SAMSA joins University of KwaZulu-Natal for study of Covid-19 pandemic impacts on South African seafarers

Pretoria: 09 April 2021

With more than 133-million people globally infected by the Covid-19 pandemic and close on 3-million of these having succumbed to the virus as of Wednesday this week, the true full impacts of the virus on human society – a full year after its outbreak in Wuhan, China in late 2019 – have yet to be determined.

This notwithstanding, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the suffering by those already affected has been intense and among the victims already reeling from the impacts of the pandemic are millions of seafarers worldwide, thousands of them being South Africans.

It was for that reason that the agency, under the supervision of the Department of Transport, has thrown its full weight behind a survey undertaken by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) to collect information directly from South African seafarers that will assist indicate the nature and extent of the Covid-19 pandemic impacts on them.

The survey led by UKZN Professor Shaun Ruggunan, seeks to; “….investigate the impact of Covid on South African seafarers.  This survey specifically focuses on how Covid has impacted South African seafarer’s in terms of their work-life balance and the impact of Covid on their mental, emotional and physical well-being,” says the university in a statement.

Said Prof Ruggunan: “We hope that the survey will allow us to show how important seafarers are to the national and global economy and bring greater attention to their work and challenges during the pandemic. The results will be shared and potentially drive or inform policies of employee well-being for SA seafarers. The survey will benefit both employers, seafarers, agencies and seafarer labour market institutions.”

SAMSA File Photo.

Unregistered seafarers far more at risk of negative Covid-19 pandemic impacts

SAMSA

For SAMSA, the initiative was of critical importance and value in more than one respect with regards the country’s seafarers, according to Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe. Generally, he says, seafarers can be described as operating virtually under the radar – that is, taking up employment with various companies domestically and globally yet without formal registration, and therefore now currently suffering the impacts of Covid-19 without being noticed for assistance.

Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe. Manager: OHS & Maritime Welfare. SAMSA

“The impact of Covid-19 has been felt worldwide. Seafarers have not been spared. Seafarers have been working throughout, as maritime transport is responsible for carrying 90% of world cargo by volume. It was essential that shipping continued to operate through various lockdown regimes implemented by different countries. This ensured that critical movement of supplies of food, medicine, including medical equipment remained unhindered during lockdown,” says Mr Rantsoabe.

However, several countries across the world inclusive of many that are South Africa’s trading partners in Asia, Western Europe and the American continent embarking on variable states of national lockdown to this day, seafarers struggled and continue to, with millions finding themselves unable to sign off in various ports around the world due to travel restrictions.

“Some seafarers including South Africans found themselves stuck in vessels for much longer periods than they signed for. This led to the situation being termed ‘the humanitarian crisis at seas’,” said Mr Rantsoabe, pointing to the intervention that soon ensued in the global maritime sector led by both the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other interested and affected parties, calling for seafarers to be declared “key workers”.

With the full backing of the United Nations, the intervention soon succeeded as the IMO, in a Circular letter No.4204/Add.35/Rev.4 issued on 05 February 2021 advised that 55 of its Member States, including South Africa had signed a resolution to declare seafarers “key workers”.

“This has not stopped seafarers suffering due to stringent travel restrictions still in place in various jurisdictions,” said Mr Rantsoabe, adding that because of this very fact, SAMSA – through its welfare section – continues to seek ways to ensure that the country’s seafarers are not left alone to battle with Covid-19 pandemic induced conditions at work.

“Hundreds of South African seafarers found themselves stranded in various parts of the world. SAMSA through its welfare programme managed to assist hundreds of seafarers reach home through various direct and indirect interventions which included advising shipping companies on the processes involved in travelling back to South Africa via repatriation flights and best routes for flying South Africans home. The interventions included direct contact with seafarers, employers of South African seafarers and NPO’s with interest in seafarer welfare. 

