Rocking the boat

As part of a four-ball of relative novices, I was asked not to be offended by the decision not to allow us to participate in the upcoming Fairship General Botha Old Boys Bursary Fund fundraising golf day.

Having previously addressed the fact that industry golf days, by their very nature and legacy, tend to remain rather male dominated with the board of the Bursary Fund, this decision came as a bit of a surprise – given that the four ball in question happened to include four women.

We were assured, however, that the marketing efforts for the golf day had reached out to women’s golfing groups and to the ladies belonging to the Rondebosch Golf Club where the event is being hosted.

That they had to find non-maritime women for an industry golf day does not seem to have made a dent in their thinking. According to the correspondence from the Bursary Fund and the manager of the Golf Club – there was not much interest shown despite their efforts to create a more inclusive field via these channels. That the women which were targeted in these marketing endeavours do not want to sign up for a stereotypically male dominated industry golf day also seems to be beyond their understanding of some of these nuances.

As a group of lady novices keen to have some fun at a golf day aimed at raising money for the future maritime generations – a golf day with sponsored holes aimed at making the game less serious, we have been advised to rather not participate lest it destroys our potential longer-term love of the game. In fact, the club manager has already decided we would NOT enjoy ourselves. The capitalisation of the word is her emphasis and not mine. Instead – she has advised us to embark on a more structured approach that includes the expense of coaching, lessons and mentorship.

Personally – the idea of the golf day sounds a hell of a lot more fun as well as a fundamentally better introduction to the game than the latter advice.

Apparently the “suggestion” to prevent us from teeing off is “not intended to exclude anyone and hopefully not discourage the eager and brave souls from ever trying golf”. I do hope that the intention now is to ascertain whether any of the other “souls” signed up for the golf day are novices and exclude them as well.

Yes, we are certainly novices and no we do not own our own clubs, but the correspondence also makes the assumption that none of us have had any exposure to the game – a fact that neither the Bursary Fund nor the manager cared to clarify. Personally, I have been on a driving range; I have played a short round with some experienced golfers, and I have co-organised several industry golf days back in the day.

During these golf days I spent the majority of the day riding around in a golf cart, photographing and engaging with players – followed by assisting with the prize giving and engaging with the score cards.

It was through the organisation of these golf days that my reservations about hosting such events materialised. The number of women from the maritime industry that played over the course of several years could be counted on one hand. Each event turned into a male bonding fest that effectively discouraged inclusivity.

Having been asked to engage with the Bursary Fund previously about how to move their brand into the future and maintain a relevance for the next generation of maritime professionals, I voiced this exact concern, but did suggest that they at very least include a prize for the top lady player. Not even this hit the mark with their organising committee.

I was told that these events remain the easiest and best way to raise money. Yes, raising money for maritime bursaries is certainly important, but what happened to our commitment to make the industry more cognisant of creating an inclusive environment?

Given this lack of inclusivity, I am rather astounded at the nature of the correspondence received to inform us of their decision, which is inherently condescending in its nature – offering us the opportunity to come out on the day and be taken out “briefly” on a golf cart. The email also goes as far as to say: “I trust that this does not offend any of your team and that it will be taken in the positive spirit intended”.

My answer to this is quite simply: yes, it does offend, but us taking offence is almost irrelevant to the broader picture here. A more “positive spirit” could have been engendered had either the board or the club reached out and made suggestions to accommodate us rather than simply telling us to get ourselves together and try again next year.

Perhaps suggesting that we tee off last so as not to impact the field; or to split our four ball into two and look for four more experienced players to join each four ball (more four balls – more money for the fund) could have indicated a rather more positive response.

I dare say that there are many other creative suggestions that could have come to mind had they thought further than protecting “the sport that they both love” with the word no!

Interestingly, their Instagram account seems to indicate that you are welcome whether you know how to play golf or not.

It’s time to speak up

Today’s email download included information about a new initiative launched by WISTA International and the International Maritime Organisation that I believe will help diversify the voices that get heard in the maritime industry.

The two organisations have created a new platform, a speaker bank for the women in maritime, intending to end the tradition of all-male speaking panels, sometimes referred to as ‘manels’. I do hope that the vibrant women from Africa’s maritime domain add their voices to this platform.

The Maritime Speakers Bureau is a great initiative and I will definitely be signing up to use the opportunity to register as a speaker as well as to identify potential speakers for future events.

