Yet further concerns have been raised about ITAC’s controversial ban on the import of second hand vessels.
Recently marine surveyor Paul Coxon highlighted the gravity of the situation in a presentation to marine underwriters at the annual Marine Forum. This follows ITAC refusing to issue import permits to South African purchasers of secondhand fishing vessels in recent years.
In particular, the presentation highlighted the following concerns:
- After the recent allocation of 15-year long term fishing rights companies are now looking to renew their aging fleet of vessels as the current fishing fleet consists of mostly older vessels.
- To date a large part of the fishing industry has been established on the purchase, import, upgrade and operation of secondhand vessels from abroad. This is due to the fact that only large corporate companies can afford to purchase new build vessels such as freezer vessels and trawlers.
- New fishing vessel construction regulations would mean that many of the current older vessels in the fleet would not meet such requirements in future and would have to be upgraded (if possible) or disposed of and replaced with newer vessels.
- Affordability in most fishing sectors means that the purchase of new build vessels is totally uneconomical for operators and hence the reason why secondhand vessels are purchased and then upgraded. In addition, building locally in GRP is not an option for larger vessels.
- Currently no local shipbuilders are building steel fishing vessels and recent proposals are clearly not acceptable from a cost point of view, and from a vessel design and construction lead time point of view.
- As such it is imperative for the upgrade of the fishing fleet by the purchase of importing and upgrading on newer secondhand vessels.
It would appear that the refusals from ITAC are not supported by proper reasoning and are in most parts generic responses utilized in a one size fits all fashion. As reiterated by Mr. Coxon there are large economic benefits of importing and operating a used secondhand fishing vessel, particularly in the local ship repair and ship supply, crewing and crew training industries – in addition to providing a cost-effective operating vessel to fishing companies.
The presentation further highlighted that:
- the fishing industry cannot afford to purchase new build fishing vessels at costs proposed.
- there is a risk of operators exiting the industry because they are unable to afford brand new vessels.
- the age of the fleet is now increasing with the associated safety risks to crew.
- older vessels that operators are now forced to continue using, are less fuel and emission efficient than newer vessels which also impacts the sustainability of the fishing industry.
In conclusion, it was submitted that long-term sustainability in the fishing industry could be compromised by the ITAC position which would affect not only local food security but the export of a valuable commodity for the country. As such urgent intervention and lobbying is required from all sectors of industry as well as from government departments in order to break the deadlock.