Even still gripped by a Covid-19 pandemic, African countries forge ahead with climate change mitigation measures – MTCC-Africa/SAMSA

Pretoria: 01 March 2021

Postponed a year ago due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown rules promoting social distancing worldwide, an Africa region maritime sector plan of action aimed at contributing to global measures to mitigate against climate change gets underway again this month in the form of an Energy Efficiency Conference and Exhibition (ConfEx) over four days.

The ConfEx – originally scheduled for Durban, South Africa in June last year, before being scrapped – is being organised by the Mombasa, Kenya-based Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre (MTCC-Africa), and this time, it will be held virtually online, announced the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in Pretoria at the weekend.

The MTCC-Africa, is an International Maritime Organization (IMO) and European Commission funded initiative known as the Global MTCCs Network (GMN), with centres also in Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and Pacific regions. Initially funded to the tune of €10 000 000 over four years in 2017, it is geared towards building capacity in the targeted regions for climate mitigation in the world’s maritime shipping industry.

The ConfEx to be held over four days in two successive weeks this month, the first on 17&18 March 2021 and thereafter on 24&25 March 2021 will be staged within context of the IMO MARPOL Annex VI that is concerned with the prevention of air pollution by ships.

The IMO MARPOL Annex VI advances implementation of global regulations to address the emission of air pollutants from ships and the mandatory energy efficiency measures aimed at reducing emission of greenhouse gases from international shipping thereby ensuring that shipping is cleaner and greener.

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Representatives of 13 African countries involved with the IMO Global MTCC Network gathered at the first meeting of the MTCC-Africa branch in Mombasa in December 2017.                                (Photo: Courtesy of Global MTCC Network)

South Africa, an IMO Member State and signatory to the MARPOL Annex VI, is a designated Southern African Region Focal Point of the MTCC-Africa, wherein it is expected to support the agency in promoting technologies and operations aimed at improving energy efficiency in the maritime sector. The Southern African Region consists of Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Mr Kitach Lim. Secretary General. International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

A draft programme of the MTCC-Africa ConfEx event shows IMO Secretary General, Mr Kitack Lim and Dr Nancy Karigithu, Principal Secretary of Kenya’s State Department for Maritime Shipping Affairs as being among a host of high level officials scheduled to grace the occasion.

According to SAMSA at the weekend, in addition to experts and related in the field of climate change in the maritime sector, the MTCC-Africa online ConEx will focus also strongly on developers of energy efficient technologies for the maritime industry who will be provided a platform to exhibit their wares.

“The ConfEx is targeting the Small and Medium-Term Entrepreneurs with innovations focusing on climate change mitigation in the onshore and offshore shipping and maritime industry. The objective is to provide a highly interactive knowledge sharing and business networking platform, with the aim of connecting like-minded individuals and innovative solution providers from around the world. In addition to this, technological challenges and opportunities in climate action within the international maritime sector will be addressed. The exhibitors can showcase their market ready technologies and innovations,” said SAMSA.

However, because of social distancing regulations in compliance with Covid-19 mitigation measures, keen participants in both the main conference as well as exhibitors would have to book early online in order to claim their space at the ConfEx, said SAMSA.

The online booking details are:

Of the actual conference, said SAMSA: “With climate change affecting all of us, it makes sense to always encourage more people to participate in such events, for various purposes, educationally, economically and otherwise. It is against this background, that this event is open to all interested parties, to learn and or contribute in climate change mitigation and shipping’s transition to decarbonisation.”

For exhibitors: “The Confex will provide a highly interactive knowledge sharing and business networking platform with an aim of connecting like-minded individuals and innovative solution providers from around the world. In addition to this, technological challenges and opportunities in climate action within the international maritime sector will be addressed. The exhibitors can showcase their market ready technologies and innovations,” said SAMSA

SAMSA further states that this was an ideal opportunity for particularly South African and southern African countries’ entrepreneurs to expand their market reach both in Africa and globally. “Under the UNFCCC Paris Climate Conference, member countries agreed to limit global warming to below two (2) degrees Celsius. Shipping under the guidance of the IMO, must play a role in reducing its contribution to the global emissions. Developing countries, which play a significant role in international shipping, often lack the means to improve energy efficiency in their shipping sectors.

