Oil spill incident vessels separated as mop up continues in Algoa Bay

Photo supplied

Pretoria: 27 May 2022

Two oil tankers involved in an oil spill incident at Algoa Bay on South Africa’s eastern seaboard near Ngqurha have been finally separated, a few days after accidentally spilling oil at sea what conducting a ship-to-ship transfer about midday on Monday this week.

Incident management authorities, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) said in a joint statement on Thursday afternoon that the cause of the oil spill was still under investigation.

Photo supplied

Initially, the two vessels were kept side-to-side since the incident, in order to contain the spillage in their location, said the authorities. Now, with much of the oil around them collected from the waters, the authorities released the smaller tanker to sail back to the port of Port Elizabeth while the bigger one remained anchored offshore awaiting a berth at the port.

SAMSA, DFFE and Transnet said on Thursday: ” The investigation into the cause of the oil spill on Monday in Algoa Bay is continuing. The clean-up and recovery of the spilled oil continued this morning (Thursday 26 May), (with) the recovery teams also continu(ing) with the aerial surveillance, using a drone and oil recovery boats.

“The two (2) vessels involved were separated yesterday (25 May 2022) and the smaller vessel MT Lefkas has berthed at the port of Port Elizabeth and all the oiled equipment has been removed from the water thus posing no pollution threat to the port and its operations. The motor tanker Umnenga II is not able to enter port yet due to the unavailability of a suitable berth,” said.

According to the authorities, “None of the oil has reached the beaches. Most of the oil was cleaned and there is no oil sheen visible on the waters.

They further indicated that boat patrols by SANParks “revealed no oil near the Algoa Bay Islands and no oiled birds were spotted.”

That nowithstanding, they urged members of the public to report oiled birds and wildlife to SANPARKS or SANCCOB Gqeberha at Cape Recife Nature Reserve on 063 942 4702, “but not to approach or try to capture the affected wildlife. Rangers will continue to monitor the Islands for oiled birds retuning from their feeding grounds in Algoa Bay.”

Meanwhile, their surveillance of the coastal areas as well as the ocean adjacent the oil spill incident was continuing.

“A fixed wing aircraft with the state-of-the-art oil sensing equipment has been charted from Cape Town to conduct a full search for any oil over the entire Algoa Bay area. The aircraft will use high-definition cameras and oil detection systems to complete a full aerial surveillance of the Algoa Bay area.

“If there is any oil spotted the aircraft will also complete live oil spill modelling to determine the direction of oil, however the authorities are optimistic that most of the oil has been recovered and only the vessel hull cleaning needs to be completed. The Environmental Protection Vessel , the Sarah Baartman is on standby in Algoa Bay to assist with the clean-up operations,” they said.

They further confirmed that bunkering operations remain suspended.

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Ship-to-ship oil transfers remain suspended in Algoa Bay, South Africa; as IMOrg ratchets up oil spill incident management: SAMSA

SAMSA File Photo: South Africa’s off-shore bunkering zone in Algoa Bay on the Indian Ocean near Nelson Mandela Bay.

Pretoria: 25 May 2022

Off shore bunkering services, otherwise known as ship-to-ship oil/fuel transfers remain suspended in Algoa Bay near Ngqurha (a.k.a Port Elizabeth) on South Africa’s eastern seaboard as a national incident management structure strengthens its grip on containment measures of an oil spill at sea that occurred at midday on Monday.

This is according to a joint statement by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) in Pretoria just after lunch hour on Wednesday, this following several measures undertaken to contain the oil spill – including an aerial surveillance of the coastal region to be carried out twice a day until such time that the authorities are satisfied it is no longer necessary.

According to the parties, the oil spill in the ocean occurred while two tanker vessels belonging to the same bunkering services firm, Minerva, were conducting an oil transfer at about midday on Monday. It had not yet been established what led to the incident, they said.

On being alerted, however, according to the authorities; the country’s oil spill incident management structure immediately launched an oil spill containment and extraction process in place, which included a suspension of ship-to-ship transfers in the period until further notice.

In the statement on Wednesday, said SAMSA/DFFE and TNPA: “Five oil recovery boats are being used to collect the oil and by Tuesday afternoon all the visible heavy oil had been collected while large patches of light oil sheen were spotted in Algoa Bay.

