‘About time South Africa woke up from its slumber,’ maritime sector key role players urge!

Pretoria: 11 February 2022

“South Africa can no longer afford own goals – our neighbouring countries are outmanoeuvring us and positioning themselves to be competitive and attract investment to grow their jobs, capabilities and supply chain,” says Ms Nthato Minyuku, chairperson of the Board of Directors of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

Ms Nthato Minyuku. SAMSA Board Chairperson

Ms Minyuku’s statement – partly in summation of input drawn from a group of maritime sector key role players, but also an own institution’s viewpoint – came during this year’s SAMSA stakeholders event held on Wednesday.

The gathering is the first scheduled calendar year event by SAMSA drawing together, under one roof, a large number of the country’s maritime economic sector representatives, to both share their own experiences and broad plans while at the same time getting briefed about SAMSA performance, its short term strategic as well as business plans.

Now on its 10th year, the SAMSA stakeholders event held in February each year is scheduled to coincide with the country’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) presented by the President of the Republic.

Held virtually online for the second year running due to Covid-19 pandemic related conditions, the event on Wednesday afternoon, over two hours, drew close on 100 representatives from across the country’s maritime economic sector, with at least eight of those (excluding SAMSA representatives) forming a guests speakers panel sharing its views and perspectives about conditions being experienced in respective sub-sectors – some new and some old.

The panel included familiar and relatively new faces, among them Mr Andrew Millard, director of Vuka Marine – owners of the country’s only fleet of commercial cargo vessels registered under the South African flag; Capt. Rufus Lekala, Chief Harbour Master at Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA); Mr Peter Besnard, Chief Executive Officer of SAASOA; Mr Unathi Sonti, Chairperson of the Maritime Business Chamber; Mr Cleeve Robertson, Chief Executive Officer of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI); Mr Mthozami Xiphu, Board Chairman of the SA Oil & Gas Alliance (SAOGA); Mr Innocent Dwayi, Vice Chairperson of FishSA as well as Ms Kaashifah Beukes, Chief Executive Officer of the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone.

Among issues touched upon by the group were the following, in no particular order:

  • SA losing its seat in the IMO Council in the last elections in December 2021 and thereby potentially losing its voice and influence in the global arena.
  • Continued uncertainties and lack of urgency in resolving long standing “shipping taxation” matters, which render the SA Ship registry uncompetitive.
  • Lack of predictability of the SAMSA tariff increase process, which impacts negatively on the affected firm’s budgeting progress. 
  • Need to strengthen management of the new risk (prevention and combating of marine pollution) introduced through Ship-To-Ship (or bunkering) operations in Algoa Bay. This they said remined a great concern for environmental activists and required a collaborative effort between the public and private sector.
  • Limited support given the fishing community, following the issuing of fishing rights, with regards especially the capacitation of small scale fishers and cooperatives, including fishing safety awareness initiatives and training and development.
  • South Africa’s ports efficiencies.
  • Negative impacts of Covid-19 on shipping in general, resulting in reduced revenues
  • Lack of certainty on SAMSA’s stand on strategic Objective 3 of its legislated mandate: “Promoting the country’s maritime interests”, including unpacking what this means.
  • Slow transformation of the industry, more so limited support given to new entrants and small businesses (whilst noting some progress through SAMSA initiatives.
  • More support for non-profit organisation such as the NSRI to fulfil and expand its work e.g. water safety awareness and training, as well as strengthen capacity to fulfil its search and rescue efforts.
  • Collaborative effort in advocating and lobbying for a just transition to clean energies and decarbonisation regimes, covering not just SA, but also the African continent.
  • Defining Sout Africa’s role within the African Continental Free Trade Area arrangement, and how to capitalise on the opportunities presented by same.
  • Lack of a collaborated effort in attracting and promoting investment into the SA maritime industry, inclusive of the maritime related infrastructure.

For each of the participants’ remarks, the speakers’ notes in video format clips are presented below

Summing up their inputs, Ms Minyuku, who also gave highlights of the SAMSA’s performance over the last year, said: “What resonates across all inputs from our various speakers today is that there have been some gains in the maritime industry, yet constraints remain – especially within the context of ongoing COVID19 restrictions.

