Weekly Press Review – 3 July 2017

The big news for maritime historians this week is the discovery of the ship’s bell belonging to the ill-fated SS Mendi, which sank 100 years ago resulting in the deaths of more than 600 sailors.

According to the press, the ship’s bell was left to Steve Humphey, a well-known local television personality with a special interest in the SS Mendi, in the English coastal town of Swanage.

An anonymous tip led Humphrey and a television crew to the Swanage Pier in the early hours of June,15. According to Humphrey, the bell was wrapped in plastic inside a tarpaulin sack and was tied with string and duct tape. There was an envelope attached to the bell with the journalist’s name of it.

The note read: “Knew of the Mendi’s historical importance to South African heritage, but was concerned that it might not go to the right place. This needs to be sorted out before I pass away as it could get lost.”

The bell has since been transported to a museum in the area where it will be authenticated.

This week marks the graduation of more than 100 SA Navy members after six months of military training at the SAS Saldanha.

According to the press, the navy believes that the aim of the training was not only to provide the youth military skills, but also to teach them the basic life skills required in the work environment, the military environment as well as a  good work ethic.

Skills provided included: seamanship, environmental awareness, musketry, computer skills, basic financial management and discipline.

The SAS Saldanha has recently undergone an extensive upgrade, receiving modern accommodation, mess and classroom facilities.

The impact of the recent international cyber attack has been felt on South African shores. According to the press, the offices of Maersk Line in South Africa were affected by the cyber attack and all computers and landlines were offline.

Matthew Conroy, commercial manager for Maersk Line Southern Africa, said that he did not know when things would return to normal and that the cyber attack was still being investigated.

The Two Oceans Aquarium has declared this month Plastic Free July. According to the press the aquarium has thrown its weight behind the ban on single-use plastic shopping bags through its campaign Rethink the Bag.

The campaign was launched by Hayley McLellan, the aquarium’s environmental campaigner, who has worked since 2010 to promote the campaign, by educating the public and retailers and establishing partnerships.

“All role-players, especially consumers, remain responsible for the approximately 8 billion plastic shopping bags we use every year in South Africa. Remember that demand drives supply, so let’s simply stop demanding and using them,” says McLellan.

Plastic Free July is a worldwide campaign.

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Weekly Press Review – 27 March 2017

PetroSA has made headlines again this week. According to the press the state-owned oil company is set to suffer a projected devaluation of assets of R1.1 billion this financial year, in addition to the R14.5 billion in impairment it suffered in the 2014/15 financial year.

The PetroSA board, however, managed to escape an attempt to have it dissolved. A call was made to Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson to fire the entire board.

Committee member, Motswaledi Matlala said, “On behalf of the committee I request of the minister: let’s fire the board and get new people who are serious about the lives of the people of this county.”

Interim board chairman, Bhekabantu Ngubane responded by saying that it would be sad day if the board were fired.

Adding to the company’s woes it was also reported in the press that an inexplicable decision by executives at the embattled oil company to feed oil into the state-of-the-art gas-to-liquid facility at Mossel Bay has led to a break down of the refinery, resulting in a two week shutdown and a R500 million loss in revenue.

Transnet has made headlines this week with parliament calling for a forensic investigation into Transnet and the Passenger Rail Agency’s multi-billion rand locomotive contracts.

A display commemorating the black South African troops who lost their lives aboard the SS Mendi in 1917 is currently open at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town.

According to the press the centre will also be hosting a multi-discipline conference focusing on the role that the soldiers aboard the SS Mendi played in the greater struggle for human rights and human dignity.

The SA Navy will just have to do more with less. That was the message delivered by Vice Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwana, Head of the SA Navy, in Simon’s Town this week.

According to the press the navy is experiencing more challenges, but with far less funding. Vice Admiral Hlongwana also stated that it is important to remember that the navy has 3,000km of coastline to patrol and traditional concepts would have to be challenged in driving the navy into the future.

The annual SA Navy Festival, in conjunction with Armscor, took place at East Dockyard in Simon’s Town last weekend. According to the press the event afforded the public the opportunity to tour naval ships and submarines, as well as view multi-capacity anti-piracy demonstrations.

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 – 27 May 2016

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has made headlines this week with the announcement that Commander Tsietsi Mokhele has resigned as CEO with immediate effect.

