Cruise-liners at SA ports despite Covid-19 pandemic related ban explained: SAMSA

A cruiseliner at the port of Port Elizabeth (SAMSA file photo)

Pretoria: 20 May 2020

An occassional sight of cruise-liners at South African ports during this Covid-19 lockdown period – a most trying time during which national regulations currently disallow domestic ports call – should not surprise anyone.

According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a statement this week, far from offering the usual jolly rides across the oceans to thousands of leisure and entertainment seeking passengers, the cruiseliners calling at the country’s ports are returning home crew members.

SAMSA in its statement on Tuesday, reported no less than eight such cruise-liners calling on the country’s ports all to disembark dozens of their South African crew members, as they do to their crew members of other countries across the world.

Among these vessels were the Crown Princess and Island Princess which, according to SAMSA, called at the port of Cape Town on 16 May 2020 with close on 4 000 crew members on board between them, and about 100 of which were South Africans.

“The Crown Princess arrived in South Africa with 2 139 crew members, of which 30 are South African. The Crown Princess is used by the owners to repatriate crews stranded aboard their vessels and is due to proceed to other international ports in order to disembark other crew members.

“The vessel  disembarked SA crew and SA medical team while in Cape Town, who have been on-board the vessel for some time and required to be relieved by a fresh crew.

All South African Crew has disembarked and special permission was granted for a fresh medical team to embark to allow for the vessel to meet safe manning requirements before it can proceed to another port. The disembarked crew was subjected to the local Covid-19 regulations and will quarantine for 14 days before they can proceed to join their families. The vessel also took bunkers and supplies, before it sailed on 16 May 2020.

“The Island Princess also arrived in Cape Town on the 16 May 2020 with 1 416 crew, of which 62 are South African. The vessel will disembark the South African crew before leaving Cape Town,” reported SAMSA.

Other vessels reporting at the country’s ports during this period were confirmed as follows:

  • ROTTERDAM: 800 crew members; 12 South Africans. ETA port of Cape Town, 18 May 2020.
  • MS Le Bougainville: Purpose; to replenish stores and take bunkers. ETA port of Richards Bay; 19 May 2020.
  • ZUIDERDAM: Crew numbers TBC. ETA port of Cape Town, 20th May 2020.
  • VEENDAM: 626 crew members; 49 South Africans. ETA port of Cape Town; 23 May 2020
  • CARNIVAL DREAM: Crew members TBC. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020.
  • CARNIVAL LIBERTY: 1601 crew mbembers, 4 south African. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020.
  • CARNIVAL ECSTACY: Crew members TBC. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020..
  • CARNIVAL CONQUEST: Cew members TBC. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020.
  • CARNIVAL FASCINATION: Crew members tBC. ETA port of Durban; 27 May 2020.

The organisation said: “SAMSA continues to work with the department of Transport, other government departments and government agencies to ensure that all regulations relating Covid-19 are enforced and followed by the maritime industry.

“These regulations, among others prohibit cruise liner calls into any of the South African Ports, any crew changes, any disembarkations apart from returning South African citizens or permanent residents.”

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Plight of stranded SA seafarers abroad receiving Government attention: SAMSA

Pretoria: 20 April 2020

With an increasing number of South Africans reportedly stranded at airports across the world, among these, South African seafarers mainly on board cruise liners, efforts are being made across various Government departments in the country to bring about effective action to their aid.

This is according to the Department of Transport (DoT) in a statement in Pretoria on Monday, expressing the department’s appreciation of the crucial role its agency, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is playing in the effort.

South Africa Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula

Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula on Monday said hundreds of South African seafarers caught up in the massive storm of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pademic while in service on cruiseliners across world, had been successfully assisted to return.

However, there were still as many as 130 others still abroad in countries such Brazil, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Ghana.

According to Mr Mbalula, various Government departments; notably DoT, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), Deparment of Health and SAMSA were closely working together to arrange the safe transfer of the seafarers back to the country.

This was in addition to SAMSA’s work, alongside Transnet’s National Ports Authority (TNPA),  in the effective and efficient management of ship traffic along the country’s oceans, some of which sought urgent assistance at the country’s commercial ports for fuel and other supplies replenishments.

The DoT reported no less than 10 such cruiseliners, research vessels and related that had sought assistance at the country’s ports for replenishments since the closure of the country’s borders after the Government’s declaration of a State of National Disaster and introduction of a 35 day national lockdown in last month.

IMG_5534The stringent travel restriction measures imposed in South Africa and elsewhere led to a complete closure of all airports and the consequent grounding of passenger aircrafts globally in the wake of the outbreak and rampant spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic that had infected hundreds of thousands and killed tens of thousands in many countries .