“Through technical assistance and capacity building, the MTCC project is there to enable developing countries, especially Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing to effectively implement ship energy-efficiency and emissions reduction measures, thereby ssupporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“South Africa is fully behind MTCC-Africa to ensure that it can deliver on its objectives that include; improving regional compliance with existing and future international regulations on energy efficiency for ships; promoting the uptake of low-carbon technologies and operations; and raising awareness on the need to reduce Greenhouse Gas and other emissions from the maritime transport sector

“We urge South Africans and Southern Africans, especially entrepreneurs and innovators to take the opportunity presented by the MTCC- Africa and the IMO, of engaging with global counterparts in the development and promotion of energy efficient technologies that can be used by the shipping industry in transitioning to the decarbonised future. It is also an opportunity for many, to learn about the work that the IMO has continually put in place to deliver on the strategic direction entitled “Respond to Climate Change“, as adopted by the IMO Assembly, during its 30th session in December 2017,” said SAMSA

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Africa’s support of Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety crucial to implementation in 2022: IMO

Pretoria: 25 February 2021

With 14 countries now already on board and needing just eight (8) more to bring to 22 the number of States required for implementation of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) sactioned Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessels safety globally, support by African countries in particular has never been more necessary, according to the London based United Nations (UN) body.

This emerged once again strongly this week during a two-day webinar for African region countries hosted by the IMO on Tuesday and Wednesday, essentially to share more information as well as ganner support for the Agreement ahead of its scheduled implementation in 20 months time (October 2022).

Several African countries including South Africa as represented by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), neighbouring Namibia and Gambia participated in the two-day webinar held over two hours on each of the two days, chaired by head of IMO Africa section subdivision for Maritime Development and Technical Co-operation, Mr William Azuh.

The webinar this week was one of several launched a year ago, beginning with Latin America in November 2020 and intended to cover all maritime regions across the world for information sharing and promotion of the ratification of the CTA treaty on fishing vessel safety ahead of its coming into effect next year.

According to the IMO, the CTA adopted in South Africa in 2012 by 51 of its Member States essentially; “outlines design, construction, and equipment standards for fishing vessels 24 meters or longer and details regulations that countries that are party to the agreement must adopt to protect fishing crews and observers. It also calls for harmonized fisheries, labor, and safety inspections.

“The agreement will enter into force once 22 States, with an aggregate fleet of 3,600 eligible fishing vessels, become parties to it. Once in force, this treaty will raise global safety standards for one of the most dangerous professions,” says the IMO

Key features of the CTA in terms of enhanced fishing vessels safety, according to the IMO, are:

  • Improve(ment of) safety of life at sea
  • Fighting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing
  • Protecting the environment

The CTA, a predecessor to two previous failed treaties; the 1977 Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, and the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol, is one of four instruments intended to develop, entrench and enhance fishermen working conditions for safety globally in a standardised and harmonious way. Three of these have since been ratified for global application, supported and driven by the IMO and other organisations including the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The three include:

  • the IMO’s International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F), 1995 – in force since 2012 and currently being revised to align its standards with the current state of the fishing industry,
  • the ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (Convention No. 188) now force since 16 November 2017 and implemented first by South Africa in December 2017. It sets minimum requirements for work on board including hours of rest, food, minimum age and repatriation.
  • the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)’s Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), 2009, which entered into force in 2016. The latter is aimed at preventing, deterring and eliminating IUU fishing through the adoption and implementation of effective port State measures.
A Pew video outlining in detail the Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety. (Source: Pew [YouTube])

However, even with three of the instruments now in play, formal implementation of the CTA to enhance fishing vessels safety universally worldwide is crucial, according to both the IMO and its associate, and global research and advocacy group, Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew).

In a statement encouraging African countries’ support and ratification of the CTA ahead of the Africa region IMO webinar this week, Pew stated: “Fishing continues to be recognized as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world and despite major efforts to tackle this problem there is currently no international binding instrument in force that addresses the design, construction, and equipment of fishing vessels.

“But the 2012 Cape Town Agreement (CTA) which was adopted at a Conference in South Africa in 2012 addresses all the difficulties that had been identified by States with large fishing fleets trying to improve vessel safety.

