An MSC container vessel caught up in foul weather in Algoa Bay, leading to loss of some cargo overboard in the process, about a week ago, has been released from the city to continue on its sea journey.
This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a statement late on Wednesday confirming the release of the MSC Palak from the Indian Ocean port of Ngqurha, the same day, exactly a week after it was detained following to the loss of a reported 22 containers overboard at sea while battling a stormy and wet weather in Algoa Bay.
According to SAMSA, a salvage operation that soon took place shortly after the incident last week also involving the vessel owners, MSC, had been successful so far in relocating some debris to facilitate safe passage of ships in the area.
In the statement, SAMSA reported: “The South African Maritime Safety Authority has been involved in coordinating the salvage of containers and debris drifting off the coast as a result of the incident on the MSC Palak on the 14th July 2020. The vessel lost various containers overboard as a result of heavy weather experienced in the bay on the same day.
“The salvage operation currently in progress involves SAMSA, the vessel’s Insurance, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the vessel owners, MSC and local clean-up services providers. They have been working tirelessly to salvage what is left of the containers that came adrift during the incident.
“Aerial surveillances have been carried out to spot the drifting debris along the coast and salvage crews using boats have towed the spotted debris to a safe place such that it poses minimal risk to ships navigating along the coast and to avoid the environment.
“MSC has given full support to the salvaging operations to recover any floating debris and assist with making the shipping lanes and the general area safe for navigation.
MSC further committed their organization to be financially responsible for any clean up that may be required in the bay and areas in the vicinity for the next five years, if deemed to be linked with the incident.
“The MSC Palak has since been released from detention by the South African Maritime Safety Authority on 21st July 2020 and she has been allowed to sail to her next port.”
An investigation is underway into the loss of as many as 23 containers from a cargo vessel after the shipment apparently fell overboard during a stormy weather in Algoa Bay near the city of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, earlier this week.
According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the containers were onboard the MSC Palak, a four year old Portugal flagged container vessel with a TEU capacity of approximately 9411 containers that got caught up in heavy weather and swell seas while sailing in the Algoa Bay region of the Indian Ocean on Monday.
In a statement on Thursday, SAMSA said: “The container vessel “MSC Palak” sailed out Port of Ngqura at 12:00 on the 13th of July 2020 due to high winds and anchored in Number 2 anchorage to ride out the heavy weather. On the 13th and 14th of July 2020 a severe storm passed the South African coast, causing heavy weather in Algoa Bay. The swell height measured in Algoa Bay was approximately 3.5m.
“At 23:37 on the 14th of July 2020 of a report was received from Port Control that the MSC Palak had lost containers overboard while at anchor.
“An initial assessment was that six (6) containers had fallen over board and that they had sunk, however at first light on the 15th, the vessel confirmed that in fact 23 containers were lost overboard.
“A fishing vessel reported at 08:00 on the 15th of July 2020, that they found containers drifting approximately seven (7) nautical miles south of where the containers were lost. SAMSA was informed that no dangerous cargo was lost overboard.
“The Port of Ngqura was closed for vessel traffic due to risk that some containers may have sunk in the approach channel, becoming a danger to navigation. SAMSA is working with the vessel owner to ensure that all containers are salvaged.
“An aerial surveillance flight was arranged by the owners to locate any drifting containers that may pose a hazard to shipping. SAMSA requests the public to remain vigilant and report any containers sighted to SAMSA.”
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in China some six months ago has without doubt brought about the greatest health risk globally and, in its wake, by some accounts, the biggest economic threat and devastation in more than 100 years.
Yet as the old adage has it: ‘every dark cloud has a silver lining,’ so it turns out that the outbreak of the pandemic that’s forced many countries to close their borders, would also lead to new business opportunities for others that were not readily available before, and in the process, giving rise to creative thinking and innovation.
Heron Marine, a black woman owned bunkering services company based in Port Elizabeth is one such business operator to be presented with an opportunity that would call for its creativeness in delivering services to four huge international cruise vessels it has never serviced before.
According to Kgomotso Selokane, Chief Executive Officer of Heron Marine, four international cruise liners from Carnival, namely, the Carnival Dream, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy, came calling into the port of Ngqura in May.
