Getting take-aways

Yesterday I picked up some maritime take-aways that did not involve fish and chips.

I accepted an invite to participate in a Maritime Security Roundtable hosted by the Institute for Security Studies Africa (ISS Africa) with a bit of trepidation based on my concern that I would not be able to add much value. Joining a group of varied maritime stakeholders, the discussion was interesting as well as diverse and highlighted several important issues that provided some important take-aways.

  • The marine and maritime space is far-reaching and complex in nature – making any discussion on governance and security equally diverse and complex.
  • Significant work is being done theoretically, academically and practically to improve South Africa’s and Africa’s ability to manage its own maritime domain – but much of this is not immediately visible or apparent.
  • This lack of visibility is, in part, due to the diverse range of stakeholders involved across government and industry – with the consequence of some duplication and gaps occurring.
  • While many consider Operation Phakisa a failed initiative, it did manage to provide deliverables in some areas. One such success is the creation of the Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg) within SAMSA.
  • An Ocean Economy Master Plan is scheduled to be completed by December this year – outlining aspects of the maritime economy that require attention and offer opportunity. Although the process is being driven by government, labour and industry, there is still a perception that it is being held behind closed doors by some.
  • There is a lack of willingness to coordinate data from the industry to help make over-arching decisions, with many government departments, NGOs and Universities all accumulating research without an understanding of what has already been undertaken in the space.
  • Coastal communities are often not part of the discussions for solutions and/or their specific challenges are not understood within the context of the historical and present dynamics.
  • Training within the maritime space needs to be offset against actual employment opportunities. Training for unemployment cannot be an option.
  • There appears to be a lack of review of policies to understand where interventions have worked and where they have not. In addition, policy briefs are often ignored or not produced.
  • The slow pace of policy as well as legal instrument development is a massive problem with important legislation often becoming stalled and remaining in the pipeline for many years.
  • It was suggested that a major maritime disaster or set-back may be needed to strengthen government’s resolve to tackle a number of issues that remain unresolved.
  • A dedicated maritime department within government was once again discussed as a solution to coordinating the maritime efforts of the country; and that the maritime agenda needs to be raised more often within government structures.
  • While regional and continental bodies exist, these cannot override national interests. The AU needs to strengthen its maritime desk.
  • In the absence of true collaboration and visibility; many private companies are simply just getting on with it while policy and government strategy lags behind.

At the end of the day, most agreed that adding another maritime intervention or initiative to the space would simply further the fragmentation of efforts. More collaboration and coordination are the ultimate solutions. Sadly, this is a common refrain and will take significant effort for stakeholders to pay more than lip service to the notion of breaking down silos.

Thank you to my hosts and fellow-panellists for a most interesting afternoon of discussions. It was also good to get out from behind the computer screen and zoom meetings to engage in person – albeit behind masks.

My final comments

Last week I joined a panel to discuss Women in Maritime. Over the last few years I have participated in a number of similar discussions and felt privileged to have been invited to do so, but I have decided to make my final comments on this issue in this blog.

As of today – 26 October 2021 – this is where I believe the industry stands with regard to promoting and enabling the careers of women. I want to touch on a couple of frequently deliberated topics that pop up in these webinars:


[If you happen to be reading this blog post from some date far in the future –
I do hope that more change has occurred and that the actual content of this post is redundant.


Is the maritime industry a male-dominated industry?
Yes it is.

Is gender transformation being actively pursued?
Yes it is, but it needs to be realistically addressed.

Is it currently more difficult for women than men to advance in the maritime industry?
The industry consists of so many sectors and sub-sectors that some of these remain more challenging for women than for men. One is likely to find it more challenging in the offshore environment as a woman for a number of reasons that are currently being addressed within the industry.

One also only has to look at the composition of many multi-national companies’ executives and boards to understand that women are not being considered for these positions – which makes people assume that a female here and there is simply a token appointment even if she is not.

