Maritime sector Covid-19 restrictions under constant review as South Africa settles with 21 day lockdown

Pretoria: 28 March 2019

Certain tough restrictions imposed on every aspect of life in South Africa on the basis of the country’s recent declaration of a state of National Disaster, as well as a three weeks population lockdown that began on midnight Thursday (March 26), as a response to the global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, are constantly receiving reviewal, according to the Department of Transport.

For the maritime sector, one such strict restriction is that related to the entry and exit of seafarers and associated personnel at any of the country’s ports, which are virtually closed to all international trade cargo except that deemed to be essential supplies.

In terms of the new special rules, vessels dropping anchor at or near any of the country’s ports are not allowed disembarkment of seafarers and therefore not permitted to change crews, even if the seafarers are South African.

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South Africa Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula

However, in a statement in Pretoria on Friday, Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula said that specific restriction was urgently being reviewed, this coming in the wake of an incident in Durban, where  a crew of  six (6) South African seafarers on a cruise ship, the Queen Mary 2 (erroneously named as the Queen Elizabeth 2), were disallowed disembarkment, according to the lockdown rules.

“These South Africans want to disembark and return home.  However, our regulations do not allow crew changes at any of our ports, even if these are South Africans. The Queen Mary 2 is waiting for clearance to enter the port in order to refuel and take provisions.  This is a matter we are urgently considering,’ said Mr Mbalula in Pretoria on Friday.

The confirmation of the reviewal came as South Africa ended its first of 21 days of a national lockdown in terms of a declared State of Natonal Disaster in line with a global scramble to ward off or limit the grossly negative impacts of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic now in its fourth month since its outbreak in China in December 2019.

As of Friday, the start of the national lockdown, South Africa recorded a rising figure of just over 1000 people found infected by the virus as well as confirmation of the death of the first person due to the pandemic.

The Health Ministry in a report on Friday gave a breakdown of the nature and extent of infection, stating that of the total 1170 people so far found to be positive of the Covid-19 virus, those hospitalised (both public and private) included 55 patients in intensive care units and three (3) in ventilations while 31 had recovered.

Of those infected, a total 4407 of those with whom they had been in contact had been identified and of these, 3465 successfully traced for their locations. The ministry also raised alarm that: “There is an increase in the rate of internal transmissions. Patients without a history of travelling abroad have been detected in many provinces.” – a situation giving justification to a clampdown n the movement of people between provinces and districts during the 21 day nationwide lockdown in order to prevent further infections.

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The SA Agulhas, South Africa’s dedicated cadet training vessel owned and operated by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

Meanwhile, with regards the fate of seafarers, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), announced a raft of measures aimed at assisting the country’s seafarers.

The statement said:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Republic of South Africa announced measures to combat the spread of the disease by declaring a State of Disaster and putting the country on lockdown effective midnight on 26 March 2020.

“The results of such lockdown is that all businesses are required to close doors except for those offering essential services. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and its stakeholders have been affected by the lockdown as a result only with essential services being rendered. As such, the services for seafarers which are rendered directly by SAMSA and/or its clients/stakeholders may not be delivered during the lockdown, viz:

  1. No training of seafarers for short courses over the period, academic programmes may continue through ‘e-learning’ platforms
  2. No assessments for seafarer certification will be undertaken during this period.
  3. No eye sights test will be undertaken during the period.

The results of this is that seafarers whose certificates expire during this period are not able to attend re-fresher training whilst some are unable to sign-off their vessels. SAMSA has granted a general extension to all certificates expiring during the National State of Disaster as set out in the Marine Notice.

For this purpose, the production of the said Marine Notice shall be sufficient for Seafarers working on vessels trading within the South African Ports.

Seafarers working on foreign vessels may be required to produce specific individual documents expressing the extension of the certificate. To this end, seafarers and the employers may obtain such extension by completing the application forms below.

All extension requests shall be made using the form below;

Certificate extension Application Form – FOP-524.8 – Extension of Certificate.pdf

 We have also provided guidance below;

Completing Extension Form Guide – Completing Extension Form guide.docx

Users are requested to download the form from the link above and not to share with other persons to prevent missing out on changes that will produce negative results or return incorrect information. The system requires that all fields be completed correctly to ensure that the correct information is distributed.

