Sisulu made the comments during a press briefing at the start of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium at the Cape Town International Convention Centre this morning. She said that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) continues to operate their research and patrol vessels while the ministry of defence manages them, providing maintenance, crew, provisions, bunkering and security. The DAFF fleet includes the fisheries research vessels Africana, Algoa and Ellen Khuzwayo and the patrol vessels Sarah Baartman, Lilian Ngoyi, Victoria Mxenge and Ruth First.
“In terms of the memorandum of understanding we’ve signed with the minister of agriculture, we’re assisting them,” Sisulu said. “If it works we might want to continue and if it doesn’t we might want to end that relationship.”
Chief of the South African Navy Vice Admiral Johannes Refiloe Mudimu said that the Navy has set up a task team involving the DAFF and Rear Admiral Bernhard Teuteberg, Chief Director Maritime Strategy, to manage the DAFF’s fleet. “So far both parties are very happy with this initiative,” Mudimu said. He added that the team is auditing the vessels and working with great speed to ensure they are running smoothly.
The South African Navy took over the management of the DAFF’s maritime patrol vessels at the beginning of this month, as the department's contract with Smit Amandla expired on March 31 without a replacement company being found to manage the fleet. This resulted in the creation of the memorandum of understanding between Sisulu and the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson, which was signed last month.
“In order to perform the shipping management function the Department of Defence shall take over the control of the DAFF fleet of vessels for the duration required for it to perform the shipping management function,” the MoU read. “This function shall be carried out by the SA Navy during the interim against a monthly re-imbursement of all expenses incurred by the SA Navy, in the execution of the functions.”
Smit Amandla last month said it was concerned about the short time allocated by DAFF for the handover of the vessels; the familiarisation of the vessels and operations for the new crew and support staff; the expiry of Hull & Machinery and Protection & Indemnity insurance for the vessels at midnight on March 31 and the imminent return of all vessel certificates to the South African Maritime Safety Authority.
Rams Mabote, spokesman for Joemat-Pettersson, said certification of the vessels should be resolved within 14 days. "The navy has assured us that there is no crisis in this regard and where necessary naval vessels will be used while certification is being finalised," he said.
In November 2011 Joemat-Pettersson announced that an R800 million tender had been awarded to the Sekunjalo Consortium to take over patrolling operations on South Africa’s coastlines following the end of Smit Amandla’s five-year contract. A subsidiary of Sekunjalo, Premier Fishing, has fishing rights on the South African coast, representing a potential conflict of interests. The contract has since been withdrawn.
Last month Joemat-Pettersson called for an investigation into the awarding of R1 billion worth of contracts dating back to 2005 to man and maintain her department’s research and patrol vessels.
Business Day reports Joemat-Pettersson’s legal advisor as saying that Smit Amandla should be investigated as contracts were allegedly awarded without a tender process. She would also like to know more about a company called Pentow Marine, which is a Dutch associate of Smit Amandla.
In 2000, the then Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism awarded Smit Pentow Marine a five-year ship and crew management contract, after a tender process. Although Smit Pentow Marine became Smit Amandla in 2005, a new tender was not issued in April that year but the original contract extended for another five years.
Director-General of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Langa Zita said that he would “like the authorities to investigate the context in which the relationship between Smit Pentow Marine’s and its then BEE partner, Dudula Fishing, was terminated and whether there was no corruption in the way in which Smit Amandla was brought in.”
Meanwhile, the Public Protector and the Competition Commission will investigate how Sekunjalo won the contract in November 2011.
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