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 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
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.
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.
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)
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)