Computer virus infection leads to disruption and delay in issuance of seafarers’ certificates: SAMSA

Pretoria: 18 May 2021

A computer virus found to have infected computer systems at the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) will lead to delays of up to six weeks in the issuance of seafarers’ certificates, the country’s maritime agency under the Department of Transport announced in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The announcement in the form of a Marine Notice (MIN 05-21), published in SAMSA’s website on Tuesday morning revealed that: “SAMSA was exposed to a computer virus in April 2021, necessitating SAMSA to implement precautionary measures by disconnecting its network servers to prevent the virus from infecting all systems. SAMSA’s ICT department is conducting a full health assessment on all servers, operating software and hardware.

“At this point, no personal data was compromised, and SAMSA is continuing to investigate the incident in collaboration with law enforcement agencies.

According to SAMSA in the statement, while some services rendered by the agency to the country’s maritime economic sector were not affected bythe computer virus infection incident, such as vessels surveys; the agency’s Seafarer Certification Software System (SIOMS 2.) “was affected by the database restore(ation) which caused some unexpected technical difficulties. SAMSA is working towards resolving this technical failure as soon as possible.”

Due to the challenge related to systems restoration, SAMSA said: “Seafarers should expect delays in the issuing of any seafarer verifications, documentation and certificates of competence while the system is being repaired. Once the system is fully operational, seafarers (will) continue to experience delays with all certification related services for approximately 4-6 weeks while SAMSA implements extra-ordinary measures to clear the backlog and implement measures to improve services.

This notwithstanding, SAMSA urged seafarers and or affected people to continue engaging with it through its offices along the South African coastline in order to ensure that services and assistance needed are provided where possible.

“Seafarers intending to revalidate their certificates may continue to apply to do so at their local SAMSA office. Seafarers may continue to apply for Level 3 assessments (orals) leading to a higher qualification. Any interim certificatesfor Small Vessel Skippers Certificates of Competence that have expired in the last 3 months or any Small Vessel Certificate of Competence expiring within the next 4 weeks, may be extended up and until 31 August 2021 while SAMSA’s certification unit clears the backlog.

“In the event of certification related issues, seafarers currently serving on foreign going vessels should provide full details of the assistance needed and should submit a request to seafarers@samsa.org.za and in the event of any seafarer welfare challenges resulting from this delay, seafarers can contact: welfare@samsa.org.za

SAMSA extended an apology for the disruption to services: “SAMSA apologizes for this temporary inconvenience and assures all stakeholders that the technical issues are being addressed with utmost urgency.”

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South Africa eases tight grip of Covid-19 pandemic related regulations on global shipping and seafarers.

Pretoria: 07 July 2020

An appeal by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on Member States to find ways to facilitate greater ease of operation for global shipping amid the strife to effectively manage the spectre of the Covid-19 pandemic has found a kind ear in South Africa.

Among such steps taken by South Africa is the immediate extension of the expiration of seafarers certificates by no less than six months from June 2020 to 31 December 2020, or such other period as may be necessary and allowed, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

The arrangement is similarly applicable to vessels whose certificates are due to expire during to the lockdown, granted an extension of up to three (months) provided an application is made well in advance.

SAMSA File Photo

According to SAMSA, the concessions are contained in a correspondence submitted by Government to the IMO a week ago, outling the measures South Africa is taking to ease the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown regulations implemented since March 2020 in the country, and varinglyper time period worldwide, with major negative impacts on global shipping operations.

The newly introduced measures, outlined in even greater detail in circulars including an accompanying Marine Notice 34 of 2020 published last Thursday, 02 July 2020 are, according to SAMSA, in response to a recent call by the IMO on Member States to ease up on lockdown regulations to enable less interruption on global shipping.

The IMO call, with the full backing of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), found even greater expression during the global marking of the international Day of the Seafarer 2020, in South Africa and across the world on 25 June 2020.

“Shipping is truly a global industry and we need Governments to provide a global solution,” the ITF was qouted as saying.

