South Africa’s inland waters strategy comes under national govt spotlight this week Friday – and SAMSA says it’s fully onboard

Pretoria: 19 October 2021

The launch of South Africa’s inland waters strategy by the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula at the Vaal Dam in southern Gauteng province on Friday this week marks a critical and crucial turning point for the country in terms of effective and efficient management of inland water spaces, particularly with regards to collaborative efforts towards enhancement of human and environmental safety and wellness.

That is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA, the country’s primary agency statutorily for maritime and marine safety inclusive of both people and water vessels across the country’s three oceans as well as inland waters such as dams and rivers.

SAMSA’s main focus area in terms of the country’s inland waters is the promotion and enhancement of safety as well as environmental protection with regards boating use in various categories in terms of the South African Merchant Shipping Act 57 of 1951 (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulation, 2007, as amended; which extends its overall original 1998 founding Act mandate to include inland waterways within or accessible to the public within the Republic.

According to SAMSA, the legislation provides for, among things; regulations for each specified category of vessels – from small to big – with particular regard to requirements for their construction and use,whether for commerce, leisure or such other use on South African waters.

The Inland Waters Strategy to be launched on Friday itself, according to the Department of Transport, aims to “find the right balance between an emphasis on education and encouraging personal responsibility and the need for the implementation of the National Small Vessel Safety (NSVS) Regulations in a manner of co-operative governance and other measures for an effective inland waterway safety regime.

“The implementation of the goal-oriented, intergovernmental co-operative strategy that underpins regulation, compliance, education, communication and awareness will greatly assist in promoting a culture of safe and responsible boating.  This must be implemented in the spirit of co-operative governance between national, provincial and local government, as well as Industry and communities using, or living next to the inland waters.”

Therefore SAMSA has been working closely both with the Department of Transport – its parent government department – other national and provincial government bodies and institutions as well as private sector and independent bodies to contribute to formulation of the Inland Water Strategy.

In addition, SAMSA says it had also begun rolling out a series of training programmes and workshops for small boats owning or operating communities across the country since about a year ago, all to assist South Africans with both enhanced awareness and knowledge of the requirements of the raft of NSVS regulations under the Act.

Specifically tasked with the assignment is its dedicated boating section led by Ms Debbie James as manager, along with a set of highly technically skilled officers that serve both as surveyors as well as training providers.

Recently added to the SAMSA boating section team are a group of youths with basic seafaring skills and experience who are undergoing training as Marine Officers over a two year period. (see video below)

Over the next few years the SAMSA boating section team will be intensifying its reach across South Africa’s thousands of dams that are geographically widespread, some on 23 large rivers and many estuaries located over a large area of the country, in all nine provinces, to engage for law compliance owners and operators of as many as an estimated 1.2 million small vessels, commonly known as boats, that operate in South Africa, mostly for sport, recreation, tourism and subsistence fishing by local communities.

On Friday this week SAMSA will further outline with much finer detail the length and breadth of current and future planned activity relating to the Inland Waters Strategy and the latter whose detail is scheduled to be unpacked by both its owners, the Department of Transport as well others key roleplayers; among them the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DEFF), the South African Police Services (SAPS), the South African Navy, boating associations and related institutions both in the public and private sectors.

In the meantime, this blog caught up with members of the SAMSA boating section embarking on the nationwide training workshops programme to glean on their recent and current activitity. For that story, please see the section below.

This SAMSA blog also took time to chat to the three young seafarers at the agency undergoing training as Marine Officers and part of whose current training involves boating surveys. For the full interview click on the video below.

SAMSA ON NATION-WIDE SMALL BOATS TRAINING WORKSHOPS WITH CORPS OF THREE YOUNG SEAFARERS UNDERGOING TRAINING AS MARINE OFFICERS ON TOW

SA’s small watercraft vessels owners and users’ compliance with law is receiving a boost with SAMSA’s increasing national training workshops.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and its sickness and fatal impacts on people the world over, has without doubt affected negatively a whole range of human activity across sectors of society, inclusive of leisure involving the widespread use of small vessels in South Africa’s open water spaces, both adjacent the oceans as well as inland.

With people having endured no less that a year and half under national lockdown characterised by intermittent levels of lockdown intensity – from a total shutdown at Level 5 to a more relaxed one at Level 1 – and now with vaccinations on a wide scale, a reasonable expectation is that many are itching for social outdoor leisure to begin in earnest.

For some this means taking time out for boat ride on the country’s rivers, dams, lagoons and related if only for a care free relaxation.

However, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) boating section, a “carefree relaxation” on small water vessels anywhere in the country actually comes with a lot of responsibility both for those that own the small watercrafts, just as is the case for those that board them on water, for any reason.

In addition to general safety, that’s partly because in terms of South African law, all vessels used for any reason on South African waters, both at sea as well as on open water spaces such as rivers, dams, lagoons and similar; must be approved for such use inclusive of licencing of both the vessels as well as crew personnel in some cases.

Governing the use of small vessels in the country under SAMSA is a set of regulations contained in the Merchant Shipping Act 57 of 1951 as amended periodically. The legislation provides for regulations for each specified category of vessels – from small to big – with particular regard to requirements for their construction and use, whether for commerce, leisure or such other use on South African waters.

