Weekly Press Review – 20 April 2012

The tender war seems to have taken on a whole new dimension according to the latest newspaper reports. As if life on a marine research ship is not exciting enough, now that the navy has taken over the running of the fisheries vessels belonging to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the fisheries scientists will  go to sea on a warship.  They will be setting off on Monday.  Department spokesperson, Selby Bokaba said that the ship would be staffed by ‘the crew, navy as well as research personnel.’

At this point the department’s research ships are still registered as merchant vessels and, according to international law, are not allowed to be run by the military until they have been removed  from the merchant vessel register.  As of Wednesday afternoon none of the six department vessels had been removed.

Dave Colly of SAMSA said that he had written to the department two weeks ago regarding the matter, but had still received no response.  What can be taking so long?

In other reports, it would seem that maritime protected areas (MPA’s) are the new playground of the abalone poacher.  A Llandudno resident reported a poaching incident in a local marine sanctuary last week and a study carried out by Gregg Brill of Stellenbosch University revealed how a group of poachers have been stealing approximately 27 tons of abalone a year from the marine section of Table Mountain National Park.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  His study also revealed that the number of abalone actually confiscated represented as little as 10 percent of all abalone poached.  It would appear that abalone poachers are getting away with murder and why are these ‘protected areas’ not being protected – oh wait perhaps it’s because our vessel assets are currently just decorating the Simons Town harbour!

By all means save our rhino, but let’s try to save our abalone too.

Weekly Press Review – 13 April 2012

With the amount of maritime-related stories making the news this past week, it may well be that mass media has finally noticed that we are a maritime nation. Sad, however, is that fact that most of the headlines relate to negative associations.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson has once again rocked the fishing boat.  Information was leaked from a closed meeting between the minister and fisheries division staff where she allegedly said that she would take away the fishing rights of SA’s ‘Big Five’ fishing firms when they come up for review next year.  She allegedly stated that ‘white’ fishing companies needed to cede these rights to community fishermen.

These statements did nothing to please Chief executive of Feike, Shaheen Moolla, who points out that  the the big fishing companies are all black empowered, with at least 30 percent black ownership.

The interesting part of this story, however,  is that the minister apparently asked people in the meeting not to take notes or record her remarks.  Now why would she do that?

The navy also grabbed some column space this week as they hosted the Indian Oceans Naval Symposium. And the long finger of the media was not shy to point out some of their shortcomings.

At an operational cost of about R30 million per year, the submarine SAS Manthatisi has spent 18 months in service and an impressive 41 months out of service.  After questioning by IFP MP Albert Mncwango, Defense Minister Lindiwe Sisulu revealed that the vessel would be remaining on dry land for several  more months as it is awaiting a new battery to be delivered ‘later this year.’

The sub is apparently being used as a training and planning vessel in the mean time.  This seems like an extremely expensive training exercise.

Tomorrow (14 April 2012) marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and her fateful final voyage has been on the minds of many maritime buffs this month.  It would seem that everyone has a theory as to what caused the terrible accident so many years ago, but is it not time to let her rest in peace. Even as the movie Titanic is being released in 3-D it seems that this poor ship will continue to generate interest well beyond this 100-year milestone.

Weekly Press Review – 4 April 2012

Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) made the news this week by promising minimal disruption with the temporary shutdown of Pier 2 at the Durban container terminal(DCT) for refurbishment of berths.  Over the next 74 months, TPT plans to divert 400 000 twenty-foot equivalent units of container traffic from the DCT to the RoRo and Maydon Wharf terminals at the port.

The terminal executive at RoRo and Maydon Wharf, Zeph Ndlovu, said, ‘ TPT has put considerable effort into ensuring it can deal with the increased container demand while berths at DCT … are out of service.’

Fingers crossed that everything runs smoothly.

Things not running that smoothly however are the  government’s eight research and patrol ships, worth about R1 billion each which are lined up in False Bay awaiting an uncertain future – even as the Navy takes them into their fold, despite media scrutiny around the legalities of the Navy running civilian ships.

The next Fisheries research trip, scheduled for April is now in jeopardy.  If  fisheries management is not based on science, South Africa stands to lose its Marine Stewardship Certification for hake.  Surely this cannot be allowed to happen?

In more bizarre news some poor surfers and residents at Muizenberg were upset  after treknet fishing led to a net full of fish being pulled onto the beach at the popular Surfer’s Corner, interrupting surfing and bathing.  The surfers would like the treknetting to take place ‘further down’, while the fishermen promise that they are being considerate to the surfers.

Is it really necessary to debate who the beach belongs to when one group are trying to create a livelihood to feed their families and the other group are …..  going for a surf.  Maybe the surfers could try to ‘go further down’?