“A helicopter was used for aerial surveillance and to assist in directing the boats towards the oil sheen for collection. However due to rough sea conditions, the oil recovery was suspended by 15:35. The removal of the oil (soaked) “oil absorbent material” between the two vessels continued throughout the night. 

“Aerial surveillance has been increased to two flights per day from today (Wednesday) with a vessel launched (with a) small drone assisting with the clean-up operations and continuous aerial surveillance in the immediate area around the vessel.

“The DFFE offshore patrol vessel Sarah Baartman will arrive in Algoa Bay tonight and will be available to assist with clean-up operations if need be,” they said.

With regards the expanse of the oil spread on the ocean area affected, the authorities said: “Oil spill modelling provided by the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) indicates that the oil will not impact the Swartkops River nor (Nelson Mandela Bay) Metro beaches, but will drift eastward towards the beaches of Woody Cape. Beach inspections were carried out on Tuesday and will continue today.”

On fears about the oil soaking wild sea birds in the area; the authorities said in the statement that: “No oiled birds or wildlife have been spotted so far. However, members of the public are requested to report such (sightings) to SANPARKS or SANCCOB Gqeberha at Cape Recife Nature Reserve on 063 942 4702, but not to approach or try to capture the affected wildlife.

Concerning the immediate fate of the two tankers involved in the oil spill incident, the authorities said the vessels were still alongside each other on location of the incident while a decision was being made on how best to further handle them.

SAMSA File Photo: Oil tanker, Umnenga 1 alongside one of its sister ship-to-ship oil transfer tankers at the port of Ngqurha in Nelson Mandela Bay. 2018

They said: “Although the two tankers are still alongside each other as a preventative measure, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment are evaluating whether it is safe to bring the bunker tanker, MT Lefkas into port today while the motor tanker Umnenga II remain offshore in the bay until a berth is available in the Port of Ngqura.  Both tankers are operated by Minerva Bunkering. The exact quantity of oil spilt is still under investigation.

Occurring just 10 days after the country’s multisectoral Interim Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg) under the Department of Transport (DoT) conducted a five day training and live mock oil spillage management exercise near Robben Island, Western Cape, from May 9-13; SAMSA, DFFE and Transnet said Wednesday the unfortunate incident at Algoa Bay this week could not be more appropriately timed as the country was now properly prepared to handle incidents of the nature.

They said: “It is fortunate that the last full-scale joint industry-government oil spill response deployment exercise was held in Cape Town on 12-13 May where the National Oil Spill Response Plan was tried and tested.

SAMSA FILE PHOTO: Some of South Africa’s multisectoral Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg) members with their oil spill containment, extraction and disperal as well as personnel rescue support vessels during a mock oil spill exercise conducted over two days on the coastal corridor between Cape Town and Robben Island on 12-13 May 2022.

“This exercise helped considerably to ensure that the response for the spill in Algoa Bay was managed in the best possible manner and allowed for the quick deployment of resources to contain the spread of the oil and oil spill modelling. An investigation has commenced to ascertain the cause of the spillage. Bunkering operations remains suspended in Algoa Bay.”

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Oil spill incident in Algoa Bay under investigation: SAMSA

Captain Vernon Keller, SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, reporting on the oil spillage incident in Algoa Bay on Tuesday morning

Pretoria: 24 May 2022

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) says it will launch an investigation into an oil spillage incident that occurred on Monday in Algoa Bay near the port of Ngqurha on the eastern seaboard of South Africa.

According to SAMSA, the oil spillage incident occurred during a bunkering service or ‘ship-to-ship’ oil transfer, at about midday on Monday.

The extent of the oil spillage could not be immediately determined, however said SAMSA, the country’s oceans oil spillage incident management structure had been mobilised and had begun on Monday to try and contain the spread of the oil.

Initially deployed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) are two anti-pollution craft vessels to assist with containment of the spill, as well patrol boats by South African National Parks (SANParks) along the coastline.

Meanwhile, all bunkering operations were suspended to ensure proper coordination of the spill’s containment effort’s effectiveness and efficiencies.

SAMSA File photo

In a brief statement in Pretoria on Tuesday, said SAMSA: “The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has initiated all relevant oil spill response teams as per the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan to assist with the containment and cleanup operation following an oil spill In Algoa Bay yesterday.

