths on Pier 1 and Pier 2 have stated depths alongside of -12.8 metres but due to a combination of circumstances in recent months, involving problems caused by ships propellers and a lack of maintenance dredging, a number of the busiest berths have seen their permissible draughts considerably reduced.

The problem has now reached the point where agents have been advised that from a declared design depth alongside of 12.8 metres the draught alongside is now reduced to between 11.6 and 11.9 metres at six of the berths.

This follows an earlier notification that the permissible draught had been reduced to 12.2 metres so it is clear that the situation has worsened.

The affected berths are 105 and 107 on Pier 1, 108 on the cross berth, and 200, 204 and 205 on Pier 2. Berths 108, 204 and 205 usually cater for the biggest container ships, which already call at Durban only part loaded because the port has no deepwater berths available.

The cause of this cannot be levelled on silt being washed down the rivers and into the port as there has been little or no rain in the Durban area for several months. Transnet says that the wash from the bigger and deeper ships is responsible for stirring up mud on the sea bed either by ship’s propellers or their bow thrusters. This collects and settles alongside the quays.

Transnet also faces the problem of the berths being constantly occupied, leaving little time for dredgers to be brought alongside to clear the spoil. In recent months however the dredgers availability has been questioned, as two vessels went under repair at the same time while a third was scheduled to work in other ports. The port does have a small bed leveller vessel named IMPISI which is designed to clear alongside the quays by scraping silt from the side of the berths into the channel where the grab dredger ITALENI or one of the two suction cutter dredgers would then clear the channel.

Agents and others report that this has not been possible lately, leading to the present position with ship operators having to ensure that container ships arrive in port (or leave) with even less cargo on board.

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Plenty of MSC Cruises excitement was revealed at a media presentation at the prestigious Four Seasons Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg’s Jan Smuts Avenue last week…led by David Randall, sales and marketing manager, Allan Foggitt, sales and marketing director and Ingrid Roding-Tudor, PR consultant.

After a number of years of trying this option and that one, putting one and two ships into the local market and chopping and changing destinations, MSC Cruises South Africa finally feels it has “arrived” at the final formula for success.

At a media gathering held at a leading Johannesburg hotel last week, Allan Foggitt, the head of MSC Cruises marketing, openly admitted that previously running two ships in SA waters had been a strain “as it resulted in too much discounting and promotions to fill two ‘hungry’ ships.”

The right formula has finally been found, reckoned Allan, with the arrival of MSC SINFONIA only this season… “which is expected to float out of South African ports with full loads for quite the foreseeable future.”

There were also exciting revelations about a ‘new’ lengthened and fully refurbished ship, the introduction of an all-new island destination, upgrades at the popular Portuguese Island…and even an announcement than you can have Neopolitan pizzas delivered to your cabin.

Also notable was the information from sales and marketing manager, David Randall, that, whilst in dock, the Sinfonia had been given a ‘tailor-made’ alteration to suit island ‘tender’ calls, with the inclusion of a starboard tender platform which opens out of the side of the ship at sea level… “especially designed to fit special new 80-seat ZODIAC tenders that will whisk passengers ashore at Portuguese Island.”

He added that facility upgrades were ongoing on the island that will be the No1 destination throughout the coming cruise season, and will offer some departures with a two-day stay…to replace Inhaca Island, which has also been dropped as a destination.

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Portuguese Island in the Mozambique Channel is the major destination every cruise season. “On the island decks have been constructed to protect dunes, and have installed a desalination plant, a new sewage system and a solar energy plant,” explained David, continuing: “With more than 2,000 people on the island simultaneously, everything that goes onto the island must come off…so solid waste management is paramount to us,” he said. “The decks are being extended for added entertainment areas and bars, more dining area, an excursion centre and also a VIP area with the MSC Spa…at a cost of R8,1 million…and all to be done before the ship arrives on 19 November.”

There will be 31 calls at Portuguese Island this season, and to enhance the client experience, three brand new custom-built 80-passenger ZODIACs will be doing the 8km round ship-to-shore transfers.

Madagascar had been deleted from the schedule, because the newly lengthened ship could not fit into docking area. “Ilha Mozambique affords a great opportunity for our guests,” said David, “with its incredible beaches, historic architecture and markets. We do believe we’ve found a place that will exceed our clients’ expectations.” This 7-night itinerary will include a full day at Portuguese Island on the way up the coast…and the cruise will feature four full days at sea.”

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David Randall, MSC Cruises’ local sales and marketing manager, spoke with pride about the massive ‘Renaissance Programme’ involving a €200 million project to lengthen four of its Lirica-class ships, one of which is MSC SINFONIA, which ‘got the chop’ earlier this year and will arrive in SA waters come November.

