Called out to save lives at sea, SAMSA responds accordingly, as fate of foreign crew stranded in SA remain unclear

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A HELPING HAND:  A SAMSA official hands over food items and related material to six crew members of a stranded vessel that entered South African sea waters and anchored off the port of Cape Town without permission a month ago. The vessel believed to be of Asian origin has since been quarantined and detained at the port of Cape Town pending resolution of its law transgressions since entering the country’s waters illegally.

Pretoria: 08 January 2020

The fate of six stranded Asian sailors found in a desperate situation in a poorly conditioned vessel off the port of Cape Town recently may remain uncertain still, but their safety and general well-being going forward is ensured for time being, thanks to the timely intervention and assistance efforts of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

According to the agency, part of whose mandate is to ensure the safety of property and life at sea, the epic drama involving the six foreign sailors – two from Taiwan and four others from Mynmar, and some of whom now face possible legal sanction – apparently unfolded after SAMSA officials were alerted by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF) about a drifting, fuel-less and permit-less vessel spotted at sea, off the port of Cape Town on 02 December 2019.

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Four of the six member crew of the Yong Qing Fa No.666 currently believed to have been abandoned by their employer and who are currently residing on board the crippled vessel at the port of Cape Town after it was detained following its unauthorized entry and anchorage in SA waters, and a subsequent C188 inspection that found it not seaworthy. The six member crew of the vessel consists of four seafarers from Mynmar and two others from Taiwan.

Captain Pierre Schutz, a deputy Principal Officer at SAMSA’s western region Cape Town office, recounted this week about how the agency’s officers scrambled to the rescue of the foreign seafarers to ensure primarily their safety and general welfare while their sea sailing troubles including legal issues were being interrogated for a possible resolution.

The legal woes facing both the owners and crew of the now quarantined fishing vessel known as the Yong Qing Fa No.666 but whose flag state has yet to be determined, it emerged, include the vessel’s unauthorized entry into South African sea waters, the absence on board of necessary documentation including certificates of nationality, tonnage, drawing plans, crew list, Voyage Management System (VMS) transmitting, and an off Automatic Identification System (AIS).

On entering South African waters without permission and dropping anchor near Cape Town harbor without authorization on 30 November 2019 due to apparent desperation for bunkers, the six member crew on board reportedly also initially failed to communicate properly their plight with local authorities due to language difficulties, until the Taiwanese Fisheries agency in South Africa got involved, almost a week later.

pic 5In fact, on entering the country’s waters in the Atlantic Ocean and putting anchor near the Cape Town port, according to SAMSA, based on TNPA reports, the vessel’s crew did so without following any protocols and had maintained complete radio silence, something unusual and illegal.

It had since emerged that the six crew members and their poorly maintained vessel had were likely abandoned by the owner, with four of the crew members having not been paid their wages.

According to SAMSA on Wednesday this week, two of the stranded seafarers, from Taiwan, had since been charged with certain law transgressions (unspecified) and were due to reappear in a Cape Town magistrate’s court on 27 January 2020.

Reporting about the drama, Capt. Schutz says SAMSA got drawn initially to the plight of the crew of the vessel – and which had since been established to have been sailing from West Africa to Mauritius – after respective authorities including the TNPA, DEFF and others, all bound by relevant legislation and protocols, were initially reluctant and refused it entry into a South African port without standard procedures having been fully observed.

These included a 21 day offshore containment period to determine the vessel and crew health condition that it did not carry any communicable diseases such as – in this case – Ebola, as the vessel had reportedly sailed from a West African region where the deadly disease is reputably rife. 

He says 12 days after the drama ensued, with engagements ongoing among respective authorities, SAMSA appealed to the TNPA, DEFF and others to allow an inspection of the vessel and crew in order to facilitate provision of basic essentials to the crew, such as food and water. Crucially, this was also to ensure the safety of the vessel given its unauthorized anchorage which could prove hazardous to other sailing vessels in the vicinity if left unattended for too long.

By 13 December 2019, according to Capt. Schutz, the vessel was eventually allocated a berth in an isolated area at the port of Cape Town following to which nutrition was brought on board for the vessels’ crew while a variety of inspections were conducted.

He confirmed that a SAMSA inspection in terms of local and international legal instruments including the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) C188 – Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188) found the vessel to be not seaworthy and it was officially detained, while a DEFF inspection led to the arrest of the vessel’s skipper and his subsequent appearances in court.

cropped-samsa-master-logoAs of last week, according to Capt. Schutz, the vessel still had no power and it still had no local agent appointed to attend to its needs as required by law. Meanwhile Taiwanese authorities in South Africa were still not taking responsibility for a majority of the crew members on board the vessel while DEFF officials’ efforts to seek assistance from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) had proved fruitless so far.