One major cruise liners operator with a significant intake of South African seafarers, MSC Cruises announced shortly thereafter it had halted cruises globally for up to end of May 2020. A statement on its website read: “We at MSC Cruises have decided to further extend the halting of all our new cruise departures fleet-wide through to 29 May, in light of the continued extraordinary circumstances the world is facing in connection with the Covid-19 virus global health emergency.

“We have previously announced the temporary halting of all its ships globally through to 30 April. As governments across the globe have since further strengthened ashore public health and safety measures to protect local populations and contain the further spread of the virus, today’s decision by MSC Cruises to further extend this extraordinary measure aims to mirror and further support the effectiveness of such efforts.”

MSC Cruises further announced compensation packages for its South African seafares – “A voucher for the value of their current 2019/2020 cruise package, which they can redeem in the upcoming local cruise season in 2020/2021 Plus an on-board credit of $50 per cabin to be used on a cruise in the next local South African season 2020/2021″ 

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On Monday, Minister Mbalula said he: “…wishes to commend the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) for its continued work with Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Department of Health in implementing the lockdown regulations, as they pertain to the maritime sector.

“The regulations prohibit cruise liners from docking at any South African Port, changing crew or disembarking foreign nationals. The vessels are only permitted to replenish fuel, stores and provisions and disembark South African crew, returning South African citizens and permanent residents

“SAMSA, an entity of the Department of Transport,  is also monitoring the repatriation of seafarers who are currently overseas and waiting for arrangements for their travel home to be finalised.

“To date there are currently about 130 crew members in Sao Paolo, London, Frankfurt, Italy and Ghana. The Seafarers are receiving assistance from their respective employers and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).

For its part, from as early as the second week of March, SAMSA, the country’s Registrar of Seafarers, announced special measures it would implement to facilitate for fast-tracking the speedy assistance of South African seafarers reportedly stranded abroad in a public notice placed also on its website.

Meanwhile, in addition to the half a dozen or so cruise liners and other vessels the country has had to handle during the national lockdown, DoT revealed also a list of those that were managed for Covid-19 infection.

The DoT listed these as including:

AIDAmira – docked in Cape Town on 16 March following a COVID-19 scare involving six AIDAmira passengers and two MV Corona bulk carrier crew, all of whom tested negative for the Corona Virus.

Arcadia – docked in Durban on 26 March. After COVID-19 test results came out negative for 13 asymptomatic individuals on board, the vessel docked to refuel and restock provisions, as well as allow six South African crew members to disembark and return home.

The Queen Mary 2 – docked in Durban on 31 March and disembarked six South African crew members, all of whom tested negative from COVID-19.

MSC Orchestra – currently working with the Department of Health to trace passengers following confirmation of positive test results for two individuals who cruised on 28 February and 16 March.

DoT said one vessel, a South African fishing vessel had its crew also quarantined in Cape Town as per regulations.

“The fishing vessel the CODESA 1 berthed in the Port of Cape Town on 11 April 2020. The Master and crew are all South African. The vessel has been out at sea, did not visit any other country nor port, and provides an essential service, but has been subjected to the 14-days quarantine period on-board upon return as per current regulations,” it said.

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Transport Minister announces reviewal of restrictions at SA ports

Pretoria: 31 March 2020

Following to concerns and consultations between Government, industry and affected parties, the Department of Transport has announced relaxation of some of the strict restrictions on maritime sector activities, particularly around the country’s ports.

The revised measures aimed at alleviating pressure on particularly trade goods movement and handling as well as personnel such as ships crews were announced by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a new Marine Notice 21 issued in Ptetoria on Tuesday, as approved by the Department of Transport recently.

DOTIn particular, the Marine Notice addresses such issues as crew changes at the country’s commercial ports, revised regulations on the management of cargo vessels as well as the loading and off loading of cargo, all of which faced tough measures before, some of which included an outright ban.

According to SAMSA in the notice, these tough measures had come about as a result of the spread of the corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic globally following its outbreak in China in December 2019.

SAMSA states: “On 23 March 2020, the President of the Republic (of South Africa) declared a lockdown, effective from 23:59 on Thursday, 26 March 2020, for a period of 21 days, to stop the spread of the COVID-19 corona virus until 23:59 on Thursday, 16 April 2020. 

SAMSA Master Logo“In compliance with the lockdown, the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) has sent out numerous communications on how the ports will be operating during this period.”

