SAMSA talks jobs


The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) has forecast that it will be able to create 1800 jobs in the sector over the next year.

Critical to meeting that target was a cadet training programme, which would be done through the South African Maritime Training Academy in partnership with the private sector. The announcement was made in Cape Town this week by Samsa chief executive, Tsietsi Mokhele, who highlighted that they were responding to the government’s focus on job creation.

Mokhele said that as part of a mandate from government, they had developed a strategy to improve the country’s maritime economy, but a major drawback had been the lack of skills in the sector in both sea and shore based human resources, the state BuaNews agency says. This, he said, had contributed to the drop in active shipping companies in South Africa. Mokhele said the training programme had the potential “to double or triple job creation in the sector.”
“The programme is the backbone of Samsa’s strategy to develop the requisite skills base in the sector with a view to developing it. Furthermore, it is well recognised that the shortage of training berths for cadets is the key obstacle to addressing the above mentioned shortage,” he said.

The training programmes would be completed on the grounds that third party shipping companies were to make training berths available – at no real cost to them – to train those cadets on their vessels, Mokhele said.

Shipping companies which have come on board to participate in the training include Safmarine, OAC, Columbia Ship Management and Smit.

Mokhele has made similar, but bolder announcements before. In June last year he said a locally-flagged merchant navy had the potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in five years. He said the revival of the country’s shipping and the transporting at least 40% of South African exports on locally registered ships would create up to 248 000 jobs in five years. “In a fleet of 300 [ships] we could create 240 000 jobs,” he told the African Ports and Harbours Congress in Johannesburg, the South African Press Association reported. “Shipping is very intensive in terms of jobs.”

Mokhele told attendees SA currently had just one ship on the commercial register. This is because of ships registering in countries that offer owners better legal and taxation regimes. Mokhele said his organisation has lobbied the government to change some of its regulations around taxation and banking, to make the country a more appealing host. “If we don’t move now, we’re missing an opportunity to create jobs.”

The SAMSA CE made the same comments at defenceWeb’s maritime security conference in October 2009 and the SA Navy’s 3rd Sea Power for Africa symposium in April 2009. He then lamented that the SA Oranje, the last ship on the SA register was on the verge of decommissioning.

He noted that at its heyday, in the early 1990s, the SA merchant marine had about 120 ships on register: about 60 Safmarine vessels and a similar number of Unicorn-line vessels. While successors to both still operate in SA waters, their ships now carry flags of convenience. Mokhele says the problem with this is that SA – and Africa – can never become maritime powers “so long as on the commercial side we don`t own commercial vessels.”

Speaking to defenceWeb on the side of the conference, he said SAMSA initiated a programme called “Project 300” in October 2008 to argue for a 300 ship merchant fleet as a baseline figure. This would be done, in part, by rewriting legislation to draw ships back onto the SA register. But it would also involve reviving the shipbuilding industry and constructing ships. “Project 300” consultations have included ship owners such as Grindrod, who were then expanding their fleet to about 60; ship operators and the departments of Transport and Trade & Industry. “Together with DTI and DoT we have initiated a maritime cluster forum combining a number of departments and agencies to find a way forward to best position this country as a maritime centre in the global economy,” Makhele added.
“Three hundred is not an overambitious target. Safmarine by 1990 had 60 ships. Grindrod is ramping up to between 54 and 64.” He said the fleet should include medium-sized fuel and chemical tankers as well as multipurpose cargo ships, “capable of carrying bulk cargo one way and containers the other”. Business could be secured by introducing a cabotage policy similar to that in the European Union which restricts the carrying of cargo between EU ports to EU-flagged ships.

Legislative changes to encourage ships to carry the SA flag include migrating from taxing profits to taxing tonnage: “Paying a nominal tax will be a big incentive for ship owners,” he says.

Building ships will create a sustainable maritime building industry, he continues. But it will need some government underwriting. “It needs a guarantee, like 2010 [the Soccer World Cup] If government does not commit … it means you can`t build the needed infrastructure, you can`t make the investments.” He was hopeful the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation and the Development Bank of Southern Africa would play a lead role in this endeavour. “The IDC held shares in Safmarine. They used government money to set up Safmarine so this is not the first time this is done.”

At the time he further stated hat SA would purchase two salvage ships worth R800 million. “We`ve just completed the feasibility study and with the DoT we will be buying two salvage vessels,” Mokhele said in a presentation on his agency`s activities. Mokhele said indications were the vessels will cost between R360- and R400 million each at the current exchange rate. “We are looking at buying two, one for the east coast, one for the west coast so we can respond to all incidents off our coast.” He did not further elaborate on the requirement. At present, salvage work is contracted to private hands, with Dutch-owned Smit Amandla Marine being a prominent name in the business.