The aim is to promote increase the number of women speakers on the international conference stage. According to a statement issued by WISTA International, “This will show more diverse role models and eliminate the excuse that “I cannot find a female speaker”; and simplify the process of finding speakers. It is free to register and use by speakers and organisers.”

The platform also includes a pledge for signatories to help highlight where diversity gaps occur as well as to commit to improving the inclusion at future maritime events.

“Creating this platform in collaboration with the IMO is a fantastic opportunity to help the wider maritime sector attract more diverse talent in an international industry. Women in our industry will be able to show their interest in participating in panels, becoming more visible and inspiring others. At the same time, event organisers will have the tools to make their panels more inclusive, diverse and interesting,” notes Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, President of WISTA International.

Secretary-General of the IMO, Kitack, Lim believes that the initiative will support inclusive, diverse, richer panels from this free-to-use directory of industry speakers so that audiences can benefit from a range of perspectives that come from having  diverse and inclusive viewpoints.

Visit the website now and sign up!

Rocking the boat

The closing ceremony of the World Maritime Day Parallel Event held last week in Durban included some accolades for South Africa as the host country and one where gender diversity within the maritime industry has gained traction. In stark contrast, the closing ceremony of the World Maritime Day Parallel Event held last week in Durban, also included the ceremonial handover of the International Maritime Organisation’s flag to Iran – the next host of the Parallel Event in 2023.

Iran waves the official International Maritime Organisation flag as the hosts of the World Maritime Day Parallel Event in 2023. (Photo: Hugo Scott Attfield)

No one stood up, no one cut their hair – we all politely clapped as a country currently facing allegations of appalling human rights abuses waved the flag for photographers.

Why are we sitting by and allowing this communal flag to be waved by Iran without any push back? Are we afraid to rock the boat? Are we merely paying lip service to providing an equitable space for women? Is the International Day for Women in Maritime merely empty rhetoric?

I call on WISTA International, WISTA South Africa, WOMESA, SAMSA, The Department of Transport, The International Maritime Organisation and all of the member states to stand up in the face of the mounting evidence against Iran and withdraw its privilege to host the maritime world in 2023. Not doing so portrays an element of complicit support.

For more information read:

And there are plenty more articles relating to the barbaric act of stoning in the country – a practice that is being perpetrated against both men and women for “crimes” such as adultery.

Be like a bonobo

(Based on speech given at the the Imbokodo Transformation Agenda Award ceremony on 24 August 2022)

Faced with the task of delivering an uplifting and motivational maritime message, I searched the internet for some inspiration, but found nothing that really fitted the brief. So donning my journalist hat, I came up with a few titles that I thought might work: 

  • Achieving your maritime mission
  • 5 Easy ways to get ahead in your maritime career
  • Maritime gains over the last two decades
  • A collaborative approach for Maritime South Africa
  • Lift as you rise on the tide – or; 
  • Be like a Bonobo

As you can see from the title of the blog – I settled on the last topic: Be like a bonobo. 

When I was in Durban in 2019 for SAIMI’s (South African International Maritime Institute) Forward Thinking Conference, I went back to my hotel room and was fascinated by the story of the bonobos on the Discovery Channel. 

For those of you who may not know what a bonobo is – it is a primate rather closely related to the chimpanzee. In fact, the two species are almost entirely identical in terms of their genetic make-up. They are, however, vastly different in terms of their lifestyles. 

It turns out that the bonobo is a largely matriarchal society which is generally a peaceloving, chilled one where there is little aggression and where there is a genuine sense of community as well as a desire to act as a group and not as an individual. 

Interestingly, this is quite different from the chimpanzee who lives just across the river. On their side of the dividing water – they exhibit an aggressive lifestyle. The patriarchal society allows male chimps to dominate their female counterparts – often resulting in severe aggression that includes infanticide. 

The documentary showed footage of both sides of the river; cutting between the two societies to amplify the differences. The chimps were marauding, violent creatures where females were often at the mercy of the bigger, stronger males. While on the bonobos’ side of the river things appeared a little more like a hippy commune where the members languished in the sun and shared food; looked after each other’s infants and generally seemed to be living in utopia. 

The obvious question then is why and how? Why are these societies so different and how can we more emulate the bonobos?