“It is expected that the CTA’s entry into force will give States a powerful tool to ensure that vessels flying their flags are held accountable for the safety of their vessels and crews; that fishing operations are conducted safely and legally; and that their safety obligations as responsible flag States are fulfilled. It will encourage vessel owners and operators to adopt a responsible approach to what is an inherently dangerous activity. And it will also help States to safeguard their citizens who work on board foreign-flagged vessels and mitigate the risk of IUU fish entering their markets.

“At this juncture in time and considering the African continent’s longstanding battle with illegal fishing hindering fish products coming to the African markets and our own artisanal fishing industry being threatened by large scale industrial operators, it is time to act and make ourselves heard, said Pew.

At the IMO webinar this week, some African countries, among them Namibia, expressed keen interest to support the CTA, however, some citing numerous challenges involving technical expertise, as well as setbacks recently experienced with the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic since December 2020.

Meanwhile, South Africa, a key contributor both to the development and implementation of the ILO’s C188 Convention and a forerunner as signatory of the CTA, indicated that it remains “proactive in efforts to effectively implement the required Flag State requirements of the “Agreement”.

Domestically, the country’s main representative at the IMO, SAMSA, said that the country was among the lead 14 IMO Member States to have ratified the CTA agreement. The 13 others include Belgium, Congo, Cook Islands, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Spain

Speaking on Tuesday, the first day of the webinar, SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, Captain Vernon Keller outlined some of the South Africa’s achievements to date since implementing the instruments aimed at fishermen safety. Among these was the significant and consistent reduction in the number of fishers fatalities in the two decades from 2000 to 2020. In the period, recorded fatalities fell from double digits of between 20 (2000) and 57 (2002) to single digits now hovering at about four (4) per annum in 2020.

It was also significant, he said, that in the 14 years between 2006 to 2020, the majority of fishers fatalies (55) involved fishing vessels measuring less than 10 meters in length, followed by those measuring between 10-24 meters (53) while the largest at 24 meters and above accounted for less than half (20) of the smaller vessels in both categories.

Of the few “lessons learnt’ by the country over the years, Capt. Keller said no country could afford to be a spectactor in its own as well as the global maritime environment. “Be more than a spectator country in the business of ocean and fisheries economy.” This, he said, implied a greater need for collaboration betwen multiple government departments and agencies “to ensure harmonised legislation in support of each others’ objectives.

Captain Vernon Keller. Deptuy Chief Operating Officer: South African Maritime afety Authority (SAMSA)

“Collaborate with the fishing industry and make them part of the solution to obtain a ‘buy-in’, modernise fishing vessel construction, equipment, safety and labour regulations. Equally important is the systematic implementation of new regulatons to allow for a change management process to take place,” said Capt Keller, further indicating that due to South Africa’s legislative process being slow, the country had to prioritise legislation for the implementation of the ILO’s C188 Convention.

Further, according to Capt. Keller, South Africa’s other lessons included knowledge sharing among key government agencies and departments as crucial, as the country soon noted with SAMSA’s training of Department of Environment, Forestry and Fishing (DEFF) fishing inspectors to help identify safety deficiencies during IUUF inspections onboard vessels at sea. And so was the case with close supervision of training institutions, programs and facilitators to formalise training. The country also found it worthwhile to create awareness with respect to fishers rights as well as allocating dedicated resources to seafarer welfare that SAMSA now operates.
Capt. Keller pointed out however’that, on the flipside of the coin, effective implementation of all the approved measures also had its negative consequences. Some of the emerging issues, he said; included Flag States who were failing to fulfil their obligations towards own fishers – with some fishers being abandoned by fishing vessel owners once foreign fishing vessels were detained.

“Abandoned fishing vessels are a financial burden on the State due to caretaking costs of vessel and the fishers onboard. In addition, there is port revenue loss due to abandoned fishing vessels remaining in port for extended periods and confiscating and selling an abandoned foreign fishing vessel is difficult due to the low financial value and conditon of the vessels.

(Source: IMO)

In terms of support of African countries, South Africa has continously availed itself for providing guidance based on development of own draft regulations. As part of that support effort, in October 2017, the country hosted a regional seminar for several African contries over five days at the historic Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town’s. The gathering – attended by 50 delegates from several English-speaking or Anglophone African countries in central and southern Africa – was the seventh in a series held by the IMO worldwide since the founding of the ‘Cape Town Agreement’ five years before.

