A forward march by South Africa back into IMO Council- voting on Friday in London.

Pretoria: 01 December 2023

Approximately 24 months ago, South Africa’s maritime sector bowed its head with deep felt disappointment when the country lost its International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Category C Council seat by a flimsy margin for the 2022-2023 biennium ending this month November 2023.  

The IMO Council Category C elections at the time involved 20 States deemed to have special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose election to the Council ensures the representation of all major geographic areas of the world, but had not been elected under Category A or B.

South Africa, a previous a Council member up to that point, along with Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, and Morocco, were the five African IMO Member States and candidates vying for a seat in the IMO 40-Member Council 2022-2023 biennium.  Only Egypt, Morocco, and Kenya retained their seats.

The next round of elections for the 2023-2025 biennium takes place once again in London on Friday, 01 December 2023, with South Africa, led by the Minister and Department of Transport, assisted by among others, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), are more than willing to wrestle back a seat so as restore the country’s representation of itself, southern Africa, and the African continent broadly on the IMO Council.

Boasting a long-standing relationship with the IMO since 1948 in an observer status, prior to eventually gaining full membership in 1995, South Africa ’s campaign for a re-election in December 2023, with the theme: Sailing into a Sustainable Maritime Future, began in earnest more than a year ago, involving variable approaches to lobbying for support in various countries and maritime organisations in Africa and globally.

However, the build-up gained significant momentum from the time South Africa hosted the IMO’s World Maritime Day Parallel Event in Durban, attended by delegates from the body’s 175 Member States from across the world. Other engagements with relevant stakeholders in the South Africa campaign have since been held and continue in the build up to election day scheduled for Friday.

Based on campaign documentation including a brochure developed for this year’s event, among South Africa selling points is the country’s natural geolocation attributes, its long history of direct involvement and progressive contribution to both domestic and global maritime administration and development aspects through the IMO and associated fraternal organisations, regionally and internationally, as well as its positive prospects across a broad range of aspects including human development, modern infrastructure, technological advances etc.

On this year’s round of elections according to the IMO, a total 46 candidates (11 for Category A, 10 for Category B and 25 for Category C) have been confirmed, with China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and United States contesting the A category’s 11 seats.

For the 25 Categories C Council seats, South Africa, one of only three African countries contesting this time around, is grouped with 20 Member States which, according to the IMO; are “… not elected under (a) or (b)… [and]… which have special interests in maritime transport or navigation, and whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world.”

The list comprises Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and Türkiye.


IMO/ICAO joint working group on SAR successfully concludes inaugural SA meeting in Cape Town: SAMSA

Cape Town: 15 November 2023.

Scores of international delegates to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Joint Working Group on Search and Rescue (IMO/ICAO JWG) held in Cape Town wrapped up their meeting on Friday with several recommendations made for the consideration of the said parent organizations, to strengthen global collaboration on various initiatives to bolster search and rescue in especially maritime countries.

The ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group on Harmonization of Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue is described as a technical experts’ working group that meets every year, since its inception in 1963, to discuss technical SAR related matters and make proposals to the said IMO/ICAO through their relevant sub- committees.

This expert working group is made up of 16 members comprising eight (8) maritime SAR experts and an equal number of aeronautical SAR experts. Also attending, however, were several observers. Hosted by the Department of Transport’s SASAR Directorate, the gathering of the IMO/ICAO JWG in Cape Town, South Africa over five days – the 30th session for the group, and more significantly, the first of its kind on African soil – began on Monday and ended on Friday last week.

Attendees comprised representatives from about 24 countries, including Australia, Sweden, Angola, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States America, Russian Federation, Greece, Chile, Turkey, China, Canada, France, Ireland, Singapore, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Liberia, Argentina, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, and Norway.

Also in the mix were some technical observers representing global institutions including the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF), the COSPAS SARSAT, IRIDIUM, International Maritime Satellites Organization (IMSO) as well as Inmarsat.

Supporting the host – Department of Transport’s SASAR Directorate  – were various domestic institutions involved in SAR, among them being the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Centre for Sea Watch & Response located Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC), the Aeronautical Rescue Coordinating Centre (ARCC), and Telkom Maritime Radio Services.

