There were sighs and clear signs of relief on the faces of both a group of seafarers as well as the handful of family members as the SA Agulhas II – the country’s most advanced polar research vessel – berthed at Eastern Mole 1 at the port of Cape Town on Monday evening with the seafarers safely onboard.
It was the end of a +5 000 kilometer journey for the 60 seafarers on board – 47 of them South African – who narrowly escape injury two weeks ago some 2600 kilometers deep in the Atlantic Ocean, after their Balize-flagged fishing research vessel, the Geo Searcher, sank within a mile off the Gough Island after it reportedly struck underwater rocks, quickly took water and sank.
The hair raising incident, and during which two of the 62 sailors suffered minor injuries had, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), occured in the late afternoon of Thursday, 15 October 2020, while the group of seafarers was sailing in the vicinity of Gough Island.
When the vessel reportedly struck the underwater rocks and rapidly took water, the seafarers scrambled onto safety boats that helped them reach dry land.
SAMSA through its Sea Watch and Rescue linked Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) based in Cape Town not only first picked up the frantic calls for help from the vessel’s crew after it got into difficulty that Thursday afternoon, but also co-ordinated the entire rescue mission – working hand in glove with various institutions and State departments including the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), owners of the SA Agulhas II.
With Captain Knowledge Mdlase as Master of the SA Agulhas II, a week ago the vessel was dispatched to the Gough Island to fetch the stranded seamen and after initially battling with choppy ocean winds, it succefully reached and fetched all the seafarers for on boarding onto the SA Agulhas II for the 2500 kilometer trip to Cape Town, which ended on Monday evening.
From a SAMSA perspective, the safe rescue and return of the 60 seafarers (two more others were dropped of at Tristan da Cuhna) marked the successful completion of South Africa’s most biggest sea rescue mission in over a decade.
This is according to the head of SAMSA’s MRCC in Cape Town, Mr Jared Blows. In a brief chat on Tuesday, the morning after the return of the SA Agulhas II from Gough Island, Mr Blows said constant alertness and closer cooperation with various others institutions was key to the success of the mission.
For his views (+3 minutes) click on the video below.
Meanwhile, Captain Bengu described the rescue mission as having been relatively smooth, this despite challenging weather conditions initially on their arrival near the Gough Island last week. It took the vessel the entire four days to get there.
According to Captain Bengu, the rescue mission started hurriedly during the evening of Thursday, 15 October when he and his SA Agulhas II crew had to drop off in Cape Town a group of passengers that were onboard returning from a research mission, and had to rush back towards Gough Island.
“The vessel departed at about 11pm on Thursday and sailed full speed – at about 16 knots per hour – towards Gough Island, which took us about four days.
“Unfortunately when we got to the island on 20 October, the weather was unfavourable to conduct any flight operations especially with regards flying seafarers onboard. We had to wait it throughout the evening until we decided to call off the operation for the day. The following day, as soon as there was a weather opening – a two hour gap in the weather – a very brave helicopter crew took a decision to fly even as the conditions were not so good. They managed to bring on board all 62 seafarers safely and unharmed,” said Captain Bengu.
He said in addition to rescuing the stranded seafarers, the SA Agulhas II crew also conducted an environmental inspection for oil spillage around the wreck of the sunken vessel, the Geo Searcher.
Later upon departure from the island, the SA Agulhas first headed for Tristan da Cunha where it dropped two of the 62 seafarers after which it headed for South Africa.
“On our arrival at Tristan da Cunha, the Tristanians were very generous and donated clothing and food for the rest of the survivors,’ he said.
For Captain Bengu’s full remarks, click on the video below (+-4minutes)
He also described the 62 rescued seafarers as “most grateful and with full appreciation of the hospitality they received.”
Regrettably, this blog could not convince any of the rescued seafarers on Monday evening to speak on record about their ordeal this past week. This notwithstanding, several seemed happy to have made it back home in good health and were full of praise for the SA Agulhas II crew.
