The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has expressed regret and disappointment that growth of the South African Ship Registry is failing to gather speed, this due partly to lack of common vision and understanding among State entities.
SAMSA Board Member, Ms Sekabiso Molemane told maritime sector stakeholders during a regular briefing in Durban last week that the organisation had failed to reach targets for ship registration under the South African flag that it has set itself two years ago, adding that this was both ‘deeply disappointing” and “regrettable.’
Ms Molemane described it as highly significant that private sector industries had been highly supportive of the Department of Transport’s agency, SAMSA, in its endeavours and instead, the greatest challenges seemed to emanate largely from lack of support by other State agencies; among them the South African Revenue Services.
Both Ms Molemane and SAMSA acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi went to great detail explaining how the poverty of support from other fellow State agencies or government was negatively affecting SAMSA’s efforts to develop and grow the SA Ship Registry.
She said: “We started the year with enthusiasm, hoping that by this time we’d maybe have 15 ships in our register…and we’d have addressed issues of tariffs. But disappointingly, we are still where we were two years ago.
“It is heartbreaking that, because when we consult with industry and we say we have a situation, it (industry) says, we are here to support you. But unfortunately we have challenges somewhere else. Somewhere else, where we are supposed to unlock, it’s always locked. It is either a change of Ministers, or it is something else. One thing I could not say though is that the industry failed us. I’d be lying,” Ms Molemane.
She added that the ship registry development was not the only one suffering lack of progress due to poverty of Government and State institutions’ support, but also systems development at SAMSA that both the agency and industry had identified as necessary to strengthen the effective performance of the organisation.
As a direct consequence, she said; issues that could be dealt with in a short period of time, sometimes took longer than necessary for SAMSA to deliver on. Even so, she told maritime sector stakeholders present at the function that: “Let’s not lose heart. Let’s hope that the best will come.”
Meanwhile, the South African Association of Ship Owners and Agencies (SAASOA), decried what it described as poor progress being made towards enhancing the country’s major ports cargo handling capabilities, citing a seeming apparent indifference by port authorities in addressing the matter.
SAASOA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Peter Besnard said it was now a matter of public record that the country’s ports poor cargo handling was a problem and which had surfaced as far as back as 2014.
He said: “Without a doubt, it is not something that has happened overnight. It has build up over time and I can safely say it started in 2014. But it appears to be overlooked or ignored and the situation has simply worsened. It is not a situation that can be sorted out overnight. It will certainly take a few years and a lot of money to get us back on track to where we were before.”
Also sharing some insights into the country’s trade ports state as well as an overview on recent and current developments was Mr Mahesh Fakir, the country’s Ports Regulator.
According to Mr Fakir, a major highlight on tariffs this year was a 20% reduction on export containers which he described as intended to enhance the competitiveness of local goods in international market even as it would impact overall revenue for ports authorities.
“It (reduction) gives the country that ability to go out there and face the international market at a lower price, and that’s what the country needs as a shot in the arm to take this economy forward,” he said.
Mr Fakir said he believed that the country’s ports could perform even much better in cargo handling than is currently the case, were certain configurations to be made to improve them.
He cited a Colombian model he and senior officials of both SAMSA and the Department of Transport recently observed while attending the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Assembly Parallel Event in October 2019.
He described it as a model featuring partial ownership of ports by the State and the private sector – the latter involving individuals in areas where ports are situated.