To assist South Africans with both awareness and knowledge of the requirements of this raft of regulations under the Act, SAMSA conducts training courses and some in cases, licensing for both owners of vessels as well as State appointed rangers, peace officers, surveyors and related with a direct role in ensuring the proper utilisation of the vessels.

Pontoon boats training

Among most recently held courses conducted periodically, on an ongoing basis countrywide was one for pontoon vessel surveyors in June 2021 in Saldanha Bay over two days. According to SAMSA, pontoon boats, otherwise also known as rafts and used on sheltered waters (Category R vessels), are of unique construction.

“A pontoon boat is a boat used for navigation on water, however propelled or moved, consisting of two or more flotation (hull) units to which a deck or decks are attached and on which persons are able to be supported on. The essential difference between a pontoon boat and a conventional boat is that the deck(s) are not integral to the hull of the boat.”

In terms of legislation, as articulated in SAMSA’s Marine Notice 26 of 2011, construction and functionality of the class of small vessels is governed by the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations, 2007 along with all non-pleasure vessels of less than 25 GT which proceed to sea and/or are used on sheltered waters, pleasure vessels of less than 100 GT which proceed to sea and/or are used on sheltered waters and all vessels used on inland waters.

The training workshop’s co-coordinator, SAMSA Centre for Boating manager Ms Debbie James, said the two-day workshop held in Saldanha Bay in June was targeted at all boating surveyors, (both SAMSA’s and those external) as well as safety officers and focused solely on Category R pontoons not used for ferrying passengers. Training on passenger-ferrying pontoons is limited to SAMSA surveyors as, according to Ms James, they are the only one allowed by law to inspect that class of the small vessels.

She said: “The aim was to provide guidance  on the application of the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations, 2007, to pontoon boats, which are not passenger vessels, on issues of construction, stability, watertight integrity and survivability in the event of damage which are important survey elements for the issue of Local General Safety Certificates or Certificates of Fitness,”.

Crucially, she said; the one other reason the training workshop was extremely important for all boat surveyors was because “pontoon boats used primarily on inland waters (Category R), require additional clarification of the application of the provisions of the National Small Vessel Regulations.”

For the reason, it was necessary for especially external surveyors and safety officers intending to survey small pleasure pontoon vessels to attend the training course as consistent with their licensing requirements.

The inclusion of six of SAMSA’s boat surveyors in the training workshop also had a specific objective. “The concept behind holding the workshop was also to ‘train the trainer’ and for SAMSA to develop a pool of internal SAMSA surveyors able to present this particular training when required.”

Of course, the small boats training workshop at Saldanha Bay was one of a series held over the last few years, and which were highly negatively impacted over the last year by the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

Commercial paddling ops training workshop

In fact, just a month or so ahead of the national lockdown in March 2020, SAMSA had just conducted one such training workshop for operators of commercial paddling operations along the Orange River through to the Oranjemund river mouth on the Atlantic Ocean west of the country.

NEW MARINE OFFICERS READY FOR THE TASK!

Three new SAMSA young officers, Mr Esethu Hlokoza, Mr Tora Lombard and Ms Khanyisiwe Mthethwa joined SAMSA recently as seafarers undergoing training as Marine Offivers over two years.

Below is the story of two of the Marine Officer trainees, Ms Mthathwa and Mr Lombard about their first month on the training programme.

“We joined the programme at beginning of September as trainee surveyors. During the first three weeks, we attended variouss mall vessel, pontoon, passenger and buoyancy courses which detailed about what to look out for when doing the survey and regulations that goes with them.  We were then given a chance to put what we had learned in theory into practical use as CE Jonathan Hartzenberg took us to survey the small vessels with him applying all that was taught during the course.

“As illustrated in the above picture. we went to survey two sister fishing vessels in Hout Bay where we learned more about the processes of LGSC on small vessels.”

“Cape Town and Saldanha Bay have quite a few wooden vessels in their waters, so  during our fourth week we attended a wooden vessel course in the port of Saldanha Bay where we learned more about the structural integrity of wooden vessels and how to survey them. We then applied this knowledge to the Zay-Yaan, (see above pic) a wooden fishing vessel in the port of Hout Bay.

“We also visited a river-rafting company, where we surveyed their inflatable boats, better known as “crocs”. (see pic above). As a commercial company these crocs are surveyed as a group under one certificate. This allowed us the opportunity to test for the floatation requirements after chamber deflation.

“We further had the opportunity to break away from the small vessels and complete an LGSC and IOPP survey on a large Fishing Trawler. As IOPP’s aren’t applicable to small vessels, it was a good learning experience to survey these items and the greater scope of the LGSC on such a large vessel as compared to the small vessels.

“It was an interesting four (4) weeks. Coming from larger vessels, the exposure to small vessels came as quite a surprise as to how large and complicated the small vessel industry really is and the large role it plays in maritime safety within South Africa. We are excited to see what the new month has in store for us.”

