Maritime BEE Charter is signed

Dec 11, 2003
Author: P&S

Representatives of the maritime industry in Durban yesterday (Wednesday, 10 December 2003) formally signed South Africa’s Maritime Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Charter.

The charter, which is intended to redress historical imbalances in the local shipping industry, has been under preparation for more than a year and has the acceptance of a broadly representative cross-section of the local maritime industry. However not all role-players have embraced the charter and some remain sceptical of its practicality.

These include a number of foreign owned maritime business interests.

This issue may have held echoes at the signing ceremony when there was reference to ‘people who still need convincing’.

“Issues of empowerment cannot be separated from that of growth - government is committed to make South Africa one of the world’s top 25 maritime nations,” said Wrenelle Stander, the Department of Transport’s (DoT) director-general. Her latter comment relates to the inclusion of a ‘Ship South Africa Campaign’ introduced during the charter’s preparation, which also touched on the potentially thorny issue of foreign-owned companies and South African goods being shipped on South African ships.

Wrenelle Stander signs the Maritime Charter

The charter refers to 35 countries that controlled 93.5 % of the world’s merchant fleet in 1996 without including a single African country. It pointed out that South Africa’s total sea-borne trade for that year matched some of the countries featured on the list of top 35 merchant fleet owners.

‘Our vision is to substantially increase the number of SA flagged vessels and develop new South African shipping companies that are globally competitive – not only in trade between SA and the rest of the world. These companies must eventually be able to compete with other merchant navies operating on other lucrative international trade routes, for example the Far East to Europe and Europe to America trades,’ reads the document.

As widely accepted as the charter may be, some detractors remain unconvinced. “These will be engaged with,” promises Fred Jacobs, a director of Safmarine and co-chairman of the steering committee.

But others take a stronger view. “We’re here to take back what belongs to us,” said Mrs Khibi Mabuse-Manana, the acting deputy director-general of DoT to loud applause from those attending the signing.

Labour representative Thulani Dlamini warned that labour intends naming and shaming those who don’t fully embrace the charter. “We want to counter fronting and half-hearted efforts. Empowerment must be real empowerment that really distributes the fruits of this country. We don’t want black managing directors who have no authority and who have to defer to white deputies, nor do we want to see black developers doing deals that do not benefit the people on the ground.”

Captain Dave Rennie, MD of Unifeeder and chairman of the BEE task team urged all companies to put aside burning issues and help make the charter work.

“There is a strong groundswell even though some remain unconvinced. We appeal to those who disagree to join and make the industry powerful and one that we can be proud of. We have a charter but now we need to bring it to life with good navigation and good seamanship.

The charter was produced by a fully representative working committee and is based on a scorecard system in use with the mining industry.

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