Enquiries should be directed to the Registrar of Seafarers at seafarers@samsa.org.za  or the Chief Examiner at exams@samsa.org.za

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SAMSA outlines measures to curb spread of Covid 19 by ships and crew at South Africa seas

Pretoria: 17 March 2020

The South African Maritime Authority (SAMSA) has set out guidelines on how management of sea going vessels falling within its scope of activities shall be dealt with, following the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid19), and which partly suspends some of its activities, such as ship surveys for a limited period of time.

The publication of two Marine Notices due for release this week, follows fresh on the pronouncement by the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula on Monday this week on steps the maritime safety agency will embark upon. That in turn came in the wake of South Africa President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa announcing on Sunday a National Disaster declaration aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid19 virus now rampant in just about every country in the world, from its outbreak in China last December.

The first of the new Marine Notices announces the temporal suspension of ship surveys, audits or inspection from this week until 30 March 2020. “As of 16 March 2020, all statutory surveys, audits and inspections will be suspended for a period of 14 days.”

The second notice; “serves to inform vessels, Masters, crew, passengers, ship agents, Stevedores, surveyors, Ship managers, Ship owners and all other stakeholders with additional information in order to manage any suspected outbreak of Covid-19 onboard a vessel in the best possible way.”

In the former notice (temporal suspension of certain services) SAMSA states in part that: “Recognizing that, due to the outbreak of the COvid-19, the industry is facing challenges in meeting statutory requirements stipulated in the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006) and other relevant IMO Conventions, SAMSA has decided to provide guidance for dealing with the circumstances for example, extending seafarer periods of service onboard vessels, delaying periods for surveys, inspections and audits in a pragmatic and harmonized approach.

The agency then urges affected parties to read carefully the Marine Notice in order to ensure a clear understanding of its contents and how to enlist help when necessary.

DSC_4428In justification of the termporary suspection of services, SAMSA states: “SAMSA surveyors frequently travel to smaller fishing communities where there are no proper medical facilities in the area, other than a local clinic. SAMSA surveyors may therefore inadvertently spread the coronavirus to a local fishing community when visiting.

“Vessels operating from these communities, whose safety certificates expire before 15 April 2020, may request an extension on their safety certificates for up to 60 days, subject to change.

“In cases where Local General Safety Certificates (LGSC) are already expired, a re-issue of an LGSC will be considered on a case by case basis provided that the previous LGSC has not been expired for more than 60 days. To this end, payment for re-issue will need to be made.”

The Marine Notice then expands on the set of other services affected and provides guidance on how affected parties shall solicit and receive medical and related services under given sets of conditions and circumstances.

In the other Marine Notice, SAMSA provides extensive detail of measures currently being undertaken in South Africa to prevent the spread of the killer CoVid19 and arrangements, inclusive of contact details, to be utilised by affected parties in the maritime sector.

These also include recommended preventive measures against the spread of the virus within South African borders.

Key contact numbers being offered to affected stakeholders are follows:

  1. CORONAVIRUS PUBLIC HOTLINE: Tel. 08 000 29999
  2. MARITIME RESCUE COORDINATION CONTACT DETAILS (24 / 7 / 365): Tel: +27 (0) 21 938 3300 or mrcc.ct@samsa.org.za
  3. TRANSNET NATIONAL PORT AUTHORITY: Tel: +27 (0) 83 378 8877 or Tel: +27 (0) 83 306 1228
  4. SOUTH AFRICAN DESIGNATED COASTAL HOSPITALS

Western Cape          Tygerberg Hospital  Cape Town   +27(0) 21 938 4911

KwaZulu-Natal         Grey’s Hospital         Pietermaritzburg       +27(0) 33 897 3000

Eastern Cape           Livingstone Hospital   Port  Elizabeth       +27(0) 41 405 9111

Northern Cape          Kimberley Hospital  Kimberley      +27(0) 53 802 9111

Designated hospitals for managing Coronavirus –

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1u86kN7ZVxPBG-s5pzHc93b29fkpKGC16&usp=sharing

On publication, the two marine notices can be accessed from the SAMSA website by following this link:

http://www.samsa.org.za/Pages/default.aspx

 

Meanwhile, the outbreak of the Covid19 virus and its ferocious, insatiable and unstoppable appetite to infect large numbers of people globally at an alarming rate has put paid to South Africa maritime sector’s celebration of the return of the country’s sole cadet training and research vessel, the SA Agulhas, from its historic sojourn through the Indian and Southern Oceans, including Antarctic this week.