Well it turns out that there is a very real reason for these differences. Apparently a massive drought impacted the side of the river on which the chimpanzees live in a way that resulted in food shortages as well as the need to protect scarce resources from other species such as the bigger gorilla. 

The chimpanzees needed to become more aggressive to survive. This aggression spilled over into their own community and generation after generation they passed on the scarcity trauma to their descendants – even as the drought eased and resources returned. As a result the chimpanzees became an aggressive, xenophobic society where not even its own members were safe. 

By comparison, on the other side of the river, the bonobos were not faced with these same challenges and were secure in the knowledge that enough resources were available to all. And in turn this culture of sharing was therefore inculcated amongst the community – and this became the ancestral gift passed from generation to generation. 

Now you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with the maritime industry? And that’s a good question. On the surface it has absolutely nothing to do with the maritime industry actually. 

But one of the issues that keeps popping up at maritime conferences and workshops is the lack of collaboration as companies, institutions and individuals try to protect their turf or domain in the industry. Now, I would suggest that makes us more like the chimpanzees than the bonobos. 

I do understand that the pie seems to be small, but continuously cutting it up into more and more pieces is simply going to make us more hungry to become focused on our own survival at the expense of the growth of the industry. 

The mere existence of a 3,000km coastline; the vast EEZ that the South Africa has access to as well as its position at the tip of Africa on a busy trade route between East and West, means that we should be more secure in the notion that we have the resources and opportunities to help us err towards the bonobo mindset.

Many have alluded to a number of gaps in the industry. Low hanging fruit and lost opportunities should highlight that we need to expand our vision of the maritime sector to embrace its ability to accommodate new entrants, women, youth and even the expansion of existing companies. 

We need the government to listen to industry in terms of what is required to unlock many of these opportunities. The ports need to act swiftly to a changing landscape and commit to timeous delivery of capital expenditure, licensing and partnerships while removing corruption as well as the bureaucracy that stifles growth. 

We also need industry to work collaboratively across sub sectors in a way that acknowledges synergies and breaks down silos. 

In the context of the Imbokodo Awards, the Women’s Conference and women’s month – I would suggest that we can take this desire to be like a bonobo even further. 

I would argue that we cannot attain bonobo status by narrowing our view to the very binary picture we currently have of gender roles. It is not so much about allowing women to be women in the maritime industry as it is about society allowing everyone to be themselves wherever they may land on the stereotypical feminine/masculine spectrum. 

And it certainly needs to challenge the idea that men should not adopt traditionally feminine roles just as much as it needs to address the idea that women can adopt leadership roles. It needs to be inculcated into our families where parents stop presenting different household chores to sons and daughters or where fathers automatically assume the place at the head of the table at dinner time. We can only truly be authentic when we shrug off stereotypes and allow ourselves to live in the way that feels natural to us. Not all of us are leaders; not all of us are caregivers – there is a huge spectrum of opportunity that lies between these two points. 

A glance at our bonobo society shows us that the males are not expected to be the leaders, but neither are the females. The power is not assumed by either gender – but rather shared across the troop in a way that underpins the notion that power is not a scarce commodity that naturally will result in the desire to dominate.

There are currently a number of overlapping initiatives within the industry to address the silo mentality; to improve the visibility of women and youth by unlocking opportunities; to create awareness and to expand the scope of our maritime sector within the global interest to lower carbon emissions as well as to create a greener maritime space.

We need to actively identify these overlaps and commit to addressing why we are not working together to reach these goals. 

And this is why we need to be more like the bonobo. There are no silos within the bonobo society. They are actively working as one community to ensure a sustainable future for the group as a whole. They are not intent in driving domination by any one over another and have, by default, created a society where all can thrive. 

So I leave you with this mantra: be like a bonobo – see your domain as one where you do not need to grab every opportunity; where there is space for all who surround you to acknowledge their strengths wherever they lie on the spectrum. And let us unlock the hereto locked blue economy opportunities by cutting bureaucracy, territoriality and a sense of scarcity. 

20 in 2022: It’s a cover up!

Yip – you read the title correctly: it is a cover up!

Our 20th anniversary issue is due out in October and we want your help covering it up. All of our past commemorative issues have featured photos and/or collages of our choice and on this mammoth milestone we invite you to submit photos from your organisation that you feel represent your journey over the last two decades.

We are looking for high resolution jpeg files that highlight other maritime milestones over the period of our publishing journey. Our aim is to create a memorable cover that attracts the eye and provides a snapshot of the events that have brought us to this point in our maritime history.

