TNPA addresses environmental fall-out following storm damage

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) today issued a statement addressing concerns raised around the environmental fall-out following the crippling storm damage at the Port of Durban on October 10. “During the natural disaster TNPA and Samsa had to prioritise the refloating and remooring of five drifting vessels, three of which had grounded in the port due to the extraordinary weather conditions,” a spokesman said. “On the same day TNPA managed to secure two damaged shipping containers that had fallen into the water. These containers were retrieved as soon as available resources had successfully dealt with the five affected vessels.” According to the spokesman, Transnet has accounted for all containers that were reported missing and containment measures were implemented as soon as it was discovered that at least one of the fallen boxes contained bags of plastic pellets.

“Several bags were retrieved within the port waters and a clean-up operation was implemented by the Port Pollution Control department with the assistance of a subcontracted third party. Sounding surveys conducted by TNPA’s Dredging Services division, supported by divers and drones, found no further obstructions or obstacles on the seabed within the port limits and the port was declared safe for navigation on 13 October.” The Port Authority’s ongoing clean-up operations within port limits have also been targeting a significant inflow of waste that was discharged into the port from the Umbilo, Amanzimnyama and Umhlatuzana Rivers, according to the TNPA statement, as well as the municipal stormwater system.

“Following reports that the plastic pellets have been discovered along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal an urgent meeting was convened on 24 October between TNPA and other government entities (namely the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), South Africa Local Government Association (Salga), provincial environmental affairs, Ezemvelo, etc.) to discuss mitigating measures. “Affected municipalities will be informed to be on the lookout for the plastic pellets and will lead their own clean-up operations along their area of coastline. A preliminary report has been submitted to DEA and progress will be monitored before a final report is issued by TNPA and Samsa within 14 days of today’s date.”

More money for SAA – Gigaba

SAA will receive a further R4.8bn from government by March 2018. In September, National Treasury director general Dondo Mogajane told MPs that Treasury had agreed to give SAA a special appropriation of R10bn by the end of September. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa further told the National Council of Provinces that any funds being considered to help address SAA’s maturing debt would have to be appropriated through a “special appropriations bill that will be introduced to Parliament”. Despite this, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba told Parliament today (October 25) that Treasury would offer SAA a total recapitalisation of R10bn, R5.2bn of which had already been provided, with the remaining R4.8bn to be transferred by March 31, 2018. “These funds will be used for working capital and to settle debt, enabling the airline to reduce its interest expenses,” Gigaba told the National Assembly during his maiden Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS).

South Africa’s tax revenue was projected to fall short of the 2017 budget estimate by R50bn in the current year – the largest downward revision since the 2009 recession, Gigaba said. He admitted that additional appropriations of R13.7bn to recapitalise SAA and the South African Post Office had had contributed to this offset. “Thus, to ensure the expenditure ceiling is not breached, we have decided to dispose of a portion of government’s Telkom shares,” Gigaba announced, adding that government had the option to buy their shares back later. But even after this capital allocation, government’s exposure to SAA debt remains significant at R15bn, Gigaba admitted. “There is risk that if SAA’s financial fortunes do not improve, there will be further calls on the [R19.1bn guarantee government has issued to SAA]; however if SAA executes a successful turnaround in line with its projections by 2019/20, its reliance on guarantees will subside,” Gigaba said.

The appointment of a new permanent CEO and a new board were critical steps in ensuring that the airline’s turnaround strategy was aggressively implemented, Gigaba added. With regard to rumours of a merger between SA Express and SAA, Gigaba said he would announce plans to consolidate aviation assets and bring in a strategic equity partner once he had met the new board of SAA. “Despite its current challenges, government remains convinced that retaining a national carrier is in the public interest,” Gigaba concluded.

‘Shippers not capitalising on EU export quotas’

Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, has vowed to tackle the challenges preventing local agricultural producers from utilising the full export quotas set out by the Southern African Development Community (SADC)/European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which became effective in October last year. EU trade commissioner, Cecilia Malnström, pointed out that while the trade bloc had seen a rise in agricultural exports over the past year, “there was much more to be done to reap the benefits”. She said all parties would work together to ensure that the EPA enhanced trade and “promotes mutually beneficial outcomes”. She believes the failure of most shippers to take up the EU export quotas is based on a lack of understanding of the opportunities. She suggested that South Africa and the EU launch an awareness and educational campaign to inform traders of these opportunities.