Weekly Press Review – 26 September 2017

Making headlines this week is the news that prominent local business woman, Chichi Maponya, has been accused of hijacking a ship-refuelling deal that was meant to benefit students and poor fishing communities.

It has been confirmed that Maponya, along with her co-directors at Plan BEE Fuel Distributors, are the South African partners in a joint venture with bunkering company, Aegean, to refuel ships off Port Elizabeth.

The deal replaces the Coega Development Corporation as the planned South African partner, who had planned to include several community beneficiaries in the deal – a deal that was authorised by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA). Concerns have now been raised that former SAMSA CEO, Tsietsi Mokhele helped pave the way for Maponya and her Plan BEE partners to clinch the deal.

Mokhele, who resigned from SAMSA, is currently a director of Plan BEE.

Coega communications chief, Ayanda Vilakazi said, “We are advised that it was a classic case of opportunistic hijacking of a much-fought-for business opportunity for the Eastern Cape by Gauteng-based black business.

“They were favoured with inside information to usurp the transaction ….having successfully hollowed out the developmental and social impact intent.

“The partnership would have been ground-breaking in its own right and a paradigm shift in terms of the involvement of the South African government and the people of the Eastern Cape in the maritime industry.”

Maponya has denied any wrongdoing and has described the deal as a massive opportunity for the economy.

Also making headlines this week is the announcement that Moller-Maersk has agreed to sell its tanker unit. Maersk tankers will be sold for $1.17 billion (R15.57 billion) to APMH Invest, a holding company of AP Moller Holdings, a controlling shareholder of Maersk.

Following a group of ten fishing organisations marching to the offices of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) last week, a leading fisheries activist has said that DAFF deputy director-general, Siphkazi Ndudane, wasted an opportunity to provide relief to small scale and near shore fishers.

According to the press the group demanded the immediate suspension of the West Coast Rock lobster fishing rights allocation process. According to SA United Fishing Front chairperson, Pedro Garcia, “We felt that the deputy director had ducked and dived on some issues, but more importantly had an opportunity to make a decision on the West Coast rock lobster.

“If there are to be cuts in the allocations of rights, those should come form the larger commercial fishing companies.”

In response Ndudane said that the department is aware that many fishing communities struggle with policies that have been set in place, but the department is committed to serving the 300 fishing communities on the country’s coastline.

The share price of petrochemicals company, Sasol, tanked 7.32 percent this week. According to the press this is due to the announcement by the company that it will be replacing the debt-ridden black empowerment scheme Inzalo with its empowerment structure Khanyisa in a deal valued at R21 billion.

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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.

State of the Maritime Industry Address

I am not going to comment on the State of the Nation Address (SONA) made last week by President Jacob Zuma except to say I did hear him mention the maritime industry as he acknowledged the importance of the fishing industry; the need to develop our ports and the focus on oil and gas for the development of Cape Town and Saldanha Bay. I am, however, going to comment on a speech made the night before SONA by Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, CEO of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

Anyone who has ever listened to the CEO speak will know that he is constantly pushing the South African maritime agenda – and it seems that, while there is still much to be done, a lot of groundwork has been covered.

State of Maritime Industry

Here are a few highlights of his speech:

TREASURY TICKS OFF TAXATION: Mokhele highlighted the decision by South African Treasury last year to remove all forms of taxation on shipping. “I never thought in my living days that I would see South Africa Treasury moving on shipping tax when we have waited and worked so hard on the tonnage tax,” he said adding that although the industry was willing to accept a nominal tax, this gesture to help develop the industry was welcomed. Treasury has shaved tax contributions of seafarers; removed taxation on the sale of assets; and paved the way for shipping companies to trade in any international currency.

“I never thought in my living days that I would see South Africa Treasury moving on shipping tax when we have waited and worked so hard on the tonnage tax.”

THE BLUE ECONOMIC STRATEGY: In a similarly positive light, Mokhele reported that Cabinet had approved The Blue Economic Strategy for the country. “It talks to helping improve the lives of our people by taking and leveraging the assets of the industry; the expertise that is there. It is a strategy about development; it is a strategy about progress – and about giving the economy an upliftment,” he said. 

THE AFRICAN MARITIME DECADE: Coupled to the approval of the African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) 2050 made by the African Union Commission at the end of January was the announcement that 2015 to 2025 would be dedicated to the maritime industry.

“It means that the maritime sector has arrived where it needed to be. It has become an asset of of our people, politically endorsed, industry recognised opportunities and communities are involved,” said Mokhele.

NATIONAL MARITIME INSTITUTE: Having completed a feasibility study to assess the impact of establishing a National Maritime Institute, SAMSA has successfully concluded a deal with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. On November 12 last year, the University passed a resolution to accept the custodianship of the National Maritime Institute. According to Mokhele, the Institute will be operational from April 1 this year and will coordinate efforts in maritime education. “We are not displacing the existing infrastructure, but providing cohesion in the development of programmes that are geared to the development of technology and innovation,” he said. 

MARINE TOURISM STRATEGY: Understanding that 80 percent of the United States of America’s tourism revenue originates from marine tourism, Mokhele’s announcement that SAMSA would unveil a Maritime Tourism Strategy during the course of the year, makes sense as a strategy to open the maritime sector to new entrants.

“Water programmes sell. They sell real estate, they sell activities, they sell everything – and therefore our marine strategy is going to be inclusive of the tourism strategy that we are going to unveil before the end of this year.”

MARINE MANUFACTURING STRATEGY: Another strategy scheduled to be unveiled during the course of the year is one that speaks to the marine manufacturing sector. Mokhele spoke about the need to develop the capabilities of the ship repair and ultimately the shipbuilding sectors.  Alluding to the potential of gearing up for the offshore oil and gas industry, Mokhele said “South Africa has to gear themselves up to become the hub service centre for the gas industry that is emerging on the east, but also to play a part on the existing oil and gas industry that is already established on the west of the continent.”

CELEBRATING SOUTH AFRICA’S 20 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY: Perhaps the most ambitious plans that Mokhele revealed were those relating to a planned cruise around the African continent. He aims to see an all-female crew navigate the SA Agulhas to visit nations in Africa that supported the liberation of South Africa. The cruise aims to also set up a fund for the development of women in Africa’s maritime sectors. SAMSA will approach industry to help sponsor this initiative.

SAMIC IS BACK ON THE CALENDAR: If you remember the landmark conference initiated by SAMSA in 2012, you may be pleased to hear that it is scheduled to return to the calendar in October this year. It will be a good opportunity to report back on resolutions taken at the last edition and decide whether the industry, government and other stakeholders have stepped up to the plate to see real development of the industry.

While these topics remain the highlights of Tsietsi Mokhele’s speech, he also spoke of the success of the cadetship programme; the ambitions to see ships return to the ships registry as well as the interest from various shipping companies to source South African seafarers to crew their fleets.

Yes, he told a good story, but we still all need to roll up our sleeves and get back to work. It makes no sense to endlessly debate the merits of a report back if we are not prepared to go back to our desks – irrespective of our views – and make things happen.