Fishing communities fear their livelihoods are threatened by Karpowership plan

Gas energy generation licences approved despite environmental concerns.
Ntsindiso Ncgavu, of Coastal Links Port St John’s, spoke at the Oceans Tribunal, held at the DoubleTree hotel in Cape Town on 21 and 22 September, where small-scale fishers expressed concern over the impact power ships will have on fishing communities. Image: Supplied

Fishing communities in Saldanha Bay and Gqeberha are worried that newly-approved gas powerships will drive away or even kill the fish their livelihoods depend upon.

“What will happen if we can’t fish? Who is going to put food on the table? How will our fishermen get an income?” asked Carmelita Mostert, a fisher from Saldanha Bay.

On Tuesday, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) approved the licence for gas energy generation in Saldanha Bay, Coega and Richards Bay by Karpowership SA.

Environmental organisation Green Connection says these floating gas power plants will have a devastating impact on communities that depend on small-scale fishing.

Mostert lives in Saldanha Bay and owns two fishing boats. Her father was also a fisher. “I am dependent on the sea. I have no other income than the ocean,” she said.

She was one of half a dozen small-scale fishing representatives who spoke during the Oceans Tribunal on Wednesday in Cape Town, discussing the impact of the oil and gas industry on their communities.

Vuyiseka Mani, from Qqeberha, said that while the energy projects promised job opportunities, it would be at the expense of fishing communities.

Civil society organisations have criticised Nersa for approving the licences in spite of being refused environmental authorisation by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment in June.

In April, writing in the Daily Maverick, Tony Carnie explained: “[P]owerships, much like giant kettles, use large volumes of seawater to cool down the heat from onboard gas and steam turbines, thereafter discharging the heated wastewater back into the sea.” The raised water temperatures “will kill off a variety of marine life in the immediate vicinity of the powerships and possibly change underwater oxygen levels and disrupt the wider marine ecology around Richards Bay, Saldanha and Ngqura harbours.”

Michelle Koyama, attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), said the approval without environmental authorisation was “premature”.

However, Nersa approval only allows for the generation of electricity by Karpowership SA, not the building of infrastructure.

“Until Environmental Authorisation is granted, Karpowership cannot operate or commence with any construction,” said Koyama.

Koyama said the power ships will emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The noise generated by the ships had also not been adequately addressed, especially since this could drive away marine animal populations.

The CER, on behalf of environmental group groundWork, submitted objections to Nersa in August. The CER said the power ships only have a lifespan of about 20 years, making them unnecessarily costly. In addition, it objected to the greenhouse gas emissions and that the project had not received environmental authorisation.

Nersa spokesperson Charles Hlebela said that environmental authorisations, the mitigation of pollution, and the impact on small-scale fishers, do not fall under its jurisdiction.

Read: Outa asks Nersa for reasons behind approving Karpowership’s generation licences

Read: SA banks balk at backing emergency power bidders

© 2021 GroundUp. This article was first published here.


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in and an Insider Gold subscriber to comment.


Unsubstantiated rubbish. These ships will burn LNG which is mainly methane. Why would they release methane. That would be dumb at every level. Cars don’t emit valuable petrol, after all. Gas turbines don’t require cooling water they use a process called “suction air cooling” which transfers the heat to the atmosphere. How much cooling water does a airliner carry? Even if all the heat went into the ocean, the effect would be hardly discernible.

Agreed but everything goes swimmingly well until this lot explodes !!!

For sure, these environmental campaigners do so often their cause a disservice by not understanding the science behind it, and being overemotional and irrational. This does not mean, that these powerships and actually all the projects of this RMIPPPP are the best solution, plan for electricity production in SA.
Read my comment below :
And although natural gas burns quite clean in a direct, superficial way. No or very little ash, sulphur or nitrous oxides, it still produces 50-60% of CO2, compared to coal, the most important GHG, green house gas. On top of that methane is an at least 20 X more potent GHG than CO2, and 2-3% escapes in the atmosphere between well and end-user.
Also gas turbines are mostly very noisy, what I understand of it.
And why emergency power for 20 years ? Does not make any sense at all. The environmental application of these power ships apparently also contains in small letters, that they should be allowed when needed to burn HFO heavy fuel oil, also called shipping oil. This is truly the dirtiest fossil fuel around, full of sulphur and metals. And Kardeniz can charge higher prices when LNG global prices rise.
So although their reasons are poorly expressed, and reasoned in this article, we still should stop those powership deals if possible.

No that’s not true. Water vapour is the most important GHG in terms of atmospheric concentration, heat trapping ability and wavelengths over which it absorbs infrared radiation. By far. CO2 is important but a very distant second.

Methane spectral absorption bands overlap with water vapour hence it has practically no effect on the earth’s energy budget. In scientific terms: radiative transfer models’ longwave radiation (W/m2 vs concentration) methane line is almost flat. Current methane is about 2ppm in the atmosphere. 1000mppm methane concentration(beyond unthinkable) would affect the energy budget by about 2W/m2 i.e. a perturbation of about 0.5%. The CH4 residence time is less than 10 years. The methane scare is all a big lie. When the Soviet Union collapsed methane concentrations in the atmosphere plummeted as business savvy oligarchs saw an easy way to maximise profits by plugging leaks.

My question is to Moneyweb: why are they publishing unsubstantiated, unreviewed pseudo-scientific cobblers?

Perhaps a small X in another spot next time will make a difference?

Too bad about the fishermen.

The ANC has an election, unpaid staff and PAYE to finance. The kickbacks are essential.

This comment nails it. The real reason why the ANC takes any decision.

We’ve just built 2 massive coal powered power stations for just this reason, we have e-tolls, the list goes on.

Then we handwring over global warming.

Oh, but then we can tax all the carbon we’ve just created. So all’s good.

This is all nonsense about the heat generated killing the fish. In the 60’s Durban had the Congella power station that used to return cooling water into the Durban bay at a place called hot stream. The cooling water outlet was a very sort after fishing spot because the warm water attracted the fish for the fishermen to catch. Fish would not be attracted to something that harmed them.

Not so sure : it seems ANC voters are continually attracted to something that harms them . Their brains and those of fish likely have a similar IQ!!

even if one look pass the environmental effect karpowerships may or may not have, it is still not a permanent solution for the eskom electricity shortage – you pay for years but at the end of the day you still have nothing to show as a longterm asset bought – just money paid to another country

End of comments.



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Moneyweb newsletters

Instrument Details  

You do not have any portfolios, please create one here.
You do not have an alert portfolio, please create one here.

Follow us: