Relief at last as a 62 sailors’ rescue mission deep in the Atlantic Ocean succeeds: SAMSA

The SA Agulhas II berthing at the port of Cape Town during its arrival from a rescue mission in Gough Island on Monday afternoon. (Photo: SAMSA)

Cape Town: 28 October 2020

There were sighs and clear signs of relief on the faces of both a group of seafarers as well as the handful of family members as the SA Agulhas II – the country’s most advanced polar research vessel – berthed at Eastern Mole 1 at the port of Cape Town on Monday evening with the seafarers safely onboard.

It was the end of a +5 000 kilometer journey for the 60 seafarers on board – 47 of them South African – who narrowly escape injury two weeks ago some 2600 kilometers deep in the Atlantic Ocean, after their Balize-flagged fishing research vessel, the Geo Searcher, sank within a mile off the Gough Island after it reportedly struck underwater rocks, quickly took water and sank.

The hair raising incident, and during which two of the 62 sailors suffered minor injuries had, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), occured in the late afternoon of Thursday, 15 October 2020, while the group of seafarers was sailing in the vicinity of Gough Island.

When the vessel reportedly struck the underwater rocks and rapidly took water, the seafarers scrambled onto safety boats that helped them reach dry land.

The Balize flagged fishing vessel named the Geo Searcher photographed while sinking off the coast of the Gough Island, some 2600km west of Cape Town and whose 62 people crew bailed out with boats and sought temporary refuge at Gough Island on Thursday, 15 October 2020

SAMSA through its Sea Watch and Rescue linked Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) based in Cape Town not only first picked up the frantic calls for help from the vessel’s crew after it got into difficulty that Thursday afternoon, but also co-ordinated the entire rescue mission – working hand in glove with various institutions and State departments including the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), owners of the SA Agulhas II.

SA Agulhas II Master, Captain Knowledge Bengu shortly after berthing his vessel in Cape Town on Tuesday night (Photo: SAMSA)

With Captain Knowledge Mdlase as Master of the SA Agulhas II, a week ago the vessel was dispatched to the Gough Island to fetch the stranded seamen and after initially battling with choppy ocean winds, it succefully reached and fetched all the seafarers for on boarding onto the SA Agulhas II for the 2500 kilometer trip to Cape Town, which ended on Monday evening.

From a SAMSA perspective, the safe rescue and return of the 60 seafarers (two more others were dropped of at Tristan da Cuhna) marked the successful completion of South Africa’s most biggest sea rescue mission in over a decade.

This is according to the head of SAMSA’s MRCC in Cape Town, Mr Jared Blows. In a brief chat on Tuesday, the morning after the return of the SA Agulhas II from Gough Island, Mr Blows said constant alertness and closer cooperation with various others institutions was key to the success of the mission.

For his views (+3 minutes) click on the video below.

MRCC Chief, Mr Jared Blows in a brief chat about the successful rescue mission in Gough Island this past week.

Meanwhile, Captain Bengu described the rescue mission as having been relatively smooth, this despite challenging weather conditions initially on their arrival near the Gough Island last week. It took the vessel the entire four days to get there.

According to Captain Bengu, the rescue mission started hurriedly during the evening of Thursday, 15 October when he and his SA Agulhas II crew had to drop off in Cape Town a group of passengers that were onboard returning from a research mission, and had to rush back towards Gough Island.

“The vessel departed at about 11pm on Thursday and sailed full speed – at about 16 knots per hour – towards Gough Island, which took us about four days.

“Unfortunately when we got to the island on 20 October, the weather was unfavourable to conduct any flight operations especially with regards flying seafarers onboard. We had to wait it throughout the evening until we decided to call off the operation for the day. The following day, as soon as there was a weather opening – a two hour gap in the weather – a very brave helicopter crew took a decision to fly even as the conditions were not so good. They managed to bring on board all 62 seafarers safely and unharmed,” said Captain Bengu.