End

House-boat fire, with fatalities in Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal under investigation: SAMSA

SAMSA File Photo

Pretoria: 10 October 2021

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) says it has launched an investigation into a fire that reportedly broke out of a luxuary house boat in Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal and in which at least two people have lost their lives.

According to SAMSA in a statement shortly before lunch time on Sunday, the boat was still on fire and that emergency personnel were currently on the scene.

SAMSA said in the statement: ” SAMSA can confirm that two (2) people (one crew member and one passenger) had died and one (1) crew member is still missing. The luxury houseboat known as Shayamanzi was reportedly on a two night cruise on the Jozini Dam with four (4) crew and five (5) passengers.

“SAMSA with other stakeholders including emergency services will continue to monitor the situation and update the public as and when new information becomes available.

Ends

Computer virus infection leads to disruption and delay in issuance of seafarers’ certificates: SAMSA

Pretoria: 18 May 2021

A computer virus found to have infected computer systems at the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) will lead to delays of up to six weeks in the issuance of seafarers’ certificates, the country’s maritime agency under the Department of Transport announced in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The announcement in the form of a Marine Notice (MIN 05-21), published in SAMSA’s website on Tuesday morning revealed that: “SAMSA was exposed to a computer virus in April 2021, necessitating SAMSA to implement precautionary measures by disconnecting its network servers to prevent the virus from infecting all systems. SAMSA’s ICT department is conducting a full health assessment on all servers, operating software and hardware.

“At this point, no personal data was compromised, and SAMSA is continuing to investigate the incident in collaboration with law enforcement agencies.

According to SAMSA in the statement, while some services rendered by the agency to the country’s maritime economic sector were not affected bythe computer virus infection incident, such as vessels surveys; the agency’s Seafarer Certification Software System (SIOMS 2.) “was affected by the database restore(ation) which caused some unexpected technical difficulties. SAMSA is working towards resolving this technical failure as soon as possible.”

Due to the challenge related to systems restoration, SAMSA said: “Seafarers should expect delays in the issuing of any seafarer verifications, documentation and certificates of competence while the system is being repaired. Once the system is fully operational, seafarers (will) continue to experience delays with all certification related services for approximately 4-6 weeks while SAMSA implements extra-ordinary measures to clear the backlog and implement measures to improve services.

This notwithstanding, SAMSA urged seafarers and or affected people to continue engaging with it through its offices along the South African coastline in order to ensure that services and assistance needed are provided where possible.

“Seafarers intending to revalidate their certificates may continue to apply to do so at their local SAMSA office. Seafarers may continue to apply for Level 3 assessments (orals) leading to a higher qualification. Any interim certificatesfor Small Vessel Skippers Certificates of Competence that have expired in the last 3 months or any Small Vessel Certificate of Competence expiring within the next 4 weeks, may be extended up and until 31 August 2021 while SAMSA’s certification unit clears the backlog.

“In the event of certification related issues, seafarers currently serving on foreign going vessels should provide full details of the assistance needed and should submit a request to seafarers@samsa.org.za and in the event of any seafarer welfare challenges resulting from this delay, seafarers can contact: welfare@samsa.org.za

SAMSA extended an apology for the disruption to services: “SAMSA apologizes for this temporary inconvenience and assures all stakeholders that the technical issues are being addressed with utmost urgency.”

End

More regulations contemplated for small water-craft in SA waters to enhance safety: SAMSA

(SAMSA File Photo)

Pretoria: 07 May 2021

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has given notice that it will revise regulations relating to the utilisation of small vessels such as ski-boats to facilitate implementation of more safety measures to secure the lives of users and the general environment.

The notice published as Marine Alert MA 01-21, according to SAMSA, comes in the wake of an incident in East London earlier this year during which two young people lost control of a ski-boat and one of the youths was injured after being struck by the out of control vessel, resulting in him suffering lacerations to the face and other injuries.

(SAMSA File Photo)

The incident, according to SAMSA, occurred at about 11am on 13 January 2021 on the Nahoon River near East London. An investigation established that; “Two teenagers were operating a small (regulation 37) ski-boat on the Nahoon river when they both fell overboard into the river whilst making a sharp turn. The boat then did circles on the river and witnesses called the NSRI to assist. Whilst in the water, the boat hit one of the two teenagers who sustained lacerations to the face and injuries to the body,” reads the notice.

It further states that: “The vessel was found to have had a kill-switch which had not been in operation. There had been no SVCC (small vessel certificate of competency) aboard. The operation of a kill-switch had not occurred as intended by the manufacturer, because operation of a kill-switch on Regulation 37 vessels is not mandatory, and thus perceived as not required. There had been no adult supervision or competent skipper to oversee the vessel operation.”

According to SAMSA; “The incident had a potential loss of one fatality/permanent injury, along with damage to local jetties and other small craft that were operating in the area, and minor pollution in Marine reserve.”

