South Africa eases tight grip of Covid-19 pandemic related regulations on global shipping and seafarers.

Pretoria: 07 July 2020

An appeal by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on Member States to find ways to facilitate greater ease of operation for global shipping amid the strife to effectively manage the spectre of the Covid-19 pandemic has found a kind ear in South Africa.

Among such steps taken by South Africa is the immediate extension of the expiration of seafarers certificates by no less than six months from June 2020 to 31 December 2020, or such other period as may be necessary and allowed, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

The arrangement is similarly applicable to vessels whose certificates are due to expire during to the lockdown, granted an extension of up to three (months) provided an application is made well in advance.

SAMSA File Photo

According to SAMSA, the concessions are contained in a correspondence submitted by Government to the IMO a week ago, outling the measures South Africa is taking to ease the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown regulations implemented since March 2020 in the country, and varinglyper time period worldwide, with major negative impacts on global shipping operations.

The newly introduced measures, outlined in even greater detail in circulars including an accompanying Marine Notice 34 of 2020 published last Thursday, 02 July 2020 are, according to SAMSA, in response to a recent call by the IMO on Member States to ease up on lockdown regulations to enable less interruption on global shipping.

The IMO call, with the full backing of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), found even greater expression during the global marking of the international Day of the Seafarer 2020, in South Africa and across the world on 25 June 2020.

“Shipping is truly a global industry and we need Governments to provide a global solution,” the ITF was qouted as saying.

According Mr Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary, as reported by the IMO, the workers organisation received emails from hundreds of seafarers daily, expressing their concern about contracts being extended under duress, amid fears that this would impact their ability to perform safe operations, thereby putting themselves at risk as well as the global supply chain and potentially the environment.   

In also calling for ‘leadership and action’, the ICS reportedly said ‘during the COVID-19 pandemic, ships, which fundamentally depend on seafarers, have continued to carry essential goods across the globe.’

Mr Guy Platten, Secretary-General of ICS reportedly said that ‘the number of stranded seafarers [was] currently 400,000, with 200,000 needing to leave ships and a similar number needing to replace them.’

In response to the IMO call, South Africa last week acknowledged and submitted that: “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the maritime value chain, including the ability of Maritime Administrations and the recognised organisations to deliver services necessary for statutory certification of seafarers and vessels. Furthermore, the issues about manning of ships, crew changes and search and rescue services are receiving necessary attention.

Immediate new measures South Africa confirmed to have introduced relate both to seafarers certification with respect to validity of seafarers certificates, medical and eyesight certificates and safe manning of ships; as well as ships certificates and surveys.

With respect to seafarers certification, the country states: “SAMSA has considered the predicament many seafarers and their employers are finding themselves in and have (sic) granted an extension until 31 December 2020 to any certificate that expires during the national lockdown and/or shortly thereafter.

“The masters, seafarers and employers must produce a letter for extension of their Certificates – http://www.samsa.org.za/Pages/Marine-Notices.aspx
Where appropriate, seafarers and/or employers may apply to SAMSA for the issuance with a specific letter to each seafarers in accordance with the applicable Marine Notice.”

On medical and eyesight certificates SAMSA grants that: “Medical Certificates for seafarers shall remain valid as issued. Under the measurers in place to combat COVID-19, medical practitioners will still be operating and seafarers will be allowed to visit the medical practitioner (doctor) for medical examination.

“Seafarers whose medical certificates expires whilst onboard a ship may continue to serve on that ship for three (3) months from the expiration date in accordance with STCW Regulation I/9.”

In respect of safe manning of ships SAMSA instructs that: “Ship operators must inform SAMSA regarding any challenges with seafarers holding foreign CoC with regards to revalidation and obtaining an endorsement to their CoC.

“SAMSA will not issue an endorsement to a foreign COC unless such certificate is still valid, except where there is a policy from that administration regarding the same.”

Regarding vessels certificates and surveys, SAMSA advises that: “Vessels which are subject to International Conventions (and) whose statutory certification are due for renewal, and there is difficulty with the attendance by a surveyor, may apply for extension of certificates by up to three (3) months. Such application shall be made within reasonable time to ensure continued compliance with all statutory requirements.”

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SAMSA outlines measures to curb spread of Covid 19 by ships and crew at South Africa seas

Pretoria: 17 March 2020

The South African Maritime Authority (SAMSA) has set out guidelines on how management of sea going vessels falling within its scope of activities shall be dealt with, following the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid19), and which partly suspends some of its activities, such as ship surveys for a limited period of time.