Make history of the SA Agulhas’ journey to the ocean region this time around, and which began on its departure on 27 December 2019 from Cape Town, was part of its all female crew of 22 cadets and two female training officers – the first of its kind ever to undertake the journey, along with a group of Indian scientists periodical studying that part of the world.

Cadets muster during safety drill onboard SAAGThe SA Agulhas’ historic all female cadet crew and training officers was scheduled to be celebrated during a now cancelled event scheduled for East London, one of South Africa’s major coastal cities on the Indian Ocean, on Friday 20 March 2020.

Now with strict restrictions on people’s gatherings and precisely their close contact in groups, as well as other considerations related to current efforts aimed at prevention of the spread of the Covid19 virus, the reception will no longer take place, confirmed SAMSA in Pretoria this week.

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Rights for thousands of fishermen a major turning point for Eastern Cape maritime sector

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Handing over historical fishing rights to 53 rural coastal communities of the Eastern Cape -province –  the single largest group ever, for the first time – were (Left) Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, with (Right) Eastern Cape MEC for Rural Development & Agrarian Reform, Ms Nomakhosazana Meth in Mthatha on Friday (06 March 2020)

Pretoria: 10 March 2020

The awarding of fishing permits for the first time ever to more than 4 000 subsistence fishermen in the Eastern Cape at the weekend, along with the launch of the province’s ‘Oceans Economy Masterplan’ marked a major positive economic turning point for one of South Africa’s poorest regions.

This is according to both the province’s government in Bisho as well as national Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy during a function to both launch the province’s maritime economy development masterplan – the first of its kind focused expressly on the sector – as well as the handing over of fishing permits to 53 rural community fishing cooperatives in Mthatha on Friday.

The 53 cooperatives with a total membership of some 4361 members, are part of a group of 78 cooperatives recently formed in the province representing as many as 5335 artisanal rural community fishermen now accorded long term fishing rights spanning a 15 year period.

They join 174 other communities in the country’s three other coastal provinces – KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape – who are now official beneficiaries of an amended legislation four years ago that formally recognised fishing needs and rights of subsistence fishing communities in the country’s  rural coastal areas.

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“Today is a special day in the history of the long, long struggle of traditional small fishermen and women. Today is the day we formally hand over 15 year fishing rights to over 4361 individuals organised into 53 cooperatives in the Oliver Tambo, Alfred Ndzo and Amatole Municipalities.

“This is the largest group of small fishermen and women to have ever been given rights anywhere in our country. Today is, indeed, a day to celebrate,” said Ms Creecy during the occasion.

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Ms Barbra Creecy. Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

According to Ms Creecy, this will benefit no less 14 000 members of rural communities members with a food resource, but also an opportunity for business. She added: “The rights being handed over today are free of charge. Coperatives are exempted from paying any fees for the next three seasons.”

In terms of the rights accorded, the rural community fishermen in the area will be allowed to harvest with immediate effect an assortment of fish species ranging from East Coast rock lobster, mussels, seaweed, hake to sardines and some other.

However, the harvesting of some of the allocated fish species will depend on the intended end-utilisation, between self consumption or commercial sales by the cooperatives. In addition, the newly righted rural community cooperatives, in terms of fish harvesting, will be assisted with as many as 20 fishing vessels, to be used interchangebly among them pending a formal promised allocation of commercial fishing rights in the 2021 fishing season.

Ahead of the fishing vessels allocation this year, as budding businesses, the cooperatives will also be assisted with business and financial management training and support through agencies under the Department of Small Business Development as well as the National Skills Fund.

Said Ms Creecy: “The Eastern Cape, as we all know, is blessed with over 800 kilometres of a coastline. Across the world, more and more nations recognise the role our oceans can play in combating poverty, unemployment and creating inclusive growth and jobs in parts of the world where land is overcrowded and degraded.

