Having attended an interesting workshop on maritime leadership as part of the Third International Conference on Strategic Theory; we have decided to try and identify our current and future maritime leaders by asking you to let us know who you feel is championing the maritime agenda in South Africa.
South African maritime salvors have made the headlines this week with the righting of the Costa Concordia cruise ship from the Italian reef where it has been stuck for well over a year. It’s a pleasure to see the local as well as international media focus this operation has generated.
Never before has such a large vessel been righted. The salvage team was headed by Capetonian, Nick Sloane. Sloane previously worked for Smit Amandla Marine and was salvage master on many wrecks along our shores, but the Costa Concordia represents his first battle against a passenger ship, and particularly one of this size. Those in the know credit him as being the man to get the job done. Dave Murray of Smit Amandla Marine was quoted saying, “A job like this, most people would run a mile, but for Nick it’s a challenge, and he thrives on challenge.”
After a 19-hour operation, and many months of preparation, the vessel was righted. “I am relieved. It was a bit of a roller-coaster. The scale of it is something we’ve never seen before,” said Sloane.
This serves as another example of individuals from South Africa’s maritime industry making waves in other countries and leading the way forward. And the full operation included the input from many more South African individuals as well as companies.
Another Capetonian in the news this week is innovator Alan Fleming, who has created a fish farm in a shipping container. We have seen these large containers being recycled for many interesting purposes before, but never as a fish farm and this innovation has made it to the final round of a global competition.
The farm produces four tons of fish per year and has been selected as a finalist in the Siemens Stiftung’s Empowering People Award. The winner is to be announced next month.
Fleming said that he is overjoyed. “It is a prestigious award recognised globally.”
Making headlines this week is the news that Mozambique has signed a R2.7 million deal with a French shipyard for six patrol and interceptor ships for its navy, as well as a fleet of fishing boats.
Defense analyst, Helmoed Romer Heitman says this is good news for South Africa as “the more they’ve got the better, the less we have to do.” He added that South Africa and Mozambique run joint operations with each other and SADC partners and described the navy boats to be added to the Mozambique fleet as a good complement for South Africa’s vessels.
In other news,the NSRI was called to assist a fisherman who was pulled overboard after getting his foot tangled in the rope while fishing off St Helena Bay. Dominic Brink was trapped underwater until his colleagues managed to cut the rope and free him. He was treated by NSRI volunteers for a fracture to his femur and symptoms of near drowning. He is presently recovering in hospital.
The end of this story could very easily not have been a happy one, but for Brink’s quick thinking (and acting) colleagues and the quick response of the local NSRI team in the area.
The inquiry into the sinking of the Kiani Satu is now fully underway. According to press reports, the inquiry will focus on the circumstances surrounding the grounding of the cargo vessel off Buffels Bay near Knysna. The vessel, carrying 330 tons of fuel oil and 15,000 tons of rice, apparently suffered engine failure. All cargo was lost during the sinking.
Both the owners and insurers of the vessel have approached the Western Cape High Court to make the crew, as well as all relevant documents available for evidence purposes.
In other news “shark season” is about to start along our coastline and the city council is already starting to warn the public to be aware of the increased shark activity when visiting the ocean.
Gregg Oelofse, head of environmental policy and strategy in the council was quoted saying: “The sharks leave Seal Island and move close inshore. This pattern happens every year at the end of August and beginning of September. We’re not trying to scare people, just to remind them of the seasonal patterns …. in shark behaviour.”
So, beach lovers, have fun, but be sensible and responsible. Remember, you are the visitors to the shark domain, not the other way around.
The MV Smart is still in the press this week as efforts to transfer oil from the bulk carrier, which ran aground off Richard’s Bay, are underway. According to the Department of Environmental Affairs: “At the moment, no oil spill from the vessel has been reported. As part of a contingency plan, containment booms have been deployed around the vessel to protect the coastline against any possible pollution during the salvage operations.”
Let us hope that the salvage operation runs smoothly with no damage to the marine environment.
The Kiani Satu also remains in the news this week with the owners going to court to try to establish what caused it to run aground and ultimately sink off Knysna. An official inquiry is set to begin next week.
“Shark warrior” Lesley Rochat made headlines this week as she is set to complete a shark free-dive with Capetonian and one of South Africa’s top surfers, Frank Solomon, in Durban next week. Rochat is an award winning film maker and conservationist and free-dives with sharks in an attempt to change public perception of these creatures as dangerous predators.