Publicity pictures reveal a very smart ‘new’ ship with more space, appealing new features and room for 580 extra passengers every departure. Emphasis is on family holidays and catering to children and babies, facilities that will attract even more customers.

“The Sinfonia is already well known to scores of local cruisers, but has now been lengthened by 23,7 metres and fully refurbished and upgraded from stem to stern,” explained David. “The 2015/ cruise season was destined to be a ‘sell-out’ for departures from both Durban and Cape Town…”with an expectation of up to 60 percent being repeat passengers,” said David.

There was great excitement too, he continued, about the introduction of a tiny Mozambique Channel island as a replacement destination (for Madagascar). This historic gem, Ilha Mozambique, just three kilometres long and no more than 500 metres wide, enjoys a recorded history dating back to the 10th century. “MSC Sinfonia will call here three times this season and four times the following year,” David told guests.

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Getting down to business, David Randall revealed that the 2014/15 season had seen a reduction in capacity of 46 percent owing to operating one ship locally versus two, with a parallel drop in passenger numbers of 39 percent. However, occupancy increased by 6pts to 98 percent over 39 departures. Positive booking trends for the single ship season, resulted in less need for discounting and thus i>MSC Cruises “enjoyed an increase in our Nett Per Day of +R139,” explained David, continuing: “By January, 2015, our Jan, Feb, Mar cruises were 95 percent sold, which generated a strong early booking profile for our 2015-16 season.”

He said that for November and December “we’re looking at a 42 percent increase in passenger numbers already booked this year, versus last year, so it’s a phenomenal trend. In January and May, when we cruise out of Cape Town, those departures are also performing exceptionally well.”

Internationally, MSC Cruises had continued to gain market share, enjoying a more than 200 percent growth in three years. “The main ‘drivers’ were a brand and product that resonates with the market, rand prices with no rate of exchange adjustment in two seasons that was well received by the trade, coupled with competitive agency commission levels,” said David, adding: “Also, a dynamic online booking tool for the trade from quotations through to issuing tickets.”

“With five new ships due to be delivered to MSC Cruises by 2020 there will be no capacity constraints.”

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Allan Foggitt told guests that “MSC Cruises was an extremely dynamic organisation and was already the world’s largest privately-owned shipping company, the world’s third-largest overall…and in the space of just 14 years we have accumulated the world’s youngest big-ship fleet. Talking to an individual owner certainly speeds things up a lot, because one is talking to a family that makes all the decisions. It’s an extremely dynamic company to be involved in and we have achieved so much in such a very short space of time.”

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The MSC Cruises team locally is extremely excited to be introducing Ilha Mozambique as a replacement for a Madagascar call. Allan first reconnoitred the island in 1997 and found it “unsatisfactory for cruise calls because it was over-populated with folk escaping a civil war. Since then, UNESCO got involved, declared it a World Heritage Site and has made a considerable investment.” The ship will be able to sail around the island to the protected mainland side and will anchor in about 16 metres of water…”enabling a mere 300-metre tender transfer to a pier built by UNESCO, revealed Allan, adding: “The architecture is breathtaking…and those who snorkel you can still find cannon balls on the seabed.” Passengers will swim at powder-white beaches on the mainland and the island. He added that the islanders were “over the moon at the thought of us coming…and we have no doubt that this will become a huge destination in future!”

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MSC Cruise’s PR consultant, Ingrid Roding-Tudor with Paul Ash, deputy editor of the Sunday Times Travel Weekly. “I’m dead eager to visit the exciting island discovery and to get a look at and see the refurbishments aboard MSC Sinfonia,” said Paul.

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MSC SINFONIA, now 65,600gt, has been lengthened by 24 metres (see area just aft of midships) with new entertainment options, technological advancements, extended shops and up to nearly 200 new cabins. Up to 60 percent repeat cruisers are expected this season to experience the ‘before’ and ‘after’.

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To grace South African waters from November, the longer MSC SINFONIA is heading for a sell-out season with bookings way ahead of this time last year.

Vernon Buxton for Ports & Ships

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The town assumed prominence in Portugal’s campaign to take over trade with India and the East Indies. Most historical buildings are at the island's northern end (pictured). The majority of the residents live in reed houses in Makuti Town at the southern end.

It’s indeed the big surprise for MSC SINFONIA’s 2015/2016 cruise season from Durban. Existing scheduled calls to Madagascar have been replaced to include the Island of Moçambique, an ancient coral island located at the mouth of Mossuril Bay in the Indian Ocean’s Mozambique Channel. Recorded history here dates back to the 10th century.

