Pretoria: 24 September 2018
Ensuring maximum safety for fishermen crews in South Africa’s commercial fishing sector should be a matter of common sense both from a basic human and business perspective.
This is particularly so for employers in the sector in view of the stark fact that owners as well as skippers of fishing vessels that flout legislation for the protection of fishermen can face both jail terms of a minimum one year, as well as a fine of up to R40 000 per incident when found in contravention.
This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) at the weekend following an incident in Port Elizabeth a few days earlier during which a fishing vessel was prohibited to sail after the owners and skipper were established to have contravened sections of the Maritime Occupational Safety Regulations (MOS Regs) 1994.
The contravention concerned, in particular, Regulation 4 of the MOS Regs (1994) relating to compulsory provision of safety equipment and facilities by employers to fishermen whilst at sea.
A SAMSA report last week indicated that an ad hoc inspection of the Fv Silver Explorer, managed by Talhado Fishing Enterprises on behalf of M B Fishing Ventures, berthed at the port of Port Elizabeth had found that the vessel’s crew had to personally pay for some of their required safety clothing, which were ‘oilskin pants, trousers and gumboots’.
The report states: “During an ad hoc inspection on the Fv Silver Explorer (on Wednesday morning) everything was found to be in order except that the crew was still paying for their Oilskin pants and oilskin trousers, as well as their gumboots.
“These items are part of their protective clothing as per Maritime Occupational Safety Regulations, 1994, Reg 4 which is for the (vessel) Owners Account. Corrective action was to prohibit the vessel from sailing until the matter was addressed in terms of regulations and proof thereof forwarded to SAMSA.”
SAMSA says that afternoon, Talhado Fishing Enterprises responded with a written commitment to rectify the situation by supplying the involved clothing items at its own expense going forward.
In the written response, among other things, the fishing vessel’s shore skipper, Mr Robert Mentzel said: “This letter serves to confirm that Talhado Fishing Enteprises will cover the cost of protective clothing; 1 x Oilskin jacket, 1 oilskin pants, 1 x gumboots, 2 pairs of socks….from the opening of November 2018
“Initially, the skipper will hand out the PPE on sailing day open season and the crew will hand over the PPE to the skipper on docking day. A register will be kept on board by the skipper to control this.”
After receipt of the commitment, SAMSA lifted the sailing prohibition and allowed the vessel a free run.
However, SAMSA described the outcome of the case, where the company committed to self-finance protective clothing for its fishermen crew, in according with law, as a major milestone in the promotion of and monitoring of compliance with law by the commercial fishing sector with regards to fishermen safety.
In fact, SAMSA said, the Wednesday incident occurred just a one other fishing company, also in Port Elizabeth, had embraced the legal requirement to supply its fishermen crew with personal protective equipment at the fishing vessel owner’s cost.
SAMSA reported that “the company manages 15 vessels with crews of between 20 and 25 persons at R1200,00 per annum per person- which means over 330 crews with a total saving back in their pockets of over R400 000 per year.”
According to SAMSA, all licensed fishing companies in South Africa are aware of the MOS Regulations.1994, yet violation remains prevalent in a sector where no less than 3000 fishermen – in the southern region of the country at least – remain exposed to industry practices that leave them financing certain items of their workplace Personal Protective Clothing/Equipment (PPE) contrary to provisions of the law.
In the process, what earnings fishermen made during their employment were significantly reduced, with massive negative impacts to their social lives.
A victory for SA fishermen!
“This is a victory for the fishermen as it will result in a saving for each and every fisherman, with money back in their accounts,” said SAMSA, further noting that enforcement will continue to ensure that all companies adhere to the regulations and that where they are found to have failed, it is made sure that they are “dealt with in accordance with the regulations.”
Regular consultations and information sharing continues with the sector about the issues, the latest meeting having taken place in Cape Town in July this year.
According to SAMSA, South Africa as a Member State of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and with close relations with the International Labour Organization (ILO), is not only committed to ensuring compliance with own legislation but also with ensuring implementation of various other international related instruments including the ILO’s Working in Fishing Convention 188 (2007) relating to the promotion of fishermen and fishing vessels safety and working conditions.
In fact, the country has been praised globally for its leading role in the promotion of fishermen and fishing vessels’ safety the world over, particularly in the last 13 years and during which period accidents and deaths have reduced in South Africa from double to single digits per annum.
The ILO in particular recently heaped praised on South Africa, but SAMSA in particular for its contribution to the development of the implementation of Convention 188 and which was historically implemented in this country for the first time in December 2017.
South Africa has also been a major contributor to the IMO’s ‘Cape Town Agreement’ On the Implementation of the Provisions of Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977.