In celebrating World Maritime Day 2016, South Africa reflects on its maritime heritage

A commercial cargo vessel entering the port of Port Elizabeth in May 2016.
A commercial cargo vessel entering the port of Port Elizabeth. (May 2016: Photo by SAMSA)

Gariep Dam (Free State): 28 September, 2016

The global celebration of shipping as this year’s theme of the World Maritime Day on Thursday,  29 September 2016; will see South Africa broadening focus to include its own maritime heritage specific to shipping as part of the country’s oceans economy development discourse  aimed at enhancing public awareness, drawing investment and creating employment opportunities.

South Africa’s celebration of World Maritime Day this year takes place at the site of the country’s biggest dam, the Gariep; situated some 200km south of Bloemfontein, on the Orange River in the Free State.

Led by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the global celebration’s theme is: “Shipping: Indispensable to the world” – this in recognition of trade statistics indicating that as much as 80% of world’s goods trade in volume, and 70% in value; is handled between countries and continents via oceans bearing vessels.

Docked at the port of Cape Town, the SA Agulhas II, South Africa's dedicated research vessel owned and operated by the Department of Environment Affairs (DEA). Photo: SAMSA
Docked at the port of Cape Town, the SA Agulhas II, South Africa’s dedicated research vessel owned and operated by the Department of Environment Affairs (DEA). Photo: SAMSA

According to the IMO, in early 2015, the world’s commercial fleet stood at about 90,000 vessels, with a total carrying capacity of some 1.75-billion dead weight tons, manned by more than a million seafarers.

“A single ship can carry enough grain to feed nearly four million people for a month; another, enough oil to heat an entire city for a year, and others can carry the same amount of finished goods as nearly 20,000 heavy trucks on the road. Modern ships are, truly, among the engineering wonders of the modern world.

“The truth is, shipping affects us all. No matter where you may be in the world, if you look around you, you are almost certain to see something that either has been or will be transported by sea, whether in the form of raw materials, components or the finished article. Yet few people have any idea just how much they rely on shipping.

“For the vast majority, shipping is out of sight and out of mind. But this does a huge disservice to the industry that, quietly and efficiently, day and night, never pausing and never stopping, keeps the world turning and keeps the people of the world fed, clothed, housed and entertained. This is a story that needs to be told,” says the IMO in statement prepared to mark this year’s celebration of World Maritime Day.

The Gariep Dam built from 1965 and opened in 1972 is South Africa's biggest, with a height of 88 meters, allowing it a holding capcity of 5,340 hm3 (megaliters)) on a surface area of more than 370 square kilometres (140 sq mi) when full. (Photo: SAMSA)
The Gariep Dam on the Orange River built from 1965 and opened in 1972 is South Africa’s biggest, with a height of 88 meters, allowing it a holding capacity of 5,340 hm3 (mega-liters)) on a surface area of more than 370 square kilometres (140 sq mi) when full. (Photo: SAMSA)

In South Africa, on the west bank of the Gariep Dam near to its majestic sluice gates pillars, where this year’s celebrations led by the Department of Transport (DoT), are hosted by the Free State Provincial Government; the country will look as much at the crucial role of shipping currently in global business trade as has been and continues to be in other spheres of life such as, in South Africa’s case – the use of ships as instruments of liberation during the country’s past few decades of political strife over apartheid.

This focus on ships as versatile transport ready for action even during periods of civil strife will take two forms: the launch Wednesday of a South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) driven and Department of Transport endorsed initiative to have maritime heritage incorporated into the country’s swathe of national heritage records.

The two hour function to be attended by among others, National Heritage Council chief executive officer Advocate Sonwabile Mangcotywa; is anchored on a significant yet little known event involving the African National Congress’ then armed wing Umkhonto weSizwe (a.k.a MK) whose USSR-trained naval wing in the 1970s once attempted to infiltrate then apartheid South Africa via the oceans.

The story goes that the unit of between 22 and 30 men, then based on the east European coastal city of Baku, a capital town of Azerbaijan; had through assistance by Moscow, acquired a mid-size leisure vessel known as the Aventura.

SHARING EXPERIENCE: The three veterans, part of a group of five still alive today in South Africa, also shared their story of the aborted occupation of the USSR vessel, Aventura, which they'd commandeered towards South Africa for attack against the then apartheid regime.
SHARING THEIR NAVAL EXPLOINTS: The three of only five surviving veterans of ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe naval wing sharing their story of the aborted occupation of the USSR vessel, Aventura, which they’d commandeered towards South Africa for attack against the then apartheid regime (Photo: SAMSA).