Allan Foggit, MSC Cruises marketing man in South Africa did a recce trip to the island, his second visit that was prompted by UNESCO’s involvement in restoring the area a ‘World Heritage’ site. “Ilha is a fascinating destination which I first visited 18 years ago. With UNESCO’s support and private sector investment, the island is steadily being brought back to life, said Allan, adding: “and I was very impressed with the improvements.”

Ilha de Mozambique is to replace Fort Dauphin in Madagascar on the 7-night itineraries. The change has been brought about as a result of the newly-lengthened MSC SINFONIA now being unable to berth alongside at the port of Port d'Ehoala, Madagascar. MSC Sinfonia’s sailings out of Durban will for the first time permit cruise-lovers to experience what was the former capital of Portuguese East Africa.

This tiny island, a mere three kilometres long and up to 500 metres wide, is home to a considerable mix of architectural styles, all reflected in fascinating historical buildings with bustling street markets and wonderful cuisine.

MSC SINFONIA will include this island treasure in three of the coming season’s departures on the Christmas cruise, 21 December…and on 8 February and 18 March, 2016. “Demand will be high and early booking is advised,” said Allan, who also confirmed four Ilha de Mozambique calls scheduled for the 2016/17 cruise season.

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Dating back to the dawn of human civilisation, Ilha de Moçambique is a unique and increasingly popular destination in Mozambique. After 1991 the UNESCO body launched an international campaign to conserve and restore the island’s architectural heritage. The port town remains a commercial and fishing centre, but has little industrial activity.

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The Island of Mozambique replaces Madagascar’s Fort Dauphin, no longer capable of accommodating the MSC SINFONIA because of the vessel’s extended superstructure.

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The little island, lying just four kilometres off the coast of Africa, just opposite Madagascar, was for hundreds of years a major centre of intercontinental maritime trade.

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The island was occupied by Arab merchants from the 10th century until the end of the 15th, and in the 16th century became a port of call on the route from Europe to the East Indies opened by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama, who claimed it for Portugal.

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Ilha island is administered as part of Nampula Province, northern Mozambique. Until 1898, the island’s fortified town of Mocambique served as the capital of Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique today). The island and its natural harbour were used by Arab merchants as a maritime trading centre from the 10th to the late 15th century.

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Destined to be a huge hit with South African cruise lovers, Moçambique Island has been linked by a bridge to the mainland since 1967. After crossing the three-kilometre-long bridge that links the island to the mainland, the visitor comes to a cemetery surrounded by white walls. There is a white chapel, and a child's white tomb in the form of a sailing ship stands out among the other funerary monuments, notably the Muslim tombs, which are more unobtrusive. Some distance away, a 19th-century Hindu temple and crematorium illustrate the island's cultural pluralism.

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Just crying out for a bit of attention, another fine example of the architectural contrasts on this miniscule marvel of an island. “UNESCO’s presence has had a profound influence on island development, resulting in Mozambique being far more appealing to visitors,” says Allan Foggitt. This was Allan’s second visit to the island, and he found the changes “impressive…resulting in a return call for MSC Cruises soon.”

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The island's patrimony also includes its oldest extant fortress (St Sebastian, 1558-1620), other defensive buildings and numerous religious buildings (including many from the 16th century).The fortress was begun in 1558 and garrisoned in 1583. It wasn't just for show. When the island came under attack by the Dutch in 1607, the fortress held out, but everything else was destroyed. The relative importance of the island decreased after the decline in the slave trade in the mid-19th century and the opening of the Suez Canal (1869). By 1907 the colonial government was transferred to Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), and in the mid-20th century, Moçambique’s maritime trade was largely diverted to the new port of Nacala, on the mainland coast farther north.

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The Island of Mozambique found itself at the crossroads of the trade routes of the navigators and Arab, Chinese, Indian and European cultures. A Garden of Memory has been established close to the fort to commemorate the rich history of this entirely under-rated Indian Ocean island gem.

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A grave to the memory of one Horace Charles Parlett who met his Maker here on 12 June, 1882. A visit here sparks the imagination endlessly, leaving one wondering what went on here over several centuries?

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Powder-white beaches on the edge of town…Ilha de Mocambique is an astonishing tourist find, and international visitors too would do well to join MSC Sinfonia for a visit to this almost-forgotten enclave. “The history is beyond fascinating,” says Allan.

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Apart from the ancient fortifications, only half of the town is stone-built. The visitor's eye is immediately drawn to the impressive hospital, a majestic neo-classical building (the island’s largest) constructed in 1877 and recently repainted white, with a garden decorated with ponds and fountains. For many years it was the biggest hospital south of the Sahara. Other notable buildings on the island include the Chapel of Our Lady of the Ramparts (1522), the Church of Our Lady of Mercy (1635), the symmetrical quadrilateral town market (1887), an impressive 19th-century Hindu temple and a 19th-century mosque. While the present state of conservation is not fully satisfactory, a restoration and management programme is in progress.

