Weekly Press Review – 29 January 2016

The majestic Queen Elizabeth berthed in Cape Town harbour this week.  According to the press the vessel, Commanded by Commodore Christopher Rynd, will sail more than 36,000 nautical miles and visit 42 ports in 25 countries during her 120-day world cruise.  She has now sailed on to Port Elizabeth, but Cape Town is expecting a visit from her sister ship, Queen Victoria, later this year.

The vessel’s overnight stay in Cape Town obviously offered a great opportunity for local tourism.  Local travel agency owner, Shaun McCarthy said, “We are delighted to welcome Cunard’s youngest member of the fleet.”


Coastline confusion

Can anyone tell me exactly how long South Africa’s coastline is? I am talking about our coastline – excluding any islands that we may have jurisdiction over.

Situated at the southern tip of Africa and surrounded by sea on “three sides,” we like to assume that we have access to a generous coastline, but the actual length does not seem to be cast in stone.

I’ve had the opportunity to dwell on this elusive fact over the last few months while writing and editing a number of pieces for a variety of sources. I was even tempted to take out a length of string and attempt to do something I last did in High School during map work in Geography, but decided rather to spend my evening drinking wine with friends (achieving life/work balance).

But yesterday I received a press release that stretched our coastline to its limits. Apparently South Africa now has “almost 4,000 kilometres” of coastline to be proud of.  And it does not seem that the PR company was adding any offshore coast from island territories to this accumulation.

I am used to receiving press releases that peg the coast at anywhere between 2,500 km and 3,000 km long, so this additional 1,000 kilometres is really a windfall for the country.

Perhaps this is part of Operation Phakisa’s strategy to expand the maritime industry (the press release did allude to this Government-led project), but I am not sure that our neighbours would be too happy with us claiming a portion of their coastline in order to increase our maritime prospects.

So – can anyone tell me the real, undisputed length of our coastline?


Weekly Press Review – 22 January 2016

Making headlines this week was the news that a fishing trawler and a bulk carrier had somehow managed to collide off the coast at Cape Point.

Luckily no lives were lost when the 20m, 154 ton Viking Fishing Company fishing trawler Lezandi and the 200m, 36,333 ton bulk carrier the Sunrise Jade collided in thick fog.  The Sunrise Jade was on its way from St Petersburg to Saldanha Bay.

The collision resulted in the Lezandi taking on water and the 14 man crew were forced to abandon ship. They were rescued from the water by crew members from the FV Freesia and delivered to the shore.  The NSRI also responded to the incident. Only one crew member was injured and taken to Cape Town Mediclinic.  No damage was done to the Sunrise Jade.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) issued a safety warning immediately after the incident as the semi-submerged trawler posed a hazard to sea traffic in the area.

This is the second incident to rock Viking Fishing.  In September last year the MFV Lincoln capsized near Hangklip in bad weather and nine fishermen lost their lives.

Also making headlines this week is the launch of an exciting new plan to clear the large amount of plastic rubbish in our oceans.

An estimated 8 million tons of plastic debris is washed into our oceans each year.  This plastic is broken down into smaller microplastics that are ultimately ingested by many sea creatures and poses an enormous threat to marine ecosystems.

Scientists have been working on solutions to the problem and there is already an ambitious plan in place to use inflatable booms aligned across sea currents to gather waste in a large rubbish patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

New research carried out at the Imperial College London suggests however that this plan will be more effective if carried out nearer densely populated coasts, specifically off China and Indonesia, where large amounts of plastics enter the ocean.  The model suggests that the project would be 14 percent more effective at the new location.

“It makes more sense to remove plastics where they first enter the ocean around coastal economic and population centres,” said Erik van Sebille of Imperial College.

Weekly Press Review – 15 January 2016

As South Africa experiences devastating droughts across many parts of the country, food shortages become the new reality.   According to the press this week, our ports are sadly ill-prepared to handle the massive agricultural imports that loom for the year ahead.

Grain South Africa (GSA) estimates that up to 5 million tons of maize will be imported over the period May 2016 to April 2017, as well as up to 2 million tons of wheat.

With these figures in mind, Transnet Port Terminals Agricultural Bulk operations had a total of just 4 million tons of capacity available across all seven of its local ports over the last year.

