Private sector puts shoulder on the wheel to redevelop South Africa’s fleet of cargo vessels: Vuka Marine

The Cape Acacia, Vuka Marine’s latest addition to the South African Ship Register berthed at the port of Saldanha on Saturday, 20 March 2021 for its cargo shipment of iron ore to Asia.

Saldanha Bay: 24 March 2021

The South African government’s ambitious plans to facilitate for and nurture the redevelopment of a domestically registered national fleet of trade vessels, as outlined in the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy (CMTP), has the full backing of the private sector, with actual money on the table.

This was again amply expressed as well as demonstrated during the past weekend when one of the country’s trade ships owning company, Vuka Marine, added one more cargo ship – the largest of its class – to the South African Ship Register, this with the full backing of its mining client, Anglo American.

Visuals of the ceremonial flagging of the Vuka Marine owned cargo vessel, the Cape Acacia under the South African ship register at Saldanha Bay, Northern Cape on Saturday, 20 March 2021. The vessel is the 4th to be added to the country’s register by Vuka Marine since August 2015.

Saldanha Bay, the country’s main port for iron ore exports, was the venue on Saturday (20 March 2021) for the ceremonial hosting of the South African flag aboard stern of the newly acquired Vuka Marine ship, named the Cape Acacia. The vessel, a 206,000dwt Newcastlemax, built in 2005, was the 4th by Vuka Marine to be registered under the South Africa flag, bringing into the country’s ship register a cumulative deadweight capacity of 630 000 tonnes since 2015.

It was at the same port venue on the west coast of the Northern Cape Province in 2015 that Vuka Marine also formaly introduced its first ship that year, the Cape Orchid – now retired – and in the process, helping reintroduce large cargo vessels under the South African ship register since the collapse of a domestic fleet of such vessels type in the late 80’s.

All four of the Vuka Marine vessels – including the Cape Enterprise; and the ultramax Windsor Adventure – have Port Elizabeth (a.k.a Gqeberha) in the Eastern Cape Province as their home port – a matter itself described as having a particular significance for that region as well as the country.

At the port of Saldanha on Saturday, where the newly registered Cape Acacia berthed for its first load of iron ore export shipment to China, Vuka Marine senior officials, flanked by their Anglo American counterparts, representatives of the Department of Transport (DoT), the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), spelt out their investment vision.

Mr Andrew Millard. Director: Vuka Marine

“We view ships as a catalyst for a broader social impact (particularly job creation) and advancement of national interests – priorities that lie at the heart of National Policy. To this end, Via Maritime Holdings, majority shareholder of VUKA Marine, has been proactive in creating seafarer sourcing channels that apply international standards, best employment practices and are consistent with demand-side requirements. This is work in progress, but we are starting to see successes in the careers of young South Africans who have worked on Vuka Marine ships,” said Mr Andrew Millard, CEO of Vuka Marine.

Vuka Marine, said Mr Millard, was proud to have pioneered the domestication of cargo ships in the country and that his organisation was keen to share its own experiences with the rest of the sector.

Mr Andrew Mthembu. Chairman: Vuka Marine

The theme was further broken down into minute detail by the shipping company’s chairman, Mr Andrew Mthembu. In a 25 minute speech (captured in the video below), Mr Mthembu described it simply as “logical in every concievable way” that South Africa should strive to rebuild its own fleet of trade vessels if its geographical positioning as a maritime country is to be of benefit to all citizens as well as the global community.

For his full views, click on the video below.

Mr Pranill Ramchander, Executive Head of Corporate Affairs at Anglo American concurred with the Vuka Marine officials on the express need for supporting the South African economy through direct investment in shipping and associated infrastructure. Anglo, he said, had over the years demonstrated its commitment to the country and the partnership with Vuka Marine, through business support, was a typical example of such attitude and goal.

Mr Pranill Ramchander. Executive Head: Corporate Affairs, Anglo American

He said: “We highy comment Vuka Marine’s persistance and tenacity in developing and growing the maritime landscape in South Africa over the last few years. Anglo American is very proud to have been part of the journey which for us started in 2014. During that time Anglo transported approximately 15-milllons tons of cargo and contracts, most of it iron ore.

“Vuka Marine deserves credit from all in this room for taking a leading role in championing the agenda for growth of the South African maritime economy,” he said, adding that a strong and effective shipping infrastructure in South Africa would be an asset to a whole range of stakeholders, including job creation and skills development.

For his full remarks, click on the video below

South Africa’s Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula, billed to also grace the event but withdrawing at the last moment due to other pressing commitments, had his ministry’s views shared. In remarks shared on his behalf by DoT Marine branch deputy Director-General, Mr Mthunzi Madiya, he said: “Today is one of the most significant days for Maritime South Africa. When we developed this term, we envisaged a unifying entity that incorporates government and industry, enjoining them through their common interest in the success of the maritime sector. For us this means jobs, employment, influence and meaningful contribution to the economy.

