Gender Based Violence (GBV) in South Africa and globally – now declared a ‘second pandemic’ – continues to draw special focus in the coming week, with Friday, 25 November 2022 marking the start of the United Nations (UN) sponsored “16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children” worldwide.
In South Africa, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) the country’s maritime sector that is a backbone for international trade through shipping transport and related, is a critical economic sector in which thousands of people of all genders work. Yet, even as also known and acknowledged as affected by GBV, it has remained generally quiet about it.
In a statement on Tuesday in Pretoria, SAMSA said that eerie and unjustifiable silence finally gets to an end this year, come Thursday, 24 November 2022 in Cape Town, where the sector will have its inaugural GBV seminar focused specifically on GBV and related relevant sector specific efforts to fight and end it.
SAMSA, a State agency under the Department of Transport is the organiser of the event.
Leading keynote speakers lined up for the industrial sector pioneering event include Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, World Maritime University President, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Ms Lena Dyring of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) as well as maritime academic and veteran female seafarer, Dr Momoko Kitada of the World Maritime University.
According to SAMSA, the purpose of the first-of-its-kind sector-wide seminar is to provide opportunity to the country’s maritime to lay bare publicly the challenges of GBV it is confronted with, and to also outline measures current, or planned towards its stemming and eventually eradication.
“Statistics from various studies conducted so far locally and globally paint a horrific picture of a maritime industry in South Africa and elsewhere, that is rife with deep-seated and widespread GBV and which unsurprisingly, impact negatively particularly women.
“A 2014 survey led by International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and its partners revealed that 17% of women seafarers reported sexual harassment as an issue. The survey report further indicated that women with less power (lower rank) in the workplace were more vulnerable to sexual harassment. This was in line with previous studies done on the subject. Cases of sexual harassment continue to grow worldwide, and South Africa is no exception.
“In yet another most recent study on GBV in the maritime sector whose outcome was shared publicly at end October 2022 in Geneva, from a group of 1128 women interviewed WISTA in 78 countries including 51 in South Africa, as many 60% of the women had encountered gender-based discrimination at work, while 66% of these concurred that their male counterparts resorted to harassing and intimidating female co-workers,” says SAMSA.
The agency further says, with South Africa being a Member State of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the country is among eight (8) Member States tasked by a joint working group involving the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and IMO to not only identify solutions to address seafarers’ issues and the human element, but also to focus specifically on strategies and tactics aimed at addressing sexual assault and harassment in the maritime sector.
The approach is by no means divorced from this year’s national Government’s theme for the 16 Days campaign. The theme for the 16 Days of Activism Campaign for 2022 is: “Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment to build Women’s Resilience against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide: Connect, Collaborate, Contract!”
SAMSA says: “Thursday’s seminar in Cape Town, therefore, will serve as a launchpad for the SAMSA Maritime GBV Programme now embedded in its five (5) year Strategic and Annual Performance Plan for 2022-25, to effectively raise awareness and promote the mainstreaming of GBV issues within the maritime industry. Stakeholders engaged and involved in the seminar include, maritime welfare community, manning organisations, ship owners and seafarers,” says SAMSA
The seminar will have two parts: the main event taking place on 24 November 2022, with a participation of approximately 100 people in the room and a possibly wider audience both in South Africa and globally to be engaged through livestreaming of the event on several online social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube.
On the following day, Friday 25 November 2022, SAMSA will conduct a GBV educational material distribution to seafarers within the port of Cape Town. The walk-about and engagement with seafarers at the port will involve some of SAMSA’s Executive Management members and selected guests.
South Africa’s stature as a global authority in maritime sector education in terms of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW Convention) remains intact as once more confirmed by the international body in London recently.
The IMO’s 1978 STCW Convention stipulates standards of training, certification and watch-keeping for seafarers. According to the IMO: “The main purpose of the Convention is to promote safety of life and property at sea and the protection of the marine environment by establishing in common agreement international standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers.”
This latest positive outcome of the IMO sponsored independent audit of South Africa over two years effectively means that the country now proudly retains its IMO “Whitelist” status along with several other IMO Member States in the category and which in turn, literally means that Certificates of Competence (CoC’s) issued by South Africa to the country’s seafarers spread across the world retain their validity status.
The report of the audit outcome on South Africa was delivered by the IMO’s Secretary General, Mr Kitack Lim to the United Nation’s maritime sector body’s Maritime Safety Committee in its 106th session held in London on 31 October 2022.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), a State agency under the Department of Transport, is responsible for management and administration of seafarer education and training in terms of the STCW Convention as it is also for keeping a register of seafarers.
For just over two years since the IMO in February 2019 announced a possible removal of the country’s Whitelist status, along with 89 other countries, SAMSA has been hard at work to ensure this did not occur and, according to SAMSA’s Deputy Chief Operations Officer, Captain Vernon Keller, the agency was now elated that it had succeeded in the endeavour.
Capt. Keller was on hand in London to receive and welcome the IMO Panel’s evaluation outcome and later expressed delight for the verdict, describing it as the “best news for South Africa, SAMSA, the seafarer and general maritime sector community in a while.”
The IMO verdict delivered in London simply read that: “The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, having solicited and taken into account the views expressed by competent persons, selected from the list established pursuant to section A-I/7, paragraph 7 of the Seafarers’ Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Code, reports that the Government of South Africa, Party to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, has communicated information as required by regulation I/8, paragraph 3 of the Convention (2nd cycle report) and section A-I/7, paragraphs 4 to 6 of the Code, and that the information considered by the competent persons referred to in section A-I/7, paragraph 7 of the Code has demonstrated that full and complete effect is given by South Africa to the provisions of the 1978 STCW Convention.”
This was in reference to the audit’s findings on aspects of the STCW Convention relating to among others, convention regulations to be met inclusive of the STCW Code, and evaluation involving implementation measures and monitoring and compliance measures.
On landing back in South Africa a few days ago Capt. Keller said: “It is with great privilege to announce today that South Africa officially passed our IMO STCW Audit as assessed by a panel of experts.
