SAMSA and Home Affairs Dept lock hands to unblock SA seafarers’ passports renewal

Pretoria: 11 February 2021

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA says problems encountered by South African seafarers at Department of Home Affairs relating directly to renewal of their expired or expiring passports are being attended to and hopefully soon, these will be resolved.

The SAMSA statement in Pretoria on Thursday comes in the form of a Marine Notice 2 of 2021. The notice comes barely a week after the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), of which South Africa is a Member State, confirmed the country’s ratification of a resolution involving 50 other Member States, granting seafarers globally the status of ‘essential workers’.

In the notice, SAMSA acknowledges that with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and numerous problems arising since about a year ago, some due to Government’s counter-measures against the spread of the virus, such as the national lockdown at different levels since March 2020, seafarers but especially South African seafarers, have been among workforces who have suffered most even as the maritime sector remained operational for the longest of time under the circumstances to date.

In the notice, SAMSA in further acknowledgment of the effort put up by the South African government through various departments inclusive of the Department of Transport under which shipping transport falls, states nevertheless that: “….as much as Maritime Transport remained essential in the eyes of the world’s authorities as it continued to be allowed to operate under different lockdown regimes around the world, seafarers were forgotten. Crew changes were banned in many countries during the first half of 2020.

“This caused mayhem in the maritime industry as seafarers struggled to sign-off vessels and relievers struggled to get to ships. This resulted in what some termed as the humanitarian crisis at sea as seafarers had to stay on board for extended periods. Another humanitarian crisis was brewing at home as seafarers who had made it home before travel bans struggled to get back to the ships and were left without income for extended periods.”

According to SAMSA in the notice, even with global strides being made to alleviate the plight of seafarers globally, this inclusive of sets of resolutions by the IMO, the United Nations as well as organised business calling for seafarers to be declared ‘essential workers; with the second surge of Covid-19 infections in South Africa in  the latter part of 2020, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs scaled down operations, in the process suspending applications for passports except for people under certain categories permitted to travel.

In this regard, SAMSA says even as the country’s seafarers were classified under Category 2, (people allowed to travel), several seafarers reportedly encountered problems when seeking to renew their passports at various offices of the Department of Home Affairs across the country.

“South African seafarers have been allowed to disembark and join vessels within the South African ports from as early as level 1 of lockdown. From 10 June 2020 they could travel internationally via repatriation flights to fulfil contractual obligations. SAMSA and the Department of Transport are currently engaged in talks with the relevant departments to ensure this matter is resolved,” announced SAMSA.

In the meantime, SAMSA called on all South African seafarers still battling to renew their passports to contact the organisation.

“When renewing a passport, the seafarer must take the following documents to the Department of Home Affairs office:

(1) Letter from the company, declaring you as a seafarer, employed and an essential key worker.

(2) Copy of the IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.35/Rev.3 which states that seafarers have been declared key workers (essential workers). A copy is attached to this Marine Notice.

“Should a seafarer experience any problems regarding renewal of a passport, kindly forward the following to welfare@samsa.org.za:

  • Name and Surname.
  • Contact details.
  • Company name.
  • Department of Home Affairs office visited.

The details, according to SAMSA, will allow the agency to take matters up with relevant authorities.

End.

South Africa joins the world in declaring seafarers ‘essential workers’; IMO

Pretoria: 09 February 2021

With the siege by the Covid-19 pandemic still gripping firmly most parts of the world and disrupting world trade since its outbreak more than a year ago, South Africa has joined more than 50 countries globally in formally ratifying a resolution that declares seafarers as essential workers.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), of which South Africa is a Member State, confirms this in a circular to members and associated institutions including the United Nations, issued on Friday, 05 February 2021.

If all goes well, this may facilitate for seafarers globally to be ‘frontline workers’ to receive a Covid-19 vaccine as a matter of high priority.

This latest development, in terms of an IMO Resolution (MSC.473), Member States…”designate seafarers as ʹkey workersʹ providing an essential service, in order to facilitate safe and unhindered movement for embarking or disembarking a vessel and consider legal possibilities for accepting internationally recognized documentation carried by seafarers as evidence of their status as ʹkey workersʹ, and for the purpose of their travel and movement for crew change;ʺ

Further, in terms of IMO Resolution GB.340/Resolution (Rev.2), the Member States are urged and agree; ‘…in accordance with applicable national laws and regulations, to: … designate seafarers as ʺkey workersʺ, for the purpose of facilitation of safe and unhindered movement for embarking or disembarking a vessel, and the facilitation of shore leave, and when necessary, to shore-based medical treatment;ʺ

According to the IMO circular on Friday, as many as 55 countries that are Member States of the organization, and two others that are associates, had ratified the resolutions by the end of the week last week, with three African countries – South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya – being among those in the list.