Some significant progress has, however, been made in the government and parastatal space where the increase in women representation over the last few years is self-evident. International and national industry associations are also playing an important role in identifying capable women leaders.

What can women contribute to the industry?
Women are able to contribute in the same way men are able to contribute. Women can arrive at a place of work and, provided that they have had access to the same opportunities and training, can do exactly what men can do at that place of work – whatever that place of work represents across the maritime sectors.

How can men ensure that they are allies in the workplace?
Men simply need to be decent human beings in the same way that women need to be decent human beings in any workplace. A good start for some men, however, is to drop the micro-aggressions that suggest that you have made the assumption that your female work colleague may not know as much as you or may have a different work ethic to you simply because she is a woman before she is able to disprove or prove this.

Also – drop the male bravado. We do not need “locker room talk” – not even in the locker room contrary to what Trump may have permitted many to believe.

Oh – and get a little more creative than industry golf days or soccer tournaments to foster community. Seriously, both of these sports have traditionally concentrated on attracting men; and women remain under-represented. It is possible to literally count the number of lady golfers at these networking/fundraising days on one hand. And I really do not think it remains the task of women to consider playing golf, simply because this was a networking activity chosen by men in the distant past.

What advice would you give to young women entering/rising in the industry?
Get on with it. Show up and speak up. Do not see yourself as a token employee, but rather as a valuable asset that your company obviously saw potential in when they hired you. Prove them right. Never stop learning and seek mentors as well as collaborators. And when you inevitably succeed – gaze down the talent pipeline and act as a mentor and collaborator with the next generation coming up behind you.

What is the role of women leaders in the maritime industry?
The role of women leaders is, and will always be, the same as the role of male leaders:

  • To grow the industry sustainably.
  • To provide space for the next generation of men and women to gain skills, experience and expertise.
  • To mentor, provide opportunities and construct succession plans to ensure sustainability.
  • To foster accountability and collaboration.
  • To retire – satisfied in the knowledge that the industry is in good hands.

What should the future employment landscape of the maritime industry look like?
Assuming that the industry has done the work to promote awareness across a diversity of platforms and geographic areas – the ideal future hiring ethos should be based purely on merit. No person wants to be employed as the token anything (gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation).

Sadly we are not there yet – and equally sadly, the notion of quotas still needs to be considered as some companies resist acknowledging the benefits of voluntarily embracing diversity in the interest of a homogenous company culture.

I am sure that there is more to be said, but I do hope that we can step beyond these conversations and simply get on with what needs to be done. There are also some excellent women-orientated industry organisations and associations that understand that this is not simply a topic that needs to be addressed in isolation of our male colleagues. They are – and will continue to – address these issues until the time such discussions become superfluous.

Calling it a day

What happens when you wake up on any particular day and you realise that today is THAT day?

I’ve often wondered what goes into the creation of a day. Not in terms of how the sun rises and sets or anything else relating to the laws of nature – but rather: who decides on the creation of international days that recognise various topics or groups, and how does one go about getting the world to agree to mark it on their calendar?

Today is International Maritime Day 2021. The United Nations (UN), via the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), created World Maritime Day to celebrate the international maritime industry’s contribution towards the world’s economy, especially in shipping. The event’s date varies by year and country, but it is always held during the last week of September.

According to sources on the internet, World Maritime Day was first held on March 17, 1978 to mark the date of the IMO Convention’s entry into force in 1958. 

Traditionally (before the advent of COVID-19) a country would be chosen to host a parallel event. Last year would have seen South Africa step up to meet the challenge of hosting international maritime dignitaries had travel not been impeded by the pandemic.

As such the pomp and ceremony has been replaced by virtual commemorations and observances of the date. The theme for this year reflects a clear need to raise awareness of seafarersʹ crucial role in world trade and increase their visibility. The crew change crisis in 2020 highlighted seafarersʹ contribution as key and essential workers on the front line of delivering vital goods through a pandemic and in ordinary times. The international community has seen how the ability for shipping services and seafarers to ensure the functioning of the global supply chains has been central to responding to, and eventually overcoming, this pandemic.