“Our having successfully met and satisfied the IMO STCW Convention evaluation requirements means that we, as South Africa, give full and complete effect to the STCW convention. This also means that the South African STCW Certificate of Competence remains recognised internationally, and is in good standing, and therefore South African seafarers and companies do not have to worry about losing their jobs because their CoC’s fall off the whitelist,’ said Capt. Keller.
Extending a word of gratitude to all those that contributed to the achievement both at SAMSA and elsewhere, Capt. Keller said: “As a team, we have all worked hard towards this moment. Despite the many challenges that we faced as an organisation over the last few years, we again proved that through great adversity, only by working together can we achieve great things.”
“As South Africa, we can now actively pursue more STCW Regulation 1/10 agreements with other flag states to help create more job opportunities for South African seafarers,” he said.
Meanwhile, the IMO audit outcomes of South Africa’s STCW Convention continued positive compliance status comes as the country had recently signed a series of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU’s) with a few countries relating to the mutual recognition of seafarer’s certificates.
Meanwhile, also remarking on the latest IMO/South Africa STCW Convention development, SAMSA Chief Examiner, Azwimmbavhi Nelwamondo said: “I don’t know what to say – I thought I’d have a speech, but I am speechless. I’m having to think hard about this. As a great man once said, ‘it seems impossible until it is done’.
“I didn’t think doing one’s job could bring so much joy. I am entirely grateful to the team that worked alongside me this whole time. The focus and ability they demonstrated has been amazing. The quality of the work they did was amazing. It is testament to their efforts that the Independent Evaluators made no non-conformities against the Quality Standards System we have built.”
Once more, the world’s maritime sector will have its eyes squarely on seafarers globally this weekend to celebrate them in recognition of their incredible role in sea trade transport and related 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
June 25 is the officially appointed Day of the Seafarer celebrated annually each year since its establishment just over a decade ago by a resolution of a Conference of Parties to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, held in Manila, Philippines, in June 2010.
It has since been followed by the establishment of the International Day for Women in Maritime, celebrated on 18 May for the first time this year.
Twelve years on, the Day of the Seafarers however, remains the most important annual calendar event to date for many maritime countries that are Member States of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which leads it by coordinating and deciding the theme for each of the June 25 annual events.
According to the IMO, “The Day of the Seafarer provides an opportunity to pay tribute to the world’s 1.5 million seafarers (risen to 1,89-million by 2015in 74 000 merchant vessels) for the unique and all-too-often overlooked contribution to the well-being of the general public, and we would like to do it using as many social media networks as possible.
“The Day of the Seafarer is also an opportunity to educate the public about issues facing the modern-day seafarer – issues such as piracy. But, most importantly, it is the occasion for us, the world, to say ‘Thank you, seafarers.’
This year’s theme picked by the IMO is: “Your voyage – then and now, share your journey” with its choice and significance explained thus: “Every seafarer’s journey is different, but they all face similar challenges.
“For 2022, the campaign of the Day of the Seafarers, with the theme ‘Your voyage – then and now share your journey’, look at seafarer voyages, what it includes and how has it evolved over time and what remains at the heart of seafarers’ reality. This campaign gives seafarers a chance to share what resonates with them currently, whether it’s the crew change crisis being unresolved or the future of technology.”
With June 25 falling on a Saturday this year, South Africa, one 175 Member States of the IMO; will celebrate the day on Monday, 27 June 2022 with the ceremony marked simultaneously at the same time in three coastal cities; Cape Town, Gqeberha (a.k.a Port Elizabeth) and Durban, the latter city being where the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula or his deputy, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga is currently earmarked to deliver the main address.
The live staging of the event next Monday will mark the first time in two years that the Day of Seafarers is celebrated in the traditional ‘town hall’ setting since being disrupted and forced to online platforms by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.
This passing week, the country’s maritime sector joined the pre-event activity attaching to this year’s theme, with several companies and entities calling on South Africa’s seafarers to share their career journey stories, notable among these being SAMSA, the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), Amsol and others and using their social media platforms to publicly share the stories.
While no official word had come forth from either the DoT or SAMSA about Monday’s event prior to publication of this article, nevertheless this blog understands that the Durban leg of it will feature a discussion session involving Government, its agencies as well representatives of the maritime sector inclusive of educational institutions as well as seafarers, all focusing precisely on seafarers’ experiences and anticipations.
A preliminary draft list of likely participants in the session includes Dr Langa Dlamini, Executive Manager: Economics and Statistical Services at the Durban based Moses Kotane Institute, Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe, Manager: OHS & Maritime Welfare at SAMSA; Mr Nkosinathi Manqele, HoD for Maritime Studies Department, Durban University of Technology; Mr Ross Volk, Managing Director of MSC Cruises, South Africa; Mr Durand Naidoo, Chief Executive Officer: Linsen Nambi; Ms Pinky Zungu, Deputy Harbour Master, Durban (TNPA), Captain Thobela Gqabu, SAMSA Regional Manager: Eastern Region, and a set of yet to be confirmed seafarers’ representative.
Anticipated topics for exploration through discussion include; Government’s role and commitment to South African seafarers, and individual institutional perspectives one the subject from the Maritime Regulator (SAMSA – the Registrar of Seafarers and Custodian of Seafarer Welfare), Maritime Education, Training and Research, Employers of Seafarers and perspectives of Seafarers themselves inclusive of their gender-specific related experiences and future expectations.
Also in the preliminary list of speakers on the day, in addition to the Minister or his Deputy, are KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Ms Peggy Nkonyeni or DoT Chief Director: Maritime Policy and Legislation Mr Dumisani Ntuli, Mr Bheka Zulu who is both a SAMSA and Moses Kotane Institute Board Member, Ms Zamachonco Chonco, SAMSA Acting CEO; Dr Thandeka Ellenson CEO of the Moses Kotane Institute and Mr William Azuh Head: Africa Section, Subdivision for Maritime Development, Technical Cooperation Division, IMO.
