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French survey and supply ship Marion Dufresne in Durban, May 2017 picture: Ken Malcom
Marion Dufresne. Picture: Ken Malcolm

One of the loveliest survey ships in the Indian Ocean must surely be France’s MARION DUFRESNE (built 1995), seen here on Durban Bay where she arrived last week, before heading straight to the ship repair section of the harbour and into the dry dock for maintenance survey and any necessary repair. The multi-purpose vessel is owned by Les Terres Australes et Antarctiques Francais (TAAF) and is managed by CMA CGM. Marion Dufresne II carries out oceanographic research under the responsibility of the Institut Polaire Paul-Eimile Victor (IPEV) and operates out of La Reunion. She has accommodation for 110 passengers in 59 cabins which enables her to take large expeditions to some of the more remote islands of the Indian Ocean. This picture is by Ken Malcolm

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new Kenya Railway SGR locomotive
Ready to roll…. Kenya’s new standard gauge railway

The new standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi is due to be officially opened tomorrow and on Wednesday (30 and 31 May 2017).

However, the first train to complete the journey did so as far back as March this year when test train operate over the entire distance, sent out to make sure there were unwanted kinks in the new railway on which Kenya is pinning such hope.

The new SGR line will be operated by Kenya Railways Corporation, as opposed to the concessioned metre gauge Rift Valley Railway that was built in early colonial days and which connected the port with not only Nairobi but went deep into Uganda, including the capital Kampala and even further to the eastern DRC border.

Due to poor maintenance and poor operating and marketing the metre gauge railway under Kenya Railways Corporation control lost business to road traffic, a trend that continued until the time when Kenya agreed to concession the line, initially to the South African-based firm Sheltam Rail, and later to Egyptian operators after Sheltam came under strong political pressure to leave.

two railway systemes alongside each other
The new and the old in Kenya

During this process the metre gauge railway was renamed Rift Valley Railway, by which it continues today although its future is uncertain.

Shortly after the Egyptians took control of Rift Valley Railway, it was revealed that Kenya was negotiating with Chinese interests to build a new wider standard gauge railway at a cost that has largely been glossed over by the Kenya government which believes the new wider gauge railway will arouse new interest in moving cargo to or from the port by rail.

That gamble is about to be tested as the SGR prepares to step into the role that has been prepared for it. Goods trains will only commence later in the year and it is on them that any financial success will hang. This week’s launch will see a fast passenger service being inaugurated, which will have modern coaching stock, all imported from China along with the locomotives, handle the 472 kilometre journey from Mombasa to the capital in something over 5 hours – very fast especially by African railway standards.

Apparently there will be brief ceremonies at each stopping station – seven of them – which will likely slow the journey beyond the allotted time.

Goods trains are expected to do the same journey in 8 hours.

Later extensions of the line should see it connecting with Naivasha in the north-east of Nairobi and Kisumu on Lake Victoria in the west. From there the line is expected to continue to the Uganda border and connect with a proposed SGR being built in that landlocked country.

Costing an amount of US$3.2 billion to complete, this is Kenya’s biggest infrastructure project since independence, highly ambitious and at times highly controversial. Nevertheless the government under President Uhuru Kenyatta has pushed the project through with the full help of the Chinese, who have note only financed it through their Import Export Bank but have built the line without little if any of the drama that accompanied that first colonial line, dubbed the ‘Lunatic Line’ of more than a hundred years earlier.

Despite the way in which colonial structures are now regarded in many quarters as exploitive the Lunatic Line (Uganda Railway to give it its proper name), like most other railways built in colonial times in Africa, helped to open up inland country areas in ways that nothing else at that time was capable.

The new SGR railway has that same potential of revitalising trade routes from the coast to inland destinations.

May the new railway by filled with success and we look forward to the day when the first freight train leaves Mombasa laden with containers.

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suspicious dhow and skiffs in Gulf of Aden
In this earlier photograph, the Indian Navy intercepts a dhow suspected of being a pirate mother ship, along with five skiffs. Picture: Indian Navy

Indian Navy ship intercepts suspected pirate mother ship with five skiffs. Picture: Indian Navy
Reports have come from both sides of the African continent with indications that the Gulf of Guinea is now the world’s hotspot in terms of the number and frequency of attacks on ships.

But on the opposite side of the continent Somali pirates appear to be…[restrict] making a comeback after an extended period of inactivity, during which it was thought that the fight against piracy here had been won. This year however pirates have reappeared, at first almost tentatively but increasingly more boldly.

At the weekend a South Korean report said that a South Korean fishing vessel registered in Mongolia had been highjacked off the coast of Somalia.

According to the South Korean Defence Ministry the fishing vessel sent a message to say it was being approached by some unidentified vessels. After that contact with the fishing vessel was lost.