“The oil spill occurred on the 23rd (Monday) at around midday during a ship-to-ship transfer of oil. All the relevant pollution response units have been activated, and booms deployed to contain the oil around the vessels.

“The collecting of oil continued throughout the night last night (23 May). The 2 vessels will remain attached to help with the containment of the oil. All relevant authorities including the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) and are supporting the response where possible,” said SAMSA.

Regarding the threat to wild sea birds in the area, SAMSA confirmed that the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) was already on a “high state of readiness to receive oiled birds,” and urged the public to to report any oiled wildlife to SANPARKS.

SAMSA further reported that shortly after the incident was report to authorities; “SAMSA officials boarded the vessels to inspect the extent of the spill.

In addition, SAMSA would further conduct an aerial survey of the coastal area on Tuesday morning and further information would be shared with the public periodically.

End

South Africa’s state of readiness for oil and related spills disasters in its oceans environment up to scratch; Govt, industry, NGOs agree.

Pretoria 23 May 2022

More than 100 participants and observers in South Africa and two neighbouring maritime countries, Namibia and Angola; at this year’s Interim Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg) training and live deployment exercise in Cape Town a week ago, left with unanimity in their view that the country’s state of readiness for oil and related pollution disasters is on the ready, notwithstanding notable gaps in terms of some necessary additional resources and equipment.

The Interim IMOrg arranged training in Cape Town, involving about 50 delegates on the IMS 100, 200 and 300 modules over three days, followed by two days live off and onshore mock oil spill incident management exercise involving an additional 50 people manning sea vessels, aircraft and onshore equipment; took place in Cape Town from Monday, (09 May 2022) to Friday, (13 May 2022).

It was the first exercise of its kind, in grand scale, since before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago, and drew the direct contribution of the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) and active participation of delegates from the two other members to the convention, Namibia and Angola.

The Interim IMOrg, under the Department of Transport, is South Africa’s joint Government and Industry preparedness forum for oil spills launched in 2017. Its membership is drawn broadly from across various sectors of society inclusive of State departments, private sector industries as well as non-governmental institutions. The current focus of the Interim IMOrg is on oil spills but in the future it will ramp up to an all hazard approach.

According to Captain Ravi Naicker, SAMSA Senior Manager and co-chair of the Interim IMOrg; the structure identifies primary roles of Government and industry contributing towards preparedness of the country with effective and efficient management of maritime incidents such as oil spills offshore.

Its specific objective involves the staging of joint emergency response drills to prepare the country for a variety of incidents and uses the Incident Management System (IMS) as its preferred response model “for effective and efficient use and deployment of the available resources, both human and equipment, for all types of incidents including marine pollution

In Cape Town a week ago, this blog spoke to some of the government, business and nongovernmental institutions represented at the event to establish their views during the IMS training as well on the last day of the live mock oil spillage management exercise to solicit their views on the real state of South Africa’s readiness for off shore oil spill disasters and related.

Among these were an official of Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)  incorporating the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC), the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), South African Police Services (SAPS), Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), African Marine Solutions (AMSOL), Resolve Marine Group, SMIT Salvage, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), as well a representative  from the Angolan government.

Notable among the views was tacit agreement on the usefulness of the exercise and the general enthusiasm and keen interest shown by all stakeholders, the advantages to be derived from a unified  command, the enhanced greater understanding derived by each of the key role players, the usefulness of expansion of the training as well as exercise to include neighbouring countries, the need for regular periodic exercises as well as an evident lack of adequate resources to provide protection for the country’s entire 3200 kilometre coastline

For their full responses (averaging three (3) to six (6) minutes each), click on the videos below.

