Weekly Press Review – 1 July 2016

The deadline for the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) amendments to the Safety of Lives at Sea Agreement (SOLAS) is today.  According to the press there is some concern as to whether several countries. including South Africa, are ready.

The amendments are to address the issue of container weight mis-declaration.  The amendment requires that the verification of container weights be determined by the shipper and communicated to the master and port terminal before export containers are loaded on board a vessel, effectively making container weight verification a condition for vessel loading.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has been  designated as the body to enforce the SOLAS amendments in South Africa and problems are foreseen with regard to the ability of regulators in the container logistics chain to implement, monitor and enforce these amendments timeously.

The three Chinese vessels suspected of operating illegally in South African waters have once again made headlines this week with the announcement that they have been cleared of all poaching charges and released, but will have to pay fines of over R2 million for other offences.

The Dutch East India (DEIC) company vessel the Nieuwe Harlem which ran aground near Table bay on 25 March 1647 is back in the news this week.

This, however, is not just the story of a Dutch vessel running aground on the Cape coast.  It is believed by many to have had a major impact on relationships between communities in southern Africa for the next 300 years.

After running aground 58 of the crew were rescued by other ships in the Nieuwe Harlem fleet, while 62 remained under the command of a junior merchant, Leendert Janszen.  They were instructed to salvage as much from the vessel as possible and otherwise to live off the land until rescue.

On his return to Holland, approximately a year later, Janszen was required to write a report for the DEIC on the feasibility of setting up a halfway house in the Cape.  It was ultimately this report which led to the decision by the Dutch to set up a refreshment station at the tip of Africa.

The ship that started it all, however, the Nieuwe Harlem, simply disappeared.  It has now been announced that the African Institute for Marine and Underwater Research, Exploration and Education (AIMURE) is set to tackle the task of locating the missing vessel.

The Logos Hope, the vessel hosting the largest floating book shop in the world, also made headlines this week as she docked in Cape Town harbour for a 10 day visit.

Ivy Chiu, spokesperson for the Logos Hope, said that more than 8,000 people have already visited the vessel.  Visitors will have the chance to purchase books, as well as experience a tour of the vessel.  Books are priced from R30 to R300 with a choice of over 5,000 titles to choose from.

 

 

 

Weekly Press Review – 20 May 2016

There seems to be an unhappy buzz in the maritime industry this week regarding the “escape” of eight Chinese fishing trawlers illegally navigating South African fishing waters over the weekend. A ninth vessel was arrested.

According to the press the vessels were first spotted around Durban, Port St Johns and Cape Recife, where they were suspected of fishing illegally. On Thursday the fisheries patrol vessel, the Victoria Mxenga, was sent to search for the vessels.

The vessels were discovered and appeared to co-operate, agreeing to be escorted to the Port of Saldanha for proper inspection. However, enroute the vessels split into two group and raced away at high speed. The Victoria Mxenga managed to capture one of the nine vessels, but the others escaped.

The problem seems to be that only one patrol vessel was sent out to address the problem and to bring the vessels into harbour. This was clearly not enough to deal with nine vessels and Pieter van Dalen of the DA-LP is now criticising DAFF saying that the vessels escaped due to the fact that the South African coastline is simply not sufficiently protected.

Although no fish were found on the captured vessel, the Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186, fishing equipment was found. It was found that the vessel had contravened the Marine Living Resources Act by entering the South African exclusive economic zone without a valid permit and had failed to comply with lawful instructions by a fisheries control officer, among other offences.

Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has instructed the South African Navy to assist with the chase of the remaining eight vessels.

Weekly Press Review – 16 October 2015

The international FishCRIME symposium has made headlines this week.  The symposium, a joint initiative by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the Norwegian government and two NGOs, Stop Illegal Fishing and PescaDOLUS, took place at the CTICC in Cape Town earlier in the week..

The key note address was delivered by Eve de Coning of Interpol, Oslo.  De Coning said that crimes in the fishing sector had four common denominators:

  • They occurred across international borders
  • There was usually more than one crime involved
  • There was a high degree of secrecy in company and vessel ownership, and
  • Many jurisdictions made prosecution extremely difficult.

Crimes in the fishing sector globally include not only illegal fishing, but also tax and custom evasion, fraud, forged documentation, money laundering, drugs and weapons smuggling and illegal labour practices.

DAFF’s head of fisheries enforcement, Ceba Mtoba, said that fishing crimes were run by global criminal networks and South Africa needed to be part of a global network in order to effectively address the problems.

The pollution of our oceans has also made headlines this week with a visit by members of the round-the-world Race for Water Odyssey to the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.

The odyssey, initiated by the Race for Water Foundation, began in France in March and hopes to make the first global assessment of plastic pollution in the oceans from its trimaran.

Board member, Franklin Servan-Schreiber said, “Fifty percent of oxygen we owe to tiny plankton we don’t even see, but dust plastic is affecting the plankton’s ability to produce oxygen.”

Approximately 80 percent of the rubbish in the ocean is plastic.  According to Marco Simeoni, president of the Race for Water Foundation, despite the massive scale of plastic waste in the ocean, not much is known about it.

The team hopes to assess plastic pollution on remote islands in the oceans five main rubbish hotspots with the aim of determining the type of plastic, as well as its toxicity to marine life.