The list of countries or Member States of the IMO that have ratified the resolutions include Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Lebanon, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Montenegro, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Yemen, (Associate Member: Faroes, Hong Kong (China).

The ratification of the resolutions by a growing list of IMO Member States, according to the IMO, brings to fruition a year-long strife to alleviate the plight of seafarers since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and which brought about an “ongoing crisis…impacting seafarers as well as other marine personnel.”

The resolution also has the full backing of the United Nation Assembly which recently also joined the seafarers campaign by calling on its own Member States “…to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers and to implement relevant measures to allow stranded seafarers to be repatriated and others to join ships, and to ensure  access to medical care.”

The UN General Assembly’s own resolution was adopted during a session of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on 1 December 2020.

Further, the IMO resolutions ratification by the 55 Member States announced on Friday was also the second such major step recently towards improving the work conditions of seafarers during the Covid-19 pandemic situation following to the adoption earlier of the ‘Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change “ by more than 600 organisations.

According to the declaration: “Covid-19 has impacted the daily lives and wellbeing of seafarers in unprecedented ways, causing a humanitarian crisis at sea. Hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been stranded working aboard ships beyond the expiry of their contracts. As the frontline workers of the maritime industry carrying 90% of global trade, seafarers play a vital role in ensuring the global flow of goods that the world depends on.”

“The Neptune Declaration urges the implementation of four main actions to address the crisis:

  • Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines
  • Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice
  • Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes
  • Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers
Mr Kitack Lim. Secretary General. International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

In a statement on its website, the IMO states: “IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the industry-led Neptune Declaration, which calls for seafarers to be designated as key workers and for cooperation to end the crew change crisis, which is not only putting seafarers in a desperate situation but also threatening the safety of shipping and world trade. Hundreds of thousands of seafarers around the globe are unable to leave ships, while others cannot join, due to travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement further quotes Mr Lim as saying: “I am pleased to see the industry come together under the Neptune Declaration to support ways to resolve the crew change crisis. This very much reflects the calls made by IMO, its sister UN entities and more recently the United Nations General Assembly, in its recent resolution on seafarers…I encourage more companies, including charterers, to get involved and show their support for our seafarers.” 

With regards IMO Members States, Secretary-General Lim urged more Governments to designate seafarers as key workers. 

Remarking on South Africa’s ratification of the IMO resolution designating seafarers as ‘essential workers,’ SAMSA Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi in a statement on Tuesday, described the new development as progressive.

Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Acting CEO. South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

Mr Tilayi said: “this resolution will go a long way attending to the plight of Seafarers currently stranded on ships or unable to join a ship because of the restrictions brought about by the pandemic. We are particularly pleased by the call for Seafarers also be given priority access to Covid-19 vaccines alongside other frontline workers.

“Seafarers are the key link in the economy chain and this designation will bolster the economy recovery efforts by many states affected by the pandemic. South Africa will host the 2021 World Maritime Day Parallel event later this year and will use this event to highlight its commitment to the global protection of Seafarers.”

End

Ships and installations on South African oceans warned: ‘report discharge of harmful substances or face a criminal charge’ – SAMSA

Pretoria: 11 December 2020

Seafarers sailing their ships or manning installations across South Africa’s vast three oceans at the tip of the African continent could face fines of up to R25 000, six months in jail or both, should they fail to inform local authorities of such discharges as soon as it is practically possible.

That is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a Marine Notice (No.55 of 2020) due out this week.

Acting in terms of the Marine Pollution (Control and Civil Liability) Act 6 of 1981, SAMSA said on Friday that should any harmful substance be discharged from a ship, tanker or offshore installation, the involved parties are legally obliged to immediately report the incident to local authorities. These include SAMSA and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.

The required report, according to SAMSA also involves any damage to a vessel, a tanker or installation from which a discharge of harmful substances onto the ocean may occur, this regardless of whether such discharge has not actually occured.

A stricken vessel being towed into a port after suffering damage while trarvessing South African oceans. (SAMSA File Photo)

The MN No.55 states in part: “…When any harmful substance has been discharged from a ship, tanker or offshore installation the master of such ship, tanker or offshore installation, or any member of the crew of such ship or tanker or of the staff employed in connection with such offshore installation, designated by such master, shall forthwith by the quickest means of communication available report the fact that such discharge has taken place to the principal officer at the port in the Republic nearest to where such ship, tanker or offshore installation is.