South Africa’s Cape Town based MRCC formally established as a Regional MRCC for the Southern Africa region in 2007, is one of five African regional MRCC’s rendering essential support to SAR operations and training, and described it as important that the 30th session of the IMO/ICAO JWG was being held locally for the first time.

It said the initiatives was timely in terms of its aims to support these RMRCC’s in executing their responsibilities in their respective SAR areas of responsibility.

According to the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) of which South Africa is a member, among key issues for discussion at the Cape Town weeklong session included results of a survey conducted by the IMRF on behalf of the IMO, on African States’ Maritime Search and Rescue Status completed in March. The objectives of the survey were reportedly to:

  • help provide a clear picture of the status of the Global SAR Plan in Africa, State by State; clarify priorities and identify focus regions for future IMO Technical Cooperation work on developing SAR capability.
  • provide a database on which future SAR development work can be based; improve ratification of the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR Convention); and
  • improve input to IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) Global SAR Plan module.

Also coming under focus would be various decisions recently undertaken on a variety of issues including conventions, plans, manuals and other documents affecting SAR, SAR operational principles, procedures and techniques, as well as SAR system administration, organization and implementation methods.


Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) gains global recognition with Seamanship Award: SAMSA

Pretoria: Wednesday, 08 November 2023

On Tuesday evening, 31 October 2023, the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre(MRCC) located at the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Centre for Sea Watch & Response (CSW&R) finally received the prestigious Seamanship Award 2022 bestowed upon it by the London based Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) early this year.

The award, whose handover was delayed by six (6) months due to logistics related matters, was bestowed upon the MRCC by the OCC in recognition and acknowledgement of its own contribution to the dramatic yet successful rescue of a Finnish sailor, Mr Tapio Lehtinen, who’s race yacht developed problems and had to be abandoned some 500 nautical miles south east of Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), South Africa; while participating in the 2022 instalment of the Golden Globe Race.

The solo sailing Mr Tapio Lehtinen, whose race yacht, the Gaia 36 ASTERIA  eventually sank during the ordeal, was successfully rescued by another race participant, and a South African from Gqeberha, Ms Kirsten Neuschäfer, prior to his being transferred to a more a stable vessel, a bulk carrier vessel known as the DARYA GAYATRI, captained by Mr Naveen Kumar Mehrotra.

Survival and rescue story as personally narrated by Finish global yacht racer, 66 years old Mr Tapio Lehtinen at the OSASA/OCC awards evening in Cape Town.

The MRCC, according to the OCC, played a most critical role in the successful rescue of Mr Lehtinen, even as having collaborated closely with other role players. In receiving the award last Tuesday, at a function held at the Royal Cape Yacht Club’s Regatta Centre, located at the port of Cape Town a few miles east of the city, the MRCC joined Ms Neuschäfer  and others, some of who had been presented with the honours at this year’s OCC annual dinner held Poole in the United Kingdom on 15 April 2023.

On hand to receive the MRCC award were the unit’s Acting Chief, Mr Almar Schutte and Duty Controller, Mr Donald Ratshibvumo, accompanied by SAMSA’s Chief Operations Officer (COO), Mr Sobantu Tilayi. All three shared a few remarks of gratitude to the OCC, the latter which presented the award to the unit Tuesday evening jointly with the Ocean Sailing Association of Southern Africa (OSASA).

They shared a common view that; the MRCC and SAMSA warmly welcomes the recognition and acknowledgement of its work both locally and domestically, also with great appreciation of the contribution and cooperation shown by other key roleplayers, such as Telkom Radio .

However, according to them, it is all really in a day’s work for the MRCC, with absolutely no anticipation nor expectations of awards beyond realisation of the goal of ensuring the safety of life and property at seas.

For their respective remarks, please click on the video links below.

Mr Schutte, in remarks prior to receipt of the award
Mr Ratshibvumo and Mr Tilayi on receipt of the award

For earlier remarks by the SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch & Response (CSW&R), Capt. Pretty Molefe, who could not attend due to other commitments, click here.


