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.  

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.

Conference Call rocks maritime sector

There are conferences aplenty in South Africa and Africa that plug into the maritime domain, but this week’s South African Maritime Industry Conference (SAMIC) hosted by SAMSA can truly be heralded as one that should repower the engines of the maritime industry in the country.

I sat there for the entire conference. I did not miss a minute of it. I ensured that every break-away group had a representative from the magazine in it – and we will publish a thorough and comprehensive report back of SAMIC in the next issue.

For those of you who did not attend and had to rely on newspaper reports of the highlights and headlines relating to the conference, please take comfort in the fact that the news that made it to daily newspapers relating to lack of legislation to bolster a ship registry; loss of bunker only opportunities or our lack of pollution fighting capabilities, should not be seen to represent the the entire focus of the conference. These are all headlines that spotlighted the industry during the SAMIC week and, while I am certainly not dismissing the importance of these facts, we as an industry know we are committed to addressing them, but we should also be able to walk away from the conference knowing that we did more than just air our dirty laundry.

And certainly, while we wont ignore the very real work that needs to be done to address those rather negative headlines; lets reflect on the positives that the conference highlighted:

  • Three Cabinet Ministers stood on the jetty in the V&A Waterfront on a dark cold winter’s morning to watch the SA Agulhas training ship depart with 32 cadets on board. That’s three Ministers who now have  more of a personal glimpse about what the industry can offer to young South Africans.
  • The new Minister of Transport, Ben Dikobe Martins, seemed well briefed and sounded committed to prioritising maritime matters in the Department of Transport.
  • Ruth Bhengu, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport invited the industry to “knock on my door” to unblock policy and legislation before parliament.
  • Bridgette Gasa, National Planning Commissioner, admitted that the maritime sector had been “forgotten” in the National Development Plan and agreed to seek to correct the oversight.
  • A complete pipeline of skills development from primary to tertiary level for the maritime industry is being discussed at governmental level.
  • The Petroleum Agency reported that our offshore acreage is well marketed and fully subscribed with either exploration licenses or applications for exploration.  Increased activity in this sector is predicted in the next three to five years.
  • SAMSA launched an Industry Training Fund and raised significant funds directly at the Chairman’s Dinner on the second day of the conference.
  • CEO of SAMSA, Tsietsi Mokhele was summoned to meet with the President on Thursday and returned to alert the industry to the fact that he had proclaimed himself the governor of the Tenth Province to the presidency in an effort to convey the immense importance that the sector holds for the development of South Africa.
  • Entrepreneurs waiting to gain a foothold into the industry, stalwarts of the industry, government agents, neigbouring country officials, NGO’s and industry associations rubbed shoulders, debated, discussed and committed to a robust maritime sector.
  • The atrophy of conference delegates on the Friday afternoon was not significant!

Was SAMIC an all-encompassing solution to every problem facing the industry? Certainly not, but it was an excellent start that challenged the status-quo of conferences as a whole and the industry. We were not subjected to paper after paper, but rather given the opportunity to huddle down and shout out our opinions.

Was SAMIC totally representative of the industry? Well – no, there were a couple of industry players that perhaps should have been involved. Most notably was the absence of any representation from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to engage with the fishing subsector, but there were others as well.

Was SAMIC completely unique in its topic selection? Hell – no, there were issues that have been debated at nausea for more than a decade in the industry, but there seemed to be an underlying will on a higher level than just industry frustration to move forward.

There is still a lot of work to be done. There is a lot of sensitisation to and education about the industry that still needs to happen at government level, but our new governor of the 10th province is the kind of man that has the ability to rally the troops; he has the passion to unite disparate sectors and he certainly seems to have managed to reach the ear of the president.

And for those of us that added our rock to the pile – let us live up to the commitment this symbolised and work to make our 10th province prosperous, influential and peaceful.

MARITIME ROCKS: Delegates at SAMIC were invited to take a rock, write their commitment on it and add it to the pile at the end of Day 2 at the conference.

Mother’s advice

In honour of Mothers’ Day on Sunday I will dedicate this post to some good advice that I am sure many mothers have served up – and relate it to a current predicament in the Cape Town Container Terminal.

I remember being advised to “admit when you are wrong and apologise before correcting the mistake” by my mother way back when I was still squabbling with my sister. In those days my sister and I could not move forward without one or the other realising their mistake and rectifying the situation through a simple acknowledgment thereof.

So it is disappointing to return from a morning in the company of Transnet’s Executive Board to celebrate the milestones being made in the expansion of the Cape Town Container Terminal without so much as a nod in the direction of the decision to convert the terminal to RTG’s (Rubber Tyred Gantries).

Well, actually that’s not entirely accurate. Both Willie van Dyk and  Brian Molefe referred to the decision in their presentations to the Minister of Public Enterprises, customers and the media. What they failed to point out was the mounting criticism of the decision to deploy wind-sensitive equipment in a port plagued by the South Easter during the summer months – some of the busiest months for the port.

We covered this issue in depth in the last issue of the magazine which cited a number of sources that clearly indicate that the blanket denial by Transnet that the RTG’s may not be the most suitable equipment in Cape Town, is beyond comprehension.

Leaving the function this morning I chatted to a representative from one of the big shipping lines using the port. He pointed out that we lost 200 hours to wind during this critical period this year as compared to only 90 hours over the same period last year. Transnet points out that we’ve had more wind and therefore shifts the blame to mother nature, but some still believe that this indeed the mother of all mistakes.

And so many still hope that this mistake will be acknowledged and some action taken because a newly expanded port with significantly improved capacity is useless without the operational infrastructure to take full advantage of it.