Following the revision of the tough restrictions since put in place at the outset of the national lockdown, SAMSA confirmed the following were now effective:

  • All South African ports remain open for port operations
  • Cargo operations will continue in all ports
  • Stevedore operations will continue in all ports and
  • All types of cargo will be allowed to be loaded and off loaded (and not just essential cargo).

According to SAMSA: “The Department of Transport recognises that there have been numerous instructions distributed by various entities, causing confusion amongst various entities, service providers and shipping companies. The Department of Transport would therefore like to clarify all requirements during the lockdown period as follows.

SOUTH AFRICAN PORTS

DSC_8149All South African Commercial Ports will remain operational for Cargo Work. These are Cape Town, Saldanha, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Port of Ngqura, East London, Durban,  and Richards Bay.

CARGO OPERATIONS

DSC_0872Following on the initial announcement by the President, there have been changes such as the enablement of the mining companies to approach their regulator Ministry on an individual basis and seek authorisation to continue operations, albeit on a limited basis.

Government has now decided that in the interest of ensuring a functional supply chain across all ports, that all cargoes will be accepted for loading and off-loading. Where possible, essential goods should receive preferential treatment over non-essential goods.

Transnet will be in a position to communicate which of its operations will be reactivated with the relevant customers and logistics partners.

Transnet will reactivate certain of its operations, these would be at a reduced level and not full capacity. The reactivated operations will be dictated to by the applicable regulatory framework, national priorities and contribution to the health of the economy and Transnet’s ability to deploy its resources, having regard to people safety, which is of paramount importance.

Transnet’s current priorities, in addition to all the essential services previously communicated, are: .

  • The integrated container logistics system mainly around the Port of Durban and the link to the economic hub in Gauteng – ensuring that the complex system remains efficient to enable the movement of priority and essential containerized goods; this includes the movement of non-essential cargo to City Deep, only for purposes of decongesting the Port of Durban, .
  • The heavy haul rail and ports export system from the Northern Cape to the Port of Saldanha; and .
  • The domestic and export Coal and other GFB cargo through the Port of Richards Bay.

All other specific approvals granted by Government, which are dependent on the rest of the South African rail and ports system will be considered on a case by case basis, and our ability to respond responsibly will be communicated directly to customers making applications based on Government approvals granted.

Customers are to ensure thatall applications and evidence of approvals are submitted to the Transnet Customer Nerve Center via email at transnet.cnc@transnet.net

Commodity managers and key account executives normally dealing with each customer remains the primary point of contact and channel of communication with all our customers.

STEVEDORING OPERATIONS

DSC_8531The provision of Transnet’s service is subject to customers and their cargo handlers/siding operators taking necessary measures to protect Transnet staff who interface with their operations.

All port personnel (both Transnet, private stevedoring and any other category of employees) must have access to hygiene services, e.g. sanitation, soap and water which each employer shall cause to be provided together with standard operating procedures to ensure the highest hygiene practices.

This therefore means strict adherence to health and safety protocols will not be compromised. Customers must provide Transnet with the Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and update Transnet daily on the status of their employees.

VESSEL OPERATIONS

DSC_5977Masters are to ensure that where possible the following standards are adhered to by the ship’s officers and ratings:

  1. Social Distancing maintained (between 1-2 meters between persons) .
  2. Crew to follow hand hygiene protocols i.e. regular washing of hands (20 seconds or more) .
  3. Personal Protective Equipment to be utilised i.e. Face Masks, Gloves, Boiler Suites, Disposable Boiler Suits (where possible), Safety Boots, Hard Hats, Safety Glasses .
  4. Any medical condition that develops during the ports stay are to be reported to Port Health immediately, focusing specifically on the following symptoms:
  • Dry Cough
  • Consistent Fever (>38.5°C)
  • Difficulty in Breathing (severe cases)
  • Tiredness

If any crew member displays these symptoms, they are to be immediately isolated until advised otherwise by Port Health. Failure to comply may result in unduly delays to vessels in port or prevent cargo operations from continuing.

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE MARITIME NATIONAL JOINT OPERATIONS COMMITTEE (MNJOC) FOR THE COORDINATION OF THE MARITIME SECTOR DURING THE COVID 19 DISASTER MANAGEMENT

The Department of Transport has established a Maritime National Joint Operations Committee in order to coordinate the maritime sector for the period of the COVID 19 Disaster Management.

