Africa’s support of Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety crucial to implementation in 2022: IMO

Pretoria: 25 February 2021

With 14 countries now already on board and needing just eight (8) more to bring to 22 the number of States required for implementation of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) sactioned Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessels safety globally, support by African countries in particular has never been more necessary, according to the London based United Nations (UN) body.

This emerged once again strongly this week during a two-day webinar for African region countries hosted by the IMO on Tuesday and Wednesday, essentially to share more information as well as ganner support for the Agreement ahead of its scheduled implementation in 20 months time (October 2022).

Several African countries including South Africa as represented by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), neighbouring Namibia and Gambia participated in the two-day webinar held over two hours on each of the two days, chaired by head of IMO Africa section subdivision for Maritime Development and Technical Co-operation, Mr William Azuh.

The webinar this week was one of several launched a year ago, beginning with Latin America in November 2020 and intended to cover all maritime regions across the world for information sharing and promotion of the ratification of the CTA treaty on fishing vessel safety ahead of its coming into effect next year.

According to the IMO, the CTA adopted in South Africa in 2012 by 51 of its Member States essentially; “outlines design, construction, and equipment standards for fishing vessels 24 meters or longer and details regulations that countries that are party to the agreement must adopt to protect fishing crews and observers. It also calls for harmonized fisheries, labor, and safety inspections.

“The agreement will enter into force once 22 States, with an aggregate fleet of 3,600 eligible fishing vessels, become parties to it. Once in force, this treaty will raise global safety standards for one of the most dangerous professions,” says the IMO

Key features of the CTA in terms of enhanced fishing vessels safety, according to the IMO, are:

  • Improve(ment of) safety of life at sea
  • Fighting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing
  • Protecting the environment

The CTA, a predecessor to two previous failed treaties; the 1977 Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, and the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol, is one of four instruments intended to develop, entrench and enhance fishermen working conditions for safety globally in a standardised and harmonious way. Three of these have since been ratified for global application, supported and driven by the IMO and other organisations including the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The three include:

  • the IMO’s International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F), 1995 – in force since 2012 and currently being revised to align its standards with the current state of the fishing industry,
  • the ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (Convention No. 188) now force since 16 November 2017 and implemented first by South Africa in December 2017. It sets minimum requirements for work on board including hours of rest, food, minimum age and repatriation.
  • the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)’s Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), 2009, which entered into force in 2016. The latter is aimed at preventing, deterring and eliminating IUU fishing through the adoption and implementation of effective port State measures.
A Pew video outlining in detail the Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety. (Source: Pew [YouTube])

However, even with three of the instruments now in play, formal implementation of the CTA to enhance fishing vessels safety universally worldwide is crucial, according to both the IMO and its associate, and global research and advocacy group, Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew).

In a statement encouraging African countries’ support and ratification of the CTA ahead of the Africa region IMO webinar this week, Pew stated: “Fishing continues to be recognized as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world and despite major efforts to tackle this problem there is currently no international binding instrument in force that addresses the design, construction, and equipment of fishing vessels.

“But the 2012 Cape Town Agreement (CTA) which was adopted at a Conference in South Africa in 2012 addresses all the difficulties that had been identified by States with large fishing fleets trying to improve vessel safety.

“It is expected that the CTA’s entry into force will give States a powerful tool to ensure that vessels flying their flags are held accountable for the safety of their vessels and crews; that fishing operations are conducted safely and legally; and that their safety obligations as responsible flag States are fulfilled. It will encourage vessel owners and operators to adopt a responsible approach to what is an inherently dangerous activity. And it will also help States to safeguard their citizens who work on board foreign-flagged vessels and mitigate the risk of IUU fish entering their markets.

“At this juncture in time and considering the African continent’s longstanding battle with illegal fishing hindering fish products coming to the African markets and our own artisanal fishing industry being threatened by large scale industrial operators, it is time to act and make ourselves heard, said Pew.

At the IMO webinar this week, some African countries, among them Namibia, expressed keen interest to support the CTA, however, some citing numerous challenges involving technical expertise, as well as setbacks recently experienced with the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic since December 2020.