The press have reported that no further information has been provided by SAMSA regarding the resignation of Mokhele or his future plans.  Operational head, Sobantu Tilayi will be stepping in as acting CEO.

Also making headlines this week is the news that three more Chinese vessels illegally navigating South African fishing waters have been arrested. The vessels were arrested after a combined operation between SANDF, Department of Fisheries and SAMSA.

The three captured vessels were escorted to the East London harbour by the the navy supply vessel, the SAS Drakensberg and fisheries inspection vessel Sarah Baartman.

The captains of  the three vessels appeared in the East London Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday and the case was postponed for further investigation until 16 June.  The crew have to remain in port aboard their vessel until the matter is settled.

The Oceana Group has also made headlines this week with the sale of their Lamberts Bay Foods to JSE-listed Famous Brands. Lamberts Bay Foods was established in 1995 by Oceana as a social responsibility project and has subsequently matured into a viable commercial operation.

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 – 11 September 2015

The SA Navy’s SAS Umhloti has a new commander.  The press has reported that Lieutenant-Commander Zimasa Mabela took command of the mine counter measures vessel in Simon’s Town this week and is the first black African woman to command a navy vessel.

Commander Brian Short, former commander of the vessel handed over command to Mabela in a ceremony also held in Simon’s Town this week.

Mabela was born in the Eastern Cape and joined the navy in 1999.  In 2004 she completed the Military Training for Officers, followed by the Combat Officer qualifying course and she joined the SAS Isandwana in 2005.

“I remember how excited I was when I first got accepted to be part of the navy.  I am proud to be the first black African woman to command a naval vessel.  But more than the title, I want to be an example to my crew. I want to be judged on my ability to command, and not my gender,” said Mabela.

The press has reported on another whale rescue mission which took place off Cape Point this week.

The SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) was called to the scene and found that the whale has become entangled in four ropes apparently anchored to traps on the seabed.

After a long struggle the team, along with the assistance of the fishing vessel Puffin which came to assist, the whale was freed.

Mike Meyer, of the Department of Environmental Affairs said, “The whale appeared healthy and swam away strongly and we are confident that this operation has been a huge success.”

This is the third whale to be caught in octopus traps in False Bay.

Nan Rice, head of the Dolphin Action and Protection Group and a founder member of the SAWDN said, “We will have to sit down and talk about this. There are going to be more entanglements because there are more whales around, especially humpbacks, which breed every second year.”

It is estimated that an average of 308,000 whales and dolphins are killed each year when they become entangled in fishing gear or marine waste.

Weekly Press Review – 31 July 2015

Rescuers have freed another trapped whale according to the press this week.  The incident occurred about 100 metres offshore of Sunny Cove in Fish Hoek.  The 8 metre long humpback whale was freed after it became anchored to the sea bed by Whelk trap lines.

The whale was spotted by a local resident whilst he was out jogging.  The South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) was called to the scene and the rescue operation carried on late into the night.  Due to the severity and desperation of the operation, the SA Navy were also on standby to assist.

Due to the way the whale was trapped only its’ head was able to reach the surface for air.  Network spokesman Craig Lambinon said, “The line was anchored to the sea bed between the Whelk traps and had snarled around the tail, effectively meaning that the whale’s tail was trapped underwater.”

With the whale rapidly tiring it was a race against time, but the whale was eventually freed.

A thirteen year old girl has made the headlines this week by running her own aquaculture and aquaponics business in Johannesburg.  Rikalize Reinecke says it all started when she watched the movie “Dolphin Tale”.  She says it inspired her to want to be a marine biologist.

“I started doing research and this one page just popped up of an aquaculture farm in America,” she says.

After nagging her father for weeks and weeks he eventually agreed to assist her, but only if she managed to get a qualification.  He believed this would be enough of a deterrent.

His determined young daughter did not give up and completed a week long course at Aquaculture Innovations in Grahamstown and the rest, as they say, is history.

Reinecke’s aquaculture farm is expanding.  She want s to invest in steam boilers and solar power to allow her project to go completely off the grid.  Demand for her products is so great that she will soon be erecting 10 new dams that have already been donated to her project, and she has not given up on her dream of becoming a marine biologist one day…