Please submit your photos to and include the following:

  • Name of photographer
  • Name of company
  • Brief description of the photo
  • Date of photo

We will aim to use as many of the photos as possible. Oh yes – and this is absolutely free of charge. Please make sure that the photo(s) that you submit are not copyright protected.


We did nothing for seafarers

(Trigger warning – this article contains descriptions of assault)

By now the 25 June is pretty much ingrained in my mind as the International Day of the Seafarers having literally jumped on board from its inception when we attempted to create a Flash Mob in different areas around the country. We also launched the South African Seafarers’ Awards with the assistance of the South African Maritime Safety Authority.

So, believe me when I say, the date was high on my agenda this year as per usual. We were planning a maritime breakfast to raise funds. We even had (in my humble opinion) a moving tribute planned to start the event followed by a fun live quiz.

But as the date crept closer and closer on my calendar I realised this was more about our brand and becoming embroiled in the tide to outdo what everyone else had planned. And I realised that many of these tokens do not really do anything for the actual seafarers beyond highlighting the fact that there is a problem here that a symbolic gesture does not have the power to fix.

A conference highlighting the problem does just that; and then repackages itself for the following year to do the same. Holding up placards with messages of support and even our own wonderful conceptual breakfast plans do nothing for seafarers.

For me the most significant responses on the day were the seafarers telling their stories. The sad reality, however, is that these are largely circulated within the maritime domain and do not actually serve to navigate the message into the broader public who know little about the struggles these men and women face.

So we did nothing for seafarers on the 25 June this year. Quite honestly, I was disillusioned by the continuation of shocking incidents that they are facing. Recently, however, the mainstream press has covered the case being made against Maersk.

In fact, the actions of the two women, who are currently taking on the shipping giant, Maersk, for initially turning a blind eye to severe sexual harassment and assault while cadets on board their ships, are probably doing more for seafarers than any of the talkshops held internationally could have achieved.

One of the women, now identified as Hope Hicks, has publicly described how she was raped by her superior officer while serving as an engine cadet. The second woman was so traumatised on board that she slept with a knife in case she needed to protect herself during the night.

Interestingly in 2010 the shipping company was sued for a similar reason by a male crew member who was allegedly gang raped by South Korean police in 2008. According to newspaper reports from that time, when he reported it to the Captain, he was told to go to his cabin. Upon waking up later, he once again approached the Captain who said his story was too incredible to be believed. There was some controversy over the version of events at the time, but ultimately, he was awarded a financial compensation by a jury.

By now many have read or seen the countless media reports exposing a culture of assault and silence within the merchant marine. And despite Maersk’s decision to suspend and fire five crewmembers following an internal investigation – it seems that more needs to be done. Fortunately, others believe so too.

An interesting article published by Federal News Network in December last year notes that the US Merchant Marine Academy has suspended the programme that puts students at sea for a year following the reports of sexual assaults of students. In addition, the Academy has been tasked to establish a plan for dealing with this significant problem.

An even more heartening development has been the establishment of Maritime Legal Aid and Advocacy by Ryan Melogy – himself an ex-seafarer and now a qualified lawyer who also experienced sexual assault on one of Maersk’s vessels during his career.

Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organisation fighting for the human rights of seafarers and fighting to change the maritime industry.

In 2019 another organisation, Safer Waves, was launched to provide support to seafarers who were experiencing sexual assault, harassment and discrimination on board. In an attempt to get a better understanding of the prevalence of the problem they undertook a survey in 2020 and the results speak for themselves – as do the stories that are related on their site. They provide useful advice and offer a helpline to those experiencing unwanted attention at sea.

Sexual assault is, of course, not the only type of abuse that seafarers face at sea. A visit to the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance (ISWAN) website highlights many more challenges. From social isolation, abandonment, arrest and more – it is abundantly clear that the efforts within the maritime sector need to go beyond posting on social media platforms to show that they support the International Day of the Seafarer.

Because, unless they are actively helping change the onboard culture for the betterment of all seafarers, they are really doing nothing for seafarers.  

Locally on the African continent there are disparate groups of individuals and associations hoping to make a difference – but each seems to have its own agenda as well as “brand” that it wants to promote. It’s time to truly collaborate. We can do more together. What is the African proverb? “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

20 in 2022: Quay words and phrases

Last week’s CMTP Midterm Review threw out some quay words and phrases that I thought I would highlight in this blog to create a general picture of the content of the conference that saw active engagement from a number of stakeholders.