The call into South African ports by these four cruise liners – among several similar – was to disembark the country’s seafarers who – along with the entire cruise line industry– have become economic victims of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Enroute to disembarking crew at Durban and other ports outside of South Africa the Carnival cruise ships required replenishments, among which was fuel for the journey to return home their thousands of seafarers rendered stranded due to closure of the industry worldwide.
Unlike its three sisters, the Carnival Dream – at 130,000gt and 305.47 meters long, with a guest capacity of some 3646 people as well as 1367 crew members – was to be refuelled seat anchorage. That presented some interesting challenges.
According to Ms Selokane, due to the configuration of the vessel and barge, the actual refuelling operation at anchorage required for the first time, the utilisation of a spacer barge with two Yokahama fenders on either side to serve as a bulwark between the company’s bunker barge and the cruise ship. In turn, this required not only tugs to shove and hold vessels in place, but also the utilisation of a mooring boat to layout oil booms to cover stern of the vessel.
Once arrangements had been finalised, and with a keen eye constantly on the weather conditions as the refuelling had to be conducted in open anchorage , Heron Marine called on, among others, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) for assistance with tugs and consulted with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to ensure compliance with the strictest safety standards during the bunkering operation.
The final alignment of all parties and equipment and calm weather conditions allowed for a successful refuelling of the Carnival Dream by one of Heron Marine’s bunkering barges, the Bonaire Trader.
She added: “SAMSA and TNPA’s approvals… demonstrated South Africa’s commitment to implementing the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy’s (CMTP) in making the country an international maritime centre, but more so our contribution to the global maritime economy during these trying times.”
Part of the economic contribution involved the deliberate utilisation of all local based services suppliers for support infrastructure, she said
“In our commitment to our license requirements, we use local suppliers as much as possible. In this operation specifically we procured the services of a drone operator to take footage of the entire operation.
“However, the pinnacle of our excitement was how we committed ourselves, as an entity, to SAMSA’s SMME Development requirement, as our mooring boat was provided by a local 100% Black Owned SMME.
“We would really like to thank SAMSA and the TNPA team for allowing this operation to take place and supporting its precedence as a first of its kind offshore ALGOA BAY or maybe even South Africa. “Working together like this is a true indication of our South African Spirit – not matter what we endeavour,” said Ms Selokane.
The rebuilding of a South Africa ship register and development of a greater population awareness about, and a viable channel of education and training through to meaningful engagement of people through careers remain pivotal to redevelopment and expansion of the country’s maritime sector, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
This view was among several articulated by SAMSA’s acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi during a live national radio interview on Tuesday this week.
According to Mr Tilayi, the rallying call for special focus on redeveloping the country’s ship register – currently with no more than half a dozen vessels under the country’s flag – was based on empirical evidence based on the massive economic contribution that shipping makes, inclusive of education and training as well as significant jobs creation.
In the 20 minutes radio interview, he briefly unpacked the country’s maritime economic sector’s Government led initiative, Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) launched in 2014 aimed at not only repositioning the sector into the country’s main economic development agenda, but also to facilitate redevelopment as well as expansion of the maritime sector inclusive of all the country’s people.
Mr Tilayi also explained briefly the rationale behind the recent set up of a major ship bunkering service along the country’s south-eastern sea, the Indian Ocean near Port Elizabeth. He described it as exemplifying the numerous business and economic opportunities the country is able to explore for further growth.
For the full interview, click below:
The radio interview is reproduced here in full, courtersy of PowerFM.
Consistent with revised Government regulations for the national lockdown for Level 3 announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa a week ago, and effective on 01 June 2020, South African seafarers are now allowed to freely embark and disembark vessels in South Africa or abroad.
In addition, clarity has also been provided on restrictions under national lockdown under the different levels, affecting the operations of small vessels.
This is according to two Marine Notices No.30 and No.31 issued by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in Pretoria this week as promised by Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula at the weekend.
According to SAMSA in terms of Marine Notice No.30 (Crew Changes); “All South African seafarers will be permitted to embark or disembark vessels either in South Africa or Internationally. Returning seafarers will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
“South African seafarers wishing to join a vessel, should preferably self-quarantine for 14-days prior to embarking. It is further recommended that seafarers undergo a Covid-19 test prior to joining a vessel.”
