SAMSA and Home Affairs Dept lock hands to unblock SA seafarers’ passports renewal

Pretoria: 11 February 2021

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA says problems encountered by South African seafarers at Department of Home Affairs relating directly to renewal of their expired or expiring passports are being attended to and hopefully soon, these will be resolved.

The SAMSA statement in Pretoria on Thursday comes in the form of a Marine Notice 2 of 2021. The notice comes barely a week after the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), of which South Africa is a Member State, confirmed the country’s ratification of a resolution involving 50 other Member States, granting seafarers globally the status of ‘essential workers’.

In the notice, SAMSA acknowledges that with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and numerous problems arising since about a year ago, some due to Government’s counter-measures against the spread of the virus, such as the national lockdown at different levels since March 2020, seafarers but especially South African seafarers, have been among workforces who have suffered most even as the maritime sector remained operational for the longest of time under the circumstances to date.

In the notice, SAMSA in further acknowledgment of the effort put up by the South African government through various departments inclusive of the Department of Transport under which shipping transport falls, states nevertheless that: “….as much as Maritime Transport remained essential in the eyes of the world’s authorities as it continued to be allowed to operate under different lockdown regimes around the world, seafarers were forgotten. Crew changes were banned in many countries during the first half of 2020.

“This caused mayhem in the maritime industry as seafarers struggled to sign-off vessels and relievers struggled to get to ships. This resulted in what some termed as the humanitarian crisis at sea as seafarers had to stay on board for extended periods. Another humanitarian crisis was brewing at home as seafarers who had made it home before travel bans struggled to get back to the ships and were left without income for extended periods.”

According to SAMSA in the notice, even with global strides being made to alleviate the plight of seafarers globally, this inclusive of sets of resolutions by the IMO, the United Nations as well as organised business calling for seafarers to be declared ‘essential workers; with the second surge of Covid-19 infections in South Africa in  the latter part of 2020, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs scaled down operations, in the process suspending applications for passports except for people under certain categories permitted to travel.

In this regard, SAMSA says even as the country’s seafarers were classified under Category 2, (people allowed to travel), several seafarers reportedly encountered problems when seeking to renew their passports at various offices of the Department of Home Affairs across the country.

“South African seafarers have been allowed to disembark and join vessels within the South African ports from as early as level 1 of lockdown. From 10 June 2020 they could travel internationally via repatriation flights to fulfil contractual obligations. SAMSA and the Department of Transport are currently engaged in talks with the relevant departments to ensure this matter is resolved,” announced SAMSA.

In the meantime, SAMSA called on all South African seafarers still battling to renew their passports to contact the organisation.

“When renewing a passport, the seafarer must take the following documents to the Department of Home Affairs office:

(1) Letter from the company, declaring you as a seafarer, employed and an essential key worker.

(2) Copy of the IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.35/Rev.3 which states that seafarers have been declared key workers (essential workers). A copy is attached to this Marine Notice.

“Should a seafarer experience any problems regarding renewal of a passport, kindly forward the following to welfare@samsa.org.za:

  • Name and Surname.
  • Contact details.
  • Company name.
  • Department of Home Affairs office visited.

The details, according to SAMSA, will allow the agency to take matters up with relevant authorities.

End.

Arrested Chinese vessel faces more charges – to remain in custody until fines are paid: SAMSA

Pretoria: 18 May 2016

The Chinese fishing vessel, Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186 captured and arrested by South African authorities last weekend after being found to have conducted itself illegally, is to remain in South African custody until all fines imposed on its owners have been settled, alternatively, a court case is instituted, goes on trial and concluded.

An image of the Chinese vessel, Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186. Courtesy of Independent Online
An image of the Chinese vessel, Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186. Courtesy of Independent Online

This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) which on Wednesday (18 May 2016) announced to have found that the vessel had contravened environmental laws governing the country’s territorial waters.

In the statement, SAMSA said its investigation had established that documentation of the vessel was  in order. However, it had been found to have violated the country’s environmental laws governing the oceans. SAMSA confirmed that: “the fishing vessel was detained today and two Admission of Contraventions were issued to the master and owner of the vessel.

“The detention and fines were issued because of an unauthorised pump and flexible pipes from the engine room bilges directly over the side and that no Oil Record Book was available on board the vessel.

An image taken by SAMSA investigators aboard the Chinese vessel arrested in Cape Town and which show the condition of some of the water and oil management pipeline on the vessel.
An image taken by SAMSA investigators aboard the Chinese fishing vessel arrested in Cape Town and which show the condition of some of the water and oil management pipeline on the vessel.

