South Africans generosity puts paid to inhumane conditions faced by crew of abandoned vessels in Durban: SAMSA

Pretoria: 17 February 2022

It will be a while, if ever again, that crew of a set of vessels reportedly abandoned at the port of Durban will face inhumane conditions, largely characterised by starvation – thanks to the generosity of South Africans during the last month that has ensured them enough food and other necessities supplies.

This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) seafarers’ welfare office in Durban, which together with two other non-governmental organisations, the Mission to Seafarers and Meals on Wheels SA set the alarm in January after the 18 crew members were found to be starving on board the three vessels which have been declared abandoned by the IMO in January 2022.

The vessels involved, two of them – the PSD2 and PSD104 are sister offshore supply vessels that are both Tanzanian flagged, while the third, the MT Fairy Tale – is a Belize registered tanker.

The MT Fairy Tale and the PSD2 had been at the port of Durban for over five years while the third (the PSD104, the second of the Tanzanian registered) had docked at the port in January 2022. The seafarers on board include 11 Indians, one (1) Iranian and six (6) Bangladeshi nationals.

Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe, SAMSA Manager for Occupational Health, Safety and Seafarers’ Welfare.

According to SAMSA Manager for Occupational Health, Safety and Seafarers’ Welfare, Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe, not only did groups of South Africans respond positively, speedily, with donations that have ensured enough food and other necessities supplies, but the widely publicised plight of both the seafarers as well as the vessels themselves drew attention of both the owners as well as the Indian government’s attention.

Support was also being received from the International Transport Federation (ITF) which had assisted the crew members arrest the vessels, anyhow, following complaints from the crew, and which matter was now set for the courts, according to SAMSA.

 “The media has really helped put pressure on the owners,” said Mr Rantsoabe, adding: “They have been coming on board trying to reach settlements with the crew and telling them they saw the story in the media. One of them was very embarrassed about the diesel story and started providing diesel and he had not done so in five (5) months.

More food supplies to crew members of abandoned vessels at the port of Durban donated by a local community group, Newlands Diwali Festival (Photo: SAMSA)

“The crew are now also able to contact their families through the generosity of the Mission to Seafarers who provided them with Wi-Fi routers.

“The International Transport Federation has also provided money for food via the Mission to Seafarers, which is used to supplement whatever is provided by the two charity organisations.

“At the moment the seafarers are very grateful and feel that they have enough food to last them through February. The ITF has also procured fuel for the two vessels that can take fuels, which will help run the engine and generators.

“We have also received calls from charity organisations such as NEDFEST… (such that) presently food supplies will not be an issue again for this crew,” he said.  

Their movement outside the vessels was still restricted, however, and therefore not allowed to leave the port. The difficulty said Mr Rantsoabe; was with the fact that the vessels did not have Port Agents who assume official direct responsibility for vessels and crew once in the country’s ports.

However, SAMSA facilitated a dialogue with the port authorities (Port Health, Immigration, SAPS, TNPA) who in the end, working jointly together with Shipmed and Mission to Seafarers; made the vaccination of all the seafarers possible on Wednesday last week (09 February 2022). They were transported under SAPS escort to a vaccination clinic.

“They were all smiles after vaccination,” said Mr Rantsoabe

Some of crew members of the abandoned vessels at port of Durban pictured while they were all taken to a local city clinic for their Covid-19 vaccination. Prominent in their company is the Rev.Fr Thami Tembe of the Mission to Seafarers. (Photo: SAMSA)

Mr Rantsoabe further reported that a week ago, he and SAMSA Durban region Principal Officer, Captain Gqwetha Mkhize accompanied a team from the Indian Consulate to the PSD2 and PSD104 vessels. “They stated they will be putting pressure to the Flag State and the owners’ country using diplomatic means (State to State basis).”

Abandoned vessels’crew pictured while being visited by Indian Consulate officials in the company of SAMSA senior officers, Durban office Principal Officer, Capt. Gqwetha Mkhize and OHS& Seafarers Welfare manager, Mr Sibusiso Rntsoabe a week ago (Photo: SAMSA)

On how long it can take to have both the situation of the crew and vessels resolved, Mr Rantsoabe said: “Unfortunately that question is difficult to answer. Normally once SAMSA gets involved things move quickly and the company pays.

“Detention does work because the owners normally want to get the ship out of the port as soon as possible. However, in the case of the Fairy Tale there is no hurry. The vessel is not going anywhere unless somebody buys it. So as SAMSA we can fine and detain but detaining a vessel that does not intend moving out becomes just a futile exercise, especially when owners pay the fines, but detention remains.

Capt. Vernon Keller, SAMSA Deputy Chief Operations Officer.

Remarking on the latest developments regarding the crew of the vessels, SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, Captain Vernon Keller applauded the effort of all those involved, including the role the media played in sharing the plight of the seafarers, but added that as far SAMSA was concerned; “it is an amazing effort by the SAMSA team…but our job is not done.”

Said Capt. Keller; “Our seafarers kept this world moving forward throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, transporting essential cargoes around the world, yet seafarers struggled to let the world understand that they are essential workers.

“They were forced to spend more time onboard their vessels unable to go home, some even lost their family members and could do nothing about it.  The psychological effect that this pandemic had on the seafarer will be studied for years to come.

“As an ex-seafarer, it pains me to know that there are still seafarers who are being treated even worse than during the pandemic by unscrupulous ship owners and managers. Administrations should stand up across the world and say enough is enough. If these seafarers were airline crew, the world would stand up and listen, so why are we not affording seafarers the same respect. Seafarers have truly become the forgotten few.

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Cooperation and collaboration key to successful implementation of SA’s Inland Water Strategy

Pretoria: 27 October 2021

The launch of the South African Inland Water Strategy by the Department of Transport on Friday (22 October 2021) might have marked a critical turning point in the effective and efficient management of the country’s inland waters – from rivers to dams and similar – but its successful implementation will depend largely on collaborative governance among all the parties involved.

