Weekly Press Review – 29 May 2017

A gas explosion led police to a house in Mowbray this week resulting in the seizure of R2.8 million worth of illegal abalone.

According to the press, police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said that the seizure in Montclaire Road in Mowbray had dealt a blow to illegal trade in marine resources.

Neighbours alerted the police to the explosion.

“Police conducted an investigation on the scene and found plastic containers and buckets containing abalone. Protecting our marine resources remains the core of the mandate of the SAPS,” said Rwexana.

The three men arrested at the scene will appear in the Magistrate’s court once they are officially charged.

The blue economy has made headlines once again this week. According to Professor Narnia Bohler-Muller, head of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), South Africa’s blue (ocean) economy is an area of focus for economic growth and development.

Bohler-Muller, who recently attended the 3rd workshop of the Blue Economy Core Group in Mauritius, said that people were starting to talk about the blue economy and that the government was developing a strategy around it, stemming from Operation Phakisa.

Under Operation Phakisa, Oceans Economy, the government aims to grow the ocean economy’s contribution to South Africa’s gross domestic profit to between R129 billion and R177 billion by 2033.

Container shipping company, Maersk, says that the container sector is seeing an uptick in intra-Africa trade due to the fall of most long-standing internal trade barriers.

According to the press, David Williams, chief executive of Maersk Line Africa, said that the most recent progression in this regard was the increasing implementation of the one stop border post concept across the continent.

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New DoT Minister misses maritime 

It is disheartening to note that the first briefing given by the new Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, yesterday outlining the immediate tasks for his department made no mention of the maritime industry. 

This, despite the recent revealing of the DoT’s Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy as well as the central role that the DoT’s agency, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), plays in the government-driven Operation Phakisa focused on growing the maritime sectors. 

This, despite the need for that agency to see the finalisation of an appointment of a permanent CEO and despite many other initiatives that are currently receiving and in need of attention. 

His briefing understandably looks primarily at road transport issues and we give cognizance to the importance of this sector in his stable. It also briefly mentions rail in relation to the agreement with China to build the Moloto Rail Development Corridor, but it fails to even give a nod to the maritime sector. 

And, as it refers to the proud history of struggle heros who dedicated their energy to fighting for better quality of life for their comrades and his commitment to patriotism as well as the National Development Plan, he may well have taken note that the maritime industry is the sector in his portfolio that offers a great opportunity for delivering on these promises. 

It would be disappointing if the current momentum gained in the industry in sensitising government to the potential impact of the maritime sector is lost. We are fortunate, however, in the fact that the Deputy Minister, Sindiswe Chikhunga, is already known to be a driver for maritime awareness within the Department and it is hoped that her voice will continue to be heard. 

Weekly Press Review – 11 March 2016

According to the press, ship repair facilities have been earmarked as important areas for growth within the Operation Phakisa framework.

According to Sipho Nzuza, TNPA harbour manager Cape Town, Cape Town harbour is regarded as an important area for the application of Operation Phakisa initiatives. This includes ship repair work, shipbuilding and oil and gas services. Areas receiving immediate focus are the Syncrolift at the V&A Waterfront and both the Sturrock and Robinson Drydocks.

At the recently held African Ports Evolution conference in Durban, TNPA announced that R2 billion would be allocated towards improvements in ship repair facilities over the next five year period and an estimated R13 -15 billion towards new repair facilities at harbours across the country.

Weekly Press Review – 4 March 2016

The big maritime news this week is the announcement of plans to create a new 70,000km2 network of marine protected areas.

According to the press the plans include:

  • expansion of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park’s sea boundaries in Kwazulu-Natal,
  • a new protected area off the Thukela River,
  • a new shark and fish sanctuary off the Protea Banks on the south coast and
  • expansion of the Aliwal Shoal protected area.

Details of the new marine protected areas (MPAs) have been published in a 336-page notice in the government gazette by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Although the declaration of these new expanded MPAs should be celebrated, it is important to note that they are in response to the present situation of collapsed sea fish stocks and increasing exploitation of oceans worldwide.