Meanwhile, South Africa, a key contributor both to the development and implementation of the ILO’s C188 Convention and a forerunner as signatory of the CTA, indicated that it remains “proactive in efforts to effectively implement the required Flag State requirements of the “Agreement”.

Domestically, the country’s main representative at the IMO, SAMSA, said that the country was among the lead 14 IMO Member States to have ratified the CTA agreement. The 13 others include Belgium, Congo, Cook Islands, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Spain

Speaking on Tuesday, the first day of the webinar, SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, Captain Vernon Keller outlined some of the South Africa’s achievements to date since implementing the instruments aimed at fishermen safety. Among these was the significant and consistent reduction in the number of fishers fatalities in the two decades from 2000 to 2020. In the period, recorded fatalities fell from double digits of between 20 (2000) and 57 (2002) to single digits now hovering at about four (4) per annum in 2020.

It was also significant, he said, that in the 14 years between 2006 to 2020, the majority of fishers fatalies (55) involved fishing vessels measuring less than 10 meters in length, followed by those measuring between 10-24 meters (53) while the largest at 24 meters and above accounted for less than half (20) of the smaller vessels in both categories.

Of the few “lessons learnt’ by the country over the years, Capt. Keller said no country could afford to be a spectactor in its own as well as the global maritime environment. “Be more than a spectator country in the business of ocean and fisheries economy.” This, he said, implied a greater need for collaboration betwen multiple government departments and agencies “to ensure harmonised legislation in support of each others’ objectives.

Captain Vernon Keller. Deptuy Chief Operating Officer: South African Maritime afety Authority (SAMSA)

“Collaborate with the fishing industry and make them part of the solution to obtain a ‘buy-in’, modernise fishing vessel construction, equipment, safety and labour regulations. Equally important is the systematic implementation of new regulatons to allow for a change management process to take place,” said Capt Keller, further indicating that due to South Africa’s legislative process being slow, the country had to prioritise legislation for the implementation of the ILO’s C188 Convention.

Further, according to Capt. Keller, South Africa’s other lessons included knowledge sharing among key government agencies and departments as crucial, as the country soon noted with SAMSA’s training of Department of Environment, Forestry and Fishing (DEFF) fishing inspectors to help identify safety deficiencies during IUUF inspections onboard vessels at sea. And so was the case with close supervision of training institutions, programs and facilitators to formalise training. The country also found it worthwhile to create awareness with respect to fishers rights as well as allocating dedicated resources to seafarer welfare that SAMSA now operates.
Capt. Keller pointed out however’that, on the flipside of the coin, effective implementation of all the approved measures also had its negative consequences. Some of the emerging issues, he said; included Flag States who were failing to fulfil their obligations towards own fishers – with some fishers being abandoned by fishing vessel owners once foreign fishing vessels were detained.

“Abandoned fishing vessels are a financial burden on the State due to caretaking costs of vessel and the fishers onboard. In addition, there is port revenue loss due to abandoned fishing vessels remaining in port for extended periods and confiscating and selling an abandoned foreign fishing vessel is difficult due to the low financial value and conditon of the vessels.

(Source: IMO)

In terms of support of African countries, South Africa has continously availed itself for providing guidance based on development of own draft regulations. As part of that support effort, in October 2017, the country hosted a regional seminar for several African contries over five days at the historic Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town’s. The gathering – attended by 50 delegates from several English-speaking or Anglophone African countries in central and southern Africa – was the seventh in a series held by the IMO worldwide since the founding of the ‘Cape Town Agreement’ five years before.

For a brief glimpse at that Cape Town gathering of some of African countries for information on the CTA under the guidance of the IMO and SAMSA in 2017, click on the videos below:

Wrapping up this week’s IMO webinar on Wednesday evening (7pm South African time), participants issued a statement expressing gratitude to the government of South Africa, Liberia, and Spain as well as the IMO, ILO, FAO and Pew.

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Close engagement and collaboration, key to SA maritime sector growth: industry players

Pretoria: 16 February 2021

Continued engagement and close collaboration remain the key ingredient to redevelopment and growth of the South African maritime economic sector, according to industry players.

This was restated by virtually all invited guests to this year’s SAMSA Annual Stakeholder Event held on the eve of the Government’s State of the Nation Address that marks the opening of the country’s Parliament on Thursday last week.

