The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ research and patrol vessels have been registered as naval vessels and are being removed from the South African Maritime Safety Authority register.
The vessels have been registered under the Defence Act as naval vessels since April 4, after the South African Navy took over the management of the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFFs’) maritime patrol vessels with effect from April 1, following the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu. The Department’s contract with Smit Amandla expired on March 31 without a replacement company being found to manage the fleet.
The fleet includes the fisheries research vessels Africana, Algoa and Ellen Khuzwayo and the patrol vessels Sarah Baartman, Lilian Ngoyi, Victoria Mxenge and Ruth First.
Arrangements are being made to remove them from the SAMSA register, according to Joemat-Pettersson, who gave a written reply to a parliamentary question posed by the Democratic Alliances P van Dalen.
Joemat-Pettersson stated that an agreement has been signed by the two Departments making provision for DAFF staff to lead scientific work while SA Navy (SAN) staff will be responsible for vessel operations and safety. SAN staff are subject to the Military Disciplinary Code and DAFF staff are subject to disciplinary provisions under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
The shipping management functions agreed to in the MoU between the two departments include the crewing of the vessels, the technical management of these vessels (maintenance, repair and life cycle management); provisioning; bunkering; operation; accounting and safety and seaworthiness of the ships.
The Navy will carry out these duties for a period of twelve months, according to the MoU. “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.”
“It has been agreed by the two departments that the normal research programme, while slightly delayed, will proceed,” Joemat-Pettersson stated. “The first cruise, a 25 day demersal survey of the South Coast on the Africana, departed on 25 April 2012.”
“Africana is crewed by Navy members with DAFF supplying the specialist side of the crew for fisheries research,” Navy spokesman Commander Prince Tshabalala said.
Africana and her sister ships had been standing idle alongside Simon’s Town naval harbour for nearly a month after the contract with Smit Amandla expired. This saw South Africa’s maritime exclusive economic zone unprotected, with the exception of SA Air Force maritime patrols and the efforts of an already overstretched SA Navy.
In November 2011 Joemat-Pettersson announced that an R800 million tender had been awarded to the politically-connected 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 was later withdrawn.
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.