Africa PORTS & SHIPS maritime news 16 April 2024

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FIRST VIEW:   Boka Northern Ocean 


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 FIRST VIEW:   Boka Northern Ocean

Boka Northern Ocean. Durban, 29 March 2024. Picture by Trevor Jones
Boka Northern Ocean. Durban, 29 March 2024. Picture by Trevor Jones

The construction support vessel Boka Northern Ocean (IMO 9433183) was a recent caller at Durban, taking bunkers before proceeding towards her next call at Las Palmas, where she is expected on 20 April.

Boka Northern Ocean is owned and operated by Boskalis and was built in 2012 at the Metalships & Dock shipyard at Vigo in Pontevedra province in Spain and is registered in the port of Valletta, Malta. The ship has a gross tonnage of 11,277 tons and deadweight of 8,810 tons. Her length is 132 metres (135.65m with helideck) and beam 31m.

The vessel’s main power units are four Wärtsilä generators each of 3,360 kW and a Wärtsilä aux generator of 1,600 kW plus an emergency Caterpillar generator of 994 kW.  The ship’s propulsion consists of two x 3,500 kW Azipull AZP 120CP Aquamaster thrusters, two 1,500 kW Rolls Royce tunnel thrusters and a 1,500 kW retractable Rolls Royce azimuth thruster.

The construction vessel’s deck equipment includes a 400 tonne main crane, an auxiliary 50 tonne hoist, an aft 100mt Knuckle Boom crane and sundry other necessary equipment enough to suggest this is a mean machine at sea. As visible in the photographs, the vessel has a helideck positioned ahead of the bridge.

The pictures are by Trevor Jones

Africa Ports & Ships


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Analysis: South Africa’s national security priorities in question amidst troop deployment, naval visits

SAS Drakensberg, will supposedly visit Brazil and Cuba this year, though for reasons that are puzzling. Picture: SA Navy

by Helmoed Heitman

With the planned deployment of up to 2,900 troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the planned visit of a frigate to St Petersburg, the South African Government has hit a new low in its approach to national security, going well beyond its by now routine overstretch and underfunding of the Defence Force. A new low because those taskings show an abysmal failure to prioritise.

There are good strategic, political and economic arguments for helping the DRC stabilize the east of the country – if there was a credible plan, if we had the military resources and if there were not other, more pressing, security issues demanding attention:

• Credible Plan: How can anyone believe that the 5,000-strong SADC force will be able to do what the 15,000-strong MONUSCO force was not able to do over two decades? There is no credibility there. Even less when the force seems likely to lack any serious air support in a large area of operations with difficult terrain and few – mainly bad – roads.

• Resources: The Defence Force lacks the funding, the equipment and the personnel to take on this task. The Army is short of deployable troops and serviceable equipment and the Air Force lacks trooping and attack helicopters to provide tactical air support, reconnaissance aircraft to build an operational picture, and the airlift to deploy any useful force, let alone carry out a quick reinforcement or hot extraction.

• Other Security Issues – Cabo Delgado: The insurgency is flaring up, but the SADC force is to withdraw in July. Assuming that takes place, the insurgency will flare up even more and will begin to spread. That threatens our future ability to draw gas from the field off Cabo Delgado and could evolve to present a threat of maritime terrorism or piracy in the Mozambique Channel. Should it spread south, it would place at risk electricity from Cahora Bassa and gas from Panda and Temane.

• Eswatini and Lesotho – Both are politically fragile and insurrection or insurgency in either would present a security threat that could require considerable numbers of troops to contain.

• Border Patrol – The Army does not have the funding to deploy the full 22 companies required and is limited to 15 companies, leaving long stretches of border uncovered. Worse, our air space surveillance radars are old and in need of replacement and the Navy lacks the ships and funding to patrol our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to any effect.

Given these considerations, it seems irresponsible and reckless to commit troops and resources to a mission of less immediate relevance than those being neglected. Even more so when that mission has, at best, no chance of achieving any useful outcome. At worst it could bring us a replay of the situation in Bangui in March 2013, only with more troops at risk and without a secured airport to fall back on and with even less capability to respond than then.

We would do far better to focus on Cabo Delgado, deploying an adequate force with air support there, and on our borders.

Government also wants to demonstrate its support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine by sending a frigate to St Petersburg. Skipping around the political imbecility and that it spits in the face of the Ukrainians who hosted and trained many former members of MK, consider other issues:

• The Navy has for several years not been able to patrol our Exclusive Economic Zone to any useful effect for lack of operational ships.

• The Navy was not able to provide the planned maritime interdiction force envisaged as part of the SADC mission in Cabo Delgado.

• Piracy is again flaring up in the Indian Ocean, which holds risk for our oil imports, our trade with Mediterranean countries, the Persian Gulf and South Asia, and piracy continues to be a problem in the Gulf of Guinea, placing at risk trade with West Africa.

• The Navy has not had the funding to properly maintain its frigates and submarines over the two decades they have been in service, let alone modernize or upgrade them, reducing their effectiveness and shrinking their useful service lives. Nor have they spent enough time at sea for their crews to jell as cohesive teams. The only support vessel has been in service since 1987 and needs to be replaced.

Given the present parlous situation of the Navy and its inability to perform its primary function in peacetime of patrolling our waters, let alone the operational mission off Cabo Delgado and the renewed risk of piracy, is there any sense at all in sending a frigate to visit St Petersburg and party with the navy of an aggressor country that is of zero economic and strategic relevance to us?

We would to much better to get all of our ships properly seaworthy and out patrolling our EEZ and the Mozambique Channel. And once they are operational, we could and should deploy a frigate – probably together with the support ship SAS Drakensberg – on an extended diplomatic mission around the rim of the western Indian Ocean, visiting our maritime neighbours, friends and trading partners.

Even more to the point, with piracy in the Indian Ocean again on the rise, it would be worthwhile to demonstrate presence and willingness to joint our maritime neighbours in securing the sea routes in the southwestern Indian Ocean. Do we really want to have to rely on France, India and China to do that for us?

Then the plan to send Drakensberg to Cuba and Brazil. A visit to Brazil makes sense – that country is a partner in BRICS and IBSA, participates in the ATLASUR and IBSAMAR naval exercises with the SA Navy and shares our interest in secure maritime traffic in the South Atlantic. A visit to Brazil could also usefully include a call in Argentina and Uruguay and along the western coast of Africa, again looking in on friends and neighbours who all share an interest in the South Atlantic sea routes. Nigeria, for instance, has on several occasions argued for the SA Navy to join forces with their Navy to coordinate patrols.

A visit to Cuba makes little sense, that country being economically and strategically irrelevant to South Africa, but at least will not damage our relations with our key trading partners and investors.

Written by defenceWeb and republished with permission. The original article can be found here.

Added 16 April 2024


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WHARF TALK: small Handysize products tanker – ALPHA

The small handysize oil and chemical products tanker Alpha, in port at Cape own 5 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Pictures by ‘Dockrat’
Story by Jay Gates

3rd April 2024 and again 9th April 2024
Sometimes the arrival of a vessel, to conduct cargo operations at a working berth at a South African port, is a slight mystery. This is not only because of where she has arrived from, or where she is bound to, but also because of her size in relation to that port, and the distance travelled to get here. And to cap off the mystery, she arrives and departs twice, on an in-out-in out basis, but her second call is not for purposes of cargo operations.

On 3rd April at 10:00 in the morning, the small Handy combined product and chemical tanker ‘Alpha’ (IMO 9286451) arrived off Cape Town, from Maputo in Mozambique. She entered Cape Town harbour, proceeding into the Duncan Dock and went alongside the outer berth at the Tanker Basin to begin her cargo operations.

Alpha. Cape Town, 5 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Built in 2004 by Yardimci Tersanesi AS shipyard at Tuzla in Turkey, ‘Alpha’ is 118 metres in length and has a deadweight of 10,127 tons. She is powered by a single MAN-B&W 6S35MC six cylinder, two stroke, main engine producing 6,040 bhp (4,442 kW) and driving a MAN VBS 1080 controllable pitch propeller for a service speed of 14 knots.

Her auxiliary machinery includes three MAN D2842 LE301 generators providing 443 kW each, and a single MAN D2866 TE emergency generator providing 170 kW. She has a single Thieg 500 exhaust gas boiler, and a single TX V3000 oil fired boiler. For added manoeuvrability she has a single Ulstein 90TV bow transverse thruster providing 450 kW. She has an ice classification of ICE 1B, which allows ‘Alpha’ to navigate in first year Baltic Sea Ice thickness of 0.6 metres.

She has a total of 12 cargo tanks, with a cargo carrying capacity of 10,957 m3, with the tanks on ‘Alpha’ being coated with Epoxy Sigma Phenguard 965. She has twelve cargo pumps, with each pump being capable of pumping at a rate of 200 m2/hour.

Alpha. Cape Town, 5 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

She is classified as an IMO Type III chemical tanker by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), where IMO Type III chemical tankers transport chemical products requiring a moderate degree of containment, in order to increase survival capability in a damaged condition. The maximum quantity of cargo allowed for carriage in any cargo tank for an IMO Type III tanker is unlimited, as opposed to a maximum cargo tank capacity of 3000 m3 for an IMO Type II chemical tanker. Very often you will find Type III tankers trading in the clean market segment.

One of a class of six sisterships, and being nominally owned by Sea Tankers Incorporated, ‘Alpha is both operated, and managed, by Al Sidra Ship Management LLC, of Sharjah in the UAE, whose houseflag she displays on her funnel. Until last year, her majority area of trading operations was within the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aden region. She has also recently called at Richards Bay to discharge cargo.

Alpha. Cape Town, 5 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

This is not her first call at Cape Town, as she also arrived in Cape Town back in February, again from Mozambique, arriving on 16th February at 08:00 in the morning, and sailing once more exactly 24 hours later, at 08:00 in the morning of 17th February. Prior to arriving at Cape Town in February, ‘Alpha’ had loaded at Duqm, located on the Arabian Sea coast of Oman, at 19°39’ North 057°42’ East. She had called at Nacala in Mozambique to discharge, prior to making the voyage to Cape Town.

Prior to 2010, Duqm was nothing but a small fishing Port, until it was chosen to become the Special Economic Zone at Duqm (SEZAD), which resulted in it becoming the largest multi-purpose fishing port in Oman, with construction only completed in 2021. The main breakwater at Duqm is 2.2 km long, with a secondary breakwater being 1.1 km long, and a total of 1.2 km of jetties being provided.

Alpha. Cape Town, 5 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

A major oil refinery was also constructed at Duqm, and located within the Special Economic Zone, and occupying a site of 900 hectares. The refinery is a 50/50 joint venture between OQ, the Oman state oil company, and Q8, the Kuwait state oil company, and was only completed at the end of 2023, with a refining capacity of 230,000 barrels of oil per day.

Far sighted Omani planners saw the port, and refinery, of Duqm as a potential alternative to other Persian Gulf oil exporting ports, especially if routes through the strategic Strait of Hormuz were to close due to Iranian intransigence and aggression. The current increase of state backed belligerent action by Iran, both against shipping in the Strait, and against Israel, has vindicated the decision of the government of Oman to construct an oil refinery, and port infrastructure, outside the Strait of Hormuz.

Alpha. Cape Town, 5 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

After just over three full days alongside, ‘Alpha’ was ready to depart, and at Midday on 6th March she sailed from Cape Town, indicating her next destination to be back to Maputo. However, no sooner had she cleared Cape Town port limits, she started to slow steam in circles, and drift off Table Bay. She continued this pattern of steaming and drifting for a full three days. It was not a case of ‘awaiting orders’ due to her next move.

At Midday on 9th April, three days after sailing from Cape Town, ‘Alpha’ re-entered Cape Town harbour, once more proceeding into the Duncan Dock, but this time not going alongside at the Tanker Basin, but this time going alongside at the Landing Wall. This was a move that indicated that her hanging around off Cape Town, for the previous three days, was due to her experiencing a mechanical or technical issue that could not be fixed by the resolve of the crew.

She remained alongside the landing wall for a further three days, or just short of that, and at 10:00 on the morning of 12th April, presumably with any issues resolved, and no longer in need of shoreside maintenance assistance, ‘Alpha’ was ready to resume her voyage. She sailed from Cape Town, once more indicating that Maputo was her next destination.

Alpha. Cape Town, 5 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

The question of her visit in the first instance is based on what product she could have been bringing to Cape Town from Maputo? The likelihood is that she was loading for Maputo. A vessel of Handy size in Southern Africa is almost exclusively, but not always, utilised as a tanker for marine fuel oil and marine gas oil, i.e. bunker fuels.

With the huge amount of Red Sea diversions around the Cape sea route, due to the Iranian backed Houthi terrorism, it will not merely be Durban and Cape Town that are seeing an increase in arrivals for bunkers only. The port of Walvis Bay, in Namibia, has also seen a huge increase in bunker only callers recently, and so it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Maputo is seeing the same increase in similar callers.

The question would be where she gets her bunker fuels from. Almost all Mozambique domestic fuel requirements are imported via the sea. Cape Town has a good stock of bunker fuels, with a bunker oil tank fuel farm located within Cape Town harbour, witnessed by the three bunker barges that are currently operating within the port.

As to why Cape Town, and not Durban, which one would consider to be the most obvious place to go to load a cargo of bunkers, it may simply be down to supply and demand availability at Cape Town, rather than at Durban. Of course, in this day and age, and knowing the parlous state of South Africa’s oil refining capability, it may also be within the realms of reality that Maputo has a good stock of bunker fuels that they are willing to export to South Africa, in order to ensure that diverted callers are guaranteed to uplift bunkers on arrival at the Mother City.

Added 16 April 2024


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Hapag-Lloyd and Seaspan to retrofit five vessels to methanol propulsion


One of the five Seaspan Corp vessels to be retrofitted, Seaspan Amazon. Picture: Seaspan Corp

Africa Ports & Ships

Hapag-Lloyd and Seaspan Corporation have entered into a partnership agreement to retrofit and convert five 10,100 TEU container ships powered by conventional MAN S90 engines to dual-fuel engines capable of operating on methanol.

Following the engine retrofit, the vessels will continue to be on long-term charter from Seaspan to Hapag-Lloyd.

“The methanol retrofit project is a further step in our ambitious sustainability agenda, which aims to achieve the decarbonisation of the entire fleet by 2045,” says Dr Maximilan Rothkopf, Hapag-Lloyd’s Chief Operating Officer (COO).

“By enabling these vessels to use green methanol as of 2026, we will meet our customers’ growing demand for green transportation solutions.”

Rothkopf added that with Seaspan, Hapag-Lloyd benefits from a valued partner with deep experience, a wide supplier network and scale.

Torsten Holst Pedersen, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Seaspan, said that collaboration between strong and like-minded partners, Hapag-Lloyd and Seaspan, drives innovation.

“Retrofitting must be an integral part of the strategy if the container shipping industry wants to deliver on its decarbonisation targets,” he said.

To achieve its strategic decarbonisation goal, Hapag-Lloyd’s investments are not only focused on newbuildings or retrofits (dual-fuel propulsion) and the optimisation of the efficiency of its existing fleet (Fleet Upgrade Program), but also on covering the exploration and sourcing of green fuels.

Green methanol is thereby emerging as one of the low emission fuels of the future.

The vessels scheduled for retrofits are the ‘Seaspan Amazon’, ‘Seaspan Ganges’, ‘Seaspan Thames’, ‘Seaspan Yangtze’ and ‘Seaspan Zambezi’.

The retrofit is expected to take approximately 80-90 days per vessel starting in the first quarter of 2026. The total investment is estimated at around USD 120 million for the five units.

Added 16 April 2024


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The Marrakesh Agreement: WTO at 30

WTO at 30 Pictures by WTO

Edited by Paul Ridgway
Africa Ports & Ships

On 15 April 1994, 123 countries gathered in Morocco to sign the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, the foundation of today’s rules-based international trading system. Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala marked the anniversary by underlining the critical role trade has played in improving peoples’ lives around the world.

Today, 44 member states of the WTO are in Africa*

She reflected: “Thirty years ago, over 120 countries united with a shared vision: to transform the world through trade. They created a new global public good: one committed to using trade to raise people’s living standards, create jobs, and promote sustainable development.

“Countries have used the open and predictable global economy anchored in the World Trade Organization to accelerate growth and development. Over the past three decades, more than 1.5 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, embodying the enduring promise encapsulated in the Marrakesh Agreement.

WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala has marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Marrakesh Agreement

“As we mark the thirtieth anniversary of the WTO, this promise still stands as a beacon. The WTO now counts 164 — soon to be 166 — members. The way we do business across borders has evolved. So have the challenges to sustainability and socioeconomic inclusion. But trade remains a vital tool to solve these challenges and build a brighter future for people around the world.”

The WTO has set up a dedicated web page marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Marrakesh Agreement and highlighting some of the WTO’s achievements over the last three decades under the spirit of Marrakesh.

* A 64-page WTO briefing publication on African trade is to be found here.

YouTube Video: A three-minute corporate video showing the origins of WTO and its predecessor GATT

Added 16 April 2024


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In Conversation: Rogue waves in the ocean are much more common than anyone suspected, says new study

  • SA Agulhas II from which much of this research was conducted. Picture by Trevor Jones

Alessandro Toffoli, The University of Melbourne

We used three-dimensional imaging of ocean waves to capture freakish seas that produce a notorious phenomenon known as rogue waves. Our results are now published in Physical Review Letters.

Rogue waves are giant colossi of the sea – twice as high as neighbouring waves – that appear seemingly out of nowhere. Stories of unimaginable mountains of water as tall as ten-storey buildings have populated maritime folklore and literature for centuries.

Recent technology has allowed scientists to spot rogue waves out at sea, making legend become reality. The first and most famous measurement was of the Draupner wave, a 25.6-metre monster recorded in the North Sea on January 1 1995.

Despite observations, we still don’t know how often rogue waves occur, or if we can predict them. A record of a rogue wave doesn’t include specific features that distinguish the sea around it, so we can’t make comparisons or predict the conditions needed.

Our team set sail on the South African icebreaker S.A. Agulhas-II to chase rogue waves across the Southern Ocean, where mighty winds shape Earth’s fiercest waves.

A blue coloured photo of the ocean surface with small white wave crests throughout.
Ocean surface during a storm somewhere in the Southern Ocean.
Alessandro Toffoli

What creates rogue waves?

In the random environment of ocean waves, several mechanisms give rise to rogue ones. One primary source involves the overlap of multiple waves at the same location and time. This results in concentrated energy, leading to tall waves.

Under consistent ocean conditions, rogue waves generated this way may occur once every two days at a set location. But the ocean is dynamic, so conditions are rarely consistent for long – making it less likely for rogue waves to occur. The overlap of waves may be minimal or non-existent even during prolonged and intense storms.

Numerical and laboratory studies suggest strong winds also contribute to the development of rogue waves, because they push harder on some already tall wave forms. But wind has seldom been considered in rogue wave analysis.

A simplified anatomy of ocean waves.

Wind prompts ocean waves to grow progressively higher, longer and faster. During this stage, waves are “young” and hungry for wind input. When waves go faster than wind, they stop being accelerated by it and reach a “mature” stage of full development.

Through this process, the wind creates a chaotic situation where waves of different dimensions and directions coexist.

Our recent observations show that unique sea conditions with rogue waves can arise during the “young” stage – when waves are particularly responsive to the wind. This suggests wind parameters could be the missing link. However, there’s even more to consider.

Powerful waves amplify each other

Ocean waves are one of the most powerful natural forces on Earth and could become even more powerful in the future due to climate change. If the wave field possesses an extreme amount of energy – when waves are steep and most of them have a similar amplitude, length and direction – another mechanism can trigger the formation of rogue waves.

This mechanism involves an exchange of energy between waves that produces a “self-amplification”, where one wave grows disproportionately at the expense of its neighbours. Theoretically, studies show this could increase the likelihood of rogue waves ten-fold.

While self-amplification manifests as whitecaps – frothy, aerated crests of choppy waves – until now there has been no evidence it can make rogue waves more likely in the ocean.

Recent experiments suggest wind can make extreme events like rogue waves more common. But this aspect has not been thoroughly explored.

What did we find in the Southern Ocean?

We used a new three-dimensional imaging method for scanning the ocean surface throughout the expedition. It mimics human vision: closely located sensors record sequences of simultaneous images. Computer algorithms then match pairs of them to reconstruct the three-dimensional depths – the wavy surface.

As our ship passed through several storms, the sensors captured data during various phases of wave growth – from the early stages of young waves fuelled by the wind, to mature waves that aren’t influenced by it.

Our results show young waves display signs of self-amplification and an increased likelihood of rogue waves. We recorded waves twice as high as their neighbours once every six hours.

This mirrors what lab models have reported: sea conditions theoretically more prone to self-amplification would produce more rogue waves.

In contrast, mature seas don’t show an increased probability of rogue waves. We detected none under those conditions.

Our findings challenge previous thinking: that self-amplification doesn’t change the likelihood of rogue waves in the ocean. We have also shown that when developing tools for predicting rogue waves, we need to take wind into thorough consideration. After all, it’s a natural feature of the open sea.The Conversation

Alessandro Toffoli, Professor in Ocean Engineering, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Added 16 April 2024


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Indian Navy carries out first drug interdiction as CMF member

INS Talwar F40 in an exercise at sea with the US Navy. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cheyenne Geletka/Released

Africa Ports & Ships

The Indian Navy frigate INS Talwar F40, first of the Talwar class, recently operating in support of the Canadian-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, conducted its first interdiction of illicit narcotics as a member of Combined Maritime Forces, seizing 940 kg of drugs in the Arabian Sea on Saturday 13 April.

Talwar seized 453 kg of methamphetamines, 416 kg of hash and 71 kg of heroin from a dhow as part of Focused Operation Crimson Barracuda.

The Indian Navy joined CMF last November.

“I commend the crew of INS Talwar for their efforts throughout this Focused Operation and their hard work has paid off with this seizure of 940 kg of drugs,” said Royal Canadian Navy Capt. Colin Matthews, Commander, Combined Task Force 150.

Captain Matthews said this seizure was the fourth of this Focused Operation, and demonstrates the effectiveness and professionalism of CMF and of the Indian Navy, in deterring and disrupting criminal and terrorist activities at sea.

Crimson Barracuda, which concluded on Monday 15 April, focused on countering terrorist and criminal organizations’ use of the high seas to conduct smuggling operations in the Western Indian Ocean region.

CTF 150 is one of five task forces under Combined Maritime Forces, the world’s largest international naval partnership. CTF 150’s mission is to deter and disrupt the ability of non-state vessel to move weapons, drugs and other illicit substances in the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.

Combined Maritime Forces is a 42-nation naval partnership upholding the international rules-based order by promoting security and stability across 3.2 million square miles of water encompassing some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.

Added 16 April 2024


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WHARF TALK: The Queens at the Cape

Spectacular sight at night – Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 at Cape Town’s Cruise Terminal. Picture: Wesgro

Pictures by ‘Dockrat’
Phil Short & Wesgro
Story by Jay Gates

One of the great maritime sights for any casual maritime observer, located anywhere on earth, is the time when two great passenger liners from the same company tie up, bow to stern, in the same port, at the same time. It is something that very rarely happens away from home based cruise ports, and almost never in any South African port.

If there is one thing that is a positive from the Red Sea nonsense activities of Houthi Rebels in Yemen, it is that South Africa’s maritime economy has benefited hugely from diverted passing trade, calling in, or stopping off port limits (OPL), to uplift bunkers, pick up stores, or load fresh provisions, as they make their way around the Cape sea route en route to Europe and the USA.

The local tourism industries have also been granted a bumper season too, as those diversions from the Red Sea have included a number of passenger vessels. Whilst one or two have only called in for a bunkers uplift, and also being devoid of passengers, which has not helped the local tour operators, there are some passenger liners whose diversion calls are still replete with passengers, all wanting to experience what South Africa might be able to offer them.

The Queens in the Cape. Queen Mary 2. Cape Town, 12 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

One such diversion arrival is a passenger liner that has already passed through South African ports whilst outbound on her World Cruise, and was not expected back this season, as the nature of World Cruises is that they keep going in one direction. And all the while, those passenger liners whose World Cruises were always going to take the Cape sea route on their itinerary, and were never scheduled to be passing through the Suez Canal, continue to arrive at this late part of the season.

Of the two types of passenger liner to be calling at the same time in South Africa, the chances of both vessels being from the same company, and arriving in the same port, in order to be berthed together, on the same date, is quite a slim expectation. So April 12th turned out to be one of those not to be forgotten dates when one passenger vessel on a diversionary call, and another calling on her scheduled itinerary arrived, nigh-on together. Not only was it special, but it is not likely to ever happen again. For the casual maritime observer, it was a perfect day.

The Queens in the Cape. Queen Victoria. Cape Town, 12 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’ 

On 11th April, at 15:00 in the afternoon, the Panamax passenger liner ‘Queen Victoria’ (IMO 9320556) arrived of Cape Town, from Port Elizabeth, but because of a rising Southeasterly wind, and recent memories of making a mess of a recent passenger ship arrival in similar wind conditions, it was clear that she was not going to be able to be brought into Cape Town harbour, and placed alongside her waiting berth, until such time that it was safe to do so, and when the wind had subsided enough for that to happen.

Finally just after midnight, the wind had subsided sufficiently for ‘Queen Victoria’ to enter Cape Town harbour, and at 01:00 on 12th April she proceeded into the Duncan Dock, and was placed alongside the Cruise Passenger Terminal at E berth. To have such a prestigious passenger liner alongside is already something to behold, but the fact that just four hours later another even more prestigious passenger liner arrived off Cape Town, and from the same company, making 12th April something quite spectacular for anyone local who woke up, and owned a camera.

The Queens in the Cape. Queen Mary 2. Cape Town, 12 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

At 04:00 on 12th April the NeoPanamax passenger liner ‘Queen Mary 2’ (IMO 9241061) arrived off Cape Town, from Durban, and entered Cape Town harbour, proceeding into the Duncan Dock, and being placed alongside F berth, directly behind the already berthed ‘Queen Victoria’. The arrival of ‘Queen Mary 2’ was down to the Houthi menace, as she should have been returning to Europe via the Suez Canal, and in fact, had already called at Cape Town on 31st January, sailing again on 1st February on the outbound leg of her 2024 World Cruise.

The first arrival, ‘Queen Victoria’, was built in 2007 by Fincantieri Cantieri Navali Italiani SpA at Marghera in Italy. She is 294 metres in length, and has a gross registered tonnage of 89,500 tons. She is diesel electric, and powered by four Wärtsilä-Sulzer 16ZAV40S generators providing 11,520 kW each, and two Wärtsilä-Sulzer 12ZAV40S generators providing 8,650 kW each.

The Queens in the Cape. Queen Victoria & Queen Mary 2. Cape Town, 12 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

These six generators provide sufficient power for both domestic and propulsion requirements. Power is transferred to two ABB Azipods producing 17,600 kW each, which gives ‘Queen Victoria’ a maximum speed of 24 knots, or a service speed of 18 knots. For added manoeuvrability she has three bow transverse thrusters providing 2,200 kW each.

She has 16 decks, of which 12 decks are given over for passenger use. She can carry 2,081 passengers, who are looked after by a crew of 900. She has 1,007 cabins, of which 718 have balconies, 143 are Oceanview cabins, and 143 are Inside cabins. For added passenger comfort in inclement weather, and rough seas, ‘Queen Victoria’ is fitted with twin fin stabilisers.

The second arrival, ‘Queen Mary 2’, was built in 2003 by STX Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard at St. Nazaire in France. She is 345 metres in length and has a gross registered tonnage of 149,215 tons. She is also a diesel electric vessel, better known as a vessel with integrated electrical propulsion, as she is powered by four Wärtsilä 16V46C-CR generators providing 16,800 kW each. This backed up by two General Electric LM2500+ turbine engines providing 25,060 kW each. Her total power output is sufficient for both domestic and propulsion needs.

The Queens in the Cape. Queen Victoria & Queen Mary 2. Cape Town, 12 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

This engine configuration is known as a Combined Diesel and Gas (CODAG) configuration. Power is transferred to four Rolls-Royce Mermaid propulsion pods, two of which are azimuth drive, and two are fixed propellers, providing 21,500 kW each, giving her a maximum speed of 30 knots, and a service speed of 26 knots. When built ‘Queen Mary 2’ was the first passenger liner built with four propellers since ‘SS France’ was built in 1961. For added manoeuvrability she has three bow transverse thrusters providing 3,200 kW each.

Christened by none other than the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in January 2004, ‘Queen Mary 2’ carries the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) designator, as she carries mail when on transatlantic voyages. She has 18 decks, with 14 decks given over to passenger use. For added passenger comfort in inclement weather, and rough seas, she is fitted with twin Denny Brown stabilisers.

The Queens in the Cape. Queen Victoria. Cape Town, 12 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Carrying 2,695 passengers, who are looked after by a crew of 1,253, ‘Queen Mary 2’ is considered to be the ultimate passenger liner on the planet, and is the only one designed for North Atlantic winter crossings, with big head seas, hence her long bow. Her prestige status is shown by the fact that she has a library which carries over 8,000 volumes, the largest library on any passenger liner. She also carries 22 kennels for use only when on transatlantic service.

In 2011, her port of registration was changed from Southampton in the UK, to Hamilton in Bermuda, in order to allow marriages to take place on board. This was a reflection of her ownership by the US based Carnival Corporation, and her carriage of many American passengers. Her desalination system is the equivalent of that servicing a small town, as her three desalinator plants each produce 630,000 litres per day, or 1.89 million litres per day.

The Queens in the Cape. Queen Mary 2 & Queen Victoria. Cape Town, 12 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Both vessels are owned by Carnival Corporation & PLC of Doral, in the US State of Florida, and both ‘Queen Mary 2’ and ‘Queen Victoria’ are operated by Cunard Line Ltd., of Southampton in the UK, and are managed by Carnival UK Ltd., also of Southampton. The great Cunard Line was founded by Samuel Cunard, back in 1840, and was originally known as the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. ‘Queen Victoria’ cost US$336.34 million (ZAR6.33 billion) to build, and ‘Queen Mary 2’ cost a whopping US$900 million (ZAR16.94 billion) to build.

Sailing from Southampton on 11th January, on a 107 night, 33 port, world cruise, ‘Queen Victoria’ was always scheduled to call at Cape Town on 11th April for an overnight fly/cruise stopover en route back to Southampton, with her cruise terminates. However, when ‘Queen Mary 2’ sailed from Southampton on 14th January, on a 108 night, 34 port, world cruise, she was due to transit the Suez Canal on her itinerary back to Southampton, with a termination date of 28th April. Her original cruise itinerary was;

The Queens in the Cape. Queen Mary 2 & Queen Victoria. Cape Town, 12 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Southampton- Tenerife (Canary Islands)- Walvis Bay (Namibia)- Cape Town- Port Elizabeth- Durban- St. Denis (Reunion)- Port Louis (Mauritius)- Fremantle- Adelaide- Melbourne- Sydney- Yorkeys Knob- Darwin (all Australia)- Bitung (Indonesia)- Hong Kong- Da Nang- Nha Trang- Ho Chi Minh City (all Vietnam)- Singapore- Penang- Langkawi (both Malaysia)- Phuket (Thailand)- Colombo (Sri Lanka)- Doha (Qatar)- Dubai( UAE)- Salalah (Oman)- Aqaba (Jordan)- Suez Canal transit- Piraeus (Greece)- Barcelona- Cadiz (Spain)- Southampton.

As a result of the decision not to undertake a Red Sea transit, the cruise itinerary of ‘Queen Mary 2’ was amended on her departure from Colombo. Instead of heading to Doha, her new itinerary was Port Louis- Durban- Cape Town- Walvis Bay- Las Palmas (Canary Islands)- Lisbon (Portugal)- Southampton. It meant she was calling at four ports for the second time on her cruise, which was not well received by some of the passengers onboard. Sadly, some were unhappy with a second call at Durban, as it was considered unsafe after some passengers were mugged, and had mobile phones stolen whilst ashore in the beachfront area.

Added 15 April 2024


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MV Abdullah released by Somali pirates, apparently after ransom paid

Guy Martin

The Bangladesh-flagged Merchant Vessel Abdullah, captured over a month ago by Somali pirates, has been released along with its 23 crew, apparently after a $5 million ransom was paid.

