Experience life at sea!

If life is about collecting a series of experiences that enrich your existence and perhaps even set you apart from those that are content to live their lives from their couches, then the maritime industry surely delivers more than most!

This morning I attended a presentation at the Department of Forestry and Fisheries where two young fisheries inspectors spoke of their six-week trip on board the Ocean Protector at the invitation of their Australian counterparts. It was plain to see that Asheem Khan and Andri van Niekerk had absorbed every possible aspect of the sea patrol that took them from Australia to  Heard Island, St Paul Island and Amsterdam Island before returning to Fremantle in Australia.

By all accounts they were exposed to a wealth of experiences while at sea that saw them engaging with potential illegal fishing vessels, practicing boardings, testing out their dry-suits, firearm training as well as fitness training. They visited the islands, noted the sea life and most importantly cemented relationships with the Australian and French inspectors and seafarers operating in these waters.

The South African duo also came back with their own recommendations for our local department to consider, but it was clear that the actual experience of being involved in this co-operative patrol will stay with them beyond the implementation of any of these possible recommendations and that the world that most of us do not get to see far from our shores offers so much to those who are willing to embrace an exhilarating life.

You can read more about their actual trip in the forthcoming issue of Maritime Review Southern Africa which will be in the post mid-June.

Get ready to flash your support for seafarers!

In exactly a month’s time – on the 25th June 2011 – the shipping sector will acknowledge the role of seafarers as they celebrate the International Day of the Seafarer. For the public at large, however, the day will probably go largely unnoticed. Most will not spare a thought for the men and women who go to sea to navigate the produce, the appliances, the toys, the luxuries and the necessities of daily living to their doorsteps. Most will not understand the sacrifices and the challenges that seafarers make and overcome to ensure that 90 percent of all goods in our shopping malls are available to us.

The International Maritime Organisation understands this situation and has challenged the maritime community to help promote the very vital work undertaken by those at sea. They are encouraging bloggers, companies and individuals to write and talk about the contribution made by all seafarers and have even created a package to assist those wanting to participate.

Here in South Africa – I thought we could try something a little different. We at Maritime Southern Africa are initiating [with our friends in the maritime industry] the SA Seafarer Flash Mob!

The idea is to create Flash Mobs in all our port cities as well as in Gauteng in places that show the impact of international trade. For example in Cape Town – the V&A Waterfront is an ideal location as it neighbours the port and vividly showcases international trade that the retailers rely on to stock their stores.

The group will seemingly appear out of the general public and activate attention by: Putting on a lifejacket and saluting at attention while a designated person (or the whole group) sings the South African National Anthem. As the Anthem draws to an end, the group will once again remove their lifejackets and merge into the general public.

The “incident” will be video recorded and photographed to document our efforts to acknowledge the contribution made by seafarers.


We have created a Facebook page for South African Seafarers and listed the Flash Mob under the events section to make it easy for people to sign up and become involved. Simply click on the link above and join the conversation.

We already have team leaders in Cape Town and Durban, but will welcome candidates from other areas who would like to spearhead a Flash Mob in their own region. Groups can be any size and do not have to consist of people in the industry!

I look forward to engaging with the industry in this initiative!

A vote of thanks to our seafarers

As we all prepare to vote tomorrow, it’s quite ironic that just over a month ago I wrote about how 18 young cadets had been challenged to “save South Africa’s democracy”. At the time I quoted the CEO of SAMSA, Tsietsi Mokhele who emphasised the role that our seafarers have in moving our economy forward and entrenching our democracy.

Their important contribution to our economy means that they are oftentimes far from home. It means that they miss birthdays, anniversaries, public holidays and of course tomorrow they will miss the opportunity to vote.

While there are structures in place for those who cannot attend a polling station tomorrow to cast their vote earlier – there do not seem to be mechanisms in place for those at sea to have their say in the future of their own government.

These are not South Africans who have chosen to work abroad or who have emigrated, leaving behind the potholes, the crime, the debates about open toilets or service delivery. These are citizens who do still live in the cities, the suburbs and the provinces that will have their leadership structures challenged tomorrow.

Don’t waste your voice – make sure you honour those that are unable to do so and make your vote count.

Mother’s advice

In honour of Mothers’ Day on Sunday I will dedicate this post to some good advice that I am sure many mothers have served up – and relate it to a current predicament in the Cape Town Container Terminal.

I remember being advised to “admit when you are wrong and apologise before correcting the mistake” by my mother way back when I was still squabbling with my sister. In those days my sister and I could not move forward without one or the other realising their mistake and rectifying the situation through a simple acknowledgment thereof.

So it is disappointing to return from a morning in the company of Transnet’s Executive Board to celebrate the milestones being made in the expansion of the Cape Town Container Terminal without so much as a nod in the direction of the decision to convert the terminal to RTG’s (Rubber Tyred Gantries).

Well, actually that’s not entirely accurate. Both Willie van Dyk and  Brian Molefe referred to the decision in their presentations to the Minister of Public Enterprises, customers and the media. What they failed to point out was the mounting criticism of the decision to deploy wind-sensitive equipment in a port plagued by the South Easter during the summer months – some of the busiest months for the port.

We covered this issue in depth in the last issue of the magazine which cited a number of sources that clearly indicate that the blanket denial by Transnet that the RTG’s may not be the most suitable equipment in Cape Town, is beyond comprehension.

Leaving the function this morning I chatted to a representative from one of the big shipping lines using the port. He pointed out that we lost 200 hours to wind during this critical period this year as compared to only 90 hours over the same period last year. Transnet points out that we’ve had more wind and therefore shifts the blame to mother nature, but some still believe that this indeed the mother of all mistakes.

And so many still hope that this mistake will be acknowledged and some action taken because a newly expanded port with significantly improved capacity is useless without the operational infrastructure to take full advantage of it.