The South African Police Service yesterday raided the offices of Smit Amandla Marine over alleged irregularities in the awarding of a tender to manage the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) patrol vessels.
Smit Amandla Marine spokeswoman Clare Gomes said that “We have been requested to provide information in connection with an investigation into the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing vessel management contract and are co-operating fully.”
Officers of the Directorate of Primary Crime Investigations (the Hawks) collected papers during the raid, reports Business Day.
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.
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.
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 The contract was subsequently withdrawn.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 Democratic Alliance MP Pieter van Dalen to investigate how Sekunjalo won the contract in November 2011. Madonsela said her report will be released this month.
Meanwhile, the DAFF fleet has not yet been handed back to the department as the vessels are still in Simon’s Town.
Last month it was announced that Cape Town-based shipyard Nautic Africa had signed an agreement with DAFF to support its four fisheries protection and two fisheries research vessels, as the Department attempts 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.
In April 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 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 the Sarah Baartman offshore fisheries patrol and the Africana fisheries research vessels.
The tender process for the long term management of the fleet has commenced and is underway. The process is expected to be concluded by July this year.