With South Africa still bogged down under the hard grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, SAMSA’s event last Wednesday evening was held virtually online and for the reason, attracted more people than ever before, as it was also streamed live on social media platforms.

Ms Nthato Minyuku. Chairperson: SAMSA Board of Directors

This blog reported on Thursday on the remarks of the SAMSA Board of Directors perspective of the country’s maritime economic sector development currently and the role that SAMSA, a state agency under the Department of Transport continues to play along with its current strategy going forward. This was contained in remarks made by the Board’s chairperson, Ms Nthato Minyuku

In this report, packaged with video remarks of all the speakers that participated, we aim to present the full version of South Africa’s industry players’s views and responses on a whole range of issues concerning, affecting and impacting the country’s maritime economic sector. and central to whose key message was the need for continued close engagement and collaboration in the sector.

Among the issues, predictably, the outbreak and impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in December 2019, and first experienced in the country from about February 2020, was top most. According to all speakers, the disruptive effect of the pandemic was felt by everyone but especially seafarers and whose struggle with it continues. Emerging strongly in this regard was the high level of cooperation experienced between industry and SAMSA in seeking to ensure alleviation of some of the pressing challenges that faced and continue to face seafarers.

Maritime industry participants, allocated per subsector, featured on topics that ranged from maritime law and regulations review – or poor lack thereof -; maritime education, training and skills development; shipping trends inclusive of South Africa’s plan for rescucitation of a domestic shipping fleet, to current and future ports regulations and plans, seafarers development and challenges, as well as oil and gas industry perspectives and matters affecting fishing.

Also outlined were SAMSA’s strategic objectives over the next five to 15 years within both the context of the country’s Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy under the Department of Transport as well as the agency’s legislated mandate of ensuring safety of life and property at sea, prevention and combating of pollution from ships and promotion of the country’s maritime interests.

The Department of Transport rounded up the presentations.

The video clips – and whose quality is disappointingly poor largely due to an online video feed that suffered low grade relay – are arranged in the order of 13 of the 14 speakers participating on the day – led by introductory remarks by (now former) SAMSA Acting CEO Mr Sobantu Tilayi. The duration ranges between 4m 30 sec to 15 minutes, with the biggest number averaging under 5 minutes.

South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA). Acting CEO: Mr Sobantu Tilayi

Industry responses and remarks

Legal Fraternity: Mr Andre Pike. Head: Ports, Transport and Logistics. Bowmans

Ports Regulator SA: Ms Johanna Mulaudzi. CEO

Shipping: Mr Andrew Millard, Director, Vuka Marine

Shipping: Mr Ross Volk, Managing Director, MSC Cruises SA

ShipOwners: Mr Peter Besnard. SAASOA
Maritime Manufacturing: Ms Sefale Montsi: Chairperson
Oil & Gas: Mr Mthozami Xiphu. Chairman
Academia: Mr Odwa Mtati. CEO: SAIMI
Fishing SA: Mr Loyiso Phantshwa Chairman
Seafarers Association: Mr Kevin Watson. President: SAIMENA
Maritime Risk: Mr Paul Mclons. CEO: AMSOL
Department of Transport: Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane. Director: Maritime Industry Development

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Stabilising SAMSA and strengthening its strategic role underway: SAMSA

Pretoria: 12 February 2021

The South African Maritime Safety (SAMSA) has announced the secondment of Department of Transport director, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane, as acting Chief Executive Officer of the agency, with immediate effect.

SAMSA said Ms Taoana-Mashiloane would be replacing Mr Sobantu Tilayi, SAMSA’s Chief Operations Officer, who had acted in the position since 2016.

“Her secondment to lead SAMSA is a transitional arrangement pending the finalisation of the recruitment and appointment process of a permanent CEO,” said SAMSA in the statement in Pretoria on Friday.

Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane. Seconded by Department of Transport to Acting CEO of South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

The secondment – to be followed soon by a formal appointment of a permanent CEO – according to SAMSA’s Board of Directors, is part of a broader renewed effort currently to stabilise the agency, as well as strenghten its strategic role in the redevelopment and expansion of South Africa maritime economic sector as envisaged in its legislated mandate.

