Weekly Press Review – 16 January 2017

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi. More than 600 African labourers and 12 officers died in the tragedy. According to the press, the SAS Amatola will leave South african waters, in a relatively rare journey to European waters, on a special mission to commemorate the sinking of the SS Mendi.

The SAS Amatola will take part in naval exercises with the Royal and German navies and a ceremony will be held to commemorate the fallen vessel.   Some relatives of the dead will be flown out to take part in the ceremony.

Also making headlines this week is the news that a R800 million project to build ships with China in an upgraded naval dockyard in Simon’s Town is on the cards, despite the navy requesting that the Chinese be kept out.

The project is being pushed by the council on defence and involves the reserving of a large share of the construction work for state arms manufacturer Denel and its Chinese joint venture partner, with Simon’s Town dockyard as a preferred construction site.

Also making headlines this week are concerns regarding the low numbers of successful prosecutions of perlemoen poachers in the Overstrand area.

According to the press between April and October 2016, 43 suspected poachers were arrested, but only five were successfully prosecuted.

Michael Cardo, DA-LP said that he is extremely concerned about the few successful prosecutions.

“A prosecution rate of 10 percent is too low. We need better law enforcement along with a holistic approach towards community development to ensure that perlemoen poaching is extinguished,” he said.

Also making headlines this week was the sad loss of Captain Rodney Young MBE. Captain Young was the highly respected Master of RMS St Helena. He was holidaying in Seychelles at the time of his death.

Weekly Press Review – 12 December 2016

The big maritime news this week is the announcement that African Marine Solutions Group (AMSOL) has acquired the marine solutions company Smit Amandla Marine.

According to the press the sale of the Smit Amandla Marine to AMSOL, which is owned by a consortium including Smit Amandla Marine management and employees, the Mineworkers Investment Company, Pan-African Capital Holdings and RMB Ventures, is in line with a stated commitment by shareholders to capacitate the company over time and return it to 100 percent South African ownership.

Paul Maclons, AMSOL Managing Director, said, “We are excited to build a great South African company and to remain relevant to our clients in the energy, mining, ports and maritime sectors into the future.”

Mary Bomela, CEO of the Mineworkers Investment Company, believes the acquisition supports the objectives of Operation Phakisa. “In facilitating the transformation of the maritime economy in South Africa, AMSOL is now in a unique position to support the continued growth and transformation of the sector in the region – with the transaction including Smit Amandla Marine’s business in Namibia and Mozambique.”

Also making headlines this week is the announcement that South African company Veecraft, specialists in new vessel construction, will be selling two advanced specification security vessels after clients defaulted on payment.

The sale will take place in Cape Town and the vessels could fetch up to US$6 million each.

Ariella Kuper, managing director of Clear Asset who is assisting Veecraft with the urgent sale of the vessels says, “International companies are showing interest in these vessels.”

Finnish power systems company Wartsila is among several companies eyeing opportunities in South Africa’s mooted gas-to-power independent power producer (IPP) programme.

According to the press the programme is expected to be the catalyst for the development of the gas industry in South Africa.

Weekly Press Review – 5 December 2016

The SA Agulhas II embarked on her latest voyage this week. According to the press a group of 10 local scientists and researchers will spend 14 months doing scientific research for South Africa on the white continent, Antarctica.

According to Department of Environmental Affairs spokesperson Zolile Nqayi, “The team will be doing various types of research, including on weather, oceanography and marine animals such as sea birds.  One of the new interesting projects they will work on is doing remote digital surveillance on penguins, in which they track penguins and how they travel for feeding.”

The research is aimed at providing information regarding the effects of climate change.

PetroSA remains in the headlines this week with a call by the DA for PetroSA bosses to pay back their annual bonuses.

According to the press 10 of the company’s top managers, responsible for Project Ikwhezi, received a total bonus of approximately R17.3 million, while regular workers received nothing; and the company registered a deficit of R14.5 bn. Trade union Numsa is insisting that workers are paid some kind of bonus immediately, and also calling for an immediate forensic audit of the company.

A mix-up at Cape Town’s main harbour dry dock left a 67m supply vessel, the Go Regulus, perched on the wrong blocks this week. According to the press the resultant damage has led to a probe by harbour operator Transnet.

