At the commissioning of the ship-bunkering service are, from left, the company’s non-executive director, Chrystel Bassett-Simmonds, South African Marine Fuels MD Siyamthanda Maya and Eastern Cape economic development MEC Oscar Mabuyane

The tide is turning for transformation in South Africa’s maritime sector, as well as for its fledgling but catalytic oceans economy programme, with Tuesday’s official commissioning of a new ship-bunkering service in Algoa Bay.

In a boon for the region and Operation Phakisa, South African Marine Fuels has been awarded the second bunkering licence for Algoa Bay.

However, it was the fact that the company was established and is controlled and managed by two dynamic businesswomen that rocked the male-dominated maritime boat on the day.

The surprise announcement was made at the high-level introduction of the new service at the Coega Development Corporation’s (CDC) headquarters in Port Elizabeth.

The keynote speaker, Eastern Cape MEC for economic development, environmental affairs and tourism Oscar Mabuyane, said: “This is the best Women’s Month present ever.”

The new bunkering operation – a lucrative, job-creating ship refuelling activity which is considered one of the main anchors of the oceans economy campaign – was not the only surprise revelation at the event.

The MEC, who has recently drawn praise for his commitment to the development of the oceans economy, also committed his political will and effort to resurrect a long-mooted project – establishing an oil refinery in the CDC’s world-class Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

“We will be taking this to national government. If there is going to be any new refinery in South Africa, it must be in the Coega SEZ,” Mabuyane said.

“If the government wants to experiment with such a development in the country, it must be done here in the SEZ.”

Mabuyane said he envisioned a full-value chain oceans economy that would benefit the full length of the province’s 800km coastline.

Revealing that tax laws were among the biggest stumbling blocks to the development of significant bunkering services around the country’s coast, the MEC was also critical of the excessive red tape, which he said needed to be addressed to speedily create a successful oceans economy as a whole.

He also made it clear that Algoa Bay, with its two ports and optimal shipping, transshipment, bunkering and related shipping services, was an ideal location for a national maritime hub. Ship waste (slop) removal and processing, ship-building and maintenance and aquaculture opportunities were also mentioned as halo projects within the greater oceans economy programme.

They could be initiatives which would be driven by entities such as the CDC – which has already laid much of the groundwork.

Making the most waves on Tuesday, however, were South African Marine Fuels shareholder and managing director Siyamthanda Maya and shareholder and non-executive director Chrystel BassettSimmonds.

Describing a lengthy, challenging journey towards establishing the bunkering company, Maya, a former Eskom employee and electrical engineer, expressed pride in their achievements.

She said legitimate transformation had been achieved as she and her founding partner were not just controlling the entity, but held equity in the company and were directly involved in its management.

Bassett-Simmonds, a lawyer, revealed that the company had invested R360m into the venture and was operating three chartered vessels to effect the bunkering services in the Bay.

Bassett-Simmonds said that environmental considerations were paramount to the company and played a leading role in the implementation of its services.

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