Are we acting in the best interest of the maritime industry?

Have you noticed how many people are simply just acting within the top echelons of the maritime-related governing bodies, organisations and SOEs in South Africa?  The recent announcement of a permanent CEO for the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) means that there is one less acting CEO, but the lack of certainty of many positions remains unchanged.

A promise to appoint a permanent CEO to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) by June this year never materialised despite a second call for applications for the position. In the meantime, Sobantu Tilayi has been acting in this capacity since 2016. I cannot even imagine the stress associated with seeing your position advertised over and over again – applying for it and then just simply being expected to accept the status quo when no definitive move to make a decision seems forthcoming.

A similar situation exists within the Department of Transport (DoT) where Dumisani Ntuli has been holding the position of Acting Deputy Director General: Maritime Transport for a number of years. This position was also recently advertised by the Department, but no announcement has been made of a permanent appointment.

But perhaps more alarming is the way in which Transnet deals with their leadership issues – where allegations against permanent appointees result in suspension and the appointment of acting management. In a segment broadcast by Carte Blanche recently that aimed to highlight inefficiencies at container terminals, Captain Sarno of MSC Shipping noted that the lack of permanent appointees that could be held accountable was a problem.

One just has to cast an eye to the top tiers of management across both Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) as well as Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) to note that the leadership structure is hampered by the lack of permanently appointed and credible heads that can be held accountable.

Compare this, if you will, to the stable decade-long leadership of Bisey Gerson/Uirab who officially stood down as Chief Executive Officer of Namport a few months ago. And compare the strides made in this time to attract business to the port, develop the port and acquire infrastructure to the detriment of competitor ports in the region.

Actors in the maritime industry:

  • Sobantu Tilayi: Acting CEO, SAMSA
  • Dumisani Ntuli: Acting Deputy Director General: Maritime Affairs, Department of Transport
  • Mohammed Mohamedy: Acting CEO, Transnet
  • Richard Vallihu: Acting COO, Transnet
  • Mark Gregg-MacDonald, Acting CFO, Transnet
  • Sanet Vorster, Acting CHR, Transnet
  • Michelle Phillips, Acting CEO, Transnet Port Terminals
  • Nozipho Ndawe, Acting CEO, Transnet National Ports Authority

If your dreams can fit into your pocket – they are not big enough

Back: Arielle Kuper of Solution Strategies and Clare Gomes, Chairperson of WISTA-SA. Middle: Paula Giusti of Trade Ocean and Jane Cotton of One Eighty. Front Nolwandle Mboweni of Vela International and Eva Moloi of Vice Chairperson of WISTA-SA.

It is not often that you walk away from a maritime industry function feeling inspired to dream bigger, but I left last night’s WISTA-SA’s networking meeting feeling resolute to follow through on some major plans for 2020.

“If your dreams can fit into your pocket – they are not big enough,” Nolwandle Mboweni, CEO of Vela International told WISTA members.

With roots in teaching that continue to define the way she interacts in industry, Nolwandle was nudged into the business world by her father and her husband. Today she is lightyears away from the classroom as she occupies seats in a number of boardrooms – and is currently actively seeking new opportunities in the maritime sector.

Patting her hip pocket and smiling, she was clear that pocket-sized dreams would not have helped her participate in delivering the Gautrain – Africa’s first high-speed train or seen her become a director of companies such as Afrisun Gauteng, Total SA, Allpay Gauteng and more.

Ariella Kuper’s energetic and entertaining description of her road to becoming a major player in the ship auctioning business was equally as inspiring.

“Stars need darkness to shine,” she enthused, telling WISTA members that she had actively sought out male-dominated environments during her career.

Having started out in the steel sector almost by accident and by subsequently “tricking” her way into a job at Macsteel, Ariella’s career culminated in her co-founding the biggest mining auction house in South Africa.

But, following two bouts of cancer, she decided to regroup and focus on what had become a passion for ship auctions. Now she heads up Solution Strategist and is actively involved in ensuring that tonnage moves hands.