After losing time battling inclement weather characterised by strong winds, South Africa’s research vessel, the SA Agulhas II is on its way back from the Gough Island, after successfully rescuing the crew of the vessel that sunk just a mile away from the remote Atlantic Ocean island last week.
This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) which is coordinating the rescue and safe return of the 62 crew members who were onboard the Balize flagged research vessel, Geo Searcher, when it hit rocks and took water before it sunk to the bottom of the sea near Gough Island on Thursday last week.
On board the Geo Searcher at the time, were 47 South African, three (5) Portuguese, one (1) British, two (2) Ghanaian, one (1) Indonesian, four (4) Namibian and two (2) Tristan citizens,” said the updated statement.
On Wednesday, SAMSA reported the rescue crew of the SA Agulhas II hurriedly dispatched last week to fetch the seafarers off the stricken research fishing vessel as having encountered wild stormy weather on approach to the Gough Island.
“Bad weather with gale force winds has stalled the rescue operation since Tuesday (20 October 2020). Weather forecast for the coming 24 hours is also not looking any better but is being closely monitored. The evacuation will commence as soon as the weather subsides.The weather is reported to possibly subside from Thursday (22nd October 2020),” said SAMSA
On Thursday morning, SAMSA reported all as going well with the rescue mission, and that the SA Agulhas II was on its way back to South Africa.
“The SA Agulhas II is heading to TRISTAN Da CUNHA to drop the two Tristanian survivors from where the vessel will then proceed to Cape Town.
“Arrival in Cape Town will be dependent on weather conditions that may affect the sailing time. All indications are that it will take approximately 4 to 5 days before the vessel arrives in Cape Town.” said SAMSA.
South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA acting Chief Executive Offier, Mr Sobantu Tilayi is the main guest in a webinar scheduled for livestreaming from Cape Town at 4pm today, courtersy of Maritime Review Africa.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) says it has begun a preliminary investigation into the tragic vessel incident that occurred on the Vaal Dam this past weekend and which reportedly claimed the lives of five while two others were injured.
SAMSA in a statement in Pretoria on Monday said: “The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has commenced with the preliminary enquiry to the cause of the small vessel tragic incident that happened this past weekend on the Vaal River.
“The incident took place on Saturday, 17 October, where a vessel capsized with seven (7) persons on board. Two (2) survivors were picked up by another vessel and after a search, five (5) bodies were recovered by the SAPS (South African Police Services) divers. The casualty vessel was also recovered.
“SAMSA is an agency of the Department of Transport whose mandate includes the regulation of inland waterways (only waterways accessible to the public) within the Republic and to ensure boating safety on our waters.
“Condolences are conveyed to the families of the deceased.”
This news story has been updated with new information from SAMSA
Pretoria: 16 October 2020
The South African Maritime Authority (SAMSA) has confirmed the sinking of a fishing research vessel named the Geo Searcher off the Gough island on Thursday afternoon while sailing with 64 crew on board, a majority South African.
“All 62 crew have safely been recovered from the vessel and are now on Gough Island with one crew member having sustained slight injuries,” reported SAMSA in a media statement on Thursday evening.
On Friday morning SAMSA added: “”A multi-organisational effort to collect the 62 seafarers of the now sunken, Belize registered vessel, GEO SEARCHER, is underway.
“SAMSA’S MRCC, Department of Environmental Affairs (SA AGULHAS II), and AMSOL along with the representatives and owners of the stricken vessel, have collaborated in arranging for the SA Research vessel SA AGULHAS II to sail this morning (Friday 16th Oct) for Gough Island in the south Atlantic Ocean to collect the seafarers who had abandoned their vessel after it had reportedly struck a rock and started taking on water.
“The stricken seafarers are 47 South African, 3 Portuguese, 1 British,2 Ghanaian, 1 Indonesian, 4 Namibian and 2 Tristan citizens,”said the updated statement.
