Posted by: Colleen Jacka | February 19, 2014

State of the Maritime Industry Address

I am not going to comment on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) made last week by President Jacob Zuma except to say I did hear him mention the maritime industry as he acknowledged the importance of the fishing industry; the need to develop our ports and the focus on oil and gas for the development of Cape Town and Saldanha Bay. I am, however, going to comment on a speech made the night before SONA by Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, CEO of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

Anyone who has ever listened to the CEO speak will know that he is constantly pushing the South African maritime agenda – and it seems that, while there is still much to be done, a lot of groundwork has been covered.

State of Maritime Industry

Here are a few highlights of his speech:

TREASURY TICKS OFF TAXATION: Mokhele highlighted the decision by South African Treasury last year to remove all forms of taxation on shipping. “I never thought in my living days that I would see South Africa Treasury moving on shipping tax when we have waited and worked so hard on the tonnage tax,” he said adding that although the industry was willing to accept a nominal tax, this gesture to help develop the industry was welcomed. Treasury has shaved tax contributions of seafarers; removed taxation on the sale of assets; and paved the way for shipping companies to trade in any international currency.

“I never thought in my living days that I would see South Africa Treasury moving on shipping tax when we have waited and worked so hard on the tonnage tax.”

THE BLUE ECONOMIC STRATEGY: In a similarly positive light, Mokhele reported that Cabinet had approved The Blue Economic Strategy for the country. “It talks to helping improve the lives of our people by taking and leveraging the assets of the industry; the expertise that is there. It is a strategy about development; it is a strategy about progress – and about giving the economy an upliftment,” he said. 

THE AFRICAN MARITIME DECADE: Coupled to the approval of the African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) 2050 made by the African Union Commission at the end of January was the announcement that 2015 to 2025 would be dedicated to the maritime industry.

“It means that the maritime sector has arrived where it needed to be. It has become an asset of of our people, politically endorsed, industry recognised opportunities and communities are involved,” said Mokhele.

NATIONAL MARITIME INSTITUTE: Having completed a feasibility study to assess the impact of establishing a National Maritime Institute, SAMSA has successfully concluded a deal with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. On November 12 last year, the University passed a resolution to accept the custodianship of the National Maritime Institute. According to Mokhele, the Institute will be operational from April 1 this year and will coordinate efforts in maritime education. “We are not displacing the existing infrastructure, but providing cohesion in the development of programmes that are geared to the development of technology and innovation,” he said. 

MARINE TOURISM STRATEGY: Understanding that 80 percent of the United States of America’s tourism revenue originates from marine tourism, Mokhele’s announcement that SAMSA would unveil a Maritime Tourism Strategy during the course of the year, makes sense as a strategy to open the maritime sector to new entrants.

“Water programmes sell. They sell real estate, they sell activities, they sell everything – and therefore our marine strategy is going to be inclusive of the tourism strategy that we are going to unveil before the end of this year.”

MARINE MANUFACTURING STRATEGY: Another strategy scheduled to be unveiled during the course of the year is one that speaks to the marine manufacturing sector. Mokhele spoke about the need to develop the capabilities of the ship repair and ultimately the shipbuilding sectors.  Alluding to the potential of gearing up for the offshore oil and gas industry, Mokhele said “South Africa has to gear themselves up to become the hub service centre for the gas industry that is emerging on the east, but also to play a part on the existing oil and gas industry that is already established on the west of the continent.”

CELEBRATING SOUTH AFRICA’S 20 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY: Perhaps the most ambitious plans that Mokhele revealed were those relating to a planned cruise around the African continent. He aims to see an all-female crew navigate the SA Agulhas to visit nations in Africa that supported the liberation of South Africa. The cruise aims to also set up a fund for the development of women in Africa’s maritime sectors. SAMSA will approach industry to help sponsor this initiative.

SAMIC IS BACK ON THE CALENDAR: If you remember the landmark conference initiated by SAMSA in 2012, you may be pleased to hear that it is scheduled to return to the calendar in October this year. It will be a good opportunity to report back on resolutions taken at the last edition and decide whether the industry, government and other stakeholders have stepped up to the plate to see real development of the industry.

While these topics remain the highlights of Tsietsi Mokhele’s speech, he also spoke of the success of the cadetship programme; the ambitions to see ships return to the ships registry as well as the interest from various shipping companies to source South African seafarers to crew their fleets.

