20 in 2022: Unanswered questions

In 2018 we ran a double page spread on the 18 unanswered questions for that year. Celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, we will delve into 20 questions that we hope will be answered in 2022.

Will the South African Maritime Safety Authority announce its permanent CEO?

This was a question in 2018 and remains a question today. After almost six years, the Authority recently appointed its third interim CEO while they are reportedly finalising the appointment process. The position has been advertised a number of times and speculation has run high in the industry about who should take the top position.

Will we see the completion of the corporatisation of Transnet National Ports Authority?

Last year we heard that the corporatisation of the Ports Authority would be prioritised and completed as per the National Ports Act. At one point the date of 1 April was touted by politicians, but that date has come and gone without any further announcements.

Will the SA Agulhas remain a training vessel or be sold?

The Dedicated Training Vessel, SA Agulhas has long been the albatross around SAMSA’s neck as it bleeds money without truly providing the type of training required especially for marine engineering cadets. Announcements that the vessel would be sold seem to have come to nought though, and the vessel remains an expensive asset.

Will outstanding maritime legislation be promulgated?

There are a few maritime-related pieces of legislation that seem to have been stuck in the parliamentary process of being fully promulgated. Many of these are being anxiously awaited to assure investors and potential new comers into the maritime space that their investments will have room to grow.

Will we see the establishment of a single transport economic regulator?

Similarly to the corporatisation of TNPA, the talk of a single transport economic regulator has long been suggested to be imminent, but nothing seems to have developed despite the promulgation of the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill in 2019 that sought “to consolidate the economic regulation of transport within a single frame and policy; to establish the Transport Economic Regulator; to establish the Transport Economic Council; to make consequential amendments to various other Acts; and to provide for related incidental matters.”

Will the Fishing Rights Application Process be settled?

The current Fishing Rights Application Process (FRAP) has been clouded in delays and extensions and exemptions. Now accepting appeals to the awarding of rights, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment is likely to face significant pushback which could legally tie up the process for longer than necessary.

Will the fishing vessel recapitalisation project gain any momentum?

After initially being a value proposition presented by Operation Phakisa in 2014, the Fishing Fleet Recapitalisation programme has essentially stalled. It was only presented as a “potential” programme in the report back on Operation Phakisa in December last year to the Portfolio Committee on Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, but does not get a mention in the draft Marine Manufacturing and Repair sub-sector plan of the Ocean Economy Master Plan released in January this year.

How did South Africa go from being President of IMO Assembly in 2019 to not being represented at all in the latest elections?

South Africa was elected to preside over the IMO Assembly at the 31st Session of the Assembly in 2019, but failed to even qualify for a seat on the Council in last year’s elections held in London during December.

Will we see a green ship recycling facility in South Africa or Africa?

Some time back TNPA issued a call for proposals relating to the establishment of a Green Ship Recycling facility in one of South Africa’s ports, but nothing has come of that yet. The draft Ocean Economy Master Plan identifies this as a potential for the country – highlighting that there is an increasing push in the shipping sector to use accredited facilities that focus on safety and the environment. To be honest, it seems to be almost a no-brainer when one considers that a number of vessels are towed around the tip of Africa on their way to the scrap yards.

What will be the ultimate fate of the Royal Cape Yacht Club and the Oceana Power Boat Club?

This is an interesting question. The status quo seems to be in place after dramatic announcements that the Royal Cape Yacht Club would soon have to leave the Port of Cape Town and that the Oceana Power Boat Club would have to find alternative premises outside of the V&A Waterfront.

Can we move from talk shops to action-based accountable timelines for implementation of strategies and interventions?

It is rather ironic that at every conference there is a discussion around moving from talk shops and actively seeking to address the concerns and challenges of the industry. It seems by simply saying we should do this – we placate ourselves that we are actually making that leap. The Ocean Economy Master Plan is a step in the right direction, but it is sad that the intentions associated with Operation Phakisa had to be distilled into another set of documents and proposals made on paper – many of them resuscitated from Operation Phakisa.

