South Africa’s inland waters strategy comes under national govt spotlight this week Friday – and SAMSA says it’s fully onboard

Pretoria: 19 October 2021

The launch of South Africa’s inland waters strategy by the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula at the Vaal Dam in southern Gauteng province on Friday this week marks a critical and crucial turning point for the country in terms of effective and efficient management of inland water spaces, particularly with regards to collaborative efforts towards enhancement of human and environmental safety and wellness.

That is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA, the country’s primary agency statutorily for maritime and marine safety inclusive of both people and water vessels across the country’s three oceans as well as inland waters such as dams and rivers.

SAMSA’s main focus area in terms of the country’s inland waters is the promotion and enhancement of safety as well as environmental protection with regards boating use in various categories in terms of the South African Merchant Shipping Act 57 of 1951 (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulation, 2007, as amended; which extends its overall original 1998 founding Act mandate to include inland waterways within or accessible to the public within the Republic.

According to SAMSA, the legislation provides for, among things; regulations for each specified category of vessels – from small to big – with particular regard to requirements for their construction and use,whether for commerce, leisure or such other use on South African waters.

The Inland Waters Strategy to be launched on Friday itself, according to the Department of Transport, aims to “find the right balance between an emphasis on education and encouraging personal responsibility and the need for the implementation of the National Small Vessel Safety (NSVS) Regulations in a manner of co-operative governance and other measures for an effective inland waterway safety regime.

“The implementation of the goal-oriented, intergovernmental co-operative strategy that underpins regulation, compliance, education, communication and awareness will greatly assist in promoting a culture of safe and responsible boating.  This must be implemented in the spirit of co-operative governance between national, provincial and local government, as well as Industry and communities using, or living next to the inland waters.”

Therefore SAMSA has been working closely both with the Department of Transport – its parent government department – other national and provincial government bodies and institutions as well as private sector and independent bodies to contribute to formulation of the Inland Water Strategy.

In addition, SAMSA says it had also begun rolling out a series of training programmes and workshops for small boats owning or operating communities across the country since about a year ago, all to assist South Africans with both enhanced awareness and knowledge of the requirements of the raft of NSVS regulations under the Act.

Specifically tasked with the assignment is its dedicated boating section led by Ms Debbie James as manager, along with a set of highly technically skilled officers that serve both as surveyors as well as training providers.

Recently added to the SAMSA boating section team are a group of youths with basic seafaring skills and experience who are undergoing training as Marine Officers over a two year period. (see video below)

Over the next few years the SAMSA boating section team will be intensifying its reach across South Africa’s thousands of dams that are geographically widespread, some on 23 large rivers and many estuaries located over a large area of the country, in all nine provinces, to engage for law compliance owners and operators of as many as an estimated 1.2 million small vessels, commonly known as boats, that operate in South Africa, mostly for sport, recreation, tourism and subsistence fishing by local communities.

On Friday this week SAMSA will further outline with much finer detail the length and breadth of current and future planned activity relating to the Inland Waters Strategy and the latter whose detail is scheduled to be unpacked by both its owners, the Department of Transport as well others key roleplayers; among them the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DEFF), the South African Police Services (SAPS), the South African Navy, boating associations and related institutions both in the public and private sectors.

In the meantime, this blog caught up with members of the SAMSA boating section embarking on the nationwide training workshops programme to glean on their recent and current activitity. For that story, please see the section below.

This SAMSA blog also took time to chat to the three young seafarers at the agency undergoing training as Marine Officers and part of whose current training involves boating surveys. For the full interview click on the video below.

SAMSA ON NATION-WIDE SMALL BOATS TRAINING WORKSHOPS WITH CORPS OF THREE YOUNG SEAFARERS UNDERGOING TRAINING AS MARINE OFFICERS ON TOW

SA’s small watercraft vessels owners and users’ compliance with law is receiving a boost with SAMSA’s increasing national training workshops.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and its sickness and fatal impacts on people the world over, has without doubt affected negatively a whole range of human activity across sectors of society, inclusive of leisure involving the widespread use of small vessels in South Africa’s open water spaces, both adjacent the oceans as well as inland.

With people having endured no less that a year and half under national lockdown characterised by intermittent levels of lockdown intensity – from a total shutdown at Level 5 to a more relaxed one at Level 1 – and now with vaccinations on a wide scale, a reasonable expectation is that many are itching for social outdoor leisure to begin in earnest.

For some this means taking time out for boat ride on the country’s rivers, dams, lagoons and related if only for a care free relaxation.

However, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) boating section, a “carefree relaxation” on small water vessels anywhere in the country actually comes with a lot of responsibility both for those that own the small watercrafts, just as is the case for those that board them on water, for any reason.

In addition to general safety, that’s partly because in terms of South African law, all vessels used for any reason on South African waters, both at sea as well as on open water spaces such as rivers, dams, lagoons and similar; must be approved for such use inclusive of licencing of both the vessels as well as crew personnel in some cases.

Governing the use of small vessels in the country under SAMSA is a set of regulations contained in the Merchant Shipping Act 57 of 1951 as amended periodically. The legislation provides for regulations for each specified category of vessels – from small to big – with particular regard to requirements for their construction and use, whether for commerce, leisure or such other use on South African waters.

To assist South Africans with both awareness and knowledge of the requirements of this raft of regulations under the Act, SAMSA conducts training courses and some in cases, licensing for both owners of vessels as well as State appointed rangers, peace officers, surveyors and related with a direct role in ensuring the proper utilisation of the vessels.

Pontoon boats training

Among most recently held courses conducted periodically, on an ongoing basis countrywide was one for pontoon vessel surveyors in June 2021 in Saldanha Bay over two days. According to SAMSA, pontoon boats, otherwise also known as rafts and used on sheltered waters (Category R vessels), are of unique construction.

“A pontoon boat is a boat used for navigation on water, however propelled or moved, consisting of two or more flotation (hull) units to which a deck or decks are attached and on which persons are able to be supported on. The essential difference between a pontoon boat and a conventional boat is that the deck(s) are not integral to the hull of the boat.”

In terms of legislation, as articulated in SAMSA’s Marine Notice 26 of 2011, construction and functionality of the class of small vessels is governed by the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations, 2007 along with all non-pleasure vessels of less than 25 GT which proceed to sea and/or are used on sheltered waters, pleasure vessels of less than 100 GT which proceed to sea and/or are used on sheltered waters and all vessels used on inland waters.

The training workshop’s co-coordinator, SAMSA Centre for Boating manager Ms Debbie James, said the two-day workshop held in Saldanha Bay in June was targeted at all boating surveyors, (both SAMSA’s and those external) as well as safety officers and focused solely on Category R pontoons not used for ferrying passengers. Training on passenger-ferrying pontoons is limited to SAMSA surveyors as, according to Ms James, they are the only one allowed by law to inspect that class of the small vessels.

She said: “The aim was to provide guidance  on the application of the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations, 2007, to pontoon boats, which are not passenger vessels, on issues of construction, stability, watertight integrity and survivability in the event of damage which are important survey elements for the issue of Local General Safety Certificates or Certificates of Fitness,”.

Crucially, she said; the one other reason the training workshop was extremely important for all boat surveyors was because “pontoon boats used primarily on inland waters (Category R), require additional clarification of the application of the provisions of the National Small Vessel Regulations.”

For the reason, it was necessary for especially external surveyors and safety officers intending to survey small pleasure pontoon vessels to attend the training course as consistent with their licensing requirements.

The inclusion of six of SAMSA’s boat surveyors in the training workshop also had a specific objective. “The concept behind holding the workshop was also to ‘train the trainer’ and for SAMSA to develop a pool of internal SAMSA surveyors able to present this particular training when required.”

Of course, the small boats training workshop at Saldanha Bay was one of a series held over the last few years, and which were highly negatively impacted over the last year by the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

Commercial paddling ops training workshop

In fact, just a month or so ahead of the national lockdown in March 2020, SAMSA had just conducted one such training workshop for operators of commercial paddling operations along the Orange River through to the Oranjemund river mouth on the Atlantic Ocean west of the country.

NEW MARINE OFFICERS READY FOR THE TASK!

Three new SAMSA young officers, Mr Esethu Hlokoza, Mr Tora Lombard and Ms Khanyisiwe Mthethwa joined SAMSA recently as seafarers undergoing training as Marine Offivers over two years.

Below is the story of two of the Marine Officer trainees, Ms Mthathwa and Mr Lombard about their first month on the training programme.

“We joined the programme at beginning of September as trainee surveyors. During the first three weeks, we attended variouss mall vessel, pontoon, passenger and buoyancy courses which detailed about what to look out for when doing the survey and regulations that goes with them.  We were then given a chance to put what we had learned in theory into practical use as CE Jonathan Hartzenberg took us to survey the small vessels with him applying all that was taught during the course.

“As illustrated in the above picture. we went to survey two sister fishing vessels in Hout Bay where we learned more about the processes of LGSC on small vessels.”

