Weekly Press Review – 30 July 2012

Last week’s media coverage of abalone busts highlights that poaching is an ongoing problem in our waters. There was another small victory for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries along with the South African police department who raided a home in South Beach yesterday and discovered almost five tons of abalone with an estimated value of R12 million.

A 36-year-old Chinese national was arrested at the scene and another man is still at large. ‘This is probably the biggest bust for Milnerton police,’ said Capt Cyril Dicks.

Interestingly last week saw the cancellation of a scheduled conference on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported  Fishing in Cape Town, but did see the Mother City host a CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) workshop on the subject. This did, however, not make news headlines.

Adventurer, Mike Horn, received some media attention. After traveling for nearly two decades he has decided that he would like to share some of his skills, knowledge and expertise with a younger generation. To do this he invited anyone between the ages of 15 and 20 interested in joining him on his travels to apply to the Mike Horn Expedition Centre in Switzerland. He chose 16 individuals for each leg of the journey on the yacht, The Pangaea, and he and his 16 young adventurers from around the world have just arrived in Cape Town.

Each adventurer has been trained in survival, first aid, sailing, outdoor equipment and the latest advances in technology.

Congratulations to this group of young explorers on their accomplishment and to Mike for passing on his passion to a younger generation.

‘n Salvor maak ‘n plan

Yesterday I joined a room full of delegates at Smit Amandla Marine’s Emergency Response Seminar at the Protea President Hotel in Sea Point and was struck by the innovative and challenging nature of the marine salvage industry. Our local saying “‘n Boer maak ‘n plan” (a farmer knows how to make a plan) shall forthwith be changed in my vocabulary to “‘n salvor maak ‘n plan”!

While the seminar did indeed deal with the regulatory, contractual and governmental input required to deliver a National Contingency or Response plan – the case studies presented by many salvage stalwarts highlighted the diverse skill sets required within salvage teams. They also highlighted the ability of individuals and companies to think on their feet and create solutions to problems in situ.

This is the “Macgyver” (Google that if you’re younger than 35) sector of the maritime industry. It’s risky, dangerous, challenging and, I would imagine, immensely satisfying to be involved in successful salvage projects.

I would suggest that this sector could easily become the poster child to excite and attract the youth into the maritime sectors.

Look out for the editorial on this seminar in the next issue of Maritime Review Africa.

Weekly Press Review – 20 July 2012

The big news affecting the marine industry this week related to the MSC certification. Amid concerns that certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) would be lost, negotiations between the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the MSC seemed to have been resolved – at least for the following year – ensuring South African fishing companies a place in the lucrative European hake trawl fishing market. This was confirmed in a statement by both the government and the council’s programme manager, Martin Purves and reported widely in the media this week.

Shaheen Moolla, chief executive of Feike, however regards the development as merely “a band-aid over a festering wound.” It would appear that there is still a lot of work and negotiation to be done to ensure a positive and permanent resolution to this ongoing situation – and no doubt this particular issue will continue to make news in the months to come.

Ship spotting is still possible!

Last night I had to go to the Waterfront to attend a function at the V&A Hotel. With my mind on autopilot, I found myself on the far side of the Waterfront heading towards the Table Bay Hotel. Nonplussed, I was lured to park by the sight of the MSC Barbara being accompanied into the harbour by two tugs.

The lull in the winter weather seemed to have inspired a couple of ship spotters to the area and there were a few of us taking photos as she headed into the port.

The MSC Barbara enters Cape Town harbour.

At this point I was still under impression that I was at the correct venue for my function, so I ambled into the hotel only to find, of course, that I was meant to be on the other side of the Waterfront. A helpful employee of the hotel suggested I remain in their free parking area and just walk across, so I took advantage of the lovely evening and started the journey.

And I am glad I did. Berthed directly outside the Table Bay Hotel was the Navy Frigate, but what was really attracting some attention and cameras was the Bourbon Clear. With her distinctive bow and bright green hull, she cuts a striking figure and had more than a few people stop in their tracks.

The Bourbon Clear, a Large Platform Supply Vessel, in Cape Town harbour.

