COSPAS SARSAT search and rescue system most reliable: South Africa

Pretoria: 13 April 2022

South Africa’s continued and sustained role as a direct global contributor to development and deployment of advanced ground and space-based technologies and related services for search and rescue particularly across the southern hemisphere remains one of the country’s most serious responsibilities, according to Department of Transport Deputy Director-General, Mr Zakhele Twala.

Mr Twala shared the view while formally delivering a welcome address to delegates from several countries in Africa and abroad to this year’s COSPAS SARSAT Programme South West Pacific Data Distribution Region (SWPDDR) South Africa-hosted virtual conference currently underway since Monday this week.

The conference, the 8th in the series for the SWPDDR – one of six regions globally under the COSPAS SARSAT Programme – is two years behind its schedule in Australia in 2018 for South Africa in 2020 due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide towards the end of 2019.

Mr Zakhele Twala. Department of Transpport Deputy Director-General: Civil Aviation

In his address to country representatives during an opening address on Monday, Mr Twala said South Africa regarded it as highly significant its role and a huge responsibility the fact that it was the only country in southern Africa subscribing to and extending ground level search and rescue services of the COSPAS SARSAT Programme to more than a dozen countries in the region.

Thus, South Africa is the Search and Rescue Point of Contact (SPOC) to countries including Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, St Helena, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda, Swaziland and a few others.

In terms of the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, “the primary purpose of the Cospas-Sarsat System is the provision of distress alert and location data for search and rescue (SAR), using spacecraft and ground facilities to detect and locate the signals of Cospas-Sarsat distress radio beacons operating on 406 MHz.”

In South Africa, according to the Department of Transport, as a Member State of the International Civil Aviation ICS) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and a signatory particularly to the  Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, 1974, the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979 and Annex 12 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, 1944, the country is obligated to provide aeronautical and maritime search and rescue coordination and services within her search and rescue region.

South Africa’s search and rescue regions under the SA Search & Rescue Organisation (SASAR) correspond with what is prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The area is divided into two Search and Rescue Regions (SRR), comprising aeronautical and maritime search and rescue over a total area of approximately 28,5 million square kilometres stretching down to the South Pole.

The aeronautical search and rescue region cover the continental area of the sovereign territory of South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho and associated flight information regions.

On the other hand, the maritime search and rescue region over three oceans comprises; on the western side, the ocean area to approximately halfway between South Africa and South America, on the Eastern side, the ocean area to approximately halfway between South Africa and Australia and on the northern side,  the oceans areas bordering Namibia, Angola, South Africa and Mozambique as well as the oceans region to the South Pole.

On Monday, Mr Twala described the COSPAS SARSAT system as the most reliable to date and the country was proud to further contribute to its enhancement through deployment of a 6th antenna system in Gauteng this year.

Globally, further advances anticipated to greatly improve search and rescue services across both aeronautical and maritime sectors, include the anticipated introduction of Return Link Service (RLS) providing notification to a 406 MHz beacon that an alert transmitted by the beacon has been detected and distributed via the Cospas-Sarsat MCC network to the MCC whose service area covers the beacon confirmed position. The service is described as “intended to provide acknowledgement of the reception of the alert message to persons in distress”.

For his full remarks, click on the video below (+-7 minutes).

The virtual SWPDDR conference over three days, conducted from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Head Office in Hillcrest, Pretoria, will end on Thursday.


COSPAS SARSAT satellite technology deployment for enhanced maritime sector rescue under focus in South Africa this week.

Pretoria: 12 April 2022

South Africa and its member group of countries in the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, among them Australia; will have their gaze up in the skies above Africa for three full days this week, beginning on Tuesday, focussed on latest developments in satellite technology for the enhancement of maritime safety globally and in the southern hemisphere.

The virtual meeting of the South West Pacific Data Distribution Region (SWPDDR) through which the group of countries subscribe to the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, is being hosted by South Africa through the Department of Transport (DoT), ably assisted by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

The international COSPAS-SARSAT Programme is a satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) distress-alert detection system made up of satellites in space and infrastructure to receive signals on the ground. Its main function is to facilitate distress transmissions from vessels, aircraft and persons via satellites to activate life-saving emergency support from government authorities.

Since its launch in the early 80s, the system described as providing “accurate, timely and reliable alert and location data to search and rescue authorities who assist persons in distress, even in the world’s most remote areas….” has been credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands of people particularly at seas worldwide.

Mr Jared Blows, Chief of MRCC at the SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch & Response in Cape Town

Speaking ahead of the start of the meeting in Pretoria on Tuesday, Mr Jared Blows, Chief of SAMSA Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) located at the Centre for Sea Watch and Response in Cape Town, described the gathering in Hillcrest this week as a highly significant event for South Africa both as host country as well as for  critical role players in oceans and air  safety in the southern tip of the African continent.