The MNJOC is linked to the National Command Council and comprises the following entities; Department of Transport, Transnet National Ports Authority, SAMSA and Ports Regulator

All queries related to the maritime sector during this period can be addressed to: mnjoc@samsa.org.za

(For the full and complete Marine Notice 21: 2020 please click the following link: http://www.samsa.org.za/Pages/Marine-Notices.aspx?RootFolder=%2FMarine%20Notices%2F2020&FolderCTID=0x0120003FE4AD37303F0248BE054A403FCF70C5&View=%7BF8CE201C%2DE919%2D4C08%2DB8DC%2DD9DD160A2FA2%7D)

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Maritime sector Covid-19 restrictions under constant review as South Africa settles with 21 day lockdown

Pretoria: 28 March 2019

Certain tough restrictions imposed on every aspect of life in South Africa on the basis of the country’s recent declaration of a state of National Disaster, as well as a three weeks population lockdown that began on midnight Thursday (March 26), as a response to the global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, are constantly receiving reviewal, according to the Department of Transport.

For the maritime sector, one such strict restriction is that related to the entry and exit of seafarers and associated personnel at any of the country’s ports, which are virtually closed to all international trade cargo except that deemed to be essential supplies.

In terms of the new special rules, vessels dropping anchor at or near any of the country’s ports are not allowed disembarkment of seafarers and therefore not permitted to change crews, even if the seafarers are South African.

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South Africa Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula

However, in a statement in Pretoria on Friday, Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula said that specific restriction was urgently being reviewed, this coming in the wake of an incident in Durban, where  a crew of  six (6) South African seafarers on a cruise ship, the Queen Mary 2 (erroneously named as the Queen Elizabeth 2), were disallowed disembarkment, according to the lockdown rules.

“These South Africans want to disembark and return home.  However, our regulations do not allow crew changes at any of our ports, even if these are South Africans. The Queen Mary 2 is waiting for clearance to enter the port in order to refuel and take provisions.  This is a matter we are urgently considering,’ said Mr Mbalula in Pretoria on Friday.

The confirmation of the reviewal came as South Africa ended its first of 21 days of a national lockdown in terms of a declared State of Natonal Disaster in line with a global scramble to ward off or limit the grossly negative impacts of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic now in its fourth month since its outbreak in China in December 2019.

As of Friday, the start of the national lockdown, South Africa recorded a rising figure of just over 1000 people found infected by the virus as well as confirmation of the death of the first person due to the pandemic.

The Health Ministry in a report on Friday gave a breakdown of the nature and extent of infection, stating that of the total 1170 people so far found to be positive of the Covid-19 virus, those hospitalised (both public and private) included 55 patients in intensive care units and three (3) in ventilations while 31 had recovered.

Of those infected, a total 4407 of those with whom they had been in contact had been identified and of these, 3465 successfully traced for their locations. The ministry also raised alarm that: “There is an increase in the rate of internal transmissions. Patients without a history of travelling abroad have been detected in many provinces.” – a situation giving justification to a clampdown n the movement of people between provinces and districts during the 21 day nationwide lockdown in order to prevent further infections.

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The SA Agulhas, South Africa’s dedicated cadet training vessel owned and operated by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

Meanwhile, with regards the fate of seafarers, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), announced a raft of measures aimed at assisting the country’s seafarers.

The statement said:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Republic of South Africa announced measures to combat the spread of the disease by declaring a State of Disaster and putting the country on lockdown effective midnight on 26 March 2020.

“The results of such lockdown is that all businesses are required to close doors except for those offering essential services. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and its stakeholders have been affected by the lockdown as a result only with essential services being rendered. As such, the services for seafarers which are rendered directly by SAMSA and/or its clients/stakeholders may not be delivered during the lockdown, viz:

  1. No training of seafarers for short courses over the period, academic programmes may continue through ‘e-learning’ platforms
  2. No assessments for seafarer certification will be undertaken during this period.
  3. No eye sights test will be undertaken during the period.

The results of this is that seafarers whose certificates expire during this period are not able to attend re-fresher training whilst some are unable to sign-off their vessels. SAMSA has granted a general extension to all certificates expiring during the National State of Disaster as set out in the Marine Notice.

For this purpose, the production of the said Marine Notice shall be sufficient for Seafarers working on vessels trading within the South African Ports.

Seafarers working on foreign vessels may be required to produce specific individual documents expressing the extension of the certificate. To this end, seafarers and the employers may obtain such extension by completing the application forms below.

All extension requests shall be made using the form below;

Certificate extension Application Form – FOP-524.8 – Extension of Certificate.pdf

 We have also provided guidance below;

Completing Extension Form Guide – Completing Extension Form guide.docx

Users are requested to download the form from the link above and not to share with other persons to prevent missing out on changes that will produce negative results or return incorrect information. The system requires that all fields be completed correctly to ensure that the correct information is distributed.

Enquiries should be directed to the Registrar of Seafarers at seafarers@samsa.org.za  or the Chief Examiner at exams@samsa.org.za

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