Capt. Schutz says: “The SAMSA (Cape Town office) is liaising with DEFF in terms of the court appearance of two of the seafarers. It is also liaising with the local Apostleship of the Seas in terms of welfare and food. Currently also, SAMSA is supplying food while awaiting for the court appearance.”

Regarding the detention of the vessel, Capt. Schutz says its release will be conditional to the owners carrying out the repairs it is so advised to do and on completion, inform SAMSA.

“Once so advised, SAMSA would conduct another inspection, and if the vessel is found in good condition, the vessel would be released from detention. There is no time frame attached to this,” he says, save for a range of port charges it will incur, accruing to the TNPA, for its safekeeping at a South African port, and which could escalate depending on how long it takes to repair it.

Capt. Schutz says further that the vessels’ crew will be repatriated  once all matters related are finalized to the satisfaction of South African authorities.

“The responsibility however lies with the owners. There has been no final decision in this regard,” he says.

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Please note that this story has been updated to provide additional details and correct certain inaccuracies.

South Africa’s leadership in fishers’ safety and security lauded: South East Asian countries

DSC_4428.JPGCape Town: 04 September 2019

Over five days, from 26-30 August 2019, about three dozen delegates from three South East Asian countries – Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand – rubbed shoulders and closely interacted with their South African counterparts in the Western Cape, exchanging notes on the implementation of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 188.

On their departure from South Africa at the weekend, the delegates – among them senior government officials at ministerial and director level, as well as ILO officials, were more than impressed.

In their own words, captured in the following video interviews, not only did they learn much of what they hoped for about the implementation of the ILO’s C188, but they also felt that South Africa’s leadership in the regard, and partnership going forward, were crucial in the success of their own endeavours to ensure the implementation of the instrument in their own countries to ensure the safety and security of their fishing sectors’ labour.

DSC_4448.JPGILO officials, who accompanied the delegates both during a two day workshop in Cape Town on Monday and Tuesday, as well as during actual fishing vessels inspections in Cape Town, Saldanha Bay and St Helena Bay on the west coast of South Africa, led by South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) officials headed by Mr Selywn Bailey, were no less impressed.

DSC_4557.JPGSpoken to by this blog in the video interviews featured below,  (in no particular order) were

  1. Mr Basilio Araujo, Assistant Deputy Minister, Indonesia’s Office of the Deputy Coordinating Minister for Maritime Sovereignty and Resilience, Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs;
  2. Mr Indra Setiawan, Head of Facilities and Infrastructure Section at Indonesia’s  Directorate of Manpower Law Compliance, Directorate General of Inspection, Ministry of Manpower;
  3. Ms Mi Zhou, Project Manager of the ILO’s Indonesia Sea Fisheries Project;
  4. Ms Ma.Teresita S. Cucueco,  the Phillipines director of Bureau of Working Conditions in the Department of Labour and Employment.
  5. Mr Somboon Trisilanunt, deputy Director-General in Thailand’s Department of Labour Protection and Welfare (DLPW), Ministry of Labour and
  6. Rear-Admiral Apichai Sompolgrunk, Director -General at Thailand’s Office of Maritime Security Affairs, Naval Operations Dept., Royal Thai Navy/ Command Centre to Combat Illegal Fishing (CCCIF).

Take a listen:

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Sound international relations with other maritime countries a key building block for SA maritime sector development: SAMSA

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SHARING KNOWLEDGE: Some of the international delegates from three South East Asian countries currently visiting South Africa for workshop of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention 188 conducted by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) at the request of the ILO in Cape Town this week.  The photo was taken during their visit of fishing group I&J at the port of Cape Town on Tuesday.

Cape Town: 28 August 2019

South Africa’s quest and determination to be a global maritime centre of excellence in a few years’ time can only occur if the country also maintains sound relations with its counterparts elsewhere in the world through sharing of knowledge and experiences of its own maritime sector development.

This is according to South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) acting Chief Executive Officer. Mr Sobantu Tilayi who this week welcomed more than two dozen delegates from three South East Asian countries, who are in the country to learn about South Africa’s pioneering approach to safety and security work conditions for the country’s fishing sub-sector labour force.

It was the second such international maritime countries meeting in South Africa in two successive weeks, this following to the Indian Ocean Memorandum of Understanding (IOMOU) Port State Control Committee 22nd annual meeting also held in Cape Town the previous week.

This week’s five day workshop for Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines and conducted at the behest of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is also focused on the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No 188) that came into effect recently.

The C188 objectives, according to the ILO, are “to ensure that fishers have decent conditions of work on board fishing vessels with regard to minimum requirements for work on board; conditions of service; accommodation and food; occupational safety and health protection; medical care and social security.”

The ILO says that, except where exemptions are granted, the convention applies to all fishers and all fishing vessels engaged in commercial fishing operations worldwide.

