2013 is Maritime Year: but shhh, its a secret!

Last week at the Maritime Trade Forum ahead of the BRICS Summit in Durban, I learned that the Minister of Transport had declared 2013, Maritime Year in South Africa. Riad Khan of the Port Regulator stated this quite clearly while welcoming delegates to these maritime discussions and I silently chastised myself for not knowing such an important development in the industry.

Wow – that’s a real milestone for the relationship between the maritime industry and the Department of Transport, which is more vocal in its directives aimed at land-based transport modes. I was buoyed by the announcement and felt sure that I would be able to find out what the Department was doing to promote this sector within the country and amongst our citizens.

Since learning this news last week I have asked a number of other members of the industry what they know about this development only to find that I was not the only one in the dark.

So I visited the Department’s website feeling sure I would see some sort of 2013 Maritime Year banner emblazoned across the screen. No. No banner.

So I looked under the press announcements, press releases and speeches. No. No such message there either.

So I took the link to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the Department’s official maritime agency, to see if I could find more information there. No. No information there. And the same dismal non-message on the website belonging to the Port Regulator.

So I went back to the Department of Transport’s website to take a closer look at their maritime intentions because Minister Dikobe Ben Martins did make it clear in his speech at the Maritime Trade Forum that he was expecting high level engagement with the industry and that a coherent maritime strategy needed to be presented to him by July.

Surely such pronouncements would be borne out on their site? No. None of the speeches listed on the site relate to his public appearances in the maritime domain. It is as if he isĀ embarrassedĀ to admit engaging with us on some level; as if by admitting his engagement with the maritime industry, he is somehow ignoring the carnage on our road during peak holidays.

In fact if you click on MARITIME in the website menu bar – the persistent banner advert promoting road safety follows you there too.

In a last ditch effort to uncover their maritime mantra for 2013, I clicked on the link to their Facebook page. That provided no further assistance – especially as the last post on their page is dated June 2012. And most of the posts on the page relate to (yes you guessed it) road traffic.

So ladies and gentlemen of the maritime industry 2013 is Maritime Year, but please don’t tell anyone – it’s a secret.


Weekly Press Review – 28 March 2013

The big maritime news of the week is the official launch of the Global Ocean Commission which held its inaugural meeting in Cape Town.

The commission, which is co-chaired by Trevor Manuel, is made up of a group of independent leaders from various countries. Their aim is to come up with a blueprint to stop the destruction of the world’s oceans and restore them to their full health; and they have given themselves a period of only 15 months to accomplish this.

This is a group of dedicated, like-minded and motivated individuals who want to see change and intend to set their experienced minds to work to develop a plan of action. We look forward to seeing that plan and, more importantly, that action.

The Agulhas II was called to action this week as it was sent out on a rescue mission.

Nompilo Radebe, an ornithologist contracted to the Department of Environment’s Oceans and Coast branch had to be evacuated from the Marion Island research station after falling ill. No other vessels were available to complete the mission at such short notice.

Radebe is now recovering in a Cape Town hospital.

MSC Cruises is in the news this week after an announcement made by their chief operating officer, Neil Palomba, last year has come to fruition. For the first time, MSC Cruises is offering South Africans the chance to apply for jobs aboard its fleet of 12 ships and experience not only the chance of gaining a career at sea, but also receiving training in their chosen field.

In this way MSC hopes to make a valuable contribution to both job creation as well as skills development.

Weekly Press Review – 20 March 2013

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is in the news again this week with the appointment of Desmond Stevens as chief director of marine resource management. Although his appointment is only in an acting capacity, he is being described as poorly qualified for the position; with no tertiary degree and, more importantly, no fisheries management expertise. His previous position at DAFF was head of ‘stakeholder engagement.’

Running the fisheries department, particularly in its present state, is a hugely complex task and one must wonder whether Stevens is up to the job. Fisheries consultant, Shaheen Moolla thinks not. ‘It is not appropriate for him to be appointed. We are in such trouble in fisheries already. They’re not doing vessel patrols, vessels aren’t doing the research they should be doing and the cherry on the top is to put someone with no expertise in fisheries management in charge of the country’s fisheries.’

We shall have to wait and see whether poor Mr Stevens sinks or swims.

Blouberg beach is still closed to the public as the navy resumes its efforts to destroy the wreck of the Seli 1. The team is now trying to remove the last of the oil on board the wreck. Cape Town Disaster Risk Management spokesman, Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, said that marine life in the area would not be affected.

