A ‘fair future for seafarers’ is the campaign theme of international Day of the Seafarer 2021: SAMSA/Department of Transport.

Pretoria: 10 June 2021

A ‘fair future’ for seafarers globally should be a shared responsibility between seafarers and the rest of other relevant stakeholders – and that is the view of seafarers themselves according to a current poll being conducted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

This global seafarers’ view is emerging solidly a few weeks ahead of this year’s international marking of the Day of the Seafarer on June 25 (a Friday) as driven and directed by the IMO along with its Member States, including South Africa.

In the poll currently being conducted by the IMO on its social media pages, among seafarers who responded to a question: “Who should be responsible for a fair future for seafarers”; an overwhelming majority (54%) call it a “shared responsibility”.

Against the backdrop, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) working jointly with the Department of Transport has confirmed that its marking of the Day of the Seafarer this year would be closely aligned to the issue, consistent with the IMO’s theme for the celebrations on June 25.

In invitations circulated to maritime sector stakeholders this week, SAMSA states that: “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, seafarers found themselves both on the front line of the global response and subject to difficult working conditions. Last year the Day of the Seafarer campaign focused its message around urging Governments to recognize seafarers as key workers and ease travel restrictions for them to facilitate crew changes.

“The 2021 Day of the Seafarer campaign will continue to encourage Governments to support seafarers amid the pandemic but will expand its message, calling for a fair future for seafarers. You are therefore urged to join the virtual event where various speakers and seafarers will highlight the plight of our seafarers and the plans that the Government and its partners have to ensure that seafarers are treated fairly,” says SAMSA.

Among issues likely to feature prominently at the event on June 25 may be the outcomes and insights of a recent South African seafarers survey conducted by University of KwaZulu-Natal academic and author, Dr Shaun Ruggunan focused on their personal experiences of the impacts of Covid-19 over the last year.

Dr Ruggunan’s survey supported by SAMSA was conducted from March to end of May this year and its results are currently being collated and studied.

From a Government perspective, notably the UKZN survey took place shortly after South Africa in February 2021 joined other IMO Member States in declaring seafarers as ‘essential workers’ – a recurrent theme in the industry globally in 2020 since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in China in 2019, and which campaign gained huge support from many organisations worldwide, among them the United Nations.

However, the declaration of seafarers as essential workers earlier this year, even as singularly highly significant, was but one aspect of a basket of sought industry reforms with regards seafarers’ general welfare and work conditions, and some of which continue to be highlighted in a series of regional webinars driven by IMO, its Members States and affiliated organisations.

The first of the IMO regional webinars focused specifically on the question of “Challenges faced by seafarers and identification of best practices during Covid-19 pandemic” was held virtually online for the Eastern and Southern Africa on 21 October 2020, with the lineup of speakers including IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and representatives of UN-OSAA, Stella Maris, ICS as well as Member States: Kenya, South Africa and the Seychelles.

The webinars have since covered Eastern and West Africa, East Asia, Western Asia and Eastern Europe as well as the Arab States and Mediterranean regions and Latin America

Now, in the lead up to this year’s Day of the Seafarer, the IMO also embarked on the social media poll, where it is asking seafarers across the world to respond and share their views on a number of issues affecting their work and general welfare.

On Covid-19 impacts and about which an IMO asks in one of the question: ‘what is most important for you for your future as a seafarer’, most seafarer respondents (41%) believe it be to be “quarantined access to repatriation and crew change”, followed by “priority vaccinations” (24%), “safe working conditions” (19%) and “enforcement” (16%).

On another question about whether seafarers believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the future of seafaring and in what direction, the majority seafarers’ view (73%) is that the pandemic has, and for the “worse” while only 15% believe it has done their trade a world of good, and 13% saying it has made no difference.

On the question of the IMO’s campaign in 2021 for a “fair future for seafarers”; 54% of participants feel it has to be a “shared responsibility” with only three (03) percent saying seafarers should be directly and solely in charge, while the rest are split unevenly between a view that it should be “IMO/ILO/Governments” (31%) and that it should be “shipping companies” (12%).

Among the seven questions posed to seafarers by the IMO so far is also one about “what area most needs improvement to ensure a fair future for seafarers” and to which the majority view (46%) suggests it to be “the workplace”, followed by “salaries” (30%), “training” (13%0 and “safety on board” (12%).

On the gradual encroachment of autonomous ships, according to their responses, most seafarers are either “excited” (25%), “unconcerned” (22%) or “accepting” (14%), with only 36% expressing the view that they are “worried”.

On climate change; most (59%) say they are onboard with mitigation efforts while seven (7%) and five (5) say they either could not be bothered (“not my personal responsibility”) or regard it as “unimportant”.