According to global ship repair company EBH the mix-up occurred due to dry-dock workers apparently “misinterpreting designs”.

EBH South Africa shipyard manager Deon Chetty said, “ The Go Regulus has sustained limited damage to the hull. This was due to the inadvertent misinterpretation of drawings submitted. However, in the spirit of its lengthy association – as well as co-operation and goodwill – EBH SA is working closely with Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) to resolve the matter as speedily as possible.”

Unconfirmed reports suggest that another vessel may also have been damaged due to the docking designs being swapped.

TNPA has previously highlighted massive investment in port infrastructure under Operation Phakisa.

Weekly Press Review – 28 November 2016

 A possible Chinese takeover of the naval dockyard in Simon’s Town has made headlines this week. The navy is facing an internal revolt amid the possibility that China may soon build vessels inside South Africa’s naval headquarters.

An Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between state-owned defense equipment firm Denel and China’s Poly Technologies resulting in a large investment by the Chinese firm in the Simon’s Town facility in return for boatbuilding business.

Poly Technologies is Denel’s bid partner in two navy tenders: Project Biro and Hotel; and there is widespread unhappiness over irregularities relating to these deals, including a long delay in announcing the winning bidders. The question being asked is why Denel is being accommodated when they have absolutely no maritime experience?

Concerns about political interference have surfaced in a memo circulating in the naval community. One of the issues raised states: “Denel’s task is to manage the dockyard and maintain the ships of the fleet, not to build ships without a shipbuilding yard of their own and use a national facility like Simon’s Town naval dockyard instead.”

Poly Technologies have offered no comment and Department of Defense spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said the department was not aware of any concerns.

The Cape Times ran a feature this week entitled: Maritime –SA’s new gold. Amongst the issues addressed were the new business opportunities available in South African aquaculture, how bilateral relations are advancing the Blue Economy and how South Africa is the new gate way to the Antarctic, as the only African country with a scientific base in Antarctica.

Weekly Press Review – 21 November 2016

Making headlines this week was a fire which broke out aboard a passenger cruise vessel on the Hartbeesdam over the weekend resulting in the deaths of four people. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is investigating the incident.

A free app is helping 50 small-scale fishers in the province to monitor their catches. According to the press the smartphone application, called Abalobi, is designed to help small-scale fishers monitor their catch, better manage their business and monitor weather patterns before going to sea.

The application was funded by Vodacom Sustainability and developed at UCT. The application has the potential to benefit thousands of households across the country.

PetroSA has stated that it has managed to narrow its losses from R14.6 billion to R449 million for 2015/16.

According to the press revenue was down 13 percent from the previous R18 billion to R15.7 billion, while available cash balance fell from 4.4 billion to R3.7 billion.

The Cape Times ran a World Fisheries Day feature this week. Issues raised in the feature included a call for collaboration in conserving ocean’s resources in order to ensure the health of our oceans for future generations, as well as the welcoming of the Southern Bluefin Tuna allocation.

The desperate dream of becoming a stowaway by many people who find themselves unemployed in South Africa was featured in the press this week. Immigrants from African countries who do not have the correct documentation required to stay in South Africa see stowing away as their lifeline to leave the shores of South Africa and look for work opportunities wherever their ocean ride takes them.

P&I insurance representative Neil Chetty said that the one motivating factor for all stowaways was always poverty.

“If they had work in their home countries, they would not want to go on this adventure,” says Chetty.

Also making headlines this week was the announcement that JSE-listed African equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI) was preparing to list its Premier Food and Fishing division on the JSE main board by the first quarter of next year.

Khalid Abdulla, AEEI chief executive said, “The division has shown consistent organic growth over the past five years, through achieving annual growth of more than 20 percent year on year. The time for acquisitions has come.”

South African tourists have been treated to a rare sight in Cape Town harbour over the past few weeks. According to the press the dwarf sperm whale, one of the world’ s smallest species of whale, has been spotted swimming in Cape Town harbour.

The little whale, smaller that some dolphins, is generally found in the deeper parts of the ocean, but according to Tinus Beukes of the Two Oceans Aquarium the whale entered the harbour on its own and should be able to leave on his own, presuming that it is in good health.

Also making headlines this week is a call by Knysna residents and tourists to help protect seahorses for current and future generations. The initiative forms part of the SA National Parks (SANParks) anti-pollution campaign in Knysna.