It will be a while, if ever again, that crew of a set of vessels reportedly abandoned at the port of Durban will face inhumane conditions, largely characterised by starvation – thanks to the generosity of South Africans during the last month that has ensured them enough food and other necessities supplies.
This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) seafarers’ welfare office in Durban, which together with two other non-governmental organisations, the Mission to Seafarers and Meals on Wheels SA set the alarm in January after the 18 crew members were found to be starving on board the three vessels which have been declared abandoned by the IMO in January 2022.
The vessels involved, two of them – the PSD2 and PSD104 are sister offshore supply vessels that are both Tanzanian flagged, while the third, the MT Fairy Tale – is a Belize registered tanker.
The MT Fairy Tale and the PSD2 had been at the port of Durban for over five years while the third (the PSD104, the second of the Tanzanian registered) had docked at the port in January 2022. The seafarers on board include 11 Indians, one (1) Iranian and six (6) Bangladeshi nationals.
According to SAMSA Manager for Occupational Health, Safety and Seafarers’ Welfare, Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe, not only did groups of South Africans respond positively, speedily, with donations that have ensured enough food and other necessities supplies, but the widely publicised plight of both the seafarers as well as the vessels themselves drew attention of both the owners as well as the Indian government’s attention.
Support was also being received from the International Transport Federation (ITF) which had assisted the crew members arrest the vessels, anyhow, following complaints from the crew, and which matter was now set for the courts, according to SAMSA.
“The media has really helped put pressure on the owners,” said Mr Rantsoabe, adding: “They have been coming on board trying to reach settlements with the crew and telling them they saw the story in the media. One of them was very embarrassed about the diesel story and started providing diesel and he had not done so in five (5) months.
“The crew are now also able to contact their families through the generosity of the Mission to Seafarers who provided them with Wi-Fi routers.
“The International Transport Federation has also provided money for food via the Mission to Seafarers, which is used to supplement whatever is provided by the two charity organisations.
“At the moment the seafarers are very grateful and feel that they have enough food to last them through February. The ITF has also procured fuel for the two vessels that can take fuels, which will help run the engine and generators.
“We have also received calls from charity organisations such as NEDFEST… (such that) presently food supplies will not be an issue again for this crew,” he said.
Their movement outside the vessels was still restricted, however, and therefore not allowed to leave the port. The difficulty said Mr Rantsoabe; was with the fact that the vessels did not have Port Agents who assume official direct responsibility for vessels and crew once in the country’s ports.
However, SAMSA facilitated a dialogue with the port authorities (Port Health, Immigration, SAPS, TNPA) who in the end, working jointly together with Shipmed and Mission to Seafarers; made the vaccination of all the seafarers possible on Wednesday last week (09 February 2022). They were transported under SAPS escort to a vaccination clinic.
“They were all smiles after vaccination,” said Mr Rantsoabe
Mr Rantsoabe further reported that a week ago, he and SAMSA Durban region Principal Officer, Captain Gqwetha Mkhize accompanied a team from the Indian Consulate to the PSD2 and PSD104 vessels. “They stated they will be putting pressure to the Flag State and the owners’ country using diplomatic means (State to State basis).”
On how long it can take to have both the situation of the crew and vessels resolved, Mr Rantsoabe said: “Unfortunately that question is difficult to answer. Normally once SAMSA gets involved things move quickly and the company pays.
“Detention does work because the owners normally want to get the ship out of the port as soon as possible. However, in the case of the Fairy Tale there is no hurry. The vessel is not going anywhere unless somebody buys it. So as SAMSA we can fine and detain but detaining a vessel that does not intend moving out becomes just a futile exercise, especially when owners pay the fines, but detention remains.
Remarking on the latest developments regarding the crew of the vessels, SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, Captain Vernon Keller applauded the effort of all those involved, including the role the media played in sharing the plight of the seafarers, but added that as far SAMSA was concerned; “it is an amazing effort by the SAMSA team…but our job is not done.”
Said Capt. Keller; “Our seafarers kept this world moving forward throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, transporting essential cargoes around the world, yet seafarers struggled to let the world understand that they are essential workers.
“They were forced to spend more time onboard their vessels unable to go home, some even lost their family members and could do nothing about it. The psychological effect that this pandemic had on the seafarer will be studied for years to come.
“As an ex-seafarer, it pains me to know that there are still seafarers who are being treated even worse than during the pandemic by unscrupulous ship owners and managers. Administrations should stand up across the world and say enough is enough. If these seafarers were airline crew, the world would stand up and listen, so why are we not affording seafarers the same respect. Seafarers have truly become the forgotten few.
The start of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Assembly’s 32nd Regular Session, held as a hybrid model, in London on Monday marked both a low point and watershed moment for South Africa – the latter as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the former owing to its expected weighty contribution in this session.
The Assembly – traditionally meeting once every two years – is the highest governing body of the IMO, responsible for approving the international body’s work programme and budget, determining its financial arrangements and electing the IMO Council.
Durban, South Africa; was billed to be the next host of the 175 Member IMO World Maritime Day Parallel Event in 2020, but that was postponed due to the outbreak globally of the Covid-19 pandemic, and whose grip remains tight in many countries across the world even this year. That effectively robbed South Africa of the opportunity of hosting the prestigious event on its home soil, and the African continent, for the first time ever.
However, on the upside, it has emerged that South Africa may still host the event in 2022.
South Africa, – a founding member of the IMO in 1959 but whose membership was then suspended during the apartheid era and only readmitted during the dawn of democracy in 1995 – plays a highly significant role as an IMO Member State from the African continent, inclusive of holding membership of the IMO’s 40 Member Council, thereby currently placing among only four maritime countries holding membership of the body from the African continent.
South Africa holds a Category C level membership of the IMO Council, along with the Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey.
As it were, at this year’s gathering that began in London early on Monday, South Africa lived up to its reputation as a significant contributor at the IMO, playing a critical role in the nomination process of the next IMO Assembly regular session President, by lending its full weight behind a United Kingdom proposal of Mr Antonio Manuel R. Lagdameo of the Philippines as the next President of the IMO Assembly. Other supporters were Peru and Turkey.