In explaining the seafarers view poll on its social media platforms, the IMO says: “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, seafarers found themselves both on the front line of the global response and subject to difficult working conditions surrounding uncertainties and difficulties around port access, re-supply, crew changeovers, repatriation, etc.

“In light of this, the 2020 Day of the Seafarer campaign focused its message around urging governments to recognize seafarers as key workers and ease travel restrictions for them to facilitate crew changes. The 2021 Day of the Seafarer campaign will continue to encourage governments to support seafarers amid the pandemic but will expand its message, calling for a fair future for seafarers. The campaign will discuss issues that will still be relevant to seafarers after the pandemic, such as fair treatment of seafarers, fair working conditions (in line with ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention), fair training, fair safety, etc.”

For more on this, please on click on the IMO General Secretary, Mr. Kitack Lim ‘s official message for Day of the Seafarer 2021 below.

Meanwhile in Pretoria, according to SAMSA, South Africa’s marking of the Day of the Seafarer 2021 on Friday, June 25; will be conducted in similar fashion as last year, virtually online, from 9am and ending at 12 noon.

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More regulations contemplated for small water-craft in SA waters to enhance safety: SAMSA

(SAMSA File Photo)

Pretoria: 07 May 2021

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has given notice that it will revise regulations relating to the utilisation of small vessels such as ski-boats to facilitate implementation of more safety measures to secure the lives of users and the general environment.

The notice published as Marine Alert MA 01-21, according to SAMSA, comes in the wake of an incident in East London earlier this year during which two young people lost control of a ski-boat and one of the youths was injured after being struck by the out of control vessel, resulting in him suffering lacerations to the face and other injuries.

(SAMSA File Photo)

The incident, according to SAMSA, occurred at about 11am on 13 January 2021 on the Nahoon River near East London. An investigation established that; “Two teenagers were operating a small (regulation 37) ski-boat on the Nahoon river when they both fell overboard into the river whilst making a sharp turn. The boat then did circles on the river and witnesses called the NSRI to assist. Whilst in the water, the boat hit one of the two teenagers who sustained lacerations to the face and injuries to the body,” reads the notice.

It further states that: “The vessel was found to have had a kill-switch which had not been in operation. There had been no SVCC (small vessel certificate of competency) aboard. The operation of a kill-switch had not occurred as intended by the manufacturer, because operation of a kill-switch on Regulation 37 vessels is not mandatory, and thus perceived as not required. There had been no adult supervision or competent skipper to oversee the vessel operation.”

According to SAMSA; “The incident had a potential loss of one fatality/permanent injury, along with damage to local jetties and other small craft that were operating in the area, and minor pollution in Marine reserve.”

SAMSA says the incident reflected on a few issues of concern including that:

  • Certain Regulation 37 vessels (≤15HP) are powerful enough to tow a skier at speed and should thus be used with caution, especially if used by underaged/unqualified persons; and then only under supervision of a qualified skipper or an adult.
  • When a vessel is fitted with a kill-switch, the owner/operator should operate the vessel as intended.
  • Any safety device/equipment that is onboard a vessel when in operation, should be used appropriately, even if that vessel is not required by regulation to have it onboard.
(SAMSA File Photo)

In efforts to prevent potentially deadly incidents of the nature in the future, the agency states that:

“SAMSA strongly recommends that the owner/operator of any Regulation 37 vessel fitted with an operational kill-switch, should operate the kill-switch as intended. SAMSA will also revise regulations and consider the inclusion of appropriate Regulation 37 vessels in the requirements for kill-switches.”

Meanwhile, in a related Marine Alert (MA 02 21) also published this week, SAMSA reported on findings of shipping related accidents that occurred at both the port of Durban between 28 April 2020 and 26 October 2020, as well as the anchorage in Algoa Bay, and during which ropes and ladders were a common cause of slippages, resulting in injuries.

“In all four cases,” notes SAMSA; “….a fall from a height occurred. Two (2) of the four (4) incidents resulted in people being hospitalised.”

The agency restated the critical regulations governing the use of ropes and ladders on vessels at sea.

SAMSA said: “IMO Res A1045 (27) paragraph 2 lists the following requirements for ropes used in the construction of pilot ladders. Paragraph 5 lists the following requirements for hand rails at the pilot boarding area:

  1. The side ropes of the pilot ladder should consist of two uncovered ropes not less than18 mm in diameter on each side and should be continuous, with no joints, and have a breaking strain of at least 24 Kilo Newtons per side rope.
  2. Side ropes should be made of Manila or other material of equivalent strength, durability, elongation characteristics and grip which has been protected against actinic degradation and is to the satisfaction of the Administration.
  3. Adequate handholds should be provided at the point of embarking or disembarking from the ship via pilot ladder. These hand holds should not be spaced less than 700mm and not more than 800mm apart.”