Can South Africa successfully resurrect its Shipping Registry?

This has been an ongoing debate for almost two decades. The honest truth is that, to achieve this ambition will take the efforts from serious maritime legal minds that understand what the shipping sector needs from a Flag State. Our current maritime legislation is not supportive of these needs and a number of changes would be essential. Understanding that shipowners are at liberty to choose any Flag State, we have to realise that South Africa would have to offer significant benefits to a shipowner.  

Will the Saldanha Bay IDZ and Saldehco OSSB live up to their potential?

Both the Saldanha Bay IDZ and its neighbour, the Saldehco Offshore Supply Base were announced with great fanfare, but little actual activity besides the basic infrastructure required has been seen in terms of attracting tenants and commercial activity. While the crash in the oil industry can shoulder some of the blame as well as the impact of Covid-19 – we need to acknowledge that the slow pace has seen some potential stakeholders and investors become cynical.

Are we likely to see more rig activity offshore Africa?

As the world races towards decarbonisation ideals and an end to the reliance on fossil fuels, Africa’s ambitions to leverage its offshore oil and gas activity may be curtailed. The vehement protests against the arrival of the seismic survey vessel off the coast of South Africa also highlights the growing awareness of the potential risks associated with offshore drilling amongst ordinary citizens. The debates around a “just transition” will surely need to consider that Africa needs to be given the opportunity to benefit from its reserves in the same way that other regions have in the past. (Read the opinion piece from African Energy Chamber)

Will the African Continental Free Trade Agreement live up to its expectations?

It is difficult to say yet whether this monumental continental agreement will deliver the rewards that Africa needs to take advantage of intra-Africa trade; grow industrialisation; provide employment and so much more. This question will remain unanswered for some time.

Are we (still) training seafarers for unemployment?

Without access to sufficient cadet berths, our seafarers will not have the opportunity to realise their ambitions of a career at sea. More lateral thinking, crewing agencies and accredited simulation time could alleviate this problem. We need to ensure we stay abreast in terms of training and the proposed changes in the STCW regime.

What has the SAMBF achieved?

Much as I respect the able people elected to kickstart the South African Maritime Business Forum, I feel that the organisation has not lived up to its mandate to become “the united voice of maritime South Africa”. In fact, the maritime clusters seemed to have stepped willingly and ably into this space. My opinion at the time of the establishment of the SAMBF was that the success to unite the industry should not focus on company members, but should create a structure where the (very) numerous maritime organisations could come together as member associations representing the different sectors of the maritime industry in this forum. An alternative could have been to be bold in terms of the mandate of transformation and created the South African Black Maritime Business Forum as first envisaged.

Is Africa ready for digitalisation and automation within the maritime sectors?

There is a move toward digitalisation and automation, but also some resistance. As global ports become “smarter” the efficiency gaps between African and international ports will increase. Labour and skills need to be developed to transfer into a more automated maritime environment. The balance between employment potential and the efficiencies provided by automation needs to be transparently addressed.

Will TNPA finally get its act together around underwater hull cleaning licences?

The fact that we have hull cleaning licence holders who have spent hundreds of thousands of Rands on securing a right and equipment to undertake hull cleaning within South African ports – but who have not been able to recoup their investment due to the stalling actions of TNPA is nothing less than an utter disgrace. Again – big promises and announcements resulted in no action. If we are truly interested in promoting the ocean economy, why are we still dragging our feet on simple interventions?

Will SAMSA permit additional offshore bunker licences?

Offshore bunkering has rightfully caught the attention of environmentalists. A few spills in Algoa Bay should make the stakeholders sit up and take stock of what mitigation plans are in place that could appease those concerned about the environment. After lifting the moratorium on issuing additional licences – the South African Maritime Safety Authority promptly put it back in place. Although still accepting applications, it will be interesting to see how SAMSA navigates a path that placates environmental concerns while simultaneously allows this sector to grow for the benefit of the local economy.

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