Remarks by Ms Feroza Albertus-Stanley (Department of Foresty, Fisheries & Environment)
Remarks by Mr Estanislav Gaspar (Department of Mineral Resources, Oil & Gas.Angola)
Remarks by Captain Pretty Molefe (SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch & Response)
Remarks by Mr Richard Robertson (SMIT-Salvage)
Remarks by Ms Nickie Stander (SANCCOB)
Remarks by Mr Odwa Mtati (SAIMI)
Remarks by Mr Musa Mbakaza (AMSOL)
Remarks by Colonel Alan Strydom (South African Police Services)
Remarks by Captain Naresh Sewnath (Transnet National Ports Authority)

The Benguela Current Convention (BCC), contributors and financial sponsors of the IMOrg exercise also shared its viewpoint about the significance of both its direct involvement for the first time as well as its own objectives. In the video below, BCC Compliance Officer, Mr Xolela Wellem, gives an extensive background and programs of the BCC which make the case for the Atlantic Ocean coastline convention’s direct interest in the work of the IMOrg.

To listen to interview click on the video below.

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Live ocean ‘accidental oil spill’ incident management exercise off the port of Cape Town, Thurs & Friday: IMOrg

Cape Town: 11 May 2022

Capetonians in particular, and South Africans in general will be in for a spectacular live staging of an ocean ‘accidental’ oil spillage exercise off and near the port of Cape Town on Thursday and Friday this week.

The unusual exercise to involve aircraft, ocean going vessels, onshore vehicles and more than 100 personnel is, according to South Africa’s Interim Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg) part of an intensive multi-nationl exercise in ocean oil spillage incidents management training currently underway in the city of Cape Town since Monday, involving about 50 delegates from government, non government and private sector institutions in South Africa, Namibia and Angola.

According to IMOrg Project Manager, Captain Ravi Naicker, the sea exercise over the next two days, Thursday and Friday will be the final stage of the weeklong incident management training that began on Monday in Durbanville, with a desk-top classroom type engagement of the delegates on the globally acclaimed and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) approved Incident Management System (IMS) consisting of three modules; IMS 100, 200 and 300.

From a South African perspective, according to the IMOrg, the logic behind the initiative is fairly simple. Increased activity on the South African coastline of over 3900km (including the coastline around the Prince Edwards Islands) demands the country to be ready to attend to any emergency that might occur along its pristine coast.

Current estimates of shipping traffic in the three oceans around South Africa are that as many as 30 000 vessels sail through here annually, with many of the vessels laden with an excess of 30-million Dead-Weight-Tonnage of crude oil. 

“A large-scale oil spill could potentially have catastrophic consequences on the marine environment. There is also offshore Oil and Gas exploration and Bunkering activities, therefore South Africa needs to ensure that while it seeks economic stability and prosperity it also ensures the protection of its natural biodiversity.

“To this end South Africa has adopted international best practice in incident management and is proactively and continuously preparing to manage marine pollution incidents effectively, ensuring that the appropriate resources and stakeholders are mobilised quickly – and important and timeous decisions made,” said Capt. Naicker.

Among the IMOrg guiding tools with the exercise is the country’s National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP),

In Cape Town on Thursday and Friday however, for training participants as well as spectators, the weather may play ball for clear visibility of the full-scale oil spill response deployment exercise scheduled for the stretch pieces of waterspace in the sea corridor between Robben Island to the north and the port of Cape Town.

Captain Naresh Sewnath, Senior Manager Pilotage & VTS at Transnet’s Chief Harbour Masters Office

However, according to Captain Naresh Sewnath, Senior Manager Pilotage & VTS at Transnet’s Chief Harbour Masters Office in Cape Town, the ‘Cape Doctor’ – a nickname for periodic gusty winds that batter this part of the world – would be just as welcome, if only to present truly testing weather conditions for the IMOrg multinational training exercise at sea over the next two days.

Capt. Sewnath gave assurance that not only was the port of Cape Town fully supportive of the incident management exercise in the area for its worth, but also that it would seek to ensure that normal shipping in and near the always busy port would not be negatively affected.

In the video below, Capt. Sewnath briefly chatted to this blog about the IMOrg training exercise and his institution’s take of it, while on a brief visit to the training venue in Durbanville a day ago.

Meanwhile, the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) first time sponsors of the IMOrg’s periodic IMS training exercise, has described its involvement in the exercise as not only strategic in terms of its own objectives, but also essential to the extent that pollution of the oceans environment in its area of operation remains a constant serious threat to the the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME). In fact, according BCC South Africa National Projects Officer, Ms Tembisa Sineke, pollution is one of eight thematic areas in the BCC’s SAP.  

