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…

Weekly Press Review – 2 April 2015

This week the press is covering the investigation by the SA Navy into why a warship fired a heavy-calibre weapon at a fishing vessel during a naval exercise.

The exercise took place offshore Agulhas in the early hours of Wednesday morning last week during a joint naval exercise between the South African and German navies.

Anthony Day and nine other fishermen were involved in the incident and are so badly shaken that they have spoken to a trauma counsellor.

SA spokesman for the SA Navy has confirmed that the incident did in fact take place, but that navigation warnings about naval exercises are sent out via radio to all fishing clubs and harbours before these types of exercises take place.  Day says that he received no such warning.

“My radio was on from 2am and there was no warning,” said Day.

The German Navy has not responded to the incident, other than to say that they will be making a joint statement with the SA Navy.  At this point no such statement has been released.

Also mentioned in the press this week is the art exhibition entitled:  Gateway to Antarctic, currently taking place at the Iziko Maritime Centre at the Union Castle building in the V&A Waterfront.  Art works of Antarctic vessels by Elf van Bilas are being displayed by the South African Shipping Society in collaboration with the University of Stellenbosch’s Antarctic Heritage Project and the Iziko museum. The idea behind the exhibition is to generate awareness around South Africa’s involvement with Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

Weekly Press Review – 27 March 2015

A group of local fishermen were lucky to escape with their lives this week after being accidentally fired upon by a warship involved in military exercises offshore of Cape Agulhas.  According to the press, the incident took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning during a joint naval exercise between the SA Navy and the German Navy.  It is believed that the fishing vessel was mistaken for one of the small radio-controlled vessels being used as a targets during the exercise.

Luckily no one was injured and both the SA and the German Navy have stated that they are aware of the incident and will be releasing a joint statement once the incident had been thoroughly investigated.

Also covered in the press this week was the visit by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies to to the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone.  The minister was informed that workers would require a dramatic skills upgrade if they hoped to benefit from employment opportunities on the oil rigs at Saldanha Bay.

Peter Jordaan, Saldanha Bay councillor said, “There is a misalignment of the skills required and supply of skills.  Besides the normal qualification for welding, people working on oil rigs also need the American Bureau of Standards qualification and, because of this, many local guys would not qualify to work on an oil rig.”

The department is in the process of establishing a plan to assist with the required skills training.

 

July/August Editorial Comment

MY EDITOR’S COMMENT FROM THE LATEST ISSUE OF MARITIME REVIEW:

Servest cover designThe recent grounding of the Kiani Satu grabbed media headlines towards the beginning of August. Many of the news reports were to be expected: highlighting details of leaking oil; initial unsuccessful refloating attempts; lack of availability of the patrol vessels as well as comments from concerned environmentalists and citizens. There were those, however, who seemed to use the floundering vessel as a platform to try refloat issues that have long been scuppered by factual evidence. 

Take the media report that focused on comments made by the Chairperson of the Fisheries Portfolio Committee, Lulu Johnson for example.  Mr Johnson chose to lay blame for the lack of readiness of the DAFF patrol vessels at the door of Smit Amandla Marine.

I’ve heard him say it before and he was quoted again saying; “They (Smit Amandla Marine) have got away with murder”.  It is rather a simplistic summation that makes little sense against the almost two-year drama that now surrounds the  cancellation of the vessel management tender; the transfer of the vessels into and then out of the SA Navy – and the current contract which aims to get the vessels operational again.

Documents and reports exist in the public domain clearly disputing this “fact” that Johnson is so determined to  try to qualify. His argument that Smit Amandla Marine handed over a fleet of unseaworthy vessels has even been disputed by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) themselves.

So, Mr Johnson, here are some facts for you to consider. At the time of the vessel handover from Smit, independent third party marine surveyors were contracted to verify the condition and inventories of the vessels. In addition, DAFF was provided with a full risk assessment, which raised a number of concerns the company had.

They specifically emphasised the risks associated with the Africana and DAFF was warned about the consequences of laying the vessels up “inappropriately”. At the time of the handover, the vessels were seaworthy and all statutory certificates were valid.

It would, however, be accurate to note that the vessel is old and that, as admitted by Smit Amandla Marine at the time, she did require some key maintenance work including a main engine overhaul, pipe work, hydraulic and steel work as well as an overhaul of the onboard electronic systems.

That these projects were not carried out is not due to mismanagement by the previous vessel management service provider, but rather due to budgetary constraints of the Department.

Ironically while Mr Johnson was pontificating and accusing the company of murderous actions; the self same company was out at sea in their well-maintained workhorse – the Smit Amandla (previously the John Ross) which is, incidentally, even older than the Africana and still going strong. Called out to the scene of the stricken Kiani Satu under the DOT casualty response contract; the Smit Amandla entered into a Lloyd’s Open Forum (LOF) and shortly thereafter invoked the SCOPIC clause.

What followed was a tremendous effort by authorities, salvors and volunteers to minimise the damage to the coast and to wildlife.

Just over a week later, the vessel was refloated and towed away from the coast.

What Mr Johsnon’s portfolio committee did successfully do was re-awaken media attention to the fact that the DAFF vessels are still not operational. At a joint press conference with Damen in May to announce the contract to affect emergency measures to get the vessels back at sea, Greta Apelgren-Narkedien noted that a period of six months was needed.

Since then the vessel management tender has been announced and the Department has yet to reveal the successful bidder. Factoring in the six months from May – perhaps we can anticipate that this announcement will come sooner rather than later to ensure that the vessels have a new home to go to when eventually certified seaworthy.

Given the controversy that dogged the previous announcement, however, there must certainly be a great deal of pressure for DAFF to get it right with no room for litigation.

The media, the current bidders and the Fisheries Portfolio Committee will be waiting to scrutinise the results.

For Shaheen Moolla, however, the portfolio committee does not have the teeth of a true watchdog – and he seems to describe them as a tame puppy when it comes to their oversight duties. You can read his concerns in this regard on page 8 of this issue.

Perhaps that’s why he has taken it upon himself to act in the capacity of the barking dog next door as he aims to make his neighbours  aware that DAFF’s house is not in order.

We said it last issue, and I’ll say it again: the last few months of this year will vindicate either DAFF or their detractors as deadlines and timelines begin to catch up with them.

Let us know what you think!

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