The European Union Naval Force (EU NavFor) in a statement on 15 April confirmed the release, adding its Operation Atalanta was the first actor to respond to the hijacking of the vessel on 12 March, when one Atalanta vessel started shadowing the vessel.

Reuters quoted two pirates as saying the MV Abdullah was released on Sunday 14 April after a $5 million ransom had been delivered to them, but the Somali government did not respond to its request for comment.

The MV Abdullah’s owner, the KSRM Group, said the vessel and its crew were freed following negotiations. “We struck a deal with the pirates,” Mizanul Islam of SR Shipping, the group’s maritime arm, told Agence France Presse. “We cannot say more about the money,” he added, but said all the crew are safe and secure.

The ship has since sailed to the United Arab Emirates – its original destination, which it was supposed to reach on 19 March – escorted by two warships.

Somali publication Garowe Online reported that at least eight pirates were apprehended on the East Coast of Puntland moments after the MV Abdullah was released.

“A high-ranking officer from Puntland Police Force informed Garowe Online that they have apprehended eight members of the pirate group holding the Bangladesh-flagged ship MV Abdullah. It has not been confirmed whether the ransom money paid to the pirates was recovered during the operation,” the publication reported.

The MV Abdullah was en route from Maputo to the United Arab Emirates with a cargo of coal when it was seized by at least a dozen pirates on 12 March and subsequently sailed towards Somalia.

Hijackings off Somalia have raised concerns about a resurgence of Indian Ocean piracy by opportunistic pirates taking advantage of naval forces focussing on defeating attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Houthi attacks in the Gulf of Aden continue at an almost daily basis, with one vessel (the MV Rubymar) sunk, and two seafarers killed in another attack. Multiple vessels have this year been hit by Houthi missiles.

Written by defenceWeb and republished with permission. The original article can be found here

Added 15 April 2024


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Escalating Middle East Tensions Trigger Projected Surge in War Risk Premiums and Freight Rates

Container xChange

Africa Ports & Ships

In a significant escalation of tensions in the Middle East, Iran’s capture of the MSC Aries, a container ship linked to Israel, has reverberated throughout the maritime industry. This development, occurring prior to the missile attacks on Saturday, 13 April 2024, underscores the deepening conflict in the region. Believed to be in response to an Israeli raid on the Iranian consulate in Syria, the capture has heightened concerns about the security of key trade routes and the stability of regional hubs like Jebel Ali.

Furthermore, Iran has launched a coordinated attack on Saturday, 13 April 13 2024, involving hundreds of drones and missiles against Israel. With support from allied forces (France, the United Kingdom, and the United States), Israel intercepted most of the projectiles, but the incident has raised fears of wider escalation and disruptions to maritime operations.

This latest development follows Iran’s seizure of a container ship linked to Israel near the Strait of Hormuz, further intensifying concerns about the security of vital trade routes and the stability of regional hubs like Jebel Ali.

As the situation unfolds, stakeholders are closely monitoring developments and preparing for potential impacts on global trade and shipping markets.

The situation remains fluid, with potential shifts dependent on Israel’s response.

“Regardless of immediate outcomes, we anticipate heightened uncertainty in shipping markets. This comes at a time when tensions have already been simmering since the end of November, particularly in the Bab-al-Mandab strait and the Red Sea. Now, the Strait of Hormuz emerges as a new focal point, with significant implications for Dubai, specifically Jebel Ali, a core transhipment hub in the region.” said Christian Roeloffs, cofounder and CEO of Container xChange, an online platform for global container trading and leasing.

“As far back as December, we highlighted the vulnerabilities in key maritime routes, such as the Bab-al-Mandab strait, emphasizing the potential implications for global trade and shipping networks if the disruptions spread to e.g., the Strait of Hormuz. With the recent events, these concerns have flared up.

“The Strait of Hormuz’s strategic importance, coupled with its role as a key transit point for maritime traffic, emphasizes the significance of this latest escalation. Furthermore, the implications extend to major transhipment hubs like Jebel Ali in Dubai, amplifying the potential impact on regional trade and shipping operations.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and will keep you informed of any changes in container prices and leasing rates. As always, our priority is to support you through these dynamic market conditions.”

Premiums will increase

Roeloffs further cautioned that the war risk premiums will increase, leading to heightened volatility in shipping markets. “We anticipate that freight rates may rise in response to the increased tension and uncertainty. Furthermore, while the possibility of diversions around the region, potentially impacting hubs like Jebel Ali, exists, we believe it’s unlikely given the hub’s importance in global shipping networks.

“Recent incidents, including Iran’s seizure of vessels in the past, highlight the region’s geopolitical complexities. This latest escalation, in response to an attack on the Iranian embassy in Damascus, further emphasizes the fragility of regional stability and its potential impact on the global economy.

“As tensions continue to escalate, the question of what comes next looms large. The potential spread of conflict from the Red Sea into the Strait of Hormuz raises concerns about the broader regional and global implications of this localized conflict.”

For similar analysis and advisories, visit see here

Container xChange serves as a global online platform for container trading and leasing, connecting container users with owners, and streamlining the process of finding and exchanging containers.

Added 15 April 2024


IAPH speaks out on seizure of MSC Aries by Iran

MSC Aries (IMO 9857169), highjacked by Iranian commandos in the Hormuz strait. Picture by VesselFinder

Africa Ports & Ships

The International Association of Ports & Harbours (IAPH) has reacted to the seizure of the chartered container ship MSC Aries (IMO 9857169).

MSC Aries was en route to the Indian port of Nhava Sheva from the UAE port of Khalifa and was transiting the Strait of Hormuz in international waters on Saturday 13 April when boarded by Iranian commandos who took control of the 158,097-dwt ship.

The 14,300-TEU ship has a crew of 25 people on board who are effectively held captive after the seizure.

Following the seizure, the IAPH said it calls upon the immediate release of the international crew as well as the chartered vessel.

“We express our deepest concern for the welfare of the seafarers of this ship, which follows the hijacking of the crew of the Ro-Ro carrier Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea back in November. As stated by our colleagues at the International Chamber of Shipping, innocent seafarers are suffering directly as a consequence of geopolitical conflicts, and this has serious implications for the global maritime communities and the ports that serve them,” commented Patrick Verhoeven, IAPH’s Managing Director.

“The recent attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea and in the Gulf of Aden have impacted the fluidity of the global maritime transport chain, and specifically on trade and port activities in and around the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The attack today in the Gulf of Oman has the potential to further disrupt cargo transits in and out of the region, which will impact all of our member ports one way or another. This make it all the more important to share information and know how on how to respond to these constant disruptions, together,” Verhoeven said.

Iran maintains that the 366-metre long MSC Aries, which is flagged in Madeira, is owned by Israeli interests.

Added 15 April 2024


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Trade News: SOGET and Bureau Veritas to present new POS, PCS, and Single Window digital platforms in Abidjan

Port of Abidjan, Ivory Coast


SOGET and Bureau Veritas will present their new generations of digital platforms serving foreign trade in supply chains, ports and airports in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in the coming week.

The two entities will be present in Abidjan from 15 to 18 April 2024, to present their new products and services, namely the POS – Port Operating System, the PCS – Port Community System and the GUCE – Single Window for Foreign Commerce.

SOGET and Bureau Veritas: partners in digital transformation

SOGET is a software publisher dedicated to facilitating and securing international trade. SOGET is notably the publisher of S)ONE, fourth generation of Port Community System. The company has been present in Ivory Coast for the operation of a Port Operating System (POS) since 2013.

Read the rest of this report in the TRADE NEWS section available by CLICKING HERE

Added 11 April 2024


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Trade News : SOGET et Bureau Veritas présenter de nouvelles plateformes numériques POS, PCS et Guichet Unique à Abidjan

Port d’Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
  • SOGET et Bureau Veritas présenteront la semaine prochaine leurs nouvelles générations de plateformes numériques au service du commerce extérieur dans les chaînes d’approvisionnement, les ports et aéroports d’Abidjan, en Côte d’Ivoire.Les deux entités seront présentes à Abidjan du 15 au 18 avril 2024, pour présenter leurs nouveaux produits et services, à savoir le POS – Port Operating System, le PCS – Port Community System et le GUCE – Single Window for Foreign Commerce.

    SOGET et Bureau Veritas : partenaires dans la transformation digitale

    SOGET est un éditeur de logiciels dédié à faciliter et sécuriser le commerce international. SOGET est notamment l’éditeur de S)ONE, quatrième génération de Port Community System. La société est présente en Côte d’Ivoire pour l’exploitation d’un Système d’Exploitation Portuaire (POS) depuis 2013.

    L’un des défis majeurs était de permettre au Port Autonome d’Abidjan d’offrir un meilleur service lors des escales des navires. Ce POS connecte tous les opérateurs impliqués lors des visites des navires et a accru la compétitivité du PAA grâce, entre autres, à l’automatisation et à la rationalisation des procédures portuaires.

    Lisez le reste de ce rapport dans la section TRADE NEWS disponible par CLIQUEZ ICI

    Ajouté le 11 avril 2024


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AGL signs contract to manage Walvis Bay Multipurpose Bulk Terminal

Picture: Port of Walvis Bay

Africa Ports & Ships

Africa Global Logistics (AGL), a division of shipping giant MSC, is now the manager and operator of the Walvis Bay Multipurpose Bulk Terminal in Namibia. This becomes the first terminal concession for the Namibian port.

The official event to mark the signing took place on 20 March in the presence of Tony Stenning, Regional Director for AGL in South Africa and Andrew Kanime, CEO of the National Port Authority of Namibia, Namport.

This appointment follows an international call for tenders launched by Namport in January 2023. The decision demonstrates the confidence of the local authorities in AGL’s industrial project and reinforces its commitment to Africa’s economic transformation.

Located on the South Atlantic coast of Africa, the Port of Walvis Bay is a natural gateway for international trade and in particular, trade with South and North America and with Europe. This is because of its geographical position, which enables the to offer simplified connectivity between Southern Africa, Europe, Asia and America.

Picture: AGL

AGL says that as a designated partner to operate this strategic terminal, it is committed to promoting the development of the Namibian Corridor.

With its extensive maritime, port and logistics solutions, AGL has also given an undertaking to facilitate access to Southern African Development Community (SADC) markets and to invest in modern infrastructure to drive economic growth in the region.

Through its projects and investments, the terminal operator says it also aims to create opportunities for local businesses and communities, promoting employment, innovation and sustainable development.

“AGL’s objective is also to support Namibia’s energy, mining and industrial projects by offering integrated services that meet the highest international standards,” the company says in a statement.

“This collaboration will not only strengthen Namibia’s position on the global trading scene, but will also help boost the regional economy.”

Olivier de Noray, AGL’s Director of Ports and Terminals, said their vision is to make the Port of Walvis Bay a model of international connectivity, sustainable development and economic growth.

“Together, we will build a strategic hub for global trade, which will serve the prosperity of Namibia and Africa as a whole.”

Added 10 April 2024


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The bitumen tanker Atlantic Narval in Cape Town harbour on 30 March 2024, discharging bitumen into the FFS storage tank. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Pictures by ‘Dockrat’
Story by Jay Gates

The sudden rush of Red Sea diverted Passenger Liners into Southern African waters has, temporarily at least, tended to take the focus away from other types of vessels that have been arriving in South African ports. The focus has wavered ever so slightly away from not only Red Sea diverted cargo vessels, some of which have been of great interest, but also away from the arrival of vessels that have no connection to diversions of any kind, but are just as interesting.

Some of the vessels of great interest are linked to the drive, at least by some of the more progressive shipowners, towards a carbon neutral future. The recent scientific evidence that the last few months have been the warmest since records began tends to reinforce the view that climate change is very much upon us, and time is running out to do something about it. So to see new vessels arriving, which have been designed solely with that in mind, is something that can excite the casual maritime observer.

Back on 27th March, at 09:00 in the morning, the bitumen tanker ‘Atlantic Narval’ (IMO 9930210) arrived off the Table Bay anchorage, from Durban, and went to anchor for just over two days. Finally, at 11:00 in the late morning of 29th March, she entered Cape Town harbour, and proceeded into the Duncan Dock, going alongside the inner berth of the Eastern Mole, which is the tanker berth normally set aside for almost all bitumen tankers, as this berth is linked directly to the nearby tank storage facility, operated by FFS Refiners, and located opposite the berth, and which includes tanks exclusively used for bitumen storage.

Atlantic Narval. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Built in 2023 by Wuhu Shipyard at Wuhu in China, ‘Atlantic Narval’ is 169 metres in length and has a deadweight of 21,500 tons. She is powered by a single Wärtsilä 8V31DF eight cylinder, four stroke, main engine producing 7,376 bhp (5,500 kW) to drive a controllable pitch propeller for a service speed of 13 knots. The Wärtsilä main engine has a DF suffix, which indicates that the engine is configured for Dual Fuel operations, which points to her green credentials.

Her auxiliary machinery includes a single generator providing 1,400 kW, and a single generator providing 500 kW. As well as having a single Economiser exhaust gas boiler, ‘Atlantic Narval’ has two Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) boilers, which gives a strong hint as to what that Dual Fuel might be. Further green credentials are that she also has a hybrid electrical system, with a battery pack of 400 kWh, giving her a full Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) should a blackout occur.

For the casual maritime observer, who gives ‘Atlantic Narval’ the once over, it becomes very obvious, even without the knowledge of her boilers, that LNG is one of her fuel sources. That is because there are two large, cylindrical, fuel tanks sited on either side of her forward deck, with both clearly marked as LNG/LBG tanks, with the LBG being an acronym for Liquid Bio Gas.

Atlantic Narval. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

LBG is a 100% CO2 neutral source of energy. It is virtually identical to LNG, which is why it also turns into a liquid at -162°C, and it has the same clean burning qualities as LNG. As an extra bonus, LBG is an even more sustainable fuel than LNG, since it does not require extracting from fossil fuels, or from deep within the earth, to create it. That is because LBG comes from resources that are already part of the natural carbon circulation, such as cow manure.

For operations on a standard marine fuel, ‘Atlantic Narval’ uses Marine Gas Oil (MGO), and for which she has a fuel tank capacity of 350 m3. However, her two LNG/LBG tanks have a capacity of 700 m3 each, giving her a combined LNG/LBG capacity of 1,400 m3, which allows her to operate with a range of 11,700 nautical miles.

She is the first of two sisterships, both of whom were commissioned in 2023, and with her sistership having already visited South Africa last year. ‘Atlantic Narval’ was designed by FKAB Marine Design, of Uddevalla in Sweden, as an FKAB I15 class, which incorporates the FKAB patented F-Bow. She has an ice classification of ICE 1C, which allows her to navigate in first year Baltic Sea ice thickness of 0.4 metres.

Atlantic Narval. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Costing US$30 million (ZAR568.86 million) to build, ‘Atlantic Narval’ has ten cargo tanks, with a cargo carrying capacity of 21,100 m3 of bitumen. She can discharge three of her tanks simultaneously, and she is equipped with three cargo pumps, with each pump having a pumping capacity of 400 m3/hour.

Yesterday’s article on the ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ mentioned that one of her recent local research cruises was to the South Atlantic Ocean area known as The Cape Cauldron. The word cauldron could possibly be used to describe the state of the cargo carried on ‘Atlantic Narval’, as the carriage of bitumen requires it to be kept heated at a temperature of at least 200°C.

Built to the order of Tipco Maritime Co. Ltd., of Bangkok in Thailand, ‘Atlantic Narval’ is nominally owned by Baltic Narval Shipping Pte. Ltd., of Singapore, and operated by Continental Bitumen Ltd., of Dublin in Ireland, whose company houseflag she displays on her funnel. She is managed by Atlantic Narval Shipping Pte. Ltd., also of Singapore.

Atlantic Narval. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Continental Bitumen Ltd., are part of the Colas Group, of Boulogne Paris in France. Continental Bitumen Ltd. are wholly responsible for bitumen production, transport, storage, and sales within the whole African market. Management of ‘Baltic Narval’ is carried out by Atlantic Narval Shipping Pte. Ltd., also of Singapore.

The Colas Group are committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Investing in the ‘Atlantic Narval’ and LNG fuelled tankers can cut up to 90% of CO2 emissions compared to conventional tankers. Continental Bitumen Ltd. is the largest buyer of bitumen in the world, with 5.4 million tons in 2023. Continental Bitumen Ltd. concentrates in the Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Latin America markets, with terminals in South Africa.