“Cape Town and Saldanha Bay have quite a few wooden vessels in their waters, so  during our fourth week we attended a wooden vessel course in the port of Saldanha Bay where we learned more about the structural integrity of wooden vessels and how to survey them. We then applied this knowledge to the Zay-Yaan, (see above pic) a wooden fishing vessel in the port of Hout Bay.

“We also visited a river-rafting company, where we surveyed their inflatable boats, better known as “crocs”. (see pic above). As a commercial company these crocs are surveyed as a group under one certificate. This allowed us the opportunity to test for the floatation requirements after chamber deflation.

“We further had the opportunity to break away from the small vessels and complete an LGSC and IOPP survey on a large Fishing Trawler. As IOPP’s aren’t applicable to small vessels, it was a good learning experience to survey these items and the greater scope of the LGSC on such a large vessel as compared to the small vessels.

“It was an interesting four (4) weeks. Coming from larger vessels, the exposure to small vessels came as quite a surprise as to how large and complicated the small vessel industry really is and the large role it plays in maritime safety within South Africa. We are excited to see what the new month has in store for us.”

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Jozini, KZN luxury boat fire still under investigation: SAMSA

A photo of the luxury houseboat, Shayamanzi, that burnt out at Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday, leaving two people dead, one other injured and another missing. (Photo Supplied)

Pretoria: 11 October 2021

The cause of a raging fire on a luxury boat in Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal which claimed the lives of at least two people, and left one injured and another missing, is still under intense investigation by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA, says the agency in a statement.

According to SAMSA, the fire onboard the luxury houseboat, Shayamanzi on Lake Jozini in the Northern KwaZulu-Natal broke out on Sunday (10 October 2021) while the vessel was on a two night cruise with four (4) crew and five (5) passengers believed to be of German nationality.

“The fire claimed the lives of two (2) people (one crew member and one passenger) and one (1) crew member is still missing. The search and rescue operation for the missing crew member is still underway, ” said SAMSA in a statement on Monday afternoon.

The agency added that it was “….believed that the vessel caught fire as it was passing Crocodile Bay when one of the deck hands noticed smoke coming out of the engine compartment, upon investigation it was discovered that one of the engines was on fire.

“There were also very strong winds blowing at the time creating a choppy sea.  The crew and one of the passengers tried to fight the fire but all attempts failed and the fire spread rapidly within the compartment and to the upper deck, forcing the crew and passengers to abandon ship. The investigation is ongoing.”

SAMSA said the agency had conveyed condolences to the families of the deceased and would “endeavour to complete the investigations as soon as possible.”

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House-boat fire, with fatalities in Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal under investigation: SAMSA

SAMSA File Photo

Pretoria: 10 October 2021

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) says it has launched an investigation into a fire that reportedly broke out of a luxuary house boat in Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal and in which at least two people have lost their lives.

According to SAMSA in a statement shortly before lunch time on Sunday, the boat was still on fire and that emergency personnel were currently on the scene.

SAMSA said in the statement: ” SAMSA can confirm that two (2) people (one crew member and one passenger) had died and one (1) crew member is still missing. The luxury houseboat known as Shayamanzi was reportedly on a two night cruise on the Jozini Dam with four (4) crew and five (5) passengers.

“SAMSA with other stakeholders including emergency services will continue to monitor the situation and update the public as and when new information becomes available.

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Seafarers’ well-being has South Africa’s unwavering support: Transport Minister on World Maritime Day 2021

Pretoria: 04 October 2021

South Africa may currently be accounting for no more than 0,65% (or 10 671) of registered world’s seafarers (approximately 1,7-million), but its commitment to contributing to their improved work and general social welfare conditions remains unwavering, according to the South African government.

To this end, confirmed South Africa’s Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula; the country has paved the way for all seafarers – domestic or international – to receive Covid-19 vaccination in the country subject to conditions periodically relevant in terms of domestic national lockdown regulations.

South Africa Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula

Mr Mbalula’s confirmation came in remarks he made in an opening address during the marking of the global celebration of World Maritime Day 2021 on Thursday last week. The Transport Department organised event held online and streamed live on social media occurred in the same week that the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) officially confirmed through a Marine Notice the extension of Covid-19 pandemic vaccinations to all seafarers on South Africa’s waters.

