Monday, January 7, 2013

Has DAFF Destroyed the Africana?

Feike has been provided with an update on the status of the Africana research vessel and research cruises she was and is supposed to undertake. 

As we had last reported, the Africana failed to complete the critical end of season sardine and anchovy research cruise after the Navy successfully pumped sea water into the ship's fuel tanks. Despite promises (actually a series of lies) to the portfolio committee about the ship being ready to sail within days of the "challenge" (ie. government word for mega stuff-up of unimaginable proportions for which they do not have the slightest solution) of pumping sea water into the fuel tanks, the vessel failed to sail. 

By late November 2012, the SA pelagic industry had had enough of the joint DAFF and Naval incompetence and got a private vessel ready to conduct the research cruise which was eventually successfully completed. 

Subsequently, a one-day calibration exercise between the industry vessel and the Africana was planned to take place in False Bay in December 2012. This too failed to materialise as the Africana broke down twice; the first time only 50 metres from the quay and the second time with steering failure, narrowly avoiding a reef and a collision with the industry vessel. 

Following this further "challenge" the Navy informed DAFF that the Africana will not be able to undertake the January hake survey cruise either. If this cruise is missed, the hake trawl industry will certainly lose its MSC Certification. Fortunately however, the hake industry has secured its own private vessel to undertake the research cruise. 

So one must ask why are the pelagic and hake industries paying any levies to DAFF if the most basic functions entrusted by law to DAFF - ie research, management and compliance - are no longer undertaken by DAFF and instead industry is substantially required at its cost to fund research, management and compliance? Does industry have a case to halt levy payments to the Marine Living Resources Fund and instead place these funds in special trust account to be used to fund fisheries research, management and compliance? We certainly think that there is a solid case to be made in this regard. 

Since taking over the Africana in April 2012, the Navy has managed only one successful survey and one start in six attempts. The Navy will undoubtedly try and blame its failures on Smit Amandla and the apparent "poor condition" of the vessel. That excuse is however plainly dishonest, particularly if one considers that in all the time that Smit Amandla operated the Africana, mechanical problems never once delayed or caused a research cruise to be abandoned or cancelled. Further, Smit Amandla handed the vessels to the Navy in pristine condition. If they were not, why did both DAFF and the Navy not immediately object and refuse the handover of the Africana in April 2012? 

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