South Africa’s state of readiness for oil and related spills disasters in its oceans environment up to scratch; Govt, industry, NGOs agree.

Pretoria 23 May 2022

More than 100 participants and observers in South Africa and two neighbouring maritime countries, Namibia and Angola; at this year’s Interim Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg) training and live deployment exercise in Cape Town a week ago, left with unanimity in their view that the country’s state of readiness for oil and related pollution disasters is on the ready, notwithstanding notable gaps in terms of some necessary additional resources and equipment.

The Interim IMOrg arranged training in Cape Town, involving about 50 delegates on the IMS 100, 200 and 300 modules over three days, followed by two days live off and onshore mock oil spill incident management exercise involving an additional 50 people manning sea vessels, aircraft and onshore equipment; took place in Cape Town from Monday, (09 May 2022) to Friday, (13 May 2022).

It was the first exercise of its kind, in grand scale, since before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago, and drew the direct contribution of the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) and active participation of delegates from the two other members to the convention, Namibia and Angola.

The Interim IMOrg, under the Department of Transport, is South Africa’s joint Government and Industry preparedness forum for oil spills launched in 2017. Its membership is drawn broadly from across various sectors of society inclusive of State departments, private sector industries as well as non-governmental institutions. The current focus of the Interim IMOrg is on oil spills but in the future it will ramp up to an all hazard approach.

According to Captain Ravi Naicker, SAMSA Senior Manager and co-chair of the Interim IMOrg; the structure identifies primary roles of Government and industry contributing towards preparedness of the country with effective and efficient management of maritime incidents such as oil spills offshore.

Its specific objective involves the staging of joint emergency response drills to prepare the country for a variety of incidents and uses the Incident Management System (IMS) as its preferred response model “for effective and efficient use and deployment of the available resources, both human and equipment, for all types of incidents including marine pollution

In Cape Town a week ago, this blog spoke to some of the government, business and nongovernmental institutions represented at the event to establish their views during the IMS training as well on the last day of the live mock oil spillage management exercise to solicit their views on the real state of South Africa’s readiness for off shore oil spill disasters and related.

Among these were an official of Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)  incorporating the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC), the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), South African Police Services (SAPS), Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), African Marine Solutions (AMSOL), Resolve Marine Group, SMIT Salvage, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), as well a representative  from the Angolan government.

Notable among the views was tacit agreement on the usefulness of the exercise and the general enthusiasm and keen interest shown by all stakeholders, the advantages to be derived from a unified  command, the enhanced greater understanding derived by each of the key role players, the usefulness of expansion of the training as well as exercise to include neighbouring countries, the need for regular periodic exercises as well as an evident lack of adequate resources to provide protection for the country’s entire 3200 kilometre coastline

For their full responses (averaging three (3) to six (6) minutes each), click on the videos below.

Remarks by Ms Feroza Albertus-Stanley (Department of Foresty, Fisheries & Environment)
Remarks by Mr Estanislav Gaspar (Department of Mineral Resources, Oil & Gas.Angola)
Remarks by Captain Pretty Molefe (SAMSA Centre for Sea Watch & Response)
Remarks by Mr Richard Robertson (SMIT-Salvage)
Remarks by Ms Nickie Stander (SANCCOB)
Remarks by Mr Odwa Mtati (SAIMI)
Remarks by Mr Musa Mbakaza (AMSOL)
Remarks by Colonel Alan Strydom (South African Police Services)
Remarks by Captain Naresh Sewnath (Transnet National Ports Authority)

The Benguela Current Convention (BCC), contributors and financial sponsors of the IMOrg exercise also shared its viewpoint about the significance of both its direct involvement for the first time as well as its own objectives. In the video below, BCC Compliance Officer, Mr Xolela Wellem, gives an extensive background and programs of the BCC which make the case for the Atlantic Ocean coastline convention’s direct interest in the work of the IMOrg.

To listen to interview click on the video below.

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South Africa’s regularly updated sea and air search capabilities receive a thumbs up from international partners

Pretoria: 28 April 2022

South Africa’s regular testing of its maritime and aviation search and rescue (SAR) tools and equipment, along with deployment in Gauteng recently of the latest MEOSAR system, has been met with approval and appreciation by its international partners in the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), and Department of Transport (DoT).

The country’s positive assessments came during a three day South West Pacific Data Distribution Regional (SWPDDR) meeting, to which South Africa is a member State, hosted by the DoT and SAMSA earlier this month (11-14 April) – this after a delay of almost two years due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in late 2019.

The SWPDDR whose Mission Control Centre (MCC) sits with Australia, is one of six across the globe under the COSPAS SARSAT Programme. MCCs – totalling 32 under the COSPAS-SARSAT Programme – are described as centres that take information from a Local User Terminal (LUC) or another MCC and routes it to the proper desistation.

Reflecting on the outcomes of the SWPDDR meeting were Mr Jared Blows, Chief of the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) located at the SAMSA Centre for Seawatch & Response in Cape Town; and Mr Zakhele Twala, DoT’s Deputy Director General: Aviation.

Mr Zakhele Twala. Deputy Director-Gneral: Aviation Department of Transport

Mr Twala said the country was proud of its successful hosting of the event, even as a virtual event due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, but also particularly pleased with its outcomes that reflected on the importance of close cooperation and collaboration among participating countries.

In the video below (duration: 3.10minutes), he elaborates on key aspects of the gathering.

