All hands on deck!

Scrubbing the decks of the Lord Nelson.

Scrubbing the decks of the Lord Nelson.

I recently had the opportunity to lend a hand. I joined a group of volunteers on board the Lord Nelson in the port of Cape Town where all hands on deck was literally the mantra of the day.

It all started when I received a number of press releases from Norton Rose that highlighted their involvement with the Jubilee Sailing Trust and, specifically, their connection to the tallship, the Lord Nelson.

Intrigued by the uniqueness of the vessel’s mandate to offer sailing opportunities to both able-bodied and disabled sailors alike, I jumped at the chance to experience the true ethos of the vessel first hand and soon found myself signing up for a day of hard labour.

Perhaps not making the best of first impressions, I arrived a little late only to find that my fellow volunteers were already hard at work and looking in control of things. Greeted by four fellow deckhands in red Norton Rose shirts, I soon discovered that the notion of working on a vessel in Cape Town’s harbour was appealing enough for the staff at Norton Rose to vie for the opportunity via an office competition

Tina Costas, Jeremy Brown and Jonathan Levine of Norton Rose were joined by Gavin Maggott from the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA) who, by the end of the day, had confirmed that maneuvering around the vessel in a wheelchair was more than feasible.

It’s clear from the moment you step on board that the vessel has been modified to accommodate wheelchairs and those with physical disabilities. Dedicated wheelchair lifts ensure that all crewmembers can access all areas of the boat and wheelchair tie downs are strategically placed to secure those that require it should the sailing get rough.

With provision made for blind, deaf and physically challenged crewmembers, it’s clear that being disabled on the Lord Nelson should not be a disadvantage.

But back to my day of labour.

Pairing up with Jeremy – we were put to work checking the life jackets and immersion suits on the port and starboard aft stations. With all lights and gear checked and accounted for, we were being ushered on to our next tasks by first mate, John West.

Down below I found Jonathan towing a vacuum cleaner and finishing off the main staircase with a dustpan and brush. I also encountered the doc, Steve Ogden, who was preparing the bunks to welcome new arrivals for the next sailing leg later that day so I stepped in to help him.

Somehow, however, I found myself sometime later in latex gloves, toilet brush in hand, cleaning the small bathrooms on the starboard side. These too have been modified to accommodate disabled crewmembers.

After a break for lunch enjoyed on the deck in the sun, I teamed up with Tina (who had been hard at work polishing the brass with Jeremy and Gavin) and Jonathan to scrub the decks. Armed with hoses, hard brooms, buckets and some soap powder – the hours soon clocked up as curious passersby stopped on the quayside to watch our progress.

Wet and tired, we proudly surveyed our handiwork before catching up with Gavin and Jeremy. Despite the sheer volume of deck that we had scrubbed and the time it had taken – it seems we somehow got off lightly as the other two had spent the afternoon cleaning fans and other equipment below deck!

It was a group effort and the Lord Nelson was ready to receive her guests for a scheduled cocktail party that night. But it took a diverse group of volunteers willing to flex their muscles, get dirty, surrender their time and put a common goal ahead of their own for a day.

We need to find more time for days like this and we need to make the effort to ensure that our industry provides access to all.

Take a look at our Facebook All Hands on Deck gallery for photos from the day! <click here>


Weekly Press Review – 22 February 2013

The Fisheries Department has made the headlines several times this week; finally admitting to Parliament that the navy has been unable to run its research and patrol vessels and that, at present, all eight are docked at the navy yard.

Greta Apelgren-Narkedien, Deputy Director-General said that “the navy does not have the capacity to meet ….. requirements in terms of crew and technical expertise” and that the department was issuing two tenders, one for the management of research vessels and the other one for the management of the fisheries patrol vessels, within about four months.

Better late than never, but clearly swift action is now required to get the patrol and research machine back up and running as soon as possible. We wait to see who is up to the task.

The results of the investigation into the capsizing of the Miroshga in Hout Bay last year have been covered in the press this week. According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), who conducted the investigation, the accident could have been avoided had the owners taken responsibility for righting some of the obvious wrongs on board the vessel and, more importantly, had the crew been properly trained in emergency procedures.