The statement described Ms Taoano-Mashiloane as the Department of Transport’s director for Maritime Industry Development and therefore a long serving and experienced civil servant with broad familiarity with the operations of SAMSA

Her academic qualifications include a Masters of Science degree in Botany & Environmental Management) and an MA in Maritime Safety & Environmental Administration.

“Ms Taoana-Mashiloane is also no stranger to SAMSA as, relative to her position at the Department of Transport, she  is well acquainted with SAMSA having worked closely with its management for many years on key programmes; among these the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) periodic audits, the World Maritime Day parallel events – the next scheduled for South Africa this current year – the SA national Inland Water Strategy and the National Ports Consultative Committee.”

The announcement on Friday comes a couple of days after SAMSA held its annual “pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA)” Stakeholders Event staged virtually online on Wednesday evening, involving a number of key maritime sector stakeholders from across the country.

Among these were Mr Andrew Pike, head of Ports, Transport and Logistics at Bowmans, Ms Joey Mulaudzi, CEO of Ports Regulator South Africa, Mr Andrew Millard, director at Vuka Marine, Mr Ross Volk, MD of MSC Cruises SA, Mr Peter Besnard, CEO of SAASOA, Ms Sefale Montsi, Chairperson of AMD, Mr Mthozami Xiphu, Board Chairperson at SAOGA, Mr Odwa Mtati, CEO of SAIMI, Mr Loyiso Phantshwa, Chairman at Fish SA, Mr Kevin Watson, President of SAIMENA, Mr Paul Maclons, CEO of AMSOL, Mr Mthunzi Madiya, and Ms Taoana-Mshiloane on behalf of the Department of Transport.

Ms Nthato V. Minyuku. Cairperson: SAMSA Board of Directors

In her address, SAMSA Board of Directors chairperson Ms Nthato Minyuku described the issue of SAMSA management leadership as among critical issues requiring attention as a matter of priority needed to ensure stability in the agency.

She said: “You would have seen that we are in the market looking for a permanent CEO for SAMSA. This is the first item we have to deliver on. Five years is a long time without a permanent CEO. I would wish to thank the EXCO team that has held SAMSA steady during this period.”

The second aspect to stabilising SAMSA related to its financial position. According to Ms Minyuku, various operational issues now compounded by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in December 2019, had hugely impacted negatively SAMSA’s finances. She said SAMSA was not about to go to the Treasury with a begging bowl, but the situation needed arresting. Part of this was a proposed five (5) per cent tarrif increase over and above that granted during the last financial year.

An address of SAMSA Annual Stakeholders Event by the agency’s Board of Directors chairperson, Ms Nthato Minyuku on Wednesday evening. The event held virtually online this year is stagged annually the evening before South Africa’s official opening of Parliament and delivery of a State of the Nation Address (SONA) by the country president.

“In terms of SAMSA resources, we have been hit hard by the COVID pandemic. At some stage, we were contemplating what we have come to refer to as “cash flow day zero”. Although we have successfully evaded this day, we are by no means clear, much less financially sustainable.

“We are fortunate never having had to go to National Treasury to ask for a “bail out” and I must commend EXCO for this achievement. However, in order to keep sustainable, we have had to request an additional 5% tariff increase to the 6% that was already approved by the Minister with the concurrence of Treasury,” said Ms Minyuku.

Regarding the external environment, she said it was SAMSA’s view that the agency’s strategy was fit for purpose. “It is our view that first and foremost, SAMSA must discharge its regulatory obligations and build capacity to sustain our abilities in this regard. We have adopted a model of delivering on our objective of “promoting the republic’s maritime interests” via partnerships.

“These are partnerships that have seen us create hundreds of jobs for rural youths. These are the partnerships that have seen us starting what will be a long and steady growth of our ship register. We continue along this trajectory, to ensure that we use the synergies that exist between you, the industry and us, the government; as well as the various abilities and instruments among the government players.”

On her reflections broadly onto the country and global maritime sector, Ms Minyuku said South Africa was still relatively well positioned geographically to continue to play a meaningful role in the sector, but that the country needed to step up its effort to both cement its strategic role as well as ensure broader society beneficiation.