Vaal River boating incident under investigation: SAMSA

One of depictive photos of the Vaal River incident on Saturday, 21 October 2023, and which claimed the lives of four (4) people including a young child. (Photo Supplied)

Pretoria: 23 October 2023

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has confirmed its launch of an investigation into the tragic boat incident at the Vaal River which claimed at least four (4) lives, including that of a toddler.

In a statement in Pretoria on Monday, SAMSA reported that according to a police report, the boating incident occurred at about 16h00 on Saturday when two small vessels, a boat with 10 people on board, and a barge; sailed past each other, and with one, due to its size, reportedly creating a large wake and the resulting waves leading to the other capsizing, and the people on board landing in the water.

“The vessel had reportedly launched at the SAM GROSS municipal site on the Vaal River with 10 persons onboard including the skipper. The vessel was reportedly cruising in the direction towards Vereeniging area when it came across a moving barge in the opposite direction.

“However, according to the report, it was assumed that the barge, due to its size, created a large wake and the resulting waves flooded the speed boat, leading to the speed boat being submerged and eventually capsizing.

“Regrettably, a woman/mother and her three (3) year toddler were trapped under neath the speed boat in the capsized position and drowned. Both were reportedly wearing personal flotation devices.

“The report further indicates that two (2) adults, also fitted with personal floatation devices drowned further away from the capsized speed boat. However, the skipper and other five persons survived the incident.

“According to the report, the SAPS Water wing arrived on scene at about 17:30 and assisted in retrieving all the deceased from the river, as well as all the survivors, within twenty minutes of the incident occurring. Paramedics were reportedly also on the scene and attended to the survivors. An investigation into this incident is ongoingm; “said SAMSA

Meanwhile, SAMSA conveyed its condolences to the family of the deceased.


Revised SA national oil spill contingency plan on a roadshow for public awareness: IMOrg -SAMSA

Gqeberha. 18 October 2023

After a long delay occasioned by the devastating outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic in December 2019 that led to intermittent national shutdowns for over two years, the rollout of a public awareness campaign about South Africa’s national oil spill contingency plan (NOSCP) is finally underway, with the two Indian Ocean commercial ports of Gqeberha, Eastern Cape province being the first to host the rollout.

Conducted by the South Africa Interim Incident Management Organisation (IMorg) the NOSCP roadshow kicked off at the port of Gqurha, in Algoa Bay near Gqeberha (a.k.a Port Elizabeth) on Tuesday and continued on Wednesday.

Attended by more than 80 people on Tuesday, including representatives of key role players such as the Department of Transport (DoT), South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), environmental organisations and related, according to IMorg, the purpose of the roadshows is to inform and enhance public awareness about the revised NOSCP for the 2019-2024 period, and attendant response strategies to oil spills and related incidents at South Africa’s oceans.

The IMOrg, a virtual organisation chaired by the DoT and SAMSA as the co-chair and secretariat, is South Africa’s preparedness forum for joint Government and ndustry response to oil spills within South Africa’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of approximately 1.5-million km² across the Atlantic, Southern and Indian Oceans.

Launched in 2017, as a deliverable of the Operation Phakisa Oil and Gas laboratory B1 initiative, for joint Government – industry emergency drills, IMOrg’s membership is drawn broadly from across various sectors of society inclusive of State departments, private sector industries as well as non-governmental institutions.

Capt. Ravi Naicker. SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch & Response and IMOrg senior official

According to Capt. Ravi Naicker of the SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch and Response, and the entity’s main representative in IMorg, the DoT has a legal responsibility of providing and fulfilling South Africa’s statutory obligations towards marine pollution prevention response along the country’s coastline of more than 3 000 kilometres. This in terms of powers provided in the Marine Pollution (Control and Civil Liability) Act 6 of 1981, Marine Pollution (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 2 of 1986 and in the Marine Pollution (Intervention) Act 64 of 1987.

“These Acts impose obligations on ships and installations and further give power in respect of pollution casualties in so far as pollution occurs, or threatens to occur within waters under South African jurisdiction, being waters comprising the internal and territorial waters, the exclusive economic zone, etc.

“The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes.

“Domestically, the Constitution (Act No. 108 of 1996: Section 24 of the Bill of Rights): provides that everyone has a right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and to have the environment protected for the benefit of the present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures.