For Paula Giusti the path to the maritime sector was also accidental. Arriving in South Africa from Argentina 20 years ago with an agriculture qualification and in need of employment, it was her ability to speak Spanish that landed her a job at a ships’ agency.

Now she is driven by a desire to see Cape Town amplify its position as a super yachting destination and is working with industry players to promote this exciting niche maritime market.

Host for the evening, Janet Cotton of One Eighty has had no less inspirational journey in a very male-dominated sub sector of the industry. She’s the person to call if you need more information about mechanical or structural failures on your vessels or equipment.

Like many women in the industry she has had a number of laughable interactions based on her decision to show up in a workshop environment where she now commands respect.

The services of the One Eighty laboratory in Cape Town is used by many insurers and companies to help piece together the puzzles associated with equipment failure and, in many cases, provides a better understanding of how to prevent similar occurrences in future.

One thing is clear – none of these women ever kept their dreams in their pockets. They now represent significant clout in their respective sectors and are helping eliminate stereotypical reactions to the presence of women in the maritime domain.

 

Appoint of contention

With a number of vacancies currently on its Executive Management Team, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is in a unique position to address its gender balance during the IMO World Maritime Day themed year of “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community” by appointing relevant, strong maritime women.

According to SAMSA’s website there are at least three (possibly four since the retirement of Nigel Campbell last year) positions available on its executive team – including the long-empty position of Chief Executive Officer.

With only one woman currently listed on the 11-member team, now is the time for SAMSA to appoint for a more balanced and reflective team.  With two women on its Board, they represent 40 percent of SAMSA’s rather diminished Board of five – a better statistic, but more symptomatic of a Board that has been slowly whittled away, than indicative of a concerted effort to show gender diversity (in my opinion).

Compared to some of the other major African Maritime Authorities, SAMSA still falls somewhat short. The Kenya Maritime Authority includes four women on its 15-person Board of Directors, while Ghana Maritime Authority boasts four out of 13 on its management team.

Nigeria’s Authority (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency – NIMASA) fares the worst, however. With four men on the Executive Management Team there is clearly no space for a woman. The representation on the NIMASA Board is equally as dismal with only one woman on the 11-member team.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has themed this year’s World Maritime Day “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community” – a challenge to the industry that has long been male-dominated. Interestingly IMO, itself, may want to heed its own call as Kitack Lim, the current Secretary General, nears the end of his term that began in 2016.

It’s certainly an opportunity for the international body to lead by example and look to appoint its first female Secretary General. It is impossible to believe that there are no women capable of stepping up to this challenge.

Happy International Women’s Day!


[All statistics are based on information available on each Authority’s website and assumes that their listings are accurate and up-to-date.]

Crowdfunding as a tool for the boat building sector

One of the most common moans made by delegates at many of the maritime conferences is the lack of access to capital for start-up projects in the maritime sectors. By its nature, the maritime sector is a capital intensive space to play in and many entrepreneurs’ dreams are dashed sitting in a chair at their bank.

Crowdfunding has emerged internationally as a potential source to deliver funds to enthusiastic entrepreneurs who have a good idea to sell. Can this form of finance be harnessed for the likes of the small boat builder keen to bring a unique platform to the market?

Cape Town-based entrepreneur, Jako Laubscher is testing the waters with his River Lounge concept on the Indiegogo platform which claims to have raised over $1 billion in crowdfunding for projects around the world. The platform has successfully hosted a number of other boat-related projects including the HYPAR smart boat, and the Keelcrab Sailone.

The River Lounge concept is seeking crowdfunding to take it to the next phase of development.

There are, however, a number of projects that do not seem to have gained traction yet including Laubscher’s River Lounge. Although currently in its concept stage, the River Lounge idea is an interesting one that could potentially attract interest from local and international investors.

The River Lounge is a fully automated hydraulically platform with hidden units that open and close with your remote control. It is a fully roadworthy product that can open on its own trailer for a 42m2 two bedroom apartment with amenities, air con, braai area, fridge, freezer (under deck), kitchenette AND/OR launch onto the water for a day out on the dam/river.