She pointed to the coming into effect last month of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement and the vast business opportunities it presents to South Africa particularly from a shipping transport perspective.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is poised as likely to …”create the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating,’ says the World Bank.

Further, it says: “The pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillion. It has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty, but achieving its full potential will depend on putting in place significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.”

In this regard, Ms Minyuku, South Africa needed to up its maritime sector development efforts towards especially establishment of, among things, a locally registered and South Africa flag carring fleet of vessels.

Ms Minyuku further applauded South Africa’s endorsement of an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) resolution that declares seafarers as essential workers.

For her full remarks on these and related issues, Click on the video above.

More coverage of the SAMSA Stakeholders Event, inclusive of contributions by industry players, will follow.

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SAMSA and Home Affairs Dept lock hands to unblock SA seafarers’ passports renewal

Pretoria: 11 February 2021

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA says problems encountered by South African seafarers at Department of Home Affairs relating directly to renewal of their expired or expiring passports are being attended to and hopefully soon, these will be resolved.

The SAMSA statement in Pretoria on Thursday comes in the form of a Marine Notice 2 of 2021. The notice comes barely a week after the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), of which South Africa is a Member State, confirmed the country’s ratification of a resolution involving 50 other Member States, granting seafarers globally the status of ‘essential workers’.

In the notice, SAMSA acknowledges that with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and numerous problems arising since about a year ago, some due to Government’s counter-measures against the spread of the virus, such as the national lockdown at different levels since March 2020, seafarers but especially South African seafarers, have been among workforces who have suffered most even as the maritime sector remained operational for the longest of time under the circumstances to date.

In the notice, SAMSA in further acknowledgment of the effort put up by the South African government through various departments inclusive of the Department of Transport under which shipping transport falls, states nevertheless that: “….as much as Maritime Transport remained essential in the eyes of the world’s authorities as it continued to be allowed to operate under different lockdown regimes around the world, seafarers were forgotten. Crew changes were banned in many countries during the first half of 2020.

“This caused mayhem in the maritime industry as seafarers struggled to sign-off vessels and relievers struggled to get to ships. This resulted in what some termed as the humanitarian crisis at sea as seafarers had to stay on board for extended periods. Another humanitarian crisis was brewing at home as seafarers who had made it home before travel bans struggled to get back to the ships and were left without income for extended periods.”

According to SAMSA in the notice, even with global strides being made to alleviate the plight of seafarers globally, this inclusive of sets of resolutions by the IMO, the United Nations as well as organised business calling for seafarers to be declared ‘essential workers; with the second surge of Covid-19 infections in South Africa in  the latter part of 2020, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs scaled down operations, in the process suspending applications for passports except for people under certain categories permitted to travel.

In this regard, SAMSA says even as the country’s seafarers were classified under Category 2, (people allowed to travel), several seafarers reportedly encountered problems when seeking to renew their passports at various offices of the Department of Home Affairs across the country.

“South African seafarers have been allowed to disembark and join vessels within the South African ports from as early as level 1 of lockdown. From 10 June 2020 they could travel internationally via repatriation flights to fulfil contractual obligations. SAMSA and the Department of Transport are currently engaged in talks with the relevant departments to ensure this matter is resolved,” announced SAMSA.

In the meantime, SAMSA called on all South African seafarers still battling to renew their passports to contact the organisation.

“When renewing a passport, the seafarer must take the following documents to the Department of Home Affairs office:

(1) Letter from the company, declaring you as a seafarer, employed and an essential key worker.

(2) Copy of the IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.35/Rev.3 which states that seafarers have been declared key workers (essential workers). A copy is attached to this Marine Notice.

“Should a seafarer experience any problems regarding renewal of a passport, kindly forward the following to welfare@samsa.org.za:

  • Name and Surname.
  • Contact details.
  • Company name.
  • Department of Home Affairs office visited.

The details, according to SAMSA, will allow the agency to take matters up with relevant authorities.

End.

South Africa joins the world in declaring seafarers ‘essential workers’; IMO

Pretoria: 09 February 2021

With the siege by the Covid-19 pandemic still gripping firmly most parts of the world and disrupting world trade since its outbreak more than a year ago, South Africa has joined more than 50 countries globally in formally ratifying a resolution that declares seafarers as essential workers.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), of which South Africa is a Member State, confirms this in a circular to members and associated institutions including the United Nations, issued on Friday, 05 February 2021.

If all goes well, this may facilitate for seafarers globally to be ‘frontline workers’ to receive a Covid-19 vaccine as a matter of high priority.

This latest development, in terms of an IMO Resolution (MSC.473), Member States…”designate seafarers as ʹkey workersʹ providing an essential service, in order to facilitate safe and unhindered movement for embarking or disembarking a vessel and consider legal possibilities for accepting internationally recognized documentation carried by seafarers as evidence of their status as ʹkey workersʹ, and for the purpose of their travel and movement for crew change;ʺ

Further, in terms of IMO Resolution GB.340/Resolution (Rev.2), the Member States are urged and agree; ‘…in accordance with applicable national laws and regulations, to: … designate seafarers as ʺkey workersʺ, for the purpose of facilitation of safe and unhindered movement for embarking or disembarking a vessel, and the facilitation of shore leave, and when necessary, to shore-based medical treatment;ʺ

According to the IMO circular on Friday, as many as 55 countries that are Member States of the organization, and two others that are associates, had ratified the resolutions by the end of the week last week, with three African countries – South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya – being among those in the list.

The list of countries or Member States of the IMO that have ratified the resolutions include Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Lebanon, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Montenegro, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Yemen, (Associate Member: Faroes, Hong Kong (China).

The ratification of the resolutions by a growing list of IMO Member States, according to the IMO, brings to fruition a year-long strife to alleviate the plight of seafarers since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and which brought about an “ongoing crisis…impacting seafarers as well as other marine personnel.”

The resolution also has the full backing of the United Nation Assembly which recently also joined the seafarers campaign by calling on its own Member States “…to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers and to implement relevant measures to allow stranded seafarers to be repatriated and others to join ships, and to ensure  access to medical care.”

The UN General Assembly’s own resolution was adopted during a session of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on 1 December 2020.

Further, the IMO resolutions ratification by the 55 Member States announced on Friday was also the second such major step recently towards improving the work conditions of seafarers during the Covid-19 pandemic situation following to the adoption earlier of the ‘Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change “ by more than 600 organisations.

According to the declaration: “Covid-19 has impacted the daily lives and wellbeing of seafarers in unprecedented ways, causing a humanitarian crisis at sea. Hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been stranded working aboard ships beyond the expiry of their contracts. As the frontline workers of the maritime industry carrying 90% of global trade, seafarers play a vital role in ensuring the global flow of goods that the world depends on.”

“The Neptune Declaration urges the implementation of four main actions to address the crisis:

  • Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines
  • Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice
  • Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes
  • Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers
Mr Kitack Lim. Secretary General. International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

In a statement on its website, the IMO states: “IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the industry-led Neptune Declaration, which calls for seafarers to be designated as key workers and for cooperation to end the crew change crisis, which is not only putting seafarers in a desperate situation but also threatening the safety of shipping and world trade. Hundreds of thousands of seafarers around the globe are unable to leave ships, while others cannot join, due to travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement further quotes Mr Lim as saying: “I am pleased to see the industry come together under the Neptune Declaration to support ways to resolve the crew change crisis. This very much reflects the calls made by IMO, its sister UN entities and more recently the United Nations General Assembly, in its recent resolution on seafarers…I encourage more companies, including charterers, to get involved and show their support for our seafarers.” 

With regards IMO Members States, Secretary-General Lim urged more Governments to designate seafarers as key workers. 

Remarking on South Africa’s ratification of the IMO resolution designating seafarers as ‘essential workers,’ SAMSA Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi in a statement on Tuesday, described the new development as progressive.

Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Acting CEO. South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

Mr Tilayi said: “this resolution will go a long way attending to the plight of Seafarers currently stranded on ships or unable to join a ship because of the restrictions brought about by the pandemic. We are particularly pleased by the call for Seafarers also be given priority access to Covid-19 vaccines alongside other frontline workers.

“Seafarers are the key link in the economy chain and this designation will bolster the economy recovery efforts by many states affected by the pandemic. South Africa will host the 2021 World Maritime Day Parallel event later this year and will use this event to highlight its commitment to the global protection of Seafarers.”

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