Giving contenxt to the periodically revised regulations SAMSA says: “Shipping is vital to the world supply chain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that all personnel involved are protected from infection, including those onboard ships and shore personnel who may need to temporarily go onboard ships or interact with seafarers.
“Many seafarers on board ships (and personnel in the offshore industry) have been on enforced extended contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic, with restrictions on travel making it difficult for crew to leave ships and for new crew to join ships. These extended stays on board could have significant repercussions for crew wellbeing as well as for safe ship operations.”
However, with South Africa effectively still under national lockdown due to the global war against the Covid-19 pandemic, according to SAMSA, foreign seafarers continue to be prohibited from disembarking on South African soil in terms of the newly revised regulations.
The Marine Notice reads: “No foreign Seafarers will be permitted to embark or disembark vessels in South Africa, unless prior arrangements have been agreed upon between the seafarers’ Embassy and Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Department of Home Affairs and Department of Health.”
The notice further sets out guideliness on various other aspects relevant to the national lockdown such as medical evacuations, health declarations and international travel regulations, and about which the shipping community is urged to closely study for understanding and compliance with.
According to SAMSA; ‘This Marine Notice covers the services that will be provided to vessels under the survey region by SAMSA. This does not preclude any operations which may be prohibited by other Government Deparments and Disaster Management Regulations (DMA).
“Owners and vessel operators are to ensure that they have a full understanding of any DMA regulations issued by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).”
In a table containing a list of 13 vessel operations related activities, the notice outlines which of these permitted under each of the national lockdown five (5) levels.
In addition, it also gives claritiy on regulations with respect to certificates of fitness, safe manning, and related matters. “SAMSA requests all stakeholders within the small boating fraternity to abide by the lockdown protocol as detailed in this Marine Notice and any regulations published in terms of the DISASTER MANAGEMENT ACT, 2002. The relevant risk level will change as determined by the DMA and may be different in the various provinces depending on the spread of the virus,” states the notice.
In a separate development, SAMSA also confirmed in a media statement on Tuesday, the final safe docking of the crippled China flagged crude oil tanker, the VLCC Yuan Hua Hu, at the port of Durban on Tuesday morning.
The statement reads:
“The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) wishes to confirm that the VLCC “Yuan Hua Hu” has been successfully berthed alongside Durban. This morning, at 0500 a Chemist attended the vessel offshore and completed a Gas-free Test to ensure that the tanker posed no risk to the port. The Chemist cleared the vessel and the tanker was allowed to approach the pilot boarding station with both the tugs “Pacific Dolphin” and “Siyanda” in tow.
The towing tugs successfully handed the tanker over to four Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) tugs, two TNPA Pilots, who executed the berthing of the tanker. The tanker ran into difficulties off Port St Johns on the 27th of May 2020 and was immobilised. She was unable to use her engines while drifting towards shore off and was arrested while she was 0.4 nautical miles from the beach.
The vessel was not carrying any cargo and all 27 crew on-board the casualty vessel are reported to be safe and no injuries were reported. The vessel has been boomed off to prevent any pollution while she undergoes repairs by a team of specialists.
To ensure that due diligence is carried out, a SAMSA Port State Control Inspector will conduct an inspection on the tanker today (2 June 2020) to verify that the tanker complies with all international regulations. SAMSA would like to specifically thank the Master and Crew of the “Siyanda” and the “Pacific Dolphin” who successfully towed the vessel to Durban from Port St Johns.
SAMSA also wishes to acknowledge the exceptional teamwork displayed among the multi-disciplinary team, comprising some of South Africa’s top maritime experts, including the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), AMSOL, Transnet National Port Authority(TNPA), Smit Marine South Africa, P&I Associates, National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) and SAMSA first responders.
The stricken crude oil tanker, Yua Hua Hu, is expected to finally reach the port of Durban sometime on Tuesday, in the tow of a tug, after more than seven days of reporting problems while sailing through South Africa’s Wild Coast on the Indian Ocean, reportedly on its way from Singapore to Libya on the west coast of Africa.
According to SAMSA in an update report, the vessel left Port St Johns coastline at about lunchtime on Saturday, under tow by the tug Pacific Dolphin, to the port of Durban and was expected to arrive at the port sometime on Tuesday.
