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

It’s time to vote

After finishing off writing up the profiles of our shortlisted nominees in the Blue Economy Champion Award – I can honestly say that the maritime sector has no shortage of passionate promoters who are keen to see the industry grow, transform and become sustainable. And, while our list includes some deserving candidates, I have no doubt that there are plenty more champions out there too.

The process does rely on the generosity of our maritime colleagues to not only nominate, but also to vote for those in the industry that deserve recognition. So often we don’t give (or receive) this type of acknowledgement and I do hope that this initiative goes a little way in providing a shout out and help them understand that we see them.

Although extremely pleased by the response to the call for nominations, I am hoping that future editions of this Award programme (yes, we want to continue this into the future) will attract even more input.

What the list of candidates also indicates is that there is a shift in the industry and transformation is taking place.

Thank you to everyone who nominated their peers. It’s now time to vote for your preferred candidate. Public voting closes on 28 March and will be followed by an adjudication process by a panel of judges.

PS: Since it is International Women’s Day, I thought I would point out that eight of the 23 candidates are women – that’s a little over 30 percent. That’s certainly better than the claimed two percent of representation of women in the global maritime industry.

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.   

20 in 2022

It seems like it was a completely different universe that we launched the magazine in – and in some ways it was. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the magazine and its various platforms and I feel extremely proud that we not only survived the serious outfall of 2008, but have also managed to navigate the last two years of the COVID pandemic – albeit with a bit of fumbling.

We have some interesting initiatives planned to mark this milestone, but we cannot ignore the current economic and social climate that we are operating in. The last two years have brought some challenges and hard lessons, but have also given us the kick we needed to start to re-strategise how Maritime Review sees its future within the maritime Business-to-Business publishing environment.

Having left 2021 with a full blown dose of COVID’s omicron variant and entered this New Year still trying to return to health, I have a new perspective of what those who suffered through the earlier, less mild versions of the virus must have had to endure. I am grateful to have had a vaccination and to have only fallen ill at this stage.

In the spirit of this gratefulness and the start of my 20 in 2022 series, I would like to express what else we at the magazine are grateful for:

20 reasons to be grateful in 2022

  1. We are grateful to clients that supported the launch of the magazine in 2002.
  2. We are grateful to the clients that continued to support the magazine since then.
  3. We are grateful to the clients who have committed to supporting the title going forward.
  4. We are grateful to the many maritime stalwarts who have provided their input over the years.
  5. We are grateful for the new-comers that are beginning to stir up the industry.
  6. We are grateful for the prompts from industry about potential stories that should be written.
  7. We are grateful for those that supported some of our stranger initiatives like the Flash Mob and the Maritime Scrabble Tournament.
  8. We are grateful to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) for their generous support of the Maritime Industry Awards gala events that we hope one day to relaunch.
  9. We are grateful to those that told us when we got facts wrong.
  10. We are grateful to clients like AMSOL (and their predecessors) who have been constant loyal supporters of our many initiatives.
  11.  We are grateful that the maritime industry continues to be an interesting and diverse sector with sub-sectors that assure that our work is seldom boring.
  12. We are grateful to have partnered with many event organisers over the years and look forward to continuing to do so.
  13. We are grateful to our followers on social media who remain engaged and vocal.
  14. We are grateful for the opportunities to collaborate with maritime stakeholders on the publishing of maritime related textbooks and handbooks.
  15. We are grateful to those who have agreed to be interviewed on the record about some of the more prickly subjects.
  16. We are grateful that many of our clients in the maritime sectors were seen as essential services during the beginning phases of the pandemic.
  17. We are grateful to have been witness to the launch of a number of locally-built vessels.
  18. We are grateful to have celebrated maritime milestones with many companies and individuals.
  19. We are grateful to have seen new companies launched and flourish.
  20. We are grateful that there are still opportunities for the title after 20 years.

Getting take-aways

Yesterday I picked up some maritime take-aways that did not involve fish and chips.

I accepted an invite to participate in a Maritime Security Roundtable hosted by the Institute for Security Studies Africa (ISS Africa) with a bit of trepidation based on my concern that I would not be able to add much value. Joining a group of varied maritime stakeholders, the discussion was interesting as well as diverse and highlighted several important issues that provided some important take-aways.