SAMSA File Photo

“There are still many seafarers that SAMSA could not reach especially cruise staff. Since these seafarers’ occupations do not fall under the SAMSA qualification framework, it was and remains impossible for SAMSA to understand the numbers involved. In addition, cruise staff generally leave the country through recruitment agencies that are not accredited by SAMSA. As such SAMSA is unable to account for them. It is important to note that ‘generally, SAMSA does not get to know when any seafarer leaves the country to take up employment overseas. This has proved to be a major problem as SAMSA struggled to quantify the problem and help required,” he said.

On the UKZN survey, Mr Rantsoabe said: “SAMSA was approached by UKZN for support on the study on impact of covid-19 on seafarer welfare. SAMSA having considered the aim and content of the study fully supports this study. UKZN committed to sharing the results with SAMSA which will provide the Authority with much needed information.

“It is very important that SAMSA gets a full picture of what is/was faced by seafarers during this difficult period. The results will assist SAMSA as we continue to advance the interest of seafarers in various forums within government. The study will also provide information that will help shape the Authority’s welfare offering. All seafarers are encouraged to complete the survey as it will help SAMSA better understand the impact of Covid-19 on seafarers,” said Mr Rantsoabe.

Meanwhile, Prof Ruggunan stated that: “Participation is voluntary, anonymous and confidential and no survey can be traced back to any individual. The survey takes approximately 6 to 7 minutes only and can be accessed on a phone or computer via the link provided (see headline pic above) or by clicking on the photo placed on the landing page of this blog platform, or one placed on the landing page of the SAMSA website.

For further information, alternatively queries; these may be directed to Prof Ruggunan either by email or mobile phone as follows: ruggunans@ukzn.ac.za, cell: 079 1970 743. Also, for all seafarer welfare issues, seafarers both South African and international can correspond with SAMSA through the following email address: welfare@samsa.org.za

End.


Called out to save lives at sea, SAMSA responds accordingly, as fate of foreign crew stranded in SA remain unclear

IMG_8574 email.JPG
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.

IMG_8585 email

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.

End

Please note that this story has been updated to provide additional details and correct certain inaccuracies.

Sound international relations with other maritime countries a key building block for SA maritime sector development: SAMSA

DSC_3585.JPG
SHARING KNOWLEDGE: Some of the international delegates from three South East Asian countries currently visiting South Africa for workshop of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention 188 conducted by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) at the request of the ILO in Cape Town this week.  The photo was taken during their visit of fishing group I&J at the port of Cape Town on Tuesday.

Cape Town: 28 August 2019

South Africa’s quest and determination to be a global maritime centre of excellence in a few years’ time can only occur if the country also maintains sound relations with its counterparts elsewhere in the world through sharing of knowledge and experiences of its own maritime sector development.

This is according to South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) acting Chief Executive Officer. Mr Sobantu Tilayi who this week welcomed more than two dozen delegates from three South East Asian countries, who are in the country to learn about South Africa’s pioneering approach to safety and security work conditions for the country’s fishing sub-sector labour force.

It was the second such international maritime countries meeting in South Africa in two successive weeks, this following to the Indian Ocean Memorandum of Understanding (IOMOU) Port State Control Committee 22nd annual meeting also held in Cape Town the previous week.

This week’s five day workshop for Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines and conducted at the behest of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is also focused on the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No 188) that came into effect recently.

The C188 objectives, according to the ILO, are “to ensure that fishers have decent conditions of work on board fishing vessels with regard to minimum requirements for work on board; conditions of service; accommodation and food; occupational safety and health protection; medical care and social security.”

The ILO says that, except where exemptions are granted, the convention applies to all fishers and all fishing vessels engaged in commercial fishing operations worldwide.

South Africa, which had already made notable advances in the development and improvement of working conditions for fishers, was the first country in the world to implement the convention in 2017. 

IMG_8355
Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Acting Chief Executive Officer: SAMSA

In a brief interview outside the workshop in Cape Town this week, Mr Tilayi said it was significant for the country that other countries of the world we noticing the role South Africa had played and continues to with regards to fishers’s improved working conditions.