For further detailed reading, the Marine Alert Notices are published on the SAMSA website. Further inquiries may be directed to SAMSA via this email address: Email: marinenotices@samsa.org.za

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SA seafarers’ increased visibility crucial for public awareness and policy interventions: Prof Shaun Ruggunan. UKZN

(SAMSA File Photo)

Pretoria: 20 April 2021

Millions of seafarers worldwide continue to form the backbone of the global economy and yet their apparent invisibility as critical or essential workers remains a major challenge for especially South Africa – a situation lavishly laid bare by the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic since about a year ago.

According to KwaZulu-Natal University professor, Shaun Ruggunan more than a quarter of the approximately 4 500 South African seafarers working on ships abroad found themselves stranded at ports across the world after most countries, including South Africa, imposed variable regional lockdowns as part of the fight against the spread of the pandemic.

He was chatting to this blog on Monday this week about the launch of a South African seafarers’ survey last week aimed collecting as much information as is possible about their experiences in the aftermath of the outbreak of the pandemic.

The main purpose of the survey, said Prof Ruggunan, was to understand the impact of Covid-19 on South African seafarers’ mental and physical well-being, with the survey’s findings planned to be shared generally with both maritime sector stakeholders, specifically employers and related, but also with the public.

Other beneficiaries include the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) – which has given its full support to the initiatives – other seafarer involved institutions as well as crewing companies.

“The survey will run for a month in order to allow for as many South African seafarers – a majority of The first purpose of the survey is to make seafarers visible by bringing to the public’s attention the role seafarers and the conditions under which they have fared during outbreak of the pandemic, so that people  get to understand how important the sector workers are to all of us,” said Prof Ruggunan

He added that in addition to general public awareness, employers will also gain insight from the experience of the country’s seafarers while the survey’s findings may also contribute to necessary policy interventions that are evidence-based.

For the full chat, please click on the video below.

University of KwaZulu-Natal professor Shaun Rugguman talking about the South African seafarers survey launched recently to determine impacts of Covid-19 pandemic outbreak

Meanwhile, the UKZN survey is one of two currently running, the other launched by SAMSA last Friday with a view to determining the training needs of seafarers and seafarer training institutions during this period of the Covid-19 pandemic

The SAMSA survey is the second step of its nature this year following to the announcement recently of a further seafarers’ certificates validity extension given South African seafarers whose time limited qualifications might have expired, in order to renew them.

The SAMSA survey, according to Chief Examiner, Mr Azwimmbavhi Nelwamondo will run until 23 April 2021.

Seafarers keen to participate in both surveys can follow these links below in order access the forms, both which take no more than 10 minutes to fill.

UKNZ SA Seafarers Survey

SAMSA Seafarers Training Survey

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MTCC-Africa region virtual conference on maritime sector energy plan gets underway in Mombasa, Wednesday: SAMSA

Pretoria: 16 March 2021

The Africa region’s challenges and opportunities with initiatives aimed at contributing to reduction of emmissions of obnoxious atmospheric gases, particularly in its maritime environment, and uptake of renewable energy resources as a contribution to climate change mitigation factors will come into sharp focus at this week’s regional virtual conference in Mombasa, Kenya.

The Energy Efficiency Conference and Exhibition (ConfEx) over four days – Wednesday and Thursday this week (17 & 18 March) and on 24 & 25 March 2021, is being organised by the Mombasa, Kenya-based Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre (MTCC-Africa). All sessions, including the exhibitions, will be conducted virtually online.

According to a preliminary programme,, among key participants scheduled to contribute to the discussions in the first session Wednesday (starting at 14h00 East African Time) is International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Secretary, Mr Kitack Lim; Kenyan government representatives Mrs Nancy. K Kariguthu and Mr James Macharia (Shipping and Maritime and Transport ministries, respectively), academics including Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology Vice Chancellor, Professor Victoria Ngumi; World Maritime University President, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry; International Maritime Law Institute director, Professor David Attard; Maritime Authorities including the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) as well as officials of MTCC representatives in Africa and Asian regions.

The aim of the ConfEx – originally scheduled for Durban, South Africa in June last year, but scrapped and postponed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic – is to effectively set in motion, alternatively induce progressive pace to an Africa region maritime sector plan of action aimed at contributing to global measures to mitigate against climate change.

