South Africans generosity puts paid to inhumane conditions faced by crew of abandoned vessels in Durban: SAMSA

Pretoria: 17 February 2022

It will be a while, if ever again, that crew of a set of vessels reportedly abandoned at the port of Durban will face inhumane conditions, largely characterised by starvation – thanks to the generosity of South Africans during the last month that has ensured them enough food and other necessities supplies.

This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) seafarers’ welfare office in Durban, which together with two other non-governmental organisations, the Mission to Seafarers and Meals on Wheels SA set the alarm in January after the 18 crew members were found to be starving on board the three vessels which have been declared abandoned by the IMO in January 2022.

The vessels involved, two of them – the PSD2 and PSD104 are sister offshore supply vessels that are both Tanzanian flagged, while the third, the MT Fairy Tale – is a Belize registered tanker.

The MT Fairy Tale and the PSD2 had been at the port of Durban for over five years while the third (the PSD104, the second of the Tanzanian registered) had docked at the port in January 2022. The seafarers on board include 11 Indians, one (1) Iranian and six (6) Bangladeshi nationals.

Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe, SAMSA Manager for Occupational Health, Safety and Seafarers’ Welfare.

According to SAMSA Manager for Occupational Health, Safety and Seafarers’ Welfare, Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe, not only did groups of South Africans respond positively, speedily, with donations that have ensured enough food and other necessities supplies, but the widely publicised plight of both the seafarers as well as the vessels themselves drew attention of both the owners as well as the Indian government’s attention.

Support was also being received from the International Transport Federation (ITF) which had assisted the crew members arrest the vessels, anyhow, following complaints from the crew, and which matter was now set for the courts, according to SAMSA.

 “The media has really helped put pressure on the owners,” said Mr Rantsoabe, adding: “They have been coming on board trying to reach settlements with the crew and telling them they saw the story in the media. One of them was very embarrassed about the diesel story and started providing diesel and he had not done so in five (5) months.

More food supplies to crew members of abandoned vessels at the port of Durban donated by a local community group, Newlands Diwali Festival (Photo: SAMSA)

“The crew are now also able to contact their families through the generosity of the Mission to Seafarers who provided them with Wi-Fi routers.

“The International Transport Federation has also provided money for food via the Mission to Seafarers, which is used to supplement whatever is provided by the two charity organisations.

“At the moment the seafarers are very grateful and feel that they have enough food to last them through February. The ITF has also procured fuel for the two vessels that can take fuels, which will help run the engine and generators.

“We have also received calls from charity organisations such as NEDFEST… (such that) presently food supplies will not be an issue again for this crew,” he said.  

Their movement outside the vessels was still restricted, however, and therefore not allowed to leave the port. The difficulty said Mr Rantsoabe; was with the fact that the vessels did not have Port Agents who assume official direct responsibility for vessels and crew once in the country’s ports.

However, SAMSA facilitated a dialogue with the port authorities (Port Health, Immigration, SAPS, TNPA) who in the end, working jointly together with Shipmed and Mission to Seafarers; made the vaccination of all the seafarers possible on Wednesday last week (09 February 2022). They were transported under SAPS escort to a vaccination clinic.

“They were all smiles after vaccination,” said Mr Rantsoabe

Some of crew members of the abandoned vessels at port of Durban pictured while they were all taken to a local city clinic for their Covid-19 vaccination. Prominent in their company is the Rev.Fr Thami Tembe of the Mission to Seafarers. (Photo: SAMSA)

Mr Rantsoabe further reported that a week ago, he and SAMSA Durban region Principal Officer, Captain Gqwetha Mkhize accompanied a team from the Indian Consulate to the PSD2 and PSD104 vessels. “They stated they will be putting pressure to the Flag State and the owners’ country using diplomatic means (State to State basis).”

Abandoned vessels’crew pictured while being visited by Indian Consulate officials in the company of SAMSA senior officers, Durban office Principal Officer, Capt. Gqwetha Mkhize and OHS& Seafarers Welfare manager, Mr Sibusiso Rntsoabe a week ago (Photo: SAMSA)

On how long it can take to have both the situation of the crew and vessels resolved, Mr Rantsoabe said: “Unfortunately that question is difficult to answer. Normally once SAMSA gets involved things move quickly and the company pays.

“Detention does work because the owners normally want to get the ship out of the port as soon as possible. However, in the case of the Fairy Tale there is no hurry. The vessel is not going anywhere unless somebody buys it. So as SAMSA we can fine and detain but detaining a vessel that does not intend moving out becomes just a futile exercise, especially when owners pay the fines, but detention remains.

Capt. Vernon Keller, SAMSA Deputy Chief Operations Officer.

Remarking on the latest developments regarding the crew of the vessels, SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, Captain Vernon Keller applauded the effort of all those involved, including the role the media played in sharing the plight of the seafarers, but added that as far SAMSA was concerned; “it is an amazing effort by the SAMSA team…but our job is not done.”