“Through concerted intergovernmental and industry partnership – we can bank and scale up innovative solutions, especially in times of stress. Yet we must also progress on delays in policy, legislative, regulatory and institutional reforms required to unlock the industry.

“South Africa can no longer afford own goals – our neighboring countries are outmaneuvering us and positioning themselves to be competitive and attract investment to grow their jobs, capabilities and supply chain.

“The WF 2022 Global Risk Report is telling – South Africa is identified as one of 31 countries with a high risk around erosion of social cohesion. It also finds that prolonged economic stagnation, employment and livelihoods crisis and state collapse are some of the biggest risks facing us over the next two years. There is clearly no time to waste, and we all need to redouble our efforts.

“While we all eagerly await the 28th SONA tomorrow – closer to home for our maritime sector, today is the 10th SAMSA engagement with stakeholders to reflect with us on the gains and misses of the previous year. In the process, we also hope to share various direction on priorities and plans for the year ahead.

“Last year I sat here on the same platform, five (5) months after taking the helm of the SAMSA Board – I assured you that when we meet again in 2022, we would be talking about a stabilizing SAMSA poised to prepare South Africa to become an International Maritime Centre while contributing to economic recovery and the building of a developmental state.”

Turning onto SAMSA’s performance and progress, she highlighted a number of issues among which were: general financial instability of the entity; late or no approval of tariffs threatening the entity’s ability to fulfil its legislated mandate; challenges with attracting and retaining critical and scarce skills, executive suspensions and the impact on senior management capacity and the SAMSA brand, possible restructuring and a model to be employed to create a lean and requisite organisation, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the entity’s ability to rollout its outward looking programmes and initiatives as well lack of adequate investment in critical SAMSA tools of trade.

These notwithdstanding, Ms Minyuku said there were also areas of significant positive achievements.

About these, she said: “I am pleased to report on behalf of the SAMSA Board that despite the challenges presented by the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, a legacy of controversy as well as poor audit outcomes – we stayed true to this commitment. We are turning the corner in stabilizing SAMSA and good governance in five (5) key areas. We have

  • delivered our first unqualified audit in four (4) years for the financial year ending 30 March 2021. We stayed honest to the Audit Recovery Plan which we tabled to the Minister by diligently closing out the internal weaknesses underlying previous audit findings.
  • taken a non-negotiable line on addressing whistleblower and stakeholder allegations of malfeasance. You are aware that we have course corrected by suspending implicated executives and running an independent forensic investigation to get to the bottom of longstanding issues which have gone unaddressed for too long.
  • run a successful CEO recruitment process and made recommendations of a suitable candidate to the Minister for appointment – these details will be shared with industry once the process is completed
  • held the SAMSA Executive accountable to maintaining our going concern status by tightening our belt and achieving savings targets introduced through austerity measures.
  • reviewed and approved enhancements to over 20 ICT, HR, Finance and Legal policies to bring SAMSA up to speed with current practice in this regard.

“I wish to commend the SAMSA Executive Team for buying into our vision to play their part – not only to ensure that the dreaded “cash flow day zero” never saw the light of day, but that we turnaround our audit record around,” she said.

For Ms Minyuku’s full remarks, click on the video below.

Earlier in the day, SAMSA’s acting CEO, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane also outlined various activities being undertaken by the agency, inclusive of efforts to entrench and promote boating safety across the length and breadth of the country, consistent with the recently launched Inland Water Strategy Plan. The SAMSA initiative launched last year according to Ms Taoana-Mashiloane, involves the development of a cadre of Marine Officers, three of which are currently in the programme, with more to be enrolled depending on affordabilty. (A comprehensive detail of the MO programme here).

For more on Ms Taoana-Mashilone’s remarks click on the video below.

Video clips of eight (8) maritime sector representives speaking briefly during SAMSA’s preSONA event on Wednesday. The event had been livestreamed on the day.


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