The China flagged tanker was not carrying any cargo when it began experiencing problems a week ago in the vicinity of a South African part of the Indian Ocean that is historically known for its Wild Coast which over years have claimed many a vessel.
The tankers crew was reported to be safe.
Pretoria: 28 May 2020
Pretoria: Thursday 04.30pm (GMT)
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) continues to monitor the stricken crude tanker off port St Johns.
The tanker, the VLCC Yua Hua Hu remains safely anchored in 35 metres of water just off Port St. John’s. The vessel was monitored throughout the night and SAMSA can confirm that the vessel anchor is holding.
The tug “Siyanda” secured a tow to the stern of the tanker last night and is currently static towing the tanker while she is at anchor, awaiting the larger tug “Pacific Dolphin” to arrive on Saturday. The Pacific Dolphin has a bollard pull of 220 tonnes and will be used to tow the tanker to the port of Durban for repairs to her Main Engine and Stern Tube. The weather conditions do not present a threat to the vessel at this time.
Efforts continue in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of South Africa to save a stricken large oil tanker that reportedly ran aground on Tuesday, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)
The incident, one of three reported during the week involving commercial vessels in distress along South Africa’s oceans, involves a Chinese flagged super oil-tanker, YUA HUA HU which reportedly experienced unidentified problems while sailing through South Africa’s Indian Ocean area known as the Wild Coast on Tuesday.
The vessel was believed to have been sailing from Singapore to Angola on the west coast of Africa. SAMSA in a statement on Wednesday said the agency through its Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) based in Cape Town, was coordinating an emergency response to the immobilised large crude carrier, offshore of the Wild Coast near Port St Johns.
“The tanker is safely anchored one nautical mile off Dome Bluff on the outskirts of Port St Johns and being monitored by the MRCC. The tanker is not carrying any cargo. All 27 crew on-board the casualty vessel is reported to be safe and no injuries have been reported,’ reported SAMSA
The agency added that emergency rescue arrangements involved among others, the deployment of a tug owned by AMSOL from Durban. It was expected to rendevous with the stricken tanker at about 8pm on Wednesday.
“She will act as the standby tug until the arrival of the emergency towing tug (ETV), which was deployed from Cape Town this morning with an experienced Salvage Master on-board. The ETV is due to arrive at the tanker within 48hrs.
As part of the rescue effort, no less than five stations of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) along the Indian Ocean coastline, from Durban to East London with rescue swimmers, as well as a Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) helicopter would be on standy overnight, should they be needed, said SAMSA.
In addition, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DEFF) had also placed its Tier 1 Oil Pollution Response team and a privately owned Smit International Salvage team were also on alert, ready to deploy from Cape Town.
“SAMSA remains in direct communication with the vessel owner representatives and the master, who is providing their full cooperation to contain the threat to the South African coastline,” said SAMSA
Meanwhile on the west coast (Atlantic Ocean), SAMSA reported two other shipping incidents; one off Cape Town involving a cargo ship that had apparently caught on fire, and another in Saldahna Bay involving a fishing vessel that had run aground after being on caught on rocks at sea near the port.
According to SAMSA, in the Cape Town incident on Monday (25 May 2020), a vessel requested to anchor off port of Cape Town due to fire onboard. “Permission was granted to allow vessel Master and crew to fight the fire under a controlled environment.
“The cause of the fire had yet to be ascertained, but reported to have started from cargo hold number 6. The vessel Master also confirmed an explosion from the ship, resulting in the loss of two containers overboard. The vessel was then escorted by a sister ship MV XIN AN NING to the port of Cape Town.
“A first response team comprising of Salvage Master, SAMSA surveyors and City of Cape Town Firefighters boarded the vessel via helicopter to complete a damage assessment and determine the safety risk that the vessel posed, after which they agreed that it was safe for the vessel to board in the port.”
Further up the west coast, in Saldanha Bay, according to SAMSA, a “vessel ran aground at the harbour entrance yesterday, with 32 crew members onboard. National Sea Rescue Institute was activated and attended to the incident.
“The vessel is off the rocks and will be towed into port by a harbour tug boat. No oil spill has been reported at this stage, and a pollution boom has been deployed around the vessel as precautionary measure.
