Ramaphosa signs hydrographic bill into law


President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law legislation that will improve the safety of navigation in South Africa’s territorial waters, with the Hydrographic Act now in force.

The Presidency said on June 5 that the Hydrographic Act will improve the safety of navigation in South Africa’s territorial waters. It provides for the establishment of the Hydrographic Office as a unit within the South African Navy, with responsibility for the safety of navigation in South Africa’s exclusive economic zone and the internal waters of the Republic of South Africa.

The Office will ensure that hydrographic surveying is done in accordance with international specifications and will issue sailing directions, notices to mariners and nautical publications, in addition to other services. This is vital for the safe use and economic management of the marine resources along South Africa’s 3 000 km coastline, which is at the centre of an important global shipping route, the Presidency said.

“The Act emanated from the need to recognise and grant legislative status to the Office of the Hydrographer which has been in existence within the South African Navy since 21 July 1954. This flows as well from the Defence Review of 2014 which recommended that South Africa’s international hydrographic and nautical charting obligations, responsibilities and liabilities be formalised in law.

“Hydrography is a branch of applied sciences which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans, seas, coastal areas, lakes and rivers, as well as the prediction of their change over time, for the primary purpose of safety of navigation and in support of all other maritime activities, including economic development, security and defence, scientific research, and environmental protection,” the Presidency said.

Signing of the act into law comes as Sandock Austral Shipyards (formerly Southern African Shipyards) makes progress in the construction of a new hydrographic survey vessel to replace the ageing SAS Protea. During a presentation to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence on 28 May, Armscor said that six out of ten sections of the vessel are complete and upgrading of South African Navy Hydrographic Office (SANHO) infrastructure progressing well.

Armscor said construction of all three associated survey motor boats (two active, one reserve) has commenced and these are 75% complete, with delivery on schedule. Construction of the hull of the sea boat is 66% complete. The boats are being built by Veecraft Marine. All major civil works at the SANHO have been completed and all equipment installed.

According to Armscor, Project Hotel has a contract value of R1.74 billion, but factoring in taxes, escalation and other costs the contract value is about R2.74 billion. Armscor cautioned that “The current funding deficit is placing the project at severe risk as the significant funding shortfall will coincide with peak production in FY2021/22.”

Project Hotel was contractually due for completion in November 2022 but Armscor expects it to wrap up in August 2023.