“The reason for this is that marine pollution in the BCLME is increasing due to, among others, coastal zone urbanization, expanding shipping and offshore drilling and mining activities,” she said, adding that the three countries – South Africa, Namibia and Angola “are all involved in offshore petroleum exploration and production activities, whilst they also experience extensive maritime transport activities along their coasts.  Furthermore, Namibia and South Africa are involved in offshore mining with vessels carrying significant quantities of oil.

Ms Tembisa Sineke. Benguela Current Convention (BCC) South Africa National Projects Officer

“This ever-increasing use of the ocean space leads to increased risk of accidents that could result in marine pollution, especially from oil spills,” said.

For more on BCC’s viewpoint on the IMOrg training exercise and the necessity for its support, click on the video below:

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South Africa’s Interim IMOrg on a week-long multi-national incident management training exercise in Cape Town

Cape Town: 09 May 2022

South Africa’s active state of readiness for incidents management on especially its maritime environment remains critical to its ability to react positively, effectively and efficiently to both natural and man-made disasters, inclusive of oil spillages at sea according Captain Vernon Keller, deputy Chief Operations Officer at the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

Capt. Keller shared the view while addressing just over 50 delegates and officials at the start of a five days, in-person Incident Management System (IMS) training in Durbanville near Cape Town on Monday morning.

Captain Vernon Keller. Deputy Chief Operations Officer: SAMSA

The Interim IMOrg is a joint industry-government and nongovenrmental institutions’ emergency response national structure established to contribute towards preparedness of the country with effective and efficience management of maritime incidents such as oil spills offshore.

Its specific objective involves the staging of joint emergency response drills to prepare the country for a variety of incidents and uses the Incident Management System (IMS) as its preferred response model “for effective and efficient use and deployment of the available resources, both human and equipment, for all types of incidents including marine pollution.”

Code-named: Operation Bank Cormorant, – after a now rare, endangered species of a bird endemic in Namibia and the western coast of South Africa – the training underway in Cape Town this week, sponsored by the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) and conducted by Vulcin Training with support from various specialist companies in incident management, began on Monday and will run until Friday (13 May 2022).

The first three days comprises a desktop training of delegates covering the IMS 100, 200 and 300 modules, to be followed over two days (Thursday and Friday) by a live full scale oil response deployment exercise scheduled to take place a few kilometers offshore, off the port of Cape Town.

The training and full scale real time exercise will be the first of its kind since before the global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019.

In his remarks marking the official start of the five days training, Capt. Keller thanked delegates on behalf of the Interim IMOrg, for “taking interest and participating in the training and deployment exercise, as it provides an opportunity for South Africa to build capacity necessary to effectively respond in cases of incidents and disasters and the IMOrg’s efforts to institutionalise the IMS response model.

He said: “To have an effective response, it is critical that the responders are fully trained and certified competent on the Incident Management System. Additionally, it becomes important that the country mobilise resources and conduct exercises to assess its response in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.”

For his full remarks, Click on the video below (duration: +-5mnts)

Described as equally significant about this year’s Interim IMOrg IMS training and exercise is the involvement of the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) – a multi-national and multi-sectoral organisation established by South Africa, Angola, and Namibia for the promotion of a coordinated approach to long-term conservation, protection, rehabilitation, enhancement, as well as sustainable use of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem.

Ms Tembisa Sineke. Benguela Current Convention (BCC) South Africa National Projects Officer

BCC’s South Africa National Project Officer, Ms Tembisa Sineke described the multi-national structure’s direct involvement in the IMS training and exercise in Cape Town this week as highly significant to the extent it provided opportunity also for direct involvement and participation of incident management officials also from Namibia and Angola.

According to Ms Sineke, in her address of the delegates, it was necessary and appropriate that the three countries who are partners in the BCC should expand their areas of cooperation and collaboration to include especially training on incidents management, as such incidents on occurrence, generally impact all of them in varying degrees.

For her full remarks, click on the video below.

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South Africa’s regularly updated sea and air search capabilities receive a thumbs up from international partners

Pretoria: 28 April 2022

South Africa’s regular testing of its maritime and aviation search and rescue (SAR) tools and equipment, along with deployment in Gauteng recently of the latest MEOSAR system, has been met with approval and appreciation by its international partners in the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), and Department of Transport (DoT).