“The vessel was successfully refloated and brought into Saldanha and berthed alongside without any pollution incident. The vessel is now under tow, by the SA Amandla Tug, to Cape Town. The estimated date of arrival in Cape Town is 05 June 2020,” said SAMSA.
An occassional sight of cruise-liners at South African ports during this Covid-19 lockdown period – a most trying time during which national regulations currently disallow domestic ports call – should not surprise anyone.
According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a statement this week, far from offering the usual jolly rides across the oceans to thousands of leisure and entertainment seeking passengers, the cruiseliners calling at the country’s ports are returning home crew members.
SAMSA in its statement on Tuesday, reported no less than eight such cruise-liners calling on the country’s ports all to disembark dozens of their South African crew members, as they do to their crew members of other countries across the world.
Among these vessels were the Crown Princess and Island Princess which, according to SAMSA, called at the port of Cape Town on 16 May 2020 with close on 4 000 crew members on board between them, and about 100 of which were South Africans.
“The Crown Princess arrived in South Africa with 2 139 crew members, of which 30 are South African. The Crown Princess is used by the owners to repatriate crews stranded aboard their vessels and is due to proceed to other international ports in order to disembark other crew members.
“The vessel disembarked SA crew and SA medical team while in Cape Town, who have been on-board the vessel for some time and required to be relieved by a fresh crew.
All South African Crew has disembarked and special permission was granted for a fresh medical team to embark to allow for the vessel to meet safe manning requirements before it can proceed to another port. The disembarked crew was subjected to the local Covid-19 regulations and will quarantine for 14 days before they can proceed to join their families. The vessel also took bunkers and supplies, before it sailed on 16 May 2020.
“The Island Princess also arrived in Cape Town on the 16 May 2020 with 1 416 crew, of which 62 are South African. The vessel will disembark the South African crew before leaving Cape Town,” reported SAMSA.
Other vessels reporting at the country’s ports during this period were confirmed as follows:
ROTTERDAM: 800 crew members; 12 South Africans. ETA port of Cape Town, 18 May 2020.
MS Le Bougainville: Purpose; to replenish stores and take bunkers. ETA port of Richards Bay; 19 May 2020.
ZUIDERDAM: Crew numbers TBC. ETA port of Cape Town, 20th May 2020.
VEENDAM: 626 crew members; 49 South Africans. ETA port of Cape Town; 23 May 2020
CARNIVAL DREAM: Crew members TBC. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020.
CARNIVAL LIBERTY: 1601 crew mbembers, 4 south African. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020.
CARNIVAL ECSTACY: Crew members TBC. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020..
CARNIVAL CONQUEST: Cew members TBC. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020.
CARNIVAL FASCINATION: Crew members tBC. ETA port of Durban; 27 May 2020.
The organisation said: “SAMSA continues to work with the department of Transport, other government departments and government agencies to ensure that all regulations relating Covid-19 are enforced and followed by the maritime industry.
“These regulations, among others prohibit cruise liner calls into any of the South African Ports, any crew changes, any disembarkations apart from returning South African citizens or permanent residents.”
A Panama-flagged bulk carrier, the Top Grace, that was detained in South Africa last month after it was found to have thrown overboard two stowaways off the KwaZulu-Natal coast has been released, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
The release of the vessel in Richards Bay on Thursday occurred accompanied by a stern warning to shipping vessels traversing South Africa’s oceans waters that they will be subjected to the fullest might of the law whenever found to have transgressed the country’s maritime laws.
In a statement in Pretoria on Friday, SAMSA said the release of the Top Grace on Thursday in Richards Bay was made after a thorough investigation, including a criminal prosecution of the crew, was conducted successfully by relevant South African authorities into the incident of a throw away at sea of two men by the vessels’ crew on or about 23 March 2020.
At the time according to SAMSA, it was alleged that the two stowaways had boarded the vessel “Top Grace” while it was berthed at Maydon Wharf in Durban on Monday 23th March 2020. They had climbed up the mooring ropes and hid in the bulk carrier’s chain locker.
The two stowaways, both Tanzanians, reportedly claimed then that after being discovered hiding on the ship, after it had set sail, the vessels’ crew threw them overboard with a make-shift raft, life jackets and some bottles of water. They told authorities that they spent two days at sea before washing out at Zinkwazi beach on the North Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Subsequent to that incident at sea, the vessel berthed at the Richards Bay harbour and was detained.