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Among the many historic surprises awaiting cruise passengers, the chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, built in 1522, is considered to be the oldest non-indigenous building in the southern hemisphere.

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Another architectural gem…the inner court of the Palácio de São reflects some of the fascinating mix of African, Arab and European culture and history. This is all displayed in the churches and mosques, beautiful colonial buildings with thick walls and small traditional houses, the imposing fort, the old Portuguese houses (some dating back to the 16th century) and the well-maintained, interesting museums. This stunning St. Paul’s Palace (1674) served as the governor’s residence from 1763 until 1935 and was later converted into a museum.

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You’ll need your camera ready as you encounter the local population, their culture and their incredibly varied faces. There is a colourful and vibrant feel to the island with all the hustle and bustle; yet you can still feel the charm, sophistication and ancient aura. Moçambique harbour grew rapidly during the 16th and 17th centuries. Its business houses stood on the sea front, along a rocky belt where boats with a shallow draught could land at high tide. Over the years a town of twisting streets lined with flat-roofed houses took shape around a central square.

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The stone town was built mostly of coral or limestone blocks. Over the centuries the island's economy waxed and waned. A peak came with the Brazilian slave trade in the 18th century. Hoping to stimulate growth further, Lisbon's famous Marquês de Pombal in 1752 freed the island from Goa, which had ruled it for two centuries. A local administration was organised, and settlement rules were changed to allow all Christians to live on the island, regardless of nationality. Hard times came again with the abolition of slavery…and the last ship for Brazil left in 1831.

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Azure waters and sweeping vistas are part of the lure of a visit to the ancient island, one destined to be a hit with MSC Sinfonia passengers.

MSC Sinfonia will heave to offshore and passengers will be tendered ashore. A reminder, Ilha de Mozambique features on 7-night departures from Durban…21 December, 8 February and 18 March, 2016.

Vernon Buxton for Ports & Ships

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One of Sea Harvest’s fishing vessels, Harvest Gardenia

Sea Harvest Corporation, one of South Africa’s largest black-owned and managed fishing companies, has launched an innovative Employee Share Scheme which will promote empowerment and wealth-sharing for employees.

The company will issue 4,258,138 shares resulting in employee ownership of approximately 5 percent of the total shares. This new venture honours the loyalty and commitment of over 2400 Sea Harvest employees.

Sea Harvest Corporation (Pty) Limited is a subsidiary of Brimstone Investment Corporation Limited and Kagiso Tiso Holdings and has developed into one of the most transformed companies in the fishing industry, with a Level 2 BBBEE accreditation and over 80 percent black shareholding.

Established in 1964 in the fishing village of Saldanha Bay, Sea Harvest is the largest employer and biggest economic driver on the West Coast. “We are very proud of our employees and it is imperative that the company’s success positively impacts them, their families and the surrounding community,” said Sea Harvest CEO, Felix Ratheb. Sea Harvest depends entirely on government allocated fishing rights to protect the jobs of more than 2400 employees and create further employment on the West Coast.

“Sea Harvest is totally committed to improving the lives of the local community through various capital and social investments, but this employee share scheme is our biggest commitment to the people of this region,” said Sea Harvest Executive Chairman, Fred Robertson. “At least 5000 direct and indirect employees stand to benefit when the shares vest in 2022.”

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Kristian Odfjell CEO and president 2015 C 200px
Kristian Verner Mørch is the new president and CEO of Odfjell SE. A Danish citizen, Mørch has been a board member since 1 May 2014 and has more than 27 years of experience in the shipping industry, with ten years in senior management. He previously held the position of co-CEO of the Clipper Group, COO of Maersk Tankers, and several other management positions in A.P. Moller-Maersk. Mørch has an MBA from Switzerland’s IMD, and is an AMP graduate from Harvard Business School.

Namport Management Justina Shivoro manager Pr Namport Management Elis Hasheera, Management Car
Namport has announced the appointment of Justina Shivaro (above, left) as Manager: Property, and Elisa Hasheela (right) who is the new Manager: Customer Care.

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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.

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The French container ship CMA CGM TIGRIS (113,800-dwt, built 2014) makes an impressive entry into Durban harbour earlier this month. The ship, which is flagged in Malta, has a maximum capacity of 10,900-TEU which includes 1458 reefers. Launched into service on 23 December 2014, Tigris is deployed on CMA CGM’s SEAS2 trade lane, and rotates to the following ports:
Shanghai, Ningbo, Chiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Kelang, Santos, Paranagua, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio Grande, Itapoa, Santos, Durban, Port Kelang, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Pictures¨ Trevor Jones


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