SA Navy takes over management of state-owned maritime patrol vessels


The South African Navy has taken over the management of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ maritime patrol vessels, as the Department’s contract with Smit Amandla has expired without a replacement company being found to manage the fleet.

The contract with Smit Amandla Marine Services and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) expired on Saturday. Consequently, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson and the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the South African Navy to manage the DAFF’s maritime patrol fleet, with effect from April 1.

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.

The shipping management functions agreed to in the MoU 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.”

The vessels were scheduled to be handed over to the Navy on or before March 31 at Simons Town Naval Base for a comprehensive audit on each vessel, to be conducted by an accredited third party in the presence of officials from both Departments.

On March 16 Smit Amandla received notice from the DAFF Director General confirming that the vessels were to be handed over to the Department on March 31. Smit Amandla said it contracted an independent third party to inventory the fleet and evaluate the condition of the vessels. The company also provided the Department with a risk assessment on the handover process, which raised several concerns, including the short time allocated by DAFF for the handover; familiarisation of vessels and operations for the new crew and support staff; the expiry of Hull & Machinery and Protection & Indemnity insurance for the vessels at midnight on March 31 and the imminent return of all vessel certificates to the South African Maritime Safety Authority.

Rams Mabote, spokesman for Joemat-Pettersson, said certification of the vessels should be resolved within 14 days. “The navy has assured us that there is no crisis in this regard and where necessary naval vessels will be used while certification is being finalised,” he said.

Joemat-Pettersson had earlier discussed the possibility of using the South African Navy to patrol the country’s coastline following the end of the contract with Smit Amandla Marine and the failure to secure another contract.

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 has since been withdrawn.

Last month Joemat-Pettersson called for an investigation into the awarding of R1 billion worth of contracts dating back to 2005 to man and maintain her department’s research and patrol vessels.

Business Day reports Joemat-Pettersson’s legal advisor as saying that Smit Amandla should be investigated as contracts were allegedly awarded without a tender process. She would also like to know more about a company called Pentow Marine, which is a Dutch associate of Smit Amandla.

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.

Director-General of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Langa Zita said that he would “like the authorities to investigate the context in which the relationship between Smit Pentow Marine’s and its then BEE partner, Dudula Fishing, was terminated and whether there was no corruption in the way in which Smit Amandla was brought in.”

Meanwhile, the Public Protector and the Competition Commission will investigate how Sekunjalo won the contract in November 2011.