According to SAMSA, the Geo Searcher had been within a mile off Gough Island when it experience problems and took on water after it reportedly collided with underwater rocks.
SAMSA’s Sea Watch and Rescue center in Cape Town reported that: “At 15/1212LT, MRCC (Maritime Rescue and Coordinating Centre) received a call from a vessel representative in Cape Town advising of a fishing vessel ‘GEO SEARCHER’ / V3WL8. Flag: Belize, which had hit a rock in the morning and started taking in water, and that crew was abandoning the vessel. The vessel was 0.8 nautical miles (NM) north west of Gough Island as per position provided. There was 62 crew on-board the vessel.
The centre immediately sought to mobilise other sailing vessels within the vicinity of the accident, but this was eventually called off after crew of the sunken vessel were reported to have safely abandoned it.
According to MarineTraffic, the sunken vessel was a 69.2 meters long and 12.8 meters wide research/survey vessel built in 1982, with a carrying capacity of 1263 t DWT.
On Friday, SAMSA said: “”The SA AGULHAS II is expected to take about three (3_ days to reach the island, if weather conditions allow. The vessel is carrying two helicopters onboard which will greatly assist in the transfer of the stricken seafarers from the island to the vessel. It is expected that the vessel will then make its return voyage arriving by possibly next week Friday or Saturday.
“The South African search and rescue region covers approximately 28 million km² of ocean stretching half way across to South America and half way to Australia and includes the Antarctic area up to the South Pole. The area is one of the biggest regions in the world and covers some of the most treacherous seas on the planet.
“The coordination and collaboration efforts between SAMSAs’ MRCC and many other organisations deliver the service to seafarers in peril on our seas. Limited resources and the vastness of the area creates challenges but with these efforts, seafarers can rest assured that every possible effort will be made to render them the lifesaving service they may require.”
Announces poverty alleviation initiative for marginalised rural coastal subsistence fishermen.
Pretoria: 13 October 2020
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has confirmed plans to launch a corporate social investment and sustainability initiative in October aimed at alleviating reportedly increasing poverty among some marginalised communities within the country’s maritime sector.
Funded to a tune of R3-million co-sponsored jointly by one of South Africa’s biggest commercial banks, Absa, and supported by skills development services provider, the Moses Kotane Institute; the SAMSA CSI&S conceived and driven initiative will, according to the authority, target largely marginalised subsistence fishermen in three coastal provinces; KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.
“The collaboration which will be delivered in two phases will see both SAMSA and Absa committing R3- million to the project,” said SAMSA in a statement.
“The first phase which will be launching today and will comprise of the provision of immediate to near-term essential food support to communities in Mbizana and Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape and communities of Kwa-Xolo, Gamalahle, Ndizimakwhe, Umzumbe and Umdoni in the province of Kwazulu-Natal. Communities in the Northern Cape will be announced as soon as the interactions with the identified municipality are concluded.
“The second phase of the collaboration will see unemployed or retrenched local small-scale fishers and other fishing workersreceiving pre-sea training, skippers training and entrepreneurship training,” the statement read.
Absa, a Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed financial institution, is one of Africa’s largest diversified financial services groups with a presence in 12 countries across the continent, also with representative offices in Namibia and Nigeria, as well as insurance operations in Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia, employing approximately 42 000 people.
Moses Kotane Institute on the other hand, is a KwaZulu-Natal (La Mercy, Durban) based higher education institution founded in 2007 and owned by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, with evolving focus now precisely on research and development, innovation and technology, as well as maritime and economics.
The poverty alleviation initiative jointly pursued by the parties, says SAMSA, is a much needed and sort-after intervention in the maritime economic sector.
According to SAMSA: “The spectre of the novel coronavirus (Covid-10) pandemic both in South Africa and globally continues to hog the news media headlines worldwide for its unprecedented devastating effect socially and economically.
