Pretoria: 13 April 2020
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has vowed to take all possible steps necessary to prevent people abuse on board ships sailing on South Africa’s oceans, inclusive of taking such harsh punitive measures as necessary, as provided for in law, against established violations.
The warning comes in the wake of an ongoing investigation being conducted jointly with other authorities, including the South African Police Services (SAPS), into an alleged throwing overboard of two people by the crew of a foreign cargo vessel visiting South Africa recently, after they were reportedly found on board without permission.
In a statement in Pretoria on Monday, SAMSA said the two men, both of Tanzania origin – described as stowaways – were reportedly forcibly removed and thrown overboard from a Panama flagged bulk carrier named MV Top Grace. The incident reportedly occured after the MV Top Grace had sailed off the port of Durban on 28 March 2020.
Once authorities got wind of the incident, the vessel was detained in Richards Bay and charges laid against the ship’s captain and six of its crew members. They have since appeared in court while official investigations are continuing, said SAMSA
In the statement SAMSA says: “The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is working with the South African Police Services (SAPS) in the investigation of an incident on the 28th of March off the KZN Coast involving the MV Top Grace. The MV Top Grace is Panamanian flagged bulk carrier.
“The investigation follows allegations by two Tanzanian nationals that they were thrown overboard after illegally boarding the vessel while it was berthed at Durban harbour.
“It is alleged that the two stowaways had boarded the vessel “Top Grace” which was berthed at Maydon Wharf in Durban on Monday 23th March 2020 by climbing up the mooring ropes and hid in the chain locker.
“When they were discovered hiding on the ship, after it had set sail, they alleged that they were thrown overboard with a make-shift raft, life jackets and some bottles of water. The Tanzanians claimed they spent two days at sea before washing out at Zinkwazi beach on the North Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
“The vessel is currently berthed at the Richards Bay harbour and is detained. Seven crew including the Ships Master, Chief Officer, Third Officer, Chief Engineer, First Engineer, Second Engineer and Bosun (senior crewman of the deck) were taken into Police Custody and charged with attempted murder before being released on bail. The crew were allowed to return to the vessel until their next court appearance.
“SAMSA has also conducted its own investigation and has shared such with the SAPS to assist with their ongoing investigation. SAMSA would like to warn vessels sailing through its territorial waters that any vessels found to have transgressed South Africa’s national laws, will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
“The South African Maritime Safety Authority will continue to monitor all vessels calling at South African Ports or sailing through its territorial waters to ensure that its mandate of protecting the marine environment from pollution and saving lives and property at sea. SAMSA implores all vessels and ship managers to act responsibly during this period of uncertainty.
“SAMSA would like to thank the South African Police Services, National Prosecuting Authority and all other parties involved, whose selfless action and dedication to protect South Africa’s coastline during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown period has shown the true spirit of Ubuntu.”