  • The marine and maritime space is far-reaching and complex in nature – making any discussion on governance and security equally diverse and complex.
  • Significant work is being done theoretically, academically and practically to improve South Africa’s and Africa’s ability to manage its own maritime domain – but much of this is not immediately visible or apparent.
  • This lack of visibility is, in part, due to the diverse range of stakeholders involved across government and industry – with the consequence of some duplication and gaps occurring.
  • While many consider Operation Phakisa a failed initiative, it did manage to provide deliverables in some areas. One such success is the creation of the Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg) within SAMSA.
  • An Ocean Economy Master Plan is scheduled to be completed by December this year – outlining aspects of the maritime economy that require attention and offer opportunity. Although the process is being driven by government, labour and industry, there is still a perception that it is being held behind closed doors by some.
  • There is a lack of willingness to coordinate data from the industry to help make over-arching decisions, with many government departments, NGOs and Universities all accumulating research without an understanding of what has already been undertaken in the space.
  • Coastal communities are often not part of the discussions for solutions and/or their specific challenges are not understood within the context of the historical and present dynamics.
  • Training within the maritime space needs to be offset against actual employment opportunities. Training for unemployment cannot be an option.
  • There appears to be a lack of review of policies to understand where interventions have worked and where they have not. In addition, policy briefs are often ignored or not produced.
  • The slow pace of policy as well as legal instrument development is a massive problem with important legislation often becoming stalled and remaining in the pipeline for many years.
  • It was suggested that a major maritime disaster or set-back may be needed to strengthen government’s resolve to tackle a number of issues that remain unresolved.
  • A dedicated maritime department within government was once again discussed as a solution to coordinating the maritime efforts of the country; and that the maritime agenda needs to be raised more often within government structures.
  • While regional and continental bodies exist, these cannot override national interests. The AU needs to strengthen its maritime desk.
  • In the absence of true collaboration and visibility; many private companies are simply just getting on with it while policy and government strategy lags behind.

At the end of the day, most agreed that adding another maritime intervention or initiative to the space would simply further the fragmentation of efforts. More collaboration and coordination are the ultimate solutions. Sadly, this is a common refrain and will take significant effort for stakeholders to pay more than lip service to the notion of breaking down silos.

Thank you to my hosts and fellow-panellists for a most interesting afternoon of discussions. It was also good to get out from behind the computer screen and zoom meetings to engage in person – albeit behind masks.

My final comments

Last week I joined a panel to discuss Women in Maritime. Over the last few years I have participated in a number of similar discussions and felt privileged to have been invited to do so, but I have decided to make my final comments on this issue in this blog.

As of today – 26 October 2021 – this is where I believe the industry stands with regard to promoting and enabling the careers of women. I want to touch on a couple of frequently deliberated topics that pop up in these webinars:

[If you happen to be reading this blog post from some date far in the future –
I do hope that more change has occurred and that the actual content of this post is redundant.

Is the maritime industry a male-dominated industry?
Yes it is.

Is gender transformation being actively pursued?
Yes it is, but it needs to be realistically addressed.

Is it currently more difficult for women than men to advance in the maritime industry?
The industry consists of so many sectors and sub-sectors that some of these remain more challenging for women than for men. One is likely to find it more challenging in the offshore environment as a woman for a number of reasons that are currently being addressed within the industry.

One also only has to look at the composition of many multi-national companies’ executives and boards to understand that women are not being considered for these positions – which makes people assume that a female here and there is simply a token appointment even if she is not.

Some significant progress has, however, been made in the government and parastatal space where the increase in women representation over the last few years is self-evident. International and national industry associations are also playing an important role in identifying capable women leaders.

What can women contribute to the industry?
Women are able to contribute in the same way men are able to contribute. Women can arrive at a place of work and, provided that they have had access to the same opportunities and training, can do exactly what men can do at that place of work – whatever that place of work represents across the maritime sectors.

How can men ensure that they are allies in the workplace?
Men simply need to be decent human beings in the same way that women need to be decent human beings in any workplace. A good start for some men, however, is to drop the micro-aggressions that suggest that you have made the assumption that your female work colleague may not know as much as you or may have a different work ethic to you simply because she is a woman before she is able to disprove or prove this.

Also – drop the male bravado. We do not need “locker room talk” – not even in the locker room contrary to what Trump may have permitted many to believe.