SAMSA says the incident reflected on a few issues of concern including that:

  • Certain Regulation 37 vessels (≤15HP) are powerful enough to tow a skier at speed and should thus be used with caution, especially if used by underaged/unqualified persons; and then only under supervision of a qualified skipper or an adult.
  • When a vessel is fitted with a kill-switch, the owner/operator should operate the vessel as intended.
  • Any safety device/equipment that is onboard a vessel when in operation, should be used appropriately, even if that vessel is not required by regulation to have it onboard.
(SAMSA File Photo)

In efforts to prevent potentially deadly incidents of the nature in the future, the agency states that:

“SAMSA strongly recommends that the owner/operator of any Regulation 37 vessel fitted with an operational kill-switch, should operate the kill-switch as intended. SAMSA will also revise regulations and consider the inclusion of appropriate Regulation 37 vessels in the requirements for kill-switches.”

Meanwhile, in a related Marine Alert (MA 02 21) also published this week, SAMSA reported on findings of shipping related accidents that occurred at both the port of Durban between 28 April 2020 and 26 October 2020, as well as the anchorage in Algoa Bay, and during which ropes and ladders were a common cause of slippages, resulting in injuries.

“In all four cases,” notes SAMSA; “….a fall from a height occurred. Two (2) of the four (4) incidents resulted in people being hospitalised.”

The agency restated the critical regulations governing the use of ropes and ladders on vessels at sea.

SAMSA said: “IMO Res A1045 (27) paragraph 2 lists the following requirements for ropes used in the construction of pilot ladders. Paragraph 5 lists the following requirements for hand rails at the pilot boarding area:

  1. The side ropes of the pilot ladder should consist of two uncovered ropes not less than18 mm in diameter on each side and should be continuous, with no joints, and have a breaking strain of at least 24 Kilo Newtons per side rope.
  2. Side ropes should be made of Manila or other material of equivalent strength, durability, elongation characteristics and grip which has been protected against actinic degradation and is to the satisfaction of the Administration.
  3. Adequate handholds should be provided at the point of embarking or disembarking from the ship via pilot ladder. These hand holds should not be spaced less than 700mm and not more than 800mm apart.”

For further detailed reading, the Marine Alert Notices are published on the SAMSA website. Further inquiries may be directed to SAMSA via this email address: Email: marinenotices@samsa.org.za

End.

SAMSA joins University of KwaZulu-Natal for study of Covid-19 pandemic impacts on South African seafarers

Pretoria: 09 April 2021

With more than 133-million people globally infected by the Covid-19 pandemic and close on 3-million of these having succumbed to the virus as of Wednesday this week, the true full impacts of the virus on human society – a full year after its outbreak in Wuhan, China in late 2019 – have yet to be determined.

This notwithstanding, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the suffering by those already affected has been intense and among the victims already reeling from the impacts of the pandemic are millions of seafarers worldwide, thousands of them being South Africans.

It was for that reason that the agency, under the supervision of the Department of Transport, has thrown its full weight behind a survey undertaken by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) to collect information directly from South African seafarers that will assist indicate the nature and extent of the Covid-19 pandemic impacts on them.

The survey led by UKZN Professor Shaun Ruggunan, seeks to; “….investigate the impact of Covid on South African seafarers.  This survey specifically focuses on how Covid has impacted South African seafarer’s in terms of their work-life balance and the impact of Covid on their mental, emotional and physical well-being,” says the university in a statement.

Said Prof Ruggunan: “We hope that the survey will allow us to show how important seafarers are to the national and global economy and bring greater attention to their work and challenges during the pandemic. The results will be shared and potentially drive or inform policies of employee well-being for SA seafarers. The survey will benefit both employers, seafarers, agencies and seafarer labour market institutions.”

SAMSA File Photo.

Unregistered seafarers far more at risk of negative Covid-19 pandemic impacts

SAMSA

For SAMSA, the initiative was of critical importance and value in more than one respect with regards the country’s seafarers, according to Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe. Generally, he says, seafarers can be described as operating virtually under the radar – that is, taking up employment with various companies domestically and globally yet without formal registration, and therefore now currently suffering the impacts of Covid-19 without being noticed for assistance.

Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe. Manager: OHS & Maritime Welfare. SAMSA

“The impact of Covid-19 has been felt worldwide. Seafarers have not been spared. Seafarers have been working throughout, as maritime transport is responsible for carrying 90% of world cargo by volume. It was essential that shipping continued to operate through various lockdown regimes implemented by different countries. This ensured that critical movement of supplies of food, medicine, including medical equipment remained unhindered during lockdown,” says Mr Rantsoabe.

However, several countries across the world inclusive of many that are South Africa’s trading partners in Asia, Western Europe and the American continent embarking on variable states of national lockdown to this day, seafarers struggled and continue to, with millions finding themselves unable to sign off in various ports around the world due to travel restrictions.

“Some seafarers including South Africans found themselves stuck in vessels for much longer periods than they signed for. This led to the situation being termed ‘the humanitarian crisis at seas’,” said Mr Rantsoabe, pointing to the intervention that soon ensued in the global maritime sector led by both the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other interested and affected parties, calling for seafarers to be declared “key workers”.

With the full backing of the United Nations, the intervention soon succeeded as the IMO, in a Circular letter No.4204/Add.35/Rev.4 issued on 05 February 2021 advised that 55 of its Member States, including South Africa had signed a resolution to declare seafarers “key workers”.

