Weekly Press Review – 26 October 2012

News that the Africana, set sail out of Simon’s Town harbour this week to conduct a six-week survey on sardine and anchovy was picked up by the press. This survey, one of the longest uninterrupted surveys in the world, has taken place annually since 1984. It is designed to assist the DAFF determine the allowable pelagic catch for the next year.

It stands to reason the the Miroshga incident continues to receive media attention. The initial inquiry into the capsizing of the tourist boat off Hout Bay has revealed that the accident was a result of ‘a succession of small bad decisions and incidents.’

The investigation by the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is not yet 100 percent complete. Dave Colly, SAMSA regional chief, has however, stated that ‘there were a lot of contributing factors, not one thing.’ Some of these included: shortcomings in maintenance and crew competence, as well as the fact that the skipper had not been certified for a passenger boat.

Media reports reveal that Southern Ambition Marine Safaris, the owner of the Miroshga, is currently in talks with lawyers to assist them with dealing with the investigation. Company operations manager, Gert Strauss, who faced the media for the first time this week, has said that an overall report would be released ‘any day now.’

The accident lead to the deaths of two people.

Perhaps we will see similar initiatives as instituted in the passenger bus sector be implemented in the marine transport of passengers. A comment from our Minister of Transport on an incident of this nature during transport month would not have been unwelcome.

Weekly Press Review – 19 October 2012

It took another tragedy at sea to catapult the maritime industry back into the headlines. All eyes are on the investigation into the catamaran, Miroshga, which capsized near Duiker Island last Saturday resulting in the deaths of two people.

SAMSA officials are conducting an investigation into the cause of the accident and have indicated in the press that they have, in fact, identified the cause and will be releasing their findings soon.

In the mean time, praise is being heaped on all those who came to the rescue of the stricken vessel. They managed to rescue 37 of the 39 passengers and crew on board. There is a long list of all those involved; from rescue personnel to nearby vessels who assisted in the rescue operation.

The Japanese trawler, the Eihatsu Maru, which ran aground at Clifton in May this year is back in the news this week. The investigation undertaken by SAMSA into the incident has revealed that the captain of the vessel was asleep and had to be woken by crew members who realised that the vessel was in danger of running aground. By the time the captain had reacted, it was too late. In general it was found that the vessel had not been properly manned. This simple fact lead to it running aground and the eventual cost of R7 million for the salvage operation, of which, only R4 million could be recovered due to insurance issues.

Case closed and hopefully lessons (more) learned.

The big issue of the week in the maritime industry, however, is the marine tender report. The report was given to the National Assembly agriculture, forestry and fisheries portfolio committee by DA MP Pieter van Dalen, who apparently found it ‘in his post box.’ It is not clear why the report has not been officially released, but van Dalen promised to supply copies to his fellow MPs. This took place on Tuesday.

Reacting to the leak, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has suspended the investigation into the tender claiming that they had lost faith in Ernst & Young. The Department is also claiming that there are now two different copies of the report: one given to them by Ernst & Young, apparently not naming any implicated officials and a second one, leaked to the DA, naming officials.

With a copy of the report now in open circulation, it will be interesting to watch who makes the next move.

Weekly Press Review – 12 October 2012

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson has made an almost daily appearance in the press this week. She is being criticised from all sides regarding the running of her department and the DA is vying for her dismissal.

Annette Steyn, DA spokeswoman was quoted as saying that the performance of the minister’s department provided ‘ample ground’ for her dismissal. She also stated that the portfolio committee had been unable to meet with the minister in order to discuss their concerns. A rather regular occurance.

On Tuesday, the minister did finally make an appearance at the portfolio committee meeting on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, to present the department’s annual report.

In August it was reported by the City Press that a government document showed that the minister would contribute R800 million to the Nkanda ‘Zumaville’ development project.

Both the minister and her spokesman, Sipho Ntombela, vehemently denied the allocation of these funds, saying that it simply never happened.

Adding to the department’s woes is a report from the auditor-general stating that, amongst many other failings, for the year 2011/12, despite only achieving 49 percent of its targets, the department had managed to spend 99 percent ot its budget.

Surely enough is enough. There is so much irregularity and in-fighting and investigation going on within this department that maybe some new leadership would not be such a terrible idea. New leadership; armed with and extremely large broom.

Rather more significant news this week in the world of fisheries was the convergence of 57 maritime nations at the IMO’s Diplomatic Conference on the Safety of Fishing Vessels.

Hosted in Cape Town after some intense lobbying from SAMSA, there was some media presence at the event and the significance of the Cape Town Agreement was reported on, but perhaps more trumpet blowing could have lauded this milestone.

We will be covering the important agreement in the current issue and aim to blow the trumpet for the very profound contribution made by one of our countrymen!

Weekly Press Review – 5 October 2012

The media jumped on the extreme revelations and accusations made by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in their press release on Monday. Just one day later, however, the Department was involved in some back pedaling as they engaged with the press at their own press conference.

When questioned on the matter, Sipho Ntombela, acting deputy-director for the department would not be drawn, but would only say that the preliminary investigation only provided indications that there was ‘something wrong’ with the R1.6 billion tender to manage South Africa’s marine research and patrol ships. A far cry from what was revealed during the press conference.

Clare Gomes, spokeswoman for Smit Amandla Marine is quoted in the media saying that Smit was ‘astounded by the substantially revised press statement, which materially waters down the allegations.’ She also stated that Smit is ‘seeking legal recourse and a formal process to defend Smit Amandla Marine and to clear our name.’

It looks like DAFF has jumped the gun on this one. Surely when dealing with allegations as serious and potentially damaging as these, there should be a more definite protocol to follow; including waiting for all investigations to be finalised and informing all parties concerned of these findings. But then DAFF really is not known for following protocol.

One thing is for sure – this story is far from over. Possibly the most holistic version of this disastrous tale in the media thus far was the article published by Noseweek – and certainly one can be sure that there is more going on behind the scenes than we are lead to believe.