The salvaging of the 22 boats in Hout Bay harbour will create a number of job opportunities for the people of Hangberg.
According to community leader, Greg Louw, the undertaking, which forms part of the government’s Operation Phakisa programme to tap into South Africa’s ocean economy, will “turn something negative into something positive”.
Mr Louw said that contrary to popular opinion the sunken vessels were not the result of crime in the harbour precinct, but a case of boat owners simply abandoning the vessels once they could no longer afford to maintain them.
Mr Louw, a commercial driver by trade, has been serving as Hangberg’s representative on the project, which is being overseen by the departments of Public Works and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
“The fact is in the past six or seven years, DAFF made every effort to track down the owners of these boats, but without success. The boat owners just walked away,” he said.
“From what we have seen, these boats were badly neglected and, in fact, were never fit as ocean-going vessels.
“Whoever bought these boats thought they could enter the fishing industry, but as soon as they realised the tremendous maintenance costs involved, they walked away.”
He said boats made out of wood had to be treated every two years, but this had clearly not been done, making them vulnerable to sea worms, which had weakened the timbers.
“Basically, what we have in the harbour is the result of people not being able to play the fishing game. There is crime in the harbour, we are all aware of it, but it is incorrect to blame this for the wrecks in the harbour,” he said.
Guerrini Marine Construction (GMC) has been awarded the contract for the salvage operation by the Department of Public Works.
“Part of their brief is to employ people from the local community, and we envisage that some 50 households in our community will now draw an income from the operation,” Mr Louw said.
“There will be work for breaking up the boats and recycling the wood from the boats.
“Furthermore, seven guys will be trained as commercial divers.
“So we are really excited that something that started out as negative can be turned into something positive for the local communities.”
According to Public Works spokesperson Thami Mchunu, the salvage operation will cost a little more than R10 million.