  1. 4iR: The Fourth Industrial Revolution and all that comes with it including automation and innovation has been on the agenda for a few years now. The government has a 4iR policy and there are pockets of innovation taking places within universities and amongst incubators. The issue needs to be addressed from a skills and employment perspective within the maritime space.
  2. Action: The call for action on several outstanding and unresolved issues was loud and clear. It is clear that the industry is cynical about the lack of action that has taken place particularly with regard to the ports’ infrastructure and efficiencies as well as the promulgation of legislation.  
  3. Cabotage: Cabotage or a coastal shipping regime is not a new topic and has been debated for many years. The consensus seems to be, however, that a liberal policy should be implemented that is not too restrictive.
  4. Cadetships: While some people are still calling for the active recruitment of new seafarers based on the much-publicised expected shortage of officers within the world fleet, it should be noted that cadet berths continue to be a problem. Some solutions were put on the table including the purchase of a new vessel for training as well as the need to form better relationships with shipping lines. Some good news from SAMSA, however, highlighted that talks in this regard are taking place with the view of placing more cadets at sea.
  5. Collaboration: Let’s be clear on this one. Talking about collaboration and breaking down the silos does not equate to actually collaborating. While this topic has crept into all recent maritime conversations – there is not much clarity on how this can be achieved or what collaboration will look like in the maritime industry.
  6. Decarbonisation: This global ambition is both an opportunity and a challenge for South Africa and, indeed, Africa as a whole. We need to stay abreast of technologies, interventions and research in this regard and we need to position our own industry to take advantage of changes and developments.  
  7. Defining the value chain: This was an interesting issue that cropped up during the three-day event last week. Quite simply – without being able to accurately define the maritime value chain, we are not able to leverage the opportunities. The National Department of Transport (NDoT) announced the theme for the year as Benefitting from the Maritime Transport Value Chain on the first evening of the conference.
  8. Funding and Finance: As a capital-intensive industry that is not well understood by many financing houses and banks, stakeholders believe that more needs to be done to make potential funders aware of the realities of the industry. The establishment of a Maritime Development Fund was also once again raised, but no real action plan was revealed.
  9. Green Hydrogen: This topic deserves more than a single bullet point – but suffice to say that this is fast becoming a buzz word in the maritime sector. It will be interesting to watch how countries and companies position themselves in this regard as the return on investment looks to be long term with substantial capital outlay.
  10. International Maritime Centre: The ultimate aim of the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy is to see South Africa emerge as an International Maritime Centre on the African continent. This implies a healthy and growing subset of maritime sectors that are transformed, efficient, cost-effective and customer-centric. Government is seen to be an enabler in this regard, while the private sector will need to engage as well as collaborate (yes that word again) to ensure this vision is achieved. “South African businesses must be at centre of maritime development to provide services to international industries,” said Dumisani Ntuli of the NDoT in his opening remarks.
  11. Legislation and Policies: The need to fast track several key pieces of legislation was highlighted, but many of these still seem to be some way off being promulgated into law. Stakeholders expressed frustration about recent developments relating to the policy to allow additional STS transfers in Algoa Bay as well as the numerous Acts that are sitting in the legislative pipeline. In addition, there was a call to sign certain important conventions including the Clydebank Declaration.
  12. Maritime Awareness: Maritime awareness has been on the agenda for a number of years and much has actually been achieved in this regard. The concern, however, is the creation of false hope amongst the youth who have been exposed to a seafaring career without much thought as to how we will manage their cadetships and sea time. Nevertheless, stakeholders maintain that maritime awareness needs to start at school level and developments in qualifying maritime teachers was shared.
  13. National Shipping Carrier: Speaking at the opening of the event last week, the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula said that the establishment of a National Shipping Carrier was a priority. The aim is to be able to control ships and tonnage for the benefit of South African citizens and companies.
  14. Operation Phakisa: Yes, this is still on the agenda. Despite provoking some cynicism, Operation Phakisa still has a role to play in the development of the maritime agenda. For many, the need to align the newly created Ocean Economy Master Plan (which derives its course from Phakisa) with the CMTP document as well as the numerous government departments that are associated with it is paramount.
  15. Port City: The concept of integrating the port and city was mentioned as a way to move ports towards becoming more responsive to the needs of companies and stakeholders in its precinct as well as to create awareness of the greater logistics chain within adjacent cities.
  16. Port Efficiency: It is a pity that this topic remains a massive issue within the maritime industry in South Africa. Ports and the Ports Authority are seen as the gateway to the maritime sectors – and constituents of these sectors have long anguished over the lack of action taken within the ports to ensure productivity, efficiency, opportunities, and ease of doing business.
  17. Ships Register: Another topic that has been buzzing around conferences for close to two decades is that of bolstering the South African Ships Registry. There are some very practical steps that need to be taken in this regard – not least of which is the need to identify what shipowners are looking for in a Flag State. Shipowners have the luxury of choice in this regard and for a register to deliver the desired gains, we will need to create a framework that makes business sense for shipowners.
  18. Transformation: While there has been transformation in various sub sectors of the maritime industry, many believe that this is still not enough and that the BBBEE sector codes need to be implemented to achieve adequate transformation.
  19. Women and Youth: Part of the transformation agenda includes the inclusion of women and youth within the sector and actively making space for them within the existing structures.
  20. World Maritime Day: We have a massive opportunity to showcase our maritime sectors in October this year as we host the International Maritime Organisation’s World Maritime Day parallel event. We need to leverage this opportunity.

