Maritime Newsmaker of the Year 2013

Last night we hosted our annual function to thank clients for their valuable support as well as to present the Maritime Newsmaker of the Year Award. The award aims to recognise individuals, companies or organisations that have garnered media attention that depicts the maritime industry in a positive way. It recognises those who have successfully showcased the industry to a wider mass audience – and in so doing have positively marketed the industry as a potential employer or career opportunity to a new generation.

Last year something happened that took me by surprise. Suddenly the world and the media became fascinated with the maritime skills and expertise of a South African who had been hand-picked to lead one of the most publicised wreck removal projects of recent years.

Locally and internationally he suddenly became a maritime celebrity as he showcased not only his own knowledge and expertise, but assembled a team of South African individuals and companies to lift the Costa Concordia under the watchful eye of the world.

Television and print media flocked to the sight of the wreck and Nick Sloane and his team must have generated more airtime and print space for the significant talent that we have than any marketing campaign could have dreamed of doing. Notwithstanding the tragedy of the shipwreck; the ensuing story of maritime ingenuity is a good one to tell.

My hope is that many of our youth would have been awoken to the wide variety of potential careers that are open to them in the industry. Careers that are demanding but immensely rewarding.

But I guess the day I happened to pick up a GQ magazine at a guesthouse to find Nick Sloane staring back at me, was the day I really realised he had helped capture media attention for maritime news that extended beyond the normal tragic story of a shipwreck to give people a real glimpse into the salvage, diving, engineering and pollution prevention sectors that seldom get a media nod of approval.

Unfortunately Nick was still on site at the wreck and remains focused on the job at hand – and so could not join us last night to receive the award. He did, however, send this message:

“I am extremely humbled to be named such a figure and would like to accept this on behalf of all South Africans involved in the offshore and salvage industry. I believe that our seamanship and work ethics are starting to be appreciated on a global basis. I would also like to thank my wife Sandra and three children for allowing me to follow my passion. From all 330 team members on the Costa Concordia at this time thank you for thinking of us in this way. I hope that we refloat mid July and that I can get home by August.” -: NICK SLOANE


Weekly Press Review – 16 August 2013

The Fisheries Department is back in the hot seat this week (again) with officials again being criticised for still not getting the country’s research and patrol vessels back in the water.

Acting Fisheries Department deputy director-general, Desmond Stevens had the rather unenviable task of updating parliament on the status of the vessels and assured those present that both the Ruth First and Victoria Mxenge were ready for action and merely waiting seaworthy certificates from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and that the Lilian Ngoyi would be ready to sail by the end of September. Various MPs stated that they would be waiting on the dock at Simon’s Town to board the vessel on the promised date.

Let us hope that the Fisheries Department can deliver this time. It would seem that the pressure is finally on.

The stranded Kiani Satu has remained in the press all week as all attempts to refloat the vessel, still stranded off the coast of Buffels Bay, have thus far failed. According to Captain Nigel Campbell, responsible for overseeing the salvage operation for SAMSA, it is the strong swell due to harsh weather conditions that is hampering the refloating process.

Obviously the oil that is still leaking from the damaged vessel remains a cause for concern and Parliament’s portfolio committee has called for harsher penalties to be imposed on those responsible for the pollution of local waters in an attempt to protect fish and marine life resources.

This is something that could really go a long way towards protecting our coastline. Let us hope that the powers that be are able to come up with a plan that can be implemented fairly and quickly.

There was also some maritime drama off the coast of Robben Island this week, as the crew of the fishing trawler Claremont, had to be rescued after the vessel crashed into the rocks along the island’s coastline.

The rescue operation was carried out over four hours by the NSRI and all 12 crew members were safely brought back to shore. Another successful NSRI operation.

It seems that the salvage season has started in Cape Town.

‘n Salvor maak ‘n plan

Yesterday I joined a room full of delegates at Smit Amandla Marine’s Emergency Response Seminar at the Protea President Hotel in Sea Point and was struck by the innovative and challenging nature of the marine salvage industry. Our local saying “‘n Boer maak ‘n plan” (a farmer knows how to make a plan) shall forthwith be changed in my vocabulary to “‘n salvor maak ‘n plan”!

While the seminar did indeed deal with the regulatory, contractual and governmental input required to deliver a National Contingency or Response plan – the case studies presented by many salvage stalwarts highlighted the diverse skill sets required within salvage teams. They also highlighted the ability of individuals and companies to think on their feet and create solutions to problems in situ.

This is the “Macgyver” (Google that if you’re younger than 35) sector of the maritime industry. It’s risky, dangerous, challenging and, I would imagine, immensely satisfying to be involved in successful salvage projects.

I would suggest that this sector could easily become the poster child to excite and attract the youth into the maritime sectors.

Look out for the editorial on this seminar in the next issue of Maritime Review Africa.

Durban visitors

I was in Durban last week so I took the opportunity to visit Sheffield Beach and see the casualty on the rocks. What a sight! It makes a beautiful exhibit for those wanting to see what a ship looks like above and below the water line. And it is still attracting attention as well as visitors to the beach.

On the rocks at Sheffield Beach in Durban, South Africa.

The residents may not be all that stoked, but the car guards are beaming from ear to ear at the traffic turnaround in the area.

The vessel also drew the attention of the producers of Carte Blanche recently, but I must admit to being somewhat disappointed at their coverage of the incident. Apart from some deliberate editing that had a SAMSA official stating that there was no pollution from the vessel while they showed footage of small oil slick at the site – there really was nothing clever about their broadcast.

In fact, it made me reflect on some of the maritime-related press conferences that I have been to where the reporters from the daily newspapers arrive with the story already written in their heads and wait for any small quote that relates to this angle. It’s a technique that oftentimes ensures that they miss the actual story as it impacts on the maritime industry – and has me sighing when I read the story in the paper the next day.

Anyway – back to Sheffield Beach.

According to sources the plan is to try to refloat the vessel at the end of the month at high tide. Some say that this is an ambitious plan and point to the two options:

  • Refloating the vessel
  • Cutting up the vessel

It’s obvious which option would be the preferred one considering the benefits of selling the vessel as is for its scrap value. Cutting the vessel will be expensive and, given the inaccessibility of the beach, a difficult undertaking.

But there’s another question that’s been haunting me. Comparing this incident to that of the Seli 1, it is interesting that the government seems at ease with footing the salvage bill in Durban, but not in Cape Town.

Some suggest that the vessel on Sheffield beach poses more of a risk to the public, but I point to recent SAMSA directives warning ocean-users to stay clear of the Seli 1 and even some emails from residents in the area reporting coal washing up on the Blouberg beach just two weeks ago.

Well – we’ll be covering the salvage and towage sector in the next issue of Maritime Review Southern Africa so if you would like to provide some input on these two incidents, please do not hesitate to get in touch.