Conservation group WWF’s response to the announcement has been positive, but they have cautioned that it is essential to ensure that there is adequate budget, staff and enforcement capacity to ensure the proper running of these protected areas.

Zolile Nqayi, Environment Affairs spokesman, said that the new proposed MPAs had been identified through the presidential project Operation Phakisa.

Weekly Press Review – 10 July 2015

It comes as no surprise that there is still much unhappiness around the 2015/16 fishing rights allocation process.  The press has reported this week that both small scale and commercial fishermen have criticised the draft fishing rights allocation as unfair.

This week officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) held the second of 31 public consultation meetings.

The current draft policy proposes a 26 percent fee increase for all sectors.  Full time commercial fishermen, Armin Weinar was quoted as saying:  “They say they want to be fair to all applicants.  Then at the same time they want to everybody judged against the same criteria by no longer splitting the applicants up between existing rights holders and new entrants.”

Weinar also added that the industry was close to his heart and that he is saddened to see resources dwindle so dangerously.

The press has also covered the rescue of a hump back whale that became entangled in ropes and bouys off Cape Point earlier this week.  The research vessel the Ellen Khuzwayo was carrying out research in  the area and the whale became in tangled in the ropes and bouys being used for the research.  The South African Whale Disentanglement Network was alerted and after a 40 minute operation the whale was freed and despite some damage to its stock tail seemed to be strong and healthy.

Operation Phakisa has made headlines again this week with a seminar in London attended by Transport Deputy Minister Sindiswe Chikunga to promote investment in South Africa’s oceans economy.

In her address at the conference which took place at South Africa House in London the minister said that the conference displayed the ethos of Operation Phakisa which was to accelerate implementation of government’s strategic development programmes.

Research shows that South Africa’s ocean economy has the potential to contribute R180 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and create about a million jobs.

The purpose of Chikunga’s visit to London has been to share information on the recent developments South Africa has achieved in growing the oceans economy.

“We need potential partners on a win-win basis to support South Africa’s oceans economy strategy. We extend an open invitation to investors to visit South Africa to further explore vast investment opportunities,” the minister said.

Have you read the Minister’s speech?

Have you read the Minister’s speech? That’s the question being most asked this month at maritime functions and it refers to Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters’ discourse at the South African Maritime Safety Authority’s (SAMSA) AGM at the end of September where she called for “immediate action from the (SAMSA) Board in order to resolve the appalling state of affairs at SAMSA”.

What usually follows the opening question in these chats amongst maritime colleagues are the knowing nods and ensuing discussion on the schism that we all believe to exist between the Department of Transport and its subsidiary body – as if this could be the explanation as to why the minister was so severe in her deliberations.

This leads into a conversation on the three pillars of SAMSA’s mandate and how many seem to believe that it is clear that the Authority has taken to heart the third point: to promote South Africa’s maritime interests as its over-arching purpose – perhaps to the detriment of the first two tenets of its existence which relate to the preservation of life, environment and property at sea.

It is an interesting dilemma for the industry. We’ve lauded the Authority, and particularly its CEO Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, for his foresight and passion to champion the maritime cause. We’ve watched him weave the maritime thread into the government conversation. And, as we begin to see a level of recognition across a number of government departments, we are told take stock of an entity that requires some oversight.

One cannot fain surprise that expenditure on conferences and advertisements ballooned from R12m in 2012 to R54 million in 2013. Most conference organisers and many publications have viewed the Authority as an unofficial Lotto pay-out as they cashed in their rate cards and sponsorship tiers. SAMSA has been visual at most events on the calendar including one hosted by us – the Maritime Industry Awards.

Was this a waste of resources? I dare to say that a little discernment could have been applied, but that some of the television slots highlighting the cadets on the SA Agulhas were well timed and could have contributed to a broader maritime awareness amongst our youth. So too do career and job summits, but a rubber stamp of approval associated with the sponsorship and exhibition stands of just about every maritime exhibition and conference could have been undertaken with some introspection.

