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 thanks AU for support at IMO Council elections: Chikunga

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South Africa’s Transport Department Deputy Minister, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga casting her vote for the country’s retention of its seat in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council during last week’s IMO Assembly elections in London. (Photo: IMO)

CAPE TOWN: 04 December 2017

South Africa has expressed appreciation for the continued support it is receiving from the African Union, this after the southern tip of Africa’s country lobbied successfully to retain its seat in the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Council in London on Friday.

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Gifts and wraps! Some of the items shared with IMO Assembly members by South Africa in London a week ago during its lobby for reelection onto the IMO Council

Despite South Africa having served on the IMO Council and its Assembly since 1995, deriving in part from a relationship established as far as 1948, election for a seat onto the IMO Council is not a foregone conclusion and the 40 Member States that serve on it have to wage a convincing campaign among the 176 countries that make up the United Nations maritime affairs body’s Assembly.

During the IMO Assembly’s  30th Regular Session in London last week, the situation was not any different. The IMO Assembly has been meeting in London since 25 November 2017 and will wrap up business for the session on Thursday this week, (06 December).

Voting to elect new Member States to the IMO Council for the 2018-2019 period took place last Friday – the 5th day of the 30th Regular Session of the Assembly and South Africa emerged among the 40 Member States that will now serve on the council in the next two years.

The IMO Council, – the supervisory structure of the IMO Assembly over two year periods between sessions – is made up of three categories of Member States;

 

Four South Africans rescued from sinking yacht off Mozambique Channel: SAMSA

Setting sails for a brighter future!

Pretoria: Wednesday, 25 November 2015

EXPLORING LIGHTHOUSES: Mr Morakabe Seakgwa (red tie), Senior Manager, Projects Co-ordination at the South Africa Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Centre for Maritime Excellence, along with Ms Cloris Ngwenya (seated left at top of the table) SAMSA's CME Co-ordinator, having a leisurely chat with members of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce at the Pretoria home of the Philippines Ambassador to South Africa on Monday.
EXPLORING LIGHTHOUSES: Mr Morakabe Seakgwa (red tie), Senior Manager, Projects Co-ordination at the South Africa Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Centre for Maritime Excellence, along with Ms Cloris Ngwenya (seated left at top of the table) SAMSA’s CME Co-ordinator, having a leisurely chat with members of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce at the Pretoria home of the Philippines Ambassador to South Africa on Monday.

Deepening South Africa’s efforts towards rejuvenation of its maritime economic sector precisely through expanded education, training and skills development requires as much planning as it does focused engagement with partners, local and international.

It was with appreciation of that reality when early evening on Monday,  a delegation of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) joined a Philippines business delegation at the Pretoria home of the Philippines’ Ambassador to South Africa for a casual yet exploratory chat about possible links that could benefit both countries in the field of maritime.

Also in attendance were representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and appropriately, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco).

Led by its president, Teresa B. Chan, the Cebu Chamber of Commerce delegation had been in the country since November 18, meeting its business chamber counterparts in Cape Town and Johannesburg, before a brief tour of the region ending in Pretoria.

SAMSA’s interest in meeting the business group hinged on its knowledge and involvement in maritime economy development issues, specifically opportunities for cooperation in education, training and skills development and about which the Philippines is acknowledged globally.

To read more of this story go here:

FOUR SA YOUTHS HEAD FOR VIETNAM FOR MARITIME ECONOMY STUDIES

Pretoria: 15 September 2015

Four South African youths pursuing maritime sector academic studies will jet off to Vietnam today where they will be enrolled at the Vietnam Maritime University for the duration of their studies.

CALLING ON HANOI: Four South African youths jetting off from O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg Wednesday (September 16, 2015) headed for the Vietnam Maritime University in Hanoi are (From Left) Kentse Matshira (21), Mpumelelo Ndebele (27), Mandisa Mthembu (18) and Mthunzi Makupula (20).
CALLING ON HANOI: Four South African youths jetting off from O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg Wednesday (September 16, 2015) headed for the Vietnam Maritime University in Hanoi are (From Left) Kentse Matshira (21), Mthunzi Makupula (20), Mandisa Mthembu (18) and Mpumelelo Ndebele (27).

To read more about this development click here