This, he said, had major positive implications for South Africa’s quest and plan to become an international maritime centre of excellence by 2030.

For Mr Tilayi’s full remarks on the subject, Click on the video  below:

The SAMSA led week-long workshop that began on Monday in Cape Town has on its agenda, discussions on:

  • South Africa’s implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No.188) since its ratification in 2013.
  • South Africa’s Maritime Legislative framework and the institutional arrangements in the implementation of the ratified Work in Fishing Convention.
  • The amendments to the South Africa Merchant Shipping Act to cater for the Work in Fishing Convention.
  • The practical implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention with visits to different types of vessels.
  • Showcasing the implementation of the safety construction of fishing vessels (new builds).

It will wrap up on Friday with visits by the delegates to fishing companies in Cape Town, Saldanha Bay as well as St Helena Bay.

End

 

South Africa shares experiences with Asian countries about fishing safety: SAMSA

DSC_3228
South Africa and three South East Asian countries’ delegates to this week’s workshop on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) C188 workshop in Cape Town.

Cape Town: 27 August 2019

South Africa’s leading role globally on development of safety and security measures for fishermen – inclusive of its pioneering role in the implementation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 188 two years ago – is proving a draw card for most other countries also keen on improving labour conditions for their workers in the fishing sector.

In Cape Town this week, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is hosting delegates from South East Asia countries to share knowledge and experiences accumulated in the development of safety and security for fishermen on board fishing vessels.

img_8392.jpgAlso attending the South Africa (ILO) C188 Workshop for the South East Asian countries are local labour and bargaining council organisations in the fishing sector, as well as some of the major employers in the sector.

From South East Asia are officials from Thailand’s Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, the Thai Office of Maritime Security Affairs, Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Ministry of Manpower as well as those from the Philippines’ Bureau of Working Conditions.

IMG_8355
Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Acting Chief Executive Officer: SAMSA

Addressing the approximately thirty three delegates during the start of the workshop on Monday, SAMSA acting CEO Sobantu Tilayi said the gathering was being held in response to a request from the ILO for South Africa to assist with hosting inspectors from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines who are interested in seeing a port-state fishing/labour inspection regime in action.

The ILO had identified South Africa as a role model for the work it is doing to ensure that fishermen have decent conditions of work on board fishing vessels in compliance with the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No.188).

In fact, South Africa was the first country in the world to formally implement the C.188 two years ago, involving inspection of two fishing vessels – one domestic and the other, a Japanese flagged trawler.

South Africa had since detained one other vessel for violations of the C188.

“It is a great honour to be recognised for the work South Africa and SAMSA are doing to promote the working conditions of fishermen on fishing vessels,” said Mr Tilayi.

DSC_3200.JPGHe said: “The South African Constitution holds that everyone has the right to fair labour practices and SAMSA, as the custodian of South Africa’s maritime interests, is committed to improving the working conditions of fishermen in South African territory.”

For Mr Tilayi’s full remarks during the opening , Click on the videos below.

Responding to Mr Tilayi’s welcome note, International Labour Organisation (ILO) representative from Thailand, Ms Anymanee Tabitimsri said the South East Asian countries represented were grateful for the opportunity South Africa offered to share knowledge and experiences with implementation of the C188 as all three sought to strengthen the safety and security of the fishing sector labour in their respective countries.

She said Thailand was a pioneer in its own right in Asia in terms of its early endorsement of the ILO’s C188 and was keen to also share insights and experiences.

For her full remarks (4 minutes) Click on the video  below:

The SAMSA led week-long workshop which will include visits to the ports of Cape Town, Saldanha and St Helena, has on the agenda:

  • South Africa’s implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No.188) since its ratification in 2013.
  • South Africa’s Maritime Legislative framework and the institutional arrangements in the implementation of the ratified Work in Fishing Convention.
  • The amendments to the South Africa Merchant Shipping Act to cater for the Work in Fishing Convention.
  • The practical implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention with visits to different types of vessels.
  • Showcasing the implementation of the safety construction of fishing vessels (new builds).