The report of the investigation has been handed to both the police and prosecuting authorities who will decide if any one person will be prosecuted or not.

In other news, the 60 metre R10 million fishing boat, the Marauder, got stuck on sand and then drifted out to sea in strong swells and winds off Struisbaai beach on Saturday. The vessel and her crew had just placed in the top four at this year’s Two Ocean Marlin Competition. Owner, Danie Halgryn, said that they were en route to the harbour when the boat’s anchor chain snapped.

Despite removing most of the expensive fishing equipment and electronics aboard, Halgryn is not sure whether the vessel can be saved as the engine is filled with water.

Weekly Press Review – 15 February 2013

The media welcomed the returning research vessel SA Agulhas this week. She arrived back in Cape Town on Wednesday after safely delivering British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his team to an ice shelf in the Antarctica, where he is attempting the first crossing of the Antarctic in winter.

DA fisheries spokesman, Pieter van Dalen is on the warpath this week. He is demanding that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson provide a plan of action “to prevent the potential loss of jobs in the fishing industry.”

Van Dalen is claiming that, due to the fact that the minister failed to ensure a critical hake stock survey, the fisheries sector stands to lose up to R3 billion. With the research ship SAS Africana still grounded for repairs and a private company carrying out the survey, there is concern that the survey will not be completed resulting in the loss of the lucrative foreign market.

The department, however, does not seem concerned with Lionel Adendorf being quoted saying, we are “satisfied with the progress of the West Coast demersal survey … currently being undertaken with the assistance of the research vessel Dr Fridtjof Nansen and the Benguela Current Commission.”

Given the looming end of the Navy’s curatorship of the DAFF vessels it is likely that the media will hear more from Van Dalen as he continues to stir the pot of controversy surrounding this matter.

CSI Maritime

CSI, which incidentally has nothing to do with investigating crime scenes, has become an integral part of doing business and many maritime companies have well-entrenched strategies for identifying as well as supporting social upliftment. From education to supporting orphans or places of refuge and even environmental projects – there are no shortages of Corporate Social Investment initiatives requiring funding.

Massive corporates usually get the applause for their CSI strategies, but both big and small businesses are identifying worthwhile causes and investing money, time and skills in helping others.

Recently, however, the topic has become fodder for anecdotal dinner conversation as outraged people comment on intended legislation aimed at weighting incentives for companies participating in welfare-related projects. The general consensus seems to be that companies will be forced to abandon many of the causes they currently support as they chase incentives provided by supporting projects with 100 percent Black beneficiaries because anything else “just wont count”.

For me it’s a bit of a bizarre argument. To say that putting your hand out to help “just wont count” is wholly ridiculous. That the entire motivation for helping a cause should be attached to financial or tax incentives somewhat taints the intention. And let’s be fair – the weighting of incentives does not remove all tax breaks; but rather puts emphasis on projects that the government feels will perhaps impact positively on addressing their prioritised goals such as unemployment.

I acknowledge that, based on our own priorities to address different injustices, it may seem unfair to some to weight these tax incentives, but if you want to support a cause and really feel passionate about it – get on and support it because it will definitely “count” to those who benefit.

We, together with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), aim to recognise companies within the maritime fold at this year’s Maritime Industry Awards who give credence to the ethos of Corporate Social Investment. The award category aims to recognise a company’s commitment reaching outside of their corporate structures to lend a hand. Special emphasis will be placed on the company’s ability to involve their own staff members and instill a sense of charity that goes beyond handing over big cheques and issuing press releases.

The SAMSA Maritime Industry Awards, to be held in Cape Town on the 20 April 2013, are open to companies or organisations with a majority South African shareholding or with proven investment in the South African industry that includes an operating office; employment of South African citizens as well as investment in training and infrastructure. Individuals can also be nominated in any of the nine categories.

For more information about the SAMSA Maritime Industry Awards or to nominate a company or individual, please follow the link below:

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Weekly Press Review – 8 February 2013

The big maritime news of the week is Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), being taken to court by Judith Sole, leader of the Green Party of South Africa. The minister is being taken to court in a bid by Sole to have the fishing of West Coast lobster halted immediately in order to allow a period of recuperation.