Sadly, however, a day of observance is just that. Since the start of the pandemic we have observed two International Seafarer Days and now two World Maritime Days – and still seafarers are struggling against unfriendly regimes and port authorities in some places.

And so, as everyone scrambles to show that they know what day it is and prove that they care by sharing messages on social media and distributing press releases about how they intend to observe the day – we lose sight of the day’s underlying intention. Everyone simply observes the day and tomorrow carries on with their business as usual.

Well – next month is Maritime Month in South Africa and our challenge should be to act on the many resolutions we have made in conferences, workshops and seminars over the years that remain unfulfilled.

In fact – we should make all the days we have in our calendar count.

DATEDAY OF OBSERVATIONINCEPTION
23 MarchWorld Meteorological Day2021
2 MayWorld Tuna Day2016
5 JuneInternational Day for Fighting against IUU Fishing2016
8 JuneWorld Oceans Day1992
25 JuneInternational Day of the Seafarer2016
25 JulyWorld Drowning Prevention Day2021
30 JulyWorld Day against Trafficking in Persons2013
27 SeptWorld Tourism Day1980
SeptWorld Maritime Day1978
5 NovWorld Tsunami Awareness Day2015
LIST OF UNITED NATIONS DAY OF OBSERVANCES RELATING TO THE OCEAN

Running aground

When a ship runs aground, a team of experienced salvors, surveyors and mariners come together to ensure that she is safely refloated and either sent to the dry dock for repairs or scuppered at sea. During this time, the public is kept abreast of the progress and made aware of any potential environmental danger that the casualty poses to the marine environment. Behind the scenes a host of inter-agency and inter-departmental decision-making is taking place and a cohesive statement of details is presented to ensure that the relay of factual information is continuously available.

We ran aground and ignored some of this protocol.

With one of the biggest assets in our fleet temporarily aground – the printed version of the magazine – we have attempted to continue to operate in a “business as usual” way without the proper communication and acknowledgment of the true nature of the situation. While we have managed to continue on some levels, the grounding can no longer be ignored.

The tide is turning, however, and we are seeing signs that we can achieve a successful refloat and avoid scuppering our valuable asset.

Nautical terminology aside, we are in the process of ensuring that Maritime Review does not become another maritime media statistic that joins several major titles that have closed in recent years around the globe.

It is time to communicate properly in this regard as well as outline our plan going forward. The hard facts that we cannot ignore are that, as a magazine that relies solely on advertising budget to survive, we have to tweak our business model. The reality is that many companies are struggling and simply do not have the marketing budget that they had in the past – and are looking at other ways to maximise their own spend.

The majority of our content has always been free to the industry, and we are still aiming to continue to offer this service, but we will be developing premium content that will only be available to subscribers.

Our printed magazine remains a central point of our brand, but times have changed. Much of our audience now consumes content digitally. We are competing with citizen journalists who can record and release “news” as it unfolds in front of them. We are competing with social media that costs many companies very little to access and disseminate their own content.

As such it is the printed magazine that has hit the hard ground. Quite simply, we have not been able to print the first issue yet. That’s the reality. That’s the ship aground.

But we are implementing a decisive plan and want our public to be aware of how we intend managing the process going forward.

Issue One – which is currently still in production will be released purely as a digital version. It has been impacted not only by the decrease in marketing budget available, but also now by the situation in the country that has rocked distribution channels. Although severely impacted by these realities, this issue includes some amazing content that we do not simply want to scupper.

As such, we have upgraded our online hosting plan to help us create a richer audience experience of the magazine and allow for detailed engagement analysis. Our new hosting plan allows for the inclusion of video and audio within the online magazine. We are excited about the opportunities that this could offer us and our clients.

In addition, we will pursue all avenues to ensure that we reach the same audience and more. This will serve as the testing ground for our pursuit of whether we convert completely to online delivery in 2022 or not. 

