Conference Call

The fact that “some 90 per cent of trade is carried by sea” is the most over-used statistic at maritime conferences. If you are that way inclined, you may be tempted to create a drinking game out of how many times this is presented during any given conference programme. Maritime professionals just love this fact – we highlight it every chance we get. Enough already!

Use this pearl of wisdom in non-maritime related forums or at dinner parties with your accountant friends where such information is still likely to astound your audience, but for heaven’s sake – those of us working in the industry know this already  – and would counter this as an exact statistic anyway.

Unfortunately this highlights another issue relating to conferences, workshops, exhibitions, summits and expos. There are just so many of them and a great deal of them are pulling the same speakers and addressing the same topics. The question has to be: how do members of the industry choose which event to support and attend without resorting to FOMO* as a decision making tool?

With all due respect to industry-related magazines – we offer little assistance to industry in this regard. Most conferences approach us to be “event partners” to gain some free advertising and promotion before and after the event. In exchange we are offered the opportunity to dish out our magazines; a delegate pass and our logo on their promotional material as a media partner.

Conferences are seldom selective in choosing their media partners and publications usually accept every partnership they are offered – oftentimes with no intention of attending, but with every intention of getting rid of back issues that we are too emotionally attached to to send for recycling.

Make no mistake – there are still some very good conferences on the calendar and not everyone attends these events to absorb presentation after presentation. Often the real value lies in the networking opportunities and the card exchanges. It’s in the opportunity to sit next to someone you have never met before and develop a new connection.

It is, of course, an added bonus if the material presented blows you away. Sadly not much is done by conference organisers to really mould and shape their programmes. I realise it’s probably difficult when they only receive the content of Power Point Presentations at the last minute (and sometimes even as the speaker walks into the conference venue).

But I do feel that the organiser has the responsibility to their delegates (who are often paying a good few thousand to attend) to play a stronger role in content delivery. Not everyone has the ability to develop and present a paper – and the vetting process should go beyond a person’s job title at a specific company or entity.

By way of comparison – it would be like an editor of a magazine accepting article contributions without reading them and simply sending the magazine off to the printer without verifying that content is not repeated; is relevant and of a decent quality.

So my goal for the year is to engage with event organisers and delve a little deeper into what the calendar holds in the hope of providing some definitive feedback to the industry at the end of the year.

*FOMO: Fear OF Missing Out – accepted abbreviation amongst social media platform users. 

 

Weekly Press Review – 26 February 2016

This week marked the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi. According to the press over 200 people attended a service at the SA Mendi Memorial in Atteridgeville earlier this week to commemorate the event.

On 21 February 1917 the SS Mendi collided with another vessel, the SS Daro, and sank with 646 South African Labour Corps on board. Most of the victims were black South African troops. It was a major loss of life for the South African military, as well as one of the worst maritime disasters of the 20th century.

Also in the news this week is the announcement that Grindrod has pulled out of the planned multi-billion rand Saldanha crude oil terminal.

Grindrod chief executive Alan Olivier said, “ Clearly the market conditions, with the fall in commodity prices and curtailment of capital projects in the mining sector, has certainly put pressure on a lot of the projects we were looking at.

“But we always said we would not proceed with capital projects unless we had the underlying volume support to be able to justify these projects.”

The arrival of the French frigate Le Nivose has made headlines this week. The vessel will be at the V&A Waterfront until mid-March and is open to the public.

Le Nivose has been patrolling the French southern and Antarctic territories, combating piracy, illegal fishing and trafficking, with the aim of increasing maritime security in the area.

Weekly Press Review – 19 February 2016

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has made headlines this week with the announcement of the introduction of a R800 million state-of-the-art system aimed at boosting security at South African ports.

“The National Ports Act 12 of 2005, and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code of 2004 dictate that we, as a port authority, implement measures to assist in detecting security threats and take preventative measures against security incidents that may affect ships or port facilities used in international trade,” said Richard Vallihu, chief executive at TNPA.

The new control room, based at the port of Durban, was activated last week. The CCTV system gives a bird’s-eye view of the port security system and is integrated between all port sites.