For international shipping it fits into a 40ft container or your garage. Weighing less than 2,5t your average truck or sizable car can tow the River Lounge to various destinations.

In contrast to the slick presentation and detailed drawings associated with the River Lounge on the Indiegogo platform is the rather crude conceptualisation of a kit to change a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) into a motor boat. Unsurprisingly the idea – which seems to consist of literally tying a chair and small outboard onto a SUP – has not garnered much attention.

Monty Furmie is another South African with maritime funding aspirations on Indiegogo. This Cape Town-based software developer is hoping to get crowdfunding to launch a sport fishing boat and charter business to be known as Kraken Oceanic. Capital raised via the platform will be used to train currently unemployed people in the skills associated with the building of the required vessel for the business.

In addition, Furmie states as one of the goals, the ambition to create open source software and systems for all communications, energy, GPS and Sonar/Radar requirements. “This software will be released as open source software and made available from our website as well as a publicly accessible GitHub repository,” he writes in his overview of the project on the platform.

Choosing a platform

Indiegogo is one of many international platforms that host start-up projects as well as fundraising opportunities for charities, but local South African versions are also available. The choice of platforms is one of the first steps towards running a successful crowdfunding campaign as one needs to consider their audience reach as well as their business model.

The South African based Jumpstarter platform has an “all-or-nothing” protocol built into their business model. As a registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO), Jumpstarter states that all projects must be 100 percent funded before its time expires to be able to claim the funds. Funds relating to projects that do not meet this requirement become usable for other live Jumpstarter Projects as credits or pledges.

They maintain that this reduces the risk for all involved as it does not compel the project originator to follow through on a concept without the full financial support required.

By contrast the Indiegogo site offers two funding models and allows campaigners to access funds even if their full project goal is not met if they choose the flexible funding model. Choosing the fixed funding model, however, sees contributions returned if campaigners do not meet their goal. The choice depends on whether the project could go ahead without the funding goal being reached or not.

Obviously a commission fee is structured into the pricing and the platforms stipulate the percentage of funds raised that they claim. This can vary across the different platforms and can additionally include commissions and charges on funds that are transferred via a credit card.

Luring funders

Whatever the platform, however, the project really needs to catch the attention and emotions of potential funders who are generally everyday internet browsers that need to be persuaded to be parted from their cash.

This necessarily begs the question of trust. Will South African, and indeed African campaigners, be deemed to be trustworthy on international funding platforms where perceptions of a corrupt continent may thwart calls for investment?

Most platforms make it fairly easy to create a funding project or campaign – but on the surface it does not seem that even the most reputable sites are immune to hosting scams. Indiegogo, for example, recently hosted a scam that netted a campaigner $850,000 in a couple of days for a innovative artificial gill that “lets you breathe underwater”.

A company called Triton seems to have capitalized on the lack of knowledge surrounding marine ecosystems by claiming to have invented a device that was able to filter the oxygen out of seawater and allow scuba divers 45 minutes of shallow shipwreck exploration.

Bearing in mind that this is not an isolated scam, investors need to understand that they could be operating in a potentially grey area while those seeking funding need to realise that they need to overcome any skepticism that may exist by being transparent as well as open to questions.

One can be sure that these online platforms that act as facilitators for this funding have built-in terms and conditions that protect them when the fish does not hit the net so to speak.

It is interesting to note that, given the huge potential for crowdfunding to promote entrepreneurship and financing on the African continent, the establishment of the African Crowdfunding Association (ACfA) was established to promote effective self-regulation as well as “build trust and transparency between all actors in the African crowdfunding ecosystem”.

The take-home has to be, however, that both campaign developers as well as investors need to be circumspect about their expectations when using crowdfunding platforms. That said, it could be an interesting space for some maritime sectors to seek finance. Quite honestly, though, it is the platforms that are actually raking in the funds for the role in facilitating the deal – and it is therefore not surprising that a massive plethora of available crowdfunding sites exist.