“If, while it is within the prohibited area (E.E.Z [Exclusive Economic Zone]), a ship or a tanker sustains any damage, whether to its hull, equipment or machinery, which causes, or creates the likelihood of a discharge of any harmful substance from such ship or tanker, or having sustained such damage, enters the prohibited area in such damaged condition, the master of such ship or tanker, or any member of its crew designated by the master, shall forthwith by the quickest means of communication available report to the principal officer at the port in the Republic nearest to where such ship or tanker then is the fact that such damage was sustained, the nature and location on the ship or tanker of the damage, the position at sea where the damage was sustained, the name of the ship or tanker, its port of registry, its official number, its position, its course and, if in the Republic, its destination, the quantity and type of harmful substances on board and, in the case of a tanker to which the provisions of section 13 apply, the particulars contained in the certificate.”

Bunkering services on the Indian Ocean near Port Elizabeth (SAMSA File Photo)

On reporting, the MN No.55 indicates that: “SAMSA, DEFF (Department of Environmental, Forestry and Fisheries) and African Marine Solutions (Pty) Ltd AMSOL (the managers of the standby tug “SA Amandla”) are all concerned with the prevention, containment and cleaning up of oil spills at sea. These organizations should be informed as soon as possible whenever there is an oil spill or a threat of an oil spill. SANNCOB (The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) is dedicated to seabird rehabilitation. SANPARKS (South African National Parks) is the body responsible for managing South Africa’s National Park to develop, expand, manage and promote a system of sustainable National Parks.”

Contact details of all the relevant authorities and contributors to combating of pollution, inclusive of SAMSA regional offices from Port Nolloth on the Atlantic Ocean to Richards Bay near the border of Mozambique on the Indian Ocean, are given in the notice.

In terms of penalties where failure to report occurs, MN No.55 states: “If the master of a ship or a tanker fails to comply with the provisions…. such master shall be guilty of an offence. Any person convicted of an offence …. shall be liable to a fine not exceeding R25 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and such imprisonment..”

According to SAMSA on Friday, the marine notice will be on the Department of Transport agency’s website shortly.

End

Vendeé Globe Yacht Race: Sailor survives yacht sinking incident south of Cape Town.

(SAMSA File Photo)

Pretoria: 02 December 2020

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has said it noted with appreciation the successful retrieval of a sailor whose yacht experienced problems and eventually sank while participating in the Vendeé Globe Yacht Race some 1083km south of Cape Town on Tuesday morning (01 December 2020)

In a statement in Pretoria on Wednesday, SAMSA said the successful retrieval of the skipper of the Yacht “PRB” at about 3am on Tuesday morning was a direct result of collaboration between SAMSA’s Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC), its French counterpart, Griz Nes, and the Vendeé Globe Yacht Race authorities and race participants.

SAMSA said the skipper of the Yacht PRB was scheduled to disembark at the Kerguelen Islands.

According to SAMSA: “The emergency rescue of the skipper ensued shortly after MRCC based in Cape Town was notified by MRCC Griz Nes (France) of an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) activation from the Yacht PRB. The notification was received shortly after 16:00 on Monday afternoon (30/11/2020) and MRCC Cape Town assumed Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordination of this incident.

“The EPIRB position was located approximately 1083km South West from Cape Town. Supplementary information provided with the EPIRB detection allowed MRCC Cape Town to confirm that the Yacht was part of the Vendeé Globe Yacht Race.

“With that confirmation the Vendeé Globe Yacht Race Organisers were contacted, and they confirmed to be aware of the EPIRB detection and were not able to make contact with the Skipper. They had alerted another competitor, Yacht “Yes we Cam!” to head towards the distress location for assistance.

“MRCC Cape Town continued to provide EPIRB position updates and alerted the Race Organisers to the activation of the Skipper’s Man Overboard Device (MOB). The MOB device coordinates were then used to direct the Yacht “Yes we Cam!” to the Skipper where he found to have been in a Life Raft after abandoning the Yacht PRB.

“Initial efforts of the Yacht “Yes we Cam!” to recover the Skipper in Distress were unsuccessful due to Winds of up to 50 km/h and Sea Swell of up to 5 metres. By 03:00 the morning of 01 December 2020 the surviving Skipper was recovered to the Yacht “Yes we Cam!” and it was confirmed that Yacht PRB had broken apart before sinking.

SAMA attributed the success of the rescue to close collaboration as a crucial aspect to effective monitoring and safety of sailors globally, and that it “won the day once more during this incident.”