“The latter section illustrates clearly that the government has a legal obligation to protect the environment through the development and the implementation of the Plan to fulfil this obligation amongst other statutory legislative measures put in place.

“These rights and obligations are embedded in the supreme law in South Africa, which is the Constitution and affords every citizen access to petition a competent court of law to hear the matter and enforce their rights or perceived violations.

“Furthermore, the 2017 version of the South African Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy makes provision for the DoT, in co-operation with other Departments and agencies, to maintain a comprehensive Contingency Plan to ensure compliance with the provisions of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation, 1990 (OPRC),” he says.

On what the revised NOSCP now entails and why it is important to enhance public awareness about its provisions, Capt. Naicker says the implementation framework is critical for broad public knowledge and understanding.

The framework, he says, outlines a range of issues including the role and responsibilities of the persons and parties involved in a national response to a marine oil spill in South Africa, relevant information and recommended procedures on appropriate action in the event of an oil spill, arrangements allowing for a rapid and co-operative response to marine oil spills within defined areas, and processes related to the provision of national and international support.

“The NOSCP recognizes that no two incidents are ever the same and therefore the level and intensity of a response varies from incident to incident. The plan is complemented by Government and Industry contingency plans prepared at regional, port and facility levels. Matters of detail are contained in local, site specific, contingency plans,” he says.

A most critical aspect of the NOSCP, according to Capt. Naicker, is the adoption, introduction, and application in South Africa of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) endorsed Incident Management System (IMS) and about which, he says; offers “..a well-structured and inclusively accepted offshore oil spill response management system.’

The IMS scope covers incidents management aspects including the setting up of command structures, planning, operations, logistics and finance arrangement. Broken down into two categories, the IMS consists of three modules – IMS 100, 200 and 300 – involving desktop training of participants, and practical on-the-field real time incident management training in simulated oil spill exercises at sea.

To date, more than 50 people have undertaken the training, conducted variously by international experts including the Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern African (GI-WACAF) Project, International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA).

On why the IMorg’s NOSCP roadshow started in the Algoa Bay ports of Ngqurha and Port Elizabeth, Capt. Naicker says this was based on IMOrg’s recommendations that environmentally highly sensitive ports be prioritised, a stance fully supported by especially environmental groups such as the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).

The Algoa Bay’s high risk profile for oil spill contingency plans is based both on the existence and operations of two major commercial ports and a ship-to-ship bunkering operation in the area and alongside which are a diverse wildlife including bird colonies.

For this blog’s brief chat with Capt. Naicker, click on the video below.

For a brief chat with SANCCOB’s representative at the Ngqurha port leg of the roadshow, Ms Monica Stassen click below.

For a brief chat with DFFE & IMOrg official, Ms Feroza Albertus.


UPDATE: Seafarers on board stricken Taiwanese fishing vessel successfully rescued. SAMSA

Photo for illustration only.

Pretoria: 13 September 2023

All 16 crew of a Taiwanese fishing vessel that sank in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday were successfully rescued overnight (South African time), with none reported to have suffered an injury, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) reported on Wednesday.

According to the SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch and Response based Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Cape Town, the successful rescue of the crew occured at approximately 02h30 on Wednesday, with assistance of several vessels that responded to distress and assistance request calls broadcast on Tuesday.

The rescue mission got underway on Tuesday after the Taiwanese fishing vessel DER HAE NO 66 crew sent out a MAYDAY call reporting that the vessel was taking in water to a point that it had to abandon it, in an area at sea some 598 kilometers off the coast of Durban in the Indian Ocean.

According to the MRCC, several ships in the vicinity were immediately called upon to render assistance, and they did so successfully.

The Centre for Sea Watch & Response reported on Wednesday morning: “MRCC Cape Town is glad to report that all of the 16 crew from the fishing vessel (FV) DER HAE NO 66 were rescued.

“The bulk carrier GOLDEN EARL arrived at the scene where the DER HAE NO 66 sank after being abandoned by the Taiwanese and Filipino crew. Unfortunately, the GOLDEN EARL could not recover the survivors from the life raft due to the prevailing swell of 4.0 meters.