Her visible draft, and her time alongside in Cape Town, which was of short duration, gave a strong indication that she was not carrying a full cargo of bitumen for the Cape. She had actually arrived on the South African coast at 16th March, from Luanda in Angola, and had first headed to Durban, where she had gone to anchor for a short time at the Umhlanga anchorage.

Atlantic Narval. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

On 17th March, at 09:00 in the morning, she had entered Durban harbour, proceeding to Maydon Wharf, where a new bitumen storage tank facility has recently been commissioned, and began discharging her bitumen cargo. She spent a full week discharging, and at 21:00 in the evening of 24th March, she sailed from Durban, bound for Cape Town.

Whilst the bitumen storage facility in Cape Town is owned, and operated, by FFS Refiners (Pty) Ltd., the facility on Maydon Wharf is owned, and operated, by their subsidiary company FFS Tank Terminals (Pty) Ltd (FFS TT). The facility at Maydon Wharf underwent a recent ten tank development, with the three of the tanks being for bitumen storage. The development was a major upgrade for the local bitumen industry, and cost ZAR350 million.

The new upgraded facility will make it easier for South Africa to absorb ever increasing imports of bitumen, by removing the need for ship to road tanker discharge. Local bitumen suppliers have at times been unable to accommodate all incoming cargoes moved in bitumen tankers, due to road congestion problems in Durban harbour.

Atlantic Narval. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Sadly, as a result of the closure of local refineries, where bitumen was one of the products produced, local bitumen availability has dropped dramatically. South Africa’s only refinery now producing bitumen is the Sasol-Total Energy joint venture Natref refinery, located at Sasolburg in the Free State.

Whenever the Natref refinery closes for annual maintenance it means that no bitumen whatsoever is being produced in South Africa, which is a far cry from just four short years ago when the country produced 100% of its needs domestically, and exported surplus bitumen across the whole of Southern Africa, and to the islands of the Indian Ocean.

This current sad state of affairs is brought into focus when figures for the first four months of 2023 show that a total of 70,000 tons of bitumen had to be imported into Durban and Cape Town. This compares to just 4,600 tons being imported in the same period in 2022, and only 2021 seeing the first ever bitumen imports, with 10,000 tons for the whole year. No bitumen was imported in 2020 or 2019, and by the end of 2023, more than 180,000 tons of bitumen had been imported into South Africa through Durban and Cape Town.

Atlantic Narval. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

For her owners, ‘Atlantic Narval’ is able to reduce her EEDI rating by 20% with her use of LNG/LBG as a fuel. The use of LNG reduces NOx emissions by up to 80%, and almost eliminates SOx, and particulate matter (PM). Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions can be reduced by up to 23% with this modern engine technology. The use of LBG fuel also offers even further reductions of her carbon emissions.

After less than 36 hours alongside in Cape Town ‘Atlantic Narval’ was ready for departure, and at 19:00 in the evening of 30th March she sailed from Cape Town, bound back to Luanda in Angola. After loading in Luanda, she sailed on 6th April, initially bound for Gibraltar. An AIS destination of the port of Gibraltar usually indicates either a bunker call, or for awaiting orders.

Added 11 April 2024


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DOF awarded West African subsea contract, utilises Maersk Installer

The offshore support vessel Maersk Installer, which will handle a contract off West Africa on behalf of Shell. Picture: VesselFinder

Africa Ports & Ships

Norwegian integrated offshore company DOF has been awarded a contract for a large construction transport & installation (T&I) project in West Africa.

The project includes the installation of flexible product and various subsea structures.

To facilitate the project work, DOF has arranged to utilise the offshore support vessel Maersk Installer (IMO 9753911) for the project, with a duration of between 100 – 150 days.

“With the recently announced award from Shell this is the second large job won for the Maersk Installer in the last few weeks,” said Mons S Aase, DOF Group ASA chief executive.

“After this award the backlog for Maersk Installer is strong in 2nd half 2024. This award once again demonstrates DOF`s capability to deliver deep-water installation scopes to the energy sector.

“We look forward to delivering this project safely to our client.”

According to DOF, preparations have already started, and offshore execution is planned for Q3, 2024. The contract value is in the range USD 19 – 29 million.

DOF’s anchor handling tug (AHT) Skandi Skansen that will anchor and install a FPSO off the Ivory Coast. Picture: DOF

FPSO & Skandi Skansen

The work involving the above is the second recent and not insignificant contract awarded to DOF for West Africa. Previously, Altera Infrastructures contracted the Norwegian company to install a cylindrical floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel and a floating storage unit (FSO) at Eni’s oil and gas development offshore Côte d’Ivoire.

For that installation the anchor handling vessel Skandi Skansen (IMO 9459759) is responsible for the work, which is expected to take more than 130 vessel days.

Added 10 April 2024


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In Conversation:West Africa’s falling fish stocks: illegal Chinese trawlers, climate change and artisanal fishing fleets to blame

Africa Ports & Ships

Robert Paarlberg, Harvard University

Average fish catches by traditional fishing communities along the west African coast have declined significantly over the past three decades.

Along the Gulf of Guinea, stretching from Côte d’Ivoire to Nigeria, fishers launch their wooden canoes from the beach to catch small pelagic fish, like sardines and anchovies, which they sell into local informal markets to make a living. They have done this for generations, but since the 1990s, a decline in the catch has put their livelihoods at risk.

In Ghana, total landings of small pelagic fish fell by 59% between 1993 and 2019, despite increased fishing efforts. Landings of Sardinella aurita, a favoured species, declined from 119,000 tonnes in 1992 to just 11,834 tonnes in 2019.

Côte d’Ivoire has experienced a parallel fisheries decline, with its catch plummeting nearly 40% between 2003 and 2020.

The continuing decline in fish catches has serious implications for some of the poorest families in the region. Ghana, for example, has more than 200,000 active fishers. More than two million others along the value chain, including thousands of women who process and sell fish at markets along the coast, are now at risk as well. Already living at or below the international poverty line (US$2.15 per person per day), these communities now face further income loss. In essence, they are falling deeper into poverty.

I have researched food and agricultural policy in a dozen African countries over the past three decades, but the current west African coastal fishing crisis in the Gulf of Guinea is complex because it has multiple and reinforcing origins: climate change, illegal fishing by China, and too many African canoes in the water.

My work on this crisis is part of a three-year study (2023-2025) funded by the Salata Institute at Harvard University. To pursue this work I spent three weeks in 2023 visiting coastal communities in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria. On a return trip to Ghana in 2024, I will share the preliminary findings with local stakeholders, including fishing community leaders, local advocates and government officials. Meanwhile I set out the main findings below.


Among the multiple threats from climate change, ocean warming is probably the least appreciated. Plenty of warming is experienced on land, but roughly 90% of the extra heat trapped by greenhouse gas is absorbed into the ocean. This helps contain warming on land in the short run, but in the long run it brings a cascade of larger climate threats.

When ocean waters warm they expand in volume, and this thermal expansion is now the source of almost half of all sea-level rise. Warmer ocean waters also hold less oxygen, creating a threat to all marine life. But for human populations that catch fish for a living, ocean warming becomes an acute threat when it results in fish stock migrations.

Fish are cold-blooded, so if the water becomes too warm the only means they have to regulate their body temperature is to move away. This is what they have been doing along the warming equatorial currents in the Gulf of Guinea, and it accounts for some of the fish catch decline.

Dynamic bioclimate models allow us to project what continued ocean warming of this kind will do to Africa’s fish stocks. The models are widely used to forecast range shifts of organisms due to climate change and predict the eventual ranges of invasive species, among others.

One study found that the maximum catch potential for Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria would be reduced 50% by mid-century, compared to a zero ocean warming scenario. Another study published in 2018 was in rough agreement. It projected that climate change alone would reduce maximum catch potential in the Guinea Current System by 30% or more by 2050, even if the fisheries were well managed.

Unfortunately, Africa’s coastal fisheries are not being well managed.

Chinese trawlers

Lax regulation of international fishing trawlers is a second source of the recent fish catch decline.

Countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Côte’ d’Ivoire have laws that prevent foreign trawlers from getting a licence to fish within national exclusive economic zones, which extend 200 nautical miles beyond territorial seas. However, Chinese trawlers get around this barrier by using local companies as legal “fronts”. Chinese companies, thinly disguised as Ghanaian companies, currently own over 90% of Ghana’s licensed bottom trawlers. The Chinese vessels are damaging fish stocks by using illegal nets to catch too many undersized fish, including juveniles that have not yet had a chance to reproduce.

Chinese trawlers are occasionally fined for illegal practices in Ghana, but some fail to pay the fines and still do not lose their licence. This damaging non-enforcement of fishing laws is hard to understand, since the foreigners pay minimal taxes and licence fees, and most of the fish they catch are exported, adding almost nothing to national food supplies.

Too many canoes

Traditional fisherfolk in west Africa like to blame Chinese trawlers for diminished stocks of fish, but the increased fishing activities of their own canoes have been at least as damaging.

In west Africa there are now seven times as many canoes engaged in ocean fishing as there were in 1950. Today’s canoes have larger nets and bigger crews, and many have powerful outboard engines.

This expansion of the region’s artisanal fishing fleet has been driven by powerful demographic trends, including rapid rates of population growth plus steady human migrations towards the coast to escape impoverished rural farming.

This is why, between 1960 and 2023, the leading coastal cities in Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire saw population increases of at least seven-fold (Accra) and in some cases 30-fold (Abidjan). Having more people on the coast increases commercial demand for fish consumption while providing the added labour needed to catch, process and market the fish.

Despite the recent fish catch decline, canoe numbers have continued to increase; in Ghana there were 8,000 canoes in 1990, but by 2017 there were 13,650.

New livelihoods

Most traditional fishing communities will have to find new sources of income to survive. This won’t be easy since roughly 40% of coastal fishermen in Ghana and Nigeria have no formal education. Non-fishing jobs will increase in the fast-growing coastal economy. If the children of today’s fishing families stay in school long enough to complete a secondary education, most will be able to make the shift.

One policy measure to keep them in school would be to provide monthly cash transfers conditioned on school enrolment and attendance. Such conditional cash transfers have been producing results in other low- and middle-income regions. Data from 75 reports drawing on 35 studies show that conditional cash transfer policies can lead to a 60% increase in school enrolment.

Cash transfer policies are already in use in west Africa. Since 2008 Ghana has operated the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty programme, providing cash and health insurance to the elderly poor, the disabled, pregnant women and infants. Expanding this program to poor coastal fishing families with school-aged children could promote education. For fishing communities threatened by falling fish stocks, this might be a path to future livelihood protection.The Conversation

Robert Paarlberg, Associate, Sustainability Science, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Added 10 April 2024


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WHARF TALK: Research Seismic Survey vessel – MARCUS G. LANGSETH

The US research seismic survey vessel, Marcus G. Langseth, in Cape Town harbour, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Pictures by ‘Dockrat’
Story by Jay Gates

With all things considered, one might think that the collective Ecowarriors of South Africa are out demonstrating every time a Seismic Survey vessel comes to town. Of course, that isn’t true. A spurious case about a seismic survey vessel conducting an oil and gas survey for Shell, off the South and East coast of South Africa did end up with a victory for the Greens, with the survey being curtailed with a court order, and the seismic survey vessel sailing away to conduct a survey somewhere else, and without interference from ill-informed environmentalists.

However, since then there have been two full surveys carried out by Seismic Survey vessels off the west coast of South Africa, with the latest one only just having been completed, and her chase boats using Cape Town for logistical supply requirements, and the previous Seismic Survey vessel preparing for her survey by using Cape Town as her preparation base. And all the while without a single peep from the Ecowarriors. And let’s not mention the half dozen surveys carried out off the Orange River mouth, but in Namibian waters. Who knew about them?

But when is a Seismic Survey vessel not a Seismic Survey vessel? Is it when the survey is not being conducted by the oil and gas industry? Or is it when the survey is being conducted so far offshore that the usual criticisms don’t have much weight? Or is it when the vessel in question is a vessel owned by a university, and conducting her seismic work for the good of the human race? The latter question is true, because there is one such seismic research vessel sailing the seven seas, trailing her airguns, and building up an academic picture of the Earth’s crust.

Back on 23rd March, at 08:00 in the morning, the Research Seismic Survey vessel ‘RV Marcus G. Langseth’ (IMO 9010137) arrived off Cape Town, at the end of a 51 day research cruise that had started in Takoradi in Ghana. She entered Cape Town harbour and, surprisingly, proceeded into the Ben Schoeman Dock, and was placed alongside berth 501, at the Dormac engineering facility, which indicated that some shoreside engineering assistance may have been required.

Marcus G Langseth. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Built in 1991 by Ulstein Verft AS at Ulsteinvik in Norway, ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ is 72 metres in length and has a gross registered tonnage of 3,834 tons. She is powered by two Bergen BD32:M6 six cylinder, four stroke, main engines producing 3,550 bhp (2,650 kW) each, driving two ducted Ulstein 1500 AGSC controllable pitch propellers, each with a Becker articulated, high efficiency rudder, to give her a transit speed of 13 knots. For her seismic survey work she tows her seismic arrays between 6 and 11 knots.

Her auxiliary machinery includes a Cummins KTA38 G1 generator providing 720 kW, a Caterpillar 3512 TA generator providing 840 kW, and a Caterpillar 3516 generator, whose purpose is to provide power to her two seismic air compressors. For added manoeuvrability she has an Ulstein 150 TV bow transverse thruster providing 590 kW.

Marcus G Langseth. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Designed by Ulstein International AS as a UT743 design, ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ is one of two sisterships, originally built as a commercial seismic survey vessel, for oil and gas industry support, operated by Western Geophysical, and named ‘Western Legend’. She has an ice classification of ICE 1C, which allows her to navigate in first year Baltic Sea ice thickness of 0.4 metres. She has a cruising range of 13,500 nautical miles.

She was sold in 2004 to the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the United States Government. She was then rebuilt, converted, modified, and outfitted as a research seismic survey vessel, and entered service in 2008. The NSF transferred ownership of ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ to the Trustees of Columbia University, at Palisades in the US State of New York. She is operated by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, at Palisades, and is managed by the Office of Marine Operations of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Marcus G Langseth. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

As a research vessel, ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ is very well equipped for her seismic and oceanographic research, and her scientific fit includes a sub bottom profiler, deep ocean multibeam swath bottom mapping system, multibeam 3D surveying system, navigational echosounder, gravimeter, magnetometer, acoustic doppler current profiler, expendable bathythermograph (XBT) launcher, and a conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) system.

She has a total of six laboratories, with her laboratory space including a Seismic control and support lab with a huge area of 218 m2, a wet lab with an area of 57 m2, and four dry labs ranging in size from 21 m2, up to 53 m2. She carries a crew of 20, and has accommodation for a scientific complement of 35.

Marcus G Langseth. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

She has a seismic recording system which includes four streamer array cables which are 6.75 kilometres in length, and which are capable of being configured for single, 2D, dual, or 3d source arrays. She can operate with up to 10 acoustic airguns, with the streamer cables being made up of 150 metre sections, with 12 hydrophones being fitted to each section.

She is unique as a seismic acquisition vessel, being the only deepwater, oceanic, seismic research vessel in the United States University National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) vessel fleet. For her seismology research she has a bollard pull of 86 tons, and for marine mammal protection she operates a passive acoustic monitoring streamer, which is backed up with a permanent lookout, placed in an elevated lookout station. Seismic operations are suspended if marine mammals are observed close to the vessel.

The arrival of ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ in Cape Town, on 23rd March, came at the end of the Global Ocean Ship-based Hydrographic Investigations Programme (GO-SHIP). The focus of the GO-SHIP cruise is to determine the changes in human activity created CO2, distributions and fluxes in the South Atlantic Ocean. The GO-SHIP programme follows a 10 year cycle, by repeating a 2010 cruise track.

Marcus G Langseth. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

The cruise followed the Greenwich Meridian (0°), from a point offshore West Africa, as far south as 54° South, with scientific stations taking place at half degree intervals. Decadal variations of CO2, oxygen, and temperature distributions are strongly influenced by climate change and natural processes. The GO-SHIP cruises are the only means to obtain climate quality data to study climate changes that impacts the oceans.