And yet … over five tons of dead mullet washed up at the mouth of the Milnerton lagoon over the weekend. Although no definite link has been made, it was at first speculated that the deaths were caused by oil leaking from the Seli 1 wreck. Wilfred Solomons-Johannes was again quoted, saying that at this point they were unsure what had caused the deaths of the fish, but that ‘it is suspected that it is linked to the high temperatures that were experienced this past week.’

You be the judge.

In a bizarre story, but an angler taking part in a tag and release competition over the weekend was bitten by the shark that he had caught and was attempting to release. Kobus Stofberg was hospitalised after being bitten on the leg by the 1.5 metre ragged tooth shark.

Although this was a tag and release contest, it would seem that this particular shark was not playing along. Sometimes nature does bite back!

Weekly Press Review – 15 March 2013

Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is back in the news this week. This time the minister is being sued by Sue Middleton, chief director of fisheries operations, for defamation of character after she allegedly made statements to the press saying that Middleton had been found guilty of financial mismanagement. Middleton is suing for R1 million.

The minister claims that the statements she made were ‘substantially true’ and were published in the public interest.

‘Substantially true’ sounds a little suspect already. It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds in the media.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has this week made large inroads to slow the illegal trade in shark fins. The illegal trade of sharks is driven primarily by the huge demand for fin soup in Asia. Passing with a two thirds majority CITES has ensured that fins may be bought and sold only if the trade is certified sustainable.

At last, some action to protect our sea life. Perhaps South Africa’s abalone will make the cut next time.

A simulated maritime disaster also made the papers as ‘Operation Beachy’, took place in Table Bay this week. Authorities simulated an emergency evacuation of a passenger liner which had run aground.

For the purposes of the exercise, 23 organisations were called to action as the SA Navy frigate, the SAS Spioenkop, played the role of the stricken vessel. And what a stricken vessel: the simulation involved the vessel floundering with no engine power due to an explosion in the engine room; the captain incapacitated due to a heart attack and several passengers burned and injured.

Let us hope that the appropriate people received the appropriate training and gained the required skills needed to handle this kind of emergency, otherwise the renaming of the SAS Spioenkop during exercise as the ‘Costa Lot’ would certainly best describe the exercise.

Hopefully making its last appearance in the press this week is the Seli 1. After four years, the SA Navy, financed by the Department of Transport to the tune of R20 million, will complete the last of the explosions this week designed to finally collapse the vessel, allowing what remains to sink to the seabed and be dispersed by the winter ocean currents.

Full diary: warning – event ahead!

The maritime industry seems to have suddenly woken up and started some vigourous planning for the next couple of weeks. While some events have been a long time in the offing – others seem to have simply sprung up on the calendar.


Last week the National Department of Transport (NDoT) surprised maritime stakeholders with an invitation to a Maritime Bosberaad in Pretoria. Hosted jointly by the NDoT, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and the Ports Regulator – it seems that the last minute invitation may have influenced the actual attendance register on the day.

It’s a pity really since the Minister of Transport was due to provide the keynote address. Sadly, with only a day’s notice, I did not make it up to Pretoria and will have to rely on the industry for some feedback. I would be especially interested to know what the ANC Youth League’s contribution amounted to.


Then the rather active and community-spirited maritime sectors in Durban took the initiative to host a Maritime Conference on the MSC Sinfonia. Featuring a rather modest price-tag of only R5000 (all inclusive), this certainly sounds as if a real effort was made to make it as inclusive as possible.


We’ve been watching the establishment of the Global Ocean Commission since its launch last month and were particularly interested to learn that, not only is Trevor Manuel a Co-chair of the Commission, but South Africa (Cape Town) is hosting their inaugural meeting.

Some follow-up revealed that they would be in Cape Town this week, but that media would not be accommodated at any sessions and nothing had been planned to include us. So – once again it was with surprise that an invitation to a press briefing landed in our inbox late yesterday requesting our presence at a briefing this morning.

The lack of availability of the local press eventually saw this moved to a later date – and one that will take into account the work undertaken during this week by the international heads scheduled to participate.

(Follow our tweets on this topic on @GreenMarineSA – we will use the #GlobalOcean)


Heavily criticised for not engaging enough with the top levels of the fishing industry, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, is scheduled to share breakfast with CEO’s from this sector tomorrow morning.

