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.

Will cabinet reshuffle quell maritime momentum?

As we welcome Ms Dipuo Peters as the new Minister of Transport, one has to wonder at the rationale behind President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet restructure that will see the relatively new (and now ex) Minister of Transport, Ben Dikobe Martins, shuffle off towards the Department of Energy.

Having declared 2013 Maritime Year and called for a complete review of current and proposed maritime policy to be on his desk by July this year, Mr Martins has been replaced at what could have become a landmark milestone for the industry had this backlog  been moved forward.

Speaking to the industry in March ahead of the BRICS summit, Mr Martins was persuasive about his desire to see the maritime industry shrug off its “Cinderella status” and seemed to have tasked stakeholders in the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) as well as the Ports’ Regulator to provide a road map (or more aptly a navigational chart) to move the sector forward.

At the same gathering Martins said: “I was not here ten years ago, but it is my responsibility to solve the obstacles and challenges that are there. I am the Minister of Transport; it is my responsibility to address the challenges.”

Well – he is no longer the Minister of Transport and so I guess it is no longer his responsibility to address these challenges. That task now falls to Ms Peters. Let us hope that she reclaims this mandate and moves it forward without loss of momentum.

If not, then I suspect the industry may well be more than a little frustrated at the thought of having to resurrect the maritime sensitisation process with a new minister.

I would be interested to get some feedback from the Presidency at the thought processes behind this latest reshuffle. Why does President Zuma believe that Ms Peters will make a more effective Minister of Transport? Is he disappointed in the progress made by Mr Martins? Will the two ministers sit down and discuss their previous portfolios with each other?

Oh – and one last question. Why are some Ministers left in positions where their effectiveness is continuously questioned – because that seems more than a little fishy to me?

2013 is Maritime Year: but shhh, its a secret!

Last week at the Maritime Trade Forum ahead of the BRICS Summit in Durban, I learned that the Minister of Transport had declared 2013, Maritime Year in South Africa. Riad Khan of the Port Regulator stated this quite clearly while welcoming delegates to these maritime discussions and I silently chastised myself for not knowing such an important development in the industry.

Wow – that’s a real milestone for the relationship between the maritime industry and the Department of Transport, which is more vocal in its directives aimed at land-based transport modes. I was buoyed by the announcement and felt sure that I would be able to find out what the Department was doing to promote this sector within the country and amongst our citizens.

Since learning this news last week I have asked a number of other members of the industry what they know about this development only to find that I was not the only one in the dark.

So I visited the Department’s website feeling sure I would see some sort of 2013 Maritime Year banner emblazoned across the screen. No. No banner.

So I looked under the press announcements, press releases and speeches. No. No such message there either.

So I took the link to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the Department’s official maritime agency, to see if I could find more information there. No. No information there. And the same dismal non-message on the website belonging to the Port Regulator.

So I went back to the Department of Transport’s website to take a closer look at their maritime intentions because Minister Dikobe Ben Martins did make it clear in his speech at the Maritime Trade Forum that he was expecting high level engagement with the industry and that a coherent maritime strategy needed to be presented to him by July.

Surely such pronouncements would be borne out on their site? No. None of the speeches listed on the site relate to his public appearances in the maritime domain. It is as if he is embarrassed to admit engaging with us on some level; as if by admitting his engagement with the maritime industry, he is somehow ignoring the carnage on our road during peak holidays.

In fact if you click on MARITIME in the website menu bar – the persistent banner advert promoting road safety follows you there too.

In a last ditch effort to uncover their maritime mantra for 2013, I clicked on the link to their Facebook page. That provided no further assistance – especially as the last post on their page is dated June 2012. And most of the posts on the page relate to (yes you guessed it) road traffic.

So ladies and gentlemen of the maritime industry 2013 is Maritime Year, but please don’t tell anyone – it’s a secret.