At least that was the shared view of virtually all attendees to the event held on the banks of the Vaal River, at the luxurious Lake Deneys Yacht Club, some +-30 kilometers south of Vereeniging. Among them were senior officials representative of the South African Police Services (SAPS), the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DEFF), the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), boating and sailing organisations including SA Sailing, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the Free State provincial and local govenrments, and related.

Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga

Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga delivered the main address during launch of the Inland Water Strategy and about which she said it represented a major positive turning point as well as a clear framework for the effective and efficient management of the country’s inland waters, inclusive of clear regulations on the utilization of the facilities for the benefit of all citizens. The benefits, she said; included leisure, business investment as well as generation of much needed job opportunities and employment.

In terms of the Inland Water Strategy and whose launch this month formed part of the DoT’s National Transport Month, inland waters are made up of dams, lagoons, lakes, rivers and wetlands but exclude tidal lagoons and tidal rivers.On these, over 1,2-million small vessels of all shapes and sizes, operate – mostly for sport, recreation, tourism as well as fishing largely by local subsistence and recreational fishers.

According to Ms Chikunga, the launch of the Inland Water Strategy by the DoT on Friday came against the backdrop that legislatively, the Department of Transport is tasked with the responsibility to ensure that South Africa’s inland waterways are safe for public use. The strategy’s four major goals include: “safe and secure lives and property for all users and marine environment protection, standardised procedures and processes on all inland waters, improved maritime domain awareness on all inland waters as well as contribution towards alleviation of poverty of inland waters communities”.

Challenges however, in the absence of a formal Resource Management Plan, were noted to include unregulated boating activities that were resulting in accidents – some fatal – as was demonstrated recently by an incident in Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal and which is still under investigation. In addition, environmental pollution from such boating activities had also triggered the spread of invasive aquatic hyacinth plants now clogging some of the dams.

To counter some of the challenges, but specifically those relating to effective management of boating use, the Inland Water Strategy incorporated the implementation of the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations 2007, with focus on basic safety requirements related to commercial operations, approval of commercial and passenger vessels, the reporting of incidents as well as pollution prevention.

It was in this specific area, said Ms Chikunga; that SAMSA – the country’s dedicated agency for maritime safety now including inland water spaces – would play a critical role, working in tandem with all interested and affected parties both in the public and private sectors.

“We believe that this stratregy could and will greatly assist in promoting a culture of safe and responsible boating when implemented in the spirit of cooperative governance among all three spheres of government and in partnership with the maritime industry, she said.

Ms Chikunga further said that in addition to the anticipated high safety and pollution free conditions generally in inland waters as envisaged in the strategy, a similarly crucial aspect was a need for the optimal utilisation of the country’s inland waters productively in terms of its general economic contribution through both investment and jobs creation.

For her full remarks (duration: 18 minutes), click on the video below

Inland Water Strategy launch address by Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga

The South African Navy Hydrographic Office (part of the country’s national Defence Force) took advantage of the event to handover a set of dams navigational charts to the DoT, while the depatment and SA Sailing also used the opportunity of the event to ratify a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

Meanwhile, SAMSA which has already been working on the implementation of the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations 2007 for a few years now – warmly welcomed the formal launch of the overall strategy especially with regards the extent of its formal inclusion of various other players critical to inland water safety controls, both in the public and private sectors.

Captain Vernon Keller. Deputy Choef Operations Officer: SAMSA

SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, Capt. Vernon Keller who attended the event along with several senior SAMSA officials, among them the Acting Chief Executive Officer, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane and SAMSA Boating Centre manager, Ms Debbie James; said: “The launch of the Inland Water Strategy today (Friday) is the result of a collaboration of all the stakeholders to make boating safer on inland waters. It’s about cooperative governance among parties that include the South African Police Services, Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment, as well local municipalities and other agencies to all work together to make it safer.

“And so, from a SAMSA perspective, we are excited because it is now putting a spotlight on boating, and boating is normally one of those areas that is overlooked because people always focus on the big ships. There are also a lot of opportunities out there to develop youth and generate careers for them in small boating, like delivering yachts, or (getting) in the boat building or fishing industries, said Capt. Keller.

Ms Debbie James.Centre for Boating manager

For Ms James, however, the greatest opportunity and challenge for SAMSA was in ensuring the development and placement of measurements to ensure effective implementation of boating regulations for sound management of boating activities on inland waters evenly across the country, anchored on ongoing co-operation and collaboration among the various authorities and communicaties.

For its part, she said; SAMSA has since about two years ago started rolling out training workshops for both internal and external boat surveyors and boat safety officials in terms of the National Small Vessels Safety Regulations. Following to the launch of the Inland Water Strategy, this work would now be intensified, she said. For both Capt. Keller and Ms James remarks, click on the respective videos below (average duration +-3.11 minutes)

Remark of Capt. Vernon Keller. Deputy Chief Operations Officer: SAMSA
Remarks by Ms Debbie James. SAMSA Centre for Boating manager

Several other attendees to the launch event of the Inland Water Strategy also shared their views about the event relative to their assigned roles. In the list are SA Sailing deputy President, Mr Vernon Brown, SAPS Emergency Services Unit, Brigadier M. de Meillon; Depatment of Fisheries, Forestry and Environmental Affairs national coordinator, Environmental Projects, Ms Debbie Muir, as well as representatives of the Metsimahulu local municipality as well as the Free State provincial government.

For their respective full remarks, please click on the video below: (duration: +-35 minutes)

Remarks by officials representative of various institutions and organisations with interest or affected by the launch of South Africa’s Inland Water Strategy

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