For a brief glimpse at that Cape Town gathering of some of African countries for information on the CTA under the guidance of the IMO and SAMSA in 2017, click on the videos below:

Wrapping up this week’s IMO webinar on Wednesday evening (7pm South African time), participants issued a statement expressing gratitude to the government of South Africa, Liberia, and Spain as well as the IMO, ILO, FAO and Pew.

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Close engagement and collaboration, key to SA maritime sector growth: industry players

Pretoria: 16 February 2021

Continued engagement and close collaboration remain the key ingredient to redevelopment and growth of the South African maritime economic sector, according to industry players.

This was restated by virtually all invited guests to this year’s SAMSA Annual Stakeholder Event held on the eve of the Government’s State of the Nation Address that marks the opening of the country’s Parliament on Thursday last week.

With South Africa still bogged down under the hard grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, SAMSA’s event last Wednesday evening was held virtually online and for the reason, attracted more people than ever before, as it was also streamed live on social media platforms.

Ms Nthato Minyuku. Chairperson: SAMSA Board of Directors

This blog reported on Thursday on the remarks of the SAMSA Board of Directors perspective of the country’s maritime economic sector development currently and the role that SAMSA, a state agency under the Department of Transport continues to play along with its current strategy going forward. This was contained in remarks made by the Board’s chairperson, Ms Nthato Minyuku

In this report, packaged with video remarks of all the speakers that participated, we aim to present the full version of South Africa’s industry players’s views and responses on a whole range of issues concerning, affecting and impacting the country’s maritime economic sector. and central to whose key message was the need for continued close engagement and collaboration in the sector.

Among the issues, predictably, the outbreak and impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in December 2019, and first experienced in the country from about February 2020, was top most. According to all speakers, the disruptive effect of the pandemic was felt by everyone but especially seafarers and whose struggle with it continues. Emerging strongly in this regard was the high level of cooperation experienced between industry and SAMSA in seeking to ensure alleviation of some of the pressing challenges that faced and continue to face seafarers.

Maritime industry participants, allocated per subsector, featured on topics that ranged from maritime law and regulations review – or poor lack thereof -; maritime education, training and skills development; shipping trends inclusive of South Africa’s plan for rescucitation of a domestic shipping fleet, to current and future ports regulations and plans, seafarers development and challenges, as well as oil and gas industry perspectives and matters affecting fishing.

Also outlined were SAMSA’s strategic objectives over the next five to 15 years within both the context of the country’s Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy under the Department of Transport as well as the agency’s legislated mandate of ensuring safety of life and property at sea, prevention and combating of pollution from ships and promotion of the country’s maritime interests.

The Department of Transport rounded up the presentations.

The video clips – and whose quality is disappointingly poor largely due to an online video feed that suffered low grade relay – are arranged in the order of 13 of the 14 speakers participating on the day – led by introductory remarks by (now former) SAMSA Acting CEO Mr Sobantu Tilayi. The duration ranges between 4m 30 sec to 15 minutes, with the biggest number averaging under 5 minutes.

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

Industry responses and remarks

Legal Fraternity: Mr Andre Pike. Head: Ports, Transport and Logistics. Bowmans

Ports Regulator SA: Ms Johanna Mulaudzi. CEO

Shipping: Mr Andrew Millard, Director, Vuka Marine

Shipping: Mr Ross Volk, Managing Director, MSC Cruises SA

ShipOwners: Mr Peter Besnard. SAASOA
Maritime Manufacturing: Ms Sefale Montsi: Chairperson
Oil & Gas: Mr Mthozami Xiphu. Chairman
Academia: Mr Odwa Mtati. CEO: SAIMI
Fishing SA: Mr Loyiso Phantshwa Chairman
Seafarers Association: Mr Kevin Watson. President: SAIMENA
Maritime Risk: Mr Paul Mclons. CEO: AMSOL
Department of Transport: Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane. Director: Maritime Industry Development

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Stabilising SAMSA and strengthening its strategic role underway: SAMSA

Pretoria: 12 February 2021

The South African Maritime Safety (SAMSA) has announced the secondment of Department of Transport director, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane, as acting Chief Executive Officer of the agency, with immediate effect.

SAMSA said Ms Taoana-Mashiloane would be replacing Mr Sobantu Tilayi, SAMSA’s Chief Operations Officer, who had acted in the position since 2016.

