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

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. 

An African passport by 2018?

One of the many challenges that the highly mobile people of the maritime industry face is that of accessibility to jurisdictions within Africa. This is particularly frustrating for Africans aiming to work on the African continent and may even hamper emergency response to potential maritime incidents.

Discussions at the recent World Economic Forum meetings in Kigali, Rwanda refocused attention on the idea of introducing an African passport by 2018 – a move that will surely be welcomed by proponents of the maritime industry who face delays when responding to clients’ emergency requirements in other African countries.

Leading a session, South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and Chairperson of the National Planning Commission, Jeff Radebe, implored delegates to reflect on the continued need for visas in Africa and to meet the 2018 deadline of creating an African passport.

In February this year the African Development Bank released the Africa Visa Openness Report 2016, which highlights the fact that the continent remains largely closed off to African travellers. According to the report:

“On average Africans need visas to travel to 55 percent of other African countries, can get visas on arrival in only 25 percent of other countries and don’t need a visa to travel to just 20 percent of other countries on the continent.”

 

The clock is ticking on the African Union’s (AU) goal and vision for Africa as set out in Agenda 2063 which envisions the establishment of an African passport and an end to visa requirements for all Africa citizens in Africa by 2018. There are no clear indications from the AU as to the progress that has been made in this regard, but it is clear that it falls within the Union’s Flagship Projects in the First Ten Year Plan.

However, three years into the First Ten Year Plan, many of the goals remain largely aspirational and it is not clear where or what the stumbling blocks would be to the realisation of an African Passport. Common sense, however, suggests that without the reality of a peaceful and secure Africa as envisioned by Agenda 2063 – the likelihood of an agreement on free movement on the continent is more than 18 months away.

Chairperson of the AU, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma writes in her foreword to the report, however: “We believe that the free movement of people is possible, which is why Agenda 2063 calls for the abolition of all visa requirements within the period of the Ten Year Implementation Plan and the creation of an African passport.”

Perhaps regional visas are more realistic in the short term, but  any move to finalise agreements in this regard will certainly be welcomed by the African maritime community.

 

TETA is on the take!

The Transport Education and Training Authority (TETA) collects levies from its registered members annually and is tasked to redistribute the money to fund relevant training in the maritime sectors.

So, if you clicked on this blog thinking the title referred to a scandal at the Authority, I hope you will not be too disappointed to learn that the money they are taking from the industry appears to be doing a lot of good.

It’s being channelled into the upliftment of people who probably would not have the means to pursue formal training. It’s helped develop human capital in the maritime sectors. And it’s spurred on many individuals’ ability to progress along career paths.

This is a modern day Robin Hood story

I’ve had the opportunity to interview Malcolm Alexander at TETA twice now. Last week, in his office, I came close to resigning from the magazine and begging him to let me work there. The scope to make a difference is palpable and his energy is infectious. He really believes in the system and trying to make it work for companies as well as individuals.

He is the first to admit, however, that not everything is perfect. But at least they are delivering and people are benefitting. He highlights the significant contributions made by some of the companies in the industry and notes in particular the likes of Talhado Fishing, Sea Vuna and I&J as championship league players in the training game. Malcolm also points out that many registered levy players do not use the system to their advantage and encourages companies to speak to them about the opportunities that exist.

So yes, TETA is on the take, but they’re redistributing what they take into verified training initiatives that are upskilling our sector. If your company is not participating fully within the TETA levy and grant system, watch out for their series of workshops this month around the country to get more information.

So next time you pay across your levy begrudgingly – take a pause and consider the impact that training actually has on the lives of those who receive it. This is truly about building a better South Africa one skill at a time.

The forthcoming issue of Maritime Review will include a look at Education and Training in the Maritime Sector.

Coastline confusion

Can anyone tell me exactly how long South Africa’s coastline is? I am talking about our coastline – excluding any islands that we may have jurisdiction over.

Situated at the southern tip of Africa and surrounded by sea on “three sides,” we like to assume that we have access to a generous coastline, but the actual length does not seem to be cast in stone.

I’ve had the opportunity to dwell on this elusive fact over the last few months while writing and editing a number of pieces for a variety of sources. I was even tempted to take out a length of string and attempt to do something I last did in High School during map work in Geography, but decided rather to spend my evening drinking wine with friends (achieving life/work balance).

But yesterday I received a press release that stretched our coastline to its limits. Apparently South Africa now has “almost 4,000 kilometres” of coastline to be proud of.  And it does not seem that the PR company was adding any offshore coast from island territories to this accumulation.