“MRCC Cape Town then requested the GOLDEN EARL to remain on-scene, and with the drifting life raft until the fishing vessels JAIN LIH NO 212 and DER HAE NO 6 arrives.

“MRCC released the other vessels, liquid natural gass carrier LOBITA and crude oil tanker RED NOVA EARL to continue with normal voyage.

“The on-scene coordinator, GOLEN EARL reported by 2am on 13 September 2023 that the two Taiwanese fishing vessels had arrived by, and the JAIN LIH NO 212 recovered the 16 crew. No injuries were reported to MRCC Cape Town. The GOLDEN EARL was also released to continue with normal voyage. The on-scene coordinator reported that both fishing vessels shall continue with fishing operations.

“MRCC Cape Town appreciates the efforts of all vessels involved, and the assistance provided by RCC Taipei and Telkom Maritime Radio.”


Foreign fishing vessel rescue operation underway on Indian Ocean off the coast of Durban: SAMSA

Pretoria: 12 Septembet 2023

A rescue operation for fishermen onboard a Taiwanese vessel reportedly sinking is currently underway some 598 kilometers off the coast of Durban in the Indian Ocean, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) reports.

The number of fishermen involved is not yet known, save for a MayDay call recorded from the sinking vessel at about 03.18pm (South African time), said the SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch & Response based Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) in Cape Town. A number of vessels in proximity of the reportedly sinking fishing vessel had since been mobilised to offer assistance, said the MRCC.

According to the MRCC: “MRCC Cape Town was notified at 15:18 today (12 September 2023) by RCC Taipei that the Taiwanese fishing vessel (FV) DER HAE NO 66 was sinking due to flooding in a position approximately 323NM (598km) East-south-east from Durban, and that the Taiwanese fishing vessels DER HAE NO 6 and ZAN LI NO 212 were diverting to assist.

“The weather forecast for the incident position is winds South-east up to 25 knots (approximately 48km/h) and the Sea State being swell of up to 4m mainly south westerly, as per South African Weather Services (SAWS).

“A MAYDAY relay was issued by Telkom Maritime Radio at the request of MRCC Cape Town and the Liqued Natural Gass Carrier, LOBITA was requested to divert and assist after responding.

“The LOBITA was approximately 155NM (287km) west from the incident position. The vessels bulk carrier, GOLDEN EARL, at approximately 35NM (65km) and the crude oil tanker, RED NOVA EARL, at approximately 60NM (111km), were identified on AIS and requested to divert to the incident position for assistance to be rendered.

“This is a developing and dynamic incident with the SAR response being conducted as aligned with the SASAR Act and Policy.”

This blog will update the story as and when new information is shared.


Super blue moon spring tide warning! NSRI

Video supplied

Pretoria: 30 August 2023

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has issued an appeal to the public to be cautious around the South African coastline during the full moon Spring tide that has already begun and peaks during the full moon period over the 30th and 31st of August, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

SAMSA says according to the NSRI: “This Blue Moon (a blue moon is a rare second full moon during the same month) will be a supermoon, meaning the moon is closer to earth than is normal. And it is the third of four supermoons in a row and this one will be the biggest (closest) full supermoon of 2023.

“This coincides with planet Saturn, that can seen in the sky near to the moon, also in her planetary position closest to the earth for 2023. As is normal this full moon brings the Spring tide – where high tide is higher than normal and low tide is lower than normal.

“With spring tides occurring at full moon and at new moon every month, these occurrences can have an increased affect on the strength of rip currents and caution is advised. NSRI are appealing to bathers, coastal hikers, shoreline anglers, boaters, sailors, paddlers and the maritime community to be cautious around our coastline during this full blue supermoon’s Spring tide.

“Already you will have noticed the growing Spring tide’s high tide higher than normal and the growing Spring tide’s low tide lower than normal – building gradually over the past few days.

“The full affect of this Super Moon Blue Moon Spring Tide peaks during the full moon period over the 30th and 31st of August / and then gradually begins to decline over the next few days into the new week.

“Together with winter rough sea conditions that are prevailing around our coastline with cold fronts that have past in recent days and weeks and with storms prevailing deep sea off the South African coastline – NSRI are appealing to the public around our coastline to be cautious during this Spring tide,” said the NSRI.