Perlemoen with an estimated value of R17 million was confiscated on the Cape Flats this week.  According to the press the police worked through the night counting the illegally poached perlemoen – the biggest haul of the year thus far.

No suspects have as yet been arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

Tina took two hours of my time

I  wasted almost two hours of my Sunday by responding to Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s invitation to a press briefing to discuss her response to the Public Protector’s report: Docked Vessels.

  • 25 minute drive to town
  • 10 minutes to park and get through parliament security
  • 10 minutes wait
  • 2 minute introduction to panel
  • 6 minutes to read press statement in English
  • 6 minutes to read press statement in Afrikaans
  • 7 minutes of largely inadequate question and answer time
  • 30 seconds of shutting books and watching the panel high tailing it out of the room
  • 10 minutes leaving parliament and returning to car
  • 25 minutes drive home

The Minister should note that should she just wish to issue a statement, that the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries’ website would probably be an appropriate place to publish a press statement. Should she wish to ensure that the journalists saw this – she could even go as far as asking her communications team to send it to their list of relevant reporters.

But to call a press conference and essentially thwart any real engagement with the journalists present is a waste of her time; the panels’ time (consisting of legal counsel and senior communications officers from the Department) and our time too.

And so what was the ultimate crux of newsworthy information at the core of her statement?

“I will be asking the North Gauteng High Court to declare that the Report including the findings and recommendations, are reviewed, corrected and/or set aside.”

Any real questions from the floor were shut down and many left unanswered such as:

  • Has she discussed the report with the president?
  • Should the report, in the main, found to be accurate and should she be appointed in her current position after the elections, would she step down?
  • What of the lack of patrol capacity and state of illegal fishing currently continuing in our waters?

I look forward to reading what the reporters from the dailies write in tomorrow’s paper and will continue to follow the progress of this story as it now proceeds into our court system.

 

Weekly Press Review -21 February 2014

The name Arnold Bengis has made its way back into the South African press this week as the former Hout Bay fishing magnate is suing the South Africa government for $11 million (R121m) for the part that they played in assisting the United States courts to jail him for smuggling in 2003, as well as for having to pay $22.5 million restitution to the government.

In 2003 Bengis, his son David and his former business partner, Jeffrey Noll, were arrested in the US on charges of conspiracy to smuggle South African lobster and Patagonian toothfish into the US.  In 2004, all three were sentenced to jail time and have since served their time.  Now living in the United Kingdom, all three accused have brought an application against the South African government, three cabinet minsters, the former legal adviser of fisheries and members of the former Scorpions, saying that the assistance that the US criminal prosecution received from these parties was unconstitutional and unlawful.  They are claiming $11 351 703 in damages.

I am no legal expert, but these men were caught, tried, found guilty and convicted of their crime.  They have served their time and this certainly feels like an interesting stretch to essentially challenge this ruling on these grounds.  We shall wait and see where this case goes.

Robben Island has also made the news this week as the issue of the unreliable ferry system to and from the island is finally being addressed.  The Robben Island Museum has invited tenders for two new ferries  with a capacityof 150 to 180 passengers.  The museum’s chief executive, Sibongiseni Mkhize said, “We have had problems with our operations in December and the council took a decision to look to the market and procure new vessels.  We realised that our current operational model is not working.”

A tender opportunity of this magnitude will certainly be of interest to the local shipbuilding community.

Weekly Press Review – 24 January 2014

A case of “modern day slavery” has made the headlines this week when ten foreign vessels were found to be fishing illegally off the coast of South Africa.

The fisheries patrol vessel Victoria Mxenge escorted three of the vessels from offshore Camps Bay to Cape Town harbour and the vessels were seized. The crew onboard, who were mainly Taiwanese and Indonesian, were found to be working in horrific conditions and many had been working for up to five years without pay.

Bernard Ledemann of fisheries’ law enforcement said, “It was basically modern-day slavery. If we had not intervened this treatment would have gone on unnoticed. At least we have got the vessels out of commission.”

According to SAMSA the vessels were not fit to sail. On investigation another seven vessels belonging to the same owner were found docked in Cape Town harbour.

The fisheries department is following up with the owners and the vessels are to be forfeited to the department.

Local fishermen are now turning to the law in an attempt to force the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to review and set aside the linefish rights allocation process.

The SA Commercial Linefish Association has given chairman Wally Croome the mandate to apply to the courts to have the decisions made by DAFF re-examined. Croome says, “The only way forward is to go for a court interdict and challenge this process.”

DAFF maintains that the allocation process has been fair and legal, but still encourages fishermen to submit their appeals.

Many a struggle ahead as the fishing rights allocation process goes on …… and on.

Weekly Press Review – 12 July 2013

Mentioned in the press this week was the announcement of INTERPOL’s Project Scale at a symposium held at the University of Cape Town (UCT) earlier in the week.

The announcement was made by Eve de Coning of INTERPOL and the project is designed to respond to the R230bn that is lost to illegal fishing each year and was established as a separate unit to fight fishing crime due to its dramatic impact on marine resources. These crimes are not just a local concern, but have become a transnational organised crime.

“We need to understand it in the context of a much larger chain of events,” de Coning said.

It is good to see some of the legal crime fighting organisations getting behind a problem that is not just South African, but a global phenomenon that needs to be addressed globally.