“This is a direct violation of our marine pollution legislation. The vessel will only be released once the two non-conformities has been rectified and detention fee paid.

“We still have to wait to see if the master and owner will accept and pay the Admission of Contraventions or prefer to go to court, in which case we will have to lay charges at the police station and allow the law to takes its course,” said SAMSA in a statement.

The organisation further said that the country’s ports authority, the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and other relevant authorities had been notified of the detention.

DAFF briefed on findings

Earlier on Wednesday, SAMSA officials also met and briefed the Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga of their findings and determination following a visit and on board investigation of the vessel by the organisation’s surveyors on Monday afternoon.

A second image taken by SAMSA investigators aboard the Chinese vessel arrested in Cape Town and which show the condition of some of the water and oil management pipeline on the vessel.
A second image taken by SAMSA investigators aboard the Chinese vessel arrested in Cape Town and which show the condition of some of the water and oil management pipeline on the vessel.

The SAMSA findings and fines will be in addition to a set of others fines imposed on the vessel by other South African authorities including DAFF and SARS.

This followed the capture and arrest of the Chinese fishing vessel with nine crew on board on Friday last week off the coast of the Eastern Cape and berthed at the port of Cape Town.

It and several similar vessels believed to be from the same company, en route to the DR Congo were sought to be rounded up by DAFF officials for inspection following reports of suspicious behaviour, but refused.

According to DAFF, the vessels were initially rounded up and ordered to obey officials, but soon scattered and disappeared, except for the one that was eventually captured and arrested.

A DAFF spokesman, Ms Bomikazi Molapo said: “The crew claimed to have been travelling to the Democratic Republic of Congo where they claim they were going to fish and claim to have the necessary permits to do so. We have also established that this fleet of nine vessels is related and belong to the same company.”

Shortly after its berthing at the Cape Town harbour on Saturday, according to DAFF, rummaging was conducted on the captured vessel involving the South African Police Service (SAPS), the South African Revenue Services (SARS) as well as the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Ms Molapo said while the early investigators found no fish on board the vessel, it had however violated the country’s Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) in that the fishing vessel entered the country’s EEZ without the authority of a valid permit.

“The vessel also contravened Section 56 (2) in that (the) Master or crew member of the fishing vessel in question, did not immediately comply with lawful instruction as given by a fishery control officer and also did not facilitate the safe boarding, entry and inspection of the fishing vessel,” she said.

Due to these violations, DAFF issued a seizure notice that will involve the vessel, its gear and equipment, stores as well as cargo.

In terms of this, the vessel will not be allowed to leave the port of Cape Town or relocate to any other berthing space within the port, unless authorized to do so by DAFF.

According to DAFF, SARS had also fined the vessel R8 000 for tobacco and cigarette related charges. SAPS was also following up and investigating a case involving the keeping of dogs in the vessel.

Centre for Sea Watch and Response had kept an eye on the vessels

A screen image of the tracked route of the 10 Chinese fishing vessels that went past the South African coast and one of which was captured following to violation of some of the country's territorial waters' management laws.
A SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch and Response tracking system screen image of the tracked route of the 10 Chinese fishing vessels that went past the South African coast and one of which was captured following to violation of some of the country’s territorial waters’ management laws.

Meanwhile, it has since dawned that the SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch and Response (CSWR) had actually tracked a number of the vessels as soon as they were within South Africa’s territorial waters on 07 May 2016 and according to its report, the Chinese fishing vessels had left China at the end of March 2016 destined for the Congo in West Africa.

The Centre said it had tracking AIS data for only six of vessels, indicating that carriage of AIS transponders for fishing vessels was a “flag State” requirement and that not all fishing vessels carried these devices.

A SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch and Rescue image showing the location of the rest of the Chinese fishing vessels along the Namibian coast earlier this week
A SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch and Response image showing the location of the rest of the Chinese fishing vessels along the Namibian coast earlier this week

This notwithstanding, the Centre said it had noted that the 10 vessels were detected by MRCC Mauritius and their National Coast Guard (NCG) aircraft was launched to interrogate (them). Their identities were established as Lu Huang Yuan Yu 185, 187, 197 and 199 and these were heading towards Congo.

Six others, the Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186, 188,189,195, 198, and Xu Huo 9618 were bound for Port Louis, and arrived on 28 April before departing on 01 May after bunkering at outer anchorage.