South Africa, which had already made notable advances in the development and improvement of working conditions for fishers, was the first country in the world to implement the convention in 2017. 

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Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Acting Chief Executive Officer: SAMSA

In a brief interview outside the workshop in Cape Town this week, Mr Tilayi said it was significant for the country that other countries of the world we noticing the role South Africa had played and continues to with regards to fishers’s improved working conditions.

This, he said, had major positive implications for South Africa’s quest and plan to become an international maritime centre of excellence by 2030.

For Mr Tilayi’s full remarks on the subject, Click on the video  below:

The SAMSA led week-long workshop that began on Monday in Cape Town has on its agenda, discussions on:

  • South Africa’s implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No.188) since its ratification in 2013.
  • South Africa’s Maritime Legislative framework and the institutional arrangements in the implementation of the ratified Work in Fishing Convention.
  • The amendments to the South Africa Merchant Shipping Act to cater for the Work in Fishing Convention.
  • The practical implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention with visits to different types of vessels.
  • Showcasing the implementation of the safety construction of fishing vessels (new builds).

It will wrap up on Friday with visits by the delegates to fishing companies in Cape Town, Saldanha Bay as well as St Helena Bay.

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South Africa shares experiences with Asian countries about fishing safety: SAMSA

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South Africa and three South East Asian countries’ delegates to this week’s workshop on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) C188 workshop in Cape Town.

Cape Town: 27 August 2019

South Africa’s leading role globally on development of safety and security measures for fishermen – inclusive of its pioneering role in the implementation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 188 two years ago – is proving a draw card for most other countries also keen on improving labour conditions for their workers in the fishing sector.

In Cape Town this week, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is hosting delegates from South East Asia countries to share knowledge and experiences accumulated in the development of safety and security for fishermen on board fishing vessels.

img_8392.jpgAlso attending the South Africa (ILO) C188 Workshop for the South East Asian countries are local labour and bargaining council organisations in the fishing sector, as well as some of the major employers in the sector.

From South East Asia are officials from Thailand’s Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, the Thai Office of Maritime Security Affairs, Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Ministry of Manpower as well as those from the Philippines’ Bureau of Working Conditions.

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Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Acting Chief Executive Officer: SAMSA

Addressing the approximately thirty three delegates during the start of the workshop on Monday, SAMSA acting CEO Sobantu Tilayi said the gathering was being held in response to a request from the ILO for South Africa to assist with hosting inspectors from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines who are interested in seeing a port-state fishing/labour inspection regime in action.

The ILO had identified South Africa as a role model for the work it is doing to ensure that fishermen have decent conditions of work on board fishing vessels in compliance with the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No.188).

In fact, South Africa was the first country in the world to formally implement the C.188 two years ago, involving inspection of two fishing vessels – one domestic and the other, a Japanese flagged trawler.

South Africa had since detained one other vessel for violations of the C188.

“It is a great honour to be recognised for the work South Africa and SAMSA are doing to promote the working conditions of fishermen on fishing vessels,” said Mr Tilayi.

DSC_3200.JPGHe said: “The South African Constitution holds that everyone has the right to fair labour practices and SAMSA, as the custodian of South Africa’s maritime interests, is committed to improving the working conditions of fishermen in South African territory.”

For Mr Tilayi’s full remarks during the opening , Click on the videos below.

Responding to Mr Tilayi’s welcome note, International Labour Organisation (ILO) representative from Thailand, Ms Anymanee Tabitimsri said the South East Asian countries represented were grateful for the opportunity South Africa offered to share knowledge and experiences with implementation of the C188 as all three sought to strengthen the safety and security of the fishing sector labour in their respective countries.

She said Thailand was a pioneer in its own right in Asia in terms of its early endorsement of the ILO’s C188 and was keen to also share insights and experiences.

For her full remarks (4 minutes) Click on the video  below:

The SAMSA led week-long workshop which will include visits to the ports of Cape Town, Saldanha and St Helena, has on the agenda:

  • South Africa’s implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No.188) since its ratification in 2013.
  • South Africa’s Maritime Legislative framework and the institutional arrangements in the implementation of the ratified Work in Fishing Convention.
  • The amendments to the South Africa Merchant Shipping Act to cater for the Work in Fishing Convention.
  • The practical implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention with visits to different types of vessels.
  • Showcasing the implementation of the safety construction of fishing vessels (new builds).

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SAMSA firmly puts foot down on SA fishermen safety law compliance: PE fishing firm forced to toe the line!

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File Photo: Fishing vessels berthed at the port of Port Elizabeth

Pretoria: 24 September 2018

Ensuring maximum safety for fishermen crews in South Africa’s commercial fishing sector should be a matter of common sense both from a basic human and business perspective.

cropped-samsa-master-logoThis is particularly so for employers in the sector in view of the stark fact that owners as well as skippers of fishing vessels that flout legislation for the protection of fishermen can face both jail terms of a minimum one year, as well as a fine of up to R40 000 per incident when found in contravention.