Currently we are still aiming to print the remaining three issues of the year after releasing Issue One digitally, but will curate the online experience making it richer than the printed version as we move forward.

Our content themes for the remainder of the year are as follows:

  • Issue 2: Marine Engineering and the Offshore Sector
  • Issue 3: Ports, Harbours and Related services
  • Issue 4: Safety, Security and Incident response

Our aim needs to be to remain a trusted source of relevant, analytical, in-depth content that is accessible to stakeholders in the maritime industry.

In the meantime, we are also in the process of updating and upgrading the magazine’s official website. The new Buyers Guide is almost ready to be revealed.

We are also working on getting back On The Quayside to talk to the long list of interesting maritime people that we have compiled.

We note too the need for closer collaboration with the industry we serve and acknowledge the irony of some of the previous admonishing we have dealt out towards other stakeholders in this regard.

Just recently we did collaborate to create a song tribute on the International Day of the Seafarers which is now actually being refined by a new band to add percussion, base and viola. We have also taken the lyrics from the song to create merchandise (T-shirts and Shopper Bags) to help fundraise for the GBOBA Bursary Fund.

So is the vessel afloat? Well, not entirely – but it is a long way from being scuppered. Please do get in touch and join our team of salvors to ensure that we keep maritime journalism alive on the continent.

New port of call

After 20 years of operating from the same offices, we are lifting anchors and sailing on to a new port of call. While packing up the boxes (and boxes) of past magazines, interview notes and drawers of catalogued photos – it’s both overwhelming and satisfying to acknowledge what we have accomplished over almost two decades.

They say that a change is as good as a holiday, but I have been inspired by the vast topics we have covered during our time in these offices and aim to keep the engines running and navigate an even more adventurous course ahead. No time for a holiday right now!

While the next two weeks will require some dry docking time, we are still available to engage with the industry and look forward to plotting our course from new premises.

The telephone and postal contact details for Maritime Review will remain unchanged.
Tel: 021 914 1157
PO Box 3842, Durbanville, 7551

I don’t want to celebrate women in maritime

Well, it’s women’s month here in South Africa and the calendar is filling up with webinars addressing women’s issues in the maritime space. Equally my social media feeds are filled with posts from a number of maritime stakeholders celebrating women in the sector.

I applaud the efforts that companies and organisations are making to focus the attention of the predominantly male industry on the successes of, as well as the plight of, their women colleagues. And I am excited to read posts about amazing women standing out and breaking the stereotypes associated with the industry.

But the more women we see holding positions traditionally dominated by men, the less we will need to seek them out or hold them up as something that is an anomaly. Because, you see, I do not want to continue celebrating women in maritime as something weirdly special – I want women to be commonplace and removed as a token target on some score sheet.

And while there are plenty of amazing women in the industry – we are still scrambling to find and promote them because we still know that we need to prove that there is a space for women here. The stereotype is that it is not a “natural fit” and that those women that are in the sector are champions for the future.

Sadly we are not yet in that future so let’s celebrate the achievements of maritime women this month. But let us not do it to be seen to be relevant – let us do it to be real.

The reality is that celebrating the achievements of these women can create a rather one-dimensional conversation. I hope we can do better than simply holding a one dimensional conversation this month and I aim to attend a number of the virtual events that are being hosted to get a better understanding of how this dialogue is evolving.

Events on the calendar to diarise:

  • 06 August @ 15:00: Institute for Security Studies – How can we draw women into the Maritime Industry 
  • 18 August @ 11:00: South African International Maritime Institute – Re-imagining 2020: navigating the equality agenda in an era of COVID-19 (registration link TBC)
  • 21 August @ 10:00: eThekwini Maritime Cluster – Navigating the Role of Women in the Maritime Industry (registration link TBC)
  • 31 August: South African Maritime Safety Institute – TBC

From my perspective, and hopefully in a bid to get real and not simply be relevant on social media, I will be inviting a few women to join me in a new segment on our platforms: On the Quayside where we chat about real issues in an honest way.