The vessel has a crew consisting of three South Koreans and 18 Indonesians.

A South Korea’s anti-piracy naval ship was in the vicinity and responded to the emergency call and eventually made contact again with the vessel. All on board said they were safe and had escaped the pirates.

There have been a number of attacks by Somali pirates this year, most of them unsuccessful but sending a clear message that piracy in this region is back. Earlier this month Somali pirates hijacked an Iranian fishing vessel which will be used as a mothership from which to attack bigger ships with greater ransom value.

In the Gulf of Guinea a general cargo ship which was underway about 20 nautical miles from the coast came under attack and was boarded by pirates last week. The ship has not been identified but reports from the UK Chamber of Shipping say that six of the crew were taken away when the pirates left, presumably for ransoming.

The Nigerian Navy is investigating.

It is thought that a number of attacks by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea never get reported to the authorities, with ship operators preferring to deal with the matter themselves and without any publicity. As a result no-one knows the full extent of pirate activity in this region.[/restrict]

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impression of the future Lekki port in Nigeria
Lekki port as it will look when finally developed

Port terminal operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) said last week that it was pulling out of a concession to operate a container terminal at the Nigerian port of Lekki because of delays in implementing the project.

The proposed port at Lekki has undergone ongoing delays with no clear sign when construction of the port will go ahead. ICTSI had been awarded the concession to develop and operate…[restrict] a container terminal, which had the potential of becoming the biggest container terminal in the entire West African region.

ICTSI’s concession awarded in 2012 was for a 21-year period at Ibeju Lekki in Lagos State, Nigeria. In terms of the concession, ICTSI was to invest US$ 225 million in developing the terminal for container handling including equipment and related IT infrastructure on a 90hecatre piece of land within the Lagos Free Trade Zone.

The container terminal at Lekki port would have been deepwater capable of handling the container ships of up to 14,000 TEU. Lekki is situated 65 kilometres east of Lagos and would have had an annual terminal capacity of 2.5 million TEU, second only to Durban in terminal size in sub-Saharan Africa.

The termination of the contract was made effective as from 24 May 2017, according to a spokesman for ICTSI. It is subject to an undisclosed payment to ICTSI by the port developer, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise (LPLE).

“The parties arrived at this decision following delays in the execution of the Lekki Port Project,” ICTSI said.

Last year ICTSI opened a US$100 million container terminal at Matadi in the DRC.[/restrict]

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new Walvis Bay container terminal, delayed by a year
computer impression of new container terminal under construction at Walvis Bay

The expansion of the Port of Walvis Bay has hit a snag and will be delayed for up to a year.

The snag is the discovery of a thick layer of dead organic matter on the seabed. A new terminal was expected to be commissioned next year, until the discovery of…[restrict] dead organic matter below the sea bed, which the report says is hindering the progress.

“We have found some material that is bio-deposit of millions of years about 30 metres below the sea bed, which has the potential of compromising the quality of the key wall 20 years down the road,” said Bisey Uirab, Namibia Port Authority’s (Namport) chief executive.

He said the expansion project, which entails building a new container terminal on the Walvis peninsular opposite the port, will be delayed for a year. China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) is in charge of the contract.

The new terminal would have provided Namport with the facility to handle increased volumes of containers as well as much bigger ships that could call. Now the project execution and importing of equipment will have to be delayed.

Uirab said that specialised engineers have been brought in to study and examine the organic matter that has been discovered. The cost of the delay is estimated at US$ 14 million.

The Port of Walvis Bay periodically experiences ‘sulphur eruptions’ (hydrogen sulphide) in the waters off the port which can lead to massive mortalities of fish, bivalves and crustaceans. In 2008 a massive eruption led to several mariculture operations relocating to the port of Lüderitz.

These eruptions have also affected maintenance dredging at the port in past years. Whether there is any connection with the latest development is not clear.[/restrict]

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Mission to Seafarers banner

The London-based Secretary General of the Mission to Seafarers, the Revd Andrew Wright, is to visit South Africa next week and apart from other missions will be visiting Richards Bay on 7 and 8 June.

During his visit to the Zululand port he will meet the local committee that operates the Port of Richards Bay Seafarers Mission, and will speak with the membership.

He will be visiting other missions around the country during his journey around South Africa.

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mv Hartland Point
Civilian vessel, Hartland Point, carried military equipment for Norwegian troops from Norway to Lithuania. NATO Photo by NATO Maritime Command Public Affairs Office NATO ACO PAO

For the first time NATO Maritime Forces have contributed to the deployment of enhanced forward presence (eFP*) assets, as Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) accompanied a civilian vessel carrying military equipment in the Baltic Sea in the week commencing 21 May.

On 23 / 24 May, SNMG1 escorted mv Hartland Point to Lithuania with a cargo of military equipment for Norwegian troops about to deploy to the region.