The exhibition alongside – targeting the Small and Medium-Term Entrepreneurs with innovations focused on climate change mitigation in the onshore and offshore shipping and maritime industry – is intended to provide “a highly interactive knowledge sharing and business networking platform, with the aim of connecting like-minded individuals and innovative solution providers from around the world.”

In the main virtual online conference, expected to feature prominently are lessons learnt so far in sets of ongoing studies involving current energy use and possible alternatives conducted by the MTCC-Africa at the Ports of Mombasa, Kenya and Port Douala in Cameroon over the last two years and some of whose preliminary findings were published in 2020.

Among these, is an audit report by MTCC-Africa on findings made at the two ports in November 2019. The objectives of the audits on ‘uptake of port energy efficient technologies and operatons’ at the two ports in the given phase were variably to;

  • Determine which of the proposed energy saving measures have been implemented at the Port of Mombasa.
  • Estimate the impacts of the implemented strategies on the energy consumption and emissions at the Port of Mombasa with the assistance of the IMO.
  • Identify the energy saving measures that are yet to be implemented at the Port of Mombasa.
  • Identify the challenges/barriers in implementation of the proposed energy saving measures and proposing measures that can be put in place to ensure that more energy savings are realized as well.
  • Utilizing the Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships (GloMEEP) Project Port Emissions Toolkit, provide training on developing an Emissions Reduction Strategy (ERS) to relevant stakeholders at the selected port(s).

Conclusions drawn included that, “…. The solar power generation potential in Africa is quite high. Kenya and the surrounding countries for example have solar irradiation of approximately 2200kWh per m2 per year. Maximizing and optimally utilizing this potential can result in great savings in carbon footprint and stabilization of the power supply systems for the African Ports. Some ports are already taking advantage of this natural asset and have installed grid tied mini solar grids to supplement the local utility supplies.”

Also, with the regulation on reducing the sulphur content of fuel oil used in ships, outside the Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) capped to 0.50% with effect from 01 January 2020, there is an expectation that Authorities will domesticate the MARPOL Annexure VI and implement it, accordingly. This regulation does provide an added incentive for development and implementation of other alternative clean energy by Africa and the rest of the world.

It states: “These requirements all the more makes (s.i.c) the implementation of shore power for visiting vessels very attractive. In addition, studies have confirmed that with a clean electricity mix coupled with installation of solar power plants in ports makes the shore power implementation very viable considering environmental benefits.”

“Whilst these alternative energy sources are a viable way to reduce emissions from ships, their development and implementation comes at a huge financial cost to the shipping industry. It becomes critical that all stakeholders work together to ensure that such technologies are shared, for the better realisation of the initial IMO GHG Strategy with a vision of a decarbonised shipping by the end of this century.”

South Africa, an IMO Member State and a designated Southern African Region Focal Point of the MTCC-Africa wherein it is expected to support the Centre in promoting technologies and operations aimed at improving energy efficiency in the maritime sector, is also lined up to make a contribution to discussion on the first day of the ConfEx, according to SAMSA.

In a recent statement, said SAMSA: “Through technical assistance and capacity building, the MTCC project is there to enable developing countries, especially Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing to effectively implement ship energy-efficiency and emissions reduction measures, thereby supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“South Africa is fully behind MTCC-Africa to ensure that it can deliver on its objectives that include; improving regional compliance with existing and future international regulations on energy efficiency for ships; promoting the uptake of low-carbon technologies and operations; and raising awareness on the need to reduce Greenhouse Gas and other emissions from the maritime transport sector

“We urge South Africans and Southern Africans, especially entrepreneurs and innovators to take the opportunity presented by the MTCC- Africa and the IMO, of engaging with global counterparts in the development and promotion of energy efficient technologies that can be used by the shipping industry in transitioning to the decarbonised future. It is also an opportunity for many, to learn about the work that the IMO has continually put in place to deliver on the strategic direction entitled “Respond to Climate Change “, as adopted by the IMO Assembly, during its 30th session in December 2017.”

To register Click Here

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South Africa joins the world in declaring seafarers ‘essential workers’; IMO

Pretoria: 09 February 2021

With the siege by the Covid-19 pandemic still gripping firmly most parts of the world and disrupting world trade since its outbreak more than a year ago, South Africa has joined more than 50 countries globally in formally ratifying a resolution that declares seafarers as essential workers.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), of which South Africa is a Member State, confirms this in a circular to members and associated institutions including the United Nations, issued on Friday, 05 February 2021.

If all goes well, this may facilitate for seafarers globally to be ‘frontline workers’ to receive a Covid-19 vaccine as a matter of high priority.