Mr Mthunzi Madiya, Deputy Director-General: Marine Branch, Department of Transport

“I am sure Vuka Marine has similar indicators, perhaps an added few that nay includes profits. Equally Anglo would have their own scorecard that is well served by today’s event if not milestone.”

Mr Madiya said the redevelopment of the country’s shipping fleet was a critical building block to enabling South Africa achieve its goals of becoming a significant international maritime centre, characterised chiefly by an effective maritime sector administration able to facilitate economic growth of the industry.

“We are enjoined into ensuring a South African maritime sector that supports South Africa’s economic development. We have a stated objective, as contained in our Maritime Transport policy, that South Africa WILL be an International Maritime Centre. We have defined the characteristics of this International Maritime Centre as only two elements, a vibrant maritime economy that is supported by a model maritime administration,”he said.

To this end, he announced plans for further continued close engagement with the shipping industry for discussions on a range of issues including enhancement of investments incentives, contribution to greenhouse gas emissions control, skills development and training and related. Further details on the various subsector engagements would be shared with stakeholders soon, he said.

For the full remarks, click on the video below.

For SAMSA, the country’s agency responsible for promoting growth of the local ship register in accordance with its legislated broad mandate to, among other things, ‘promote South Africa’s maritime interests’; the additional cargo vessel into the country’s ship register was a welcome work in progress – occurring amid a whole range of challenges facing both the local and global economies, now compounded by the outbreak and rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now with a team of female leaders for the first time since establishment 21 years ago – Board chairperson, Ms Nthato V. Minyuku, and newly appointed acting Chief Executive Officer, Ms Tsepiso Taoana Mashiloane; SAMSA described the private sector’s efforts – as demonstrated by both Vuka Marine and Anglo American as both humbling, commendable and encouraging under current global economic and consequent social crisis, particularly with regards jobs creation.

Among other issues, SAMSA noted as particularly highly significant that Vuka Marine, with its further acquisition of another cargo vessel, made a point of ensuring places for skills development of South African seafarers. With its inaugural iron ore cargo shipment out of South Africa this week, the Cape Acacia is taking with eight (8) cadets for skills development in seafaring over a period of between 6-9 months.

The cadets on board including one 3rd Officer; two able seamen, one deck and two engine cadets as well as two ABs are Loyiso Jantjies, Jethro Kekai, Ludfie Kemp, Sibusiso Khawula, Siphesihle Sibaya, Lunga Dlamini, Aside Shaun Maqubela and Nduduzo Mahaye. According to Vuka Marine, they may be joined by a further two South African seafarers, probably in Asia.

For SAMSA, redeveloping a South African fleet of cargo vessels was necessary partly to address the challenges facing seafarer education and training.

For both Ms Taoana-Mashiloane and Ms Minyuku’s full remarks, click on the videos below.

In the midst of challenging conditions at the port of Saldanha including restrictions related to Covid-19 regulations and compouded by poor weather conditions, this blog sought and managed to secure interviews with at least two of the eight (8) cadets taken on board the Cape Acacia for stints of between 6-9 months honing their seafarers skills.

The two, Loyiso Sydney Jantjies, an Able Seaman; and Lunga Dlamini, a deck cadet; were beyond themselves with joy at the opportunity to sail and gain valuable skills in their chosen careers in the process.

For their remarks, click on the video below.

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Stabilising SAMSA and strengthening its strategic role underway: SAMSA

Pretoria: 12 February 2021

The South African Maritime Safety (SAMSA) has announced the secondment of Department of Transport director, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane, as acting Chief Executive Officer of the agency, with immediate effect.

SAMSA said Ms Taoana-Mashiloane would be replacing Mr Sobantu Tilayi, SAMSA’s Chief Operations Officer, who had acted in the position since 2016.

“Her secondment to lead SAMSA is a transitional arrangement pending the finalisation of the recruitment and appointment process of a permanent CEO,” said SAMSA in the statement in Pretoria on Friday.

Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane. Seconded by Department of Transport to Acting CEO of South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

The secondment – to be followed soon by a formal appointment of a permanent CEO – according to SAMSA’s Board of Directors, is part of a broader renewed effort currently to stabilise the agency, as well as strenghten its strategic role in the redevelopment and expansion of South Africa maritime economic sector as envisaged in its legislated mandate.

The statement described Ms Taoano-Mashiloane as the Department of Transport’s director for Maritime Industry Development and therefore a long serving and experienced civil servant with broad familiarity with the operations of SAMSA

Her academic qualifications include a Masters of Science degree in Botany & Environmental Management) and an MA in Maritime Safety & Environmental Administration.