On Friday, SAMSA said the crew had since settled the fines imposed on it by a Durban court of law after it was found guilty of a criminal offence relating to the stowaways. Following to this, SAMSA also conducted its own separate investigation into the vessel’s possible breach of Section 9 (3) of the Maritime Traffic Act.
“SAMSA detained the MV Top Grace from 17 April 2020 – 23 April 2020 in Richards Bay in order to conduct an investigation into circumstances surrounding two foreign stowaways being forced off the vessel approximately three (3) nautical miles off the coast of South Africa.
“After the successful conviction of the Master and Crew for attempted murder, who were released after payment of a fine, SAMSA was then able to proceed with its own investigation without compromising the SAPS criminal investigation.
“The vessel was detained by SAMSA in terms of section 9(3) of the Marine Traffic Act for breaking innocent passage and causing prejudice to the peace, good order and / or security of the Republic. (Innocent passage is a concept in the law of the sea that allows for a vessel to pass through the territorial waters of another state, subject to certain conditions.)
“SAMSA appointed shipping lawyers from Bowmans to assist SAMSA’s surveyors with the investigation and to ensure a speedy conclusion. Under the Marine Traffic Act, SAMSA had seven (7) days following the detention within which to complete the investigation. A high tech investigation was conducted using sophisticated methods of data retrieval and analysis (including retrieval of deleted items) and a team of five (5) interpreters was employed to work around the clock to interpret Mandarin texts into English.
“Following a thorough assessment of the findings of the investigation SAMSA concluded that any further action against the vessel would not be warranted, save for the payment of a detention fine. The fine was paid on 23rd April and the detention of the vessel immediately lifted,” said SAMSA in a statement.
SAMSA further stated: “The investigation demonstrates that SAMSA will spare no resource in proper enforcement of its coastal state obligations and in the pursuit of its mandate of safety of life at sea, protection of the marine environment and promoting the Republic’s maritime interests. It is noted that in appropriate circumstances, vessels that commit crimes may be forfeited to the state in terms of certain legislation enforced by SAMSA.
“SAMSA would like to once again warn vessels sailing through South Africa’s territorial waters that any vessels found to have transgressed the national laws will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. SAMSA implores all vessels and ship operators to act responsibly during this period of uncertainty. Improper treatment of stowaways will not be tolerated in any circumstances.
Meanwhile, SAMSA further called on ships at the country oceans waters to not hesitate to call for assistance during this period of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“Should any vessel in South African waters experience difficulties of a humanitarian nature occasioned by Covid-19, this should be immediately reported to SAMSA, and SAMSA will endeavour to assist. The Covid-19 crisis is not an excuse to break the law. SAMSA will continue to assist and provide guidance to any vessel transiting South Africa’s territorial waters.”
With an increasing number of South Africans reportedly stranded at airports across the world, among these, South African seafarers mainly on board cruise liners, efforts are being made across various Government departments in the country to bring about effective action to their aid.
This is according to the Department of Transport (DoT) in a statement in Pretoria on Monday, expressing the department’s appreciation of the crucial role its agency, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is playing in the effort.
Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula on Monday said hundreds of South African seafarers caught up in the massive storm of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pademic while in service on cruiseliners across world, had been successfully assisted to return.
However, there were still as many as 130 others still abroad in countries such Brazil, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Ghana.
According to Mr Mbalula, various Government departments; notably DoT, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), Deparment of Health and SAMSA were closely working together to arrange the safe transfer of the seafarers back to the country.
This was in addition to SAMSA’s work, alongside Transnet’s National Ports Authority (TNPA), in the effective and efficient management of ship traffic along the country’s oceans, some of which sought urgent assistance at the country’s commercial ports for fuel and other supplies replenishments.
The DoT reported no less than 10 such cruiseliners, research vessels and related that had sought assistance at the country’s ports for replenishments since the closure of the country’s borders after the Government’s declaration of a State of National Disaster and introduction of a 35 day national lockdown in last month.
The stringent travel restriction measures imposed in South Africa and elsewhere led to a complete closure of all airports and the consequent grounding of passenger aircrafts globally in the wake of the outbreak and rampant spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic that had infected hundreds of thousands and killed tens of thousands in many countries .