You will find links to these conversations on our FaceBook page, via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Taking steps forward in maritime education and training

Last week’s Maritime Industry Dialogue webinar as well as the South African International Maritime Institute’s (SAIMI) Forward Thinking conference at the end of last year highlight the need for deeper collaboration across the various stakeholders to ensure relevant, cost-effective and inclusive maritime education and training.

As a developing nation with a number of economic and transformational challenges, South Africa finds itself caught between the need to create mass employment (especially for the youth) and the need to adapt to a maritime world that is internationally benchmarked as well as adopting technology and moving towards automation across all the sub-sectors.

It is a position that requires nimble thinking and a commitment to limit bureaucratic obstacles that slow the pace of change, collaboration and transformation.

It is worth emphasising certain words in the above sentence. We require nimble thinking alongside reduced bureaucracy that promoted collaboration as well as transformation.

After hosting last week’s webinar I maintain that much of what I wrote in a conclusion to the Forward Thinking conference is relevant right now.

Facilitating REAL collaboration and breaking down silos

As a sector the maritime industry pays lip-service to collaboration. Everyone agrees that there is a lack of collaboration when convened under the auspices of a conference or seminar – but simply leaves the venue to continue operating within their chosen silo. There is no real picture of what true collaboration looks like, but we know what a lack of collaboration looks like:

  • Duplicated or overlapping studies on maritime skills that are not implemented effectively.
  • A mismatch between the provision of certain maritime skills and the demand for maritime skills.
  • A threat of under-resourced (in terms of staff, infrastructure and equipment) training facilities due to a focus on quantity rather than quality of facilities.
  • A disjointed use of terminology across institutions and organisations that confuses the maritime skills landscape.
  • A mistrust and unwillingness to collaborate across industry players, training providers and other relevant institutes as each stakeholder protects their domain in a harsh economic reality.
  • The tendency to convene talk-shop after talk-shop to address the same issues over and over again.

Redefining this picture is viable. Creating one repository for all maritime-related studies would certainly be a good first step to help curb duplication and foster collaborative research as well as knowledge sharing.

There is a diversity of organisations, institutes, government departments and even tertiary institutions that continue to undertake skills audits and sector studies that overlap with no real interaction or collation.

In addition, a central point for issuing requests for proposals or quotes from the private sector for studies and research relating to skills across the sector could be considered. All entities requiring data could submit an outline of their required information that could be collated and consolidated via this central point to provide a cohesive source of information and research.

The mismatch between supply and demand of maritime skills requires more significant input from industry. Industry (the demand side of the equation) needs to provide information relating to current and future skills requirements on a more regular basis. Creating a digital tool to facilitate this constant input of information is a viable idea to help match supply and demand.

As important as it is to create a network of colleges, universities and other tertiary training providers that caters for a national footprint – the notion that every existing college needs a maritime qualification is disingenuous to the students that may elect to enrol at institutions that cannot afford to attract the right level of instructors or that cannot afford to invest in equipment that adequately skills their students for current as well as future industry needs.

Talk around a national maritime academy that also caters for the needs of the region should be revisited in an environment that casts aside parochial interests to the benefit of a national and long-term interest of matching skills development and demand.

While, however, there is a range of courses being offered by a number of institutions, some consideration needs to be given to the disjointed terminology that makes it difficult for prospective students to easily identify which courses are comparable across service providers. A student seeking to do a BComm, for example, can easily identify which institutions offer this qualification and how it compares to other institutions offering the same qualification. The same needs to hold true for maritime-related qualifications.

Accountability to measurable outcomes and delivering solutions

Accountability is needed in order to address the non-collaborative space further and to turn the tide from talk shops to work shops. It has become easy to stand up and address issues publicly and even lament what is not working without committing to or providing workable solutions.