“CCTV is but one aspect of our broader integrated technological security system, which encompasses technology, skills and systems,” said Vallihu.

TNPA said that the hi-tech security system would add to the position of South African ports becoming “smart people ports”.

The story of a rescued blind penguin has also made headlines this week. A four-month old penguin was discovered on a beach in Glentana and taken to a local vet, Dr Frans de Graaf, in Hartenbos, where it was discovered that he had been born without eyes.

The frightened bird was taken to the Penguin Rehabilitation Centre (SAPREC) in Mossel Bay where he was closely monitored by Dr de Graaf. He is slowly responding to his new environment and already recognises voices and joins in the swimming time in the pool.

According to Carol Walton, founder of SAPREC, it would appear that the penguin’s parents cared for him for a period of about three months, but after that he was left to his own devices. How he managed to stay alive is a mystery.

The little blind penguin will remain a permanent resident at SAPREC. He will not be able to return to the wild. He has been christened Stevie Wonder.

Weekly Press Review – 12 February 2016

The SA Agulhas II has made headlines this week with its return to South African waters.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) welcomed back the research team, consisting of international scientists and members of the CSIR, after their latest three-month research mission to Antarctica.

DEA spokesperson, Zolile Nqayi, said, “The teams who participate in the research are different each time, conducting different types of research.  Gough Islands, in the South Atlantic Ocean, will be the next expedition with weather-related research.  It is scheduled for March.”

The announcement by Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, that 22 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are in the pipeline along the South African coastline also made headlines this week.

The proposed area covers a massive 70,000 km² and if all 22 of the proposed areas are declared Marine Protected Areas, the result will be that just over five percent of South Africa’s ocean will be protected, a vast improvement on the 0.5 percent of marine ecosystems that are presently protected by existing MRAs.

The aim behind these protected areas is to promote biodiversity, restore fishing balances, promote tourism and serve as areas to support scientific research.

Weekly Press Review – 5 February 2016

Two separate yachting tragedies have seen the safety of working sailors and tourists alike being called into question this week.  The disappearance of three sailors who went missing during a routine delivery of a luxury yacht (a year ago), as well as the death of two Irish tourists whose yacht ran aground near Melkbos have both made headlines this week.

Families of the missing sailors have called for an inquest after an upturned catamaran was sighted, but attempts to tow it into harbour failed and the hull was eventually lost at sea near Port Elizabeth.  The families want to establish fairer practices and enforced compliance with the legislation with the aim of ensuring increased safety for sailors.

In the grounding incident the death of two Irish tourists has led to an investigation into how this yacht ran aground and whether it had already capsized by the time it ran aground.

SAMSA has had surveyors on the scene and the cause of the accident is under investigation.

The continued decimation of South Africa’s abalone has also made headlines this week.  According to the press we are losing the war on abalone poaching.  It is estimated that in 2014 a massive 7 million were poached at a cost of R1 billion.

These figures were presented at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) Abalone Indaba held in Cape Town this week.

DAFF chief director Ceba Mtoba said, “It is time to shift gears.  Poaching has become the norm.”

Fisheries Management deputy director-general Siphokazi Ndudane said that the Marine Living Resources Act would be reviewed.

“The act is old.  It has no mention of poaching. Poaching has been overlapping under our watch over the years because of its ineffectiveness.  The act is no longer applicable.

“This indaba will form part of our paperwork to be presented to the president when amending the act,” said Ndudane.

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.

Weekly Press Review – 29 January 2016

The majestic Queen Elizabeth berthed in Cape Town harbour this week.  According to the press the vessel, Commanded by Commodore Christopher Rynd, will sail more than 36,000 nautical miles and visit 42 ports in 25 countries during her 120-day world cruise.  She has now sailed on to Port Elizabeth, but Cape Town is expecting a visit from her sister ship, Queen Victoria, later this year.

The vessel’s overnight stay in Cape Town obviously offered a great opportunity for local tourism.  Local travel agency owner, Shaun McCarthy said, “We are delighted to welcome Cunard’s youngest member of the fleet.”