With his election confirmed, Mr Lagadmeo will succeed a South African, and the first woman from the country to hold the position of an IMO General Assembly President; Ms Nomatemba Tambo, after her election to the position in December 2019. She was and remains South Africa’s High Commissioner to the UK since 2018.
Leading South Africa representation at Monday’s first sitting of the IMO General Assembly was the country’s national Transport Deputy Minister, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga who during the first plenary at about lunchtime, announced the country’s support of the UK’s choice of Mr Ladgameo – an ambassador and permanent representative of the Philippines at the IMO – as the IMO’s next General Assembly president.
In her brief remarks announcing the country’s secondment of the nomination, said Ms Chikunga: “The resume presented by the distinguished delegate of the United Kingdom gives us the sense of comfort and confidence that His Excellency Mr Antonio Manuel Lagdameo has the required skills and expertise to preside over this important session of the Assembly successfully. On that note, Madam President, South Africa humbly second the nomination of His Excellency Mr Antonio Manuel Lagdameo as the President of this 32nd regular session of the Assembly.”
For Ms Chikunga’s brief remarks, click on the video below
Later, in her congratulatory message of Mr Ladgameo’s formal confirmation as president, Ms Chikunga said: “South Africa would like to congratulate His Excellency, Mr Antonio Manuel Lagdameo of the Philippines for elected as the President of the 32nd regular session of the Assembly. We have no doubt that he will lead this session with success and distinction.”
South Africa further delighted also in the election of Ms Linda Scot of Namibia as the 1st Vice President of the Assembly. Acknowledging her also as one of South Africa’s own – a claim based on Ms Scot’s academic education obtained at the Universities of the Free State and Cape Town – Ms Chikunga described the moment as a reaffirmation of “our role and commitment of the SADC to enhance the blue/oceans economy.”
South Africa also congratulated Mr Raphael of Italy as the 2nd VP, with Ms Chikunga stating that: “…we have no doubt that these two distinguished nominations will be of great assistance to the President of the 32nd regular session of the Assembly.
She added: “Madam President, South Africa would also want to take this opportunity and thank all the IMO Member States for electing the High Commissioner of South Africa to the United Kingdom, Her Excellency, Ms Nomatemba Tambo in 2019 as the President of the 31st regular session of the Assembly. Your tenure as the President of the 31st regular session befitted the 2019 theme of the IMO of “Empowering women in the maritime community”.
“We are most grateful to the IMO Member States and the Secretary-General who offered this prestigious opportunity to South Africa to preside over the last Assembly.”
Meanwhile, in her remarks as the outgoing president of the IMO’s General Assemby, Ms Tambo reiterated the country’s full commitment to ensuring that work and programmes of the IMO are fully supported both by South Africa and the continent.
Expressing her own gratitude for the opportunity she had leading the IMO General Assembly, said Ms Tambo: “South Africa is a country with special interest in maritime transport and is strategically located in one of the major shipping routes. It is surrounded by three oceans: the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean and Atlantic Ocean.
“South Africa continues be a good partner with the IMO and as well as in the Djibouti Code of Conduct system to deter and curb the spread of piracy to our sub-region. In this regard, South Africa maintains the deployment of military craft along the Mozambique Channel as a deterrence against the spread of piracy, armed robbery and human trafficking.
“This record of accomplishment of providing the port services to ships calling our ports, excellent coastal state services and search and rescue capabilities in the region are of critical importance to the mandate of the IMO and international shipping.
She added: “For my country, South Africa, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all Member States for your confidence in electing me in 2019 as the President of the 31st regular session of the Assembly.
Next up for South Africa this week will be the election of Members of the IMO Council on Friday morning, an event during which the country is vying to ensure that it retains its Council membership and status.
The IMO General Assembly’s 32nd Session’s 11-day sitting ends on Thursday next week.
A ‘fair future’ for seafarers globally should be a shared responsibility between seafarers and the rest of other relevant stakeholders – and that is the view of seafarers themselves according to a current poll being conducted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
This global seafarers’ view is emerging solidly a few weeks ahead of this year’s international marking of the Day of the Seafarer on June 25 (a Friday) as driven and directed by the IMO along with its Member States, including South Africa.
In the poll currently being conducted by the IMO on its social media pages, among seafarers who responded to a question: “Who should be responsible for a fair future for seafarers”; an overwhelming majority (54%) call it a “shared responsibility”.
Against the backdrop, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) working jointly with the Department of Transport has confirmed that its marking of the Day of the Seafarer this year would be closely aligned to the issue, consistent with the IMO’s theme for the celebrations on June 25.
In invitations circulated to maritime sector stakeholders this week, SAMSA states that: “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, seafarers found themselves both on the front line of the global response and subject to difficult working conditions. Last year the Day of the Seafarer campaign focused its message around urging Governments to recognize seafarers as key workers and ease travel restrictions for them to facilitate crew changes.
“The 2021 Day of the Seafarer campaign will continue to encourage Governments to support seafarers amid the pandemic but will expand its message, calling for a fair future for seafarers. You are therefore urged to join the virtual event where various speakers and seafarers will highlight the plight of our seafarers and the plans that the Government and its partners have to ensure that seafarers are treated fairly,” says SAMSA.
Among issues likely to feature prominently at the event on June 25 may be the outcomes and insights of a recent South African seafarers survey conducted by University of KwaZulu-Natal academic and author, Dr Shaun Ruggunan focused on their personal experiences of the impacts of Covid-19 over the last year.
Dr Ruggunan’s survey supported by SAMSA was conducted from March to end of May this year and its results are currently being collated and studied.
From a Government perspective, notably the UKZN survey took place shortly after South Africa in February 2021 joined other IMO Member States in declaring seafarers as ‘essential workers’ – a recurrent theme in the industry globally in 2020 since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in China in 2019, and which campaign gained huge support from many organisations worldwide, among them the United Nations.