“This has not stopped seafarers suffering due to stringent travel restrictions still in place in various jurisdictions,” said Mr Rantsoabe, adding that because of this very fact, SAMSA – through its welfare section – continues to seek ways to ensure that the country’s seafarers are not left alone to battle with Covid-19 pandemic induced conditions at work.

“Hundreds of South African seafarers found themselves stranded in various parts of the world. SAMSA through its welfare programme managed to assist hundreds of seafarers reach home through various direct and indirect interventions which included advising shipping companies on the processes involved in travelling back to South Africa via repatriation flights and best routes for flying South Africans home. The interventions included direct contact with seafarers, employers of South African seafarers and NPO’s with interest in seafarer welfare. 

SAMSA File Photo

“There are still many seafarers that SAMSA could not reach especially cruise staff. Since these seafarers’ occupations do not fall under the SAMSA qualification framework, it was and remains impossible for SAMSA to understand the numbers involved. In addition, cruise staff generally leave the country through recruitment agencies that are not accredited by SAMSA. As such SAMSA is unable to account for them. It is important to note that ‘generally, SAMSA does not get to know when any seafarer leaves the country to take up employment overseas. This has proved to be a major problem as SAMSA struggled to quantify the problem and help required,” he said.

On the UKZN survey, Mr Rantsoabe said: “SAMSA was approached by UKZN for support on the study on impact of covid-19 on seafarer welfare. SAMSA having considered the aim and content of the study fully supports this study. UKZN committed to sharing the results with SAMSA which will provide the Authority with much needed information.

“It is very important that SAMSA gets a full picture of what is/was faced by seafarers during this difficult period. The results will assist SAMSA as we continue to advance the interest of seafarers in various forums within government. The study will also provide information that will help shape the Authority’s welfare offering. All seafarers are encouraged to complete the survey as it will help SAMSA better understand the impact of Covid-19 on seafarers,” said Mr Rantsoabe.

Meanwhile, Prof Ruggunan stated that: “Participation is voluntary, anonymous and confidential and no survey can be traced back to any individual. The survey takes approximately 6 to 7 minutes only and can be accessed on a phone or computer via the link provided (see headline pic above) or by clicking on the photo placed on the landing page of this blog platform, or one placed on the landing page of the SAMSA website.

For further information, alternatively queries; these may be directed to Prof Ruggunan either by email or mobile phone as follows: ruggunans@ukzn.ac.za, cell: 079 1970 743. Also, for all seafarer welfare issues, seafarers both South African and international can correspond with SAMSA through the following email address: welfare@samsa.org.za

End.


Three year nurdles mess clean-up draws to an end; SAMSA

However, even with 38 of 49 metric tons of the plastic pellets recovered, monitoring will continue for four more years.

SAMSA

Pretoria: 29 March 2021

With about 38 metric tons of the approximately 49 MT of nurdles that accidentally fell off a cargo ship and into seawaters off the coast of Durban in 2017 now recovered, the three years clean-up operation of approximately 290 kilometres of coastline since launched has officially been brought to an end, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has announced.

According to SAMSA, the decision to end the three year clean-up operation – taken in consultation with various other interested and involved parties including the Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF) KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) – was made on the basis that the residue of nurdles lately observed through monitoring of affected areas, had become negligible and therefore no longer justified continued recovery.

In addition, crucially, the high- and low-density polyethylene pellets were not only found to be non-hazardous, but it had also been established that they had not caused any known or reported damage or harm either to the ecology of the heavily affected area nor to living mammals both inland and at sea.

However, according to SAMSA, monitoring of the South African coastline along the KwaZulu-Natal province will continue for four more years and in the event of a resurfacing of enough quantities of the plastic nurdles, if necessary, another recovery operation will be instituted.

The formal official cessation of the clean-up operation, according to SAMSA – the coordinator of the operation – comes after more than 160 bags of the nurdles, measuring some 38.8MT in weight, were successfully recovered over the three-year period since the accidental spillage occurred in the second half of 2017.

The spillage into sea of the millions of small nurdles in 25-kilogram bags drew domestic and global attention after they were ripped off their transportation containers into the Durban harbour during a massive wind that wreaked havoc on ships in the Durban harbour on 10 October 2017.

Two of the lost containers, off the MSC Susana vessel, were loaded with the nurdles cargo. The nurdles involved, regarded as non-biodegradable, were described as small plastic pellets of about five (5) millimetres in diameter, with a flotation density of 0.91-0.97 grams per cubic centimetre (g/cmᵌ).

Shortly after the incident, SAMSA together with the DEFF, the KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), Transnet, environmental groups including Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, vessel owners, MSC, London based International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd (ITOPF), salvage and emergency group, Resolve Marine; as well as various other parties, launched an extensive and intensive recovery project of the plastic nurdles all along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline, but with specific focus on a 290km area of the coast where the pellets found concentration.

The aim of the clean-up operation according to SAMSA, was three-fold (a) to reduce impact on human life, (b) to recover the pellets as quickly as possible (c) and to minimize impact on the environment.

The clean-up operation reliant partly on a scientific modelling to hopefully accurately predict movement of the pellets, would therefore essentially also involve an inspection of almost the entire South African oceans coastline, from Richards Bay through to the Western Cape.

