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

If your dreams can fit into your pocket – they are not big enough

Back: Arielle Kuper of Solution Strategies and Clare Gomes, Chairperson of WISTA-SA. Middle: Paula Giusti of Trade Ocean and Jane Cotton of One Eighty. Front Nolwandle Mboweni of Vela International and Eva Moloi of Vice Chairperson of WISTA-SA.

It is not often that you walk away from a maritime industry function feeling inspired to dream bigger, but I left last night’s WISTA-SA’s networking meeting feeling resolute to follow through on some major plans for 2020.

“If your dreams can fit into your pocket – they are not big enough,” Nolwandle Mboweni, CEO of Vela International told WISTA members.

With roots in teaching that continue to define the way she interacts in industry, Nolwandle was nudged into the business world by her father and her husband. Today she is lightyears away from the classroom as she occupies seats in a number of boardrooms – and is currently actively seeking new opportunities in the maritime sector.

Patting her hip pocket and smiling, she was clear that pocket-sized dreams would not have helped her participate in delivering the Gautrain – Africa’s first high-speed train or seen her become a director of companies such as Afrisun Gauteng, Total SA, Allpay Gauteng and more.

Ariella Kuper’s energetic and entertaining description of her road to becoming a major player in the ship auctioning business was equally as inspiring.

“Stars need darkness to shine,” she enthused, telling WISTA members that she had actively sought out male-dominated environments during her career.

Having started out in the steel sector almost by accident and by subsequently “tricking” her way into a job at Macsteel, Ariella’s career culminated in her co-founding the biggest mining auction house in South Africa.

But, following two bouts of cancer, she decided to regroup and focus on what had become a passion for ship auctions. Now she heads up Solution Strategist and is actively involved in ensuring that tonnage moves hands.

For Paula Giusti the path to the maritime sector was also accidental. Arriving in South Africa from Argentina 20 years ago with an agriculture qualification and in need of employment, it was her ability to speak Spanish that landed her a job at a ships’ agency.

Now she is driven by a desire to see Cape Town amplify its position as a super yachting destination and is working with industry players to promote this exciting niche maritime market.

Host for the evening, Janet Cotton of One Eighty has had no less inspirational journey in a very male-dominated sub sector of the industry. She’s the person to call if you need more information about mechanical or structural failures on your vessels or equipment.

Like many women in the industry she has had a number of laughable interactions based on her decision to show up in a workshop environment where she now commands respect.

The services of the One Eighty laboratory in Cape Town is used by many insurers and companies to help piece together the puzzles associated with equipment failure and, in many cases, provides a better understanding of how to prevent similar occurrences in future.

One thing is clear – none of these women ever kept their dreams in their pockets. They now represent significant clout in their respective sectors and are helping eliminate stereotypical reactions to the presence of women in the maritime domain.

 

Appoint of contention

With a number of vacancies currently on its Executive Management Team, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is in a unique position to address its gender balance during the IMO World Maritime Day themed year of “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community” by appointing relevant, strong maritime women.

According to SAMSA’s website there are at least three (possibly four since the retirement of Nigel Campbell last year) positions available on its executive team – including the long-empty position of Chief Executive Officer.

With only one woman currently listed on the 11-member team, now is the time for SAMSA to appoint for a more balanced and reflective team.  With two women on its Board, they represent 40 percent of SAMSA’s rather diminished Board of five – a better statistic, but more symptomatic of a Board that has been slowly whittled away, than indicative of a concerted effort to show gender diversity (in my opinion).

Compared to some of the other major African Maritime Authorities, SAMSA still falls somewhat short. The Kenya Maritime Authority includes four women on its 15-person Board of Directors, while Ghana Maritime Authority boasts four out of 13 on its management team.

Nigeria’s Authority (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency – NIMASA) fares the worst, however. With four men on the Executive Management Team there is clearly no space for a woman. The representation on the NIMASA Board is equally as dismal with only one woman on the 11-member team.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has themed this year’s World Maritime Day “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community” – a challenge to the industry that has long been male-dominated. Interestingly IMO, itself, may want to heed its own call as Kitack Lim, the current Secretary General, nears the end of his term that began in 2016.

It’s certainly an opportunity for the international body to lead by example and look to appoint its first female Secretary General. It is impossible to believe that there are no women capable of stepping up to this challenge.

Happy International Women’s Day!


[All statistics are based on information available on each Authority’s website and assumes that their listings are accurate and up-to-date.]