Oh – and get a little more creative than industry golf days or soccer tournaments to foster community. Seriously, both of these sports have traditionally concentrated on attracting men; and women remain under-represented. It is possible to literally count the number of lady golfers at these networking/fundraising days on one hand. And I really do not think it remains the task of women to consider playing golf, simply because this was a networking activity chosen by men in the distant past.

What advice would you give to young women entering/rising in the industry?
Get on with it. Show up and speak up. Do not see yourself as a token employee, but rather as a valuable asset that your company obviously saw potential in when they hired you. Prove them right. Never stop learning and seek mentors as well as collaborators. And when you inevitably succeed – gaze down the talent pipeline and act as a mentor and collaborator with the next generation coming up behind you.

What is the role of women leaders in the maritime industry?
The role of women leaders is, and will always be, the same as the role of male leaders:

  • To grow the industry sustainably.
  • To provide space for the next generation of men and women to gain skills, experience and expertise.
  • To mentor, provide opportunities and construct succession plans to ensure sustainability.
  • To foster accountability and collaboration.
  • To retire – satisfied in the knowledge that the industry is in good hands.

What should the future employment landscape of the maritime industry look like?
Assuming that the industry has done the work to promote awareness across a diversity of platforms and geographic areas – the ideal future hiring ethos should be based purely on merit. No person wants to be employed as the token anything (gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation).

Sadly we are not there yet – and equally sadly, the notion of quotas still needs to be considered as some companies resist acknowledging the benefits of voluntarily embracing diversity in the interest of a homogenous company culture.

I am sure that there is more to be said, but I do hope that we can step beyond these conversations and simply get on with what needs to be done. There are also some excellent women-orientated industry organisations and associations that understand that this is not simply a topic that needs to be addressed in isolation of our male colleagues. They are – and will continue to – address these issues until the time such discussions become superfluous.

Calling it a day

What happens when you wake up on any particular day and you realise that today is THAT day?

I’ve often wondered what goes into the creation of a day. Not in terms of how the sun rises and sets or anything else relating to the laws of nature – but rather: who decides on the creation of international days that recognise various topics or groups, and how does one go about getting the world to agree to mark it on their calendar?

Today is International Maritime Day 2021. The United Nations (UN), via the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), created World Maritime Day to celebrate the international maritime industry’s contribution towards the world’s economy, especially in shipping. The event’s date varies by year and country, but it is always held during the last week of September.

According to sources on the internet, World Maritime Day was first held on March 17, 1978 to mark the date of the IMO Convention’s entry into force in 1958. 

Traditionally (before the advent of COVID-19) a country would be chosen to host a parallel event. Last year would have seen South Africa step up to meet the challenge of hosting international maritime dignitaries had travel not been impeded by the pandemic.

As such the pomp and ceremony has been replaced by virtual commemorations and observances of the date. The theme for this year reflects a clear need to raise awareness of seafarersʹ crucial role in world trade and increase their visibility. The crew change crisis in 2020 highlighted seafarersʹ contribution as key and essential workers on the front line of delivering vital goods through a pandemic and in ordinary times. The international community has seen how the ability for shipping services and seafarers to ensure the functioning of the global supply chains has been central to responding to, and eventually overcoming, this pandemic.

Sadly, however, a day of observance is just that. Since the start of the pandemic we have observed two International Seafarer Days and now two World Maritime Days – and still seafarers are struggling against unfriendly regimes and port authorities in some places.

And so, as everyone scrambles to show that they know what day it is and prove that they care by sharing messages on social media and distributing press releases about how they intend to observe the day – we lose sight of the day’s underlying intention. Everyone simply observes the day and tomorrow carries on with their business as usual.

Well – next month is Maritime Month in South Africa and our challenge should be to act on the many resolutions we have made in conferences, workshops and seminars over the years that remain unfulfilled.

In fact – we should make all the days we have in our calendar count.

23 MarchWorld Meteorological Day2021
2 MayWorld Tuna Day2016
5 JuneInternational Day for Fighting against IUU Fishing2016
8 JuneWorld Oceans Day1992
25 JuneInternational Day of the Seafarer2016
25 JulyWorld Drowning Prevention Day2021
30 JulyWorld Day against Trafficking in Persons2013
27 SeptWorld Tourism Day1980
SeptWorld Maritime Day1978
5 NovWorld Tsunami Awareness Day2015