Rochat is a woman on a mission. It is nice to see a positive female role model really getting out there and making a difference in the ongoing conservation battle.
Now – who wants to go stage a sit in with the perlemoen and rock lobsters in an effort to protect them?
It has been a rough week on the maritime front as the press has covered the sinking of the Kiani Satu and the breaking up of the MV Smart in much detail.
After many, many man hours and much individual and agency co-operation, the Kiani Satu was refloated only to ultimately sink after being pulled out to sea by the Smit Amandla.
Fortunately it would seem that pollution was kept to a minimum as most of the oil that surfaced after the sinking was carried away from the coast.
Credit must be given to the 350 individuals from 20 different agencies who worked extremely hard under difficult circumstances to try to save the stricken vessel.
The coal ship MV Smart which ran aground off Richard’s Bay and then broke in two is still a concern on the pollution front; and scientists are currently evaluating the situation.
Also mentioned in the press this week is the rush of teams of scientists and geologists to survey the ocean floor off South Africa’s coast in an attempt to gather information regarding the possibilities for oil and gas exploration.
Some 20 companies are involved in the exploration, including some of the major players, such as: Shell, Anadarko, ExxonMobil and Total.
Let us hope that this exploration and what is to follow is done in a responsible manner and that South Africa gets to to be part of the process as well as the rewards.
MY EDITOR’S COMMENT FROM THE LATEST ISSUE OF MARITIME REVIEW:
The recent grounding of the Kiani Satu grabbed media headlines towards the beginning of August. Many of the news reports were to be expected: highlighting details of leaking oil; initial unsuccessful refloating attempts; lack of availability of the patrol vessels as well as comments from concerned environmentalists and citizens. There were those, however, who seemed to use the floundering vessel as a platform to try refloat issues that have long been scuppered by factual evidence.
Take the media report that focused on comments made by the Chairperson of the Fisheries Portfolio Committee, Lulu Johnson for example. Mr Johnson chose to lay blame for the lack of readiness of the DAFF patrol vessels at the door of Smit Amandla Marine.
I’ve heard him say it before and he was quoted again saying; “They (Smit Amandla Marine) have got away with murder”. It is rather a simplistic summation that makes little sense against the almost two-year drama that now surrounds the cancellation of the vessel management tender; the transfer of the vessels into and then out of the SA Navy – and the current contract which aims to get the vessels operational again.
Documents and reports exist in the public domain clearly disputing this “fact” that Johnson is so determined to try to qualify. His argument that Smit Amandla Marine handed over a fleet of unseaworthy vessels has even been disputed by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) themselves.
So, Mr Johnson, here are some facts for you to consider. At the time of the vessel handover from Smit, independent third party marine surveyors were contracted to verify the condition and inventories of the vessels. In addition, DAFF was provided with a full risk assessment, which raised a number of concerns the company had.
They specifically emphasised the risks associated with the Africana and DAFF was warned about the consequences of laying the vessels up “inappropriately”. At the time of the handover, the vessels were seaworthy and all statutory certificates were valid.
It would, however, be accurate to note that the vessel is old and that, as admitted by Smit Amandla Marine at the time, she did require some key maintenance work including a main engine overhaul, pipe work, hydraulic and steel work as well as an overhaul of the onboard electronic systems.
That these projects were not carried out is not due to mismanagement by the previous vessel management service provider, but rather due to budgetary constraints of the Department.
Ironically while Mr Johnson was pontificating and accusing the company of murderous actions; the self same company was out at sea in their well-maintained workhorse – the Smit Amandla (previously the John Ross) which is, incidentally, even older than the Africana and still going strong. Called out to the scene of the stricken Kiani Satu under the DOT casualty response contract; the Smit Amandla entered into a Lloyd’s Open Forum (LOF) and shortly thereafter invoked the SCOPIC clause.
What followed was a tremendous effort by authorities, salvors and volunteers to minimise the damage to the coast and to wildlife.
Just over a week later, the vessel was refloated and towed away from the coast.
What Mr Johsnon’s portfolio committee did successfully do was re-awaken media attention to the fact that the DAFF vessels are still not operational. At a joint press conference with Damen in May to announce the contract to affect emergency measures to get the vessels back at sea, Greta Apelgren-Narkedien noted that a period of six months was needed.
