Pretoria: 19 October 2021
The launch of South Africa’s inland waters strategy by the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula at the Vaal Dam in southern Gauteng province on Friday this week marks a critical and crucial turning point for the country in terms of effective and efficient management of inland water spaces, particularly with regards to collaborative efforts towards enhancement of human and environmental safety and wellness.
That is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA, the country’s primary agency statutorily for maritime and marine safety inclusive of both people and water vessels across the country’s three oceans as well as inland waters such as dams and rivers.
SAMSA’s main focus area in terms of the country’s inland waters is the promotion and enhancement of safety as well as environmental protection with regards boating use in various categories in terms of the South African Merchant Shipping Act 57 of 1951 (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulation, 2007, as amended; which extends its overall original 1998 founding Act mandate to include inland waterways within or accessible to the public within the Republic.
According to SAMSA, the legislation provides for, among things; regulations for each specified category of vessels – from small to big – with particular regard to requirements for their construction and use,whether for commerce, leisure or such other use on South African waters.
The Inland Waters Strategy to be launched on Friday itself, according to the Department of Transport, aims to “find the right balance between an emphasis on education and encouraging personal responsibility and the need for the implementation of the National Small Vessel Safety (NSVS) Regulations in a manner of co-operative governance and other measures for an effective inland waterway safety regime.
“The implementation of the goal-oriented, intergovernmental co-operative strategy that underpins regulation, compliance, education, communication and awareness will greatly assist in promoting a culture of safe and responsible boating. This must be implemented in the spirit of co-operative governance between national, provincial and local government, as well as Industry and communities using, or living next to the inland waters.”
Therefore SAMSA has been working closely both with the Department of Transport – its parent government department – other national and provincial government bodies and institutions as well as private sector and independent bodies to contribute to formulation of the Inland Water Strategy.
In addition, SAMSA says it had also begun rolling out a series of training programmes and workshops for small boats owning or operating communities across the country since about a year ago, all to assist South Africans with both enhanced awareness and knowledge of the requirements of the raft of NSVS regulations under the Act.
Specifically tasked with the assignment is its dedicated boating section led by Ms Debbie James as manager, along with a set of highly technically skilled officers that serve both as surveyors as well as training providers.
Recently added to the SAMSA boating section team are a group of youths with basic seafaring skills and experience who are undergoing training as Marine Officers over a two year period. (see video below)
Over the next few years the SAMSA boating section team will be intensifying its reach across South Africa’s thousands of dams that are geographically widespread, some on 23 large rivers and many estuaries located over a large area of the country, in all nine provinces, to engage for law compliance owners and operators of as many as an estimated 1.2 million small vessels, commonly known as boats, that operate in South Africa, mostly for sport, recreation, tourism and subsistence fishing by local communities.
On Friday this week SAMSA will further outline with much finer detail the length and breadth of current and future planned activity relating to the Inland Waters Strategy and the latter whose detail is scheduled to be unpacked by both its owners, the Department of Transport as well others key roleplayers; among them the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DEFF), the South African Police Services (SAPS), the South African Navy, boating associations and related institutions both in the public and private sectors.
In the meantime, this blog caught up with members of the SAMSA boating section embarking on the nationwide training workshops programme to glean on their recent and current activitity. For that story, please see the section below.
This SAMSA blog also took time to chat to the three young seafarers at the agency undergoing training as Marine Officers and part of whose current training involves boating surveys. For the full interview click on the video below.
SA’s small watercraft vessels owners and users’ compliance with law is receiving a boost with SAMSA’s increasing national training workshops.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and its sickness and fatal impacts on people the world over, has without doubt affected negatively a whole range of human activity across sectors of society, inclusive of leisure involving the widespread use of small vessels in South Africa’s open water spaces, both adjacent the oceans as well as inland.
With people having endured no less that a year and half under national lockdown characterised by intermittent levels of lockdown intensity – from a total shutdown at Level 5 to a more relaxed one at Level 1 – and now with vaccinations on a wide scale, a reasonable expectation is that many are itching for social outdoor leisure to begin in earnest.
For some this means taking time out for boat ride on the country’s rivers, dams, lagoons and related if only for a care free relaxation.
However, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) boating section, a “carefree relaxation” on small water vessels anywhere in the country actually comes with a lot of responsibility both for those that own the small watercrafts, just as is the case for those that board them on water, for any reason.
In addition to general safety, that’s partly because in terms of South African law, all vessels used for any reason on South African waters, both at sea as well as on open water spaces such as rivers, dams, lagoons and similar; must be approved for such use inclusive of licencing of both the vessels as well as crew personnel in some cases.
Governing the use of small vessels in the country under SAMSA is a set of regulations contained in the Merchant Shipping Act 57 of 1951 as amended periodically. The legislation provides for regulations for each specified category of vessels – from small to big – with particular regard to requirements for their construction and use, whether for commerce, leisure or such other use on South African waters.
