Pretoria: 18 May 2021
A computer virus found to have infected computer systems at the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) will lead to delays of up to six weeks in the issuance of seafarers’ certificates, the country’s maritime agency under the Department of Transport announced in Pretoria on Tuesday.
The announcement in the form of a Marine Notice (MIN 05-21), published in SAMSA’s website on Tuesday morning revealed that: “SAMSA was exposed to a computer virus in April 2021, necessitating SAMSA to implement precautionary measures by disconnecting its network servers to prevent the virus from infecting all systems. SAMSA’s ICT department is conducting a full health assessment on all servers, operating software and hardware.
“At this point, no personal data was compromised, and SAMSA is continuing to investigate the incident in collaboration with law enforcement agencies.
According to SAMSA in the statement, while some services rendered by the agency to the country’s maritime economic sector were not affected bythe computer virus infection incident, such as vessels surveys; the agency’s Seafarer Certification Software System (SIOMS 2.) “was affected by the database restore(ation) which caused some unexpected technical difficulties. SAMSA is working towards resolving this technical failure as soon as possible.”
Due to the challenge related to systems restoration, SAMSA said: “Seafarers should expect delays in the issuing of any seafarer verifications, documentation and certificates of competence while the system is being repaired. Once the system is fully operational, seafarers (will) continue to experience delays with all certification related services for approximately 4-6 weeks while SAMSA implements extra-ordinary measures to clear the backlog and implement measures to improve services.
This notwithstanding, SAMSA urged seafarers and or affected people to continue engaging with it through its offices along the South African coastline in order to ensure that services and assistance needed are provided where possible.
“Seafarers intending to revalidate their certificates may continue to apply to do so at their local SAMSA office. Seafarers may continue to apply for Level 3 assessments (orals) leading to a higher qualification. Any interim certificatesfor Small Vessel Skippers Certificates of Competence that have expired in the last 3 months or any Small Vessel Certificate of Competence expiring within the next 4 weeks, may be extended up and until 31 August 2021 while SAMSA’s certification unit clears the backlog.
“In the event of certification related issues, seafarers currently serving on foreign going vessels should provide full details of the assistance needed and should submit a request to email@example.com and in the event of any seafarer welfare challenges resulting from this delay, seafarers can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAMSA extended an apology for the disruption to services: “SAMSA apologizes for this temporary inconvenience and assures all stakeholders that the technical issues are being addressed with utmost urgency.”