Another factor influencing the logistics is that Zimbabwe will also be importing maize during that period, most likely requiring the services of South African ports.

Transnet is apparently in the process of preparing for this influx.  Transnet spokesperson Mboniso Sigonyela said, “Some of the initiatives include adapting and improving our handling methods, focusing on efficiencies, as well as storage facilities.  We are confident that we will meet the demand on both rail and ports, should the need arise.”

Five ways to ditch the important wife

Last week I wrote about the tendency to invite “someone important’s” wife to be the lady sponsor of a new vessel and received a surprising amount of feedback that indicates that many people feel the same way. So here are a few ways to think about choosing someone to break a bottle on the bow.

  1. Find a way to use the honour as an incentive within the company: In other words if you know you are going to launch a vessel in a year’s time, set goals and targets within the company and use it to motivate the team (or more specifically the women in your team).
  2. Create an essay writing or art competition that offers the honour as a prize for a lady learner: Once you have announced the winner, imagine the free publicity for your company as she instagrams the experience to her followers. Boost this by creating a YouTube video that she can share and help focus new eyes on the industry.
  3. Seek a female blogger with a keen interest in the ocean or the maritime world: They’re out there – bloggers and citizen journalists are waiting to talk about their experiences and you can offer them an opportunity that does not come along very often. Trust me, they’ll blog about it and keep blogging about the vessel that they are now intimately attached to as it sails around the globe.
  4. Honour a local/community hero: Keep an eye on the news for those feel-good stories about seemingly ordinary ladies doing extraordinary things and invite them to bless your vessel in the same way they have blessed their communities.
  5. Look for and find that important lady: Yes there are plenty of important men in the maritime world, but there are some important ladies too. Seek them out and put them in the limelight.

Oh – and when you choose the lady sponsor, please make sure that it is abundantly clear to those present why she deserves the honour. A note in your programme will suffice, but certainly a proper introduction from the master (or mistress) of ceremonies will help give her her due.


PS: If all else fails and you are still struggling to find a willing arm to swing the bottle to the bow, please feel free to get in touch.  


Ditch the important wife!

Towards the end of last year there were many vessels entering the water for the first time. As a maritime journalist I generally get invited to these events and I am always fascinated by the choice of lady sponsor on these occasions. The tradition of breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow of the vessel before bestowing good wishes on her and her crew continues to hold strong as does the necessity of bequeathing the honour to a woman.

More often than not, however, the women is still the wife of “someone important” and seldom the “someone important”. While I do not want to go as far as to say that this is a sad indictment on the role that women may be playing (or not playing) in the maritime industry, it does make one pause a little.

It is also testament to the lack of a little bit of imagination in the industry. While the usual designated “important person” at a shipping company may not be a woman – it is highly unlikely that there are absolutely no relevant and deserving women within that company that could be acknowledged in this way. Because being given the honour of this tradition just because you are “someone important’s” wife just seems a little archaic.

I do understand that by asking the “someone important’s” wife to crack the bottle, one is actually honouring his position and that this may be the politically correct move, but wouldn’t it be great if he actually deferred from dragging his wife out to a ship that she may have no interest in and took the opportunity to honour someone more directly involved?

So by all means ask “someone important” if he would like his wife to bless the next ship you launch, but let’s hope against all odds that he may have someone even more directly relevant to that ship’s journey in mind.


Press review – December 2015

With 2016 now officially upon us I spent the morning wading through some of the news headlines of the closing weeks of 2015.  To be honest there was very little good news.

Droughts continue to wreak havoc on our agricultural sector with little relief in sight as soaring temperatures prevail and the chances of rain are minimal.

The NSRI had their hands full over the festive season trying to keep members of the public safe on the beaches and in the water. Yet again too many holiday makers lost their lives in our oceans during the holiday season.

More arrests were made in connection with perlemoen poaching along the Western Cape coastline with an estimated R3 million worth of perlemoen being confiscated and the story of the Seli 1 which ran aground in Table Bay in September 2009 has still not come to an end with the vessel now discharging lumps of coal along the beach at Blouberg.

With all this negativity constantly surrounding us it is hard to start the year with a positive spirit.  One can only hope that as an industry members of the maritime sector can work together to focus on areas where changes can be made and move towards a prosperous and positive 2016.