Weekly Press Review – 25 June 2012

Am I the only one experiencing a strange sense of deja vu as the Eihatsu Maru becomes the latest ship to be abandoned by its owners and financiers after experiencing trouble in our waters and may have to be sold in order to recoup the costs of its salvage operation – an estimated R7 million at this point (excluding harbour fees).

Dave Colly of SAMSA is obviously very unhappy about the situation as not only is there the problem of disposing of the ship if the owners are not forthcoming with any money, but also its’ cargo – 70 tons of frozen tuna. It would appear that South Africa is going to take a hit financially with the selling of the fish which, according to press reports, is regarded as ‘too tainted by scandal’ for the Japanese market.

Why are the owners of these ships allowed to get away with washing their hands of the responsibility of their vessels at the first sign of trouble or, more accurately, expense? And what can South Africa do to protect itself from continually being forced to bail out these vessels in distress?

Newspaper articles report that the Panos Earth (another vessel abandoned in our waters) has now been sold at judicial auction to a Chinese company for $2.17 million (about R22.3m), unfortunately well below what it is actually worth. Ed Greiner, the maritime lawyer who acted for salvors Smit Amandla Marine and Smit Marine SA, was quoted in the press as saying of the creditors that ‘certain people will be paid in full, certain people will be paid pro rata and certain people will not be paid at all.’ Too bad if you are in the latter catagory.

In other news, it would seem that the powers that be have finally woken up and are on track to reintroduce the lapsed system of having independent observers on board fishing vessels in an attempt to ensure that South Africa does not lose its certification with the Marine Stewardship Council, as well as its’ lucrative overseas markets.

Johan Augustyn of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) stated that ‘it was never a policy decision not to have the observer programme, it was simply a result of financial and bureaucratic problems’ and that the observer programme would hopefully be reintroduced within the year.

Surely DAFF can see that it is time to step up and get this done, and the sooner the better? South Africa’s place – and name – in the market is at stake.

A 1950’s tug boat left to rot in the harbour at the V&A Waterfront has been given a second lease on life in the unlikely form of a group of farmers from a Tractor and Engine club in Villiersdorp.

If you missed the report in the Cape Times, it seems that Keith Wetmore and his friend Andy Selfe approached the club about the possibility of saving the tug’s engines, but the club decided it would prefer to save the entire boat.

The tug, the Alwyn Vintcent, will undertake a rather long and strange journey, via Hopefield, Malmesbury, Tulbach and Worcester, to Villiersdorp and ultimately the Theewaterskloof Dam, where it is hoped that it will eventually be made into a tourist attraction.

The tug, one of the last coal-fired steam vessels, was built in Venice in 1958 and worked in Mossel Bay from 1959 – 1983. Messages from heritage enthusiasts around the world have started to pour in.

Good luck to this group of farmers from Villiersdorp and the next time you are in the area, why not pop by and spend a little time with the Alwyn Vintcent.

But perhaps, the most uplifting news from last week was the release of the South African couple who spent 20 months in the captivity of Somali pirates. Latest reports suggest that the couple, Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz, will be home in just a few short days.

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