According to SAMSA, the coastline inspection found evidence of nurdles presence in some of the areas, particularly in the Western Cape and some areas of the Eastern Cape. However, the nurdles found here were established to have come mainly from industrial waste discharges rather that from the Durban port ship incident in question. In other areas such as Port St Johns on the Wild Coast, concentrations were very low.

SAMSA says that with concerns also related to ocean currents movements along the Indian Ocean, the pellets might end up polluting the seas along other countries as far as Australia, enquiries were made. But these elicited no clear evidence of such widespread dispersion or leakage over the last three years.

Instead, after both aerial and land inspections, the greatest concentration of the nurdles deposition was found to have occurred largely just north of the Durban port city in an area of coastal high dune concentrations, inshore reefs and beaches as well as river mouths incorporating Addington, Port Dunford, Dokodweni, the Tugela River through to uMhlathuze towards Richards Bay.

SAMSA said final reports of monitoring and recovery by some of its participating partners, the DEFF, the KZZ EDTEA and ITOPF late last year, indicated that “the affected areas have received relatively low levels of recharge of SABIC plastic nurdles and, applying the ‘law of diminishing returns’, all recovery operations on all affected areas to be ceased.”

SAMSA and its partners in the operation would continue to “keep an ear and eye on the ground” for any possibility of nurdles resurfacing, and where deemed necessary, action will be taken to recover them.

Asked what has been done with the recovered 38,8MT of nurdles; SAMSA said these were recycled and used to make park benches dedicated to the late Ms Caroline Reid formerly a secretary of KwaZulu-Natal’s Marine Waste Network. Ms Reid reportedly passed away in July 2018 after being involved a vehicle accident in Durban. She was 41 years old at the time.

Captain Nicholas Stone. Director: Marine Resolve Group

Meanwhile, it has emerged that following to the Durban port nurdles spillage incident, the South African government through the Department of Transport, SAMSA and DEFF is being urged by shipping transport industry players to support a call on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to review shipping containers stowage such as that of plastic nurdles, and where possible, require that such cargo be relocated to the underdeck of cargo spaces of ships.

Parties to the call in South Africa include Resolve Marine whose executive, Mr Nicholas Sloane confirmed his company’s approach to the IMO about the matter.

According to Mr Sloane, prevention of loss at sea of material such as nurdles from ship’s cargo due to sea conditions and related accidents can be achieved with proper, purposeful stowage aboard vessels. This, he says, is necessary also because generally, seafarers manning cargo vessels are not always aware of contents of containers being transhipped.

“With over 3 000 containers lost in the oceans every so often, nurdles are the worst cargo to be lost.” says Mr Sloane.

End.

Private sector puts shoulder on the wheel to redevelop South Africa’s fleet of cargo vessels: Vuka Marine

The Cape Acacia, Vuka Marine’s latest addition to the South African Ship Register berthed at the port of Saldanha on Saturday, 20 March 2021 for its cargo shipment of iron ore to Asia.

Saldanha Bay: 24 March 2021

The South African government’s ambitious plans to facilitate for and nurture the redevelopment of a domestically registered national fleet of trade vessels, as outlined in the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy (CMTP), has the full backing of the private sector, with actual money on the table.

This was again amply expressed as well as demonstrated during the past weekend when one of the country’s trade ships owning company, Vuka Marine, added one more cargo ship – the largest of its class – to the South African Ship Register, this with the full backing of its mining client, Anglo American.

Visuals of the ceremonial flagging of the Vuka Marine owned cargo vessel, the Cape Acacia under the South African ship register at Saldanha Bay, Northern Cape on Saturday, 20 March 2021. The vessel is the 4th to be added to the country’s register by Vuka Marine since August 2015.

Saldanha Bay, the country’s main port for iron ore exports, was the venue on Saturday (20 March 2021) for the ceremonial hosting of the South African flag aboard stern of the newly acquired Vuka Marine ship, named the Cape Acacia. The vessel, a 206,000dwt Newcastlemax, built in 2005, was the 4th by Vuka Marine to be registered under the South Africa flag, bringing into the country’s ship register a cumulative deadweight capacity of 630 000 tonnes since 2015.

It was at the same port venue on the west coast of the Northern Cape Province in 2015 that Vuka Marine also formaly introduced its first ship that year, the Cape Orchid – now retired – and in the process, helping reintroduce large cargo vessels under the South African ship register since the collapse of a domestic fleet of such vessels type in the late 80’s.

All four of the Vuka Marine vessels – including the Cape Enterprise; and the ultramax Windsor Adventure – have Port Elizabeth (a.k.a Gqeberha) in the Eastern Cape Province as their home port – a matter itself described as having a particular significance for that region as well as the country.

At the port of Saldanha on Saturday, where the newly registered Cape Acacia berthed for its first load of iron ore export shipment to China, Vuka Marine senior officials, flanked by their Anglo American counterparts, representatives of the Department of Transport (DoT), the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), spelt out their investment vision.