The Bourbon Clear is a Large Platform Supply Vessel designed by Ulstein Design and built by Zheijang Shipbuilding. She was delivered in 2010 to Bourbon Offshore (Norway). She is built according to Det Norske Veritas Clean Design notation and carries a Green Passport complying with IMO ship recycling recommendations.

Walking just a little further, an assortment of vessels were berthed facing the diners while just across the harbour I could easily see the fishing vessels bobbing against the I&J jetty.

The brightly lit oil rig currently occupying A-Berth and towering above the Waterfront buildings completed the maritime picture as I finally found my way to the correct venue.

We lament the fact that the ISPS code has restricted access to the harbour, but as an industry we could do more to project what is visible into the public eye. We just need to be a little more creative about showcasing our industry!

Weekly Press Review – 13 July 2012

Professor John Hare, Professor of Shipping Law at the University of Cape Town has been extremely vocal in the press this week. Firstly expressing his displeasure at what he regards as various ministers snubbing the ‘sleeping giant’ that is the South African maritime industry and then publishing an open letter to the Hon Minister of Transport, voicing his concern about the danger that South Africa faces from a financial and environmental perspective should there be an oil spill along our coast line.

Professor Hare is a well respected figure in the maritime industry and let us hope that his opinions are respected and heeded by the powers that be. This industry needs more people who are willing to stick their necks out and say what needs to be said and, even more importantly, do what needs to be done – and perhaps the South African Maritime Industry Conference hosted by SAMSA last week is the catalyst that prompted the good professor to alert the media.

The beautiful SA Agulhas II made the news again as she set sail for the ice sheets of Antarctica and is expected to reach her destination on July 20.

The trip is primarily aimed at testing the new ships capabilities, particularly through the thick pack ice and also to test the new scientific and maritime equipment on board. These tests will be carried out by the team on board representing a number of universities and research institutions.

Ashley Johnson of the Department of Environmental Affairs and chief scientist on the voyage said that the ship had undergone some ice trials in the northern hemisphere, but only through ice that had already thinned. The testing would now be through the thicker Winter ice.

She added, ‘The old vessel was designed more to ferry people to the ice and the islands, but this one has much better laboratory facilities and instruments.’

We wish them a successful voyage and look forward to their safe return.

Conference Call rocks maritime sector

There are conferences aplenty in South Africa and Africa that plug into the maritime domain, but this week’s South African Maritime Industry Conference (SAMIC) hosted by SAMSA can truly be heralded as one that should repower the engines of the maritime industry in the country.

I sat there for the entire conference. I did not miss a minute of it. I ensured that every break-away group had a representative from the magazine in it – and we will publish a thorough and comprehensive report back of SAMIC in the next issue.

For those of you who did not attend and had to rely on newspaper reports of the highlights and headlines relating to the conference, please take comfort in the fact that the news that made it to daily newspapers relating to lack of legislation to bolster a ship registry; loss of bunker only opportunities or our lack of pollution fighting capabilities, should not be seen to represent the the entire focus of the conference. These are all headlines that spotlighted the industry during the SAMIC week and, while I am certainly not dismissing the importance of these facts, we as an industry know we are committed to addressing them, but we should also be able to walk away from the conference knowing that we did more than just air our dirty laundry.

And certainly, while we wont ignore the very real work that needs to be done to address those rather negative headlines; lets reflect on the positives that the conference highlighted:

  • Three Cabinet Ministers stood on the jetty in the V&A Waterfront on a dark cold winter’s morning to watch the SA Agulhas training ship depart with 32 cadets on board. That’s three Ministers who now have  more of a personal glimpse about what the industry can offer to young South Africans.
  • The new Minister of Transport, Ben Dikobe Martins, seemed well briefed and sounded committed to prioritising maritime matters in the Department of Transport.
  • Ruth Bhengu, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport invited the industry to “knock on my door” to unblock policy and legislation before parliament.
  • Bridgette Gasa, National Planning Commissioner, admitted that the maritime sector had been “forgotten” in the National Development Plan and agreed to seek to correct the oversight.
  • A complete pipeline of skills development from primary to tertiary level for the maritime industry is being discussed at governmental level.
  • The Petroleum Agency reported that our offshore acreage is well marketed and fully subscribed with either exploration licenses or applications for exploration.  Increased activity in this sector is predicted in the next three to five years.
  • SAMSA launched an Industry Training Fund and raised significant funds directly at the Chairman’s Dinner on the second day of the conference.
  • CEO of SAMSA, Tsietsi Mokhele was summoned to meet with the President on Thursday and returned to alert the industry to the fact that he had proclaimed himself the governor of the Tenth Province to the presidency in an effort to convey the immense importance that the sector holds for the development of South Africa.
  • Entrepreneurs waiting to gain a foothold into the industry, stalwarts of the industry, government agents, neigbouring country officials, NGO’s and industry associations rubbed shoulders, debated, discussed and committed to a robust maritime sector.
  • The atrophy of conference delegates on the Friday afternoon was not significant!