Yes, he told a good story, but we still all need to roll up our sleeves and get back to work. It makes no sense to endlessly debate the merits of a report back if we are not prepared to go back to our desks – irrespective of our views – and make things happen.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | February 14, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 14 February 2014

The fishing rights allocation process made headlines again this week as a discussion of a report by the fisheries department, explaining the controversial allocation process, was not discussed by the portfolio committee as scheduled.

The reason:  the appeals process is still not 100 percent complete and the report is, therefore, still  regarded as “a work in  progress.”

Needless to say there were angry responses from both DA MPs Pieter van Dalen and Annette Steyn.  They both described the urgency with which the allocation process needed to be discussed, saying there was a “crisis out there” as many fishers lost their livelihoods at the end of last year.

It is shocking that a situation which obviously requires immediate attention is not met with the urgency that is necessary to resolve the issues as quickly as possible.

In some sad news this week, a Department of Environmental Affairs technician, involved in an expedition on Gough Island has died.  Johannes Hoffman, aged 36, apparently choked on his own vomit and doctors on site were unable to save him.

Colleagues who worked with Hoffman are obviously in shock and are receiving counseling from a psychologist who is also charged with bringing Hoffman’s body back to Cape Town.

Of course, today’s media attention will focus on the president’s State of the Nation Address last night – which did at least nod in the direction of the maritime industry by mentioning the importance of the fishing industry; progress relating to port development as well as the imminent importance of the offshore oil and gas industries to Saldanha Bay and Cape Town.


Posted by: Natalie Janse | February 7, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 7 February 2014

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the SA Revenue Service (SARS) and the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) are reported to be working together to finalise “benefits that would be flourished to vessels bearing a South African flag.” (sic)  The purpose of the exercise, obviously, to attract companies to the South African ships register.

The authorities are looking for a collection of benefits from various sources, not only port-related benefits.  Tau Morwe, TNPA chief executive, said:  “We could look at benefits such as berthing priority.  We could look at benefits in terms of port costs and benefits of what actually happens in ports.”

It would seem that things are moving in a positive direction with regard to securing vessels for the South African ships’ registrar.  The major players are  working together to come up with a plan that will really excite, inspire and motivate ship owners to look at the South African ships registry as a realistic and preferred option.

This week, the Italian flagship aircraft carrier, Cavour, docked in Cape Town on a truly humanitarian mission.  The vessel is functioning as a mobile hospital.  In conjunction with the Red Cross and the Operation Smile, the staff of 40 volunteer medical professionals on board are here to perform free facial surgeries on children born with cleft lips and palates.

Italy’s ambassador to South Africa, Vincenzo Schioppa, said, “This is not a ship for war.  This is a ship for peace, a ship for friendship and for collaboration.”

Australia’s shark culling programme made headlines again this week as a group of South African protesters gathered outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre to protest the culling.  It is good to see South Africans supporting wildlife concerns in other countries, although I suspect the demonstration would have made little impact on Australian shores.  Interesting that we do not see much protesting to protect our own endangered wildlife being “culled “on an almost daily basis.

Finally, the South Africa Ship Society hosted a viewing of the documentary “Nazi Titanic” earlier this week.  We invite those present to please offer some feedback.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | January 31, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 31 January 2014

Hout Bay harbour was in the headlines this week as angry fishermen blockaded the harbour on Wednesday and Thursday in protest as two local fishermen were feared drowned.

Locals said that informal fishermen were forced to fish at night, which is far more dangerous, as they had no fishing rights.

Anthony Theunissen, a local fisherman, said that people in his community had been fishing for generations and knew no other way of life.  He added that the protest was aimed at closing the harbour’s economic activity.

The fishermen want not only fishing rights, but are calling for transformation within the fishing industry.

Fisheries branch spokesperson, Carol Moses expressed the department’s regret at the loss of life.

Amendments to the Marine Living Resources Act are currently before government.

Surely, there is some positive way forward for these local fishermen who are asking nothing more than the chance to feed their families and make a living?

The SA Agulhas featured briefly in the news as the vessel made a stop alongside the ice of Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic Ocean to deliver equipment required for the island’s new communications station.

Another impressive vessel in the news this week is the Queen Mary 2.  Fans of the world’s largest ocean liner, will have been delighted as the vessel sailed into Table Bay Harbour for a two day visit.

Alan Winde, Western Cape MEC for Tourism, welcomed the vessel saying that cruise ships brought more than 10, 000 visitors to the Western Cape annually generating more than R200 million for the economy.   He also stated that he was looking forward to the development of a dedicated cruise liner terminal.