I am used to receiving press releases that peg the coast at anywhere between 2,500 km and 3,000 km long, so this additional 1,000 kilometres is really a windfall for the country.

Perhaps this is part of Operation Phakisa’s strategy to expand the maritime industry (the press release did allude to this Government-led project), but I am not sure that our neighbours would be too happy with us claiming a portion of their coastline in order to increase our maritime prospects.

So – can anyone tell me the real, undisputed length of our coastline?

 

Access denied: flirting with the maritime economy?

There’s a general movement that is gaining traction in the maritime sectors that aims to boost the industry’s contribution to job creation and the GDP. The Blue Economy is on everyone’s lips and national, regional, continental and even international strategies are being developed to see our oceans contribute meaningfully to our human desire to produce and prosper.

With so much attention it should, therefore, not be surprising to see a whole new set of eyes flirting with the possibility of developing a long term relationship with the ocean sector. It’s time to give them a dance ticket and allow them onto the dance floor.

At the South African Maritime Industry Conference (SAMIC) organised some three years ago by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), there were people from every sector and plenty who saw themselves as merely standing on the side line hoping for an opportunity to show their moves.

Paul Maclons, Managing Director of Smit Amandla Marine, was unequivocal in his statement during one of the panel discussions at the conference: that the solution for a full and inclusive dance floor was not in promoting the practice of cutting in on existing dancers – but rather on extending the party and mixing it up from the DJ’s box. Well, okay Paul did not mention anything about dancing or DJ’s, but his message was clear – we need to expand the industry to accommodate newcomers.

The truth is though that the industry is expanding and there are more opportunities, but equally the economic reality of a capital-intensive international industry is seeing more consolidation and joint ventures as existing companies seek relationships with other established partners that can offer them the opportunity to extend their own dance cards.

Does that mean that there is no opportunity for newcomers? Are they destined always to be wallflowers?

The quick answer to that has to be NO! There are some newcomers to the industry aiming to show off their signature moves on the dance floor. Our job is not to stop mid beat and point or jeer. Our job is to make sure that there is space for them even if their rhythm is a little different to ours. Our job is to learn a little from the new beat.

This year’s SAMSA Maritime Industry Awards aims to recognise the new dancers on our floor. If you’ve recently launched or know of a company that has launched into our space – please take the time to nominate. It takes courage to start something in any industry and especially into one so entrusted to the “old guard”.

http://www.maritimeawards.co.za  

 

What is a Maritime Maestro?

Maritime Maestros have salt in their veins. They are committed to the industry in a way that goes beyond the scope of a 9 to 5 job description. They give passionately and devote their energies to develop the future of the industry as a whole. They lead the industry and often pioneer new paths – they are Maritime Maestros.

Two years ago we recognised Okke Grapow as a Maritime Maestro at the 2012/13 SAMSA Maritime Industry Awards. He was living out his maritime family heritage that had been passed down to him from his father and subsequently onto his own children. His dedication to offer himself beyond the confines of a 9 to 5 servant to the industry certainly benefitted the development of the South African maritime industry – and today he continues to inspire others.

This year we are once again appealing to the industry to get out of their comfort zones and to start to recognise the impact that their peers, colleagues and even competitors are making in the industry. Nominations are open for the 2014/15 SAMSA Maritime Industry Awards. Read more about the various categories and start nominating today!

http://www.maritimeawards.co.za

 

Missing out on a celebration

Not much hype seems to have been generated around the official start of the African Maritime Decade which is due to kick off tomorrow. The only nod in this direction seems to be happening at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa where a “two-day” meeting got underway today.

Today’s schedule in Ethiopia was to include a meeting of the AU Strategic Task Force on the 2050 AIM-Strategy. What should have been an ideal platform to review and debate the strategy, however, was cancelled at the beginning of July.

The schedule for the day therefore now only starts at 5pm and includes a panel discussion followed by an official dinner at 7:30pm.

Tomorrow will see the official launch of the Decade of Africa Seas and Oceans and the Celebration of the African Day of Seas and Oceans – essentially wrapping up an event that has sought to bring together a wide variety of stakeholders from across the continent by 1:30 pm tomorrow.

On a country-by-country basis nothing seems to be planned.

Have you read the Minister’s speech?

Have you read the Minister’s speech? That’s the question being most asked this month at maritime functions and it refers to Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters’ discourse at the South African Maritime Safety Authority’s (SAMSA) AGM at the end of September where she called for “immediate action from the (SAMSA) Board in order to resolve the appalling state of affairs at SAMSA”.

