Thursday, 4 April 2013

Dutch firm to restore SA fishery ships

THE Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has signed an emergency contract with Dutch shipyard Damen to bring South Africa’s fleet of six fisheries patrol and survey vessels into operation.

The department reclaimed the vessels from the navy after the latter failed to ensure that they carried out their duties of patrolling and quantifying the sustainability of South Africa’s fishing stocks.

Because of the degeneration of the ships while under the navy’s control, they lost their Lloyds of London insurance class. The department now has had to obtain special permission from the Treasury to effect the "emergency" repairs to get them seaworthy again.

Damen built some of the ships six years ago, including the largest, the Sarah Baartman, which is mainly used for long-endurance fishing protection patrols.

The shipyard will also return to service the Afrikaner, the survey ship used to measure and determine the sustainability of South Africa’s fishing stocks. If South Africa was to lose its Marine Stewardship Council certification, it would not be able to export fish to key markets such as Europe.

Those exports are worth about R6bn annually to the economy.

The department’s deputy director-general for fishing, Greta Apelgren-Narkedien, said the estimated cost of the repairs for all six vessels was about R5m, which was far less than originally expected. This did not include the cosmetic upkeep such as painting.

The vessels, apart from the Afrikaner, were relatively new having been built between six and eight years ago. "The other thing is that Damen originally built the patrol vessels and so they know them well," Ms Apelgren-Narkedien said.

The repairs were being carried out and funded in terms of a National Treasury directive that allowed for emergency funding as long as both the Treasury and the auditor-general were informed in time. "We’ll inform Treasury and the auditor-general of the funding being allocated for the repairs this week," Ms Apelgren-Narkedien said.

"In terms of the directive, we only have to inform them once the contract has been signed ."

Tim Reddell, deputy chairman of industry association Fish South Africa, said the contract between Damen and the department was good news, but was only the first step of several that had to be taken to get the ships operating regularly again. The ships would have to be crewed properly with people who understand and have proper knowledge of sea conditions and the vessels themselves.

"The crewing and management of these ships have to be done by a company of substance," Mr Reddell said. "That company must have the proper operational management such as an operations room and communications infrastructure ."

The estimated operating costs of the ships was about R100,000 a day while at sea, and they were expected to spend about 200 days at sea a year, Mr Reddell said.

Ms Apelgren-Narkedien said a short-term contract for the crewing of the ships might be signed as early as tomorrow and a longer-term one later this month.
original Article Here

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