This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) at the weekend following an incident in Port Elizabeth a few days earlier during which a fishing vessel was prohibited to sail after the owners and skipper were established to have contravened sections of the Maritime Occupational Safety Regulations (MOS Regs) 1994.

The contravention concerned, in particular, Regulation 4 of the MOS Regs (1994) relating to compulsory provision of safety equipment and facilities by employers to fishermen whilst at sea.

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File Photo: In the foreground to the left, a fisherman working on fishing equipment at the port of Port Elizabeth

A SAMSA report last week indicated that an ad hoc inspection of the Fv Silver Explorer, managed by Talhado Fishing Enterprises on behalf of M B Fishing Ventures, berthed at the port of Port Elizabeth had found that the vessel’s crew had to personally pay for some of their required safety clothing, which were ‘oilskin pants, trousers and gumboots’.

The report states: “During an ad hoc inspection on the Fv Silver Explorer (on Wednesday morning) everything was found to be in order except that the crew was still paying for their Oilskin pants and oilskin trousers, as well as their gumboots.

“These items are part of their protective clothing as per Maritime Occupational Safety Regulations, 1994, Reg 4 which is for the (vessel) Owners Account. Corrective action was to prohibit the vessel from sailing until the matter was addressed in terms of regulations and proof thereof forwarded to SAMSA.”

SAMSA says that afternoon, Talhado Fishing Enterprises responded with a written commitment to rectify the situation by supplying the involved clothing items at its own expense going forward.

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File Photo: A SAMSA official chatting to fishermen in Mossel Bay

In the written response, among other things, the fishing vessel’s shore skipper, Mr Robert Mentzel said: “This letter serves to confirm that Talhado Fishing Enteprises will cover the cost of protective clothing; 1 x Oilskin jacket, 1 oilskin pants, 1 x gumboots, 2 pairs of socks….from the opening of November 2018

“Initially, the skipper will hand out the PPE on sailing day open season and the crew will hand over the PPE to the skipper on docking day. A register will be kept on board by the skipper to control this.”

After receipt of the commitment, SAMSA lifted the sailing prohibition and allowed the vessel a free run.

However, SAMSA described the outcome of the case, where the company committed to self-finance protective clothing for its fishermen crew, in according with law, as a major milestone in the promotion of and monitoring of compliance with law by the commercial fishing sector with regards to fishermen safety.

In fact, SAMSA said, the Wednesday incident occurred just a one other fishing company, also in Port Elizabeth, had embraced the legal requirement to supply its fishermen crew with personal protective equipment at the fishing vessel owner’s cost.

SAMSA reported that “the company manages 15 vessels with crews of between 20 and 25 persons at R1200,00 per annum per person- which means over 330 crews with a total saving back in their pockets of over R400 000  per year.”

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File Photo: Bags full of ice used for storage of fish in fishing in South Africa’s commercial fishing vessels

According to SAMSA, all licensed fishing companies in South Africa are aware of the MOS Regulations.1994, yet violation remains prevalent in a sector where no less than 3000 fishermen – in the southern region of the country at least – remain exposed to industry practices that leave them financing certain items of their workplace Personal Protective Clothing/Equipment (PPE) contrary to provisions of the law.

In the process, what earnings fishermen made during their employment were significantly reduced, with massive negative impacts to their social lives.

A victory for SA fishermen!

“This is a victory for the fishermen as it will result in a saving for each and every fisherman, with money back in their accounts,” said SAMSA, further noting that enforcement will continue to ensure that all companies adhere to the regulations and that where they are found to have failed, it is made sure that they are “dealt with in accordance with the regulations.”

 

Regular consultations and information sharing continues with the sector about the issues, the latest meeting having taken place in Cape Town in July this year.

According to SAMSA, South Africa as a Member State of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and with close relations with the International Labour Organization (ILO), is not only committed to ensuring compliance with own legislation but also with ensuring implementation of various other international related instruments including the ILO’s Working in Fishing Convention 188 (2007) relating to the promotion of fishermen and fishing vessels safety and working conditions.

 

In fact, the country has been praised globally for its leading role in the promotion of fishermen and fishing vessels’ safety the world over, particularly in the last 13 years and during which period accidents and deaths have reduced in South Africa from double to single digits per annum.

The ILO in particular recently heaped praised on South Africa, but SAMSA in particular for its contribution to the development of the implementation of Convention 188 and which was historically implemented in this country for the first time in December 2017.

South Africa has also been a major contributor to the IMO’s ‘Cape Town Agreement’ On the Implementation of the Provisions of Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977.

SAMSA PromoGif

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