After months of talking up the navy’s management of the Fisheries Department’s marine patrol and research fleet, the department admitted yesterday it was going belly up. Tenders will go out in due course for the separate management of the patrol and the research ships, which Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson handed to the navy early last year after the shipping firm Smit Amandla Marine was stripped of its management contract.
Greta Apelgren-Narkedien, appointed in December as deputy director-general in charge of fisheries, finally admitted to Parliament’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries portfolio committee that all was not right with the navy’s management.
“The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries fleet is still alongside… because the South African Navy has not managed to operationalise the vessels,” she said, adding that the department had to contract “industry vessels to carry out crucial surveys”.
Owing to the Ellen Khuzwayo still being “alongside”, the West Coast rock lobster surveys “have not been achieved”. The Sarah Baartman “has not sailed to date… she commenced her dry docking in December 2012. She is busy with the Lloyd’s classification surveys. It is uncertain when the Sarah Baartman will be ready for sea.”
The Africana was scheduled to be “busy” from October 22 to January to do pelagic spawner and West Coast hake surveys, but the navy “indicated that the Africana was not safe for sea”, she said.
The Lillian Ngoyi “is not ready to sail” and the Florence Mkhize “is still waiting to undergo sea trials”. The Victoria Mxenge sailed last November for eight days. “She is alongside and her status is uncertain.”
Last August Joemat-Pettersson said the marine patrol vessels would set sail by October after the navy took over operational control of them in April. “At this stage the department is in the process of recruiting specialised personnel to support the navy,” she said in a parliamentary reply.
Meanwhile, the research to determine total allowable catches is falling seriously behind. It seems as if the fisheries department has sunk into a sea of despair. page 18
SAA’s low-cost airline Mango announced last year that it planned to extend its route network outside South Africa and listed Zanzibar among planned destinations that would be bookable through SAA Holidays.
This would have brought it into direct competition with rival 1Time, which was the first South African airline to offer direct flights to the island and offered package holidays that could be booked on its website.
When 1Time went into provisional liquidation shortly before Christmas, and left holidaymakers stranded, tour operator StayAfrica chartered Mango to fly its guests to the island as a temporary measure during the holiday period.
Now Mango has entered a new charter agreement with StayAfrica, starting next month and lasting a year, which will make Zanzibar its first regular route outside South Africa.
This will also make it difficult for 1Time to re-enter that market if London-registered low-cost airline Fastjet succeeds in its attempt to buy 1Time out of provisional liquidation.
Mango has made it clear that it intends to fly to the increasingly popular Zanzibar on its own behalf when the charter agreement ends. It appears to be the most successful operation in the SAA group.
Its chief executive, Nico Bezuidenhout, is now acting chief executive of SAA while heading a team made up of the chief executives of the other airlines in the group, SA Express and privately owned franchise holder Airlink, who are preparing a report on how the group could be restructured for greater efficiency.
Bezuidenhout, who was SAA’s head of information technology until he was offered the job of starting up and running Mango, did not apply to become chief executive of the national airline after Khaya Ngqula’s departure.
But his record so far should be an advantage if he is among the 14 applicants currently shortlisted.
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Donwald Pressly and Audrey D’Angelo.