Was SAMIC an all-encompassing solution to every problem facing the industry? Certainly not, but it was an excellent start that challenged the status-quo of conferences as a whole and the industry. We were not subjected to paper after paper, but rather given the opportunity to huddle down and shout out our opinions.

Was SAMIC totally representative of the industry? Well – no, there were a couple of industry players that perhaps should have been involved. Most notably was the absence of any representation from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to engage with the fishing subsector, but there were others as well.

Was SAMIC completely unique in its topic selection? Hell – no, there were issues that have been debated at nausea for more than a decade in the industry, but there seemed to be an underlying will on a higher level than just industry frustration to move forward.

There is still a lot of work to be done. There is a lot of sensitisation to and education about the industry that still needs to happen at government level, but our new governor of the 10th province is the kind of man that has the ability to rally the troops; he has the passion to unite disparate sectors and he certainly seems to have managed to reach the ear of the president.

And for those of us that added our rock to the pile – let us live up to the commitment this symbolised and work to make our 10th province prosperous, influential and peaceful.

MARITIME ROCKS: Delegates at SAMIC were invited to take a rock, write their commitment on it and add it to the pile at the end of Day 2 at the conference.

Weekly Press Review – 6 July 2012

Greeted by a flotilla of yachts and showered by sea spray by two tugboats, the Mediterranean Shipping Company’s MSC Sola docked in Durban’s harbour yesterday. She made news headlines as the largest container ship to ever visit a South African port with a gross tonnage of 131 771 tons and carrying capacity of up to 11 660 containers. Prior to Transnet’s 2010 project to widen and deepen the entrance to the Durban harbour, the vessel would have been unable to enter.

The depth of the water at the Durban Container Terminal is still a problem, but Karl Socikwa, Transnet Port Terminals chief executive was reported as saying that the depth issue would be remedied, “We are optimistic that our planned investments into port infrastructure over the next few years will offer mega-ships like these the prospect of making more regular calls to South Africa.”

Of course there’s been much in the media over the last few months about Transnet’s investment strategy and it would seem that Transnet are stepping up and putting their money where their mouth is.

Plettenberg Bay was in the news this week. After awarding a tender for the development of a small boat harbour in the Pisang River and the building of multi-storey buildings on the foreshore of the coastal town of Plettenberg Bay 10 years ago, the first round of environmental impact assessments have begun and residents are up in arms.

Robbie Robinson, a retired SA National Parks CEO and local resident says that he feels that the area will lose it’s aesthetic value if the the development goes ahead.

As the planned development has taken 10 years to get this far, it would seem that local residents have a long wait and plenty of time to argue until anything concrete actually takes place.

Giving the maritime industry some favourable headlines this week, the polar supply and research ship the SA Agulhas has been relaunched as a dedicated training ship by the South African Maritime Safety Authority. SABC’s morning live team got there early and spent the morning interviewing cadets, ministers and SAMSA members before watching the vessel leave the port.

The ceremony to mark it’s departure took place on Thurday morning and coincided with an impressive SAMSA-led conference being held in Cape Town this week.

The ship will sail along the East coast with 33 cadets and three training officers on board and will return to Cape Town on August 6.

The ship is replaced by the SA Agulhas II, but what a fantastic way to create a buzz and enthusiasm around maritime training in both the youth and the industry which these cadets will hopefully one day be part of. Congratulations SAMSA.