The country’s positive assessments came during a three day South West Pacific Data Distribution Regional (SWPDDR) meeting, to which South Africa is a member State, hosted by the DoT and SAMSA earlier this month (11-14 April) – this after a delay of almost two years due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in late 2019.

The SWPDDR whose Mission Control Centre (MCC) sits with Australia, is one of six across the globe under the COSPAS SARSAT Programme. MCCs – totalling 32 under the COSPAS-SARSAT Programme – are described as centres that take information from a Local User Terminal (LUC) or another MCC and routes it to the proper desistation.

Reflecting on the outcomes of the SWPDDR meeting were Mr Jared Blows, Chief of the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) located at the SAMSA Centre for Seawatch & Response in Cape Town; and Mr Zakhele Twala, DoT’s Deputy Director General: Aviation.

Mr Zakhele Twala. Deputy Director-Gneral: Aviation Department of Transport

Mr Twala said the country was proud of its successful hosting of the event, even as a virtual event due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, but also particularly pleased with its outcomes that reflected on the importance of close cooperation and collaboration among participating countries.

In the video below (duration: 3.10minutes), he elaborates on key aspects of the gathering.

At SAMSA, Mr Blows described the meeting “…deemed as very fruitful deliberations.” With regards the country, lauded by SWPDDR members were two significant developments regarding maritime and aviation search and rescue services as managed by South Africa that included the adoption of the S&R MEOSAR system and installation of ground equipment in Gauteng.

Advantages of the MEOSAR system are listed as including,

  • near instantaneous worldwide detection and independent location determination (independent of beacon-reported navigation data) of 406-MHz beacons,
  • significantly reduced effect of terrain/wreckage obstructions,
  • extensive reduncancy/reliability in space and ground segments,
  • improved location accuracy,
  • improved beacons and features including
    • a Return Link Service (RLS) and
    • redudant localisation of ELT-DTS (validating or back-up of locations through the reported navigation and independent calculations, even at high speeds.

The other development was South Africa’s continuous testing of its system’s communications via various platforms that significantly improved the country’s response rate from a low 50% to above 85% currently

Mr Jared Blows. Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC Chief: SAMSA Centre for Seawatch & Response

Mr Blows said: “With the ongoing evolution of the COSPAS SARSAT system it  is vital for South Africa, as a ground segment provider to the larger COSPAS SARSAT programme, to remain at the fore front of all developments within the system.

“To this end South Africa has committed to move to the MEOSAR system from the current LEOSAR system and installation of the ground equipment has already taken place and is located in Gauteng whereas the older LEOSAR is based in the Western Cape.

“The meeting specifically looked at the processes and time frames for the full commissioning of the new system which will be necessary to ensure the entire COSPAS SARSAT MEOSAR programme moves closer to becoming a fully operational system which will improve the capability and reduce the time between potential satellite detections of distress beacons carried on vessels and aircraft and even some beacons used by hikers etc.

“All these beacon would need to be compliant with the COSPAS SARSAT requirements and must transmit on the 406 Mhz  frequency,” he said.

Further, according to Mr Blows, the meeting to which guests included representatives of the United States of America and the United Kingdom, discussions were held also in terms of additional advancement to specifically EPIRBs – maritime beacons; such as the inclusion of Automated Identification System( AIS) and also the Return Link Service (RLS).

On this score, he said it was held that participating countries need to assess their readiness for the use of such beacons within their areas of responsibility. To this end, said Mr Blows, in certain instances legislation would need to be amended and operational procedures amended to accommodate such advancements.

On the critical role the country plays in the COSPAS SARSAT Programme block, Mr Blows said: “With South Africa serving 14 countries within our Data Region, we are required to test communications with these countries on a regular basis.

“However, for many years several of our regional partners often did not respond to these tests of which the results are communicated to the COSPAS SARSAT programme, resulting in the region seeming like a very poorly covered area. To change the perception and because of new technologies such as WhatsApp messaging etc becoming very common, South Africa tested the communications via various platforms and as result our response rate now sits at above 85% compared to previous years lows of 50%.

“The critical importance to note here is that, if and when we are alerted of any distress situations related to beacon activation with the countries we support we now have a far better chance of actually being able to pass along the information to the authorities with those countries for them to render assistance as necessary.