However, the declaration of seafarers as essential workers earlier this year, even as singularly highly significant, was but one aspect of a basket of sought industry reforms with regards seafarers’ general welfare and work conditions, and some of which continue to be highlighted in a series of regional webinars driven by IMO, its Members States and affiliated organisations.
The first of the IMO regional webinars focused specifically on the question of “Challenges faced by seafarers and identification of best practices during Covid-19 pandemic” was held virtually online for the Eastern and Southern Africa on 21 October 2020, with the lineup of speakers includingIMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and representatives of UN-OSAA, Stella Maris, ICS as well as Member States: Kenya, South Africa and the Seychelles.
The webinars have since covered Eastern and West Africa, East Asia, Western Asia and Eastern Europe as well as the Arab States and Mediterranean regions and Latin America
Now, in the lead up to this year’s Day of the Seafarer, the IMO also embarked on the social media poll, where it is asking seafarers across the world to respond and share their views on a number of issues affecting their work and general welfare.
On Covid-19 impacts and about which an IMO asks in one of the question: ‘what is most important for you for your future as a seafarer’, most seafarer respondents (41%) believe it be to be “quarantined access to repatriation and crew change”, followed by “priority vaccinations” (24%), “safe working conditions” (19%) and “enforcement” (16%).
On another question about whether seafarers believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the future of seafaring and in what direction, the majority seafarers’ view (73%) is that the pandemic has, and for the “worse” while only 15% believe it has done their trade a world of good, and 13% saying it has made no difference.
On the question of the IMO’s campaign in 2021 for a “fair future for seafarers”; 54% of participants feel it has to be a “shared responsibility” with only three (03) percent saying seafarers should be directly and solely in charge, while the rest are split unevenly between a view that it should be “IMO/ILO/Governments” (31%) and that it should be “shipping companies” (12%).
Among the seven questions posed to seafarers by the IMO so far is also one about “what area most needs improvement to ensure a fair future for seafarers” and to which the majority view (46%) suggests it to be “the workplace”, followed by “salaries” (30%), “training” (13%0 and “safety on board” (12%).
On the gradual encroachment of autonomous ships, according to their responses, most seafarers are either “excited” (25%), “unconcerned” (22%) or “accepting” (14%), with only 36% expressing the view that they are “worried”.
On climate change; most (59%) say they are onboard with mitigation efforts while seven (7%) and five (5) say they either could not be bothered (“not my personal responsibility”) or regard it as “unimportant”.
In explaining the seafarers view poll on its social media platforms, the IMO says: “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, seafarers found themselves both on the front line of the global response and subject to difficult working conditions surrounding uncertainties and difficulties around port access, re-supply, crew changeovers, repatriation, etc.
“In light of this, the 2020 Day of the Seafarer campaign focused its message around urging governments to recognize seafarers as key workers and ease travel restrictions for them to facilitate crew changes. The 2021 Day of the Seafarer campaign will continue to encourage governments to support seafarers amid the pandemic but will expand its message, calling for a fair future for seafarers. The campaign will discuss issues that will still be relevant to seafarers after the pandemic, such as fair treatment of seafarers, fair working conditions (in line with ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention), fair training, fair safety, etc.”
For more on this, please on click on the IMO General Secretary, Mr. Kitack Lim ‘s official message for Day of the Seafarer 2021 below.
Meanwhile in Pretoria, according to SAMSA, South Africa’s marking of the Day of the Seafarer 2021 on Friday, June 25; will be conducted in similar fashion as last year, virtually online, from 9am and ending at 12 noon.
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.”
Unregistered seafarers far more at risk of negative Covid-19 pandemic impacts
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.
“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.
“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: firstname.lastname@example.org, 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: email@example.com
The Africa region’s challenges and opportunities with initiatives aimed at contributing to reduction of emmissions of obnoxious atmospheric gases, particularly in its maritime environment, and uptake of renewable energy resources as a contribution to climate change mitigation factors will come into sharp focus at this week’s regional virtual conference in Mombasa, Kenya.
The Energy Efficiency Conference and Exhibition (ConfEx) over four days – Wednesday and Thursday this week (17 & 18 March) and on 24 & 25 March 2021, is being organised by the Mombasa, Kenya-based Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre (MTCC-Africa). All sessions, including the exhibitions, will be conducted virtually online.
According to a preliminary programme,, among key participants scheduled to contribute to the discussions in the first session Wednesday (starting at 14h00 East African Time) is International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Secretary, Mr Kitack Lim; Kenyan government representatives Mrs Nancy. K Kariguthu and Mr James Macharia (Shipping and Maritime and Transport ministries, respectively), academics including Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology Vice Chancellor, Professor Victoria Ngumi; World Maritime University President, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry; International Maritime Law Institute director, Professor David Attard; Maritime Authorities including the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) as well as officials of MTCC representatives in Africa and Asian regions.
The aim of the ConfEx – originally scheduled for Durban, South Africa in June last year, but scrapped and postponed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic – is to effectively set in motion, alternatively induce progressive pace to an Africa region maritime sector plan of action aimed at contributing to global measures to mitigate against climate change.
The exhibition alongside – targeting the Small and Medium-Term Entrepreneurs with innovations focused on climate change mitigation in the onshore and offshore shipping and maritime industry – is intended to provide “a highly interactive knowledge sharing and business networking platform, with the aim of connecting like-minded individuals and innovative solution providers from around the world.”
In the main virtual online conference, expected to feature prominently are lessons learnt so far in sets of ongoing studies involving current energy use and possible alternatives conducted by the MTCC-Africa at the Ports of Mombasa, Kenya and Port Douala in Cameroon over the last two years and some of whose preliminary findings were published in 2020.
Determine which of the proposed energy saving measures have been implemented at the Port of Mombasa.
Estimate the impacts of the implemented strategies on the energy consumption and emissions at the Port of Mombasa with the assistance of the IMO.
Identify the energy saving measures that are yet to be implemented at the Port of Mombasa.
Identify the challenges/barriers in implementation of the proposed energy saving measures and proposing measures that can be put in place to ensure that more energy savings are realized as well.
