The South African Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association (SADSTIA) the Hake Trawlers Association categorically dismisses the allegations made by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries at the Cape Town Press Club today (May 04) with respect to the circumstances surrounding assistance provided to the DAFF and SA Navy by SADSTIA to ensure that the SAS Africana could proceed to sea for the critical Hake Biomass and Pelagic Hydroacoustic surveys.
It is common knowledge that the other research vessels and patrol vessels, previously operated by the DAFF and now handed over to the SA Navy, have not gone to sea since the cancellation of the relevant contract at the end of March 2012.
The facts are as follows:
1. Our organisation was concerned that these critical surveys would not take place as scheduled, following the transfer of the vessels to the SA Navy. The Hake Biomass survey was to have commenced mid-March 2012 and had been postponed. It was thought that unless the survey commenced by 18 April 2012 that it would not be able to complete the survey as required.
2. The cancellation of the annual survey could materially impact the Industry's Marine Stewardship Council certification, thereby jeopardising the capability of the industry to export its products, which could potentially result in major job losses and a crippling of the Industry.
3. SADSTIA approached DAFF to offer whatever assistance was required to ensure that the surveys could go ahead as planned.
4. DAFF engaged with the SA Navy who confirmed that they required assistance from personnel experienced in the operation of the SAS Africana in order to proceed safely to sea and enable the transfer of skills to navy personnel. It is normal when dealing with the handover of specialised vessels such as the Africana to have a skills transfer programme lasting several months.
5. A service level agreement was signed by DAFF and SADSTIA for the provision of certificated, specialist personnel for the two research voyages of the Africana to ensure skills transfer to the SA Navy personnel; The Deputy Director General signed on behalf of the Department.
6. SADSTIA approached SMIT Amandla Marine to secure the services of key former Africana personnel with the specific technical experience on this vessel and the specialist knowledge required to familiarise SA Navy personnel with operations. As these crew were full-time Smit employees ultimately a Crew Manning agreement was concluded in order to secure the expert services of these crewmen.
7. Qualified and experienced personnel were deployed to the SAS Africana on the 16th of April and were under the full command of the SA Navy during their time onboard.
Given the facts outlined above, we therefore find it difficult to understand how the Minister could accuse SADSTIA of acting as a front when we were merely trying to assist DAFF and the SA Navy as well as our industry.
As is evident from the invoices provided to DAFF by SADSTIA, as per the signed service level agreement, SADSTIA has not charged a mark-up for any support provided to DAFF despite a great deal of time and resources allocated thus far. The SMIT Amandla Marine invoices concerned were given to the DAFF by SADSTIA in an open and transparent way. There cannot be any question of fronting.
It is a pity that the genuine assistance afforded to the DAFF and SA Navy, for the benefit of the Hake and Pelagic industry as a whole, should be tarnished in this way. The Association regrets that since taking office that the Minister has not met the Association representing 90% of her most valuable commercial fishery and would welcome the opportunity to engage with her.