“Our country in one of many African countries to adopt an oceans economy strategy following the decision by the African Union in 2015 to launch the African Intergrated Maritime Strategy by declaring the following 10 years to 2025 ‘the decade of the African seas’.

“This strategy recognised that African nations rely on the ocean for trade, transport, energy, food, tourism, recreation, and many other goods and services. This means our oceans must be managed responsiblly and cooperatively for the benefit of all African countries.

“Here in OR Tambo, Alfred Ndzo and Amatole District municipalities, the oceans economy masterplan aims to assist our people to take advantage of this unique natural resource by developing infrastructure of both small harbours, promoting tourism by improving facilities include beach access, safety, recreational areas and nature reserves,” she said.

For Ms Creecy’s full remarks, click on the video below

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Ms Nomakhosazana Meth. Eastern Cape MEC for Rural Development & Agrarian Reform

Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape government, represented by MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Ms Nomakhosaza Meth, described both the handing over of the fishing rights to rural community artisanal fishermen and the launch of the province’s historical ‘Oceans Economy Masterplan’ as a culmination of efforts emanating from the country’s ‘Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy)’ initiative launched in 2014, as well as the provincial government in partnership with stakeholders’ efforts aimed at capitalising on the province’s coastal location, towards enhancement of the region’s economic development.

Over the next 18 years, the province’s plan, developed with the assistance of the Nelson Mandela University, hopes to create no less than 1.8-million jobs deriving from investment projects across nine (9) prioritised subsectors of the maritime economic sector.

Thesr include marine transport and manufacturing, tourism, offshoare oil and gas, tourism, construction, renewable energy, fisheries and acquaculture, communication, desalination and related business economic activities.

“This event marks an important milestone in the policy evolution of the Oceans Economy policy trajectory as a product of an enduring partnership driven by the Eastern Cape Government with tremendous support from the National Department of Forestry and Fisheries and the Nelson Mandela University.

“The combined celebrations to launch of the Eastern Cape Oceans Economy Master Plan and the presentation of 15 years long licenses to the small-scale fisheries sector is a major achievement in the local development  of the nascent  Oceans Economy, indicative of the progress made through aligning of policy to practical implementation of projects,” said the provincial government in a statement.

DSC_9046aAccording to the provincial government, the masterplan comprises four ‘centrepiece’ documents:

  1. a Baseline Study  offering “an analysis of the state of the oceans economy in the Eastern Cape and outline the rationale for the selection of catalytic projects.
  2. a  Research Agenda – intended to “enable decision-makers with reliable data updated information and empirical evidence to make informed decisions.”
  3. a Strategic Road Map  that “sets out the 20 year trajectory and implementation strategy of the Oceans Economy Catalytic Projects.”
  4. a Bid Book – “essentially for mobilizing resources and attracting investments for financing the catalytic portfolio and   funding Oceans Economy Projects.”

For more on this, click on the two videos below. (Please note that MEC Ms Meth’s remarks are entirely in the local language, isiXhosa).

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Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Acting CEO. SAMSA

The South African Maritime Safety (SAMSA) both applauded the development as well as pledged its ongoing support through standard services it offers in terms of its legislated mandate involving ensuring the safety of property and life at sea, guarding jealously against the degradation of the oceans natural environment through prevention of polution of the seas by ships, as well as promoting South Africa’s maritime interests.

SAMSA acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi, among other things, formally announced the establishment recently of a SAMSA office in the Wild Coast town of Port St Johns.

He also reported on progress being achieved with the agency’s Maritime Youth Development Programme (MYDP) which has already impacted that part of the country positively over the last three years through creation of hundreds of employment opportunities for local youth in the world’s cruiseliner business. He also spoke on the agency’s involvement in the country’s fishing vessels’ recapitalisation programme, as well as SAMSA’s rural communities maritime economic development programme which includes marine tourism development.

Fishermen’s welfare, be it in the commerical or hitherto informal subsistence sector. is primary to SAMSA’s objectives and goals and is recognised worldwide, hence South Africa became the world’s first country to both adopt and implement the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 188, in 2018.

As recently as five months ago, the country, an active member of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), hosted a week long workshop for five East Asian countries that needed assistance and guidance on the implementation of the ILO’s C188.

For Mr Tilayi’s full remarks, click on the video below.

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