Min requirements for small vessels in OPL supply launches in South African coastal waters kick in: SAMSA

Pretoria: 08 March 2022

Vessels with a gross registered tonnage (GRT) of less than 25 operating along South Africa’s coastline for Off Port Limits (OPL) services providers will have six (6) months from 03 March 2022 to subject themselves to a formal vessel survey by the South African Maritime Safety Authority, the agency has announced.

Similarly, vessels of under 25 GRT currently under construction and designated for OPL services within the same South African oceans territorial space will have a grace period of six (6) months to comply with newly published requirements contained in a Marine Notice (MN 03-22 (S+P) released on Thursday last week, said SAMSA.

The Marine Notice in question, obtainable freely from the agency’s website, according to SAMSA; intends to give guidance and standardise the requirements for OPL launches along the South African coast by providing an overview of the requirements of design, construction, operation and manning of Off Port Limit (OPL) launch vessels of less than 25 GRT (Small Vessels).”

A small vessel under construction. (SAMSA File Photo)

Citing the Merchant Shipping National Small Vessels Safety Regulations 2007, and specifically regulations 6.1 (a to c) and 14 (1) and (2) (a), the SAMSA Marine Notice states that vessels of the category serving as OPL launches “…must be constructed of suitable material of good quality..(and whereby its design)  must provide a sufficient reserve of positive stability to prevent capsizing when carrying a heavy load….”

These also provide for manning requirements that include that owners of such vessels “…must ensure that the vessel is operated by or under the constant guidance of a skipper who is physically able and of sound mental health…” along with other bare minimum necessities such as requisite training evidenced by a Certificate of Competence issued by a certified authority.

In this regard, in terms of the Marine Notice, the general requirement effective 30 days from publication of the Marine Notice last week would be that:

  1. An OPL launch shall always be manned by a qualified Skipper and a minimum of two (2) competent crew members. A competent crewmember shall be a person that has completed induction and SAMSA recommends that the crewmember is also the holder of a Personal Survival Training and Able Seafarer Deck course certificate of attendance.
  2. Records of safety drills (as per the requirements of the MS NSVR 2007 as amended), including the recovery of a Man Overboard shall be readily available for inspection.
  3. The duties of each crewmember shall be clearly defined and displayed on board

The Marine Notice further outlines minimum manning requirements for varied services inclusive of medical incidents where a helicopter is not used, OPL with laden tankers, crew and cargo transfers, marine pollutants (as regulated by the Marine Pollution [Control and Civil Liability Act 6 of 1981), and related matters.

The Marine Notice is obtainable from the SAMSA website.


Two to three more weeks to clear problematic chemical cargo off vessel in South Africa’s west coast: SAMSA

The NS Qingdao pictured after anchoring at the port of Saldanha on the Atlantic Ocean seaboard a few weeks ago. (Photo: Supplied)

Pretoria: 07 March 2022

It may be another two to three more weeks before troublesome chemical cargo is fully offloaded from the NS Qingdao vessel, currently docked at the port of Saldanha on South Africa west coast, said the South African Maritime Safety Authority late Friday.

This would be about six months since the Marshal Islands registered commercial cargo vessel first set anchor at the country’s ports only to prove a major headache after its cargo of a chemical product reacted to rain water at its first attempt to offload in Durban last October, thereby setting in motion one of the most intense, delicate and time consuming unstable cargo containment exercises ever undertaken by authorities in recent times.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, SAMSA confirmed the vessel was still at anchor in Saldanha Bay for the continued discharge of its waste cargo.

“The vessel will be alongside a berth again on or about Sunday 6th March to continue operations. Operations are proceeding in a safe and well-coordinated manner and good progress has been made,” said SAMSA

The agency added that: “As of the 1st  of March 2022, approximately half of the cargo in cargo hold No.3 had been discharged and disposed at Vissershok High Hazardous Waste Management Site. Wastewater will also be pumped into tanks and sent for disposal at the same waste management site.

“It is anticipated that once the vessel is alongside a berth that it would take approximate 2 to 3 weeks to discharge the remaining waste cargo from the ship and dispose it at Vissershok. The vessel will then be inspected by SAMSA and its classification society to ensure she is safe to continue her voyage to Brazil to discharge remaining cargo onboard.

According to SAMSA, the agency and the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DFFE) have reached agreement with the vessel’s owners and P&I Club “to implement a medium to long term environmental monitoring program so that any potential immediate and future impacts can be assessed and mitigated. 

“The P&I Club’s appointed environmental specialists in collaboration with DFFE are continuously monitoring the coast and sea area to determine any threats to the marine environment resulting from the emergency disposal of cargo dumped approximately 250 km offshore. To date, satellite imaging shows no immediate indications of harmful effects to the receiving environment or marine life.

“The Marshall Islands Flag State Investigation team have (also) started their investigation and it is expected to continue over the next few months until the root cause can be established. As part of the co-operation agreement, SAMSA is sharing the available information with the vessels flag. It is expected that the detailed investigation will take an estimated 12 months to complete and that the final report will be shared with SAMSA,”said SAMSA

The agency also expressed its gratitude to all people it has worked closely with to date in managing the vessel.

“SAMSA would like to thank the salvage team onboard, who at great peril to themselves, said SAMSA, “risked everything to successfully bring this emergency situation under control where normal cargo operations could continue. The support from all the person involved in managing this emergency since it started in Durban in October 2021 has been very good, despite the difficult choices that had to be made over the last 6 months by the Authorities.

“The vessel owner continues to co-operate with all authorities and have covered all expenses to date regarding this salvage operation,” said SAMSA.