Our Burning Planet


Saldanha harbour powerships plan ‘fatally flawed’, says Environmental Affairs

Saldanha harbour powerships plan ‘fatally flawed’, says Environmental Affairs
A group of small-scale fishers and allies of the Green Connection environmental justice group signal their position on the Karpowership saga at a recent protest event in Cape Town. (Photo: Green Connection)

The department of environmental affairs said Karpowership’s environmental impact assessment application for Saldanha was deemed to have been withdrawn and the application was now considered ‘closed’. But Karpowership has not thrown in the towel.

The national department of environmental affairs has ruled that Karpowership’s latest application for environmental approval for two floating powerships in Saldanha Bay is “fatally flawed”, suggesting that this project may not go ahead – but the company has not given up and is appealing against the decision.

While the Green Connection environmental justice group has welcomed the latest refusal as a sign that the Saldanha Bay power ship plan is now “closed”, Karpowership attorney Adam Gunn immediately lodged an appeal, complaining that “a minor administrative oversight” by Karpowership’s environmental consultants should not be allowed to derail a nationally strategic emergency power plan.

In a letter signed on 23 May, a senior official of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs advised the Karpowership legal team that his department had refused to grant the company extra time to comply with the approvals process at Saldanha Bay.

Sabelo Malaza, the department’s chief director for integrated environmental authorisations, noted that Karpowership wrote to Minister Barbara Creecy on 26 April to request more time to submit a generic Environmental Management Programme (a legal requirement in the approvals process).

However, Malaza said the department had decided to refuse the request based on its belief that Karpowership’s failure to comply with legislated requirements was a “fatal flaw” and could not be cured by further requests for extra time.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Add those megawatts’ — Ramaphosa backs Karpowership and slowing down coal power plant decommissioning

Notably, all three Karpowership proposals were refused by the department in June 2021, but Creecy nevertheless gave the company a further opportunity to correct the flaws in its initial environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.

Now the department has identified further flaws in the revised Saldanha EIA reports that were resubmitted in January 2023.

Commenting on the latest developments in a statement on 1 June, the Green Connection environmental group said Creecy’s department had confirmed in writing that Karpowership’s EIA application for Saldanha was deemed to have been withdrawn and the application was now seen as “closed” from the department’s side.

Spokesperson Neville van Rooy said: “As an eco-justice organisation that works with the small-scale fishers who will be most affected by the presence of powerships in (Saldanha Bay), the Green Connection is pleased that Karpower has received yet another refusal in Saldanha.”

But Karpowership has not thrown in the towel by any means.

In his appeal papers, Pinsent Masons attorney Adam Gunn argued that Karpowership had complied with legal timeframes and was now requesting a 60-day extension “to undertake minor amendment to the EIA”.

“Furthermore… the submission of the Generic Environmental Management Programme is in order to correct a minor administrative oversight, which process should never have the ability to derail a nationally important Strategic Integrated Project.

“It is therefore clear that the (department) erred in the decision and that the decision should be set aside by the Minister and that the condonation requested should be granted.”

Meanwhile, uncertainty remains around the other two Karpowership projects in Richards Bay and Coega harbours.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Greasing the skids: Karpowership clinches last-minute ‘special directive’ from SA government

With the Richards Bay plan, Karpowership has also applied for extra time to comply with EIA requirements, but the department has not announced whether it will approve this request.

The Coega power ship plan is also up in the air. The department rejected Karpowership’s second EIA largely on the basis that it was in direct conflict with harbour expansion plans by the Transnet National Ports Authority.

Gunn has lodged a separate appeal against this decision. DM

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Bee Man says:

    What would be really intresting for me is to see and what seems to be missing in tge media is an indepth and well researched report on actual performance of these behemoths and problems that other countries and nearby communities have experienced while using them. I can only imagine the noise levels and emissions would be severe.

  • A Green says:

    Can more South Africans join this plea. Large corporations cannot be allowed to trample on small scale businesses like this. If the project was so important, Karpowership should have ensured they surpassed environmental requirements, rather than mangle their way in.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    The ANC are obviously floundering and trying by any means to get more electricity despite the total rejection by everyone else to these powerships. They are not looking at the costs, both direct and indirect, and what this will do to the economy an the country. They are looking at a short term gain for political reasons, but a medium and long term loss for the country and people

  • Bill Gild says:

    Karpowership will get the go-ahead, no doubt about it.
    The ANC/SACP alliance must be salivating at the thought of the money (kickbacks) that will flow to them, and their belief that this monstrous plan will somehow alleviate a portion of our power deficit.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    A 20 years contract must be prevented at any cost. It has absolutely no sense at all. It is only somebody’s interest and we know what that means😨

  • Shaheen Mehtar says:

    I thought we were moving away from fossil fuel and turning to alternative sources of energy. Is this investment not superflous to requirements`/

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