In terms of that Marine Notice (MN 19-21 [C+F+S+P]) dated 23 September 2021, all foreign seafarers in South Africa’s ports are eligible for vaccination, and to which a process guidline is provided. The South African government directive through SAMSA was given in support of efforts by various institutions locally and globally, including the International Maritime Organisation(IMO), the World Health Organisation and related, for seafarers to be prioritised for vaccination against the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his World Maritime Day 221 celebration address to an online audience of about 124 guests, Mr Mbalula said this latest initiative served as an ample demonstration of the country’s full commitment to contributing positively and sustainably to the improvement of the working conditions as well as general welfare of seafarers across the world.

He described as it as befitting therefore that the 43rd ocassion of the world’s celebration of World Maritime Day 2021 as guided by the IMO, to which South Africa is a Member State, was given a theme focusing attention on seafarers: “Seafarers: At the core of shipping’s future“.

Mr Mbalula said South Africa’s geo-location at the most southern tip of the African continent, surrounded by three oceans; the Atlantic to the west, the southern ocean and the Indian Ocean to the east, with a coastline of some 3800km, and an oceans based 1.5-million square kilometers of an Exclusive Economic Zone, made it an undoubted maritime country. For the reason, almost the entire country’s foreign trade depended centrally on shipping, and by extension, on the singular critical importance of seafarers manning those vessels.

“Seafarers play a strategic role in shipping and yet also bare the brunt of challenges facing the sector but especially now during the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. South Africa is among IMO Member States that were first to declare seafarers as essential workers.”

For his full remarks (+-8 minutes), click on the video link below.

Transport Minister Mr Fikile Mbalula’s opening remarks during South Africa’s celebration of World Maritime Day 2021 on 30 September.

Humanitarian crisis

For its part, the IMO that was represented by Senior Legal Officer, Mr Jan de Boer, acknowledged with appreciation South Africa’s continued strong support of the United Nations body, even as 250 000 seafarers across many parts of the world are still facing an uphill battle during especially the period of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Mr de Boer, difficulty with crews changes, inability to work and in some instances, cases of abandonment of seafarers were still a massive challenge, as was the need to prioritise seafarers for vaccinations. This occured against the backdrop of a situation where only about 57 of the IMO’s 167 Member States had so far designated seafarers as essential or key workers.

Describing the situation of seafarers worldwide as a “humanitarian crisis”, he said movement restrictions were also still a major challenge this despite the existence of a framework of protocols established as well as resolutions by the IMO and associated organisations in order to help assist efforts towards addressing problems faced by seafarers.

For its part, said Mr de Boer, the IMO has in place a Seafarer Crisis Action Team that seafarers and related may direct inquiries for assistance.

For Mr de Boer’s full remarks (about 5 minutes), click on the video link below.

Mr Jan de Boer, ILO Senior Legal Officer’s remarks during South Africa’s celebration of World Maritime Day 2021 on 30 September.

In SA, seafarers are essential workers

Meanwhile, according to SAMSA; continued engagement with seafarers is vital to ensuring an orderly, inclusive approach to both confronting the challenges facing seafarers as well as working out appropriate measures aimed at improving their working conditions and securing a sound social welfare future.

Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane. SAMSA Acting CEO

SAMSA acting CEO, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane recounted various steps the country has undertaken to address especially the pressing problems brought about by the outbreak of Covid-19 in China in 2019.

Over the past year since about May 2020, in addition to an early designation of seafarers as essential workers, the country sought to ensure limited restrictions of both vessels and their seafarers on South Africa sea waters while also making provision for both the extension of their certificates of competency and related, as well as facilitating for the renewal of passports.

Undertaken jointly with various government and private sector institutions in the maritime sector, similar measures relevant to seaferers in the fishing and related sectors such as leisure were also made thereby ensuring that no seafarers were left stranded while in or nearby the country’s borders.

She said: “… It is befitting that the IMO has made a clarion call to all of us to make 2021 a year of action for seafarers, who daily face unprecedented adversity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite their vital role as essential workers supporting global supply chains,

“As of this month, with the South African government having secured enough volumes of Covid-19 pandemic vaccinations for both South Africans and non-residents, SAMSA has facilitated for the vaccination of all Seafarers on our shores.

“We acknowledge that there is still more work to be done especially in ensuring that seafarers are fully recognised as “Essential Workers” in the country. Engagements with our partners are ongoing.”

Further, according to Ms Taoana-Mashiloane, similar to the IMO’s STAC, SAMSA as the country’s registrar of seafarers, also has a dedicated office to seafarers welfare that they can refer issues of interest or concern to, by email: welfare@samsa.org.za

For her full remarks, click on the video link below.

SAMSA Acting CEO, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane’s address during South Africa’s celebration of World Maritime Day 2021 on 30 September

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