Utilizing the Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships (GloMEEP) Project Port Emissions Toolkit, provide training on developing an Emissions Reduction Strategy (ERS) to relevant stakeholders at the selected port(s).
Conclusions drawn included that, “…. The solar power generation potential in Africa is quite high. Kenya and the surrounding countries for example have solar irradiation of approximately 2200kWh per m2 per year. Maximizing and optimally utilizing this potential can result in great savings in carbon footprint and stabilization of the power supply systems for the African Ports. Some ports are already taking advantage of this natural asset and have installed grid tied mini solar grids to supplement the local utility supplies.”
Also, with the regulation on reducing the sulphur content of fuel oil used in ships, outside the Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) capped to 0.50% with effect from 01 January 2020, there is an expectation that Authorities will domesticate the MARPOL Annexure VI and implement it, accordingly. This regulation does provide an added incentive for development and implementation of other alternative clean energy by Africa and the rest of the world.
It states: “These requirements all the more makes (s.i.c) the implementation of shore power for visiting vessels very attractive. In addition, studies have confirmed that with a clean electricity mix coupled with installation of solar power plants in ports makes the shore power implementation very viable considering environmental benefits.”
“Whilst these alternative energy sources are a viable way to reduce emissions from ships, their development and implementation comes at a huge financial cost to the shipping industry. It becomes critical that all stakeholders work together to ensure that such technologies are shared, for the better realisation of the initial IMO GHG Strategy with a vision of a decarbonised shipping by the end of this century.”
South Africa, an IMO Member State and a designated Southern African Region Focal Point of the MTCC-Africa wherein it is expected to support the Centre in promoting technologies and operations aimed at improving energy efficiency in the maritime sector, is also lined up to make a contribution to discussion on the first day of the ConfEx, according to SAMSA.
In a recent statement, said SAMSA: “Through technical assistance and capacity building, the MTCC project is there to enable developing countries, especially Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing to effectively implement ship energy-efficiency and emissions reduction measures, thereby supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“South Africa is fully behind MTCC-Africa to ensure that it can deliver on its objectives that include; improving regional compliance with existing and future international regulations on energy efficiency for ships; promoting the uptake of low-carbon technologies and operations; and raising awareness on the need to reduce Greenhouse Gas and other emissions from the maritime transport sector
“We urge South Africans and Southern Africans, especially entrepreneurs and innovators to take the opportunity presented by the MTCC- Africa and the IMO, of engaging with global counterparts in the development and promotion of energy efficient technologies that can be used by the shipping industry in transitioning to the decarbonised future. It is also an opportunity for many, to learn about the work that the IMO has continually put in place to deliver on the strategic direction entitled “Respond to Climate Change “, as adopted by the IMO Assembly, during its 30th session in December 2017.”
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide – and in its wake, the devastation both of economies as well as social development as the world knew it until December 2019 – should not be used as another excuse to dampen or delay the critical advancement of women both in the workplace as well as in society generally.
According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in Pretoria this week, this is particularly true of especially the maritime economic sector globally and domestically – a sector in which only about two (2) percent of the global workforce is constituted by women.
The viewpoint surfaced strongly on International Women’s Day as the State agency under the Department of Transport, joined the global community for the first time in marking the event on Monday, 08 March 2021.
Leading the charge was newly appointed SAMSA acting Chief Executive Officer, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane on a secondment basis until month-end or such other time as a new CEO is appointed. Significantly, on her secondment recently from the Department of Transport, Ms Taoana-Mashiloane became the first woman ever appointed to lead SAMSA in its 21 years of existence.
Noteworthy also, SAMSA’s new Board of Directors appointed in 2020 is also chaired by a woman, Ms Nthato Minyuku.
This year’s IWD21 theme was #ChooseToChallenge and its overall message stated: “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge. How will you help forge a gender equal world?”
Celebrate women’s achievement.
Raise awareness against bias.
Take action for equality.
In SAMSA’s inaugural marking of International Women’s Day 2021 this week at her urging, Ms Taoana-Mashiloane along with three of her colleagues; Captain Pretty Molefe, a principal officer for SAMSA’s Richards Bay office, Captain Antoinette Keller, also a principal officer for SAMSA Cape Town office, and Ms Zamachonco Chonco-Tladi, a chief financial officer for SAMSA since late last year, set aside time to reflect on the significance of the event on Monday to themselves personally and collectively as women both at SAMSA, as well as the general maritime economic sector in South Africa and globally.
Summarily, in the 20-minute video below, Ms Taoana-Mashiloane says while her recent appointment to lead temporarily the organisation is highly significant for women advancement generally, she is currently simply not impressed either by SAMSA or the country that women advancement and empowerment through gender equity centred policies and practices is being taken as seriously and meaningfully as it should, and for this, she says, there is absolutely no excuse.
Twenty-seven years since the dawn of democracy in South Africa and against the backdrop of a plethora of legislative reforms inclusive of a National Policy Framework for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality, women advancement through gender equity still lags very much behind, she says.
As for the maritime sector and role-players therein including SAMSA, she says; South Africa as a Member State of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and related institutions, has a vast wealth of support to draw from in efforts towards purposeful women advancement.
It is a strongly held view she first shared with SAMSA staff in an internal memo on Monday, wherein she stated: ““I join the IWD 2021 #ChooseToChallenge by expressing my sentiments as a woman in maritime transport. I am an empowered woman and I strive to always empower other women.
“We are SAMSAítes women and we are changing to rise to the challenge by celebrating all women in maritime/shipping. The gender split in SAMSA Executive level stills shows an organization stuck to the old saying that this is a ‘man’s world’.
“Women Can! And with the right skills set, education and empowerment, now is the time for SAMSA to embrace gender diversity, harness our energy and creativity to make a contribution to SDG#5 Gender Equality,” said Ms Taoana-Mashiloane.
In the video, Ms Taoana-Mashiloane strongly suggests that women, in fact, should be in the leadership of women advancement themselves.
In marking IWD21 internally, SAMSA developed a set of posters featuring some of the agency’s women. In addition, video interviews were arranged for some of the employees in order for them to also freely express their views on the subject. Two of these additional video interviews are shared below, here along with Ms Taoana-Mashiloane’s.