“This initiative by South Africa has been commended by the COSPAS SARSAT programme and was even mentioned and thought to be an excellent use of technology when discussed at a previous meeting of the IMO NCSR meeting.

“These matters will be discussed at length within the South African Search and Rescue forum over the coming weeks and a final position will be communicated via the relevant means. As things develop with our MEOSAR system and any new system and beacon development we will try and keep the users in the air and maritime environments informed,” said Mr Blows.

End

COSPAS SARSAT search and rescue system most reliable: South Africa

Pretoria: 13 April 2022

South Africa’s continued and sustained role as a direct global contributor to development and deployment of advanced ground and space-based technologies and related services for search and rescue particularly across the southern hemisphere remains one of the country’s most serious responsibilities, according to Department of Transport Deputy Director-General, Mr Zakhele Twala.

Mr Twala shared the view while formally delivering a welcome address to delegates from several countries in Africa and abroad to this year’s COSPAS SARSAT Programme South West Pacific Data Distribution Region (SWPDDR) South Africa-hosted virtual conference currently underway since Monday this week.

The conference, the 8th in the series for the SWPDDR – one of six regions globally under the COSPAS SARSAT Programme – is two years behind its schedule in Australia in 2018 for South Africa in 2020 due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide towards the end of 2019.

Mr Zakhele Twala. Department of Transpport Deputy Director-General: Civil Aviation

In his address to country representatives during an opening address on Monday, Mr Twala said South Africa regarded it as highly significant its role and a huge responsibility the fact that it was the only country in southern Africa subscribing to and extending ground level search and rescue services of the COSPAS SARSAT Programme to more than a dozen countries in the region.

Thus, South Africa is the Search and Rescue Point of Contact (SPOC) to countries including Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, St Helena, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda, Swaziland and a few others.

In terms of the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, “the primary purpose of the Cospas-Sarsat System is the provision of distress alert and location data for search and rescue (SAR), using spacecraft and ground facilities to detect and locate the signals of Cospas-Sarsat distress radio beacons operating on 406 MHz.”

In South Africa, according to the Department of Transport, as a Member State of the International Civil Aviation ICS) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and a signatory particularly to the  Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, 1974, the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979 and Annex 12 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, 1944, the country is obligated to provide aeronautical and maritime search and rescue coordination and services within her search and rescue region.

South Africa’s search and rescue regions under the SA Search & Rescue Organisation (SASAR) correspond with what is prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The area is divided into two Search and Rescue Regions (SRR), comprising aeronautical and maritime search and rescue over a total area of approximately 28,5 million square kilometres stretching down to the South Pole.

The aeronautical search and rescue region cover the continental area of the sovereign territory of South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho and associated flight information regions.

On the other hand, the maritime search and rescue region over three oceans comprises; on the western side, the ocean area to approximately halfway between South Africa and South America, on the Eastern side, the ocean area to approximately halfway between South Africa and Australia and on the northern side,  the oceans areas bordering Namibia, Angola, South Africa and Mozambique as well as the oceans region to the South Pole.

On Monday, Mr Twala described the COSPAS SARSAT system as the most reliable to date and the country was proud to further contribute to its enhancement through deployment of a 6th antenna system in Gauteng this year.

Globally, further advances anticipated to greatly improve search and rescue services across both aeronautical and maritime sectors, include the anticipated introduction of Return Link Service (RLS) providing notification to a 406 MHz beacon that an alert transmitted by the beacon has been detected and distributed via the Cospas-Sarsat MCC network to the MCC whose service area covers the beacon confirmed position. The service is described as “intended to provide acknowledgement of the reception of the alert message to persons in distress”.

For his full remarks, click on the video below (+-7 minutes).

The virtual SWPDDR conference over three days, conducted from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Head Office in Hillcrest, Pretoria, will end on Thursday.

End

Close to a dozen fishermen rescued off sunken boat in Western Cape

Pretoria: 12 April 2022

All eleven crew members of a fishing boat that sank at sea off the Western Cape coast were successfully rescued early on Tuesday, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) announced in Pretoria.

In a statement, SAMSA said the fishing vessel named F/V SILVER SNAPPER sank in the early hours of Tuesday morning off Cape Point after it reportedly suffered engine problems whereafter it began taking in water.