This latest development, in terms of an IMO Resolution (MSC.473), Member States…”designate seafarers as ʹkey workersʹ providing an essential service, in order to facilitate safe and unhindered movement for embarking or disembarking a vessel and consider legal possibilities for accepting internationally recognized documentation carried by seafarers as evidence of their status as ʹkey workersʹ, and for the purpose of their travel and movement for crew change;ʺ

Further, in terms of IMO Resolution GB.340/Resolution (Rev.2), the Member States are urged and agree; ‘…in accordance with applicable national laws and regulations, to: … designate seafarers as ʺkey workersʺ, for the purpose of facilitation of safe and unhindered movement for embarking or disembarking a vessel, and the facilitation of shore leave, and when necessary, to shore-based medical treatment;ʺ

According to the IMO circular on Friday, as many as 55 countries that are Member States of the organization, and two others that are associates, had ratified the resolutions by the end of the week last week, with three African countries – South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya – being among those in the list.

The list of countries or Member States of the IMO that have ratified the resolutions include Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Lebanon, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Montenegro, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Yemen, (Associate Member: Faroes, Hong Kong (China).

The ratification of the resolutions by a growing list of IMO Member States, according to the IMO, brings to fruition a year-long strife to alleviate the plight of seafarers since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and which brought about an “ongoing crisis…impacting seafarers as well as other marine personnel.”

The resolution also has the full backing of the United Nation Assembly which recently also joined the seafarers campaign by calling on its own Member States “…to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers and to implement relevant measures to allow stranded seafarers to be repatriated and others to join ships, and to ensure  access to medical care.”

The UN General Assembly’s own resolution was adopted during a session of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on 1 December 2020.

Further, the IMO resolutions ratification by the 55 Member States announced on Friday was also the second such major step recently towards improving the work conditions of seafarers during the Covid-19 pandemic situation following to the adoption earlier of the ‘Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change “ by more than 600 organisations.

According to the declaration: “Covid-19 has impacted the daily lives and wellbeing of seafarers in unprecedented ways, causing a humanitarian crisis at sea. Hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been stranded working aboard ships beyond the expiry of their contracts. As the frontline workers of the maritime industry carrying 90% of global trade, seafarers play a vital role in ensuring the global flow of goods that the world depends on.”

“The Neptune Declaration urges the implementation of four main actions to address the crisis:

  • Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines
  • Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice
  • Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes
  • Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers
Mr Kitack Lim. Secretary General. International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

In a statement on its website, the IMO states: “IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the industry-led Neptune Declaration, which calls for seafarers to be designated as key workers and for cooperation to end the crew change crisis, which is not only putting seafarers in a desperate situation but also threatening the safety of shipping and world trade. Hundreds of thousands of seafarers around the globe are unable to leave ships, while others cannot join, due to travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement further quotes Mr Lim as saying: “I am pleased to see the industry come together under the Neptune Declaration to support ways to resolve the crew change crisis. This very much reflects the calls made by IMO, its sister UN entities and more recently the United Nations General Assembly, in its recent resolution on seafarers…I encourage more companies, including charterers, to get involved and show their support for our seafarers.” 

With regards IMO Members States, Secretary-General Lim urged more Governments to designate seafarers as key workers. 

Remarking on South Africa’s ratification of the IMO resolution designating seafarers as ‘essential workers,’ SAMSA Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi in a statement on Tuesday, described the new development as progressive.

Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Acting CEO. South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

Mr Tilayi said: “this resolution will go a long way attending to the plight of Seafarers currently stranded on ships or unable to join a ship because of the restrictions brought about by the pandemic. We are particularly pleased by the call for Seafarers also be given priority access to Covid-19 vaccines alongside other frontline workers.

“Seafarers are the key link in the economy chain and this designation will bolster the economy recovery efforts by many states affected by the pandemic. South Africa will host the 2021 World Maritime Day Parallel event later this year and will use this event to highlight its commitment to the global protection of Seafarers.”

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SA fishermen fatalities are avoidable with strict focus on standard safety protocols by commercial fishing vessels: SAMSA

(SAMSA File Photo)

Pretoria: 21 January 2021

The number of fatalities in South Africa’s commercial fishing subsector may have significantly reduced over the last few years – dropping to four in 2020 as was the case the year before – all thanks to active direct and indirect participation by all interested and affected parties, but even one death is one too many, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

In a Marine Notice issued this week (published on the agency’s website page: Marine Notices), SAMSA highlights some of the common challenges that lead to death of fishermen during operations when safety protocols are either not observed or poorly managed.

The notice (Marine Notice 3 of 2021) indicates that a total of four fishermen in the commercial fishing sector lost their lives in 2020 during operations – two of these incidents occurring on the West Coast (two deaths occurring in Cape Town and two others occurring in Saldanha Bay).