One major cruise liners operator with a significant intake of South African seafarers, MSC Cruises announced shortly thereafter it had halted cruises globally for up to end of May 2020. A statement on its website read: “We at MSC Cruises have decided to further extend the halting of all our new cruise departures fleet-wide through to 29 May, in light of the continued extraordinary circumstances the world is facing in connection with the Covid-19 virus global health emergency.
“We have previously announced the temporary halting of all its ships globally through to 30 April. As governments across the globe have since further strengthened ashore public health and safety measures to protect local populations and contain the further spread of the virus, today’s decision by MSC Cruises to further extend this extraordinary measure aims to mirror and further support the effectiveness of such efforts.”
MSC Cruises further announced compensation packages for its South African seafares – “A voucher for the value of their current 2019/2020 cruise package, which they can redeem in the upcoming local cruise season in 2020/2021 Plus an on-board creditof $50 per cabin to be used on a cruise in the next local South African season 2020/2021″
On Monday, Minister Mbalula said he: “…wishes to commend the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) for its continued work with Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Department of Health in implementing the lockdown regulations, as they pertain to the maritime sector.
“The regulations prohibit cruise liners from docking at any South African Port, changing crew or disembarking foreign nationals. The vessels are only permitted to replenish fuel, stores and provisions and disembark South African crew, returning South African citizens and permanent residents
“SAMSA, an entity of the Department of Transport, is also monitoring the repatriation of seafarers who are currently overseas and waiting for arrangements for their travel home to be finalised.
“To date there are currently about 130 crew members in Sao Paolo, London, Frankfurt, Italy and Ghana. The Seafarers are receiving assistance from their respective employers and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).
For its part, from as early as the second week of March, SAMSA, the country’s Registrar of Seafarers, announced special measures it would implement to facilitate for fast-tracking the speedy assistance of South African seafarers reportedly stranded abroad in a public notice placed also on its website.
Meanwhile, in addition to the half a dozen or so cruise liners and other vessels the country has had to handle during the national lockdown, DoT revealed also a list of those that were managed for Covid-19 infection.
The DoT listed these as including:
AIDAmira – docked in Cape Town on 16 March following a COVID-19 scare involving six AIDAmira passengers and two MV Corona bulk carrier crew, all of whom tested negative for the Corona Virus.
Arcadia – docked in Durban on 26 March. After COVID-19 test results came out negative for 13 asymptomatic individuals on board, the vessel docked to refuel and restock provisions, as well as allow six South African crew members to disembark and return home.
The Queen Mary 2 – docked in Durban on 31 March and disembarked six South African crew members, all of whom tested negative from COVID-19.
MSC Orchestra – currently working with the Department of Health to trace passengers following confirmation of positive test results for two individuals who cruised on 28 February and 16 March.
DoT said one vessel, a South African fishing vessel had its crew also quarantined in Cape Town as per regulations.
“The fishing vessel the CODESA 1 berthed in the Port of Cape Town on 11 April 2020. The Master and crew are all South African. The vessel has been out at sea, did not visit any other country nor port, and provides an essential service, but has been subjected to the 14-days quarantine period on-board upon return as per current regulations,” it said.
Following to concerns and consultations between Government, industry and affected parties, the Department of Transport has announced relaxation of some of the strict restrictions on maritime sector activities, particularly around the country’s ports.
The revised measures aimed at alleviating pressure on particularly trade goods movement and handling as well as personnel such as ships crews were announced by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a new Marine Notice 21 issued in Ptetoria on Tuesday, as approved by the Department of Transport recently.
In particular, the Marine Notice addresses such issues as crew changes at the country’s commercial ports, revised regulations on the management of cargo vessels as well as the loading and off loading of cargo, all of which faced tough measures before, some of which included an outright ban.
According to SAMSA in the notice, these tough measures had come about as a result of the spread of the corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic globally following its outbreak in China in December 2019.
SAMSA states: “On 23 March 2020, the President of the Republic (of South Africa) declared a lockdown, effective from 23:59 on Thursday, 26 March 2020, for a period of 21 days, to stop the spread of the COVID-19 corona virus until 23:59 on Thursday, 16 April 2020.
“In compliance with the lockdown, the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) has sent out numerous communications on how the ports will be operating during this period.”