He said in addition to rescuing the stranded seafarers, the SA Agulhas II crew also conducted an environmental inspection for oil spillage around the wreck of the sunken vessel, the Geo Searcher.

Later upon departure from the island, the SA Agulhas first headed for Tristan da Cunha where it dropped two of the 62 seafarers after which it headed for South Africa.

“On our arrival at Tristan da Cunha, the Tristanians were very generous and donated clothing and food for the rest of the survivors,’ he said.

For Captain Bengu’s full remarks, click on the video below (+-4minutes)

SA Agulhas II Master, Capt. Knowledge Bengu reflecting on the successful rescue mission of 62 seafarers of the sunken Geo Searcher off the Atlantic Ocean island known as Gough Island this past week.

He also described the 62 rescued seafarers as “most grateful and with full appreciation of the hospitality they received.”

Regrettably, this blog could not convince any of the rescued seafarers on Monday evening to speak on record about their ordeal this past week. This notwithstanding, several seemed happy to have made it back home in good health and were full of praise for the SA Agulhas II crew.


Rescued crew of sunken vessel on their way home: SAMSA

South African rescue mission personnel on board the country’s research vessel, the SA Agulhas II near Gough Island to placate 62 stranded seafarers – a majority of them South African – whose fishing vessel sank a mile off the Atlantic Ocean island a week ago. Bad weather affected the rescue mission but all is reported to be well now.

Pretoria: 22 October 2020

After losing time battling inclement weather characterised by strong winds, South Africa’s research vessel, the SA Agulhas II is on its way back from the Gough Island, after successfully rescuing the crew of the vessel that sunk just a mile away from the remote Atlantic Ocean island last week.

This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) which is coordinating the rescue and safe return of the 62 crew members who were onboard the Balize flagged research vessel, Geo Searcher, when it hit rocks and took water before it sunk to the bottom of the sea near Gough Island on Thursday last week.

Some of the seafarers of the Geo Searcher that sank a mile of the Atlantic Ocean island known as Gough Island, now safely onboard the SA Agulhas II and on their way back home to South Africa. (Photo: SAMSA)

On board the Geo Searcher at the time, were 47 South African, three (5) Portuguese, one (1) British, two (2) Ghanaian, one (1) Indonesian, four (4) Namibian and two (2) Tristan citizens,” said the updated statement.

On Wednesday, SAMSA reported the rescue crew of the SA Agulhas II hurriedly dispatched last week to fetch the seafarers off the stricken research fishing vessel as having encountered wild stormy weather on approach to the Gough Island.

“Bad weather with gale  force winds has stalled the rescue operation since Tuesday  (20 October 2020). Weather forecast for the  coming 24 hours is also not looking any better but is being closely monitored. The evacuation will commence as soon as the weather subsides.The  weather is  reported to possibly  subside  from Thursday  (22nd October 2020),” said SAMSA

On Thursday morning, SAMSA reported all as going well with the rescue mission, and that the SA Agulhas II was on its way back to South Africa.

“The SA Agulhas II is heading to TRISTAN Da CUNHA to drop the two Tristanian  survivors from where the vessel will then proceed to Cape Town.

“Arrival in Cape Town will be dependent on weather conditions that may affect the sailing time. All indications are that it will take approximately 4 to 5 days before the vessel arrives in Cape Town.” said SAMSA.


SA World Oceans Day 2018 observation puts focus on growing menace of plastics pollution


Durban: 09 June 2018

With global recognition increasing about the dangers of plastics waste pollution particularly on the world’s oceans, closer collaboration among role-players remains crucial to success in combating the rapidly expanding menace.

At least that was the dominant message flowing from this year’s observation of World Oceans Day in Durban at the weekend – a two day event hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in collaboration with several institutions including the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

SAMSA is charged statutorily with responsibility for the monitoring and prevention of pollution by ships at sea all around South Africa, an area spawning more than 1.5-million square kilometres and over which the country has interest in as an exclusive economic zone.

The venue of this year’s event at the Durban port marking the World Oceans Day on 08 June.