“Her secondment to lead SAMSA is a transitional arrangement pending the finalisation of the recruitment and appointment process of a permanent CEO,” said SAMSA in the statement in Pretoria on Friday.

Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane. Seconded by Department of Transport to Acting CEO of South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

The secondment – to be followed soon by a formal appointment of a permanent CEO – according to SAMSA’s Board of Directors, is part of a broader renewed effort currently to stabilise the agency, as well as strenghten its strategic role in the redevelopment and expansion of South Africa maritime economic sector as envisaged in its legislated mandate.

The statement described Ms Taoano-Mashiloane as the Department of Transport’s director for Maritime Industry Development and therefore a long serving and experienced civil servant with broad familiarity with the operations of SAMSA

Her academic qualifications include a Masters of Science degree in Botany & Environmental Management) and an MA in Maritime Safety & Environmental Administration.

“Ms Taoana-Mashiloane is also no stranger to SAMSA as, relative to her position at the Department of Transport, she  is well acquainted with SAMSA having worked closely with its management for many years on key programmes; among these the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) periodic audits, the World Maritime Day parallel events – the next scheduled for South Africa this current year – the SA national Inland Water Strategy and the National Ports Consultative Committee.”

The announcement on Friday comes a couple of days after SAMSA held its annual “pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA)” Stakeholders Event staged virtually online on Wednesday evening, involving a number of key maritime sector stakeholders from across the country.

Among these were Mr Andrew Pike, head of Ports, Transport and Logistics at Bowmans, Ms Joey Mulaudzi, CEO of Ports Regulator South Africa, Mr Andrew Millard, director at Vuka Marine, Mr Ross Volk, MD of MSC Cruises SA, Mr Peter Besnard, CEO of SAASOA, Ms Sefale Montsi, Chairperson of AMD, Mr Mthozami Xiphu, Board Chairperson at SAOGA, Mr Odwa Mtati, CEO of SAIMI, Mr Loyiso Phantshwa, Chairman at Fish SA, Mr Kevin Watson, President of SAIMENA, Mr Paul Maclons, CEO of AMSOL, Mr Mthunzi Madiya, and Ms Taoana-Mshiloane on behalf of the Department of Transport.

Ms Nthato V. Minyuku. Cairperson: SAMSA Board of Directors

In her address, SAMSA Board of Directors chairperson Ms Nthato Minyuku described the issue of SAMSA management leadership as among critical issues requiring attention as a matter of priority needed to ensure stability in the agency.

She said: “You would have seen that we are in the market looking for a permanent CEO for SAMSA. This is the first item we have to deliver on. Five years is a long time without a permanent CEO. I would wish to thank the EXCO team that has held SAMSA steady during this period.”

The second aspect to stabilising SAMSA related to its financial position. According to Ms Minyuku, various operational issues now compounded by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in December 2019, had hugely impacted negatively SAMSA’s finances. She said SAMSA was not about to go to the Treasury with a begging bowl, but the situation needed arresting. Part of this was a proposed five (5) per cent tarrif increase over and above that granted during the last financial year.

An address of SAMSA Annual Stakeholders Event by the agency’s Board of Directors chairperson, Ms Nthato Minyuku on Wednesday evening. The event held virtually online this year is stagged annually the evening before South Africa’s official opening of Parliament and delivery of a State of the Nation Address (SONA) by the country president.

“In terms of SAMSA resources, we have been hit hard by the COVID pandemic. At some stage, we were contemplating what we have come to refer to as “cash flow day zero”. Although we have successfully evaded this day, we are by no means clear, much less financially sustainable.

“We are fortunate never having had to go to National Treasury to ask for a “bail out” and I must commend EXCO for this achievement. However, in order to keep sustainable, we have had to request an additional 5% tariff increase to the 6% that was already approved by the Minister with the concurrence of Treasury,” said Ms Minyuku.

Regarding the external environment, she said it was SAMSA’s view that the agency’s strategy was fit for purpose. “It is our view that first and foremost, SAMSA must discharge its regulatory obligations and build capacity to sustain our abilities in this regard. We have adopted a model of delivering on our objective of “promoting the republic’s maritime interests” via partnerships.