For comparison purposes, these were second lowest fatalities in two successive years involving commercial fishermen since 2017, the last year since double-digit deaths of fishermen were last recorded in the country after 13 fishermen lost their lives – most of them (nine) having occurred in the Port Elizabeth coastal area.

Significantly, that was the second highest double-digit number of commercial fishermen fatalities in the country in a decade after fatalities had reduced substantially to single digit numbers since 2007.

SA commerical fishermen operational casualties 2000-2020. (Source: SAMSA Maritime Notice No.1 2021)

The four fatalities recorded in 2020, according to the SAMSA notice, occurred in three incidents whereby in one case, a fisherman lost his life after a small boat capsized in large swells, and in the second incident, another fisherman lost his life after, yet a small fishing vessel lost power and the crew attempted to row ashore.

Apparently, in this incident, an oar got lost and the fisherman jumped overboard to retrieve it but got separated from the boat due to strong winds. Both these incidents occurred in the west coast (Atlantic Ocean) Paternoster area. In the third final incident, two fishermen lost their lives after a small fishing vessel capsized in the surf off Rooi Els also on the West Coast.

According to SAMSA in the Marine Notice, all three incidents involved small vessels measuring less than 10 meters in length, notably, as was the case in the two previous years (2018/2019) when three and four fishermen fatalities were recorded respectively.

The Marine Notice lists four reasons for the capsizing of small vessels as ‘being at seas in unsuitable conditions’, ‘hauling of anchors over the side of the board and not the bow’, being ‘too close to the shore’ and ‘overloading’.

A tragic incident counter-measure to save lives, says SAMSA; is the regular necessary use of flotation aids within the surf zone.

With regards incidents involving the falling overboard of fishermen – and apparently the single largest category leading to deaths after the capsizing of small vessels – deaths occur when fishermen are ‘shooting or hauling fishing gear’, ‘at night when the vessel is steaming’ and ‘recently during an unfortunate incident, after abandoning the vessels in rough seas.’

(SAMSA File Photo)

“To reduce this reason for death (falling overboard), the following steps should be taken onboard:

  • flotation aids are/(must be) worn at all times on deck where the nature of the work can lead to a crew member being knocked overboard,
  • crew members that go on deck while there is no fishing operation should never be alone. Skippers are encouraged to introduce a buddy system where there are always two (2) crew members together, this is especially important at night; and
  • when working near or at the side of the vessel safety harnesses should be worn.
  • skippers and officers to take into consideration the dangers of fatigue due to prolonged fishing operations and to emphasize the importance of safety briefings.”

The agency further states: “SAMSA offers safety workshops in communities that operate small vessels. If you would like our Fishing Safety Specialist to visit your community, please contact Selwyn Bailey on 041 582 2138 or sbailey@samsa.or.za. SAMSA will engage fishing vessel operators on the substance abuse issue on board vessels as a matter of urgency.”

In addition to the notice mentioned here, SAMSA is releasing three other Marine Notices on (1) Accredited Training Institutions and Programs (2) List of approved Medical Practitioners and (3) Temporary Closure of the Naval Architecture Services Office in Durban.

With regards the latter, SAMSA states: “The Durban Naval Architect Office will temporarily close until further notice due to unforeseen circumstance. All applications for naval architect applications and requests will be processed by the Cape Town Naval Architect Office until further notice. Any applications to the Durban Office will be transferred to the Cape Town Office.”

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Amid a raging Covid-19 pandemic, SAMSA and Absa Bank collaborate to bring relief to poverty stricken subsistence fishermen.

Pretoria: 31 December 2020

Year 2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as having been the hardest year for most people, due largely to the spate and still ongoing ravages of the coronavirus SARS-2 (Covid-190) pandemic currently gripping the world since its outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

The hardship for communities already steeped in poverty compounded by among other things, low rates of education and high rates of unemployment, has become more pronounced by the introduction of national lockdowns by Governments, in an attempt to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 infections.

In South Africa, among such communities are those of rural coastal regions made up of the country’s four provinces bordering its 3 200 kilometre coastline, from the Atlantic Ocean in the west through to the Indian Ocean in the east, and who irk support for their daily living through subsistence fishing.

Touched by the plight of specifically these rural coastal communities, and in a positive response to a Government call for support, in September 2020, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in collaboration with commercial bank, Absa and with assistance by the Moses Kotane Institute, launched a corporate social investment project intended to extend support to these communities in three of the coastal provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.