What usually follows the opening question in these chats amongst maritime colleagues are the knowing nods and ensuing discussion on the schism that we all believe to exist between the Department of Transport and its subsidiary body – as if this could be the explanation as to why the minister was so severe in her deliberations.

This leads into a conversation on the three pillars of SAMSA’s mandate and how many seem to believe that it is clear that the Authority has taken to heart the third point: to promote South Africa’s maritime interests as its over-arching purpose – perhaps to the detriment of the first two tenets of its existence which relate to the preservation of life, environment and property at sea.

It is an interesting dilemma for the industry. We’ve lauded the Authority, and particularly its CEO Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, for his foresight and passion to champion the maritime cause. We’ve watched him weave the maritime thread into the government conversation. And, as we begin to see a level of recognition across a number of government departments, we are told take stock of an entity that requires some oversight.

One cannot fain surprise that expenditure on conferences and advertisements ballooned from R12m in 2012 to R54 million in 2013. Most conference organisers and many publications have viewed the Authority as an unofficial Lotto pay-out as they cashed in their rate cards and sponsorship tiers. SAMSA has been visual at most events on the calendar including one hosted by us – the Maritime Industry Awards.

Was this a waste of resources? I dare to say that a little discernment could have been applied, but that some of the television slots highlighting the cadets on the SA Agulhas were well timed and could have contributed to a broader maritime awareness amongst our youth. So too do career and job summits, but a rubber stamp of approval associated with the sponsorship and exhibition stands of just about every maritime exhibition and conference could have been undertaken with some introspection.

What the industry has been waiting for is a follow-up to the successful and refreshingly different South African Maritime Industry Conference (SAMIC). Organised by the Authority, the conference has the ability to knock many conferences off the calendar by providing one unified thought tank for the industry.

Envisioned to fill a gap left by the demise of the National Maritime Conference of the 1990’s organised by industry for industry – SAMIC was well positioned to meet the needs of an industry ready and willing to move forward. It seems a pity, however, that this conference, anticipated to take place before the end of 2014, may now never take its rightful place on the calendar.

But this is not the only reason the minister pegs the Authority to be “in serious trouble”. Citing plummeting cash flows (a 350 percent decline), irregular expenditure (R28.8 million), fruitless and wasteful expenditure (R1.1 million), a total asset decline of 96 percent and the cost escalation associated to the SA Agulhas of 31 percent – Peters did not mince her words when she asked that “immediate actions be taken” to make the entity viable and able to deliver on its legislative mandate.

The SA Agulhas may lie at the heart of many of SAMSA’s reported woes, but most in the industry will agree that the Authority’s sheer determination to create a dedicated training vessel for their cadetship programme should not go unapplauded. It was never going to be an easy or cheap endeavour – something that is clearly realised by the Authority. Their Annual Report highlights the need for projects such as the cadetship programme and the SA Agulhas to be funded externally.

“Projects will therefore be funded only to the extent to which project funding is available and the organisation’s core revenue will not be used. The SA Agulhas and the cadetship projects, which contributed significantly to the deficits will soon no longer be funded by SAMSA,” it states in the report.

But perhaps what is most alarming and does not come across clearly in the visually alluring Annual Report is the “lack of reliability of reported information”. The Annual Report provides performance targets that are generally reported as being met or at least mostly met, but the Auditor General raises concerns that these targets are “not specific, measurable or time bound”.

In addition, what is not evident in the Annual Report, but is highlighted in the Minister’s speech is anomalies of data – or data spike for the fourth quarter of the reported year. For instance the tally of inspections of both local and foreign going vessels catapults rather unrealistically in the fourth quarter – calling into question the validity of what is presented.

Similarly, although a 100 percent target of audited training institutions is reported at year-end, according to the speech, data allegedly reveals that no audits were carried out within the first three quarters of the year.

“The fact that the auditors could not validate the performance results and that the third quarter results of some KPI’s seem to be far apart from the fourth quarter results, call for an objective independent performance audit of the 2013/2014 performance information,” she says.

With much more fodder to chew on in both the Annual Report as well as Minister Peters’ speech, it would be unfair to try and unpack the issues here. And as transport month draws to a close and we mull the pronouncements of Operation Phakisa, perhaps our closing issue of Maritime Review Africa for the year will delve a little deeper into the state of South Africa as a maritime nation on the continent.

If you have anything to say on this topic, we welcome your input both on and off the record.

THE ABOVE ARTICLE APPEARS AS THE EDITOR’S COLUMN IN THE SEPT/OCTOBER ISSUE OF MARITIME REVIEW
You can read the full magazine HERE