SANParks says of the 33 fish species recorded in the Knysna estuary, seven were estuarine dependent species like seahorses. The Knysna Seahorse is protected by law in the Marine Living Resources Act.

Weekly Press Review – 7 November 2016

An 8,000 ton experimental fishing programme has made headlines this week with the government going to court to defend the programme, which according to scientists could have decimated a valuable fishery.

A bid by several large fishing companies was made to have the experimental horse mackerel permit set aside on the grounds that it was illegal and contravened scientific advice.

Fishing associations say that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is now trying to take credit for a settlement setting aside the granting of the experimental horse mackerel fishing permit to Global Pact after it was revealed that the department had conceded to review its decision to allocate an additional 8,000 tons to Global Pact.

The department has said that The South African Deepsea Trawling Industry (SADSTIA) and Midwater Trawling Associations and others abandoned their interdict application.

SADSTA and Midwater Trawling Associations executive secretary Johann Augustyn responded by saying, “This is an attempt to whitewash the whole thing. We did not abandon the interdict. It was agreed by both parties that the interdict would serve no purpose because it was too close to review. It was too close to review because DAFF weren’t ready to present their papers and asked for a postponement.” Augustyn added that they were convinced that the permit had been issued illegally and this was vindicated.

DAFF Minister Senzeni Zokwana’s spokesperson, Bomikazi Molapo responded by saying that the department remained committed to restructuring the horse mackerel industry.

A group of small-scale fishers from Langebaan have made headlines this week as they celebrated a legal victory setting aside a government decision stopping them from fishing for harders in a section of the Langebaan lagoon.

The Western Cape High Court declared the restrictive conditions imposed on traditional fishers by DAFF as arbitrary, irrational and unconstitutional.

Judge Mark Sher, who presided over the matter, has said that it would be inappropriate of him to make an order granting fishers some other right, but urged officials in the departments concerned to please engage with the fishers.

The fishing vessel, the Verano, which caught alight in the Cape Town harbour also caught the press’s attention this week. The vessel has been burning for four days and there are now major concerns regarding oil pollution. On Sunday a special pipe was laid in the water around the vessel in an attempt to stop the oil from moving out of the harbour and into the ocean.

Weekly Press Review – 31 October 2016

 The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has issued a provisional list of 126 fishing communities, but press reports state that small-scale fishers are adamant that they will appeal the list.

DAFF small-scale fishers director, Craig Smith, said that many traditional fishers do not have permit records to substantiate their claims as small-scale fishers, adding that DAFF elected to involve communities in the verification of community fishers as part of the prescribed small-scale fishing regulations.

“The department does not know the community members to decide whether they meet the small-scale fisher criteria or not. Hence DAFF requested community members to elect community panel members to assist DAFF with the verification of fishers,” said Smith adding that in many cases community members were excluded by their own elected panel.

According to Smith the list is likely to increase with the assessment of appeals and after all appeals have been thoroughly assessed, the department will announce a final list of successful small-scale fishers.

A new research trip to Marion Island has made headlines this week. A team of more than 50 scientists from South Africa and abroad will join the Russian research vessel, Akademik Tryoshnikov, for a plankton study on the island later this year.

It is hoped that the study will reveal why there is not more life in the nutrient rich Southern Ocean.

UCT oceanographer Sarah Fawcett said that the ship leaves Cape Town on December 20 and the study will cover everything from biodiversity and whales to bird life, interaction between winds, waves, currents and ice and the problems a caused by plastic pollution.

The City has launched a Shark Spotters app aimed at enhancing beach safety this summer.

According to the press the Shark Spotters app provides water users with current and accurate shark safety information on their smartphones, giving beach-goers the opportunity to make informed decisions on shark risks before arriving at the beach.

“We believe the Shark Spotters app will be an essential beach safety and information tool for all water users in Cape Town during the upcoming beach season. This app will provide keen surfers and swimmers with specific information about their favourite beach spots even before they travel to them,” said Mayco member for energy, environment and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe.

The Antarctica’s Ross Sea has been declared a Marine Protected Area (MPA). According to the press the announcement, which was made at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, is regarded as a victory and historic moment in the history of conservation.

The move marks the first time that a large-scale MPA has been established on the high seas.