“So far in South Africa, about 693 000 people have been infected and close on 17 000 have died since the outbreak of the virus in China in December 2019 and its spread to South Africa since March 2020. But equally devastating has been the effect the rapid spread of the virus has had on the economy, with scores of businesses all across the board having had to close down or drastically down-scale operations, leading to more than 2-million people now left without jobs in the second quarter of this financial year.
“At the same time, within the maritime economic sector, at the periphery of this ongoing economic devastation are subsistence fishermen across South African provinces, who irked a living through daily toil of fishing for home consumption and negligible sales, and whose lives have since turned for the worst, as are now facing dire poverty largely due in part to the necessary yet unfortunate interruption in economic activity brought by the declaration of a State of Disaster that saw a national Lockdown at five (5) levels imposed by Government since March 2020.”
SAMSA said with South Africa faced by the dire situation, national Government appealed to all able and willing South Africans to contribute towards alleviation of this big poverty challenge.
“Against the backdrop, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has responded by putting together a Corporate Social Investment (CSI) and Sustainability driven project to directly alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on rural subsistence fishermen in the three provinces of the Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Northern Cape with basic necessities, including capacitating them with requisite tools to sustain themselves and their communities going into the future.
“The project, undertaken in collaboration with ABSA and Moses Kotane Institute (MKA) rolls out from 19 October 2020 and should conclude in the first week of December 2020.”
Of the collaboration with Absa and MKI: “SAMSA and Absa are also pleased to have the Moses Kotane Institute (MKI) this collaboration. The MKI comes on board as a delivery partner, particularly on the training side of the intervention. MKI is an internationally recognised research, innovation and maritime institution driving economic development in KwaZulu-Natal.
UPDATE: GI WACAF Webinar on Africa oil spills contingency plans held on Wednesday (16 September 2020)
Port Elizabeth: 17 September 2020
South Africa’s state of readiness for oil spills at its oceans space remains a critical factor to the country’s effective management of its maritime and marine environment and remains a work in progress, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
The position was outlined during Wednesday’s 3rd webinar hosted by the Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern Africa Initiative (GI WACAF) involving 22 African countries that are member states of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and global private sector oil organisation, IPIECA founded grouping.
For more info on the GI WACAF and Wednesday’s webinar background information, see the news story below.
To listen to South Africa’s full presentation at the webinar, which was made by SAMSA’s senior manager for Navigation, Security and Environment, Captain Ravi Naicker, please click on the image at the top of this article.
Please do note that the webinar’s entire presentation lasts about one (1) hour 30 minutes, and Captain Naicker’s presentation starts at about the half hour mark of the full webinar presentation, lasting about 20 minutes.
Port Elizabeth: 16 September 2020
Participants from 22 African (mostly maritime) countries including South Africa are to continue engagement on strategies for oil spills contingency planning during a day long webinar scheduled for Wednesday.
The list of invited country participants include Angola, Benin, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, The Gambia and Togo.
The webinar is one in a series organised and managed by the Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern Africa Initiative (GI WACAF) under the auspieces of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) jointly with cofounders, global oil and gas industry association IPIECA. It is the third since June 2020 after GI WACAF activities were momentarily canned due to the outbreak of the Covid-!9 pandemic in March 2020.
GI WACAF involves mainly African countries as launched by the IMO and IPIECA in pursuit of what the two organisations describe as “a shared desire to improve the level of preparedness and response to oil spills in the west, central and southern Africa region.”
GI WACAF states its mission as working “in close cooperation with relevant national authorities in 22 African countries, supporting them in strengthening their oil spill preparedness and response capabilities. By doing so, GI WACAF is contributing to a better protection of the marine and shoreline environment in the region.”
About the webinar on Wednesday acccording to GIWACAF: “This third live webinar of the series will be dedicated to oil spill contingency planning and will present the key aspects of contingency planning in preparedness and response to oil spills from different perspectives and viewpoints.