End

SAMSA launches probe into capsized fishing boat, with loss of life, off the Cape west coast

(SAMSA File Photo)

Pretoria: 27 November 2020

An investigation is underway into the circumstances of the capsizing of a fishing boat off the coast of the Western Cape, in the vicinity of Rooi Els on Thursday afternoon and during which one fisherman died, three sustained minor injuries and one still missing, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) confirmed.

In a statement in Pretoria on Friday, SAMSA said the fatal incident reportedly involved an under 9 metre crayfish boat, with five men on board.

According to SAMSA, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was alerted to the incident at about 12.48pm and raced to the scene. However, on arrival at the site of the capsized crayfish boat, the rescue teams found at least one of the fishing crew had passed away, three others sustained minor injuries and one other missing.

The three survivors reached the shoreline safely.

“SAMSA has appointed a surveyor to investigate the incident. SAMSA will also involve a Welfare Officer for providing counselling to the survivors and families of all affected parties,” said the agency.

Meanwhile in a separate report on its website, the NSRI said it had been alerted to the incident by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) .

The NSRI then scrambled its Gordons Bay and Kleinmond sea rescue teams, who along with the Western Cape EMS rescue squad, the SA Police Services (SAPS), GB Med Sec ambulance services, Overberg Fire and Rescue Services and the EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter raced to the scene of the incident.

“On arrival on the scene it was confirmed that (five) 5 adult male fishermen, believed to all be from Mitchell’s Plain, were on a local crayfish boat that capsized in the surf just off-shore of Rooi Els. (Three) 3 of the fishermen had managed to reach the shoreline safely.

“A search commenced for (two) 2 fishermen who were missing and who were not accounted for. During the search one of the missing fishermen was located in the surf and he was recovered onto a sea rescue craft and sadly the fisherman, age 48, has been declared deceased. A Police Dive Unit responded and a dive search was conducted.

“Despite an extensive sea, air and shoreline search there remains no sign of the remaining one missing fisherman. Police divers are tasked to continue in an ongoing search operation for the missing fisherman. The casualty boat remains washed up in amongst rocks on the shoreline.

“The body of the deceased fisherman was brought to the NSRI Gordons Bay sea rescue station and the body of the man has been taken into the care of WC Government Health Forensic Pathology Services. Police have opened an inquest docket,” reported the NSIR.

Ends

Organisations hard at work picking nurdles off the Cape Coast while investigation of source continues: SAMSA

Sudden surfacing of nurdles along the southern Cape coastline still under investigation according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) (SAMSA Photo File)

Pretoria: 17 November 2020

An investigation into how millions of nurdles came to envelope the Cape coast, from south of Port Elizabeth through George and nearby towns is currently still underway, while an effort is made to clean the coastline of the small plastic pellets.

This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a statement in Pretoria on Tuesday. This was a further reaction to reports last month of the discovery of nurdles across the southern Cape coastline – from Fish Hoek in False Bay to Plettenberg Bay and lately, along the Eastern Cape coastline.

(Video courtersy of African News Agency [ANA])

According to SAMSA on Tuesday, the source of the nurdles is still unknown but the agency confirmed that this latest incident is not related to the spillage that occured in KwaZulu-Natal in 2017.

“Authorities are working hard to address the nurdles recently washing up along certain regions of the south Western Cape coastline from Fish Hoek in False Bay to Goukamma Marine Protected Area and Plettenberg Bay.

“The nurdles are also reported to be washing up along the Eastern Cape coastline, the exact locations are still to be confirmed.

“The authorities, including, the Departments of Transport, Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, local authorities, NGOs and volunteer groups have all been working consistently to clean up nurdles washing up on beaches,” said SAMSA

The organisation described nurdles as “… small plastic pellets used in the manufacture of plastic products. In the raw stage (pre-moulded and packaged) they are not toxic to touch, but probably shouldn’t be chewed given the unknown synthetics that make up the pellets.

“However, once released into the marine environment they have a high attraction to harmful substances such as land-based pesticides, herbicides, other organic pollutants as well as heavy metals that end up in the ocean. At this stage they are very harmful to life, especially to wildlife when mistaken for food.”

SAMSA said: “The source of the nurdles is not yet confirmed but an investigation is currently ongoing and being led by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA). These nurdles are not related to the spillage that took place in Kwazulu-Natal in 2017.

“While the investigation into the source of the nurdles is being undertaken, SpillTech has been appointed to assist and conduct clean-up efforts along the affected sections of coastline. Spilltech will also be storing the nurdles collected through clean-up efforts and are working with authorities, NGOs and volunteer groups to identify collection points and arrange the pick-up of nurdles.

