Covid-19 lockdown regulations eased for SA seafarers during Level 3 : SAMSA

SAMSA File Photo

Pretoria: 03 June 2020

Consistent with revised Government regulations for the national lockdown for Level 3 announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa a week ago, and effective on 01 June 2020, South African seafarers are now allowed to freely embark and disembark vessels in South Africa or abroad.

In addition, clarity has also been provided on restrictions under national lockdown under the different levels, affecting the operations of small vessels.

This is according to two Marine Notices No.30 and No.31 issued by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in Pretoria this week as promised by Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula at the weekend.

According to SAMSA in terms of Marine Notice No.30 (Crew Changes); “All South African seafarers will be permitted to embark or disembark vessels either in South Africa or Internationally. Returning seafarers will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

“South African seafarers wishing to join a vessel, should preferably self-quarantine for 14-days prior to embarking. It is further recommended that seafarers undergo a Covid-19 test prior to joining a vessel.”

SAMSA File Photo

Giving contenxt to the periodically revised regulations SAMSA says: “Shipping is vital to the world supply chain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that all personnel involved are protected from infection, including those onboard ships and shore personnel who may need to temporarily go onboard ships or interact with seafarers.

“Many seafarers on board ships (and personnel in the offshore industry) have been on enforced extended contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic, with restrictions on travel making it difficult for crew to leave ships and for new crew to join ships. These extended stays on board could have significant repercussions for crew wellbeing as well as for safe ship operations.”

However, with South Africa effectively still under national lockdown due to the global war against the Covid-19 pandemic, according to SAMSA, foreign seafarers continue to be prohibited from disembarking on South African soil in terms of the newly revised regulations.

The Marine Notice reads: “No foreign Seafarers will be permitted to embark or disembark vessels in South Africa, unless prior arrangements have been agreed upon between the seafarers’ Embassy and Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Department of Home Affairs and Department of Health.”

The notice further sets out guideliness on various other aspects relevant to the national lockdown such as medical evacuations, health declarations and international travel regulations, and about which the shipping community is urged to closely study for understanding and compliance with.

Meanwhile, Marine Notice No.31 (SAMSA’s risk-based response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Small Vessels and Essential Fishing Vessels) brings about clarity on regulations governing the activities of small vessels during the national lockdown, according to the five (5) levels.

According to SAMSA; ‘This Marine Notice covers the services that will be provided to vessels under the survey region by SAMSA. This does not preclude any operations which may be prohibited by other Government Deparments and Disaster Management Regulations (DMA).

“Owners and vessel operators are to ensure that they have a full understanding of any DMA regulations issued by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).”

In a table containing a list of 13 vessel operations related activities, the notice outlines which of these permitted under each of the national lockdown five (5) levels.

In addition, it also gives claritiy on regulations with respect to certificates of fitness, safe manning, and related matters. “SAMSA requests all stakeholders within the small boating fraternity to abide by the lockdown protocol as detailed in this Marine Notice and any regulations published in terms of the DISASTER MANAGEMENT ACT, 2002. The relevant risk level will change as determined by the DMA and may be different in the various provinces depending on the spread of the virus,” states the notice.

SAMSA File Photo

In a separate development, SAMSA also confirmed in a media statement on Tuesday, the final safe docking of the crippled China flagged crude oil tanker, the VLCC Yuan Hua Hu, at the port of Durban on Tuesday morning.

The statement reads:

“The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) wishes to confirm that the VLCC “Yuan Hua Hu” has been successfully berthed alongside Durban. This morning, at 0500 a Chemist attended the vessel offshore and completed a Gas-free Test to ensure that the tanker posed no risk to the port. The Chemist cleared the vessel and the tanker was allowed to approach the pilot boarding station with both the tugs “Pacific Dolphin” and “Siyanda” in tow.

The towing tugs successfully handed the tanker over to four Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) tugs, two TNPA Pilots, who executed the berthing of the tanker. The tanker ran into difficulties off Port St Johns  on the 27th of May 2020  and was immobilised. She was unable to use her engines while drifting towards shore off and was arrested while she was 0.4 nautical miles from the beach.

The vessel was not carrying any cargo and all  27 crew on-board the casualty vessel are reported to be safe and no injuries were reported. The vessel has been boomed off to prevent any pollution while she undergoes repairs by a team of specialists.

To ensure that due diligence is carried out, a SAMSA Port State Control Inspector will conduct an inspection on the tanker today (2 June 2020) to verify that the tanker complies with all international regulations. SAMSA would like to specifically thank the Master and Crew of the “Siyanda” and the “Pacific Dolphin” who successfully towed the vessel to Durban from Port St Johns.

SAMSA also wishes to acknowledge the exceptional teamwork displayed among the multi-disciplinary team, comprising some of South Africa’s top maritime experts, including  the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), AMSOL, Transnet National Port Authority(TNPA), Smit Marine South Africa, P&I Associates, National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) and SAMSA first responders.

End