Crucially, the two SAMSA female employees interviewed, Captain Keller and Ms Chonco-Tladi – both holding senior ranking positions at SAMSA in administration and operations, shared much in common with the agency’s acting chief executive officer.
I don’t like to be placed in “a box”. I don’t like stereotyping, for example; the stereotype of women as the carer. Through hard work and determination women are just as capable as men to excel in the workplace.
Captain Antoinette Keller. Master Mariner and Principal Officer at South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)
Both Captain Keller and Ms Chonco-Tladi felt there was far more expressed intent – alternatively, “too much chit-chat about it’- than actual meaningful action in advancing women within both at SAMSA and the country in general.
In the video below, Captain Keller – South Africa’s first female Master Mariner as well as the first female Principal Officer for SAMSA – states: “It was through hard work and determination that I was able to work through the ranks and I believe that I opened the door for many other women pursuing a maritime career.”
Captain Keller, also the 2020 SAMSA’s CEO Excellence Award overall winner in recognition of her work contribution beyond the call of duty, states; “I do support gender equity strategies. However, I think it is sad that strategies such as these are required to be established in the first place. I don’t like to be placed in “a box”. I don’t like stereotyping, for example; the stereotype of women as the carer. Through hard work and determination women are just as capable as men to excel in the workplace.
“South Africa is a diverse nation and we should embrace the diversity by allowing fresh and dynamic perspectives based on who is most capable for the job. I do support gender equity. However, the tools must be given to allow success. There should be confidence in the person fulfilling the role otherwise it can open ways for one to be undermined in the workplace.
“Both genders bring strengths to the table. In the maritime industry, it is not that women are not given opportunities, however there is scope for a lot more that can be done. More focus and awareness should be placed on possible career opportunities in the maritime sector and we need a big behavioural change. Not many people are aware of what the maritime industry can offer or who SAMSA is and the role we play in the maritime sector,” says Capt. Keller.
For more on this, click on the video below.
Meanwhile, Ms Chonco-Tladi, a Chartered Accountant with a relatively long professional service history, yet virtually a beginner in the maritime sector after having joined SAMSA in the second half of 2020, concurred with both views that the subject of women advancement was getting tired for being talked about for years, with little action to advance it; but also pregnant with opportunity for all members of society to work together to bring about transformation and justice for women.
She said she was among those prepared to roll up their sleeves and get into action for women empowerment and advancement. A mentor of note, quite keen to readily share her knowledge and experience, Ms Chonco-Tladi said more awareness through focused campaigns was crucial. Click on the video for her full views.
In Richards Bay, Captain Pretty Molefe, yet another pioneer in her own right for also being among the first batch of black females to qualify as Master Mariners in South Africa, as well as being the first black female Principal Officer, in acting capacity for SAMSA, shared her views in writing this week.
People always expect men in certain positions and often get surprised when a female pitch up. In general, it is a job that is predominantly perceived as a male job and one has to work extra hard than a male counterpart
Captain Pretty Molefe. Acting Principal Officer at SAMSA (Richards Bay)
She also remarked on the significance of marking IWD21 relative to the poor and painfully slow progress being made in the country and precisely the maritime sector towards women advancement through gender equity centred policies, several of which have long been in existence in a variety of forms.
“I generally love what I do. The ship and shore aspect of it. I like being part of a team and learning new things all the time. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have only had male mentors in my career path as there are not many females that come before me. Some of those that came before me, I, unfortunately have had to admire from a distance; but one or two have made an indirect impact in my career path.”
“Many people often ask about challenges that one has faced in this career as a female. There are a lot, both at sea and on the shore side. People always expect men in certain positions and often get surprised when a female pitch up. In general, it is a job that is predominantly perceived as a male job and one has to work extra hard than a male counterpart,” says Captain Molefe.
According to Ms Taoana Mashiloane, SAMSA will continue to be among progressive State organisations to scale up efforts towards meaningful women advancement in the country’s maritime sector, at least if she has anything to do with it. She lists a set of initiatives she envisages should receive priority towards this end, among which is the formal re launch of a women in maritime structure whose rebirth last year was hampered by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Awareness campaigns conducted jointly with other organisations in the sector, including the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), Transnet and others are also in the planning, she sad.
By this time next year, said Ms Taoana-Mashiloane, there should be a comprehensive report in place reflecting on progress being made towards women advancement in the country’s maritime economic sector
With 14 countries now already on board and needing just eight (8) more to bring to 22 the number of States required for implementation of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) sactioned Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessels safety globally, support by African countries in particular has never been more necessary, according to the London based United Nations (UN) body.
This emerged once again strongly this week during a two-day webinar for African region countries hosted by the IMO on Tuesday and Wednesday, essentially to share more information as well as ganner support for the Agreement ahead of its scheduled implementation in 20 months time (October 2022).
Several African countries including South Africa as represented by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), neighbouring Namibia and Gambia participated in the two-day webinar held over two hours on each of the two days, chaired by head of IMO Africa section subdivision for Maritime Development and Technical Co-operation, Mr William Azuh.
The webinar this week was one of several launched a year ago, beginning with Latin America in November 2020 and intended to cover all maritime regions across the world for information sharing and promotion of the ratification of the CTA treaty on fishing vessel safety ahead of its coming into effect next year.
According to the IMO, the CTA adopted in South Africa in 2012 by 51 of its Member States essentially; “outlines design, construction, and equipment standards for fishing vessels 24 meters or longer and details regulations that countries that are party to the agreement must adopt to protect fishing crews and observers. It also calls for harmonized fisheries, labor, and safety inspections.