Said Capt. Keller; “Our seafarers kept this world moving forward throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, transporting essential cargoes around the world, yet seafarers struggled to let the world understand that they are essential workers.

“They were forced to spend more time onboard their vessels unable to go home, some even lost their family members and could do nothing about it.  The psychological effect that this pandemic had on the seafarer will be studied for years to come.

“As an ex-seafarer, it pains me to know that there are still seafarers who are being treated even worse than during the pandemic by unscrupulous ship owners and managers. Administrations should stand up across the world and say enough is enough. If these seafarers were airline crew, the world would stand up and listen, so why are we not affording seafarers the same respect. Seafarers have truly become the forgotten few.


‘About time South Africa woke up from its slumber,’ maritime sector key role players urge!

Pretoria: 11 February 2022

“South Africa can no longer afford own goals – our neighbouring countries are outmanoeuvring us and positioning themselves to be competitive and attract investment to grow their jobs, capabilities and supply chain,” says Ms Nthato Minyuku, chairperson of the Board of Directors of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

Ms Nthato Minyuku. SAMSA Board Chairperson

Ms Minyuku’s statement – partly in summation of input drawn from a group of maritime sector key role players, but also an own institution’s viewpoint – came during this year’s SAMSA stakeholders event held on Wednesday.

The gathering is the first scheduled calendar year event by SAMSA drawing together, under one roof, a large number of the country’s maritime economic sector representatives, to both share their own experiences and broad plans while at the same time getting briefed about SAMSA performance, its short term strategic as well as business plans.

Now on its 10th year, the SAMSA stakeholders event held in February each year is scheduled to coincide with the country’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) presented by the President of the Republic.

Held virtually online for the second year running due to Covid-19 pandemic related conditions, the event on Wednesday afternoon, over two hours, drew close on 100 representatives from across the country’s maritime economic sector, with at least eight of those (excluding SAMSA representatives) forming a guests speakers panel sharing its views and perspectives about conditions being experienced in respective sub-sectors – some new and some old.

The panel included familiar and relatively new faces, among them Mr Andrew Millard, director of Vuka Marine – owners of the country’s only fleet of commercial cargo vessels registered under the South African flag; Capt. Rufus Lekala, Chief Harbour Master at Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA); Mr Peter Besnard, Chief Executive Officer of SAASOA; Mr Unathi Sonti, Chairperson of the Maritime Business Chamber; Mr Cleeve Robertson, Chief Executive Officer of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI); Mr Mthozami Xiphu, Board Chairman of the SA Oil & Gas Alliance (SAOGA); Mr Innocent Dwayi, Vice Chairperson of FishSA as well as Ms Kaashifah Beukes, Chief Executive Officer of the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone.

Among issues touched upon by the group were the following, in no particular order:

  • SA losing its seat in the IMO Council in the last elections in December 2021 and thereby potentially losing its voice and influence in the global arena.
  • Continued uncertainties and lack of urgency in resolving long standing “shipping taxation” matters, which render the SA Ship registry uncompetitive.
  • Lack of predictability of the SAMSA tariff increase process, which impacts negatively on the affected firm’s budgeting progress. 
  • Need to strengthen management of the new risk (prevention and combating of marine pollution) introduced through Ship-To-Ship (or bunkering) operations in Algoa Bay. This they said remined a great concern for environmental activists and required a collaborative effort between the public and private sector.
  • Limited support given the fishing community, following the issuing of fishing rights, with regards especially the capacitation of small scale fishers and cooperatives, including fishing safety awareness initiatives and training and development.
  • South Africa’s ports efficiencies.
  • Negative impacts of Covid-19 on shipping in general, resulting in reduced revenues
  • Lack of certainty on SAMSA’s stand on strategic Objective 3 of its legislated mandate: “Promoting the country’s maritime interests”, including unpacking what this means.
  • Slow transformation of the industry, more so limited support given to new entrants and small businesses (whilst noting some progress through SAMSA initiatives.
  • More support for non-profit organisation such as the NSRI to fulfil and expand its work e.g. water safety awareness and training, as well as strengthen capacity to fulfil its search and rescue efforts.
  • Collaborative effort in advocating and lobbying for a just transition to clean energies and decarbonisation regimes, covering not just SA, but also the African continent.
  • Defining Sout Africa’s role within the African Continental Free Trade Area arrangement, and how to capitalise on the opportunities presented by same.
  • Lack of a collaborated effort in attracting and promoting investment into the SA maritime industry, inclusive of the maritime related infrastructure.

For each of the participants’ remarks, the speakers’ notes in video format clips are presented below

Summing up their inputs, Ms Minyuku, who also gave highlights of the SAMSA’s performance over the last year, said: “What resonates across all inputs from our various speakers today is that there have been some gains in the maritime industry, yet constraints remain – especially within the context of ongoing COVID19 restrictions.