The ships met in the western Baltic on 23 May…[restrict] and sailed in company to the port of Klaipeda the following forenoon. During the transit the ships of SNMG1, composed of Flagship HNoMS Roald Amundsen and HNLMS Evertsen, conducted several standardised procedures and drills.

In the words of Commander SNMG1, Commodore Ole Morten Sandquist. “The shipment of eFP equipment to Lithuania provides SNMG1 with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate NATO naval presence in the Baltic Sea, while training concepts, procedures and tactics.”

As part of NATO’s strengthened deterrence and defence posture, Allies agreed at the 2016 Summit in Warsaw to enhance NATO’s military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance. The eFP battlegroups located in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland are highly capable, flexible and interoperable land formations that can respond immediately to a range of threats. NATO’s enhanced forward presence is defensive, proportionate, and in line with international commitments. It represents a significant commitment by Allies and is a tangible reminder that an attack on one is an attack on all.

Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 also took the opportunity to complete a Passing Exercise with the Swedish Navy before escorting Hartland Point to Lithuania.

Edited by Paul Ridgway

*NATO is enhancing its forward presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, with four multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis.

These battalion-size battlegroups, led by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and the United States respectively, will be robust, multinational, combat-ready forces demonstrating the strength of the transatlantic bond, and making clear that an attack on one ally would be considered an attack on the whole Alliance.[/restrict]

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SAMSA banner logo

Pretoria, South Africa: Sobantu Tilayi, acting Chief Executive Officer for the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) will lead a high level delegation to the Nor-shipping Conference, the leading international shipping events for maritime experts, to be held in Oslo, Norway between 29 May – 2 June 2017.

The weeklong maritime trade fair features exhibitions, conferences, debates, product launches, and attracts ship owners, shipbrokers, ship financers, ports and port technology representatives, cargo handlers, maritime and training institutions, research organisations, navigational equipment, aid suppliers and industry leaders in general.

South Africa is a maritime country endowed with…[restrict] just of over 3200km of a coastline on which sits eight commercial ports, and some 1.6-million square kilometres of an Exclusive Economic Zone spread over three oceans from the Atlantic in the west, the Southern Ocean in the south and the Indian Ocean to the east.

Tilayi said the opportunity to showcase South Africa’s oceans and its potential to the international community was critical as it presented “meaningful economic opportunities in the sector”.

“This would ensure meaningful, profitable engagement. Sub-Sahara represents the world’s second largest growing economy, and this century is predicted to be the African century. Given the continent’s growing industrial and digital revolution, massive urbanisation, a growing middle-class and increased diversification in trade, participating in this conference is critical.”


Tilayi attending this year's Nor-Shipping
Sobantu Tilayi, SAMSA’s acting CEO

SAMSA’s participation together with other maritime stakeholders from South Africa opens an assortment of opportunities across continents, which also requires international partnerships with worthy business actors that can support this development and capacity development.

In this context, Norway represents a world leading maritime cluster that delivers leading edge innovation, technology and commercial solutions, and Nor-shipping provides a perfect platform for exploring new opportunities for partnerships and insights from leading experts, Tilayi said.

SAMSA within the country’s broad Oceans Economy programme, is charged with maritime capacity and skills development. It will therefore play a leading role, including maritime technical support in maritime industry related engagements in support of government departments present.

The South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) and SAMSA at the Nor-shipping Conference will also present a case and profile of SA seafarers, and position South Africa as a maritime nation it is, including being a preferred supplier of seafaring professionals in the presence of global ship-owners.[/restrict]

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Port Louis – Indian Ocean gateway port

Ports & Ships publishes regularly updated SHIP MOVEMENT reports including ETAs for ports extending from West Africa to South Africa to East Africa and including Port Louis in Mauritius.

In the case of South Africa’s container ports of Durban, Ngqura, Ports Elizabeth and Cape Town links to container Stack Dates are also available.

You can access this information, including the list of ports covered, by going HERE remember to use your BACKSPACE to return to this page.

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QM2 in Cape Town. Picture by Ian Shiffman

We publish news about the cruise industry here in the general news section.

Naval News

Similarly you can read our regular Naval News reports and stories here in the general news section.


container ship WMS Harlingen arrives in Durban, April 2017
WMS Harlingen. Picture: Keith Betts

A well-loaded container ship, WMS HARLINGEN (8,243-dwt) arrives in the Durban port entrance channel earlier this year (April). Built in 2007 the ship has a container capacity of 698 TEU and is 130 metres long and 21 metres wide, a reminder that there is still a place in world trade for the smaller container ships. She was built at the Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding yard in Mawei, China and is owned and managed by Marlow Navigation, which operates out of Limassol in Cyprus, whose flag the ship flies. This picture is by Keith Betts


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