Perhaps I will start one aimed directly at the maritime industry – anyone keen to fund this for me?

 

Transnet and the Game of Thrones

Yesterday the Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, toured the Port of Durban with the Chief Executive of Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) ahead of the official launch of the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy. There’s nothing altogether strange about that – but I did feel like I had missed a crucial episode of The Game of Thrones.

Richard Vallihu, who less than a month ago revealed the new TNPA building at the Port of Ngqura, was nowhere to be seen. Instead it was Shulami Qalinge that stepped up to the title of CE at yesterday’s proceedings.

It seems that there has been a succession to the title in the few weeks since the unveiling in the Eastern Cape, but with none of the usual official announcements from the State Owned Entity, the Department of Public Enterprises or even a Cabinet congratulatory notice. Why?

Minister Maswanganyi made it clear last night that the shift to promote women leaders in the maritime space was welcomed by his Department and Qalinge appears to come to the position with good and relevant experience within the logistics sector and Transnet.

TNPA is not usually shy with appointment announcements, but Qalinge seems to have flown in under the radar and ousted Vallihu who’s appointment was certainly officially announced in 2015 when he took over following the sudden departure of Tau Morwe.

Industry sources say that they too are surprised at the seeming secrecy around the appointment and report that news spread to them via the grapevine and not through official Transnet channels.

Indeed Vallihu is still listed in the position on the TNPA website and I am left questioning the validity of my own eye-witness account of yesterday’s proceedings as I scour TNPA as well as government statements for confirmation of the episode I seem to have missed.

Nevertheless, welcome aboard Ms Shulami Qalinge and may your time in the position help steer the Port Authority forward.

Could SAMSA get a permanent CEO by the end of this month?

Acting CEO of the South African Maritime Safety Authority, Sobantu Tilayi, recently jested that he could have pronounced himself as the permanent position holder when he stepped into the Minister of Transport’s shoes to deliver a speech at the eThekwini Maritime Summit during April.

But it’s no real laughing matter that the Authority has been without a permanent CEO for almost a year and I have been eagerly scouring each Cabinet meeting report as it is released to ascertain whether an appointment has been approved. Because, as Tilayi pointed out during one of his many conference appearances last month – his present contract expires at the end of the May so an announcement is surely imminent.

In a question posed by Choloane David Matsepe to the Minister of Transport in the National Assembly last week, the Minister was asked whether any CEO, CFO or COO positions were vacant in any of the Department’s entities – and what steps had been taken to fill these positions.

The response noted what the industry already knows – that interviews have been conducted for the position of SAMSA’s CEO and that one person is currently acting in this capacity. The Department’s response further notes that a recommendation is to be routed to the Minister for approval.

Perhaps this month’s Cabinet meeting briefing will include the name of a permanently appointed CEO for SAMSA.

New DoT Minister misses maritime 

It is disheartening to note that the first briefing given by the new Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, yesterday outlining the immediate tasks for his department made no mention of the maritime industry. 

This, despite the recent revealing of the DoT’s Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy as well as the central role that the DoT’s agency, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), plays in the government-driven Operation Phakisa focused on growing the maritime sectors. 

This, despite the need for that agency to see the finalisation of an appointment of a permanent CEO and despite many other initiatives that are currently receiving and in need of attention. 

His briefing understandably looks primarily at road transport issues and we give cognizance to the importance of this sector in his stable. It also briefly mentions rail in relation to the agreement with China to build the Moloto Rail Development Corridor, but it fails to even give a nod to the maritime sector. 

And, as it refers to the proud history of struggle heros who dedicated their energy to fighting for better quality of life for their comrades and his commitment to patriotism as well as the National Development Plan, he may well have taken note that the maritime industry is the sector in his portfolio that offers a great opportunity for delivering on these promises. 

It would be disappointing if the current momentum gained in the industry in sensitising government to the potential impact of the maritime sector is lost. We are fortunate, however, in the fact that the Deputy Minister, Sindiswe Chikhunga, is already known to be a driver for maritime awareness within the Department and it is hoped that her voice will continue to be heard.