One of the attractions of the V&A Waterfront is that it is a working harbour. It’s the perfect way for the maritime industry to showcase itself to the general public. Usually, however, when I visit the waterfront I am struck more by the ability of the general public to ignore the “maritimeness” than by their willingness to want to engage with it.
Today as I walked passed the Robinson dry dock I was therefore pleased to see a young couple leaning over the guardrail checking out the two fishing vessels receiving attention. I could not help overhearing a snippet of their conversation:
“It’s a drydock,” he said to his girlfriend.
“A what,” she asked.
“A dry … dock,” he said even as she was turning her back and refocusing on the more commercial spoils of the Waterfront.
Yes – it’s a drydock. It’s a drydock that represents an industry in waiting. The ship repair industry, having submitted proposals for the concessioning of the ship repair facilities around the country, still awaits the outcome of this bid process.
There seems to be some speculation around what is holding up the process. Some say that more negotiations are likely to follow around the financial aspects of the proposals, while others point to Robinson drydock and the Cape Town synchrolift as being the stumbling block.
But the industry is getting impatient and one industry player was bold enough to say that if Transnet is unwilling to make a decision in this regard, then the industry needs to go to the Minister of Public Enterprise for a mandate to make this happen.
It is believed that a vibrant and rejuvenated ship repair sector will have a positive spin-off on job creation. But SATAWU has publicly opposed the move.
“We also remain opposed to the privatisation of the dry docks which should be retained under state ownership as part of the promotion and growth of a vibrant maritime sector,” SATAWU announced in their reaction to Transnet’s financial results.
Given the need to undertake a degree of much-needed maintenance in most of the facilities and given the industry’s desire to move forward – it’s a decision that needs to be taken sooner than later. And one cannot help but speculate that the maintenance required as well as the subsequent drive by the sector to bring more business to the facilities would be of benefit to the workforce.