Mr Andrew Millard. Director: Vuka Marine

“We view ships as a catalyst for a broader social impact (particularly job creation) and advancement of national interests – priorities that lie at the heart of National Policy. To this end, Via Maritime Holdings, majority shareholder of VUKA Marine, has been proactive in creating seafarer sourcing channels that apply international standards, best employment practices and are consistent with demand-side requirements. This is work in progress, but we are starting to see successes in the careers of young South Africans who have worked on Vuka Marine ships,” said Mr Andrew Millard, CEO of Vuka Marine.

Vuka Marine, said Mr Millard, was proud to have pioneered the domestication of cargo ships in the country and that his organisation was keen to share its own experiences with the rest of the sector.

Mr Andrew Mthembu. Chairman: Vuka Marine

The theme was further broken down into minute detail by the shipping company’s chairman, Mr Andrew Mthembu. In a 25 minute speech (captured in the video below), Mr Mthembu described it simply as “logical in every concievable way” that South Africa should strive to rebuild its own fleet of trade vessels if its geographical positioning as a maritime country is to be of benefit to all citizens as well as the global community.

For his full views, click on the video below.

Mr Pranill Ramchander, Executive Head of Corporate Affairs at Anglo American concurred with the Vuka Marine officials on the express need for supporting the South African economy through direct investment in shipping and associated infrastructure. Anglo, he said, had over the years demonstrated its commitment to the country and the partnership with Vuka Marine, through business support, was a typical example of such attitude and goal.

Mr Pranill Ramchander. Executive Head: Corporate Affairs, Anglo American

He said: “We highy comment Vuka Marine’s persistance and tenacity in developing and growing the maritime landscape in South Africa over the last few years. Anglo American is very proud to have been part of the journey which for us started in 2014. During that time Anglo transported approximately 15-milllons tons of cargo and contracts, most of it iron ore.

“Vuka Marine deserves credit from all in this room for taking a leading role in championing the agenda for growth of the South African maritime economy,” he said, adding that a strong and effective shipping infrastructure in South Africa would be an asset to a whole range of stakeholders, including job creation and skills development.

For his full remarks, click on the video below

South Africa’s Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula, billed to also grace the event but withdrawing at the last moment due to other pressing commitments, had his ministry’s views shared. In remarks shared on his behalf by DoT Marine branch deputy Director-General, Mr Mthunzi Madiya, he said: “Today is one of the most significant days for Maritime South Africa. When we developed this term, we envisaged a unifying entity that incorporates government and industry, enjoining them through their common interest in the success of the maritime sector. For us this means jobs, employment, influence and meaningful contribution to the economy.

Mr Mthunzi Madiya, Deputy Director-General: Marine Branch, Department of Transport

“I am sure Vuka Marine has similar indicators, perhaps an added few that nay includes profits. Equally Anglo would have their own scorecard that is well served by today’s event if not milestone.”

Mr Madiya said the redevelopment of the country’s shipping fleet was a critical building block to enabling South Africa achieve its goals of becoming a significant international maritime centre, characterised chiefly by an effective maritime sector administration able to facilitate economic growth of the industry.

“We are enjoined into ensuring a South African maritime sector that supports South Africa’s economic development. We have a stated objective, as contained in our Maritime Transport policy, that South Africa WILL be an International Maritime Centre. We have defined the characteristics of this International Maritime Centre as only two elements, a vibrant maritime economy that is supported by a model maritime administration,”he said.

To this end, he announced plans for further continued close engagement with the shipping industry for discussions on a range of issues including enhancement of investments incentives, contribution to greenhouse gas emissions control, skills development and training and related. Further details on the various subsector engagements would be shared with stakeholders soon, he said.

For the full remarks, click on the video below.

For SAMSA, the country’s agency responsible for promoting growth of the local ship register in accordance with its legislated broad mandate to, among other things, ‘promote South Africa’s maritime interests’; the additional cargo vessel into the country’s ship register was a welcome work in progress – occurring amid a whole range of challenges facing both the local and global economies, now compounded by the outbreak and rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now with a team of female leaders for the first time since establishment 21 years ago – Board chairperson, Ms Nthato V. Minyuku, and newly appointed acting Chief Executive Officer, Ms Tsepiso Taoana Mashiloane; SAMSA described the private sector’s efforts – as demonstrated by both Vuka Marine and Anglo American as both humbling, commendable and encouraging under current global economic and consequent social crisis, particularly with regards jobs creation.

Among other issues, SAMSA noted as particularly highly significant that Vuka Marine, with its further acquisition of another cargo vessel, made a point of ensuring places for skills development of South African seafarers. With its inaugural iron ore cargo shipment out of South Africa this week, the Cape Acacia is taking with eight (8) cadets for skills development in seafaring over a period of between 6-9 months.

The cadets on board including one 3rd Officer; two able seamen, one deck and two engine cadets as well as two ABs are Loyiso Jantjies, Jethro Kekai, Ludfie Kemp, Sibusiso Khawula, Siphesihle Sibaya, Lunga Dlamini, Aside Shaun Maqubela and Nduduzo Mahaye. According to Vuka Marine, they may be joined by a further two South African seafarers, probably in Asia.

For SAMSA, redeveloping a South African fleet of cargo vessels was necessary partly to address the challenges facing seafarer education and training.

