Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
Our picture shows a Carnival line up. Five Carnival ships are due in Durban in week commencing 24 May. (Photo: www.africaports.co.za )
No less than five Carnival Cruise ships are due to arrive in Durban between 26 and 28 May to take on bunkers and to restock depleted supplies.
These five ships are part of a group of 12 engaged in the humanitarian task of repatriating over 26,000 crew from the Carnival fleet and other companies, as well as personnel from entertainment centres ashore, who because of the coronavirus pandemic, have had their employment suddenly curtailed.
Hotel staff and entertainers
These are the entertainment staff, the onboard shop workers, beauty salon practitioners, waiters and bus boys, chefs and kitchen staff, cabin cleaners, pursers and front desk people all making up the staff working on board cruise ships.
With cruising curtailed these former employees are finally returning home to destinations like India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines after having remained on board their ships for more than two months, unable to go ashore or receive visitors ever since cruising operations were suspended in mid -March. Ahead they face another three or four weeks at sea before being allowed to disembark. However, there’s something of a problem.
The five ships, Carnival’s Fascination, Dream, Liberty, Conquest and Ecstasy are calling at Durban for the express purpose of refuelling and taking stores from a local ships’ chandler. Other ships from other lines are calling in Cape Town on similar missions. Once again South Africa is the midway victualing station for ships making the long journey from the Northern Hemisphere halfway across the world to South East Asia.
While taking bunkers for thirsty engine rooms, the ships will also re-provision the pantries with vital items to last the next stage of the voyage, filling the larders with South African food and produce.
But no alcohol or tobacco!
Due to the controversial prohibition of sales of alcohol and tobacco – a COVID-19 measure designed to protect South Africans from social mixing – the ban, perhaps unintentional, is also applicable to ships’ chandlers supplying not only the visiting cruise ships, but all other ships calling at South African ports.
The extremely valuable role that chandlers perform in the smooth running of ships and the maritime industry is often overlooked. Napoleon coined the phrase ‘An army marches on its stomach’ – it may similarly be said a ship functions well on its pantry, but now the refusal to allow sales of the two commodities, drawn from bonded duty free stores and delivered directly onto ships that will shortly be on the high seas, stands ready to upset the smooth operation that South African ports have always been able to provide.
On board those five Carnival ships, calling at South Africa for the first time, the ban on sales of tobacco and alcohol will mean the thousands of returning ships’ crew will be deprived of enjoying a beer, a glass of wine and a cigarette on board a ship out on the high seas.
The same prohibition applies to each and every ship calling at every South African port, container ships, bulk carriers loading South African coal, iron ore and chrome, car carriers, tankers, general cargo ships, reefer vessels taking our citrus exports across the world, the fishing fleets that provide fish for our tables. None of these can restock those two commodities.
It is true that COVID-10 is a global issue with South Africa part of that global family. It is also true that as a nation South Africa can be flexible when faced with reason and honesty. This controversial prohibition is surely a reason for some flexibility.
It is understood that an urgent application has been made to flex the rule for bonded duty free items destined for ocean-going ships. But the time is short and decision making needs to be sharp.
This article first appeared in www.africaports.co.za on 22 May 2020 and appears here by kind permission of the Editor.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the commitment of 12 countries to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers, following a virtual ministerial summit hosted by the UK Government on 9 July. This step represents significant progress to help resolve a growing crisis facing the maritime industry, and enable hundreds of thousands of stranded seafarers to go home or join ships.
In a joint statement, representatives from 12 countries expressed their deep concern about the current crisis and acknowledged that “the inability of ship operators worldwide to conduct ship’s crew changes is the single most pressing maritime operational challenge to the safe and efficient movement of global trade”.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and border closures imposed by Governments around the world have caused significant hurdles to crew changes and left hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded onboard ships, or unable to join ships. It is currently estimated that at least 200,000 seafarers worldwide are stranded on ships and require immediate repatriation, and a similar number urgently need to join ships to replace them. This has led to a growing humanitarian crisis, in addition to concerns that seafarer fatigue and mental health issues may lead to serious maritime accidents. There are also concerns about the continuity of the global supply chain.
French container carrier, CMA CGM has announced its intention of launching a new product called Round the Africa (RTA) service to add to and complement the current 31 CMA CGM services already operating to sub-Saharan Africa.
A bit of a misnomer, the service is unique in terms of providing a direct service from Asia to Senegal and Sierra Leone along with best transit times, as well as calls to other selected West African ports.
Dakar is reached weekly from Ningbo in 35 days, from Nansha in 32 days. Freetown (Sierra Leone) is reached in 35 days from Nansha. The service offer to Tema (Ghana) is improved with three weekly departures.
‘Our exporters from West Africa will benefit of excellent transit time and direct service to China. Shanghai is reached in 29 days from Abidjan, 31 days from Tema, 36 days from Freetown and 39 days from Dakar,’ says the line in a statement.
One is left to assume the Round Africa part comes from the ships returning to Asia via the Cape of Good Hope.
Round the Africa service rotation is as follows:
Shanghai – Ningbo – Nansha – Singapore – Malta – Tanger – Dakar – Freetown – Tema – Abidjan – Port Kelang – Shanghai