The publication of two Marine Notices due for release this week, follows fresh on the pronouncement by the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula on Monday this week on steps the maritime safety agency will embark upon. That in turn came in the wake of South Africa President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa announcing on Sunday a National Disaster declaration aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid19 virus now rampant in just about every country in the world, from its outbreak in China last December.

The first of the new Marine Notices announces the temporal suspension of ship surveys, audits or inspection from this week until 30 March 2020. “As of 16 March 2020, all statutory surveys, audits and inspections will be suspended for a period of 14 days.”

The second notice; “serves to inform vessels, Masters, crew, passengers, ship agents, Stevedores, surveyors, Ship managers, Ship owners and all other stakeholders with additional information in order to manage any suspected outbreak of Covid-19 onboard a vessel in the best possible way.”

In the former notice (temporal suspension of certain services) SAMSA states in part that: “Recognizing that, due to the outbreak of the COvid-19, the industry is facing challenges in meeting statutory requirements stipulated in the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006) and other relevant IMO Conventions, SAMSA has decided to provide guidance for dealing with the circumstances for example, extending seafarer periods of service onboard vessels, delaying periods for surveys, inspections and audits in a pragmatic and harmonized approach.

The agency then urges affected parties to read carefully the Marine Notice in order to ensure a clear understanding of its contents and how to enlist help when necessary.

DSC_4428In justification of the termporary suspection of services, SAMSA states: “SAMSA surveyors frequently travel to smaller fishing communities where there are no proper medical facilities in the area, other than a local clinic. SAMSA surveyors may therefore inadvertently spread the coronavirus to a local fishing community when visiting.

“Vessels operating from these communities, whose safety certificates expire before 15 April 2020, may request an extension on their safety certificates for up to 60 days, subject to change.

“In cases where Local General Safety Certificates (LGSC) are already expired, a re-issue of an LGSC will be considered on a case by case basis provided that the previous LGSC has not been expired for more than 60 days. To this end, payment for re-issue will need to be made.”

The Marine Notice then expands on the set of other services affected and provides guidance on how affected parties shall solicit and receive medical and related services under given sets of conditions and circumstances.

In the other Marine Notice, SAMSA provides extensive detail of measures currently being undertaken in South Africa to prevent the spread of the killer CoVid19 and arrangements, inclusive of contact details, to be utilised by affected parties in the maritime sector.

These also include recommended preventive measures against the spread of the virus within South African borders.

Key contact numbers being offered to affected stakeholders are follows:

  1. CORONAVIRUS PUBLIC HOTLINE: Tel. 08 000 29999
  2. MARITIME RESCUE COORDINATION CONTACT DETAILS (24 / 7 / 365): Tel: +27 (0) 21 938 3300 or mrcc.ct@samsa.org.za
  3. TRANSNET NATIONAL PORT AUTHORITY: Tel: +27 (0) 83 378 8877 or Tel: +27 (0) 83 306 1228
  4. SOUTH AFRICAN DESIGNATED COASTAL HOSPITALS

Western Cape          Tygerberg Hospital  Cape Town   +27(0) 21 938 4911

KwaZulu-Natal         Grey’s Hospital         Pietermaritzburg       +27(0) 33 897 3000

Eastern Cape           Livingstone Hospital   Port  Elizabeth       +27(0) 41 405 9111

Northern Cape          Kimberley Hospital  Kimberley      +27(0) 53 802 9111

Designated hospitals for managing Coronavirus –

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1u86kN7ZVxPBG-s5pzHc93b29fkpKGC16&usp=sharing

On publication, the two marine notices can be accessed from the SAMSA website by following this link:

http://www.samsa.org.za/Pages/default.aspx

 

Meanwhile, the outbreak of the Covid19 virus and its ferocious, insatiable and unstoppable appetite to infect large numbers of people globally at an alarming rate has put paid to South Africa maritime sector’s celebration of the return of the country’s sole cadet training and research vessel, the SA Agulhas, from its historic sojourn through the Indian and Southern Oceans, including Antarctic this week.

Make history of the SA Agulhas’ journey to the ocean region this time around, and which began on its departure on 27 December 2019 from Cape Town, was part of its all female crew of 22 cadets and two female training officers – the first of its kind ever to undertake the journey, along with a group of Indian scientists periodical studying that part of the world.

Cadets muster during safety drill onboard SAAGThe SA Agulhas’ historic all female cadet crew and training officers was scheduled to be celebrated during a now cancelled event scheduled for East London, one of South Africa’s major coastal cities on the Indian Ocean, on Friday 20 March 2020.

Now with strict restrictions on people’s gatherings and precisely their close contact in groups, as well as other considerations related to current efforts aimed at prevention of the spread of the Covid19 virus, the reception will no longer take place, confirmed SAMSA in Pretoria this week.

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