Delegates at conferences file out of the proceedings bemoaning the state of affairs in the industry, but simultaneously tick these events off as successes if they have managed to make a few good contacts that could further personal or organisational ambitions.

While Operation Phakisa provided a unique opportunity to create accountability measures in the industry – it has been highlighted that even an intervention initiated by the Presidency cannot ensure accountability.

Once again, however, there is no accurate picture of what true accountability looks like – only a snapshot of what the landscape looks like without it. It is time to define what accountability will entail and how this will translate to an improved situation for skills development.

The COVID spanner in the works

Last year’s Forward Thinking conference could not have predicted the rise of a virus that would keep us all isolated and force us to work from home. But it did forewarn us about the need to consider implementing technology and it did emphasise the need for greater collaboration.

Don’t sit back – find the answer as to HOW this can be achieved so that we can look back at commentary such as this as being outdated.

Essentially speaking

At the moment there are two types of maritime companies. Those that are seen to provide essential services or products, and those that do not. We have applauded those that continue to risk their own health to provide a lifeline of services and products to the sector – but the reality is that these companies have been given an economic lifeline that many others cannot hang on to.

And as some companies scramble to motivate for the status of an essential service provider – it gives us an opportunity to reflect on this as a concept not only for companies, but for job descriptions as a whole.

The maritime industry has for some time talked about disruptors and their potential impact on employment as well as the more pressing need to produce certain skills at the expense of those that may face being phased out.

We all pointed to maritime interventions based on technological advancements, but the world has just been systematically disrupted by a microscopic virus that may see the adoption of these interventions being accelerated.

Consider the unique plight that seafarers are currently facing as ports clamp down on crew changes. Certainly shipowners may be considering the advantages of automated vessels even more keenly.

Consider too the fact that some of the smaller companies may realise the benefits of their staff working remotely as protocols are successfully implemented to keep businesses in operation during a lockdown period and employees show an affinity to self motivate. A business seeking to recoup any losses may suddenly see expenses relating to an office set-up as redundant. No office means no cleaning staff and possibly no receptionist as well as other non-core workers.

Consider the potential use of drones to deliver supplies to passing vessels. It’s already happening on a small scale on an experimental basis, but as capacity develops and it becomes viable for a greater variety of loads – the need for small vessel operators to race out with urgent supplies will certainly diminish. The need for skippers and their crews will lessen.

Consider the negative impact this virus may have had on the cruise sector. Seen as a potential growth sector in Africa, it will now have to contend with the justifiable fears of potential passengers who watched port after port deny disembarkation amid worries of bringing the virus ashore.

Consider the number of conferences, seminars and workshops that have been cancelled or moved into the digital space. Eliminating a venue concurrently eliminates the need for catering, technical and ground staff. Some maritime conferences organisers have quickly introduced digital offerings that provide both the content and the networking opportunities that were only deemed viable within the confines of a conference room setting.

When the sea calms after this COVID-19 pandemic, however, it is going to be essential to recoup the economic activity that was lost. It is going to be essential to commit to job retention and even growth.

It is going to be essential to get back to business as usual BUT it is more important now than ever before to realise that business as usual cannot mean business as we have always done it.

We will need to take action on the good intentions spewed at every maritime conference relating to collaborative efforts to expand, transform, improve and diversify the maritime sectors. All this needs to be accomplished in the face of fighting for our own organisation’s survival.

Communication, information sharing and transparency will be key and as a maritime journalist I believe that a relevant, critical and investigative maritime media space will be even more essential than ever.

In our wake

Looking back on 2019, I thought it might be interesting to note some of the statistics associated with our platforms and highlight what seems to have sparked reader interest.