Its aim, according to SAMSA, would be to bring about relief in two practical ways; firstly a once-off supply of food parcels to households in the three provinces, as well as training in basic maritime skills (mainly fishing related) as well as basic business management and entrepreunerial skills for subsistence fishermen including unemployed youths. Focus of the latter would primarily be on communities in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, with Northern Cape scheduled for the near future.

“This intervention was conceptualised to cover identified small-scale fishing communities in the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal, with a plan to expand the project to other provinces beyond COVID-19. The project will focus on 47 cooperatives in Port St. Johns and Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape, as well as 48 community cooperatives in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Rural fishermen on the banks of the Orange River pictured earlier in December 2020

“Through the training intervention, SAMSA commits to ensuring safety awareness at sea and capacitating the coastal fishing community / fishermen through sustainable interventions that will assist them in their career and business endeavours,” said SAMSA in a statement.

On precisely the choice of these particular communities in the specific areas, SAMSA explained: “South Africa has a long history of coastal communities utilising marine resources for various purposes. Many of these communities and fishers have been marginalised through apartheid practices and previous fisheries management systems. In 2007, the government was compelled through an equality court ruling to redress the inequalities suffered by these traditional fishers. The Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal are some of the previously marginalised provinces, hence their choice as the first two provinces to be targeted by this intervention.”

Jointly funded by SAMSA and Absa to the tune of R3-million, the roll-out of the programme kicked off on the second last week of October – with food distribution occurring parallel the start of the fishermen’s skills development.

Food parcel distribution for 595 people first took place in the Eastern Cape region comprising the Alfred Nzo and King Dalindyebo Municipalities (Mbizana & Coffee Bay), following to which was Ray Nkonyeni Municipality in southern KwaZulu-Natal (500 people) and thereafter, communities in the Dawid Kruiper Municipality on the banks of the Orange River, in Upington, Northern Cape.

In the videos below, we reflect on this food distribution project in Northern Cape, where the event was also attended and addressed by SAMSA’s acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi, accompanied by SAMSA’s head of Corporate Affairs and Government Relations, Mr Vusi September.

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Vendeé Globe Yacht Race: Sailor survives yacht sinking incident south of Cape Town.

(SAMSA File Photo)

Pretoria: 02 December 2020

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has said it noted with appreciation the successful retrieval of a sailor whose yacht experienced problems and eventually sank while participating in the Vendeé Globe Yacht Race some 1083km south of Cape Town on Tuesday morning (01 December 2020)

In a statement in Pretoria on Wednesday, SAMSA said the successful retrieval of the skipper of the Yacht “PRB” at about 3am on Tuesday morning was a direct result of collaboration between SAMSA’s Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC), its French counterpart, Griz Nes, and the Vendeé Globe Yacht Race authorities and race participants.

SAMSA said the skipper of the Yacht PRB was scheduled to disembark at the Kerguelen Islands.

According to SAMSA: “The emergency rescue of the skipper ensued shortly after MRCC based in Cape Town was notified by MRCC Griz Nes (France) of an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) activation from the Yacht PRB. The notification was received shortly after 16:00 on Monday afternoon (30/11/2020) and MRCC Cape Town assumed Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordination of this incident.

“The EPIRB position was located approximately 1083km South West from Cape Town. Supplementary information provided with the EPIRB detection allowed MRCC Cape Town to confirm that the Yacht was part of the Vendeé Globe Yacht Race.

“With that confirmation the Vendeé Globe Yacht Race Organisers were contacted, and they confirmed to be aware of the EPIRB detection and were not able to make contact with the Skipper. They had alerted another competitor, Yacht “Yes we Cam!” to head towards the distress location for assistance.

“MRCC Cape Town continued to provide EPIRB position updates and alerted the Race Organisers to the activation of the Skipper’s Man Overboard Device (MOB). The MOB device coordinates were then used to direct the Yacht “Yes we Cam!” to the Skipper where he found to have been in a Life Raft after abandoning the Yacht PRB.

“Initial efforts of the Yacht “Yes we Cam!” to recover the Skipper in Distress were unsuccessful due to Winds of up to 50 km/h and Sea Swell of up to 5 metres. By 03:00 the morning of 01 December 2020 the surviving Skipper was recovered to the Yacht “Yes we Cam!” and it was confirmed that Yacht PRB had broken apart before sinking.

SAMA attributed the success of the rescue to close collaboration as a crucial aspect to effective monitoring and safety of sailors globally, and that it “won the day once more during this incident.”

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SAMSA launches probe into capsized fishing boat, with loss of life, off the Cape west coast

(SAMSA File Photo)

Pretoria: 27 November 2020

An investigation is underway into the circumstances of the capsizing of a fishing boat off the coast of the Western Cape, in the vicinity of Rooi Els on Thursday afternoon and during which one fisherman died, three sustained minor injuries and one still missing, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) confirmed.