End

South Africa called upon to increase support for Indian Ocean rim countries’ port State controls.

DSC_2913Cape Town: 21 August 2019

South Africa has been called upon to step up and increase its regional support of Indian Ocean rim countries in order to improve the general standard and level of control measures in place to maintain safety and security of the regions’ oceans.

The call has been issued by the chairperson of the 20-member States Indian Ocean Memorandum of Understanding (IOMOU), Ms Beatrice Nyamoita in an interview on the sidelines of the organisation’s Port State Control Committee meeting currently taking place in Cape Town over five days since Monday this week.

DSC_3041IOMOU member States represented include Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, Eritrea, France (La Reunion), India, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Yemen.

Also present are delegates from other observer States and organisation with similar status as the IOMOU.

DSC_2958
Ms Beatrice Nyamoita, Chairperson of the Indian Ocean Memorandum of Understanding (IOMOU)

The IOMOU on Port State Control has its main function the establishment and maintenance of a harmonised system of port State Controls as envisaged in various instruments under the directive of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and similar such institutions. 

The port State control system, according to the IOMOU ‘aims to verify whether foreign flagged vessels calling at a port of a State comply with applicable international maritime conventions.’

There are no less than 12 of such IMO and related institutions’ conventions and protocols that inform the IOMOU’s port State control activities across the region.

In Cape Town on Tuesday, Ms Nyamoita said while the IOMOU block had made several achievements over the past two decades to both enrol as many Indian Ocean countries into the fold of the IOMOU, and to harmonise adoption of instruments for group of countries activities in promoting and maintaining safety and security of the region’s ocean area by preventing entry of substandard vessels into the region’s sea waters, sufficient capacity remained the major challenge.

She said because of the nature of the training programme required for inspection officers in member States, particularly the long duration and costs involved, many of the countries were unable to develop an adequate number of personnel sufficiently skilled to carry out necessary vessel inspections and surveys.

‘We have managed to ensure the development of standard procedures across the region intended to harmonise and establish uniformity of activity aimed at enhancing safety and securing of people and ships in our our respective ocean spaces. However, the greatest challenge currently facing IOMOU member States with regards port State control is capacity,” she said.

“Most of the member States cannot afford to train enough people. The training takes too long and governments budgets do not give priority to training people for port State control.

DSC_2905.JPG

She said currently, the IOMOU relied on support from other MOU organisations across the world, but this was just not enough for development of a cadre of skilled officials required by countries in the region in order to meet their obligations.

Ms Nyamoita said South Africa on the other hand, however, had certain advantages that would be beneficial to the organisation, such as vast experience in maritime matters, as well possessing infrastructure in terms of its relatively higher number of ports in which to conduct vessel inspection. The vast ports infrastructure could be beneficial to IOMOU country’s skills development, she said.

“I’d like to encourage the government of South Africa to endeavour to train the port State control officers and to effectively take control of port State control activities in the region.

“We request that South Africa actually support… because we know that the country has more experience in the region…to undertake the training of port State control officers for countries in the region that are unable to do so themselves. In so doing, this will greatly assist in harmonising the training and activities in the region,” she said.

For Ms Nyamoita’s full interview (9.18 minutes) click on the video below:

Meanwhile, IOMOU Secretary, Mr Dilip Mehrotra presented his organisational report to the meeting on Monday. His presentation (about 20 minutes) is captured in the video below.

The IOMOU five-days meeting’s agenda this week is looking at a whole range of issues among which is an analysis of CIC on MARPOL Annex VI as well as development of guidelines for MARPOL Annex IV and Annex V for inclusion into the region’s port State control manual; port state inspections carried out by the maritime authorities, short term training programmes and a lot more other issues including the organisation’s online information management system.

This blog will carry more news information about some of these issues as and when such information is shared. Also lined up are two interviews with the IOMOU Secretary, Mr Dilip Mehrotra who is due to retire, as well as Captain Thobile Gqapu of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA). 

End