In Durban over two days, from Friday and Saturday, several institutions across the public, private, higher education, research as well as community sectors gathered under one roof at a hall located at the harbour for an exhibition as well as a public awareness campaign focused on sharing information about the menace of plastics pollution.



Mr Brian Kekana (Left) of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) sharing information on the work of SAMSA in preventing pollution by ships at the country’s oceans but also information on careers in the country’s maritime sector.

The first day was almost exclusively dedicated to high school pupils in the Durban area while the following day was open to members of the public and for whom, another major attraction was country dedicated marine research vessel, the SA Agulhas II.

In addition to maritime careers information for the school pupils, both groups were taken through various information sharing sessions on the importance of the country’s marine resources as well as the absolutely crucial need to spare the environment of pollution, and of which plastic  waste was the most dominant currently across the world.

They were also taken on a tour of the country’s dedicated sea research vessel, the SA Agulhas II ahead of its departure to the Antarctic region with supplies for the research stations there, as well as further studies by a group of marine scientists on board.

Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Marine scientist (biological oceanography), Ms Keshnee Pillay at this year’s World Ocean Day observation event at the Durban harbour held on Friday and Saturday.

According to Ms Keshnee Pillay, a marine scientist in biological oceanography at the Department of Environmental Affairs, greater collaboration among all stakeholders and roleplayers engaged with the plastics waste pollution campaign, is crucial to future success.

In the following video, explains why the focus of this year’s World Ocean Day celebration had to be on plastics pollution particularly as it affected the oceans and other marine environment.

Maritime foundation education continues to draw industry support

Sub-Saharan region maritime industry services group, Subtech South Africa confirms sponsorship of bursaries for maritime high school pupils

Pretoria: 18 May 2016

LENDING A HAND: Subetch South Africa officials, Mr Rudolph Punt and Ms Mandy McGuire (Subtech) with the pupils Gershwyn Poole, Siyamthanda Vuyelwa and Phaphama Kepu who were recently awarded bursaries at Lawhill High School
LENDING A HAND: Subtech South Africa officials, Mr Rudolph Punt and Ms Mandy McGuire with the pupils Gershwyn Poole, Siyamthanda Vuyelwa and Phaphama Kepu who were recently awarded bursaries at Lawhill High School

South Africa’s maritime sector education, training and skills development continues to draw support from a growing network of contributors as efforts gain traction towards transformation and integration of the sector into the country’s mainstream economy.

This became evident once more recently after Subtech South Africa awarded three Grade 12 Lawhill Maritime Centre pupils at Simonstown full bursaries for the 2016 education year.

The three youths are Siyamtanda Vuyelwa and Phaphama Kepu – both from the Eastern Cape, and Gershwyn Poole from the Western Cape.

Just above the Simonstown harbour stands the Lawhill Maritime Centre, originally a foundational level education centre specializing in maritime economy sector subjects, and now poised to also possibly offer specialized in-service training also to teachers.
Just above the Simonstown harbour stands the Lawhill Maritime Centre, originally a foundational level education centre specializing in maritime economy sector subjects, and now poised to also possibly offer specialized in-service training also to teachers.

Subtech SA, a sub-Saharan region marine industry services group based in Durban, said it readily offered to support the youths after establishing their high level of interest in maritime studies.

“What binds these three kids and Subtech is a passion for all things maritime! We look forward to monitoring their progress over 2016 and wish them well for their Matric Year,’ said the company in a statement. It said the bursaries would cover both school and hostel fees, allowing the enthusiastic group of youths to continue with their maritime studies.

Subtech SA described Lawhill’s maritime studies programme – featuring maritime economics and nautical sciences – as being “one of only a very few examples of a specific industry playing a role, at secondary school level, in providing industry-focused education which improves the school leaver’s chances of finding employment.”

“The programme,” said Subtech SA: “is aimed at stimulating maritime awareness among young people, attracting them to the shipping industry and providing the industry with high quality, skilled and knowledgeable employees.