“Through concerted intergovernmental and industry partnership – we can bank and scale up innovative solutions, especially in times of stress. Yet we must also progress on delays in policy, legislative, regulatory and institutional reforms required to unlock the industry.

“South Africa can no longer afford own goals – our neighboring countries are outmaneuvering us and positioning themselves to be competitive and attract investment to grow their jobs, capabilities and supply chain.

“The WF 2022 Global Risk Report is telling – South Africa is identified as one of 31 countries with a high risk around erosion of social cohesion. It also finds that prolonged economic stagnation, employment and livelihoods crisis and state collapse are some of the biggest risks facing us over the next two years. There is clearly no time to waste, and we all need to redouble our efforts.

“While we all eagerly await the 28th SONA tomorrow – closer to home for our maritime sector, today is the 10th SAMSA engagement with stakeholders to reflect with us on the gains and misses of the previous year. In the process, we also hope to share various direction on priorities and plans for the year ahead.

“Last year I sat here on the same platform, five (5) months after taking the helm of the SAMSA Board – I assured you that when we meet again in 2022, we would be talking about a stabilizing SAMSA poised to prepare South Africa to become an International Maritime Centre while contributing to economic recovery and the building of a developmental state.”

Turning onto SAMSA’s performance and progress, she highlighted a number of issues among which were: general financial instability of the entity; late or no approval of tariffs threatening the entity’s ability to fulfil its legislated mandate; challenges with attracting and retaining critical and scarce skills, executive suspensions and the impact on senior management capacity and the SAMSA brand, possible restructuring and a model to be employed to create a lean and requisite organisation, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the entity’s ability to rollout its outward looking programmes and initiatives as well lack of adequate investment in critical SAMSA tools of trade.

These notwithdstanding, Ms Minyuku said there were also areas of significant positive achievements.

About these, she said: “I am pleased to report on behalf of the SAMSA Board that despite the challenges presented by the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, a legacy of controversy as well as poor audit outcomes – we stayed true to this commitment. We are turning the corner in stabilizing SAMSA and good governance in five (5) key areas. We have

  • delivered our first unqualified audit in four (4) years for the financial year ending 30 March 2021. We stayed honest to the Audit Recovery Plan which we tabled to the Minister by diligently closing out the internal weaknesses underlying previous audit findings.
  • taken a non-negotiable line on addressing whistleblower and stakeholder allegations of malfeasance. You are aware that we have course corrected by suspending implicated executives and running an independent forensic investigation to get to the bottom of longstanding issues which have gone unaddressed for too long.
  • run a successful CEO recruitment process and made recommendations of a suitable candidate to the Minister for appointment – these details will be shared with industry once the process is completed
  • held the SAMSA Executive accountable to maintaining our going concern status by tightening our belt and achieving savings targets introduced through austerity measures.
  • reviewed and approved enhancements to over 20 ICT, HR, Finance and Legal policies to bring SAMSA up to speed with current practice in this regard.

“I wish to commend the SAMSA Executive Team for buying into our vision to play their part – not only to ensure that the dreaded “cash flow day zero” never saw the light of day, but that we turnaround our audit record around,” she said.

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

Earlier in the day, SAMSA’s acting CEO, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane also outlined various activities being undertaken by the agency, inclusive of efforts to entrench and promote boating safety across the length and breadth of the country, consistent with the recently launched Inland Water Strategy Plan. The SAMSA initiative launched last year according to Ms Taoana-Mashiloane, involves the development of a cadre of Marine Officers, three of which are currently in the programme, with more to be enrolled depending on affordabilty. (A comprehensive detail of the MO programme here).

For more on Ms Taoana-Mashilone’s remarks click on the video below.

Video clips of eight (8) maritime sector representives speaking briefly during SAMSA’s preSONA event on Wednesday. The event had been livestreamed on the day.


SAMSA PreSONA Stakeholders Session; Pretoria

Pretoria: 09 February 2022

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is currently holding its first stakeholders’ engagement event for the calendar year 2022, closely linked to South Africa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) scheduled for Thursday (10 February 2022). The aim of the session, according to SAMSA, is to share the entity’s perspective of the state of the country’s maritime economic sector, along with its strategic objectives as well as plans for the coming year. The event also presents an opportunity for engagement with stakeholders on various issues of direct and immediate interest. Today’s event held virtually online is scheduled to last for two hours, beginning at 2pm to 4pm South African Time.

Below is a livestream of the event:

(UPDATE – 16h30: Viewers are advised to please note that due to technical challenges initially experienced, during livestreaming, the audio is inaudable during the first 17 minutes 34,30 seconds of the video. It is suggested that the viewer drags the progress bar to that point for listening to the session.)