TOP TEN ARTICLES ON OUR WEBSITE:
  1. Farming mussels benefits both worlds – 24,471 reads
  2. South Africa lacks coordinated emergency response – 9,877 reads
  3. South African designed prototype aims to improve safety of submariners – 8,907 reads
  4. Ceremony marks the start of newbuilding for Namibia – 6,865 reads
  5. African countries lag behind in technology uptake in maritime sectors – 4,397 reads
  6. Report highlights risk of piracy and stowaways in Africa – 3,518 reads
  7. Industry to hold SAMSA accountable for IMO White Listing – 2,571 reads
  8. Women play a constructive role in African maritime landscape – 2,088 reads
  9. Massive milestone for Mossel Bay SPM – 1,959 reads
  10. Forging links in oil and gas – 1,849 reads

INTERACTION WITH ONLINE MAGAZINE PLATFORM

Top 10 countries in terms of readership:

  1. South Africa
  2. United States
  3. Germany
  4. United Kingdom
  5. New Zealand
  6. Ireland
  7. India
  8. Netherlands
  9. Canada
  10. Kenya

Most popular covers from 2019: 

  1. Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 11.39.15      2. Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 11.40.57

Most shared magazines from 2019

  1. Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 11.39.15      2. Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 11.44.56
  • Read all the online magazines from 2019
  • Read all the monthly reviews from 2019

TOP TEN POSTS ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE

#1. 12,052 people reached with 106 reactions and 40 shares

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#2. 10,456 people reached with 329 reactions and 51 shares

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 #3. 9,543 people reached with 113 reactions and 35 shares

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#4. 7,366 people reached with 224 reactions and 42 shares

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#5. 5,571 people reached with 60 reactions and 11 shares

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#6. 4,827 people reached with 178 reactions and 33 shares

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#7 3,941 people reached with 312 reactions and 21 shares

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#8. 3,618 people reached with 107 reactions and 15 shares

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#9. 3,450 people reached with 57 reactions and 12 shares

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#10. 2,726 people reached with 194 reactions and 14 shares

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Are we acting in the best interest of the maritime industry?

Have you noticed how many people are simply just acting within the top echelons of the maritime-related governing bodies, organisations and SOEs in South Africa?  The recent announcement of a permanent CEO for the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) means that there is one less acting CEO, but the lack of certainty of many positions remains unchanged.

A promise to appoint a permanent CEO to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) by June this year never materialised despite a second call for applications for the position. In the meantime, Sobantu Tilayi has been acting in this capacity since 2016. I cannot even imagine the stress associated with seeing your position advertised over and over again – applying for it and then just simply being expected to accept the status quo when no definitive move to make a decision seems forthcoming.

A similar situation exists within the Department of Transport (DoT) where Dumisani Ntuli has been holding the position of Acting Deputy Director General: Maritime Transport for a number of years. This position was also recently advertised by the Department, but no announcement has been made of a permanent appointment.

But perhaps more alarming is the way in which Transnet deals with their leadership issues – where allegations against permanent appointees result in suspension and the appointment of acting management. In a segment broadcast by Carte Blanche recently that aimed to highlight inefficiencies at container terminals, Captain Sarno of MSC Shipping noted that the lack of permanent appointees that could be held accountable was a problem.

One just has to cast an eye to the top tiers of management across both Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) as well as Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) to note that the leadership structure is hampered by the lack of permanently appointed and credible heads that can be held accountable.

Compare this, if you will, to the stable decade-long leadership of Bisey Gerson/Uirab who officially stood down as Chief Executive Officer of Namport a few months ago. And compare the strides made in this time to attract business to the port, develop the port and acquire infrastructure to the detriment of competitor ports in the region.

Actors in the maritime industry:

  • Sobantu Tilayi: Acting CEO, SAMSA
  • Dumisani Ntuli: Acting Deputy Director General: Maritime Affairs, Department of Transport
  • Mohammed Mohamedy: Acting CEO, Transnet
  • Richard Vallihu: Acting COO, Transnet
  • Mark Gregg-MacDonald, Acting CFO, Transnet
  • Sanet Vorster, Acting CHR, Transnet
  • Michelle Phillips, Acting CEO, Transnet Port Terminals
  • Nozipho Ndawe, Acting CEO, Transnet National Ports Authority