The Centre said: “The vessels entered SA waters on 07 May; passing through territorial waters off Richards Bay about 19h00 on 08 May, and Durban on 09 May; then Port Elizabeth on 10 May and rounded Cape Agulhas on 11 May, and off Cape Town about 14h00 on 12 May heading toward Saldanha Bay area. This is a distance of about 880 miles in about 91 hours which equates to an average speed of 9,6 knots.

A SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch and Rescue tracking system image showing the actual route taken by the Chinese vessels since leaving China about two months ago.
A SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch and Response tracking system image showing the actual route taken by the Chinese vessels since leaving China about two months ago.

According to the Centre, the track data of the six vessels indicate that they entered the SA coast near Richards Bay and stayed within the territorial zone all the way and passed Cape Town in keeping with their response to the Mauritian Authority of heading to the Congo.

The Centre said following the attempted roundup of the fishing vessels for inspection by the DAFF’s coast guard vessel, the FPV Victoria Mxenge, about 25 miles SW of Saldanha, the vessels dispersed and eventually continued heading northward towards Namibian waters.

SAMSA said that Namibian authorities had since been informed about the alleged incidents in South African waters.

The latest tracks show eight of the 10 vessels off Angola, outside of their EEZ.

End.

Fate of arrested Chinese vessel in Cape Town to be determined soon

Pretoria: 16 May 2016

An image of the Chinese vessel, Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186. Courtesy of Independent Online
An image of the Chinese vessel, Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186 arrested by South African authorities off the Eastern Cape coast at the weekend now berthed at the Cape Town harbour. (Image courtesy of Independent Online

The fate of the Chinese vessel, Lu Huang Yuan Yu 186, currently docked in Cape Town after being successfully chased and captured by South African authorities off the Eastern Cape coast at the weekend will soon be fully determined by the extent to which it violated both the country’s laws and international conventions.

The vessel is one of several – about nine – possibly from the same company believed to have entered and operated in South African waters illegally about a week ago.

On Monday (May 16) the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) confirmed that it had begun investigations of the vessel relating to its conduct in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Captains Karl Otto and Gustav Louw confirmed that SAMSA surveyors boarded the vessel on Monday afternoon and their findings would be shared as soon as they were available.

According to SAMSA, the investigation is looking precisely into the vessel’s seaworthiness inclusive of its condition, its operation certificates as well as those of the crew, the vessel’s manning conditions, as well as its general conduct in South African waters involving its radio availability and responsiveness to South African authorities.

A SAMSA team set out early Monday to investigate the vessel and to make a determination of its overall condition and conduct.

The SAMSA ship surveyors team’s findings will add to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) investigations and findings at the weekend shortly after the cornering and arrest of the vessel in Cape Town.

Shortly after its berthing at the Cape Town harbour on Saturday, according to DAFF, rummaging was conducted on the captured vessel involving the South African Police Services (SAPS), the South African Revenue Services (SARS) as well as the Department of Home Affairs.

“There was a total of nine crew members on board,” said DAFF’s spokesperson, Bomikazi Molapo, also confirming that no fish was found onboard the vessel.

She said: “The crew claimed to have been travelling to the Democratic Republic of Congo where they claim they were going to fish and claim to have the necessary permits to do so. We have also established that this fleet of nine vessels is related and belong to the same company.”

Ms Molapo said while the early investigators found no fish on board the vessel, it had however violated the country’s Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) in that the fishing vessel entered the country’s EEZ without the authority of a valid permit.

“The vessel also contravened Section 56 (2) in that (the) Master or crew member of the fishing vessel in question, did not immediately comply with lawful instruction as given by a fishery control officer and also did not facilitate the safe boarding, entry and inspection of the fishing vessel,” she said.

Due to these violations, DAFF issued a seizure notice that will involve the vessel, its gear and equipment, stores as well as cargo.

In terms of this, the vessel will not be allowed to leave the port of Cape Town or relocate to any other berthing space within the port, unless authorized to do so by DAFF.

According to DAFF, SARS had also fined the vessel R8 000 for tobacco and cigarette related charges. SAPS was also following up and investigating a case involving the keeping of dogs in the vessel.

Meanwhile, Ms Molapo confirmed that an alert had been issued to neighboring countries, Namibia and Mozambique to be on the look for the rest of the vessels that have since disappeared. “DAFF has notified and registered an intention to get all the nine vessels red flagged with regional fisheries management organizations,” she said.
End