Following to distress calls from the vessel’s crew, another vessel, the F/V VLEIGANS was dispatched to the area to offer assistance, and managed to pluck sailors off the stricken vessel before it sank into the sea.

SAMSA said: “All crewmembers (11 eleven in total) on aboard the fishing vessel, the F/V SILVER SNAPPER   were rescued in the early hours of the morning (12 April 2022) off Cape Point.

Photo: Coutersy of MarineTraffic.com

“The F/V SILVER SNAPPER had earlier reported that it was suffering engine problems and was busy sinking. The F/V VLEIGANS was dispatched to assist the F/V SILVER SNAPPER and on arrival it was found that the F/V SILVER SNAPPER was sinking.

“All 11 crewmembers safely abandoned the F/V SILVER SNAPPER and were rescued by the F/V VLEIGANS. The F/V VLEIGANS remained on scene until the F/V SILVER SNAPPER was fully submerged under the water. No loss of life was reported. The F/V VLEIGANS arrived safely in Gansbaai harbour in the early hours this morning.

Meanwhile, said SAMSA, a navigational warning had been issued due to the fact that the F/V SILVER SNAPPER had left her fishing nets in the water (300m diameter). 

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COSPAS SARSAT satellite technology deployment for enhanced maritime sector rescue under focus in South Africa this week.

Pretoria: 12 April 2022

South Africa and its member group of countries in the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, among them Australia; will have their gaze up in the skies above Africa for three full days this week, beginning on Tuesday, focussed on latest developments in satellite technology for the enhancement of maritime safety globally and in the southern hemisphere.

The virtual meeting of the South West Pacific Data Distribution Region (SWPDDR) through which the group of countries subscribe to the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, is being hosted by South Africa through the Department of Transport (DoT), ably assisted by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

The international COSPAS-SARSAT Programme is a satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) distress-alert detection system made up of satellites in space and infrastructure to receive signals on the ground. Its main function is to facilitate distress transmissions from vessels, aircraft and persons via satellites to activate life-saving emergency support from government authorities.

Since its launch in the early 80s, the system described as providing “accurate, timely and reliable alert and location data to search and rescue authorities who assist persons in distress, even in the world’s most remote areas….” has been credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands of people particularly at seas worldwide.

Mr Jared Blows, Chief of MRCC at the SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch & Response in Cape Town

Speaking ahead of the start of the meeting in Pretoria on Tuesday, Mr Jared Blows, Chief of SAMSA Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) located at the Centre for Sea Watch and Response in Cape Town, described the gathering in Hillcrest this week as a highly significant event for South Africa both as host country as well as for  critical role players in oceans and air  safety in the southern tip of the African continent.

According to Mr Blows, the SWPDDR meeting in South Africa is only taking place in Pretoria this year after it was postponed for over two years due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide during latter half of 2019.

He said: “South Africa via the SASAR Organisation of the Department of Transport is a member of the COSPAS SARSAT Programme. The programme assists world search and rescue organisations by supplying both space and ground segment satellite systems for the detection of emergency location beacons used in the maritime and aeronautical domain along with beacons used by persons on land who find themselves in need of the services of a search and rescue organisation.

“The system detects beacons approved for use and operating on the 406Mhz frequency band. The world is divided into various data distribution regions and South Africa falls within the SWPDDR. The DDR is a sub section of the larger COSPAS SARSAT Joint Committee and the COSPAS SARSAT Council.

“The various DDRs meet regularly to discuss matters specifically associated with their regions and to look at improving the system. These proposals and recommendations are submitted to the Joint Committee for further deliberations and then to the Council should approvals be required.

“The SWPDDR has for many years held the meeting in the various members Countries. South Africa was to host the meeting in 2020. However, with COVID creating havoc worldwide the meeting was postponed to April 12th to 14th 2022. South Africa, specifically the Department of Transport, is the host for the meeting this year.

“A working group set up from within the SASAR Executive was tasked to arrange such meeting. With travel restrictions and COVID related matters still a challenge the decision was taken not to postpone any longer but to host the meeting virtually,” said Mr Blows

For his full remarks on these and related matters, click on the video clip below. (+-5 minutes).

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