After eight days alongside, replenished, and with any engineering issues resolved, ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ sailed from Cape Town on 31st March, at 14:00 in the afternoon. Her departure was to embark on a short 5 day research cruise southwest of South Africa, in an area known as the Cape Cauldron Hotspot. The Cape Cauldron evokes the nautical perspective of the turbulent meeting of the waters of the South Atlantic Ocean and the waters of the South Indian Ocean.

The cruise was to study inter-ocean energy exchange mechanisms within the Cape Cauldron Hotspot. As part of the Agulhas Current Retroflection system in the Cape Basin, a series of anti-cyclonic, and cyclonic, eddies are formed. Known as ‘Agulhas Rings’, and typically around 200 km in diameter, the rings have been observed to merge, split, deform, and to reconnect back into the Agulhas Current Retroflection system.

Marcus G Langseth. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

After this short cruise, ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ returned to Cape Town on 5th April, at 07:00 in the morning. She entered Cape Town harbour once more, proceeding back into the Duncan Dock, but on this occasion she went alongside the outer berth of the Eastern Mole, which is a sure sign that her call was to be short, and for purposes on uplifting bunkers, and taking on stores and fresh provisions. After just under 40 hours alongside, ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ sailed from Cape Town, bound for Walvis Bay in Namibia, for the start of her next research cruise.

Her next research cruise will sail from Walvis Bay on 13th April, and will conduct research into Nitrous Oxide sources across an oxygen gradient in the Northern Benguela Current Upwelling System. Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas that also contributes to ozone destruction in the upper atmosphere. Sources of nitrous oxide to the atmosphere involve the activity of microbes and bacteria in the ocean, particularly where oxygen is scarce.

Although marine environments low in dissolved oxygen occur in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, much of what is known about microbial nitrous oxide production in the ocean is based on data from the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Substantially less research has focused on the Eastern Tropical Atlantic, such as the northern Benguela Upwelling System (nBUS), where high nitrous oxide fluxes have been observed.

Marcus G Langseth. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

On completion of this cruise, ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ will return to Walvis Bay on 2nd May. She will then conduct a positioning cruise back to the United States, where she will arrive at Woods Hole, in the State of Massachusetts, and the home of the famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, from where Doctor Bob Ballard sailed to discover the wreck of ‘RMS Titanic’ in 1985.

In March 2009, the Chinese authorities refused to give permission for ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ to conduct a passage through the Taiwan Strait that separates the two countries. It is very rare for a merchant vessel to be denied such a passage under freedom of navigation rights. It is quite likely that the Chinese state viewed any American research vessel to be a Spyship. At the time, as now, there were both economic and military tensions between China and the United States.

In August 2009, an event took place that mirrors the antics of the Environmentalists in South Africa who tried to prevent a Seismic Survey taking place off the Wild Coast. A gaggle of Canadian environmental groups attempted to prevent ‘Marcus G. Langseth’ conducting a seismic survey, some 135 nautical miles off Vancouver Island, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, by applying to a court for the survey to be stopped.

Marcus G Langseth. Cape Town, 30 March 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

As with the South African case, the legal challenge was based on unsupported claims that the seismic survey would damage, or kill, marine mammals, namely Whales, in the survey area. The challenge delayed the survey by just one day. Unlike the South African court decision, the Judge in the Canadian Federal Law Court denied the application, citing that there was no evidence to show that the survey would present any risks to Whales in the survey area.

For the nomenclature aficionado, she is named after Professor Marcus Gerhardt Langseth, who was a pioneering earth scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, where he worked for 40 years, passing away in 1997. He developed one of the first modern instruments for measuring the flow of heat through the Earth’s upper layers.

He relentlessly gathered heat flow measurements from all of the Earth’s oceans, and with the data collected, he compiled the first global picture of how, and where, heat flowed near the Earth’s surface. It helped prove the emerging theory of plate tectonics, and revealed how the ocean floor evolved. Professor. Langseth’s global heat-flow explorations also led to the discovery of hydrothermal vent systems at the mid-ocean ridges.

Added 9 April 2024


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Op Aspides repels 11 Red Sea attacks in two months

Gulf of Aden and lower Red Sea. Map: Wikimedia Commons / Norman Einstein


In less than two months the newest European Union (EU) naval force – Operation Aspides concentrated on the Red Sea – repelled 11 attacks and escorted close to 70 ships in the Indian Ocean inlet between Africa and Asia.

Access to the Red Sea from the south is via the Bab-el-Mandeb strait with the Suez Canal the northern entrance/exit.

Speaking at the first Aspides media briefing, EU Vice President Josep Borrell said the operation was a clear and fast response to the deteriorating situation in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The root cause was and remains attacks by Houthis on shipping – merchant and naval – a threat to maritime security as well as violating international law and freedom of navigation, according to the EU supremo.

Houthi attacks, he said, create “significant damage and cost lives” as well as negatively affecting regional economies and environmental security.

“This increases costs. The costs of shipped goods are affected. Even the population in Yemen are paying the consequences because they are further deprived from life-saving assistance. It increases the costs of food on economies in the region, already affected by the consequences of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Houthi attacks mean maritime traffic was redirected around the Cape of Good Hope – up to 14 days more at sea for a single transit, he told the briefing, adding the cost of a container from China to Europe has doubled with insurance up by 60%.

“So,” Borrell pointed out, “it was necessary to intervene.”

To date Aspides, with four frigates and a maritime patrol aircraft in its arsenal, repelled 11 attacks and provided safe passage to 69 ships by way of escort.

Borrell stressed the defensive aspect of Aspides saying neither it nor the EU was engaged in operations on land against the Houthis – “our vessels operate in self-defence and to protect targeted ships.”

Aspides and the EU co-operate with the United States (US) led Operation Prosperity Guardian and the French led EU tasking Operation Agenor, the military component of EMASoH (European-led Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz).

Sister EU operation Atalanta in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden is also on the Aspides co-operation list via the EU Maritime Security Centre in the French port city Brest.

Written by defenceWeb and republished with permission. The original article can be found here

Added 9 April 2024


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IMO S-G welcomes delegates to Facilitation Committee (FAL 48)

Mr Arsenio Dominguez, IMO Secretary-General

Edited by Paul Ridgway
Africa Ports & Ships

IMO Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez gave a welcome message to delegates at the opening session at IMO HQ on 8 April and highlights are published below.

He said: “Welcome to the forty-eighth session of the IMO Facilitation Committee.

“I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my call for the immediate release of the Galaxy Leader and its crew, as well as the 23 crew members of Bangladesh nationality aboard the MV Abdullah, who remain hijacked since November 2023 and March 2024, respectively.

“The global economy depends on international shipping and seafarers, and therefore they should not be the subject of any type of attacks.

“I also wish to express my deepest sympathy to the people of the United States of America for the major accident that occurred on 26 March in Baltimore, when the container ship Dali collided with a pier on the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, and all those impacted by this unfortunate event. We expect that an investigation report will be submitted to IMO in due course.

“Unfortunately I have also been informed about an incident involving a passenger ship off the coast of Mozambique. We are getting additional information as we speak and will present this to the Committee later this week*.

“This year’s World Maritime theme is: Navigating the future: safety first! This theme is a pledge to uphold the highest standards of safety in every aspect of this Organization’s regulatory work while facing the challenges of a fast-changing world, challenges such as climate change; developments in technology, artificial intelligence; and new threats faced by the shipping industry.

“In reflecting on our journey towards digitalization, a significant achievement emerges: the decision by this Committee in 2022 to make mandatory the implementation of maritime single windows in ports worldwide from 1 January 2024. This decision from FAL 46 represents a major stride for the maritime community. It simplifies the clearance processes for ships, cargo, and people, reducing the administrative burden on our crews and stakeholders, thereby increasing the efficiency of our ports.

“The Organization has successfully conducted technical cooperation activities to assist countries in deploying maritime single windows, often in collaboration with donor countries. I commend Norway and Singapore, for their contributions to projects in Antigua and Barbuda and Angola in recent years.

“As we embark on the work of FAL 48, among other things, you are expected to finalise the new version of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business, with the inclusion of new data sets. The Compendium is a critical instrument to accelerate digitalization in shipping business and in the ship/port interface, and I would like to thank Finland, Germany, Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the port of Rotterdam for the contribution of funds to the IMO Compendium project, to ensure its sustainability.

* It is presumed the S-G is referring to the tragic loss of life near Mozambique Island earlier this week, in which over 100 people died when their fishing vessel being used as a ferry capsized. See that report here.

Added 9 April 2024


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Hefty jail sentences for two oil pipeline thieves

Transnet Pipelines from Durban to the interior. Picture: TL

Africa Ports & Ships

Transnet Pipelines has welcomed the conviction and hefty sentences of two fuel theft perpetrators by the Newcastle Regional Court on Monday.

This outcome follows an operation conducted by The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), in collaboration with local law enforcement. It resulted in the apprehension of four suspects involved in crude oil theft at a Transnet pipeline near the Karbochem factory in Newcastle.

The arrests were made during a coordinated operation on the evening of 19 July 2021 and the morning of 20 July 2021, during which 39,000 litres of stolen crude oil were recovered from the scene.

According to Transnet Pipelines, the conviction and sentencing underscore the commitment of itself and law enforcement agencies to combat theft and vandalism of essential infrastructure.

“This conviction continues to send a strong message to all criminals and crime syndicates that tampering with our critical and essential infrastructure will not be tolerated, and that the full might of the law will be enforced against anyone caught doing so,” said Sibongiseni Khathi, TPL Acting Chief Executive.


Accused No. 1, McDonald Ndlovu, received 15 years for tampering with essential infrastructure on Charge 1, and 15 years on Charge 2 for fuel theft.

Accused No. 2, Boy Tumelo Matabatha received 12 years on Charge 1 for tampering with essential infrastructure, and 12 years on Charge 2 for fuel theft.

An arrest warrant has been issued for a third suspect, who is currently evading authorities. Law enforcement agencies are actively pursuing him. A fourth suspect cooperated with the state and turned witness.

Members of the public are urged to report any suspicious activities along the Transnet pipeline to Tip-Offs Anonymous Hotline on 0800 003 056.

Added 9 April 2024


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MSC provides North Africa with improved weekly Black Sea Georgia service

MSC ship at Batumi International Container Terminal, Georgia. Picture: ICTSI-BICT

Africa Ports & Ships

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) will from mid April offer enhanced connectivity between North Africa and Black Sea ports including Georgia’s Batumi.

The weekly service will offer a weekly port rotation of: Gioia Tauro, Burgas (Bulgaria), Batumi (Georgia), Tekirdağ, Derince, Aliaga, Marsaxlokk, Algiers, Casablanca, Sines, Valencia, Gioia Tauro.

The revised rotation includes more direct ports and shorter transit times.

According to Nikoloz Gogoli, ICTSI’s Batumi International Container Terminal (BICT) CEO, MSC’s enhanced service can help boost Georgia’s foreign trade by establishing a direct link with North Africa, Portugal and Spain.

“The addition of direct ports gives businesses access to more locations, opening new trade routes and providing more options for shipping goods between Batumi and Gioia Tauro.”

BICT is operated by ICTSI (International Container Terminal Services, Inc).

Port rotation for the MSC Gioia Tauro – Batumi service. Map: MSC
Added 9 April 2024


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APM Terminals issues challenge to DCT Pier 2 concessioning

Durban Container Terminal, now subject to an interim interdict to challenge the validity of appointing ICTSi to operate the terminal

Terry Hutson
Africa Ports & Ships

The plan to bring in an experienced private terminal operator to help run the Durban Container Terminal Pier 2, South Africa’s busiest, faces a red light after another competitor issues a legal challenge.

Danish shipping and logistics giant Maersk has confirmed it has applied in the Durban High Court for an interdict to prevent the Philippines’ International Container Terminal Services, Incorporated (ICTSI) from taking a 50% less one share in managing and operating DCT Pier 2.

It is understood APM Terminals, a subsidiary of Maersk, is seeking interim interdictory relief, and a review of the constitutionality and lawfulness of the tender awarded to ICTSI.

ICTSI was intended to commence its involvement in the terminal shortly after 1 April 2024, alongside the current terminal operator Transnet Port Terminals (TPT). This would have been the first time that one of South Africa’s container terminals would have been effectively concessioned for a period of 25 years, though no-one is supposed to use the ‘C’ word out loud or in print.

Transnet prefers to refer to its preferred bidder as ‘a partnership’, but call it a naartjie or a tangerine, the taste remains much the same.

It was something of a surprise when ICTSI was announced as the preferred bidder last year, even though the Manila-based group is one of the world’s largest terminal operators. ICTSI has a relatively small presence in Africa however whereas some of the other terminal operators have a greater presence and experience in African terminal operations.

For the wider South African logistics industry, including cargo owners, the inevitable legal delay will be a strong disappointment as the industry was anticipating rapid improvements with the operation of Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest and busiest container terminal.

Productivity at DCT Pier 2 remains well below target with crane moves per hour still around the 16-18 mark on a good day and waiting time for ships remaining is at between 21-25 days, according to an industry report. TPT declines to make available any of its productivity levels despite requests for such information.

Ship-to-Shore (STS) crane breakdowns and straddle carriers’ reliability and availability are also ongoing problems, with 64 straddles available from an optimal 97. The terminal recovery, according to reports, is now estimated at between 3 and 5 months, a dateline that continues to move out.

Even issues such as scheduling truck arrivals continues to impact import collection and export stacking.

It’s understood that Transnet intends opposing the interdict application, an understandable response but one that will add to the delay.

Maersk says it is not their intention to delay the process but wishes to ensure the process is lawful and that a proper, fair and compliant process has been followed.

They point out that the process of finding a ‘partner’ began in 2022, but that they only received final confirmation that Transnet would proceed with ICTSI as the preferred bidder, on 1 March 2024.

In general, there is a belief that Transnet was always going to shy away from appointing a shipping company to operate the terminal, for fear that a bias would become evident. Several shipping companies, Maersk and MSC among them, now operate large and widespread container and multipurpose terminals as subsidiary companies.

Added 8 April 2024


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WHARF TALK: Neopanamax cruise ship – MSC SPLENDIDA

MSC Splendida, arrives in Durban on 22 November 2023 to begin her 2023/2024 cruising season in Southern Africa. This picture by Trevor Jones

Pictures by ‘Dockrat’
Trevor Jones
Jumaine Kruger
Story by Jay Gates

Sadly, as with life, everything has to have an ending. And so it is with the annual cruising season in South Africa. All of the short season cruise liners have already long since departed, and what is left to come are those grand liners on their annual round the world cruises, or those now being positioned back to their northern hemisphere summer season base cruising ports, as a result of being diverted away from the Red Sea and the idiocy of the Houthi menace.

All that was left, as the cruise season peters out, is the constant of the entire Southern African summer season, that of the mostly Durban based MSC passenger liner, a constant that has been constantly updating with bigger, and some would say, better vessels as the years have gone on. This season, the 2023-2024 season, the biggest MSC passenger liner yet was placed on the seasonal cruise programme out of Durban, and latterly Cape Town. The Cape Town mini season is now done, and the whole of the entire seasonal programme has come to an end.

On 3rd April, at 08:00 in the morning, the NeoPanamax passenger cruise liner ‘MSC Splendida’ (IMO 9359806) arrived off Cape Town, from Walvis Bay in Namibia, at the end of her final 2024 return trip cruise to, and from, Cape Town. She entered Cape Town harbour, proceeding into the Duncan Dock, and as always, was placed alongside E berth, and the Passenger Cruise Terminal, to conduct her final turnaround in the Mother City.

MSC Splendida. Cape Town, 3 April 2024. Pictures by ‘Dockrat’

Built in 2009 by the STX Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard at St. Nazaire in France, ‘MSC Splendida’ is 333 metres in length and has a gross registered tonnage of 137,936 tons. To give the casual maritime observer an idea of what 333 metres might equate to, if you stood ‘MSC Splendida’ upright on her stern, she would be taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which is 330 metres in height, a height which includes her TV antennas at the very top of the tower.

A diesel electric vessel, ‘MSC Splendida’ is powered by five Wärtsilä 16V46C generators providing 16,800 kW each, and three Wärtsilä 12V46C generators providing 12,600 kW each, giving her a potential power output of 71,400 kW, which is utilised for both propulsion and domestic power requirements. Power is transferred to two Converteam electric motors of 20,200 kW each, which drive two fixed pitch propellers for a service speed of 22 knots.

