It’s a maritime tradition to throw a good bottle of champagne or sparkling wine at the hull of a newly-built ship and – admitting that a good MCC is a vice of mine – it has always seemed like a waste of the good stuff to me. Why am I bringing this up now? Well, we launched the magazine exactly 20 years ago with a March/April publication and I found a bottle of Graham Beck 2002 bubbly in the back of my cupboard the other day that was obviously purchased for this occasion. Fortunately, no one threw it at anything and now I am contemplating how well it has kept and planning to uncork it so that it is not wasted.
Having also permanently moved into a home office last year, I only recently got around to unpacking 20 years of print magazines and got lost in looking at the covers and the features that have made it to the printers during this time. It has been quite a journey and, although we had a slow steaming year in 2021, are still sailing.
Having these printed issues at my fingertips now, however, makes me nostalgic that we have had to course correct a little and go completely digital. I still miss the delivery of the physical product and opening the box to view the latest issue for the first time – but I am excited about what our digital platform for hosting the online magazine can enable us to do.
I did haul out the launch magazine though. We launched as Maritime Reporter, but had to change the name after about a year for legal reasons (I can tell you about that over a cup of coffee). The main features in that launch edition that we set sail with were related to the Hout Bay fishing saga; the state of ship repair in Cape Town as well as to the priority to position ourselves as the gateway to the oil and gas industry active on the west coast of Africa.
Ship repair not repaired
What is most sad about the article on ship repair is that many of the issues that were raised 20 years ago still persist today. This is back in 2002 and the lack of adequate cranage in the Sturrock dry dock was already a major concern. It is sad to think that it was one of the strategic interventions that could have been relatively quickly and easily remedied by Operation Phakisa which was launched in 2014 – yet it remains an issue two decades later.
We will be delving into this topic again in our 20th Anniversary commemorative issue, which I am pleased to announce will be a printed issue later this year. The scope of the dive into ship repair, however, will be deepened to include ship building and how this has been shaped by developments and investment on the continent.
A slick plan
It was an exciting time back then as I attended a seminar that essentially sparked the establishment of the Cape Oil and Gas Initiative (COGSI) which evolved into the South African Oil and Gas Alliance (SAOGA) that we know today. Wesgro and The Cape Chamber of Commerce had recently released a report that they had commissioned to investigate the opportunities offered by the then growing offshore oil industry on the west of Africa.
The idea was to copy Aberdeen’s strategy of marketing themselves as the gateway to the North Sea oil fields. “In the same way Cape Town should be marketing itself as the gateway to the oil industry along the west coast of Africa,” said Brian Bain of Globe Engineering at the seminar.
Sadly, Globe and a number of other marine engineering companies are no longer operational, but there is still an opportunity to explore the offshore oil and gas sector despite the obvious need to reduce Green House Gases and move towards a carbon neutral way of living.
This is another topic that we will be getting our hands dirty with in the commemorative issue – with the view to understanding how Africa can still benefit from their fossil fuels in a world determined to abandon them.
A fishy story
The last main feature story related to the Hout Bay fishing saga. Our fisheries editor at the time, Claire Ward (Attwood), caught our readers up to speed with the developments around the secret file that had been discovered that essentially incriminated Hout Bay Fishing Industries, its directors and employees as well as the owners of 19 other rock lobster vessels and 14 fisheries’ inspectors in the rampant over fishing of the west coast rock lobster.
At the time a number of people including a director, consultants, a factory manager and fisheries inspectors were arrested, but the managing director, Arnold Bengis, had allegedly absconded to the United States. We did do a follow up on this story and the precedent-setting criminal case held in the United States that saw Bengis having to pay a substantial amount of money back to South Africa.
While this case has been wrapped up, the last two decades have seen poaching, as well as illegal and unregulated fishing continue around the continent. This is a topic we will be casting our eyes on in our commemorative issue.
Other interesting flotsam and jetsam
We also covered the poor efficiencies of ports and productivity and printed an article that I could sadly almost do a copy and paste from in a look at today’s situation in our ports.
The launch issue even referred to our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as our tenth province way back then in an article reporting on a seminar aimed at boosting the development of the South African EEZ. [Note to self – check up on developments relating to South Africa’s ambition to extend its EZZ. If you have news on this, please let me know.]
The call to build the then Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism’s four new patrol boats locally was loud and clear as two shipyards battled it out for the contract. Subsequent developments in the ship building sector have seen it become a designated sector – requiring all state builds to be undertaken by local yards.
It’s also interesting to remember the SOS that the Oceana Power Boat Club put out as calls to evict the club from its home were on the table from the V&A Waterfront Development Company. The club still occupies that same space today and is often buzzing with fishermen launching vessels and ocean users keen to kayak or jetski from the facility, which offers a humble entertainment area, a slipway, a swimming pool and garden area amongst the expensive coastline property that has developed around it.
Wow – there was a lot in that launch issue, but I am just going to touch on one other story. At the time, global branding had an impact locally as Smit Pentow Marine (which eventually evolved into AMSOL) underwent several changes to bring it in line with its international shareholders. Today, as AMSOL, those shareholders are all local and the company continues to develop its service offerings across several maritime sectors. Perhaps we could add that full story to our commemorative issue too.
We took a risk with that first issue. The path to launching the magazine is another entire story, but when we did and when we asked the industry to support us they certainly did. We have been completely supported by industry over the last 20 years and, as we tweak our business model, we hope that we can continue to receive the support and feedback that has been so generous over the years.
Advertisers in our first issue were:
- African Maritime Services
- Anchor Industries
- Barloworld Power Systems
- Belmet Marine
- Cummins Marine
- Dorbyl Marine
- Dudula Shipping
- Lifesaving Equipment and Servicing
- Marine Electrical Technical Services
- MTU South Africa
- Nico’s Boilermakers
- Paul Coxon and Associates
- Peninsula Power Products
- Protea Foundry and Engineers
- Radio Holland South Africa
- Scania Power
- Silentor South Africa
- Southern Power Products
- Tamarix Marine
- Triton Naval Architects