The MK naval unit’s Commander at the time, Mr Fanele Mbali and his second in command and commissar, Mr Tlou Rankabele Cholo – two of only five surviving members of the crew – will be at the function Wednesday and Thursday to share their memories of the ill-fated effort – the emphasis being on the historical role of ships in the shaping of South Africa’s history.

The event Wednesday will be followed by the main celebration on Thursday, punctuated by a formal launch of an inaugural Maritime Heritage Lecture and Dialogue series involving Mr Sobantu (SAMSA acting CEO), the Azerbaijan ambassador to South Africa, Mr Eikhan Polukhov and Mr Mbali.

Other participants in the main event on Thursday include Free State MECs, Messrs Bhutana Khompela and Weziwe Tikana, senior officials of the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), and local government officials.

The traditional rendition of the IMO statement will be done by Mr Khompela.


South Africa joins the international community in celebrating its growing cadre of sailors

With about 11000 seafarers now in its name, the country is steadily making progress towards maritime economic sector skills development and thereby creating opportunities  for all.

Pretoria: 29 June 2016


South Africa’s passionate yet purposeful campaign to enhance greater public awareness towards realization of the relevance and importance of the country’s status as fundamentally a maritime region, and whose global trade is almost completely dependent on the seas around it, continued in Durban at the weekend, with a national event to celebrate the International Day of the Seafarer.

DSC_0274Situated appropriately within the annual Durban International Boat Show and Exhibition held at the Royal Natal Yacht Club, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) driven annual event, hosted in South Africa by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA); drew attention to the country’s 11 000-strong cadre of seafarers and which is steadily growing to take advantage of the numerous opportunities presented by the country’s vast ocean economy.

Over the past decade, SAMSA working closely with a variety of partners both within the private and public sectors, has played an instrumental, if pivotal role as a State organ to drive hard, deliberately and purposefully, a human skills development campaign for the South African maritime economic with much emphasis initially on cadet training, leading to its acquisition and management of the country’s first dedicated cadet training vessel, the SA Agulhas, in 2011.

DSC_0296As of Saturday, 25 June 2016; there were on record about 11 000 seafarers in South Africa, plying their trade both locally and abroad and with their US dollar denominated income earnings making a contribution to the country’s gross domestic product.

The International Day of the Seafarer, is a global event which according to SAMSA’s Centre for Corporate Affairs was first celebrated in 2011, following its establishment by a resolution adopted by the Conference of Parties to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, held in Manila, Philippines, in June 2010, which adopted major revisions to the STCW Convention and Code.

The Day of the Seafarer had since been included in the annual list of United Nations Observances.

IMO related1This year’s theme for the Day of the Seafarer was #AtSeaForAll a notion, according to the centre, that  had a clear link with the 2016 World Maritime Day theme, “Shipping: indispensable to the world”, emphasizing that seafarers serve at sea not just for the shipping industry or for their own career purposes but for all of society, hence they are “indispensable to the world”.

Mr Kitack Lim, Secretary-General, International Maritime Organisation (IMO) (Photo: IMO)
Mr Kitack Lim, Secretary-General, International Maritime Organisation (IMO) (Photo: IMO)

In a statement in Sweden on Friday, IMO Secretary-General, Mr Kitack Lim described the global seafarer celebration on Saturday as an opportunity for communities across sectors to “reflect on how much we all rely on seafarers for most of the things we take for granted in our everyday lives.

He said: “Over one million seafarers operate the global fleet yet billions of people depend on them for the essentials and the luxuries of life. Shipping is essential to the world – and so are seafarers.

“So, this year, on 25 June, the Day of the Seafarer, we are once again asking people everywhere to show their appreciation for the seafarers that quietly, mostly unnoticed, keep the wheels of the world in motion.”

Mr Sobantu Tilayi, acting Chief Executive Officer, South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) during celebration of the International Day of Seafarers in Durban on Saturday, 25 June 2016.
Mr Sobantu Tilayi, acting Chief Executive Officer, South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) during celebration of the International Day of Seafarers in Durban on Saturday, 25 June 2016.

In Durban on Saturday, SAMSA Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the crucial role of South Africa within the world’s maritime economic sector, and the importance of skills development within it, but also the need for recognition and appreciation of contributors to the growth of the domestic maritime sector.

Of seafarers, Mr Tilayi – who had alongside him Captain Thembela Tobashe – one of the first of three black females ever to qualify as Master Mariners – echoed the IMO view, stating: “At the coal face of driving economies around the world and at the forefront supporting international trade the seafarers, whether deck hands, captains of ships, engineers and cadets, galley staff play a very significant role in ensuring the world’s economic growth and sustainability.