Although chief executive of Feike and marine lawyer Shaheen Moolla has offered to assist, the two have not been able to come to an agreement, and Sole will, therefore, be fighting the case alone.

Moolla has stated that although he believes that Sole’s intentions are honourable, she will have little success as she is seeking to force the minister to stop commercial lobster trap fishing and this action would have an effect on more than just the minister herself, but on many other parties.

The rule of court is that if a party is seeking to ‘impugn the interests of any party you are obliged to serve the papers on all the interested parties.’ There are 1240 quota right holders and all 1240 would, therefore, each have to be served.

On Sunday the British tall ship, Lord Nelson, docked at the V&A Waterfront. This newsworthy vessel is embarking on a two-year around the world challenge and for the first time both able bodied and disabled individuals from around the world will be allowed aboard. Quadriplegic, Russell Vollmer, an experienced sea traveller and member of the QuadPara Association of SA, is one of nine South Africans aboard.

Over the two year period, the ship will cover over 80,000km, visit seven different continents, as well as over 30 countries.

On the environmental front, it was reported in the Cape Times this week that Leon Bekker, who caught a great white shark off Mossel Bay in March 2011, has become the first man to be convicted of killing one of these protected maritime creatures.

The killing of great white sharks was outlawed in 1991, but it has taken 22 years to finally get a conviction. Bekker was sentenced to one year in prison or a R120,000 fine.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokesman, Lionel Adendorf welcomed the sentence saying that he believes that it will serve as a deterrent to similar maritime crimes.

What is a Maritime Maestro?

Since I started knocking about in the maritime industry some 17 years ago I have come across a few very extraordinary people. Sadly some of these have passed on, but fortunately a number still remain in the industry and continue to inspire us. They are passionate about all things maritime and unashamedly promote aspects of the industry outside of the typical nine-to-five window many of us allocate for work. They demand exacting standards from themselves and inspire others to notch up achievements they did not believe were possible.

These people are largely unrecognised, but this year’s SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) Maritime Industry Awards seeks to shine the spotlight on them and give them their due at an awards dinner scheduled for 20 April 2013 at the Look Out in Cape Town.

I know of a number of Maritime Maestros that deserve this recognition and hope that many of us in the industry will take the time to nominate these inspiring individuals. It’s an easy process, but needs to be done by the end of this month so do not delay.

For more information on the SAMSA Maritime Industry Awards and the nomination process, please follow the link below:

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Weekly Press Review – 1 February 2013

In a follow up to last week’s news regarding fishing in the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area; four fishermen were arrested this week for failing to heed warnings issued by fisheries control officers and appeared in the Caledon Magistrates Court on Monday.

In an operation conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), two other fishermen made the news when they were issued with both written and verbal warnings regarding fishing in the area.

Despite sending letters to local fishermen, it would seem that DAFF is still struggling to get the message across – or the message is simply being ignored.

The SA Agulhas is back in the news after docking alongside the ice in the Antarctic. Ranulph Fiennes, known as the greatest living explorer, has had nothing but praise for the cadets aboard the vessel. The journey’s co-leader, Anton Bowring also offered praise, saying, “They are extremely helpful, hard-working and friendly. We think of the cadets and all of the crew as members of our exhibition. They have all contributed greatly to the success of our project so far.”

The perlemoen poaching epidemic has moved closer to home this week, with reports of poachers operating off the coast of Sea Point.

Shaheen Moolla, Chief Executive of Feike has been quoted as saying, “Inevitably, because abalone is increasingly hard to find in the Overstrand, people are coming round the mountain to poach.” Police spokesman, Frederick van Wyk said that vehicle, vessel and foot patrols had been increased in the area and that investigations into poaching in the area were ongoing and at a sensitive stage.

The authorities in the area definitely have their work cut out for them.

The French frigate FS Nivose docked at the V&A Waterfront this week for a four-day replenishment stop and invited media onboard. The vessel is a 3,000 ton warship operating as a surveillance frigate specialsing in counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa.

Commanding Officer of the vessel, Captain Samuel Majou said that international anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia were achieving their goal of decreasing pirate attacks on commercial vessels.

Although it is sad that our oceans have to be policed to this degree, it must offer great peace of mind to those passing through this very busy corridor.