“For this webinar, we will enjoy the company of leading international experts from Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL), the South African Maritime Safety Agency (SAMSA), and ExxonMobil Angola.”
Outcomes expected of the webinar include development of:
an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders involved in contingency planning (national authorities, oil and gas industry and other industries);
knowledge on the main tools used in contingency planning such as Oil Spill Contigency Plans and National Oil Spill Contingency Plans;
knowledge on the challenges and successes faced when planning for oil spills through case studies shared by the experts.
Confirmed among those scheduled to offer South Africa’s perspective on these matters is SAMSA’s senior manager for nativigation, security and environment, Captain Ravi Naicker.
Three other listed speakers are Mr Julien Favier, GI WACAF Project Manager and webinar host and facilitator; Mr Richard Tindell, a principal consultant at Oil Spill Response Limited a well as Ms Tania Augusto, a senior advisor at ExxonMobil Angola.
The webinar will be in two sessions, the first presented in French scheduled for 12 noon (11am London Time), with the next penned for 3pm (2pm London Time).
The Covid-19 pandemic that’s engulfed the world since about the end of 2019, killing as many as nine hundred thousand people so far and forcing periodic national lockdowns, may have had a truly devastating impact on the world’s economy – the world’s maritime economic sector that’s an essential lifeblood to world trade included – but it has also presented opportunities to refocus priority areas for economic development.
At least that was the dominant view of contributors and participants in a webinar organised by the Eastern Cape provincial government last Thursday. For South Africa’s maritime economic sector, and precisely that of the Eastern Cape – one of the country’s four coastal provinces with the second biggest claim to a coastline along the Indian Ocean – five specific areas of business investment opportunity are beckoning.
These include the fledgling ships bunkering services at Algoa Bay near Port Elizabeth established only four years ago, coastal and marine tourism along the province’s largely pristine and underdeveloped Wild Coast coastal corridor, fishing and aquaculture, skills development and environmental protection.
Participants in the webinar, among them the acting CEO of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Mr Sobantu Tilayi, and representatives of the Eastern Cape provincial government and associated entities including the Eastern Cape Socio Economic Consultative Council (ECSECC) and Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ERCDA), the Nelson Mandela University (NMU), the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) etc, were agreed that these identified areas of maritime sector investment opportunity were also interlinked and therefore highly acquiescent to close alignment.
The webinar on Thursday, attended by about 50 people, was according to the provincial government, intended to probe its Covid-19 scuppered Oceans Economy Masterplan launched with much fanfare in March this year, for low hanging viable investment opportunities for pursuit almost immediately in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was because, the provincial government said: “COVID-19 has upended major sectors of the economy. The lockdown measures imposed on companies to enforce social distancing resulted in supply-side shocks for the economy. The closure of international borders disrupted the global value chains for critical industries such as maritime industry.
“These supply-side shocks induced the demand-side shocks, with most workers losing jobs and incomes. Unemployment across industries skyrocketed, resulting in a deep slump in the economy. Key sectors of the Oceans Economy were not left unscathed by the COVID-19 lockdown measures. With the evidence that the coronavirus is receding, and the country moving to Level 2 of the Risk-adjusted Strategy for Economic Activity, there’s an urgent need to jumpstart economic recovery of the critical sectors of the Oceans Economy in the Eastern Cape.
“The province has a compelling value proposition for investors in the Oceans Economy, and it is the opportune moment to act to leverage on this proposition. Towards this end, the Eastern Cape Operations Phakisa: Oceans Economy Secretariat is convening a one-day session to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the Oceans Economy, and to map a path towards Oceans Economy recovery. Key stakeholders are convening for a conversation to map a way forward for the Eastern Cape Oceans Economy Agenda during a period characterised as the “New Normal”.”
Areas of primary interest and focus for the Eastern Cape’s allotment of some 800km of a coastline in an ocean space incorporating a 1,5-million km2 of South Africa’s exclusive economic development zone, included marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas, aquaculture, marine tourism, small harbours and coastline development, research, technology, innovation; skills development and ocean governance.