“Because the Lawhill Maritime Centre receives no state funding, its students – the majority of whom come from financially-stressed homes – are reliant on bursaries provided by the maritime and related industries to fund their education from Grade 10 to 12.”

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is among business and related institutions that also sponsor children at Lawhill Maritime Centre.

EDUCATING SAILORS: SAMSA Centre for Maritime Excellence executive manager Ms. Sindiswa Nhlumayo (third from Right), and (From Left) SAMSA skills development manager John Phiri; Centre for Maritime Excellence executive PA, Charity Bodiba and SAMSA human resources executive manager Ms. Lesego Mashishi with Lawhill Maritime Centre students sponsored by SAMSA during a visit in August 2015. SAMSA is to increase the number of youths at high school for the 2016 school year.
EDUCATING SAILORS: SAMSA officials, former Centre of Maritime Excellence, the late Ms Sindiswa Nhlumayo (3rd from Right) and (From Left); Skills Development Manager John Phiri; Centre for Maritime Excellence executive PA, Charity Bodiba and SAMSA human resources executive manager Ms. Lesego Mashishi with Lawhill Maritime Centre students sponsored by SAMSA during a visit in August 2015.

SAMSA, encouraging and collaborating closely with a range of stakeholders across public and private sectors in promoting maritime sector education, training and skills development as a core competence to the sector’s growth and transformation, has since 2013 supported as many as 65 foundational level pupils from across the country keen on pursuing maritime studies at the Simons Town education institution, inclusive of a total 16 pupils currently, involving an investment for the period of just over half-a-million rand.

Similar support is extended to tertiary level students predominantly at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Durban University of Technology, both of which offer tailored studies and skills development courses on maritime economy.

*Meanwhile, scores of pupils at the Eastern Cape’s first and newest maritime high schools in East London continue to get support and exposure from the country’s maritime sector with a view to enhancing their interest and knowledge of the sector.

20160514_134228This past weekend, the pupils from George Randall and Ngwenyathi High Schools, were bused to Port Elizabeth for a day and taken onboard the country’s research vessel, the SA Agulhas II shortly after its return from a research expedition in the Antarctica region.

The two Eastern Cape high schools began formally this year to offer dedicated classes for maritime studies, featuring maritime economics and nautical sciences.

A month ago, pupils from the schools were among guests of President Jacob Zuma during his delivery of his annual report on Operation Phakisa, also in Port Elizabeth.


Verging on becoming the world’s Top 10 maritime nation, South Africa firms up its Oceans Research capabilities through enhanced collaboration.

Docked at the port of Cape Town, the SA Agulhas II, South Africa's dedicated research vessel owned and operated by the Department of Environment Affairs (DEA). Photo: SAMSA
Docked at the port of Cape Town in October 2015, the SA Agulhas II, South Africa’s dedicated research vessel owned and operated by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Photo: SAMSA

South Africa’s increasing focus on expanded development of its maritime economic sector should soon yield dividends for especially much needed research, and maritime sector education in general.

It is through research, education and skills development that desperately sought-after economic opportunities in the maritime sector can be identified, thereby opening doors for entrepreneurship and business investment, and which in turn should lead to job creation and increased employment, wealth sharing and ultimately poverty reduction.

It is a long held recognition in the country but which has gained more currency and airtime notably since the historic inaugural all-embracing maritime sector indaba: the South African Maritime Industry Conference (SAMIC) held in Cape Town in 2012.

20151113_070215Yet, even as broadly acknowledged at the SAMIC four years ago and indeed, in prior and subsequent industry or sub-sector imbizos and related, ocean space focused research in the country has hitherto been sparse and decidedly shallow and isolated, undertaken separately by different groups including mainly the State, education institutions and the private sector, in line with their peculiar interests and goals.

This led summarily to not only excessive costs for individual groupings, compounded by unnecessary duplication in some cases, but also to poor collation, quantification, coding and utilization of accumulated knowledge.

However, a groundswell of events currently clearly suggests that this is about to change, fast.

To read more click here