According Mr Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary, as reported by the IMO, the workers organisation received emails from hundreds of seafarers daily, expressing their concern about contracts being extended under duress, amid fears that this would impact their ability to perform safe operations, thereby putting themselves at risk as well as the global supply chain and potentially the environment.   

In also calling for ‘leadership and action’, the ICS reportedly said ‘during the COVID-19 pandemic, ships, which fundamentally depend on seafarers, have continued to carry essential goods across the globe.’

Mr Guy Platten, Secretary-General of ICS reportedly said that ‘the number of stranded seafarers [was] currently 400,000, with 200,000 needing to leave ships and a similar number needing to replace them.’

In response to the IMO call, South Africa last week acknowledged and submitted that: “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the maritime value chain, including the ability of Maritime Administrations and the recognised organisations to deliver services necessary for statutory certification of seafarers and vessels. Furthermore, the issues about manning of ships, crew changes and search and rescue services are receiving necessary attention.

Immediate new measures South Africa confirmed to have introduced relate both to seafarers certification with respect to validity of seafarers certificates, medical and eyesight certificates and safe manning of ships; as well as ships certificates and surveys.

With respect to seafarers certification, the country states: “SAMSA has considered the predicament many seafarers and their employers are finding themselves in and have (sic) granted an extension until 31 December 2020 to any certificate that expires during the national lockdown and/or shortly thereafter.

“The masters, seafarers and employers must produce a letter for extension of their Certificates – http://www.samsa.org.za/Pages/Marine-Notices.aspx
Where appropriate, seafarers and/or employers may apply to SAMSA for the issuance with a specific letter to each seafarers in accordance with the applicable Marine Notice.”

On medical and eyesight certificates SAMSA grants that: “Medical Certificates for seafarers shall remain valid as issued. Under the measurers in place to combat COVID-19, medical practitioners will still be operating and seafarers will be allowed to visit the medical practitioner (doctor) for medical examination.

“Seafarers whose medical certificates expires whilst onboard a ship may continue to serve on that ship for three (3) months from the expiration date in accordance with STCW Regulation I/9.”

In respect of safe manning of ships SAMSA instructs that: “Ship operators must inform SAMSA regarding any challenges with seafarers holding foreign CoC with regards to revalidation and obtaining an endorsement to their CoC.

“SAMSA will not issue an endorsement to a foreign COC unless such certificate is still valid, except where there is a policy from that administration regarding the same.”

Regarding vessels certificates and surveys, SAMSA advises that: “Vessels which are subject to International Conventions (and) whose statutory certification are due for renewal, and there is difficulty with the attendance by a surveyor, may apply for extension of certificates by up to three (3) months. Such application shall be made within reasonable time to ensure continued compliance with all statutory requirements.”

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Seafarers certificates verification goes electronic in South Africa: SAMSA

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Pretoria: 09 December 2016

The verification of seafarers’ certificates has swiftly moved into the digital era in South Africa  after the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) confirmed the introduction of electronic verification of the documents with effect from Thursday (08 December 2016).

According to SAMSA’s Centre for Seafarers, the shift towards electronic verification of seafarers’ certificates is in compliance with Regulation I/2 of The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

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Chief Examiner, Mr Azwimmbavhi Mulaudzi

Chief Examiner, Captain Azwimmbavhi Mulaudzi said: “SAMSA has just introduced electronic verification of seafarers certificates with effect from noon, Thursday; 08 December 2016. This is in line with Regulation I/2 of the STCW Convention.

Quoting from the Regulation, he said it required that ‘each Party undertakes to make available information on the status of such certificates of competency, endorsements and dispensations to other Parties and companies which request verification of the authenticity and validity of certificates produced to them by seafarers seeking recognition of their certificates under regulation I/10 or employment on board ship.’

“As of 1 January 2017, the information on the status of information required to be available in accordance with paragraph 15 of this regulation shall be made available, in the English language, through electronic means.”

Captain Mulaudzi said from Thursday onwards, verification of seafarers’ certificates could now be done by accessing the forms found available on the SAMSA’s website.

He said: “Initially, the electronic verification will only be available for ‘new format’ certificates. SAMSA will announce to the industry as and when more certificates are ported to the new platform.”

End.