What the industry has been waiting for is a follow-up to the successful and refreshingly different South African Maritime Industry Conference (SAMIC). Organised by the Authority, the conference has the ability to knock many conferences off the calendar by providing one unified thought tank for the industry.

Envisioned to fill a gap left by the demise of the National Maritime Conference of the 1990’s organised by industry for industry – SAMIC was well positioned to meet the needs of an industry ready and willing to move forward. It seems a pity, however, that this conference, anticipated to take place before the end of 2014, may now never take its rightful place on the calendar.

But this is not the only reason the minister pegs the Authority to be “in serious trouble”. Citing plummeting cash flows (a 350 percent decline), irregular expenditure (R28.8 million), fruitless and wasteful expenditure (R1.1 million), a total asset decline of 96 percent and the cost escalation associated to the SA Agulhas of 31 percent – Peters did not mince her words when she asked that “immediate actions be taken” to make the entity viable and able to deliver on its legislative mandate.

The SA Agulhas may lie at the heart of many of SAMSA’s reported woes, but most in the industry will agree that the Authority’s sheer determination to create a dedicated training vessel for their cadetship programme should not go unapplauded. It was never going to be an easy or cheap endeavour – something that is clearly realised by the Authority. Their Annual Report highlights the need for projects such as the cadetship programme and the SA Agulhas to be funded externally.

“Projects will therefore be funded only to the extent to which project funding is available and the organisation’s core revenue will not be used. The SA Agulhas and the cadetship projects, which contributed significantly to the deficits will soon no longer be funded by SAMSA,” it states in the report.

But perhaps what is most alarming and does not come across clearly in the visually alluring Annual Report is the “lack of reliability of reported information”. The Annual Report provides performance targets that are generally reported as being met or at least mostly met, but the Auditor General raises concerns that these targets are “not specific, measurable or time bound”.

In addition, what is not evident in the Annual Report, but is highlighted in the Minister’s speech is anomalies of data – or data spike for the fourth quarter of the reported year. For instance the tally of inspections of both local and foreign going vessels catapults rather unrealistically in the fourth quarter – calling into question the validity of what is presented.

Similarly, although a 100 percent target of audited training institutions is reported at year-end, according to the speech, data allegedly reveals that no audits were carried out within the first three quarters of the year.

“The fact that the auditors could not validate the performance results and that the third quarter results of some KPI’s seem to be far apart from the fourth quarter results, call for an objective independent performance audit of the 2013/2014 performance information,” she says.

With much more fodder to chew on in both the Annual Report as well as Minister Peters’ speech, it would be unfair to try and unpack the issues here. And as transport month draws to a close and we mull the pronouncements of Operation Phakisa, perhaps our closing issue of Maritime Review Africa for the year will delve a little deeper into the state of South Africa as a maritime nation on the continent.

If you have anything to say on this topic, we welcome your input both on and off the record.

THE ABOVE ARTICLE APPEARS AS THE EDITOR’S COLUMN IN THE SEPT/OCTOBER ISSUE OF MARITIME REVIEW
You can read the full magazine HERE

New entrants should be accommodated in blue economy

Respondents to our Operation Phakisa survey were unanimous in their view that the maritime industry has the capacity to cater for new entrants with 71 percent deeming it “realistic” and a further 29 percent seeing it as “very realistic”.  Just under 30 percent, however, believe that it is unrealistic to expect the maritime industry to create one million jobs and for the blue economy to reach R1.7 billion by 2033.

The South African presidency is due to announce the outcome of deliberations held under the auspices of the Ocean Labs in Durban this week at an open day. Targets and activities committed to by stakeholders will be made public and it will be interesting to see if expectations can be met.

Most of our survey respondents, who mostly represent industry stalwarts of ten or more years, agree that involvement from government is “very important” (71 percent), but view government catalysts during their tenure to be “unsatisfactory” (71 percent).

We are still accepting responses to the survey <CLICK HERE TO PARTICIPATE> and will bring you news from Durban and the Phakisa Open Day in the next issue of Maritime Review Africa.