In a statement in Pretoria on Friday, SAMSA said the fatal incident reportedly involved an under 9 metre crayfish boat, with five men on board.

According to SAMSA, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was alerted to the incident at about 12.48pm and raced to the scene. However, on arrival at the site of the capsized crayfish boat, the rescue teams found at least one of the fishing crew had passed away, three others sustained minor injuries and one other missing.

The three survivors reached the shoreline safely.

“SAMSA has appointed a surveyor to investigate the incident. SAMSA will also involve a Welfare Officer for providing counselling to the survivors and families of all affected parties,” said the agency.

Meanwhile in a separate report on its website, the NSRI said it had been alerted to the incident by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) .

The NSRI then scrambled its Gordons Bay and Kleinmond sea rescue teams, who along with the Western Cape EMS rescue squad, the SA Police Services (SAPS), GB Med Sec ambulance services, Overberg Fire and Rescue Services and the EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter raced to the scene of the incident.

“On arrival on the scene it was confirmed that (five) 5 adult male fishermen, believed to all be from Mitchell’s Plain, were on a local crayfish boat that capsized in the surf just off-shore of Rooi Els. (Three) 3 of the fishermen had managed to reach the shoreline safely.

“A search commenced for (two) 2 fishermen who were missing and who were not accounted for. During the search one of the missing fishermen was located in the surf and he was recovered onto a sea rescue craft and sadly the fisherman, age 48, has been declared deceased. A Police Dive Unit responded and a dive search was conducted.

“Despite an extensive sea, air and shoreline search there remains no sign of the remaining one missing fisherman. Police divers are tasked to continue in an ongoing search operation for the missing fisherman. The casualty boat remains washed up in amongst rocks on the shoreline.

“The body of the deceased fisherman was brought to the NSRI Gordons Bay sea rescue station and the body of the man has been taken into the care of WC Government Health Forensic Pathology Services. Police have opened an inquest docket,” reported the NSIR.

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Organisations hard at work picking nurdles off the Cape Coast while investigation of source continues: SAMSA

Sudden surfacing of nurdles along the southern Cape coastline still under investigation according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) (SAMSA Photo File)

Pretoria: 17 November 2020

An investigation into how millions of nurdles came to envelope the Cape coast, from south of Port Elizabeth through George and nearby towns is currently still underway, while an effort is made to clean the coastline of the small plastic pellets.

This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a statement in Pretoria on Tuesday. This was a further reaction to reports last month of the discovery of nurdles across the southern Cape coastline – from Fish Hoek in False Bay to Plettenberg Bay and lately, along the Eastern Cape coastline.

(Video courtersy of African News Agency [ANA])

According to SAMSA on Tuesday, the source of the nurdles is still unknown but the agency confirmed that this latest incident is not related to the spillage that occured in KwaZulu-Natal in 2017.

“Authorities are working hard to address the nurdles recently washing up along certain regions of the south Western Cape coastline from Fish Hoek in False Bay to Goukamma Marine Protected Area and Plettenberg Bay.

“The nurdles are also reported to be washing up along the Eastern Cape coastline, the exact locations are still to be confirmed.

“The authorities, including, the Departments of Transport, Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, local authorities, NGOs and volunteer groups have all been working consistently to clean up nurdles washing up on beaches,” said SAMSA

The organisation described nurdles as “… small plastic pellets used in the manufacture of plastic products. In the raw stage (pre-moulded and packaged) they are not toxic to touch, but probably shouldn’t be chewed given the unknown synthetics that make up the pellets.

“However, once released into the marine environment they have a high attraction to harmful substances such as land-based pesticides, herbicides, other organic pollutants as well as heavy metals that end up in the ocean. At this stage they are very harmful to life, especially to wildlife when mistaken for food.”

SAMSA said: “The source of the nurdles is not yet confirmed but an investigation is currently ongoing and being led by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA). These nurdles are not related to the spillage that took place in Kwazulu-Natal in 2017.

“While the investigation into the source of the nurdles is being undertaken, SpillTech has been appointed to assist and conduct clean-up efforts along the affected sections of coastline. Spilltech will also be storing the nurdles collected through clean-up efforts and are working with authorities, NGOs and volunteer groups to identify collection points and arrange the pick-up of nurdles.

“The extent of the clean-up operation is significant and is anticipated that the removal of nurdles from the affected coastline will continue for some time to come. The authorities and NGOs look forward to working with SpillTech as the lead agent for the duration of cleanup-operations.

“Spilltech can be contacted on 063 404 2128 for information on collection points and pick up of collected nurdles,” said SAMSA

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