We shall wait and see.

The controversial Australian shark culling policy has made headlines again this week with the killing of the first shark caught in the bait lines off the Australian coast.  The shark, a 3m female tiger shark was caught in the lines and shot by a contracted fisherman.

Needless to say, and quite rightly so, local environmental activists are outraged by the killing and a large public backlash is expected.  Western Australian State Premier, Colin Barnett, is standing by the decision, saying that the safety of beach goers is the ultimate aim.

The programme is only on trial for a two month period.  Let us hope that someone in charge comes to their senses and looks at a more environmentally friendly option – perhaps something similar to the exclusion nets in use in False Bay??

Posted by: Natalie Janse | January 27, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 24 January 2014

A case of “modern day slavery” has made the headlines this week when ten foreign vessels were found to be fishing illegally off the coast of South Africa.

The fisheries patrol vessel Victoria Mxenge escorted three of the vessels from offshore Camps Bay to Cape Town harbour and the vessels were seized. The crew onboard, who were mainly Taiwanese and Indonesian, were found to be working in horrific conditions and many had been working for up to five years without pay.

Bernard Ledemann of fisheries’ law enforcement said, “It was basically modern-day slavery. If we had not intervened this treatment would have gone on unnoticed. At least we have got the vessels out of commission.”

According to SAMSA the vessels were not fit to sail. On investigation another seven vessels belonging to the same owner were found docked in Cape Town harbour.

The fisheries department is following up with the owners and the vessels are to be forfeited to the department.

Local fishermen are now turning to the law in an attempt to force the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to review and set aside the linefish rights allocation process.

The SA Commercial Linefish Association has given chairman Wally Croome the mandate to apply to the courts to have the decisions made by DAFF re-examined. Croome says, “The only way forward is to go for a court interdict and challenge this process.”

DAFF maintains that the allocation process has been fair and legal, but still encourages fishermen to submit their appeals.

Many a struggle ahead as the fishing rights allocation process goes on …… and on.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | January 19, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 17 January 2014

Tina Joemat-Pettersson has already made headlines in 2014 with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) stepping up in defense of allegations against the minister.  According to DAFF, the Public Protector’s allegations against Joemat-Pettersson are unsubstantiated and President Zuma has no grounds for disciplinary action against her.

Many would disagree with this, but Department director-general, Edith Vries ‘s response to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into the R800 million a year tender irregularly awarded to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium stated that, although these irregularities are not being disputed, four of the allegations against Joemat-Pettersson have nothing to do with the tender.

DA MP Pieter van Dalen has voiced his disapproval by stating that the department’s reaction was a “last ditch effort to protect the minister from being held accountable.  The pressure is now rightfully mounting for her to be removed from cabinet – once and for all.”

An interesting proposition has been put forward by a local Kalk Bay fisherman to declare old Kalk Bay linefish vessels “moving national monuments” with fishing licences attached as a way of protecting fishermen and their historic way of earning a living.

The proposal has been made by Joao Simoes, a local fisherman, in response to the lack of jobs after the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries failed to renew the fishing licences of many skippers.

Certainly food for thought.

As if there was not enough genuine heartbreak and tragedy in the world, a Chinese theme park has added a life-sized replica of the Titanic featuring a shipwreck simulation giving visitors a harrowing sense of the 1912 disaster.

Visitors will be shaken, tumbled and sound and light effects will be used to create the feeling of water coming in.  “They will think they are drowning,” says Su Shaojun chief executive of the company funding the project.

Each to their own.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | November 22, 2013

Weekly Press Review – 22 November 2013

The Coldest Journey team is back in the press this week. A disappointed team returned from their failed mission to cross the Antarctic, team leader Hugh Bowring was quick to point out that, “Although we have failed in our objective to cross Antarctic, it will have escaped nobody’s notice that our other; more important objective was to draw attention to the work of Seeing is Believing.”

The expedition, initially led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, known as the world’s greatest explorer, managed to raise $2 million, despite an initial target of $10 million. The team returns to Cape Town today.

Also mentioned in the press this week was the start of the MSC cruise season. The MSC Opera and MSC Sinfonia promise a host of entertainment delights on board to tempt holiday makers into the world of sea cruises.

These vessels are like small floating cities and offer guests every possible type of entertainment from shows to restaurants, bars casinos, golf simulators, discos – you name it.