“These are partnerships that have seen us create hundreds of jobs for rural youths. These are the partnerships that have seen us starting what will be a long and steady growth of our ship register. We continue along this trajectory, to ensure that we use the synergies that exist between you, the industry and us, the government; as well as the various abilities and instruments among the government players.”

On her reflections broadly onto the country and global maritime sector, Ms Minyuku said South Africa was still relatively well positioned geographically to continue to play a meaningful role in the sector, but that the country needed to step up its effort to both cement its strategic role as well as ensure broader society beneficiation.

She pointed to the coming into effect last month of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement and the vast business opportunities it presents to South Africa particularly from a shipping transport perspective.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is poised as likely to …”create the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating,’ says the World Bank.

Further, it says: “The pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillion. It has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty, but achieving its full potential will depend on putting in place significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.”

In this regard, Ms Minyuku, South Africa needed to up its maritime sector development efforts towards especially establishment of, among things, a locally registered and South Africa flag carring fleet of vessels.

Ms Minyuku further applauded South Africa’s endorsement of an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) resolution that declares seafarers as essential workers.

For her full remarks on these and related issues, Click on the video above.

More coverage of the SAMSA Stakeholders Event, inclusive of contributions by industry players, will follow.

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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.”

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SA fishermen fatalities are avoidable with strict focus on standard safety protocols by commercial fishing vessels: SAMSA

(SAMSA File Photo)

Pretoria: 21 January 2021

The number of fatalities in South Africa’s commercial fishing subsector may have significantly reduced over the last few years – dropping to four in 2020 as was the case the year before – all thanks to active direct and indirect participation by all interested and affected parties, but even one death is one too many, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

In a Marine Notice issued this week (published on the agency’s website page: Marine Notices), SAMSA highlights some of the common challenges that lead to death of fishermen during operations when safety protocols are either not observed or poorly managed.

The notice (Marine Notice 3 of 2021) indicates that a total of four fishermen in the commercial fishing sector lost their lives in 2020 during operations – two of these incidents occurring on the West Coast (two deaths occurring in Cape Town and two others occurring in Saldanha Bay).

For comparison purposes, these were second lowest fatalities in two successive years involving commercial fishermen since 2017, the last year since double-digit deaths of fishermen were last recorded in the country after 13 fishermen lost their lives – most of them (nine) having occurred in the Port Elizabeth coastal area.

Significantly, that was the second highest double-digit number of commercial fishermen fatalities in the country in a decade after fatalities had reduced substantially to single digit numbers since 2007.

SA commerical fishermen operational casualties 2000-2020. (Source: SAMSA Maritime Notice No.1 2021)

The four fatalities recorded in 2020, according to the SAMSA notice, occurred in three incidents whereby in one case, a fisherman lost his life after a small boat capsized in large swells, and in the second incident, another fisherman lost his life after, yet a small fishing vessel lost power and the crew attempted to row ashore.

Apparently, in this incident, an oar got lost and the fisherman jumped overboard to retrieve it but got separated from the boat due to strong winds. Both these incidents occurred in the west coast (Atlantic Ocean) Paternoster area. In the third final incident, two fishermen lost their lives after a small fishing vessel capsized in the surf off Rooi Els also on the West Coast.

According to SAMSA in the Marine Notice, all three incidents involved small vessels measuring less than 10 meters in length, notably, as was the case in the two previous years (2018/2019) when three and four fishermen fatalities were recorded respectively.

The Marine Notice lists four reasons for the capsizing of small vessels as ‘being at seas in unsuitable conditions’, ‘hauling of anchors over the side of the board and not the bow’, being ‘too close to the shore’ and ‘overloading’.

A tragic incident counter-measure to save lives, says SAMSA; is the regular necessary use of flotation aids within the surf zone.

With regards incidents involving the falling overboard of fishermen – and apparently the single largest category leading to deaths after the capsizing of small vessels – deaths occur when fishermen are ‘shooting or hauling fishing gear’, ‘at night when the vessel is steaming’ and ‘recently during an unfortunate incident, after abandoning the vessels in rough seas.’

(SAMSA File Photo)

“To reduce this reason for death (falling overboard), the following steps should be taken onboard:

  • flotation aids are/(must be) worn at all times on deck where the nature of the work can lead to a crew member being knocked overboard,
  • crew members that go on deck while there is no fishing operation should never be alone. Skippers are encouraged to introduce a buddy system where there are always two (2) crew members together, this is especially important at night; and
  • when working near or at the side of the vessel safety harnesses should be worn.
  • skippers and officers to take into consideration the dangers of fatigue due to prolonged fishing operations and to emphasize the importance of safety briefings.”