Since then the vessel management tender has been announced and the Department has yet to reveal the successful bidder. Factoring in the six months from May – perhaps we can anticipate that this announcement will come sooner rather than later to ensure that the vessels have a new home to go to when eventually certified seaworthy.
Given the controversy that dogged the previous announcement, however, there must certainly be a great deal of pressure for DAFF to get it right with no room for litigation.
The media, the current bidders and the Fisheries Portfolio Committee will be waiting to scrutinise the results.
For Shaheen Moolla, however, the portfolio committee does not have the teeth of a true watchdog – and he seems to describe them as a tame puppy when it comes to their oversight duties. You can read his concerns in this regard on page 8 of this issue.
Perhaps that’s why he has taken it upon himself to act in the capacity of the barking dog next door as he aims to make his neighbours aware that DAFF’s house is not in order.
We said it last issue, and I’ll say it again: the last few months of this year will vindicate either DAFF or their detractors as deadlines and timelines begin to catch up with them.
Let us know what you think!
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The Fisheries Department is back in the hot seat this week (again) with officials again being criticised for still not getting the country’s research and patrol vessels back in the water.
Acting Fisheries Department deputy director-general, Desmond Stevens had the rather unenviable task of updating parliament on the status of the vessels and assured those present that both the Ruth First and Victoria Mxenge were ready for action and merely waiting seaworthy certificates from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and that the Lilian Ngoyi would be ready to sail by the end of September. Various MPs stated that they would be waiting on the dock at Simon’s Town to board the vessel on the promised date.
Let us hope that the Fisheries Department can deliver this time. It would seem that the pressure is finally on.
The stranded Kiani Satu has remained in the press all week as all attempts to refloat the vessel, still stranded off the coast of Buffels Bay, have thus far failed. According to Captain Nigel Campbell, responsible for overseeing the salvage operation for SAMSA, it is the strong swell due to harsh weather conditions that is hampering the refloating process.
Obviously the oil that is still leaking from the damaged vessel remains a cause for concern and Parliament’s portfolio committee has called for harsher penalties to be imposed on those responsible for the pollution of local waters in an attempt to protect fish and marine life resources.
This is something that could really go a long way towards protecting our coastline. Let us hope that the powers that be are able to come up with a plan that can be implemented fairly and quickly.
There was also some maritime drama off the coast of Robben Island this week, as the crew of the fishing trawler Claremont, had to be rescued after the vessel crashed into the rocks along the island’s coastline.
The rescue operation was carried out over four hours by the NSRI and all 12 crew members were safely brought back to shore. Another successful NSRI operation.
It seems that the salvage season has started in Cape Town.
As I prepare to put my feet up for Women’s Day tomorrow and scroll through the many newsfeeds I follow on social networks, I am suddenly reminded that the “thing to do” in media is to couple content planning to calendar events such as this. So let’s take a moment to reflect on the feminine demographic in the maritime industry.
When I started reporting on the industry way back in the mid 1990′s there were not many ladies at sea and few holding positions of any real maritime significance ashore. I remember visiting a Captain on his ship and being subjected to a bout of misplaced chivalry as he opened the doors while I had to squeeze passed his sizeable belly in the narrow passages to enter first. I remember interviewing a Managing Director of a reputable maritime company and being told at the end of an hour: “I’m sorry I did not get your name – I was too busy looking at your breasts”. And I remember meeting with a potential freelance writer for the magazine, who was himself an old salt, and him casually remarking “I’ve never worked with anyone like you before” as he gave me a very obvious once over.
Thankfully things have changed considerably since then.
The maritime industry, however, was not unique in its chauvinistic behaviour and now, as it did then, simply continues to be a microcosm of life ashore. Certainly there has been a shift towards attracting women into seafaring positions – similar to most professions “traditionally” associated with male dominance, but I struggle to see a real demographic gender shift at board level of the majority of maritime companies.
We’re happy to send our girls to sea; we’ll even claim bragging rights when a handful of them move up the seafaring ranks – but we are yet to see real progress within top management structures.
Now, I am the first to say that women should not be appointed to simply tick a box on some score card somewhere, but surely there are ladies of significance ready to step into these positions within our industry?
Oh – and the next time you need to have a lady break a bottle of bubbly over the hull of your newbuild, don’t simply invite the wife of some important man – look for that woman of significance in the industry and give her the honour. Because there are some truly innovative, smart, courageous, talented and forward thinking women at work in this industry.
Happy Women’s Day to all in the maritime industry – whether ashore or at sea!