MSC Splendida. Cape Town, 3 April 2024. Pictures by ‘Dockrat’

Her auxiliary machinery includes an emergency generator providing 1,360 kW. She has no less than five CHR exhaust gas boilers, and two CHO oil fired boilers. For added manoeuvrability she has three bow transverse thrusters, and two stern transverse thrusters. For passenger comfort is adverse weather and rough sea conditions, ‘MSC Splendida’ is fitted with fin stabilisers. Her hull is coated in advanced Fluoro-Polymer ‘Foul Release’ paint.

One of two sisterships, known as the Fantasia Class, ‘MSC Splendida’ was designed by De Jorio Design International SA, of Lugano in Switzerland, and she was built at a cost of US$550 million (ZAR10.28 billion). She was christened by the Italian film star Sophia Loren, and ‘MSC Splendida’ is owned by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Group, of Geneva in Switzerland, and she is both operated and managed by MSC Crociere SA, of Basel in Switzerland. She was originally going to be named ‘MSC Serenata’, before being given the name of ‘MSC Splendida’.

MSC Splendida. Cape Town, 3 April 2024. Pictures by ‘Dockrat’

She has a total of 18 decks, with 15 of the decks being given over to passenger cabins and passenger facilities. She can carry a total of 3,900 passengers, who are looked after by a crew of 1,313. She has a total of 1,637 cabins, of which 1,256 of them have balconies, which equates to 82% of the total cabins available.

She has a wide variety of cabins available, to suit all pockets, with her cabin sizes ranging from Yacht Club with an area of 53 m2, Grand Suite with an area of 41 m2, Standard Suite with an area of 36 m2, Balcony Cabin with an area of 20 m2, Oceanview cabin with an area of 18m2, and Interior cabin with an area of 17 m2.

Her extensive facilities includes eight restaurants, ten bars, three lounges, two cafés, theatre, casino, cinema, card room, library, business centre, art gallery, boutiques, kids club, teens club, and an extensive wellness centre that includes spa, gymnasium, beauty salon, sauna, therapy rooms, steam rooms, therapy rooms, relaxation rooms, treatment rooms, massage rooms and yoga rooms. She has no less than five swimming pools and 14 Jacuzzi and Whirlpools. She has a sports centre that includes a waterslide, table tennis tables, Fussball tables, squash court, football pitch, shuffleboards, a Formula One driving simulator, and a jogging track.

MSC Splendida. Cape Town, 3 April 2024. Pictures by ‘Dockrat’

One of the unique fittings of ‘MSC Splendida’ is that of her ship’s horn. It is a programmable horn, and one that is capable of playing musical tunes. It is able to sound off with ‘We will rock you’ by Queen, ‘We are the champions’, also by Queen, ‘Seven nation army’ by the White Stripes, the latter being a Sports Anthem, and a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to you’.

Her arrival in Durban back in late November 2023, to start the 2023-2024 summer cruising season began on 24th November, and up to 15th March 2024 included three short Indian Ocean cruises to nowhere, one longer cruise to the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Reunion, and a total of 25 cruises to the Mozambique tropical resort locations of Pomene and Portuguese Island. On 15th March ‘MSC Splendida’ sailed from Durban, for a coastal cruise bound for Cape Town, where she was to conduct a short series of cruises.

MSC Splendida. Cape Town, 3 April 2024. Pictures by ‘Dockrat’

She arrived in Cape Town on 18th March, and sailed that evening to begin her cruise programme out of Cape Town, which was to consist of four cruises to Walvis Bay in Namibia, with each cruise consisting of four days each. Her final arrival back in Cape Town was on 3rd April. At 17:00 on the evening of 3rd April, ‘MSC Splendida’ sailed from Cape Town, possibly for the last time ever, for her final cruise of the season, and a three day coastal cruise back to Durban.

She arrived off the Durban Bluff on 6th April, at 03:00 in the early morning, and proceeded into Durban harbour, going alongside at the new Nelson Mandela Cruise Terminal at the Point. By 15:00 on the afternoon of the 6th April, ‘MSC Splendida’ was ready to sail from Durban for her return voyage back to Genoa. It was originally scheduled to be a full passenger cruise back to Genoa, via the Suez Canal, for her to begin her European summer cruising season.

MSC Splendida. Cape Town, 3 April 2024. Pictures by ‘Dockrat’

The cruise schedule for ‘MSC Splendida’ was for a 24 night cruise, starting on 6th April, and with the original itinerary of Durban – La Possession (Reunion)- Port Louis (Mauritius)- Suez Canal transit- Limassol (Cyprus)- Rhodes (Greece)- Messina- Naples- Civitavecchia- Genoa (all Italy), with an arrival in Genoa of 30th April.

However, as a result of the Houthi menace in the Red Sea, MSC Cruises made the decision that all of her cruise liners that were in the Indian Ocean, and due to make their final season voyages back to the Mediterranean, via the Suez Canal, were instead to be positioned back via the Cape sea route. This also applied to ‘MSC Splendida’.

MSC Splendida. Durban 5 April 2023. Farewell, South Africa! Picture by Jumaine Kruger

Not only that, but in order for them to get back in time to begin their summer schedules, that the voyage would be conducted with no passengers aboard , and make no port calls, other than any necessary bunker stops en route to Genoa. On sailing from Durban at 15:00 on 6th April, ‘MSC Splendida’ set her AIS to show her next destination to be Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, which would be solely a bunker call.

On 18th March 2015, ‘MSC Splendida’ was alongside in Tunis harbour, in Tunisia, with many of her passengers ashore visiting local tourist destinations in the city. On that day, Islamist terrorists attacked the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, killing 22 people, and injuring 50 others. Sadly, 12 of the people who died were passengers from ‘MSC Splendida’. As a result of the attack, MSC Cruises cancelled all further port calls to Tunis for the remainder of the 2015 cruise season, for all MSC Cruises vessels, substituting Valetta in Malta, in place of Tunis.

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In Conversation: Why there may be oceans inside dwarf planets beyond Pluto – and what this means for the likely abundance of life

Earth’s North Sea coastline, including the Stacks of Duncansby in Caithness.
David Rothery, CC BY-NC-SA

This is a bit off-world but is all about oceans and should be of interest to some readers: Enjoy. – Africa Ports & Ships

   * * * * * *

David Rothery, The Open University

Earth was long thought to be the only planet in our Solar System with an ocean, but it is beginning to look as though there are underground oceans inside even the most surprising icy bodies.

In fact, icy moons and dwarf planets in the outer Solar System appear to have liquid oceans below layers of thick ice. Recent research suggests there could even be oceans inside bodies beyond Pluto. That is surprising, as these bodies have surface temperatures way below -200°C.

Seventy years ago, it seemed plausible that Venus’s steamy atmosphere was hiding a global ocean from our view. This idea was scuppered in 1962 when the spacecraft Mariner 2 flew past Venus and found that its surface is too hot for liquid water.

It wasn’t long before we realised that any oceans that may once have been on Venus and also Mars vanished billions of years ago due to major changes in their climates.

Tidal heating

The revolution in thinking that paved the way for our new view of the Solar System’s oceans can be traced back to a 1979 paper by astrophysicist Stan Peale. This predicted that Jupiter’s innermost large moon, Io, would be so hot inside that it could be volcanically active.

The heat source that makes this possible is a gravitational effect – a repeated tidal tug between Io and the next moon out from Jupiter, Europa. Europa completes exactly one orbit for Io’s two. Io therefore overtakes Europa after every two orbits, receiving a regularly repeated tidal tug from Europa that prevents Io’s orbit from becoming circular.

Synchronous rotation: how moons rotate to keep the same face towards their planet as they orbit.

This mans that Io’s distance from Jupiter is continually changing, and therefore so does the strength of the much stronger tidal force from Jupiter, which actually distorts Io’s shape.

Repeated tidal distortion of its interior warms Io by internal friction, in the same way that if you bend a stiff wire to and fro several times and then touch the newly bent part to your lip (try it with a coat hanger or a paper clip), you will be able to feel the warmth.

Stan Peale discussing his Io tidal heating paper with David Rothery in May 2014.

Peale’s prediction of tidal heating was vindicated only a week after publication when Voyager-1, the the first sophisticated flyby of Jupiter, sent back images of volcanoes erupting on Io.

Io is a rocky world, with no water in any form, so this may seem to have nothing to do with oceans. However, the Jupiter-Io-Europa tidal tug works both ways. Europa is tidally heated as well, not just by Io, but also by the next moon out, Ganymede.

There is now very good evidence that between Europa’s icy shell and its rocky interior, there is a 100km-deep ocean. Ganymede may have as many as three or four liquid layers, sandwiched between layers of ice. In these cases, the heat that prevents the liquid water from freezing is probably mostly tidal in origin.

There is also evidence of a salty liquid water zone within Callisto, Jupiter’s outermost large moon. This isn’t likely to be due to tidal heating but instead possibly down to heat given off by decay of radioactive elements.

Saturn has a relatively small (504km radius) icy moon called Enceladus, which has an internal ocean thanks to tidal heating from interaction with the larger moon called Dione. We are absolutely certain that this ocean exists because Enceladus’s icy shell wobbles in a way that is possible only because this shell is not fixed to the solid interior.

Moreover, water and trace components from this internal ocean were sampled by the Cassini spacecraft. Its measurements suggested Enceladus’s ocean water must have reacted with warm rock below the ocean floor, and that the chemistry down there looks suitable for supporting microbial life.

Other oceans

Puzzlingly, even for moons that should have no tidal heating, and for bodies that aren’t moons at all, evidence for internal oceans keeps mounting up. The list of worlds that may have, or may once have had, internal oceans includes several moons of Uranus, such as Ariel, Triton, the largest moon of Neptune, and Pluto,

The closest internal ocean to the Sun may be inside the dwarf planet Ceres, though that is perhaps largely frozen by now, or may just consist of salty sludge.

Particularly amazing to me is indications of ocean worlds way beyond Pluto. These come from recently published results from the James Webb Space Telescope looking at the ratios of various isotopes (atoms that have more or fewer particles called neutrons in their nucleus) in the frozen methane that coats Eris and Makemake, two dwarf planets a little smaller and considerably more remote than Pluto.

The authors claim their observations are evidence of chemical reactions between internal ocean water and the ocean floor rock, and also of fairly young, possibly even present day, plumes of water. The authors suggest that heat from the decay of radioactive elements in the rock is sufficient to explain how these internal oceans have been kept warm enough to avoid freezing.

You might wonder whether all this could boost our chances of finding alien life. It grieves me to spoil the party, but there were several papers at this year’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston (March 11-15) reporting that the rock below the floor of Europa’s ocean must be too strong for faults to crack it apart to create the sort of hot springs (hydrothermal vents) on its ocean floor that fed microbial life on the early Earth.

It is possible that other underground oceans could be similarly inhospitable. But so far, there’s still hope. The Conversation

David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences, The Open University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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IMO and future marine fuels and technology – New website launched

Picture: IMO

Edited by Paul Ridgway
Africa Ports & Ships

Access to the latest information on zero and near-zero marine fuels and technologies, including pricing information and the latest research, can be found on the website:

This was reported by the IMO media service on 2 April.

The website has been developed by the Future Fuels and Technology Project (FFT Project), a partnership project between IMO and the Republic of Korea, supporting the development of new regulation within the possible IMO Net Zero Framework to achieve the targets contained in the 2023 IMO GHG Strategy.


The website includes sections on:

* Latest information: current data on alternative fuels and supply, up-to-date indicative prices, information on the IMO Data Collection System (DCS).

* Future Insight: insights into the readiness, scalability and sustainability of new marine fuels and technologies, including fuel price forecasts, R&D and demonstration projects, as well as information on relevant initiatives in the shipping and energy industries.

* News and Events: a selection of global news, information resources (including reports and journal papers), and information on IMO events related to GHG emissions reduction in international shipping.

* Training and Cooperation: training materials and useful tools on alternative fuels, energy efficiency technologies and other GHG reduction measures.

Technological innovation and the global introduction and availability of zero or near-zero GHG emission technologies, fuels and/or energy sources for international shipping are integral to achieving the overall level of ambition identified in the 2023 IMO GHG Strategy.

Data providers and collaborators

Data providers and collaborators involved on the Future Fuels website to date include the Ammonia Energy Association, Argus Media, DNV’s Alternative Fuels Insight, IAPH, Ipieca, Korean Maritime Cooperation Center (KMC), Methanol Institute, OECD, SEA-LNG, SGMF, Zero Emission Shipping Mission and ZESTAs, and the IMO partnership projects GHG-SMART, GreenVoyage 2050 and Next-GEN.

Current information on the website is understood to be sourced from a range of stakeholders and data providers who have joined the initiative in its early stages. Other data providers are invited to join this collaboration, it is reported.

Enhanced access to information

The FFT project’s website aims to enhance access to information for all stakeholders involved in IMO’s climate change discussions and to facilitate relevant information sharing. Inclusion on the website does not imply endorsement or expression of any opinion on the part of IMO regarding the data or the data sources.

For queries, including from other entities who wish to get involved, readers are invited to contact: (Project Manager: Mr Ji-man Seo, Project Analyst: Mrs Laura Mateos Moya).

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CMF Task Force 150 seizes illegal drugs in Arabian Sea

US Coast Guard Cutter Glen Harris on her performance trials following construction. Picture: Bollinger Shipyard

Africa Ports & Ships

A US Coast Guard cutter, operating with Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Task Force 150 in the Arabian Sea, has seized well over a ton of narcotics being smuggled on dhows over the past month.

The most recent seizure was on 4 April when the USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) discovered and seized 15 kilograms of heroin and 375 kilograms of methamphetamine aboard a dhow motoring in the Arabian Sea.

After weighing and documenting the haul, the crew disposed of the narcotics.

Second major interdiction

“This is the second major interdiction of the USCGC Glen Harris and the CTF-150 team with a combined total of 1,160 kg of drugs seized to date, denying income to criminal and terrorist organizations from the profits of illicit narcotics,” said Capt. Colin Matthews, commander of CTF-150.

He described the multinational cooperation between the various teams as exceptional and an example of the impacts that can be achieved.

A month earlier, on 4 March, USCGC Glen Harris intercepted and seized 770 kilograms of methamphetamines from a dhow also in the Arabian Sea.

The fast response cutter is part of a contingent of U.S. Coast Guard ships forward-deployed to the region under Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA). PATFORSWA deploys Coast Guard personnel and ships alongside U.S. and regional naval forces throughout the Middle East.

CTF 150 is one of five task forces under Combined Maritime Forces, the world’s largest international naval partnership. CTF 150’s mission is to deter and disrupt the ability of non-state actors to move weapons, drugs and other illicit substances in the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.

Combined Maritime Forces is a 42-nation naval partnership upholding the international rules-based order by promoting security and stability across 3.2 million square miles of water encompassing some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.

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More than 90 die as unlicensed Mozambique ferry boat capsizes

A picturesque beach and small fishing craft at Mozambique Island, with the walls of the famous fort in the background. Picture: Terry Hutson

Africa Ports & Ships

Reports are coming in of a tragedy in Mozambique’s Nampula province in which at least 94 people, many of them children, have died after their converted fishing boat cum ferry overturned.

The illegal and overcrowded ferry was carrying about 125 people when it got into difficulties off the Nampula coast.

The vessel was heading towards Mozambique Island, which ironically is connected to the mainland by a long bridge along which the refugees could have travelled in safety.

Mozambique Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and once the capital of Mozambique in early Portuguese colonial days, is just 53km by road from the port and town of Nacala.

It’s said that the passengers were fleeing after reports of an outbreak of cholera created panic among the local population. Cholera is prevalent in parts of the country including Nampula, with nearly 15,000 cases having been reported, along with at least 32 deaths.

Now to that number should be added the deaths of those fleeing passengers on board the fishing boat.

According to Nampula’s Secretary of State, Jaime Neto, an enquiry into the tragedy has commenced.

“Because the boat was overcrowded and unsuited to carry passengers it ended up sinking. There are 91 people who lost their lives,” he said.

That number was later increased to 94 but only five survivors have been reported and another 26 remain missing.

