Keep the Blue Flag Flying

Keep the Blue Flag Flying

‘The person who holds the flag determines what is written on it.’

Ivan Sukhov, 15 July 2015, The Moscow Times.

In a recent blog, we wrote in glowing terms about the Waterfront Charters home, the amazing V&A Waterfront; it’s not only home – it’s our harbour and long-time companion on our quest to remain the number one cruise company in the Cape. So when we learnt that the V&A had been awarded Blue Flag Status for the third consecutive year, we felt both very happy as well as proud that the V&A team had been recognised yet again for all that they do and have done to keep South African tourism on the international map.

We would like to quote the V&A Waterfront’s Andre Blaine, Executive Manager, Marine & Industrial on this feat: “Winning the status a third time in a row is a huge achievement, and this year being one of only two marinas in the Western Cape been awarded the status even more so after the environmental challenges we recently experienced. “ He went on to praise the team that worked hard through the process to maintain the status, as well as their partners, including the Two Oceans Aquarium. Joshio Fisher, the Marina, and Canal Technical Manager adds, “We’ve always placed the environment at the centre of everything we do and all the hard work we put in together as a team contributed to us receiving this award.”

These are sentiments very close to our hearts at Waterfront Charters. We have been part of the V&A family for close on three decades now, and it has been an amazing journey. The fact that the V&A’s protection of the environment and the wildlife that surrounds the area has always been a primary consideration supports our core values, and are equally proud of what we have done during that time to maintain the integrity of the waterfront and its occupants, human as well as land, air and ocean.

But what, exactly, is Blue Flag Status? We have all probably heard of Blue Flag Beaches (Cape Town has a delightful assortment of these), but why the V&A Waterfront? The Blue Flag is a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education – a non-governmental organisation consisting of 65 organisations in 60 member countries – that a beach, marina, or sustainable boating tourism operator meets its standards. The Blue Flag is a trademark owned by FEE. Achieving Blue Flag Status is not just about natural beauty: Clifton Beach, as an example, is a stunning spectacle and the perfect place to see and be seen, but receiving Blue Flag recognition include standards for quality, safety, environmental education and information; the provision of services and general environmental management criteria. Certificates, which the FEE refers to as awards, are issued on an annual basis to beaches and marinas of FEE member countries. European and North American certificates are awarded on the 1st June each year, and Southern Hemisphere nations on the 1st November.

The criteria for Marina Blue Flag Status awards are stringent; having a successful marina operation in terms of visitors is not enough (although the V&A would  certainly score big on that level.) There are four distinct categories: ‘Environmental Management’; ‘Environmental Education and Information’; ‘Safety and Service’; and finally and importantly, ‘Water Quality’. Each of these categories have a number of conditions that are strictly measured by the FEE, and there are no shortcuts to winning the award. Under Environmental Management, as an example, are no less than eleven strict criteria, including: production of an environmental policy and plan at the marina; facilities for receiving recyclable waste materials, such as bottles, cans, paper, plastic, organic material, etc.; all buildings and equipment must be properly maintained and in compliance with national legislation, and the marina must be in a good integration with the surrounding natural and built environment. The Safety and Service regulations are, as one would expect, very comprehensive, as are the tests for water quality, including microbiological tests to show that the water is free of bacteria.

The V&A Waterfront succeeds on all levels, thanks to the hard work that is continually put in by the dedicated team that look after the multiplicity of tasks that are needed to keep a complex, dynamic, enterprise functioning. We’ll say it again: at Waterfront Charters we are extremely proud to have been part of this process, to have watched and assisted the team over the years, and we look forward to many more decades of successful growth, and even more importantly, protection of the environment.

Well done, V&A Waterfront!