In his contribution, Mr Tilayi (SAMSA) described the ship bunkering services development in Algoa Bay as one ideal opportunity for business investment, skills development and other socio-economic value exploitation.
Launched in 2016 as a ship refuelling station taking advantage of both the suitability of the Algoa Bay region, and the steadily increasing volumes of especially trade vessels traversing the country’s oceans waters, from Western Europe, the Americas through to Asia, according to Mr Tilayi, the service was already proving to be a potential key contributor to the country’s economy, even if still at a low base.
A critical economic aspect to its potential success were global geo political and economic driven issues affecting the East and Western countries whereby, from a trade costs management point of view, the southern African seas corridor was gaining preference from shipping companies ahead of the oft congested Suez Canal.
Currently operated by three (3) bunkering service providers, he said; “the subsector had already created as many as 260 jobs – more than double the number recorded at launch (117) in 2016, with various business opportunities developing subsidiary to the core services”.
In addition to oil-based fuels, with ship technology advancements gaining pace alongside alternative fuels development, the international vessels refuelling location in Algoa Bay could further expand its services to liquified natural gases thereby expanding diversity of services.
In addition, consistent with the country’s economic development imperatives, alongside jobs creation in general, it provided a critical platform to advance transformation of the country’s maritime economy through skilling of previously disadvantaged communities as well as development of small black businesses.
Linked to this would be development of a range of maritime skills, particularly those relevant to marine and maritime tourism, environmental protection and oceans governance.
To aid this process, Mr Tilayi said SAMSA had among steps taken so far, facilitated the establishment of a Maritime Industry LED Fund whose objectives include the strengthening of sea space environment protection through development of enhanced capacity to manage pollution incidents, support research and related matters, as well as funding maritime industry development, but particularly the entry and development of small black business as well as rural economy development.
This was taking place alongside initiatives to assist the development of rural coastal areas wherein four projects had been launched, involving a maritime youth development programme undertaken jointly with the Eastern Cape government, to equip rural youths with basic maritime skills as well as find them jobs. Mr Tilayi said the MYDP had to date placed in excess of 600 of these youth on international cruise ships around the world.
The other projects involved a coastal and marine tourism initiative undertaken jointly with the Eastern Cape Tourism Board and identified local authorities; a youth skills development initiative focus on boat building and refurbishing undertaken jointly with the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (now with the Moses Kotane Institute) and various others, as a well as a maritime heritage initiative undertaken jointly with the South African National Heritage Council and others.
According to Mr Tilayi, shipping companies in South Africa, among them Vuka Marine, were in the process of contributing to the initiatives with a training and crewing venture focussing on ratings and hospitality.
Meanwhile, according to the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA), one other major opportunity for immediate pursuit by the province was the development of its fishing and aquaculture industry.
The aim, according to ECRDA Chief Executive, Mr Ntlanganiso Dladla, was to take advantage of the increasing gap in global seafood demand and supply, wherein current projections indicated a supply-demand gap of between 29-40 tonnes per annum in South Africa and as much as 249-322 tonnes per annum in southern Africa which in global terms, he said, represents 2.53 metric tons or nine (9) percent of global demand stripping supply.
He outlined progress with development of a marine tilapia five phases project over 12 years in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal aimed at producing as much as 100 000 tonnes of fish species per annum by 2032.
According to Mr Dladla, the five phases development is projected to yield about 4736 direct jobs at fish farm and processing clusters – a thousand of these in its planned launch area of Mbhashe along the Eastern Cape ‘Wild Coast’ – and as many as 150 000 jobs for small scale farmers in the value chain across the region, with gross annual income of R3,4-billion against operations expenditure estimated at R1,24-billion.
Associated would be development of small-scale crop farmers producing soya, sunflower and maize, operating on half-hector plots totalling about 172000 with a potential crop value of between R134,7-million and R193,4-million per crop type by phase five of the project development.
