Only two of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ six patrol vessels will be able to patrol South Africa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) later this month, as the others are still undergoing maintenance.
The department’s (DAFF’s) acting deputy director-general for fisheries Desmond Stevens told Parliament that only the inshore patrol vessels Ruth First and Victoria Mxenge were seaworthy, having sailed from Simon’s Town in July for work-up training and would be operational from August 23.
The inshore patrol vessel Lilian Ngoyi is awaiting overhauled engines to be delivered from MTU – engine service has been outstanding since she was handed over to the South African Navy in April last year, according to a parliamentary report. Engines are to be installed by the end of August and the vessel should be in operation by the end of September.
The fisheries research vessel Africana is undergoing repairs which include repairs to engines, propeller and the main prop shaft among other issues. The estimated total cost of the repairs on the vessel is R12-14 million. The work on the Africana has taken longer than anticipated due to issues that have arisen during the dry-docking and inspections. Africana will only be ready by the end of September. Africana’s first research cruise is scheduled to be the South Coast hake survey in October.
The offshore patrol vessel Sarah Baartman is awaiting dry docking until work on the Africana is completed. Work will commence as soon as the repairs on the Africana are complete and will involve painting and valve replacement, which will take about 12 days. She is scheduled to be operational by the end of September.
Although the fisheries research vessel Ellen Khuzwayo does not have any major issues, she is currently undergoing safety certification and will be operational around August 23. According to the parliamentary report, DAFF research (rock lobster, tuna and linefish) will be able to go ahead as scheduled.
In addition to the research and patrol vessels, the chase boat Florence Mhkize is estimated to be operational by November. Problems have been encountered with water in the fuel and oil and refurbishment is needed.
The South African Navy took over the management of the DAFF fleet for a period of one year on April 1, 2012, as the Department’s contract with Smit Amandla expired without a replacement company being found to manage the fleet.
In November 2011, DAFF minister Tina 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 subsequently withdrawn.
Since 2005, DAFF awarded contracts to Smit Amandla to man and maintain the department’s research and patrol vessels, without a tender process.
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 that year but the original contract was extended for another five years.
Public Protector Thuli Mandonsela was asked by van Dalen to investigate how Sekunjalo won the contract in November 2011. Her report is yet to be released.
On April 24 this year Cape Town-based shipyard Nautic Africa signed an agreement with the DAFF to support its four fisheries protection and two fisheries research vessels, as the Department attempted to get the fleet fully operational again.
Nautic’s role is to assist in vessel operations, which will include bunkering, crewing and other logistics to ensure that the vessels are put to sea as quickly and efficiently as possible so that vital fisheries management functions can be performed.
On April 3 this year Cape Town’s Damen Shipyards was contracted for the maintenance and repair of the DAFF fleet in order to get the vessels operational “as soon as possible”. The company said the scope of the work includes repair and ongoing maintenance.
According to the DAFF, Damen will be responsible for readying the fleet of vessels and ensuring all vessels are seaworthy and reclassified during its term of contract. The priority and immediate focus is to operationalise Sarah Baartman and Africana.
The tender process for the long term management of the DAFF fleet has commenced and is underway, with bids closing on August 2. The process is expected to be concluded by the end of August this year, with bids being evaluated between 12 and 15 August.