20 in 2022: My Maritime Mentors

In continuing to celebrate the magazine’s 20 years of publishing, I thought I would give a nod to those people who have been instrumental to the success of the publication by providing support, information, and insight. There is simply no way we would have accomplished this important milestone without access to some of the many maritime minds we have encountered along the way.

And so, I would like to publicly acknowledge the following people. While I do see these as my top 20 – there are many others who have played an important role along the way.

  1. Steve Saunders: I met Steve while working on another maritime magazine. As a maritime and history enthusiast, he became a valuable part of our team when we launched Maritime Review as a constant contributor and advice giver. He was also a great conversationalist to have a beer with.
  2. Richard Warnes: When I first stepped into the maritime world, Richard Warnes (along with Debbie Owen) headed up public relations for Safmarine. As a team they were instrumental in providing real access to ships for myself as well as the mainstream press. The trip on one of the Safmarine Big Whites from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth will always stand out as one of the highlights of my early immersion into the industry.
  3. Michael Stuttaford: As a previous owner of one of the publications I worked on, but having already sold it when I came aboard – Michael was never completely absent and always available to provide leads and information. He still ends up on the other end of the phone line every now and again to either provide a hot tip or rap me over the knuckles. And every time I publish a photo without a caption I can see him shaking his head in disapproval.
  4. Claire Ward: Claire stands out as one of the most valuable people I have worked with due to her keen grasp of the fishing sector. She spent a number of years as our Fisheries Editor and every so often I take a chance and beg her to consider returning to the magazine in some way or other. Indeed, I hope to persuade her to be involved in our special 20th anniversary issue this year.
  5. Bruce McCracken: Back in the day Bruce headed up the marine division of Barloworld Power (agents for Caterpillar marine engines). I spent a number of hours sitting across a desk from him simply writing down as much as possible. There was never a shortage of stories available and he was generous with both his time and information. He also knew the advantages of instigating publicity for his own clients by including them in the stories he had to tell – he never just spoke about engines – he spoke about people and their successes.
  6. Steve Smith: During his tenure at Pertec, Steve’s door was always open and, similarly to Bruce McCracken, he was keen to share the successes of his clients. I was often in his office and never left without a good story or three. We also share a love of cats and I always enjoyed seeing the photos of his beautiful showroom cats that he kept proudly on his phone.
  7. Rob Whitehead (and Alf Wallace): African Maritime Services was one of the first companies that I engaged with when entering the industry. As partners in the business Rob and Alf shared a massive office with two massive desks – and meetings were generally with both of them in attendance. I always got the feeling that there was a sense of “good cop, bad cop” playing out between them, but they were straightforward and an excellent source of information about the fishing industry that they served and had worked in.
  8. Brian Ingpen: No list of maritime mentors would be complete without mention of Brian. Brian knows pretty much everything there is to know about the maritime industry and his writing proves that. He is the real thing – and has always loved the maritime environment. The South African industry is privileged to have a man of his calibre and I am, indeed, privileged to have engaged with him on many occasions over the years.
  9. James Cooke: Quietly spoken, but don’t listen at your peril. James is a stalwart of the industry and an early entrepreneur that founded Atlatech – a company that still occupies a valuable spot in the industry and Cape Town harbour. With a dry sense of humour and an ear to the ground, James is worth having long lunches with. There’s not much he does not know about and it’s time I picked up the phone and made a date again!
  10. Salvo Cutino: I blame Salvo for the soft spot I hold for the ship repair industry. As MD of Dorbyl Marine his door was always open and he was generally prepared to talk on record. He was one of the few people who did not insist on policing what I wrote – a trait that resulted in an ability to carry a true reflection of what was happening within this sub-sector for a long time.
  11. Prasheen Maharaj: I have always admired Prasheen’s willingness to be outspoken on many of the prickly topics facing the shipbuilding sector. He has also shown faith in me by not trying to whitewash some of the stories I have discussed with him. Our conversations have also taken interesting twists and turns into economics and capitalism – making him more than simply a source of information in the industry.
  12. Neil Scott-Williams: With enough energy to power Eskom, Neil remains an inspiration. He is a dreamer, a visionary, an entrepreneur and an excellent conversationalist. He also provides an excellent reading list of interesting titles. A coffee date with Neil is never boring and usually leaves me inspired and slightly dizzy with ideas and news.
  13. Clare Gomes: While many of my contacts are energy driven, Clare has always provided a calm and steady reflection on much of what is going on in the industry. I will never make the mistake of underestimating her and admire her ability to see situations from a variety of angles. This makes her a wonderful contact and one where I have to remind myself to listen more than talk.
  14. Okke Grapow: On one of the first occasions I met Okke, I had been invited to listen to a salvage case study hosted in the AMSOL (then Smit) board room. Sitting next to me, he kept whispering explanations to me during the presentations. Admittedly I did find this rather patronising, but later got to know him as someone who simply wanted to share his knowledge and ensure that people had a better understanding of the maritime sector that was in his blood. As time went by, I did spend more time with him and can honestly say my initial impression was wrong – Okke has an amazing maritime mind that continues to benefit the sector long after retirement age.
  15. Rear Admiral Koos Louw: When I think about Koos, I immediately see someone with a ready smile and an energy level that I hope to emulate one day. Having engaged with him during his time in the navy as well as within the private sector, I can say that he has a passion for training and for seeing youngsters enter the industry. Hmmm – that reminds me, I still have a book I borrowed from him on the significance of sail training and do need to make sure that I return it.
  16. Godfrey Needham: The fact that I have managed to forgive Godfrey for standing me up for a lunch date at Panama Jacks and include him on this list says a lot. When I make an appointment with him, I generally write the rest of the afternoon off – and get ready to record the conversation to save my wrist from seizing. Active in the OPL market, Godfrey has many interesting tales to tell and is at the coalface of developing this sector in the Eastern Cape. He’s also a more multifaceted person than some people may realise as he heads up a Rotary chapter and has been involved in trying to engage in ventures that will help transform the industry.
  17. Captain Nicholas Sloane: As South Africa’s own maritime celebrity, and now the President of the International Salvage Union – Nick remains humble about many of his achievements. He’s also generally the last one to leave a function and has many a tale to tell. He makes himself available to present to scholars and business forums – making the information accessible and enthralling. Nick is so cool he has even suggested towing an iceberg to Cape Town to solve potential water shortages.
  18. Captain Pim Zandee: Another maritime stalwart – Pim managed to excuse me for referring to him as Zim Pandee in an early caption of a photo of him I published. Retired now, Pim was also one of those who welcomed me into his office and remained open to providing information about ongoing incidents. While I do understand the need for a central information point for journalists during a maritime incident, I will miss the days of being able to access my own personal contacts.
  19. Captain Simon Pearson: With a vast knowledge of the maritime training landscape across Africa – Simon has often provided insight into how things can be improved and where we are falling short. He remains active in the industry despite having sold SeaTrain – and is never too busy to answer questions that I may need more understanding of.
  20. CEO duo: Okay – this is an interesting one as I am including the ex CEO and ex Acting CEO of the South African Maritime Safety Authority on my list. Tsietsi Mokhele and Sobantu Tilayi have never shirked my calls or my questions. Notwithstanding any issues surrounding their undertakings in the industry, I am truly grateful for their willingness to be open with me and I do hope to have more conversations with them both in the future.

So that’s my 20 in 2022 list of mentors. There are others and many other people that have and continue to have an impact on my ability to remain abreast of some of the off the record news. Thank you to you all – and I look forward to expanding my list when I rewrite it for our 50th anniversary.   

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