These quay words and phrases can only provide a short snapshot into what was discussed last week and we will be publishing a full report back on the event before the end of the month.  

Government re-ignites a conversation on the CMTP objectives 

Despite a slow start yesterday as delegates waited two hours for the Minister of Transport to arrive, the honesty expressed in Dumisani Ntuli’s opening address was refreshing as he admitted some of the successes and challenges that still face the industry. 

It was hard not to miss his deliberate nod in the direction of South Africa’s ports and port authorities – highlighting that “the state of the ports is a national emergency”. While we have certainly heard these words before from a number of politicians, such continued reference will hopefully eventually convey the gravitas of the situation to those that have the power to actually respond positively. 

Quite simply, Transnet National Ports Authority (and Transnet) needs to understand that they are an essential cog in the effective growth and development of the entire maritime sector. 

“Today our ports suffer structure and operational deficiencies. We have known this for a long time,” he said pointing to a number of strategies that could help address this issue. 

After lunch industry had its chance to voice some of its concerns and expectations of the government as well as their willingness to participate in the idea of establishing South Africa as an International Maritime Centre (IMC). 

While some excellent points were raised – including the need to implement the policy objectives and not simply talk about them – the how and when still does not seem to be being substantively addressed. 

It’s only day one of a three day conference, however, and I look forward to seeing the “how” more deliberately tackled. 

I, for one, want to see a transparent dashboard highlighting the strategic interventions next to each objective; which stakeholder is accountable to that intervention; when they will delivery those interventions; confirmation that they were delivered on time and the actual impact that those interventions had. 

With a rather full programme that saw the conference head into the evening, it was good to see how many delegates remained for the full day. The final session of the day launched the CMTP 2022 theme: Benefitting from the maritime transport value chain – and included input from Value Chain Solutions, OceanEnergy, EthkWeni Maritime Cluster and Damen Shipyards Cape Town. 

This input and speaking to some of the other delegates during the breaks does highlight that things are moving forward in many spheres of the sector with individual companies, organisations and associations already well advanced in playing their role to advance the country as an IMC on the continent.

Today is another day and I will bring you a short update – but our full report on the three day conference alongside commentary from myself and others in the industry will be published before the end of the month.

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.

20 in 2022: Don’t waste the good stuff

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.

Supported by

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
  • Afrisud
  • Anchor Industries
  • Atlatech
  • Barloworld Power Systems
  • Belmet Marine
  • Cummins Marine
  • Dorbyl Marine
  • Dudula Shipping
  • Lifesaving Equipment and Servicing
  • Marine Electrical Technical Services
  • MRAD
  • MTU South Africa
  • Nico’s Boilermakers
  • Paul Coxon and Associates
  • Peninsula Power Products
  • Pertec
  • Protea Foundry and Engineers
  • Radio Holland South Africa
  • Scania Power
  • Silentor South Africa
  • Smit
  • Southern Power Products
  • Tamarix Marine
  • Triton Naval Architects
  • Unilog