Pirates Of The Caribbean? Not Quite

Most of us will have read and heard about the on-going piracy problem in the North of the Indian Ocean. We have all read-about the motivation of the pirates, their ruthlessness, their modus-operandi and the fact that piracy protection on vessels has turned into huge business. Perhaps like me, you also wonder how absurd it is to be talking about the issue of “piracy” in this modern day and age. What we perhaps don’t realise is that piracy originating in far-away Somalia has some very direct consequences for Trade Ocean.

Most of the Eastern tuna boat fleet (Taiwanese and Japanese) has moved away from the Indian Ocean and have relocated to the Atlantic Ocean because the security concerns are so great. In fact, we know of one Taiwanese owner whose vessel was captured by pirates in December 2010 and is still in use by the pirates as their “mothership”. The crew is still being held hostage by the pirates as the owner simply cannot raise the money demanded by the pirates to effect release of the crew. We hear the ransom demand is in the region of $5 million (R35 million)!

The direct consequences to Trade Ocean of vessels avoiding the Indian Ocean region is that it has reduced the port calls of these specific types of vessel to Durban. (Less calls = less revenue.) One would think that this would be off-set by additional port calls to Cape Town, but this is not necessarily the case as there are alternative ports to use in the Atlantic Ocean such as Las Palmas. The problem is not only confined to the tuna longline type vessels. It also affects the Japanese reefer carrier vessels which meet the tuna vessels at high seas for (legal) transhipment of fish can no longer do so for fear of the pirates.

Put it in perspective, the market value of the cargo on board a fully laden reefer vessel carrying Sashimi grade tune would be in the region of around R100-150 million, depending on what species is carried. And that’s just the value of the cargo, never mind the vessel. A juicy target indeed. Hence most of the reefer vessels have relocated to the Atlantic Ocean, some to the Pacific. The ocean area affected by piracy is ever increasing. More importantly, the pirates seem to be getting more brazen and are moving their areas of “influence” more and more southward, even as far as the Northern Mozambique channel and Madagascar. So don’t be surprised if pretty soon you might just see a bunch of Somali-looking gentlemen popping up over the horizon at Balito Beach! The next time you are watching Captain Jack Sparrow in action you might think twice about the notion that pirates are “cool” and piracy is a noble and romantic pursuits. They are not. Modern-day piracy is a scourge which in one way or another affects all of us negatively.

Staying Ahead Of The Game

Seems that the Clearing and Forwarding team just cannot get away from getting involved in projects!

In Cape Town the team has been presently busy with managing the protocols and procedures for refit and refurbishing of a high-tech stern trawler. There is a ton of red tape that we were responsible for in order to secure customs’ permission to handle this project. Needless to say that we were successful and the vessel is currently in port for her dry docking and refit.

We also have had to cope with trans-border meat exports. This is an extraordinarily complicated and time consuming task. Our team needs to be present at each loading which takes several hours.

Further afield we handled granite blocks for export from Saldanha. Although this is old hat to us, we have, for the first time, had to deal with snow in Pofadder. Now that seems unlikely but if this were Ripley’s believe it or not – this incident would have featured! Trucks got so badly stuck and delayed that services of additional truckers were required. All’s well that ends well as all the blocks were delivered to Saldanha on time.

In Johannesburg, our team secured the account of a blue chip granite re-worker and have already exported in excess of 35 containers of polished slabs of cut granite for the overseas market. Obviously this has its own set of peculiarities. It is not unknown to happen on occasion that the factory has cut slabs out of sync to container specifications and hence the slabs have to be re-cut! This means that we need someone at the factory to oversee the loading of the containers. Quite time consuming, but once again we are up to the task at hand.

The team in Durban had their hands full with NUTS and more NUTS. In actual fact so many NUTS that we have over supplied to the warehouse and in desperation had to find alternative premises, which is, not easy at all in Durban. Over and above that Trade Ocean’s Durban office can now officially be called the “Meat Guys”!!!

Trade Ocean Director Flies High

Trade Ocean is very proud of our Marketing Director, Michelle Kirov, who’s been elected as chairperson of the WBPUA (Walvis Bay Port Users Association).

The WBPUA represents the users of the port of Walvis Bay, and strives to achieve competitiveness in relation to other neighbouring ports. “The association’s members negotiate with the port, government and private sector to ensure that the rights of members are maintained and enhanced at all times,” says Michelle, who’s also been a member of the board before her election. “They further provide and arrange opportunities for members to meet from time to time to consider matters of interest.”

As chairperson Michelle will have the privilege to become a member of the Board of Directors for the Walvis Bay Corridor Group. “I will need to coordinate and guide the committee and members of the association in achieving its aims and objectives, as well as facilitate proper communication between the port authorities and other relevant government institutions,” she says.

For Trade Ocean, Michelle’s new position demonstrates that our management operate amongst the leaders in our industry. And it certainly gives our company valuable exposure, putting us on the map!

A ‘Nutty’ African Safari…

Trade Ocean’s Johann Swiegelaar and Sherika Perumal recently travelled to Zimbabwe to meet with all the role players connected with the export of Macadamia nuts. This followed Trade Ocean closing the deal on the project in November last year.

True to our African continent, it has been clear from the start that this job will be challenging and interesting.

After a successful meeting with our client and the cartage operators, a service level agreement was closed and the first load of 34 tons of nuts has already crossed Beit Bridge border post en route to Durban.

The challenges are not so much the availability of equipment or customs procedures, but rather that infrastructure is not desirable with roads being in poor disrepair and mobile reception weak at best. The farm that we’re dealing with still works with an open telephone exchange system and a live operator!

Harare is a typical third world capital – the roads are shocking and even the hotels, as good as they may be advertised, are truly shabby. The people however, are hospitable and generous, laugh a lot and poke fun at their own expense…

The nut exports project is now ongoing and it will take a lot of patience and time to ensure that our client in Australia enjoys the levels of service that Trade Ocean is known for.

Tracking Progress

The transport industry is closely monitoring the progress of the proposed high-speed railway project between Johannesburg and Durban. Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has confirmed that the much awaited project is ready to be presented for Cabinet approval. Once given the green light, a feasibility study on the viability of the rail link will follow.

The first proposal for high-speed rails in South Africa was conceptualised in 2005, with the Department of Transport throwing their weight behind the revitalisation of the country’s rail industry to unlock economic development and job creation. The department also sees rail as a key to their plans of moving South Africa’s current emphasis on road transport to rail. In September last year, his plan was again included in the National Transport Master Plan (Natmap) 2010 – 2050.

There have been concerns about the cost and engineering difficulties of the project, with costs expected to exceed R750 billion, but government has indicated they will be looking into possible alternative funding sources.

After announcing the project’s government presentation, Minister Ndebele added that the Department of Transport will probably call for expressions of interest on the Durban-Johannesburg high-speed rail route in July 2011. The minister stressed the fact that all construction tenders procedures for this project will follow a strict, inclusive and transparent evaluation process.