Weekly Press Review – 21 May 2018

Transnet has appointed a new CFO after a scandal involving the Gupta family. According to the press, Transnet has appointed Mohammed Mahomedy as the interim chief financial officer to take over from Garry Pita who resigned last month amid the financial scandal.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has also appointed a new Transnet interim board and removed the utility’s three remaining board members: Seth Radebe, Potso Mathekga and Zainul Nagdee.

“Transnet is facing serious allegations of maladministration and corruption. The previous board had not demonstrated appreciation of the seriousness of issues at hand or the ability to deal with these decisively in order to protect the entity in the interest of South Africa,” said Gordhan.

The share price of JSE-listed Premier Fishing & Brands rose 5.13 percent after the company delivered solid returns despite tough economic and environmental conditions.

According to the press, Samier Saban, chief executive of Premier said, “I am pleased with our interim results and the progress Premier has made against our strategy to date.”

Yoshi, the loggerhead turtle has made her way to the shallower waters off the Angolan coast. According to the press, the Two Oceans Aquarium team has reported that Yoshi appears to be enjoying her time along the Angolan coast.

“It is much shallower where she currently finds herself, so she is probably having a bit if a feeding frenzy,” said an aquarium spokesperson.

Yoshi was released from the Two Oceans Aquarium in December about 27 nautical miles off Hout Bay. She was fitted with a satellite tag allowing researchers to track her journey for the next three years.

In a follow-up to last week’s story regarding the Shark Spotters crowd-funding project to raise funds for new binoculars, we are happy to report that after a donation of R20,000 from the Chinese community’s Southern African North-east Chamber of Commerce, Shark Spotters reached their R60,000 goal for the new binoculars.

According to the press, Shark Spotters chief executive Sarah Weis said, “This will enable spotters to have the best tools to keep people safe. They will be able to see things further; and to identify threats and species of shark.”

The People’s Republic of China deputy consul general in Cape Town, Cao Li said, ”It feels good to be able to help, to increase the value of wildlife protection. This organisation protects our lives and the sharks’ lives.”

Weekly Press Review – 14 May 2018

The False Bay Shark Spotters have made headlines this week with their appeal to the public to support the organisation’s crowd-funding platform, BackaBuddy.

A large part of the Shark Spotters portfolio is looking for sharks in the water using binoculars. The organisation needs 35 new pairs of binoculars at a cost of R60,000 and so the BackaBuddy campaign was launched. An amount of R34,260 has already been raised.

“Sharks are not easy to spot, unlike whales and dolphins, we rarely see their dorsal fin or other body parts above water, which is why we need increased visibility.

“The binoculars that we have are dated and most are in a state of disrepair. We hope the public will support our BackaBuddy campaign to empower us to keep our waters safe,” said Sarah Waries, chief executive of Shark Spotters.

False bay has the second largest number of white sharks in the world and the largest number of species. The balance between conservation and safety is therefore imperative. For the past 14 years Shark Spotters have been instrumental in finding that balance.

“Conserving large, predatory sharks, which are sometimes in conflict with people, is a major conservation challenge, because fear can stop people from supporting their conservation.

“To ensure the balance between great white shark conservation and public safety it is imperative that we have a strong scientific foundation on white shark ecology, coupled with non-lethal mitigation methods and supported by comprehensive education and awareness strategy,” says Waries.

For more information visit: www.backabuddy.co.za/spotters-binocular-fund

Weekly Press Review – 7 May 2018

Almost a year after the finalising of a forensic report alleging fraud by several high ranking fisheries officials, these same officials are still in their posts within the department.

According to the press, the report was conducted by forensic specialists The iFirm after a botched state abalone deal in 2016. Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana said at the time that legal action was being considered.  The minister himself, however, now faces a report into his own conduct compiled by the National Health Education and Allied Workers Union, alleging nepotism, mismanagement and sexual favours, and calling for his immediate removal; and the officials still remain at the department.

In response Minister Zokwana’s office has said that a team had been set up to address these concerns.

In more positive news a four-year-old environmentalist has made headlines this week after she managed to collect more than 14 cubic metres of recycled plastic over the last month.

Jenny Kenyon from Cape Town is on a campaign to shine a light on the dangers faced by penguins and turtles, as well as the environment, as a result of plastic bags.

Jenny’s crusade began after a visit to the Two Ocean Aquarium where she learnt that a turtle had eaten plastic from the ocean.

“She started out by telling her friends why straws and balloons were harming marine life,” says Jenny’s mother, Kath Kenyon.

Jenny started collecting plastic in March. “ I like collecting plastic so the penguins don’t get sick,” said Jenny.

Surely we can all learn a lesson from a four-year old who is not only capable of understanding the dangers of plastic pollution to our oceans, but is also willing and able to start to do something about it.