The agency further states: “SAMSA offers safety workshops in communities that operate small vessels. If you would like our Fishing Safety Specialist to visit your community, please contact Selwyn Bailey on 041 582 2138 or sbailey@samsa.or.za. SAMSA will engage fishing vessel operators on the substance abuse issue on board vessels as a matter of urgency.”

In addition to the notice mentioned here, SAMSA is releasing three other Marine Notices on (1) Accredited Training Institutions and Programs (2) List of approved Medical Practitioners and (3) Temporary Closure of the Naval Architecture Services Office in Durban.

With regards the latter, SAMSA states: “The Durban Naval Architect Office will temporarily close until further notice due to unforeseen circumstance. All applications for naval architect applications and requests will be processed by the Cape Town Naval Architect Office until further notice. Any applications to the Durban Office will be transferred to the Cape Town Office.”

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Amid a raging Covid-19 pandemic, SAMSA and Absa Bank collaborate to bring relief to poverty stricken subsistence fishermen.

Pretoria: 31 December 2020

Year 2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as having been the hardest year for most people, due largely to the spate and still ongoing ravages of the coronavirus SARS-2 (Covid-190) pandemic currently gripping the world since its outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

The hardship for communities already steeped in poverty compounded by among other things, low rates of education and high rates of unemployment, has become more pronounced by the introduction of national lockdowns by Governments, in an attempt to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 infections.

In South Africa, among such communities are those of rural coastal regions made up of the country’s four provinces bordering its 3 200 kilometre coastline, from the Atlantic Ocean in the west through to the Indian Ocean in the east, and who irk support for their daily living through subsistence fishing.

Touched by the plight of specifically these rural coastal communities, and in a positive response to a Government call for support, in September 2020, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in collaboration with commercial bank, Absa and with assistance by the Moses Kotane Institute, launched a corporate social investment project intended to extend support to these communities in three of the coastal provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.

Its aim, according to SAMSA, would be to bring about relief in two practical ways; firstly a once-off supply of food parcels to households in the three provinces, as well as training in basic maritime skills (mainly fishing related) as well as basic business management and entrepreunerial skills for subsistence fishermen including unemployed youths. Focus of the latter would primarily be on communities in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, with Northern Cape scheduled for the near future.

“This intervention was conceptualised to cover identified small-scale fishing communities in the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal, with a plan to expand the project to other provinces beyond COVID-19. The project will focus on 47 cooperatives in Port St. Johns and Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape, as well as 48 community cooperatives in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Rural fishermen on the banks of the Orange River pictured earlier in December 2020

“Through the training intervention, SAMSA commits to ensuring safety awareness at sea and capacitating the coastal fishing community / fishermen through sustainable interventions that will assist them in their career and business endeavours,” said SAMSA in a statement.

On precisely the choice of these particular communities in the specific areas, SAMSA explained: “South Africa has a long history of coastal communities utilising marine resources for various purposes. Many of these communities and fishers have been marginalised through apartheid practices and previous fisheries management systems. In 2007, the government was compelled through an equality court ruling to redress the inequalities suffered by these traditional fishers. The Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal are some of the previously marginalised provinces, hence their choice as the first two provinces to be targeted by this intervention.”

Jointly funded by SAMSA and Absa to the tune of R3-million, the roll-out of the programme kicked off on the second last week of October – with food distribution occurring parallel the start of the fishermen’s skills development.

Food parcel distribution for 595 people first took place in the Eastern Cape region comprising the Alfred Nzo and King Dalindyebo Municipalities (Mbizana & Coffee Bay), following to which was Ray Nkonyeni Municipality in southern KwaZulu-Natal (500 people) and thereafter, communities in the Dawid Kruiper Municipality on the banks of the Orange River, in Upington, Northern Cape.

In the videos below, we reflect on this food distribution project in Northern Cape, where the event was also attended and addressed by SAMSA’s acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi, accompanied by SAMSA’s head of Corporate Affairs and Government Relations, Mr Vusi September.

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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.

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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

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