According to Mr Blows, the SWPDDR meeting in South Africa is only taking place in Pretoria this year after it was postponed for over two years due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide during latter half of 2019.

He said: “South Africa via the SASAR Organisation of the Department of Transport is a member of the COSPAS SARSAT Programme. The programme assists world search and rescue organisations by supplying both space and ground segment satellite systems for the detection of emergency location beacons used in the maritime and aeronautical domain along with beacons used by persons on land who find themselves in need of the services of a search and rescue organisation.

“The system detects beacons approved for use and operating on the 406Mhz frequency band. The world is divided into various data distribution regions and South Africa falls within the SWPDDR. The DDR is a sub section of the larger COSPAS SARSAT Joint Committee and the COSPAS SARSAT Council.

“The various DDRs meet regularly to discuss matters specifically associated with their regions and to look at improving the system. These proposals and recommendations are submitted to the Joint Committee for further deliberations and then to the Council should approvals be required.

“The SWPDDR has for many years held the meeting in the various members Countries. South Africa was to host the meeting in 2020. However, with COVID creating havoc worldwide the meeting was postponed to April 12th to 14th 2022. South Africa, specifically the Department of Transport, is the host for the meeting this year.

“A working group set up from within the SASAR Executive was tasked to arrange such meeting. With travel restrictions and COVID related matters still a challenge the decision was taken not to postpone any longer but to host the meeting virtually,” said Mr Blows

For his full remarks on these and related matters, click on the video clip below. (+-5 minutes).


The hunt is on for a SAMSA new leader


Pretoria: 25 July 2016

The hunt for a new leader for the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has begun in earnest, with a call for applications to fill the post of Chief Executive Officer, placed on national newspapers at the weekend.

The endeavor is to plug a hole left by the sudden departure recently of former CEO and long serving SAMSA top executive, Commander Tsietsi Mokhele. He resigned ‘with immediate effect’ on May 24, but had his departure delayed to end of June while a ‘forensic investigation’ was being conducted.

Former SAMSA Chief Executive Officer, Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, for whom a replacement is sought
Former SAMSA Chief Executive Officer, Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, for whom a replacement is sought

South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi
South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi

Mr Mokhele had been with SAMSA as CEO since 2008. On his resignation in May, SAMSA Chief Operating Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi was appointed as acting CEO. The Financial Mail recently quoted Mr Mokhele as saying he would be pursuing his personal business interest still within the maritime economic sector.

“I am staying in the maritime industry to mobilize our industry to make sure it takes advantage of the opportunities under Operation Phakisa,” the FM quoted Mr Mokhele as saying.

Meanwhile, on Friday SAMSA moved swiftly in an effort to plug the gap, issuing out an invitation to suitable candidates to apply for the position. The advert was distributed both internally within the organization as well as through weekend national newspapers.

SAMSA, with its head office located in the country’s administrative capital, Pretoria but with operations across the country; is  a public  entity  established  in  terms  of Act 5 of 1998 to administer certain laws and to ensure safety of life at sea, pollution control and promotion of the country’s maritime interest.

In the ad, the organization says it is in the hunt for someone to: “lead  and  manage SAMSA for effective  execution of its vision,  mission and  strategic objectives (and), as part  of the  national  transport strategy, position SAMSA as  a key  strategic organization for  the   attainment  of  national,  economic  and   transformational goals   including   Africa  and   the  international sphere.

20150909_101517_1The successful person would in addition, be required to: “provide   leadership within  SAMSA  to achieve transformation, empowerment, capacity building  and  service delivery; manage inter- governmental developments  and   relationships  to  achieve  collective execution  of  maritime goals  whilst  complying with International Conventions (and) work effectively  with SAMSA Board, management, shareholder, staff and  stakeholders to achieve SAMSA’s mandate.”

SAMSA requires the likely suitable candidate to, among others; not only possess a recognized university degree – with a Master’s in Business Management (MBA) deemed advantageous – but to also be a South African citizen with “leadership and management experience with  at least 5 years at executive management level – with experience in and or exposure to the maritime industry considered a significant advantage.

(For full detail, click here Vacancy advertisement )

The deadline for applications for the SAMSA CEO is Friday this week, 29 July 2016.


South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in mourning!

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has been left devastated following the passing away of one of its senior managers, Ms Sindiswa Nhlumayo, who passed away on Thursday night, February 11, 2016 after a battle with cancer.

Sindiswa NhlumayoMs Nhlumayo (45), an Executive Head of SAMSA’s Centre for Maritime Excellence was a highly recognized business leader and manager acknowledged worldwide for her acumen and style. 

To read more on this click here…..