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WHARF TALK: passenger cruise ship – AMBIENCE

The cruise ship Ambience now safely on her berth in Cape Town harbour, after an unfortunate collision – thankfully minor – with the cargo ship Grey Fox. 5 April 2024  Picture is by ‘Dockrat’

Pictures by ‘Dockrat’
Keith Betts
Trevor Jones
Story by Jay Gates

It is extremely rare for a collision of any kind to occur in any port in the world, let alone in any South African port. If such an occurrence was to happen, the reasons for it taking place could be down to lack of planning, lack of preparedness for changes in forecast inclement weather, inappropriate use of resources, not using the resources at hand, mechanical breakdown, poor decision making, communications failure, and many other factors. Simple bad luck is not an acceptable reason in today’s world of unflinching safety management.

All of these potential issues can come together, at the wrong time, and in the wrong place, or it may simply be one single occurrence that scuppers the whole berthing plan. Anybody who has undertaken an advanced training course in conducting safety hazard identification and risk assessment, within a safety management system, will be well aware of Professor James Reason, of Manchester University in the UK, and his ‘Swiss Cheese’ model of accident causation.

The Swiss cheese model of accident causation illustrates that, although you can place many different layers of defense to prevent accidents, there are hazards in each layer that, if aligned, still results in an accident. Which is why whenever a plan is formulated, the potential failures in any of the defense layers must be considered, and mitigations prepared to reduce, or remove the flaw. Sometimes these changes are dynamic, and have to be enacted ‘there and then’ once it becomes apparent that the ‘plan’ is beginning to unravel, in which case luck may play a part.

On 5th April, at 05:00 in the morning, the passenger cruise ship ‘Ambience’ (IMO 8521232) arrived off Cape Town, from Durban, and entered Cape Town harbour. She proceeded into the Duncan Dock, and despite E berth opposite the Passenger Cruise Terminal being vacant, she was lined up to be berthed across C and D berth instead, which would appear unusual.

Ambience. Cape Town, 5 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

On the arrival of ‘Ambience at Cape Town, and lying at B berth conducting her normal offload of cargo and containers, was the MACS general cargo vessel ‘Grey Fox’ (IMO 9594470), which had arrived the day before, 4th April, from Walvis Bay in Namibia, and on the southbound leg of her MACS Europe-Africa scheduled service from Northwest Europe.

Cape Town is known for poor summer weather in the form of the Southeasterly wind, known as the Cape Doctor, which normally results from the South Atlantic high pressure system ridging across the Southern African continent. Whilst normal shipping forecasts tend to be twice a day, the aviation forecast are much more accurate as they are prepared every hour, and in some cases, twice an hour, and contain much more local weather data as they are airport specific.

In aviation, the weather forecast over a specified period over the next few hours, similar to a shipping forecast, and is known as a TAF. Unlike shipping, aviation also produces an ‘Actual’ weather report, known as a METAR, which outlines what is happening at the time the report is prepared. In Cape Town Airport’s case this is updated every hour.

Most importantly, if anything changes in the local weather that could have a safety impact on arriving, or departing, aircraft and is considered to be crucial to safety, e.g. a sudden weather change within that hour that was not forecast, then a Special report is produced and immediately promulgated between the hourly METAR, and is known as a SPECI.

Ambience. Cape Town, 5 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

At the time of arrival of ‘Ambience’ a strong Southeasterly wind was blowing, and the Cape Town TAF indicated wind as 160 degrees (SSE) at 25 knots throughout the forecast period. The shipping forecast also gave details of a strong to gale force Southeasterly wind affecting the Table Bay area. So one would expect Transnet Pilots, Tugmasters, and berthing staff to be ready for operations in such conditions.

At the time ‘Ambience’ was being prepared for berthing, the METAR for Cape Town was giving an actual windspeed of 160 degrees (SSE) at 16 knots, then at 06:24 an urgent SPECI was issued giving an actual windspeed change of 160 degrees (SSE) gusting now to 30 knots, i.e. twice the windspeed, reported only 20 minutes earlier, and stronger than the TAF forecast. For ‘Ambience’ and her berthing team, this change in windspeed had already spelled trouble. The ‘real time’ aviation METAR reports are not usually referred to in berthing planning.

There were no vessels berthed at C, D and E berth, so there was, theoretically, plenty of room to allow for the effects of windage on ‘Ambience’ when manoeuvring to ensure a safe berthing.

However, as most casual maritime observers know, and who read the local newspapers and online newsfeeds, and despite having a Pilot onboard, and the service of two harbour tugs, plus two bow thrusters and two stern thrusters, ‘Ambience’ collided with ‘Grey Fox’ at B berth. The collision was not glancing, but contact was made with still just under a quarter of the length of ‘Ambience’ within the waters of B berth.

Ambience. Cape Town, 5 April 2024. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

Fortunately, even with the Southeasterly wind playing a major part, as per received reports, the damage to both vessels was not considered to be severe, and there were no injuries on either vessel. SAMSA immediately set about investigating the causes of the collision, and the completed report, when released, will make interesting reading if it was not simply just the increase in windspeed that played a role in the collision.

Built in 1991 by Fincantieri Cantieri Navali Italiani SpA at Monfalcone in Italy, ‘Ambience’ is 245 metres in length, and has a gross registered tonnage of 70,285 tons. She is a diesel electric vessel and has four MAN-B&W 8L58/64 generators providing 9,720 kW each. Power is transferred to two electric motors producing 12,000 kW each, driving two fixed pitch propellers for a service speed of 22.5 knots.

Her auxiliary machinery includes four economiser exhaust gas boilers, and two auxiliary oil fired boilers. For added passenger comfort she has two fin stabilisers, and for added manoeuvrability she has two bow transverse thrusters, and two stern transverse thrusters.

Ambience arriving in Durban, looking into early morning sun  2 April 2024. Picture by Keith Betts

One of two sisterships, originally ordered by Sitmar Lines, but transferred to Princess Cruise Lines before completion, and originally named ‘Regal Princess’, she has 13 decks, with 11 of those decks set aside for passenger use, and 7 of them utilised for cabins. She has 798 cabins giving accommodation for 1,400 passengers, who are looked after by a crew of 660. Her cabin sizes vary from Deluxe Suites with an area of 52 m2, Ordinary Suites with an area of 35 m2, Balcony Cabins with an area of 35 m2, and Oceanview Cabins with an area of 18 m2.

Her passenger facilities include six bars, six restaurants, three lounges, a theatre, casino, library, conference room, card room, internet café, ice cream bar, nightclub, craft studio, spa, salon, gymnasium, thermal rooms, outdoor cinema, boutiques, two swimming pools, two Jacuzzis, 2 whirlpool hot tubs, deck games area, sports activity studio and jogging track.

Costing US$280 million (ZAR5.24 billion), she was christened by ex British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She was then transferred to P&O Australia, and renamed ‘Pacific Dawn’ and rechristened by Kathy Freeman, the Australian 400 metre runner who won Olympic Gold at the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney. She was then sold to a company who planned to use her as a floating offshore residence, off the coast of Panama. The venture failed before it started.

Ambience. Durban 2 April 2024. Picture by Keith Betts

Purchased 2021 by her current nominal owners, Wave Asset Co. Ltd., of London for the bargain price of US$12 million (ZAR224.76 million), ‘Ambience’ is operated by Ambassador Cruise Lines of Purfleet in Essex, whose houseflag is displayed on her funnel, and whose corporate colours adorn her hull. She is managed by Bernhard Schulte Cruise Services GmbH, of Hamburg in Germany. Her new owners had her rechristened by Sally Gunnell, the British 400 metre hurdler, who won Olympic Gold at the 1992 Olympic Games held in Barcelona.

She is currently on her Grand Round the World Cruise, and one that is calling into South African ports as part of her initial planned itinerary, and not as a result of diversion away from the Red Sea as a result of the Houthi menace. The cruise is of 120 days duration, with 36 port calls, and began on 6th January from Tilbury, in London. The itinerary is as follows;

Tilbury- Rotterdam- Porto- Ponta Delgada (Azores)- Bridgetown (Barbados)- Curacao (Dutch Antilles)- San Blas Islands (Panama)- Panama Canal transit- Nuku Hiva- Papeete- Moorea- Huahine (all French Polynesia)- Rarotonga (Cook Islands)- Nukualofa (Tonga)- Auckland- Bay of Islands (both New Zealand)- Sydney- Melbourne- Adelaide- Fremantle (all Australia)- Lombok (Indonesia)- Singapore- Penang (Malaysia)- Phuket (Thailand)- Colombo (Sri Lanka)- Male (Maldives)- Victoria (Seychelles)- Mombasa (Kenya)- Durban- Cape Town- Tristan da Cunha- Rio de Janeiro- Salvador- Recife- Mindelo (Cape Verde)- Casablanca (Morocco)- Lisbon- Tilbury.

Grey Fox. A misty Cape Town, 13 March 2022. Picture by ‘Dockrat’

The cruise is due to terminate on 5th May, and Tilbury will be her operating base for the European Summer cruising season. There are no fly/cruise options offered on this round the world cruise. On her final leg back to London from Cape Town, the costs start from US$2,931 (ZAR54,897). There is also a further leg from Tilbury to Rotterdam, with costs from Cape Town starting from US$3,512 (ZAR65,779).

She had originally arrived, for her first ever call at a South Africa port, at Durban on 2nd April at 07:00 in the morning. She sailed the same day, 2nd April at 21:00 in the evening, bound for Cape Town. At Cape Town, although her scheduled departure time from Cape Town was due to be at 23:00 in the late evening of 5th April, ‘Ambience’ was delayed and only sailed for Tristan da Cunha at 11:00 in the morning of 6th April.

Her Cape Town incident had added to her past history, where she has had some interesting events that have an extremely loose, but interesting, link to her Cape Town woes. In March 2001, she ran aground when sailing from Cairns in Australia. She was allowed to continue her cruise to Darwin with a damaged bulbous bow. The accident investigation report stated ‘Commercial interests may have influenced the approval process of her entry to Cairns to exceed the limits of a reasonable safety envelope’.

In February 2007 she ran hard aground when departing from Huatulco in Mexico. She was moving astern off her berth with a strong Southeasterly wind when she was pushed aground. The damage to her hull was such that she was diverted to Balboa in Panama, and spent one month in drydock being repaired.

Grey Fox. Durban 22 September 2022. Picture by Trevor Jones

In April 2010, in an incident that mirrored the recent event at Baltimore, she was sailing from Brisbane in Australia, when she suffered a power blackout that created a real collision scare, and she was brought to a full stop by her attending tugs, but only when she was less than 70 metres from the Gateway Bridge that spans the entrance to Brisbane harbour.

As with the recent health issue with ‘Norwegian Dawn’ in Mauritius, back in August 2003, a total of 217 passengers onboard fell ill with Norovirus. The decision was taken to curtail the cruise, and she skipped port calls in both Greenland and Newfoundland, in order to return to New York City. By the time of her arrival, only 5 of the affected passengers were still suffering the effects of the virus.

In May 2009, she had an unusual onboard outbreak of Swine Flu, where 130 passengers displayed symptoms of the disease, and 14 were confirmed as having Swine Flu. Affected passengers were all quarantined by the Australian Health Authorities for 7 days.

In May 2022 ‘Ambience’ had a Port State Inspection at Tilbury, which resulted in a one day detention. The two grounds for detention were due to Oil Filter equipment deficiencies.

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Africa Global Logistics (AGL) commences operations at AGL Lobito Terminal

Two STS container gantry cranes being discharged at the container terminal in the port of Lobito. Picture by Dennis Henwood

Africa Ports & Ships

Africa Global Logistics (AGL) has officially launched operations at its subsidiary, AGL Lobito Terminal (ALT) in the Port of Lobito.

The launching of the AGL concession was presided over by Angola’s Minister of Transport, Dr. Ricardo Viegas de Abreu and attended by AGL’s President Philippe Labonne and officials from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

AGL Lobito Terminal (ALT) employs 730 personnel and is able to accommodate large capacity vessels with a quayside length of 1,200 metres and a depth alongside of 14 metres. The container terminal has a capacity for 12,000 TEU with 320 reefer storage points, or over 100,000 TEU annually.

Cargo handling equipment includes two STS gantry cranes and 4 quay cranes.

The dry bulk section has capacity for one million tonnes of dry bulk cargo. Total storage area covers 25 hectares.

As the second largest port hub in Angola, behind Luanda, the Port of Lobito is intended to meet the needs for improving the living conditions of 35 million Angolans and the populations of several neighbouring countries, to which it is linked by a Cape gauge (1067mm/3ft6ins) railway.

The Port of Lobito is the closest Atlantic gateway to the DRC and Zambian Copperbelt region. The port will play a strategic role with the transport of mineral flows (copper, cobalt) to international markets as well as in the development of agricultural production basins and the industrialization of the region.

It will significantly reduce transit times to European and American markets, thus strengthening the efficiency of the African logistics chain.

Dignitaries at thee operationalisation of the AGL Lobito Terminal

“The government is pleased to engage this partnership with a major operator of African logistics,” said transport minister Dr Abreu.

“AGL’s expertise and experience will allow the Port of Lobito to have a positive impact on the socio-economic development of the region,” he said.

“The connection of this port to the existing Benguela Railway network extending over 1,300 km and to the future railway line to Zambia will allow, thanks to the actions to improve the productivity of this platform, to substantially reduce the time for the transport of goods.”

Philippe Labonne, AGL president, said AGL is committed through an investment plan of 200 million euros to increase the attractiveness of the terminal and to contribute to the economic and social development of the region.

“Thanks to the maritime, port, and logistics solutions, AGL will enable the Lobito port platform to play its role as a growth accelerator for Angola and the sub-region,” he said.

AGL is a leading multimodal logistics operator in Africa, offering global, customized, and innovative logistics solutions to its African and international clients. The company, previously Bolloré Africa Logistics, is now part of the MSC Group. With a network including 250 logistics and maritime agencies, 22 port and rail concessions, 66 dry ports, and 2 river terminals, AGL has expertise developed over more than a century.

AGL operates with a team of more than 23,000 employees spread across 49 countries, and aims to contribute sustainably to Africa’s transformations. AGL is also present in Haiti and Timor.

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DP World & local BE company score as bpSA outsources its secondary transport


Africa Ports & Ships

DP World has further increased its growing influence in South Africa logistics by taking over bp Southern Africa’s (bpSA) secondary transport operations.

DP World will be operating out of bpSA’s depots in Alrode, Pretoria, Rustenburg, and Cape Town, with a total of 226 bpSA employees moving across into DP World employment, thus ensuring job continuity..

This marks yet a further expansion for DP World, which in February 2022 announced the successful takeover of South Africa’s international operator, Imperial Logistics.

Outsourcing the secondary transport business to specialists such as DP World enhances bpSA’s operating standards and efficiency by leveraging world-class technologies, driver training, and effective monitoring mechanisms.

“As a leading provider of smart logistics solutions globally, and one of the largest logistics providers in South Africa, DP World is proud to partner with bpSA in their landmark decision to outsource their secondary transport,” said Mark Rylance, Chief Operating Officer: Logistics, for DP World in sub-Saharan Africa.

Makwande Supply & Distribution

The black women-owned (100%) Makwande Supply & Distribution won the bid to take over dpSA’s secondary transport operations in the east of the country and will operate from bpSA’s depots in Durban, Rocky Drift (White River), East London and Gqeberha.

Makwande Supply & Distribution’s involvement with bpSA dates back to 2016 when they benefited from bp’s enterprise development programme.

By taking over bpSA’s secondary transport, Makwande aims to create value, uplift communities, and contribute to job creation.

This strategic outsourcing decision is a step toward a streamlined vision as bp transitions from an international oil company to an integrated energy company.

bP has a long century-old history of involvement in South and southern Africa from refining and fuel distribution and exploration and until now has continued running its own transport operations.

“The rest of the global bp business also outsources its transport operations,” explained bpSA CEO, Taelo Mojapelo.

“Outsourcing the secondary transport business to specialist entities helps improve our operating standards and efficiency, as third-party specialists have the depth and capacity to invest in world-class technologies, driver training, and effective monitoring mechanisms.”

Mojapelo said bpSA had confidence in the calibre of partners selected and was looking forward to productive and mutually beneficial working relationships into the future.

Added 7 April 2024


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The green shipping training programme: IMO and emerging leaders

Picture: IMO

Edited by Paul Ridgway
Africa Ports & Ships

Maritime professionals from fourteen small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs) are to join IMO’s flagship training programme this year to promote the global transition to net zero shipping. This was reported by the IMO news service on 4 April.