Significantly, ownership of tilapia fish farms in the projects was being designed to assign up to 70% of ownership to workers, 30% of ownership in hatcheries and feed plants, and 38% share in fishing processing plants, thereby ensuring effective economic empowerment of affected rural coastal communities in both the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, and possibly Mozambique.
Vital allies who voiced commitment in terms of various skills development for these and related projects, were the the Port Elizabeth based Nelson Mandela University and SAIMI along with other identified tertiary institutions in the region, the webinar was told.
The South African government confirmed on Thursday the postponement of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) World Maritime Day Parallel Event scheduled for the country in October, due to the onset and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide since December 2019.
Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula announced in a statement: “The Department of Transport hereby wishes to inform the maritime industry and its stakeholders of the postponement of this year’s IMO World Maritime Day Parallel Event (WMDPE), which was scheduled to take place during the month October 2020.
“Due to travel restrictions as well as other health and safety regulations aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa will not be able to host the WMDPE in 2020 but will instead defer its hosting of the prestigeous event to the year 2021,” said Mr Mbalula.
The postponement endorsed byMember States of the International IMO in June affects not only this year’s scheduled hosts; South Africa, but also two other countries, Iran and Russia, who were to host the event after South Africa in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
Both Iran and Russia had backed South Africa’s request for the postponement, thereby ratifying their hosting schedule movement to 2022 and 2023 respectively.
The IMO WMD Parallel event, the world’s biggest gathering of the world maritime sector body Member States annually, involving possibly as many as 230 countries, was to be held in Durban, South Africa in October 2020 for the first time.
The baton for the inaugural staging of the event by South Africa in October 2020 was handed to Mr Mbalula by the IMO in Cartagena, Colombia in September last year, following to the formal granting of the honour by an IMO Council to South Africa to stage the event in 2015.
In its request for postponement of the event to the IMO Council, South Africa said since the outbreak of the Covid-19, countries around the world, guided by the World Health Organisation (WHO, had to take “precautionary health and safety measures in trying to curb the spread of COVID-19.’
“South Africa has adopted best practices based on guidance issued by WHO, leading to the promulgation of risk-based national policies and regulations by introducing, inter alia, travel restrictions, social distancing, working from home for non-essential workers, banning of physical meetings and events, etc.
“Those measures (social distancing, banning of physical events, and travel restrictions) were also adopted by many Member States, and are likely to remain in place for some time or until the vaccine to treat COVID-19 is found.
“The current restrictions and uncertainties caused by the pandemic will make it difficult or impossible for Member States to attend any physical event or conference, including WMDPE. Thus, South Africa takes a considered view that the 2020 WMDPE be postponed to 2021 and that the subsequent events be shifted by 1 year. This view is taken with a hope that the global situation on COVID-19 would have changed by 2021 onwards.
“South Africa will closely monitor local, regional and global measures, and developments and guidance from various institutions, including WHO and IMO. “
South Africa’s request had the full backing of both Iran and Russia who were and remain due to host the event successively thereafter.
The two countries wrote: “Noting the Council’s acceptance of the offers made by the Governments of the Islamic Republic of Iran (114th session), the Russian Federation (120th session) and the United Arab Emirates (122nd session) to host the Parallel Event in 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively, the sponsors of this document agree with the proposal made by South Africa to postpone the Parallel Event by 1 year. Consequently, all future events would also be postponed by 1 year.”
In a statement shortly thereafter, the IMO confirmed: “The Council accepts the proposal made by South Africa, supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation, that the 2020 World Maritime Day Parallel Event be postponed to 2021 due to the current restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the subsequent events (i.e. the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2021, the Russian Federation in 2022 and the United Arab Emirates in 2023) be shifted by one year.
“The Council also notes that this proposal is taken with a hope that the global situation on COVID-19 would have changed by 2021.”