To assist South Africans with both awareness and knowledge of the requirements of this raft of regulations under the Act, SAMSA conducts training courses and some in cases, licensing for both owners of vessels as well as State appointed rangers, peace officers, surveyors and related with a direct role in ensuring the proper utilisation of the vessels.
Pontoon boats training
Among most recently held courses conducted periodically, on an ongoing basis countrywide was one for pontoon vessel surveyors in June 2021 in Saldanha Bay over two days. According to SAMSA, pontoon boats, otherwise also known as rafts and used on sheltered waters (Category R vessels), are of unique construction.
“A pontoon boat is a boat used for navigation on water, however propelled or moved, consisting of two or more flotation (hull) units to which a deck or decks are attached and on which persons are able to be supported on. The essential difference between a pontoon boat and a conventional boat is that the deck(s) are not integral to the hull of the boat.”
In terms of legislation, as articulated in SAMSA’s Marine Notice 26 of 2011, construction and functionality of the class of small vessels is governed by the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations, 2007 along with all non-pleasure vessels of less than 25 GT which proceed to sea and/or are used on sheltered waters, pleasure vessels of less than 100 GT which proceed to sea and/or are used on sheltered waters and all vessels used on inland waters.
The training workshop’s co-coordinator, SAMSA Centre for Boating manager Ms Debbie James, said the two-day workshop held in Saldanha Bay in June was targeted at all boating surveyors, (both SAMSA’s and those external) as well as safety officers and focused solely on Category R pontoons not used for ferrying passengers. Training on passenger-ferrying pontoons is limited to SAMSA surveyors as, according to Ms James, they are the only one allowed by law to inspect that class of the small vessels.
She said: “The aim was to provide guidance on the application of the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations, 2007, to pontoon boats, which are not passenger vessels, on issues of construction, stability, watertight integrity and survivability in the event of damage which are important survey elements for the issue of Local General Safety Certificates or Certificates of Fitness,”.
Crucially, she said; the one other reason the training workshop was extremely important for all boat surveyors was because “pontoon boats used primarily on inland waters (Category R), require additional clarification of the application of the provisions of the National Small Vessel Regulations.”
For the reason, it was necessary for especially external surveyors and safety officers intending to survey small pleasure pontoon vessels to attend the training course as consistent with their licensing requirements.
The inclusion of six of SAMSA’s boat surveyors in the training workshop also had a specific objective. “The concept behind holding the workshop was also to ‘train the trainer’ and for SAMSA to develop a pool of internal SAMSA surveyors able to present this particular training when required.”
Of course, the small boats training workshop at Saldanha Bay was one of a series held over the last few years, and which were highly negatively impacted over the last year by the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
Commercial paddling ops training workshop
In fact, just a month or so ahead of the national lockdown in March 2020, SAMSA had just conducted one such training workshop for operators of commercial paddling operations along the Orange River through to the Oranjemund river mouth on the Atlantic Ocean west of the country.
NEW MARINE OFFICERS READY FOR THE TASK!
Three new SAMSA young officers, Mr Esethu Hlokoza, Mr Tora Lombard and Ms Khanyisiwe Mthethwa joined SAMSA recently as seafarers undergoing training as Marine Offivers over two years.
Below is the story of two of the Marine Officer trainees, Ms Mthathwa and Mr Lombard about their first month on the training programme.
“We joined the programme at beginning of September as trainee surveyors. During the first three weeks, we attended variouss mall vessel, pontoon, passenger and buoyancy courses which detailed about what to look out for when doing the survey and regulations that goes with them. We were then given a chance to put what we had learned in theory into practical use as CE Jonathan Hartzenberg took us to survey the small vessels with him applying all that was taught during the course.
“As illustrated in the above picture. we went to survey two sister fishing vessels in Hout Bay where we learned more about the processes of LGSC on small vessels.”
“Cape Town and Saldanha Bay have quite a few wooden vessels in their waters, so during our fourth week we attended a wooden vessel course in the port of Saldanha Bay where we learned more about the structural integrity of wooden vessels and how to survey them. We then applied this knowledge to the Zay-Yaan, (see above pic) a wooden fishing vessel in the port of Hout Bay.
“We also visited a river-rafting company, where we surveyed their inflatable boats, better known as “crocs”. (see pic above). As a commercial company these crocs are surveyed as a group under one certificate. This allowed us the opportunity to test for the floatation requirements after chamber deflation.
“We further had the opportunity to break away from the small vessels and complete an LGSC and IOPP survey on a large Fishing Trawler. As IOPP’s aren’t applicable to small vessels, it was a good learning experience to survey these items and the greater scope of the LGSC on such a large vessel as compared to the small vessels.
“It was an interesting four (4) weeks. Coming from larger vessels, the exposure to small vessels came as quite a surprise as to how large and complicated the small vessel industry really is and the large role it plays in maritime safety within South Africa. We are excited to see what the new month has in store for us.”