“The agreement will enter into force once 22 States, with an aggregate fleet of 3,600 eligible fishing vessels, become parties to it. Once in force, this treaty will raise global safety standards for one of the most dangerous professions,” says the IMO
Key features of the CTA in terms of enhanced fishing vessels safety, according to the IMO, are:
Improve(ment of) safety of life at sea
Fighting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing
Protecting the environment
The CTA, a predecessor to two previous failed treaties; the 1977 Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, and the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol, is one of four instruments intended to develop, entrench and enhance fishermen working conditions for safety globally in a standardised and harmonious way. Three of these have since been ratified for global application, supported and driven by the IMO and other organisations including the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The three include:
the IMO’s International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F), 1995 – in force since 2012 and currently being revised to align its standards with the current state of the fishing industry,
the ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (Convention No. 188) now force since 16 November 2017 and implemented first by South Africa in December 2017. It sets minimum requirements for work on board including hours of rest, food, minimum age and repatriation.
the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)’s Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), 2009, which entered into force in 2016. The latter is aimed at preventing, deterring and eliminating IUU fishing through the adoption and implementation of effective port State measures.
However, even with three of the instruments now in play, formal implementation of the CTA to enhance fishing vessels safety universally worldwide is crucial, according to both the IMO and its associate, and global research and advocacy group, Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew).
In a statement encouraging African countries’ support and ratification of the CTA ahead of the Africa region IMO webinar this week, Pew stated: “Fishing continues to be recognized as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world and despite major efforts to tackle this problem there is currently no international binding instrument in force that addresses the design, construction, and equipment of fishing vessels.
“But the 2012 Cape Town Agreement (CTA) which was adopted at a Conference in South Africa in 2012 addresses all the difficulties that had been identified by States with large fishing fleets trying to improve vessel safety.
“It is expected that the CTA’s entry into force will give States a powerful tool to ensure that vessels flying their flags are held accountable for the safety of their vessels and crews; that fishing operations are conducted safely and legally; and that their safety obligations as responsible flag States are fulfilled. It will encourage vessel owners and operators to adopt a responsible approach to what is an inherently dangerous activity. And it will also help States to safeguard their citizens who work on board foreign-flagged vessels and mitigate the risk of IUU fish entering their markets.
“At this juncture in time and considering the African continent’s longstanding battle with illegal fishing hindering fish products coming to the African markets and our own artisanal fishing industry being threatened by large scale industrial operators, it is time to act and make ourselves heard, said Pew.
At the IMO webinar this week, some African countries, among them Namibia, expressed keen interest to support the CTA, however, some citing numerous challenges involving technical expertise, as well as setbacks recently experienced with the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic since December 2020.
Meanwhile, South Africa, a key contributor both to the development and implementation of the ILO’s C188 Convention and a forerunner as signatory of the CTA, indicated that it remains “proactive in efforts to effectively implement the required Flag State requirements of the “Agreement”.
Domestically, the country’s main representative at the IMO, SAMSA, said that the country was among the lead 14 IMO Member States to have ratified the CTA agreement. The 13 others include Belgium, Congo, Cook Islands, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Spain
Speaking on Tuesday, the first day of the webinar, SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, Captain Vernon Keller outlined some of the South Africa’s achievements to date since implementing the instruments aimed at fishermen safety. Among these was the significant and consistent reduction in the number of fishers fatalities in the two decades from 2000 to 2020. In the period, recorded fatalities fell from double digits of between 20 (2000) and 57 (2002) to single digits now hovering at about four (4) per annum in 2020.
It was also significant, he said, that in the 14 years between 2006 to 2020, the majority of fishers fatalies (55) involved fishing vessels measuring less than 10 meters in length, followed by those measuring between 10-24 meters (53) while the largest at 24 meters and above accounted for less than half (20) of the smaller vessels in both categories.
Of the few “lessons learnt’ by the country over the years, Capt. Keller said no country could afford to be a spectactor in its own as well as the global maritime environment. “Be more than a spectator country in the business of ocean and fisheries economy.” This, he said, implied a greater need for collaboration betwen multiple government departments and agencies “to ensure harmonised legislation in support of each others’ objectives.
“Collaborate with the fishing industry and make them part of the solution to obtain a ‘buy-in’, modernise fishing vessel construction, equipment, safety and labour regulations. Equally important is the systematic implementation of new regulatons to allow for a change management process to take place,” said Capt Keller, further indicating that due to South Africa’s legislative process being slow, the country had to prioritise legislation for the implementation of the ILO’s C188 Convention.
Further, according to Capt. Keller, South Africa’s other lessons included knowledge sharing among key government agencies and departments as crucial, as the country soon noted with SAMSA’s training of Department of Environment, Forestry and Fishing (DEFF) fishing inspectors to help identify safety deficiencies during IUUF inspections onboard vessels at sea. And so was the case with close supervision of training institutions, programs and facilitators to formalise training. The country also found it worthwhile to create awareness with respect to fishers rights as well as allocating dedicated resources to seafarer welfare that SAMSA now operates. Capt. Keller pointed out however’that, on the flipside of the coin, effective implementation of all the approved measures also had its negative consequences. Some of the emerging issues, he said; included Flag States who were failing to fulfil their obligations towards own fishers – with some fishers being abandoned by fishing vessel owners once foreign fishing vessels were detained.
“Abandoned fishing vessels are a financial burden on the State due to caretaking costs of vessel and the fishers onboard. In addition, there is port revenue loss due to abandoned fishing vessels remaining in port for extended periods and confiscating and selling an abandoned foreign fishing vessel is difficult due to the low financial value and conditon of the vessels.
In terms of support of African countries, South Africa has continously availed itself for providing guidance based on development of own draft regulations. As part of that support effort, in October 2017, the country hosted a regional seminar for several African contries over five days at the historic Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town’s. The gathering – attended by 50 delegates from several English-speaking or Anglophone African countries in central and southern Africa – was the seventh in a series held by the IMO worldwide since the founding of the ‘Cape Town Agreement’ five years before.
For a brief glimpse at that Cape Town gathering of some of African countries for information on the CTA under the guidance of the IMO and SAMSA in 2017, click on the videos below:
Wrapping up this week’s IMO webinar on Wednesday evening (7pm South African time), participants issued a statement expressing gratitude to the government of South Africa, Liberia, and Spain as well as the IMO, ILO, FAO and Pew.