“Ms Taoana-Mashiloane is also no stranger to SAMSA as, relative to her position at the Department of Transport, she  is well acquainted with SAMSA having worked closely with its management for many years on key programmes; among these the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) periodic audits, the World Maritime Day parallel events – the next scheduled for South Africa this current year – the SA national Inland Water Strategy and the National Ports Consultative Committee.”

The announcement on Friday comes a couple of days after SAMSA held its annual “pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA)” Stakeholders Event staged virtually online on Wednesday evening, involving a number of key maritime sector stakeholders from across the country.

Among these were Mr Andrew Pike, head of Ports, Transport and Logistics at Bowmans, Ms Joey Mulaudzi, CEO of Ports Regulator South Africa, Mr Andrew Millard, director at Vuka Marine, Mr Ross Volk, MD of MSC Cruises SA, Mr Peter Besnard, CEO of SAASOA, Ms Sefale Montsi, Chairperson of AMD, Mr Mthozami Xiphu, Board Chairperson at SAOGA, Mr Odwa Mtati, CEO of SAIMI, Mr Loyiso Phantshwa, Chairman at Fish SA, Mr Kevin Watson, President of SAIMENA, Mr Paul Maclons, CEO of AMSOL, Mr Mthunzi Madiya, and Ms Taoana-Mshiloane on behalf of the Department of Transport.

Ms Nthato V. Minyuku. Cairperson: SAMSA Board of Directors

In her address, SAMSA Board of Directors chairperson Ms Nthato Minyuku described the issue of SAMSA management leadership as among critical issues requiring attention as a matter of priority needed to ensure stability in the agency.

She said: “You would have seen that we are in the market looking for a permanent CEO for SAMSA. This is the first item we have to deliver on. Five years is a long time without a permanent CEO. I would wish to thank the EXCO team that has held SAMSA steady during this period.”

The second aspect to stabilising SAMSA related to its financial position. According to Ms Minyuku, various operational issues now compounded by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in December 2019, had hugely impacted negatively SAMSA’s finances. She said SAMSA was not about to go to the Treasury with a begging bowl, but the situation needed arresting. Part of this was a proposed five (5) per cent tarrif increase over and above that granted during the last financial year.

An address of SAMSA Annual Stakeholders Event by the agency’s Board of Directors chairperson, Ms Nthato Minyuku on Wednesday evening. The event held virtually online this year is stagged annually the evening before South Africa’s official opening of Parliament and delivery of a State of the Nation Address (SONA) by the country president.

“In terms of SAMSA resources, we have been hit hard by the COVID pandemic. At some stage, we were contemplating what we have come to refer to as “cash flow day zero”. Although we have successfully evaded this day, we are by no means clear, much less financially sustainable.

“We are fortunate never having had to go to National Treasury to ask for a “bail out” and I must commend EXCO for this achievement. However, in order to keep sustainable, we have had to request an additional 5% tariff increase to the 6% that was already approved by the Minister with the concurrence of Treasury,” said Ms Minyuku.

Regarding the external environment, she said it was SAMSA’s view that the agency’s strategy was fit for purpose. “It is our view that first and foremost, SAMSA must discharge its regulatory obligations and build capacity to sustain our abilities in this regard. We have adopted a model of delivering on our objective of “promoting the republic’s maritime interests” via partnerships.

“These are partnerships that have seen us create hundreds of jobs for rural youths. These are the partnerships that have seen us starting what will be a long and steady growth of our ship register. We continue along this trajectory, to ensure that we use the synergies that exist between you, the industry and us, the government; as well as the various abilities and instruments among the government players.”

On her reflections broadly onto the country and global maritime sector, Ms Minyuku said South Africa was still relatively well positioned geographically to continue to play a meaningful role in the sector, but that the country needed to step up its effort to both cement its strategic role as well as ensure broader society beneficiation.

She pointed to the coming into effect last month of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement and the vast business opportunities it presents to South Africa particularly from a shipping transport perspective.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is poised as likely to …”create the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating,’ says the World Bank.

Further, it says: “The pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillion. It has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty, but achieving its full potential will depend on putting in place significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.”

In this regard, Ms Minyuku, South Africa needed to up its maritime sector development efforts towards especially establishment of, among things, a locally registered and South Africa flag carring fleet of vessels.

Ms Minyuku further applauded South Africa’s endorsement of an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) resolution that declares seafarers as essential workers.

For her full remarks on these and related issues, Click on the video above.

More coverage of the SAMSA Stakeholders Event, inclusive of contributions by industry players, will follow.

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