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 – 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 – 6 November 2015

This week a small slice of maritime history was celebrated as the South Africa Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) hosted a commemoration entitled:  Remembering the Icons of the Sea.

Members of the media were included in the event which took place aboard the SA Agulhas in the Cape Town docks.  The commemoration was in honour of the approximately 40 brave men exiled from South Africa who attempted to enter the country aboard the Soviet vessel, The Aventura.

The vessel was bound for KwaZulu-Natal, but Operation Aventura was abandoned just outside Somalia and the men then found their way into South Africa via Swaziland and Botswana.

Former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) commander Fanele Mbali and fellow comrades Tlom Cholo and Zola Nqose, who were all part of the Luthuli attachment, attended the event.

“We desperately wanted to get back home to fight the boer, and die in that engagement if we had to,” said Mbali.

SAMSA chief executive Tsietsi Mokhele said, “Our stalwarts played a significant role in maritime heritage.  What the stalwarts made us realise was that the sea offers more than just fish and a good view.  Maritime explorations were critical.”

The Oceana Fishmeal Factory in Hout Bay is back in the headlines this week.

The jobs of 98 of the factory’s employees have been saved thanks to a successful bid by the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU).

In August Oceana made the announcement that they would not be able to keep the factory working due to continual complaints from some residents in the area about the smell emitted from the factory.

The jobs of the workers have been saved after the signing of an agreement between Fawu and Oceana, extending the operating lease of the factory from one to five years.

Oceana also announced this week that the company would be spending an estimated R11 million to update their chemical scrubbing technology to deal with the odour problem.

Chief executive Francois Kuttel was, however, quick to point out that the this was not going to solve the problem to the satisfaction of all residents of Hout Bay.

“Let me be categorical here, unfortunately, nothing we are going to do will stop the smell.  The technology simply does not exist,” he said.

The name Bengis is also back in the headlines this week with the announcement that David Bengis, son of former Cape Town fishing magnate Arnold Bengis, has agreed to pay $1.5 million to the South African government as restitution for the illegal harvesting of rock lobster in South African waters.

This is part of the $22.5 million that a US court ordered Arnold and David Bengis, along worth their partner Jeffrey Noll, to pay the South African government as restitution for the illegal importation of poached lobster to the US.

The lobster were poached in South Africa between 1987 and 2001.

Weekly Press Review – 2 October 2015

The tragedy aboard the MFV Lincoln which ran into trouble near False Bay resulting in the deaths of 11 fishermen received a lot of coverage in the press this week.  The search for the remaining missing crew member continues.

According to survivor Peter Julies, the weather was extremely turbulent and the boat started taking water on the port side.  Soon the boat was leaning completely to the one side.

“I jumped from the starboard side into the freezing water.  Soon I could not feel my legs.  The rain was pelting and the gale-force wind had no mercy.  Fortunately help did not take too long.  But it was too late for some of my friends.”

The Financial Director of Viking Fishing, who own the vessel, said that their first priority was to support the families of those who lost loved ones.

The vessel has been towed to Cape Town harbour and SAMSA is investigating the incident.

History was made this week with the vessel, the Cape Orchid, being the first merchant vessel to register in South Africa since 1985.

Tsietsi Mokhele, SAMSA chief executive said, “About 98 percent of the country’s internationally bound trade is carried by ships and at least R160bn a year is paid for shipping services to foreign owners and operators.”

The Department of Transport said that the Cape Orchid “would be a boost to our maritime economy.”

According to the press many residents from Walker Bay are expressing their concern about mother and baby whales being harassed by over eager onlookers entering the bay during the whale breeding season and disturbing the mammals.

The question has been raised as to why the Department of Environmental Affairs is not monitoring whale-watching tourism boats and other vessels in the bay.  Residents are saying that complaints to government, the local authority and the tourism body are simply receiving no response.

Environmental Affairs Oceans and Coasts spokesperson Zolile Nqayi confirmed that Walker Bay was in fact a sanctuary and that no unauthorised boats were allowed in the bay during whale season.

He appealed to the public to report any incidents of boats getting to close to the whales to the department.

Access denied: flirting with the maritime economy?

There’s a general movement that is gaining traction in the maritime sectors that aims to boost the industry’s contribution to job creation and the GDP. The Blue Economy is on everyone’s lips and national, regional, continental and even international strategies are being developed to see our oceans contribute meaningfully to our human desire to produce and prosper.

With so much attention it should, therefore, not be surprising to see a whole new set of eyes flirting with the possibility of developing a long term relationship with the ocean sector. It’s time to give them a dance ticket and allow them onto the dance floor.

At the South African Maritime Industry Conference (SAMIC) organised some three years ago by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), there were people from every sector and plenty who saw themselves as merely standing on the side line hoping for an opportunity to show their moves.

Paul Maclons, Managing Director of Smit Amandla Marine, was unequivocal in his statement during one of the panel discussions at the conference: that the solution for a full and inclusive dance floor was not in promoting the practice of cutting in on existing dancers – but rather on extending the party and mixing it up from the DJ’s box. Well, okay Paul did not mention anything about dancing or DJ’s, but his message was clear – we need to expand the industry to accommodate newcomers.

The truth is though that the industry is expanding and there are more opportunities, but equally the economic reality of a capital-intensive international industry is seeing more consolidation and joint ventures as existing companies seek relationships with other established partners that can offer them the opportunity to extend their own dance cards.

Does that mean that there is no opportunity for newcomers? Are they destined always to be wallflowers?

The quick answer to that has to be NO! There are some newcomers to the industry aiming to show off their signature moves on the dance floor. Our job is not to stop mid beat and point or jeer. Our job is to make sure that there is space for them even if their rhythm is a little different to ours. Our job is to learn a little from the new beat.

This year’s SAMSA Maritime Industry Awards aims to recognise the new dancers on our floor. If you’ve recently launched or know of a company that has launched into our space – please take the time to nominate. It takes courage to start something in any industry and especially into one so entrusted to the “old guard”.

http://www.maritimeawards.co.za  

 

What is a Maritime Maestro?

Maritime Maestros have salt in their veins. They are committed to the industry in a way that goes beyond the scope of a 9 to 5 job description. They give passionately and devote their energies to develop the future of the industry as a whole. They lead the industry and often pioneer new paths – they are Maritime Maestros.

Two years ago we recognised Okke Grapow as a Maritime Maestro at the 2012/13 SAMSA Maritime Industry Awards. He was living out his maritime family heritage that had been passed down to him from his father and subsequently onto his own children. His dedication to offer himself beyond the confines of a 9 to 5 servant to the industry certainly benefitted the development of the South African maritime industry – and today he continues to inspire others.

This year we are once again appealing to the industry to get out of their comfort zones and to start to recognise the impact that their peers, colleagues and even competitors are making in the industry. Nominations are open for the 2014/15 SAMSA Maritime Industry Awards. Read more about the various categories and start nominating today!

http://www.maritimeawards.co.za

 

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