Thursday, March 29, 2012

Press Statement by SMIT AMANDLA

This is a press statement issued today by SMIT Amandla regarding the hand-over of the fisheries patrol and research vessels. It is important to note that the department gave SMIT less than 2 weeks notice to handover the vessels, whereas an orderly and effective handover would have taken some 90 days. Suffice-it-to-say, our vessels face mothballing as we have no trained crew or personnel to take over from SMIT and the vessels will not have any insurance cover from Sunday morning. And we have a Minister who refuses to speak to the public about this catastrophe that she and her incompetent department has created. She clearly does not have any solution other than to bury her head deep in the sand and pretend there is no crisis.


SMIT Amandla Marine (Pty) Ltd’s ship management contract with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF) expires on 31 March 2012. The contract entails the manning, maintenance and management of the State’s fleet of fisheries research vessels (‘Africana’, ‘Algoa’, ‘Ellen Khuzwayo’) and patrol vessels (‘Sarah Baartman’, ‘Lilian Ngoyi’, ‘Victoria Mxenge’, ‘Ruth First’).
Since receiving the written instruction from the Director General of DAFF on Friday 16 March 2012 confirming that the vessels are to be handed over to the Department on 31 March 2012, we have executed a complex schedule of activities and have offered our full support and co-operation to DAFF personnel assigned to the handover.
We have contracted independent third party marine surveyors to verify onboard inventories and conduct condition and bunker surveys. Last week, we also provided the Department with a full risk assessment on the handover process – which was originally allocated 3 months in the ship management tender. Key concerns, amongst others raised by our company, have included:
· Time allocated by DAFF for the vessel handover.
· Familiarisation of vessels and operations for the new crew and technical support staff.
· The expiry of Hull & Machinery and Protection & Indemnity insurance for the vessels at midnight on 31 March 2012.
· The imminent return of all vessel certificates to the South African Maritime Safety Authority at their instruction and the implication of this on continued vessel operations post 31-March.
Since 16 March, we have increased security on all vessels as a precautionary measure. The protection of the fleet and a professional handover is our primary concern.
The vessels are due to arrive in Simonstown during the course of the day today, where they will be handed over to the Department’s delegated representatives by 31 March 2012. All SMIT Amandla Marine crew remaining onboard are scheduled to sign-off their respective vessels on Saturday.
For our team at sea and ashore involved in this contract, this has been a challenging period, not least because of the employment uncertainty post-31 March as well as the multiple tasks to be completed within 15 days so as to ensure a professional vessel handover to the DAFF by midnight on 31 March 2012. Mariners will know that every ship they work on becomes a home-away-from-home and many of our seafarers have served on these vessels for more than a decade; leaving them will not be easy. We pay tribute to our employees and thank them for their professionalism, dignity and commitment.
As a black empowered company in a highly specialised sector, supporting the State’s maritime interests is a priority. We would like to thank the team at DAFF for the opportunity we have had to manage these vessels which have sustained 170 jobs for South Africans and have been a platform for the development of scarce seafaring skills for the South African Maritime Industry, also supporting a successful Cadet Training Programme.
We look forward to an opportunity to provide continued support to DAFF and to tender for this service in the future, and we thank all of our Clients in South Africa and Mozambique for their support.

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