In Pretoria on Thursday, Mr Mbalula said much work had already been underway to prepare the country and plans were at an advanced stage to host the event in the City of Durban from 27-29 October 2020.
He said: “We acknowledge the tireless efforts of all the agencies thus far and are mindful of the general industry anticipation for the IMO World Maritime Day Parallel Event 2020.
“However, health and safety is paramount and must be prioritized above mutually beneficial engagements and bilateral discussions regardless of their urgency and importance. The South African government remains eager to welcome delegates to our shores, under much safer global conditions in 2021” Mr Mbalula.
South Africa’s positioning as being among the world’s maritime countries with a relatively high fishing sector safety record on average brings upon the country the added responsibility of not just ensuring the positive trend is maintained, but also that lessons learned towards high safety records are constantly shared with others.
It is against that backdrop and some, – inclusive of a standing commitment to the local fishing industry – that on Tuesday, 18 August 2020, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) will again lead a national online dialogue with stakeholders in the country’s fishing sector, focused on safety of fishermen in the country’s ocean waters.
The virtual event beginning at 9am on Tuesday through to 4pm in the afternoon is part of a fortnight long fishing sector indaba webinar being conducted by maritime sector private publication, Maritime Review, with SAMSA and others as co-sponsors. The fishing safety indaba however, will be SAMSA’s regular event staged periodically since 2002, and in regular frequence over the last five years.
According to SAMSA, the event whose aim is to bring together on the same table stakeholders from across the sector to provide feedback as well as discuss and share information, is part of a broader programme to improve and maintain high safety records in the country’s fishing sector.
It is based on recognition and acknowledgement that with as many 1,014 domestic commercial fishing vessels of various sizes operating in the country’s waters, the industry still has some work to do to eliminate incidents resulting in deaths at sea.
Recent concerns in the country’s fishing sector (2018) included an apparent “unfortunate” increase in the rate of suicides by fishers, indicating an urgent need for some sort of intervention, says SAMSA. The aim was for zero fatalities in the sector.
Through these regular engagements with industry, SAMSA previously noted and highlighted a whole set of issues to pursue for address as follows:
Introduction of legislation making it mandatory for all fishers to attend safety familiarisation courses prior to fishers proceeding to sea.
Maritime Occupational safety audits of fishing companies operating over 25 gross tons vessels which focuses on compliance with respect to issues such as Safety Officers, Safety Committees, safety drills, personal protective clothing, toolbox talks, discipline, social security and risk assessments.
Adhoc safety inspections- outside of the annual survey regime.
Fisheries observers completing safety checklists while at sea.
Marine Notices high lighting the causes of deaths and other pertinent safety communication.
Community safety seminars
Safety indabas with fishing industry stakeholders.
Guidance on relevant legislation stemming from international IMO and ILO instruments in the interest of safe fishing practices.
Investigations into the causes of deaths by trained SAMSA officials and
Casualty Investigation techniques training for industry
Tuesday’s fishing indaba webinar, according to SAMSA, will give feedback as well as provide a platform for discussion on these as well related issues inclusive of:
developments relating to the Cape Town Agreement of the Torremolinos Protocol in which South Africa was instrumental,
current fishing safety statistics,
update on the country’s status in terms of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) STCW-F Convention.
update on ongoing projects within SAMSA related to the fishing sector among them, the Safety of Life at Sea and Identifier Project,
boating as well as related developments.
Leading the SAMSA team of senior officials scheduled for the fishing indaba Tuesday will be acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi.
He’s described the event as highly significant in 2020 particularly against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak since December 2019 and which has had a most negative impact on economic activity.
Mt Tilayi said: “With this event, coming, incidentally, at a time when we also have to deal with the ravages of the currently rampant Covid-19 pandemic both in South Africa and globally, we are hoping that it will go a long way in contributing to the strengthening of unity and common vision in the industry , while contributing to resolution of challenges towards development of a highly productive and sustainable industry.”