It would seem that the holiday cruise is growing in popularity as prices become more competitive, children’s safety and entertainment is considered and there is more and more bang for the buck.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | November 16, 2013

Weekly Press Review – 15 November 2013

The big maritime headline of the week was the adoption of the Marine Living Resources Amendments Bill by the National Assembly. The bill was welcomed as a way of transforming the inequalities of the past.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson said that the legislation would realise her department’s goal of empowering small-scale fishermen and women and the communities that they come from.

Let us hope that that is in fact the case.

The slave ship, the Meermin was back in the news this week as a renewed interest in the vessel and its story have generated a greater public interest in the recovery of the wreck.

Jaco Boshoff, marine archaeologist at Iziko Museums said that there had been many extensive searches for the wreck over the years, but thus far, nothing had been recovered. He added, “At the moment, funding is what is preventing us from completing the search. It is, in a sense, like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

Boshoff also admitted that sadly there is a chance that “as the historians state, the wreck does not exist anymore.”

Hopefully that is not the case as it would mean a huge waste of time, effort and money.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | November 11, 2013

Weekly Press Review – 8 November 2013

Rock lobster quotas were back in the press last week. In an attempt to aid the recovery of the drastically depleted stocks, the fisheries department has reduced this season’s quota for West Coast rock lobster.

According to DAFF, the stocks are so depleted that they are at only three percent of what they were 100 years ago. In response to this drastic scenario the TAC has been reduced from 2,426 tons to 2,167 tons.

According to acting deputy director-general of fisheries management at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Desmond Stevens, the move was to ensure that the lobster population was managed “in an ecologically sound manner based on proven scientific principles.”

This is quite an interesting comment as the fisheries department has been known to completely ignore “proven scientific principles”in the past and over ride advised quotas.

Let us hope that this does not become a case of far too little, far too late.

History buffs will be interested in the case of the slave ship the Meermin which is back in the news this week thanks the VOC Foundation who have created a replica of the famous ship to be displayed in the Iziko Museum.

In 1766, as the ship sailed between Madagascar and the Cape Colony, the 140 slaves on board mutinied and gained control of the vessel. It was agreed that the slaves would be returned to Madagascar as free men, but the crew of the Meermin did not honour the agreement and tricked the slaves into heading towards land that was not, in fact Madagascar, where the Dutch were waiting to capture them.

It is believed that the Meermin was wrecked near Struisbaai, but the wreck has never been found.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | November 1, 2013

Weekly Press Review – 1 November 2013

Saldanha Bay made the news this week with officials from the national and provincial governments and local authorities, along with President Zuma descending upon the coastal town for the official designation of the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone. (IDZ)

It is estimated that more than 11,000 jobs will be created over the next 25 years and that the IDZ will attract R9.3 billion in foreign investment.

The IDZ business plan shows that Saldanha Bay has the capacity to service up to three oil rigs simultaneously and would have access to at least 84 other rigs currently off the coast of Western Africa.

This project is being lauded as a huge coup for not just the South African economy, but also for the people of Saldanha Bay. Saldanha Black Business Women’s Association chairwoman, Paulina Mali, says: “I believe the IDZ will change our lives and bring jobs for our young people.”

Despite incidents of heckling and a somewhat heated discussion between the President and Premier Helen Zille at the official opening, making more of a news impact than the actual IDZ development one can only hope that the project runs smoothly from now on and delivers what it promises.

Our interaction with some members of the maritime industry sees the development as important, but wonders at the wisdom of creating such massive expectations for the people of Saldanha Bay at this early stage when many issues relating to the use and development of the zone need still to be addressed.

On the environmental front, the story of a young humpback whale who found his way into Table Bay harbour, but could not find his way out made headlines this week.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), police divers and several government departments were involved in the rescue operation to free the whale who was caught between a ship and the Table Bay quay.

Rescuers tried to encourage the trapped animal to move towards the open waters, but it kept moving inward to where a large ship was pressed against the tyres on the quay wall. Eventually Plan B had to be implemented: if the whale would/could not move, then the ship would have to be moved. Two tugs moved the large ship and then a tug was used to gently guide the whale out of the harbour.

A happy story as people come together to help an animal in distress.

Another story making the news this week should appeal to all maritime historians. Five large cannon have been recovered from the ocean floor near Miami belonging to the vessel, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, captained by the legendary pirate Blackbeard.

Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard, infamously terrorised Atlantic seafarers around the Caribbean and American colonies. He was ultimately killed by British forces in 1718.

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