Press review – December 2015

With 2016 now officially upon us I spent the morning wading through some of the news headlines of the closing weeks of 2015.  To be honest there was very little good news.

Droughts continue to wreak havoc on our agricultural sector with little relief in sight as soaring temperatures prevail and the chances of rain are minimal.

The NSRI had their hands full over the festive season trying to keep members of the public safe on the beaches and in the water. Yet again too many holiday makers lost their lives in our oceans during the holiday season.

More arrests were made in connection with perlemoen poaching along the Western Cape coastline with an estimated R3 million worth of perlemoen being confiscated and the story of the Seli 1 which ran aground in Table Bay in September 2009 has still not come to an end with the vessel now discharging lumps of coal along the beach at Blouberg.

With all this negativity constantly surrounding us it is hard to start the year with a positive spirit.  One can only hope that as an industry members of the maritime sector can work together to focus on areas where changes can be made and move towards a prosperous and positive 2016.

Weekly Press Review – 31 May 2013

The Seli 1 is back in the news this week. The SA Navy resumed the blasting of the vessel earlier in the week and a fuel tank was damaged resulting in a spill of light bunker fuel. As a result, the city restricted public access to the sea in the Blouberg area and the press started to nose around.

City disaster risk management spokesman, Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said that a helicopter crew had been dispatched to monitor the spill but, at present, there was no danger to the coastline or marine wildlife.

One must ask why there were no protective measures in place during the blasting? This is, after all, a public beach with a large marine wildlife presence. One also has to presume that, had a commercial entity been contracted to undertake the wreck removal, very stringent measures would have had to have been in place before any form of blasting was permitted.

West coast rock lobster is also back in the news this week, but this time not linked to the rights allocation process. Sadly, our very South African kreef has been downgraded from “green” status to “orange” status on the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi) list. This means that when you now order rock lobster in a restaurant, from an environmental perspective it has gone from “best choice” to “think twice”.

The Spanish Navy vessel Rago is visiting our shores this week. The combat frigate is part of the EU naval force’s anti-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa and earlier this month was involved in the capture of several suspected pirates. The 10-day visit is designed to provide the crew with a short rest period and also to strengthen ties with the SA Navy.

Weekly Press Review – 15 March 2013

Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is back in the news this week. This time the minister is being sued by Sue Middleton, chief director of fisheries operations, for defamation of character after she allegedly made statements to the press saying that Middleton had been found guilty of financial mismanagement. Middleton is suing for R1 million.

The minister claims that the statements she made were ‘substantially true’ and were published in the public interest.

‘Substantially true’ sounds a little suspect already. It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds in the media.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has this week made large inroads to slow the illegal trade in shark fins. The illegal trade of sharks is driven primarily by the huge demand for fin soup in Asia. Passing with a two thirds majority CITES has ensured that fins may be bought and sold only if the trade is certified sustainable.

At last, some action to protect our sea life. Perhaps South Africa’s abalone will make the cut next time.

A simulated maritime disaster also made the papers as ‘Operation Beachy’, took place in Table Bay this week. Authorities simulated an emergency evacuation of a passenger liner which had run aground.

For the purposes of the exercise, 23 organisations were called to action as the SA Navy frigate, the SAS Spioenkop, played the role of the stricken vessel. And what a stricken vessel: the simulation involved the vessel floundering with no engine power due to an explosion in the engine room; the captain incapacitated due to a heart attack and several passengers burned and injured.

Let us hope that the appropriate people received the appropriate training and gained the required skills needed to handle this kind of emergency, otherwise the renaming of the SAS Spioenkop during exercise as the ‘Costa Lot’ would certainly best describe the exercise.

Hopefully making its last appearance in the press this week is the Seli 1. After four years, the SA Navy, financed by the Department of Transport to the tune of R20 million, will complete the last of the explosions this week designed to finally collapse the vessel, allowing what remains to sink to the seabed and be dispersed by the winter ocean currents.

Weekly Press Review – 8 March 2013

Journalists were alerted that there is a port in Cape Town last weekend when a South Korean long-liner, the Hwa-Tsan, blazed for over four hours in the Cape Town harbour. Sadly a loss of life was reported. One crew member died and another 25 had to be rescued from the burning vessel. The vessel was berthed at the Landing Wharf off Duncan Road.

Reports indicate that an investigation by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), and in terms of international maritime conventions, is underway and a case of arson has been opened by the police.

Wilfred Solomons-Johannes of the Disaster Risk Management Centre was quoted saying that emergency personnel had managed to avert any significant pollution.

An article published in the Cape Times this week presented the results of both an alarming and an interesting new study. The study, conducted by Laurence Smith, a professor of geography at the University of California, suggested that the melting ice of the Arctic, due to a continually warming climate, could result in new sea routes, through what is now solid ice, straight across the Arctic.

Although winter ice would not make this an all-year round proposition, the study indicates that by the year 2050 this could actually be a viable option.

There was some good news for residents of Blouberg. Some action is finally being taken to remove the remaining wreck of the Seli 1. The Department of Transport (DoT) and the SA Navy are working together to cut up the already weakened wreck and then hope to leave the winter storms to do the rest.

Debbie James of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) said that the project would be used as a training exercise, saying: ‘They are going to cut it down as far as they can and let the winter storms break it up. They’re going to get it to a minimum of three metres below sea level so that it is not a hazard.”

We’ll wait on the maritime industry’s opinion about that however; and certainly hope that the DoT’s contract with the navy will run more smoothly than the one that the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries embarked on.