Following the revision of the tough restrictions since put in place at the outset of the national lockdown, SAMSA confirmed the following were now effective:
All South African ports remain open for port operations
Cargo operations will continue in all ports
Stevedore operations will continue in all ports and
All types of cargo will be allowed to be loaded and off loaded (and not just essential cargo).
According to SAMSA: “The Department of Transport recognises that there have been numerous instructions distributed by various entities, causing confusion amongst various entities, service providers and shipping companies. The Department of Transport would therefore like to clarify all requirements during the lockdown period as follows.
SOUTH AFRICAN PORTS
All South African Commercial Ports will remain operational for Cargo Work. These are Cape Town, Saldanha,Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Port of Ngqura, East London, Durban, and Richards Bay.
Following on the initial announcement by the President, there have been changes such as the enablement of the mining companies to approach their regulator Ministry on an individual basis and seek authorisation to continue operations, albeit on a limited basis.
Government has now decided that in the interest of ensuring a functional supply chain across all ports, that all cargoes will be accepted for loading and off-loading. Where possible, essential goods should receive preferential treatment over non-essential goods.
Transnet will be in a position to communicate which of its operations will be reactivated with the relevant customers and logistics partners.
Transnet will reactivate certain of its operations, these would be at a reduced level and not full capacity. The reactivated operations will be dictated to by the applicable regulatory framework, national priorities and contribution to the health of the economy and Transnet’s ability to deploy its resources, having regard to people safety, which is of paramount importance.
Transnet’s current priorities, in addition to all the essential services previously communicated, are: .
The integrated container logistics system mainly around the Port of Durban and the link to the economic hub in Gauteng – ensuring that the complex system remains efficient to enable the movement of priority and essential containerized goods; this includes the movement of non-essential cargo to City Deep, only for purposes of decongesting the Port of Durban, .
The heavy haul rail and ports export system from the Northern Cape to the Port of Saldanha; and .
The domestic and export Coal and other GFB cargo through the Port of Richards Bay.
All other specific approvals granted by Government, which are dependent on the rest of the South African rail and ports system will be considered on a case by case basis, and our ability to respond responsibly will be communicated directly to customers making applications based on Government approvals granted.
Customers are to ensure thatall applications and evidence of approvals are submitted to the Transnet Customer Nerve Center via email at email@example.com
Commodity managers and key account executives normally dealing with each customer remains the primary point of contact and channel of communication with all our customers.
The provision of Transnet’s service is subject to customers and their cargo handlers/siding operators taking necessary measures to protect Transnet staff who interface with their operations.
All port personnel (both Transnet, private stevedoring and any other category of employees) must have access to hygiene services, e.g. sanitation, soap and water which each employer shall cause to be provided together with standard operating procedures to ensure the highest hygiene practices.
This therefore means strict adherence to health and safety protocols will not be compromised. Customers must provide Transnet with the Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and update Transnet daily on the status of their employees.
Masters are to ensure that where possible the following standards are adhered to by the ship’s officers and ratings:
Social Distancing maintained (between 1-2 meters between persons) .
Crew to follow hand hygiene protocols i.e. regular washing of hands (20 seconds or more) .
Personal Protective Equipment to be utilised i.e. Face Masks, Gloves, Boiler Suites, Disposable Boiler Suits (where possible), Safety Boots, Hard Hats, Safety Glasses .
Any medical condition that develops during the ports stay are to be reported to Port Health immediately, focusing specifically on the following symptoms:
Consistent Fever (>38.5°C)
Difficulty in Breathing (severe cases)
If any crew member displays these symptoms, they are to be immediately isolated until advised otherwise by Port Health. Failure to comply may result in unduly delays to vessels in port or prevent cargo operations from continuing.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE MARITIME NATIONAL JOINT OPERATIONS COMMITTEE (MNJOC) FOR THE COORDINATION OF THE MARITIME SECTOR DURING THE COVID 19 DISASTER MANAGEMENT
The Department of Transport has established a Maritime National Joint Operations Committee in order to coordinate the maritime sector for the period of the COVID 19 Disaster Management.
The MNJOC is linked to the National Command Council and comprises the following entities; Department of Transport, Transnet National Ports Authority, SAMSA and Ports Regulator
All queries related to the maritime sector during this period can be addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org