Weekly Press Review – 25 October 2013

South Africa has made headlines this week as one of the first countries to sign the Minamata Convention. The convention is a new global treaty aimed at phasing out mercury from a wide variety of industrial and household products.

Thus far, 92 countries have signed the treaty which could take another two years to be ratified and ultimately enter into force.

The treaty is named after the Japanese industrial town, Minamata, where thousands of people were poisoned during the 1950s and 1960s by eating fish polluted by the local chemical plant.

It is good to see South Africa leading the charge against the further pollution of our oceans.

The luxury liner, Titanic has made the news again this week over 100 years after its fatal final voyage. To once again prove that people’s fascination with the ill-fated vessel has not waned, a violin that was being played as the ship went down has sold for an unprecedented R1.42bn at a British auction over the weekend.

The violin in question was played by band leader Wallace Hartley. The band continued to play as the ship was sinking in an attempt to calm the passengers. All of the band members died and it is believed that Hartley’s body was discovered with the violin still strapped to his body.

A very sad piece of memorabilia for somebody’s collection.


Weekly Press Review – 18 October 2013

The SA United Fishing Front has made the news this with their objection to the proposed reintroduction of fishing co-operatives into legislation. The Act seeks to allow subsistence and small-scale fishermen and women formal recognition in the legislation.

Pedro Garcia, chairman of the NGO which represents southern Cape and West Coast fishermen and women, said that this was a “burning issue”, adding that people must be given the choice of whether or not to join a co-operative, rather than having it thrust upon them as the only way to ensure a quota.

“To this very day we are dealing with the fallout” of failed co-operatives of the past, said Garcia.

This is a process that seems to go on and on with no clear solution in sight. It would seem that it is always going to be 100 percent impossible to please all of the people all of the time and perhaps it is time to start thinking out of the box for alternate solutions to the problem. The Fisheries Department certainly faces a long road ahead.

On the environmental front, also making the news this week was an article voicing concern about a planned seismic survey by a French oils and gas company off the coast of Kwazulu-Natal.

The company plans to blast sound waves into the sea 24 hours a day for a period of approximately four months over an area of 80,000 km2 between Port Shepstone and Mozambique.

Despite an environmental management plan rating potential impacts as “very low”, marine scientists do not agree and are extremely concerned about the impact on the marine life in the area.

Several concerns have been voiced, but the primary concern seems to be that the seismic airguns could prevent sea animals from getting to their feeding grounds. This in turn would caused increased stress levels, disrupt migration and breeding and ultimately impact on reproduction.

Consultants CCA Environmental have made several recommendations in order to monitor the impact that this survey will have on the local marine life.

It is good to see that there is a genuine concern for the marine life in the area, that the impact of such a survey is being considered and that those involved are looking for workable solutions.

An unusual story covered in the press this week is the case of the 6m oar fish carcass that washed up on the beach in southern California. There have been very few sightings of these very impressive creatures as they dwell well below the 900m mark. Interestingly, Jasmine Santana, who discovered the carcass and engaged 15 beach-goers to assist her in dragging the carcass from the water, is a marine science instructor from the Catalina Island Marine Institute and was absolutely thrilled by her discovery.

The carcass will be buried in the sand to allow for natural decomposition and the skeleton will then be prepared for display at the institute.

It would seem that our oceans are still full of hidden surprises.

Finally, in a follow up to the events surrounding the capsizing of the Miroshga, which lead to the deaths of two people – the skipper and owners of the vessel have been charged with two counts of culpable homicide.

We wait to see the outcome of the court proceedings.

Weekly Press Review – 11 October 2013

The big news in the press this week is the return of the SA Agulhas II from its research mission to Gough Island.

The vessel returned to Cape Town with its team of 13 on board who had spent  13 months on the island.

After the vessels return and addressing the research team, Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director General: Oceans & Coasts Department of Environmental Affairs, said: “To the scientific community at large, your contribution to this meaningful cause in research arena has not gone unnoticed.”

It is a proud moment for the South African maritime industry to see the success of this wonderful vessel. May it be the first of many successful missions.

The Sapina Rainbow Project which is endorsed by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund also made the news this week with the return of Nomcebo Siyaya from her 5,000 mile first leg of a round-the-world yacht race.

Nineteen year old Siyaya, who until recently had not even seen a boat, completed her leg of the race and is extremely proud to have gained her sea legs. She is one of eight South Africans chosen to take part in the project.

Siyaya’s leg took more than three weeks to complete. She says: “I learnt a lot from my journey, although it wasn’t easy. I have found the trip challenging, particularly the weather.”

It is exciting to see the youth of our country embracing opportunities which allow them access to some kind of maritime experience. This can only promote the industry and generate an interest in its future members – and it is widely acknowledged that sailing provides one of the best bases for competent seafarers.

Weekly Press Review

The issue of South Africa’s ship register was back in the press this week.  According to a report by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), South Africa’s ship register is largely regarded as “uncompetitive”, resulting in not a single merchant ship being listed.  “This means that South Africa’s economy and its security of trade are dependent on ships owned and regulated in foreign countries.”

According to the newspaper reports, the issue relates to South African companies choosing to flag their vessels in foreign jurisdictions.

SAMSA believes that If we want to see the South African maritime economy truly boom, we need to find a way to offer ship owners incentives to flag their vessels in South Africa. We believe the issue is not so black and white and will pursue this debate further in the magazine.

On a less serious note, but still maritime related, a large male fur seal caused some minor traffic congestion after wandering from the dunes to find some warmth on the tar of Baden Powell drive in Muizenberg.

The SPCA was called and Wildlife Unit manager Brett Glasby responded to the call.  “When I got there, the male seal was still lying in the middle of the road and traffic officials were diverting traffic around it.  I just used a beach towel to herd him over the dunes until the road was out of sight and he could see the ocean again.”

Looks like South Africa’s Big 5 could have a little competition from our maritime mammals.