For both Ms Taoana-Mashiloane and Ms Minyuku’s full remarks, click on the videos below.

In the midst of challenging conditions at the port of Saldanha including restrictions related to Covid-19 regulations and compouded by poor weather conditions, this blog sought and managed to secure interviews with at least two of the eight (8) cadets taken on board the Cape Acacia for stints of between 6-9 months honing their seafarers skills.

The two, Loyiso Sydney Jantjies, an Able Seaman; and Lunga Dlamini, a deck cadet; were beyond themselves with joy at the opportunity to sail and gain valuable skills in their chosen careers in the process.

For their remarks, click on the video below.

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MTCC-Africa region virtual conference on maritime sector energy plan gets underway in Mombasa, Wednesday: SAMSA

Pretoria: 16 March 2021

The Africa region’s challenges and opportunities with initiatives aimed at contributing to reduction of emmissions of obnoxious atmospheric gases, particularly in its maritime environment, and uptake of renewable energy resources as a contribution to climate change mitigation factors will come into sharp focus at this week’s regional virtual conference in Mombasa, Kenya.

The Energy Efficiency Conference and Exhibition (ConfEx) over four days – Wednesday and Thursday this week (17 & 18 March) and on 24 & 25 March 2021, is being organised by the Mombasa, Kenya-based Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre (MTCC-Africa). All sessions, including the exhibitions, will be conducted virtually online.

According to a preliminary programme,, among key participants scheduled to contribute to the discussions in the first session Wednesday (starting at 14h00 East African Time) is International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Secretary, Mr Kitack Lim; Kenyan government representatives Mrs Nancy. K Kariguthu and Mr James Macharia (Shipping and Maritime and Transport ministries, respectively), academics including Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology Vice Chancellor, Professor Victoria Ngumi; World Maritime University President, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry; International Maritime Law Institute director, Professor David Attard; Maritime Authorities including the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) as well as officials of MTCC representatives in Africa and Asian regions.

The aim of the ConfEx – originally scheduled for Durban, South Africa in June last year, but scrapped and postponed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic – is to effectively set in motion, alternatively induce progressive pace to an Africa region maritime sector plan of action aimed at contributing to global measures to mitigate against climate change.

The exhibition alongside – targeting the Small and Medium-Term Entrepreneurs with innovations focused on climate change mitigation in the onshore and offshore shipping and maritime industry – is intended 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 the main virtual online conference, expected to feature prominently are lessons learnt so far in sets of ongoing studies involving current energy use and possible alternatives conducted by the MTCC-Africa at the Ports of Mombasa, Kenya and Port Douala in Cameroon over the last two years and some of whose preliminary findings were published in 2020.

Among these, is an audit report by MTCC-Africa on findings made at the two ports in November 2019. The objectives of the audits on ‘uptake of port energy efficient technologies and operatons’ at the two ports in the given phase were variably to;

  • Determine which of the proposed energy saving measures have been implemented at the Port of Mombasa.
  • Estimate the impacts of the implemented strategies on the energy consumption and emissions at the Port of Mombasa with the assistance of the IMO.
  • Identify the energy saving measures that are yet to be implemented at the Port of Mombasa.
  • Identify the challenges/barriers in implementation of the proposed energy saving measures and proposing measures that can be put in place to ensure that more energy savings are realized as well.
  • Utilizing the Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships (GloMEEP) Project Port Emissions Toolkit, provide training on developing an Emissions Reduction Strategy (ERS) to relevant stakeholders at the selected port(s).

Conclusions drawn included that, “…. The solar power generation potential in Africa is quite high. Kenya and the surrounding countries for example have solar irradiation of approximately 2200kWh per m2 per year. Maximizing and optimally utilizing this potential can result in great savings in carbon footprint and stabilization of the power supply systems for the African Ports. Some ports are already taking advantage of this natural asset and have installed grid tied mini solar grids to supplement the local utility supplies.”

Also, with the regulation on reducing the sulphur content of fuel oil used in ships, outside the Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) capped to 0.50% with effect from 01 January 2020, there is an expectation that Authorities will domesticate the MARPOL Annexure VI and implement it, accordingly. This regulation does provide an added incentive for development and implementation of other alternative clean energy by Africa and the rest of the world.

It states: “These requirements all the more makes (s.i.c) the implementation of shore power for visiting vessels very attractive. In addition, studies have confirmed that with a clean electricity mix coupled with installation of solar power plants in ports makes the shore power implementation very viable considering environmental benefits.”

“Whilst these alternative energy sources are a viable way to reduce emissions from ships, their development and implementation comes at a huge financial cost to the shipping industry. It becomes critical that all stakeholders work together to ensure that such technologies are shared, for the better realisation of the initial IMO GHG Strategy with a vision of a decarbonised shipping by the end of this century.”

South Africa, an IMO Member State and a designated Southern African Region Focal Point of the MTCC-Africa wherein it is expected to support the Centre in promoting technologies and operations aimed at improving energy efficiency in the maritime sector, is also lined up to make a contribution to discussion on the first day of the ConfEx, according to SAMSA.

In a recent statement, said SAMSA: “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 supporting 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.”

To register Click Here

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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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