Weekly Press Review – 28 September 2012

Our marine and research vessels are back in the news this week. The Algoa, staffed by Smit personnel, sailed from Simon’s Town to East London last week in order to undergo some maintenance before heading out on a research cruise.

The vessel has officially been transferred out of the control of the SA Navy and is now under the control of the Department of Environmental Affairs and, interestingly, not the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). According to Fisheries spokesman, Lionel Adendorf this was simply due to the fact that 80 percent of the work done by the Algoa was for the Department of Environmental Affairs and not DAFF.

Clare Gomes, spokeswoman for Smit said that the Algoa would resume research cruises as of the end of October. Due to a number of reasons, the state-of-the-art vessels have conducted no offshore patrols since the navy took control of them in early April. Let us hope that this situation is finally on the way to being righted.

According to an article published in the Cape Times this week, incidents of piracy seem to be on the decline. Figures show that in 2010 a total of 47 vessels were seized by pirates and this year that number has dropped to just five. Obviously armed guards aboard cargo vessels and a large international naval presence have helped to deter pirate activity and although it is too early to declare any kind of victory, it would seem that there is some hope that the end may be in sight.

Weekly Press Review – 21 September 2012

Today’s review is based on the stunned silence that has greeted readers of the Cape Times this week. For the entire week, the maritime industry has gone unmentioned, which must mean that there have been no major maritime events worth reporting.

Members of the Department of Agricultre, Forestry and Fisheries have decided to play nice for a whole week and the results of the long awaited public protectors report, investigating alleged corruption within the fisheries department, have still not been released.

All of this would seem highly unlikely, but let us enjoy the calm before the storm.

Weekly Press Review – 14 September 2012

Amid concerns around the continuing oil leaks should the wreck of the Seli 1 remain in Table Bay, the media reports that city officials confirmed on Friday last week that the national Transport Department had agreed to pay for the removal of the wreck.

Interestingly, this announcement was made exactly three years to day that the vessel ran aground on September 7, 2009. The estimated cost of the operation is R40 million and JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security said that the money would be made available to the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to contract the salvage.

A tender process?

It was mentioned in the press a few weeks ago that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director-general, Langa Zita had been suspended for ‘administrative reasons’ and this week it was reported that Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and Zita had ‘mutually agreed to part ways amicably.’ There has been mention of a golden handshake by the DA, but there is no definite confirmation of the amount of money that Zita will receive.

Tina Joemat-Pettersson was also widely criticised in the press this week generally for just NOT BEING THERE, as she once again failed to appear at the portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries. This is after she also failed to appear at the last portfolio committee meeting three weeks ago. Her excuse for her absence this week, according to portfolio chairperson Lulu Johnson, was that she is unable to fly due to ‘some sickness of the ears.’

Needless to say, many committee members were extremely displeased by her failure to appear – yet again and there were even calls by some MPs to cancel the entire meeting.

Ultimately the meeting did continue without the minister – a situation which is unfortunately becoming all too familiar.

A professional approach

Over the last few months I have exchanged business cards with a great many people and I am amazed to see how many are still using free Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail addresses for business purposes.

In this day and age where creating a business website is relatively easy and inexpensive, why are businesses still choosing this option? These domains are synonymous with phishing scams and bogus profiles; and certainly do not engender a sense of confidence.

As African businesses aiming to engage with international opportunities or to attract international investment, shouldn’t we be pursuing a more professional approach?

Yet many of the port and maritime authorities on the continent continue to flash business cards carrying these types of contact details. What makes matters worse is that the card often contains reference to a legitimate website, but then boasts a Yahoo et al email address!

Unfortunately one of my Yahoo contacts established at a recent conference popped into my inbox in a manner to reinforce my mistrust of such business contacts. Citing a recent dilemma, the fellow@yahoo.com brazenly asked for a loan of €2400 to be wired to him.

Now, there may well have been a legitimate maritime matter that required such funding, but with no real information in this regard; an email addressed to undisclosed recipients (his entire address book?) and all from a Yahoo email account did not have me confidently organising a money transfer.

Maritime colleagues in Africa; let’s lift our game to meet the expectations of the international business community!

Weekly Press Review – 7 September 2012

Despite the bulk of the oil being removed from the Seli 1 soon after it ran aground in September 2009, some oil remains trapped inside the fuel tanks.

This oil leaked into the news this week as oil began to pollute Dolphin Beach. Experts have been quoted in the media saying that this will continue to happen winter after winter until the wreck is removed or an alternate solution is found.

Obviously the major concern is the safety and well-being of the marine life in the area, as well as the many unhappy residents.

Media have been pursuing someone to blame and Dave Colly of the SA Maritime Safety Authority said that it was ultimately the responsibility of the Department of Transport. The city council has stated that the Department of Transport had asked the national Treasury for R40 million to fund the removal of the wreck.

Clean-up operations are underway, but unfortunately for some sealife, the damage is already done.

Once again we wait and see, but surely it is the WAITING that is the problem. Due to the fact that no one acted quickly to solve the problem of the Seli 1, a beautiful part of our coastline is being damaged and our marine life is suffering. How much longer do we have to wait?

Ironically, South Africa’s maritime policy developers also made the news this week as the Integrated Coastal Management Act of 2008 was shortlisted by the World Future Council for an international prize.

The coastal law was selected for addressing ‘the daunting challenge of promoting human well-being while maintaining ecological integrity’ and is, in essence, designed to govern how the coast is managed.

Thirty-one policies were submitted from 22 countries and only six were shortlisted. The results will be announced later this month at the UN headquarters in New York.

In other news – the two South Africans who recently returned to South Africa after being held captive by Somali pirates for 20 months are being evaluated by psychologists to determine whether they are fit to face their captives again.

The men who held the two captive were part of a group of 20 arrested by the Dutch navy in 2010 and Debbie Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari intend to travel to the Netherlands in October to testify in the case – if they are deemed psychologically prepared.

The Fisheries department is back in the news this week as two fisheries research cruises due to take place in August and September have been cancelled as the SA Navy has no staff qualified to take the Africana research vessel to sea.

Lionel Adendorf, spokesman for the fisheries branch of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said that the struggle to find suitably qualified, experienced candidates for senior positions on the Africana had ‘forced the department to readjust our important and tight schedule for different research cruises.’ He went further to say that Fisheries would rather readjust the survey schedule than jeopardise the project completely by appointing the wrong people.

Sources within the fishing industry say that although not ideal, it is not critical to miss these August and September cruises, but it is essential that the Africana goes to sea in October and November for the ‘small pelagic’ survey.

As to the ongoing investigation into corruption within the fisheries department; it is now officially in the hands of the SA police.

We wait with bated breath, but watch with interest the continued finger pointing – our invitation to the Minister for a structured debate remains acknowledged, but conveniently swept under the rug!