The IMO-Republic of Korea Sustainable Maritime Transport Training Programme (GHG-SMART) aims to build the capacity of SIDS and LDCs to decarbonise their shipping sectors, by training professionals in the industry to develop and execute national-level strategies, as well as raise finance for green shipping projects.

African participants

This year twenty-three participants, including twelve women, have been enrolled from the following countries: The Bahamas, Cook Islands, Fiji, The Gambia, Grenada, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mozambique, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Senegal, and Timor Leste.

GHG-SMART is designed to support and respond more directly to the needs of SIDS and LDCs, as they implement the IMO 2023 Strategy on Reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from Ships.

Many SIDS and LDCs bear the brunt of climate change impacts, while relying heavily on the maritime sector.

Broad range of facilities; scholarships

The year-long programme includes online courses, field visits, webinars and one-week practical training in the Republic of Korea, combined with industry engagements. Each year, two of the trainees are awarded fully-funded scholarships to study at the World Maritime University in Malmö, Sweden.

Feedback from alumni

Previous GHG-SMART participants have welcomed the support provided to them through the programme. Several alumni recently represented their countries as official delegates at the 81st session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 81) in London, held from 18 to 22 March. MEPC is IMO’s decision-making body that addresses environmental issues under IMO’s remit.

During a GHG-SMART Project Steering Committee meeting held in the margins of MEPC 81, current and former trainees highlighted how their experiences enabled them to follow the debates more effectively and make stronger interventions.

Richmond Basant, Maritime Administrator at the Ministry of Works and Transport of Trinidad and Tobago and 2022 GHG-SMART alumni, commented: “The programme has been of great benefit to myself and my colleagues, coming from a Small Island Developing State. It has allowed me to understand the latest emission regulations in shipping, new standards as well as the current and forecasted technologies that will drive the change in shipping to net zero.”

Funded by the Republic of Korea, GHG-SMART was launched in 2020 with an initial budget of $2.5 million. In July 2023, it was extended for three more years until 31 December 2026, with an additional budget of $2 million.

To learn more
More information about the IMO-RoK GHG-SMART programme is to be found here.

Added 7 April 2024


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Maersk to reinstate OC1 service transits through Panama Canal

Container ship Maersk Taasinge. Picture by Keith Betts

Africa Ports & Ships

Xeneta Update: Maersk announced on Friday (5 April), that it will re-introduce transits of the Panama Canal for the OC1 service, which had previously been withdrawn due to restrictions caused by low water levels.

The service will return to its pre-existing rotation effective from 10 May and see the phasing out of the “two-loop” set-up which utilized the Panama Rail connection.

Maersk has cited the upcoming rainy season and announcement by the Panama Canal Authority of additional daily transit slots as the basis for its decision.

Peter Sand, Xeneta chief analyst

“There is still a long way to go before this becomes a normal transit,” said Peter Sand, Xeneta Chief Analyst.

“There may be projections for increased rainfall but at the moment they are just that – projections. If water levels do not rise then it will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether Maersk can stick to this timeline.”

Sand said there is clearly a desire to return to transiting the Panama Canal because the current alternative using the rail connection involves lifting boxes twice, which takes time and is far less efficient.

“We are all at the mercy of climate change and weather phenomenon such as El Niño, so only time will tell if we can return to a semblance of normality in the Panama Canal,” he added.

Added 7 April 2024


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Indian Navy rescues another pirated ship

Pirates captured on board the Iranian fishing vessel Al-Kambar.  Picture: Indian Navy

Guy Martin

The Indian Navy has liberated yet another vessel from pirates off the coast of Somalia in the fifth such operation this year.

An Indian Navy spokesperson said reports were received about a potential piracy incident onboard the Iranian fishing vessel Al-Kambar in the evening of 28 March. The vessel was sailing some 90 nautical miles southwest of the island of Socotra near Yemen.

Two Indian Navy ships, deployed in the Arabian Sea for maritime security operations, were diverted to intercept the hijacked fishing vessel, which was reported to have been boarded by nine armed pirates.

The Saryu class patrol vessel INS Sumedha intercepted the Al-Kambar during the early hours of 29 March and was joined subsequently by the guided missile frigate INS Trishul.

“After more than 12 hours of intense coercive tactical measures as per the SOPs [standard operating procedures], the pirates on board the hijacked fishing vessel were forced to surrender. The crew, comprising 23 Pakistani nationals, have been safely rescued,” the Indian Navy said.

Indian Naval specialist teams subsequently ‘sanitised’ the vessel and ensured it was seaworthy enough to escort to safe waters and resume normal fishing activities.

The nine pirates that were apprehended are being taken to India for further legal action “in accordance with the Maritime Anti-Piracy Act of 2022.”

The Indian Navy said it remains committed to ensuring maritime security in the region and the safety of seafarers, irrespective of their nationalities.

Al-Kambar intercepted by ships of the Indian Navy, crew rescued and pirates detained. Picture: Indian Navy

Its last success was liberating the ship MV Ruen from Somali pirates, rescuing the 17 crew on board and apprehending 35 pirates.

The Maltese-flagged MV Ruen was hijacked on 14 December 2023 while 700 nautical miles east of Bosaso. It was rescued on 17 March after a 40-hour coordinated operation that involved the Kolkata-class stealth guided-missile destroyer INS Kolkata, Sukanya class patrol vessel INS Subhadra, unmanned aerial vehicles, a P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, and a C-17 Globemaster III transport that dropped paratroopers onto the hijacked vessel.

The MV Ruen may have been used as the base for the takeover of a Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship MV Abdullah off the coast of Somalia last month, the European Union Naval Force said. The vessel, en route from Maputo to the United Arab Emirates with a cargo of coal, was seized by at least a dozen pirates on 12 March and subsequently sailed towards Somalia where it continues to be held.

The hijacking of the MV Ruen was the first such successful even by Somali pirates since 2017, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Hijackings off Somalia have raised concerns about a resurgence of Indian Ocean piracy by opportunistic pirates taking advantage of naval forces focussing on defeating attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. At least 17 incidents of hijacking, attempted hijacking and suspicious approaches had been recorded by the Indian Navy since 1 December, Indian officials previously said.

The Indian Navy has a sizeable presence in the Red Sea region, with a dozen warships deployed to provide security against pirates as Western powers focus on attacks by Yemen’s Houthis.

In January, the Indian Navy foiled two hijackings by Somali pirates within days. On 29 January, the fishing vessel Al Naeemi and her crew (19 Pakistani nationals) were rescued by the Indians from 11 Somali pirates after the Iranian-flagged fishing vessel was boarded and her crew taken hostage. The day before, the INS Sumitra liberated the hijacked Iranian fishing vessel Iman, releasing 17 crew being held hostage.

On 5 January, the Indian Navy rescued another vessel from pirates – 21 crew were evacuated from the MV Lila Norfolk in the North Arabian Sea a day after it was boarded by half a dozen armed men off Somalia’s coast.

Written by defenceWeb and republished with permission. The original article can be found here.

Added 7 April 2024


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Autonomous mine hunting: Indian Ocean north

RNMB Harrier alongside an unnamed Mine Counter Measures vessel, believed to be of the Hunt Class, secured outboard of RFA Cardigan Bay. Picture: Ministry of Defence Crown Copyright 2024

Edited by Paul Ridgway
Africa Ports & Ships

In mid-March the Royal Navy reported that its team responsible for introducing autonomous mine hunting had successfully completed its first twelve months of activities.

The Mine and Threat Exploitation Group’s Operational Evaluation Unit has spent the past year in the Middle East testing a series of uncrewed and remote-piloted systems which one day could be the future of mine hunting in the Royal Navy and with Allied navies, it was reported.

Working with Royal Navy Motor Boat Harrier and based on RFA Cardigan Bay, the team have put various pieces of equipment and technology through their paces to see how they operate and react to the climate of the northern waters of the Indian Ocean. It is here that the complex mission’s current mine hunting units operate.

Harrier is capable of operating both autonomously (pre-programmed to conduct a mission) or remotely from a ship- or shore-based remote-control centre. The motor boat tows a side-scan sonar astern in an effort to seek out for mines on the seabed. At the same time units ashore or at sea are alerted of the mines’ positions.

As part of these trials Harrier has also been working with remotely-operated underwater vehicles and a minesweeping system.

In a fruitful first year for the Operational Evaluation Unit, the team integrated and deployed Harrier from Cardigan Bay from a shore control base at the UK Naval Support Facility in Bahrain where are deployed Sandown and Hunt-class minehunters.

Wider use promised?

The application of the findings of this Evaluation Unit are expected to be of great benefit to marine traffic, both civilian and military, in the waters of the Red Sea and Black Sea where the threat of mines is real.

It is understood that valuable experience in the deployment and operation of RNMB Harrier has provided lessons ahead of the main roll-out of more enhanced mine hunting capability. Infrastructure and logistical support required to operate autonomous mine hunting systems have been evaluated, it is reported.

Clearly use of the trialled systems in theatre gives better protection to Royal Navy personnel, who can remain at a safe distance from any possible explosives; more options are delivered on how to deal with potential threats. In time autonomous submersibles and remotely-operated vehicles will be able to survey, identify and neutralise threats.

Added 7 April 2024


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Durban Terminals prepared for bumper citrus season

Durban Terminals Piers 1 and 2 plus the MPT at the Point are ready for this year’s citrus exports

Africa Ports & Ships

In anticipation of a bumper citrus season over the coming seven or so months, the Durban Terminals of Transnet Port Terminals say they are geared up and ready.

This is in anticipation of a forecasted 15% increase in volumes this year, as a result of what is looking like good harvests. TPT says it has assured the industry of its commitment to helping make South Africa’s citrus fruit season successful once again.

To support increased volumes, all container terminals across KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) will have dedicated lanes for refrigerated containers at the gates, according to TPT General Manager of Commercial and Planning, Michelle van Buren Schele.

“We will also increase the number of truck appointment slots based on demand and capacity during this season across KZN and the Eastern Cape”, she said.

Customers have been urged to place orange stickers on steri-protocol refrigerated containers to ensure two-hourly monitoring in line with the company’s commitment.

The recruitment and training of over 200 additional cargo coordinators and port workers for the next seven months is currently under way. Some terminals are receiving new equipment including haulers, trailers, reach stackers and empty container handlers that will enhance landside operations.

Additional capacity has also been created at each terminal to improve the fast turnaround of empty containers, with stacking up to six containers high. All electric plugs are being tested and maintained to ensure operational efficiency.

In addition, the evacuation of import containers via rail to back-of-port facilities would remain in place to enable fluidity on the landside handling.

In Durban, a total of three terminals have been resourced to prepare for the season. The Durban Container Terminals Pier 1 has confirmed a total of 1,440 plug points with back-up power. The Durban Container Terminal Pier 2 has a total of 2,424 plug points while the Durban Multipurpose Terminal has 277 plug points.

In the Eastern Cape, the Ngqura Container Terminal has confirmed a total of 1,652 plug points and the Port Elizabeth Container Terminal a total of 932.

According to van Buren Schele, TPT was also engaging depots and cargo owners. “Previously, we’ve focused our communication efforts on the shipping lines, citrus growers and cold stores. This time, we’d like to fully engage the broader supply chain to ensure better planning and alignment,” she said.

TPT says it will enhance its communication regarding opening stacks to ensure depots and cold stores achieve maximum flexibility.

“It is crucial for the industry to make use of the entire 24-hour operational window at terminals to ensure a successful season,” said van Buren Schele.

The global political landscape and the potential effects of the Red Sea crisis are factors influencing shipping rotations that teams are strategically planning for and discussing with shipping lines.

Citrus fruits make up over 50% of all fruits produced in South Africa, with the country ranking as one of the top three citrus fruit global suppliers in the world. The Netherlands, China, the United Kingdom, Russia and the United Arab Emirates are the largest consumers of the country’s exports.

Added 4 April 2024


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Cruise News: Farewell to MSC Splendida, hello to MSC Virtuosa

By Terry Hutson
Africa Ports & Ships

There was an unintentional focus on cruise ships in our regular Wharf Talk series for this week, with coverage of three passenger ships calling at South Africa’s ports.

The ships that featured are Silversea’s luxury expedition ship Silver Cloud, Fred Olsen’s lovely Borealis, and the P&O cruise ship Arcadia, currently heading toward Europe at the conclusion of her westward circumnavigation.

The southern summer cruise season is meanwhile drawing to an end, which means South Africa can expect to have a few more visits by these ships returning to the northern hemisphere, particularly by those affected by the situation in the Red Sea causing diversions on the longer route around the Cape.

One such ship that we may expect to see is the Meraviglia-class MSC Virtuosa, expected in Durban on Monday 8 April. More of her in a moment but first its farewell to our summer MSC resident, MSC Splendida, which has been homeported in Durban from November 2023 but will depart our shores this coming weekend.

MSC Splendida

MSC Splendida covered multiple cruises from Durban along the KZN and Mozambique coasts to Maputo, Portuguese Island, MSC’s own Mozambique beach resort at Pomene, and a longer cruise to Mauritius. She also undertook several coastal cruises between Durban and Cape Town, as well as a short cruise season from the Mother City to Mossel bay in one direction, and Walvis Bay in another.

MSC Splendida. Picture: MSC

We’re unaware of any reasons offered as to why this ship is not returning for a second season later this year. If we listen to comments from those who sailed on her, she was not exactly a success with at least some of the South African cruising community – those who make multiple cruises each year as alternatives to visiting the Kruger and other national parks.

It may have been that the ship was just too large for the local market. We also heard reports that the ship lacks the sort of geography preferred by those who enjoy lounging about the pool or open decks. Whatever the reason a smaller and proven ship will be handling the coming summer season.

MSC Musica

It is significant that MSC Musica will replace Splendida as the cruise ship to homeport in Durban and cover the regular cruises, doing the usual seaward treks along the Mozambique coast and venturing further afield to Mauritius for the New Year.

The decision to switch ships is also likely influenced by other factors, including operational considerations, market demand, and strategic planning.

The smaller MSC Musica offers its own distinctive cruise experience centered on elegance, comfort, and hospitality – although that always depends on the staff and crew present at any given time. It features 1,275 guest cabins, a central foyer with a three-tier waterfall, lounges, bars, restaurants, swimming pools, a nightclub, boutique shops, a library, and dedicated areas for children of all ages.

Live entertainment awaits in the Teatro La Scala, and a lavish spa is available for those seeking relaxation.

MSC Musica will start her season in November 2024 with sailings from the recently inaugurated Nelson Mandela Cruise Terminal in Durban and conclude her time in South Africa in April 2025 with sailings from Cape Town. A total of thirty-four sailings will take passengers to the regular destinations.

MSC Musica arriving in Durban

MSC Virtuosa

MSC Virtuosa, a Meraviglia-Plus class cruise ship is scheduled to call at Durban on Monday, 8 May, a couple of days after Splendida’s departure. She is arriving from Abu Dhabi and the UAE, where she has operated since late last year.

Virtuosa is the second ship in the Meraviglia-Plus class and sister ship to MSC Grandiosa. After cruising in the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf to some) throughout our summer months, Virtuosa is now returning to her normal northern summer homeport of Southampton. From there she’ll cruise to destinations across northern Europe and as far south as Portugal, Madeira and the Canaries.

We shouldn’t ever expect to see this ship doing a South African season, and if you’re tempted to travel to Dubai or wherever the ship is next summer, take plenty of cash for extras at almost every corner and in between, including food, drinks and other items not part of your fare. Watch and listen to the accompanying video for examples.

As far as we know, Virtuosa is carrying no passengers on this her repositioning voyage back to Southampton, which due to the crisis in the Red Sea area has meant a diversion around South Africa.

MSC Virtuosa YouTube video [18:13]

Added 5 April 2024



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If I were not African, I wonder whether it would be clear to me that Africa is a place where the people do not need limp gifts of fish but sturdy fishing rods and fair access to the pond. I wonder whether I would realize that while African nations have a failure of leadership, they also have dynamic people with agency and voices. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


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Port Louis – Indian Ocean gateway port

Africa 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.

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QM2 in Cape Town. Picture by Ian Shiffman

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Total cargo handled by tonnes during February 2024, including containers by weight

PORT February 2023 million tonnes
Richards Bay 7.390
Durban 5.914
Saldanha Bay 5.928
Cape Town 1.590
Port Elizabeth 0.986
Ngqura 1.607
Mossel Bay 0.051
East London 0.124
Total all ports during February 2023 23.59 million tonnes