20151207_151556 (2) “Seafarers are those brave hearts who risk their lives, give up months of family time and being on land, to go out to sea, to not only support and protect our beloved country and their nations, but also to create an impact on each and every citizen by ensuring international trade, which affects us all. They make sure that the environment is protected, trade is flowing and our communities are able to thrive and develop themselves. It is therefore essential to raise our hands in salutation to these fearless men and women,” said Tilayi.

Mr Tilayi encouraged particularly youth to explore at depth the skills and economic benefits their involvement in the sector might provide them.

For Mr Tilayi’s video presentation in Durban, Click Here.

For Mr Lim’s message, presented at the Durban event by Captain Tobashe, please Click Here

For a select group of photos of the Durban International Boat Show and Exhibition, please Click Here




AAMA and WOMESA reach agreement on a Memorandum of Agreement setting a base for greater and closer cooperation

Pretoria: 01 June 2016

IMG_4696 (2)Efforts to bolster the role and impact of women in the development of Africa’s maritime sector are to receive a further boost following a preliminary agreement between Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) and the Association of Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern and Southern Africa (WOMESA) to formalize co-operation in pursuance of programmes to empower women.

AAMA is the coordinating body for the Maritime Administrations in Africa established in terms of the African Maritime Transport Charter (AMTC), while WOMESA is an association of women established under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) with the aim of enabling women to train in maritime and thereby acquire the high levels of competence that the maritime industry demands.

The two bodies reached an agreement during a meeting in Ethiopia in early 2016 to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will facilitate among other things; joint undertakings or close collaboration in a number of activities and initiatives aimed at strengthening the role and impact of women participation in the continent’s maritime economic sector development.

Mr Benard Bobison-Opoku, AAMA Secretariat and Legal Counsel at the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)
Mr Benard Bobison-Opoku, AAMA Secretariat and Legal Counsel at the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)
Mr Collins Makhado, Executive Head of Centre for Industry Development also at SAMSA
Mr Collins Makhado, Executive Head of Centre for Industry Development at SAMSA representing AAMA Chairman, Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, CEO of SAMSA

Representing AAMA on the agreement were Mr Benard Bobison-Opoku, AAMA Secretariat and Legal Counsel at the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and Mr Collins Makhado, Executive Head of Centre for Industry Development also at SAMSA, representing the Chairperson of AAMA, Commander Tsietsi Mokhele; while Mrs Veronica Maina, Head of WOMESA Secretariat represented the women’s association.

The MoU, soon to be formally ratified; will enjoin the parties to among other things;

  • Promote general cooperation in the implementation of the broader African maritime development agenda as envisaged in the AMTC, 2050 AIM Strategy (AIM Strategy) and SADC Protocol on Transport, Communication and Meteorology;
  • Promote the development of skills on maritime safety, security and preservation of marine environment, under IMO, ILO and other international, continental and regional instruments;
  • Reciprocate access to each other’s conference platforms and avail opportunities for business to business networking and the participation of its industry constituencies. These include the transformation platforms focusing on African women in maritime, African maritime youth development, enterprise development and job creation, etc.;
  • Explore current mechanisms/instruments for the provision of financial support to WOMESA local Chapters seeking to engage on potential investments in the maritime sector;
  • Facilitate access to and availing of experts and contributors to each other’s platforms for strategic conversations; and
  • Provide financial and non-financial support for the realisation of the objectives of initiatives and programmes as outlined.
(Photo courtesy of WOMESA)
(Photo courtesy of WOMESA)

The agreement on the MoU was reached between the two bodies during WOMESA’s 7th Annual Conference/ Training, Annual General Meeting and Governing Council Meeting held from 22 to 26 February 2016 at the Adulala Resort & Spa at Debrezeit Babogaya, Ethiopia.

According to a recent WOMESA report on the conference, members of the association came from across 14 countries of the Eastern and Southern Africa region, participated at the event.

The countries included the Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania.

Issues dealt with during the gathering included:

  • The democratic debate on the grey shades of Maritime Women Leadership
  • Young women as the new driving force behind maritime and the integrated transport system
  • Building Africa’s blue economy: Setting common agenda at the regional level
  • The impact of The Impact of Increasing Vessels Size and Alliance on Port Operations
  • The role of emotional intelligence in career progression
  • Impact of gender stereotypes on advancement leadership by women.

WOMESA also conducted an elective conference that saw Mauritian, Mrs. Meenaksi Bhirugnath Bhookhun as chairman of its Governing Council and Tanzanian, Mrs. Hiacinter Burchard Rwechungura as her deputy.