I will attend the press briefing DAFF has scheduled following this gathering to hear first hand how the relationship has been strengthened.

(Follow our tweets on this topic on @MaritimeSA – we will use the #DAFFFast)


I must admit I have been waiting for a long time for the local South African maritime industry to start talking meaningfully around this topic and am pleased that the initiative has been taken to break-away from next week’s BRICS sessions in this regard.

With a full calendar and a host of public holidays to contend with, organisers elected to host this on a Sunday and I hope that the date does not deter too many stakeholders.

Once again the Minister of Transport, Ben Dikobe Martins, is on the schedule and panel discussions should provide for a lively platform if they are accurately populated.

(Follow our tweets on this topic on @MaritimeSA – we will use the #maritimeBRICS)


The African maritime agenda is key to most conferences and events this year and the Nautical Institute (Southern African Branch) is meeting in association with a number of other key local professional associations to discuss this.

So with an Easter breather between this event and the BRICS sessions; the maritime industry will reassemble in Cape Town to debate the challenges facing the African Maritime economy.

(Follow our tweets on this topic on @MaritimeSA – we will use the #NauticalInstituteSA)


After all these cerebral outings, however, some sectors of the maritime industry are blocking out a Friday to chase a little white ball around in Stellenbosch. We’ll be there to sponsor one of the holes, take a few photos and relax with you after a hectic couple of weeks.

(Follow our tweets on this topic on @MaritimeSA – we will use the #MaritimeGolfDay)


So if you are planning anything else in the maritime industry – put it on our radar and we’ll make sure that it becomes more than just a blip

Weekly Press Review – 8 March 2013

Journalists were alerted that there is a port in Cape Town last weekend when a South Korean long-liner, the Hwa-Tsan, blazed for over four hours in the Cape Town harbour. Sadly a loss of life was reported. One crew member died and another 25 had to be rescued from the burning vessel. The vessel was berthed at the Landing Wharf off Duncan Road.

Reports indicate that an investigation by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), and in terms of international maritime conventions, is underway and a case of arson has been opened by the police.

Wilfred Solomons-Johannes of the Disaster Risk Management Centre was quoted saying that emergency personnel had managed to avert any significant pollution.

An article published in the Cape Times this week presented the results of both an alarming and an interesting new study. The study, conducted by Laurence Smith, a professor of geography at the University of California, suggested that the melting ice of the Arctic, due to a continually warming climate, could result in new sea routes, through what is now solid ice, straight across the Arctic.

Although winter ice would not make this an all-year round proposition, the study indicates that by the year 2050 this could actually be a viable option.

There was some good news for residents of Blouberg. Some action is finally being taken to remove the remaining wreck of the Seli 1. The Department of Transport (DoT) and the SA Navy are working together to cut up the already weakened wreck and then hope to leave the winter storms to do the rest.

Debbie James of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) said that the project would be used as a training exercise, saying: ‘They are going to cut it down as far as they can and let the winter storms break it up. They’re going to get it to a minimum of three metres below sea level so that it is not a hazard.”

We’ll wait on the maritime industry’s opinion about that however; and certainly hope that the DoT’s contract with the navy will run more smoothly than the one that the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries embarked on.


Weekly Press Review – 1 March 2013

‘The world’s greatest living explorer’, 68 year-old Sir Ranulph Fiennes has arrived safely back in Cape Town after a lengthy evacuation process from Antarctica. Fiennes, who is suffering from severe frostbite after attempting to adjust a ski binding without gloves on, is said to be ‘extremely disappointed’ at having to give up his quest to be the first to cross the world’s coldest continent in winter.

The Coldest Journey is, however, not over. The five remaining team members will continue with the expedition and hope to begin the crossing on March 21, led by Brian Newham.

One cannot help but think that perhaps the ‘world’s greatest living explorer’ should have known better that to remove his gloves while in the field.

Greta Apelgren-Narkedien is back in the news this week with the announcement that the fisheries department has committed to heeding the scientific advice presented this year for the the reduction of rock lobster quotas in the next financial year. She believes that this that revised quota will give the rock lobster population time to rebuild.

This same scientific advice regarding quotas was disregarded last year.

What is the point of employing, and presumably paying, scientist for their valuable input and then simply ignoring it? Surely this situation cannot be allowed to continue..