“The extent of the clean-up operation is significant and is anticipated that the removal of nurdles from the affected coastline will continue for some time to come. The authorities and NGOs look forward to working with SpillTech as the lead agent for the duration of cleanup-operations.

“Spilltech can be contacted on 063 404 2128 for information on collection points and pick up of collected nurdles,” said SAMSA

End

Yachts given reprieve from Covid-19 rules to enter SA ports: SAMSA

Pretoria: 09 November 2020

With Covid-19 entry restrictions still on for crossborder travels, the world’s yachting community will find relief in the special dispensation by South Africa allowing them to call into the country’s ports.

That is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Marine Notice No.50 published on the agency’ website on Monday.

The notice titled: “COVID-19: Humanitarian Relief Project to Support Stranded Yachts to enter South Africa during Lockdown Period” dated 4 November 2020 states that, the implementation of the new measures is in recognition that Covid-19 restrictions in the maritime sector, particularly seafaring, have had highly negative consequences for sailors worldwide.

“The issue of stranded yachts has become topical in the past months and it is a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic that had dire consequences for the ocean cruising community. This community utilizes a wide range of yachts and small pleasure craft to navigate their way across the oceans and who primarily sail the world’s oceans as a way of life.

‘As a response to Covid-19, many countries around the world closed their borders and making it extremely difficult for sailors to proceed with their traditional sailing voyage along the Indian Ocean The current weather patterns along the Indian Ocean (are) posing a huge risk to yachts and sailors.

With these and related issues in mind, says the notice: “The South African government is continuously reviewing its processes and procedures to identify challenges within the maritime sphere during the Covid-19 Pandemic. As such, the government has found that there is a need to address the challenges faced by the yachting industry.”

In terms of the new measures, according to SAMSA, “Sou1h A!ica will offer a safe corridor and humanitarian services to yachts stranded along the Indian Ocean from 09 November 2020 to 15 December 2020.

“Yachts falling within this category must only utilise Yacht Clubs wthin the port of Richards Bay, port of Durban (both Indian Ocean) and port of Cape Town (straddles both the Indian and Atlantic Ocean). All yachts will be eligible to receive all services including stores, provisions, refuelling, repairs, maintenance and disembarkation of foreign sailors.”

The SAMSA notice further gives operational procedures on how relevant applications and related matters will be handled by the various government departments and institutions in conjuction with sailing communities organisation, with emphasis that: “these operational procedures are only applicable to yachts that fall within the humanitarian scope as outlined.”

End

Relief at last as a 62 sailors’ rescue mission deep in the Atlantic Ocean succeeds: SAMSA

The SA Agulhas II berthing at the port of Cape Town during its arrival from a rescue mission in Gough Island on Monday afternoon. (Photo: SAMSA)

Cape Town: 28 October 2020

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.

The Balize flagged fishing vessel named the Geo Searcher photographed while sinking off the coast of the Gough Island, some 2600km west of Cape Town and whose 62 people crew bailed out with boats and sought temporary refuge at Gough Island on Thursday, 15 October 2020

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.

SA Agulhas II Master, Captain Knowledge Bengu shortly after berthing his vessel in Cape Town on Tuesday night (Photo: SAMSA)

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.

MRCC Chief, Mr Jared Blows in a brief chat about the successful rescue mission in Gough Island this past week.

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)

SA Agulhas II Master, Capt. Knowledge Bengu reflecting on the successful rescue mission of 62 seafarers of the sunken Geo Searcher off the Atlantic Ocean island known as Gough Island this past week.

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.

End.

Rescued crew of sunken vessel on their way home: SAMSA

South African rescue mission personnel on board the country’s research vessel, the SA Agulhas II near Gough Island to placate 62 stranded seafarers – a majority of them South African – whose fishing vessel sank a mile off the Atlantic Ocean island a week ago. Bad weather affected the rescue mission but all is reported to be well now.

Pretoria: 22 October 2020

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.

Some of the seafarers of the Geo Searcher that sank a mile of the Atlantic Ocean island known as Gough Island, now safely onboard the SA Agulhas II and on their way back home to South Africa. (Photo: SAMSA)

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.

End

Fishing research vessel with SA group sinks off Gough Island; crew evacuation underway – SAMSA

Photo of the Geo Searcher fishing research vessel, courtery of MarineTraffic.com

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.

The MFV Geo Searcher off Nightingale Island on 19 September 2020 prior to its accident and sinking on Thursday 15October after reportedly hiting a rock off Gough Island. (Photo courtersy of Tristan da Cuhna News)

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.

SA Agulhas II

“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.”

End