The rest of the council is made up of Mrs Fatma Yusuf (Kenya) as Secretary
Ms. Liyuwork Amare Shiferaw (Ethiopia) as Treasurer, Ms Karine Rassool (Seychelles as Marketing & Communication Officer, Mrs Catherine Wairi (Kenya) and honorary member, and Mrs. Tamanda Kalilombe (Malawi) as Council Member, while Mrs Nancy Karigithu (Kenya) and Mrs Nomita Seebaluck (Mauritius) were also roped in as ‘co-opted’ Council members

Working alongside Mrs Maina as WOMESA’s Secretariat is Mrs.Rosemary Oile as the association’s Programme Director.



World’s maritime sector turns its eye on South Africa

Saldanha Bay: Tuesday, 08 December 2015


South Africa’s stature as a significant international maritime economy player is due to gain considerable extensive global focus in the next five years following to confirmation of its agency as the next host of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Assembly in 2020.

The IMO’s Assembly is the highest governing body of the organization consisting of all member States. It meets once every two years and is responsible for approving the institution’s work programme, voting the budget and determining financial arrangements.. The assembly also elects the IMO council.

South Africa falls under ‘category C’ of the IMO Council as one of “20 States which have special interests in maritime transport or navigation, and whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world.”

Countries in the category include Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey.

National Department of Transport deputy Minister, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga
National Department of Transport deputy Minister, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga

The inaugural hosting of the IMO assembly in South Africa, involving possibly as many as 230 countries, was announced by national Department of Transport deputy Minister, Sindisiwe Chikunga in Saldanha Bay on Monday.

She was hosting the first of a weeklong Ministerial 2015  ‘imbizos’ intended to facilitate direct interaction and robust engagement between senior Government officials, including Cabinet Ministers, with industry principals across the country’s economic sectors on current and planned projects.

Ms Chikunga is directly charged with supervision of among others, the maritime transport and manufacturing aspects of the nation’s Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) launched 14 months ago.

She said the IMO last Friday not only retained South Africa ‘member state’ status ahead of several African countries but also charged  the country with responsibility for hosting the rest of the global maritime countries’ assembly in 2020.

“We have recently returned – last Friday to be precise – from the International Maritime Organizaton Assembly (2015) where it was resolved and announced that South Africa will host the 2020 IMO International World Maritime Parallel event.

A mammoth task

“The announcement places a mammoth task to the maritime industry of this country to speed up the implementation of Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) to enable us to showcase the same to the countries of the world, come 2020.

“We urgently need to establish a 2020 World Maritime Parallel Event Planning Task Team comprising of both public and private sector, which will ensure that South Africa and Africa’s opportunity is exhaustively utilized.”

Ms Chikunga said South Africa’s retention of its IMO Council membership status was “a victory (is) not only for South Africa but for our African continent.”

“The representation of Africa into these very influential organizations can never be overly emphasized. There is a massive potential for growth backed up by global statistics on Africa as the current epicenter in foreign direct investment given its young active population,” said Ms Chikunga.

IMG_0736She urged stakeholders in the maritime sector to begin preparing for the next IMO gathering due in two years’ time in preparation for the Assembly scheduled for South Africa.

Referring to the country’s new Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) campaign she said it was geared towards ensuring focused investment in maritime economy infrastructure development as a catalyst and incentive for further and expanded private sector involvement. She urged for greater cooperation.

“For us to become global players we noted the importance of investing in maritime transport infrastructure to attract shipping and shipping services to our shores. To achieve the people’s social contract we need to pull together as stakeholders to move South Africa forward.”

Monday’s maritime sector specific Ministerial Imbizo at Saldanha Bay was based on the coastal town’s port having been earmarked as among three of the country’s major ports intended to contribute to the country maritime economic sector development through new infrastructure development.

Attending the event were a host of key public and private sector players in the maritime sector, including Transnet’s National Ports Authority chief executive officer, Richard Vallihu, Ports Regulator CEO, Mahesh Vakir, and others; mainly from the gas and oil subsector, and ship manufacturing and repair subsector.

Ms Chikunga said: “Saldanha is one of our very strategic ports identified for Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) as an Oil and Gas repair hub for South Africa…and the success of the Saldanha Bay port project will translate into the creation of an estimated 15 000 direct and indirect jobs.

IMG_1266“In order to reach the target, come 2019, a minimum employment of 3 000 jobs per annum is required. This means we should at present be sitting on approximately 6 000 jobs created.

“Tantamount to this will also be a massive contribution to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) that is estimated at R18-billion once it is fully functional.

“We are cognizant of the fact that delays will cost the nation tremendously, (and) it is thus important that both business, parastatals and government have to find speed on infrastructure delivery as it determines the speed of employment and economic progression.”

Clip: Department of Transport deputy Minister, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga announcing the appointment of South Africa as a host of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Assembly in 2020.