At SAMSA, Mr Blows described the meeting “…deemed as very fruitful deliberations.” With regards the country, lauded by SWPDDR members were two significant developments regarding maritime and aviation search and rescue services as managed by South Africa that included the adoption of the S&R MEOSAR system and installation of ground equipment in Gauteng.

Advantages of the MEOSAR system are listed as including,

  • near instantaneous worldwide detection and independent location determination (independent of beacon-reported navigation data) of 406-MHz beacons,
  • significantly reduced effect of terrain/wreckage obstructions,
  • extensive reduncancy/reliability in space and ground segments,
  • improved location accuracy,
  • improved beacons and features including
    • a Return Link Service (RLS) and
    • redudant localisation of ELT-DTS (validating or back-up of locations through the reported navigation and independent calculations, even at high speeds.

The other development was South Africa’s continuous testing of its system’s communications via various platforms that significantly improved the country’s response rate from a low 50% to above 85% currently

Mr Jared Blows. Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC Chief: SAMSA Centre for Seawatch & Response

Mr Blows said: “With the ongoing evolution of the COSPAS SARSAT system it  is vital for South Africa, as a ground segment provider to the larger COSPAS SARSAT programme, to remain at the fore front of all developments within the system.

“To this end South Africa has committed to move to the MEOSAR system from the current LEOSAR system and installation of the ground equipment has already taken place and is located in Gauteng whereas the older LEOSAR is based in the Western Cape.

“The meeting specifically looked at the processes and time frames for the full commissioning of the new system which will be necessary to ensure the entire COSPAS SARSAT MEOSAR programme moves closer to becoming a fully operational system which will improve the capability and reduce the time between potential satellite detections of distress beacons carried on vessels and aircraft and even some beacons used by hikers etc.

“All these beacon would need to be compliant with the COSPAS SARSAT requirements and must transmit on the 406 Mhz  frequency,” he said.

Further, according to Mr Blows, the meeting to which guests included representatives of the United States of America and the United Kingdom, discussions were held also in terms of additional advancement to specifically EPIRBs – maritime beacons; such as the inclusion of Automated Identification System( AIS) and also the Return Link Service (RLS).

On this score, he said it was held that participating countries need to assess their readiness for the use of such beacons within their areas of responsibility. To this end, said Mr Blows, in certain instances legislation would need to be amended and operational procedures amended to accommodate such advancements.

On the critical role the country plays in the COSPAS SARSAT Programme block, Mr Blows said: “With South Africa serving 14 countries within our Data Region, we are required to test communications with these countries on a regular basis.

“However, for many years several of our regional partners often did not respond to these tests of which the results are communicated to the COSPAS SARSAT programme, resulting in the region seeming like a very poorly covered area. To change the perception and because of new technologies such as WhatsApp messaging etc becoming very common, South Africa tested the communications via various platforms and as result our response rate now sits at above 85% compared to previous years lows of 50%.

“The critical importance to note here is that, if and when we are alerted of any distress situations related to beacon activation with the countries we support we now have a far better chance of actually being able to pass along the information to the authorities with those countries for them to render assistance as necessary.

“This initiative by South Africa has been commended by the COSPAS SARSAT programme and was even mentioned and thought to be an excellent use of technology when discussed at a previous meeting of the IMO NCSR meeting.

“These matters will be discussed at length within the South African Search and Rescue forum over the coming weeks and a final position will be communicated via the relevant means. As things develop with our MEOSAR system and any new system and beacon development we will try and keep the users in the air and maritime environments informed,” said Mr Blows.

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COSPAS SARSAT search and rescue system most reliable: South Africa

Pretoria: 13 April 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretoria: 12 April 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IMO COUNCIL ELECTIONS: South Africa optimistic of retaining her seat during the highly contested elections on Friday.

Pretoria: 09 December 2021

With only a day to go before the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) 176 Member States gathered in London this week, and next; for the 32nd Regular Session of their Assembly, decide on who among 49 countries vying for election will constitute its IMO Council on Friday, South Africa remains cautiously optimistic to retain its seat.

South Africa, located at the most southern tip of the African continent with approximately 3000km of a coastline stretching across three oceans, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Southern Ocean to the south and the Indian Ocean to the east – and therefore holding a globally significant geographic maritime position – is among a group of five countries from the continent vying for a seat in the IMO 40-member Council for the 2021-23 period.

The others are Egypt, Morocco (Mediterranean), Kenya (Indian Ocean), and Nigeria (Atlantic Ocean). Voting for the 40 member IMO council takes place on Friday, using an in-person-private vote system.

South Africa, one of the founding members of the IMO but subsequently suspended from active membership for many years until 1995 submits that it is optimistic, however, cautiously; that it will retain its seat.

According to its submission to members of the IMO Assembly this week, its optimism arises from its consistent, active participation in especially the technical work of the IMO, this in addition to its being a “State Party to the key IMO Conventions that promote safety, security and the protection of the marine and atmospheric environment.”

Among these are the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS); the Marine Environment Protection Convention (MARPOL) and the Search and Rescue Convention.”

The port of Cape Town, one of South African commercial ports spread almost evenly across the country’s approximately 3000km coastline, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean,

South Africa states: “The Government of the Republic of South Africa is convinced that South Africa’s re-election to the Council will further contribute to the ongoing efforts towards the achievement of the goals of the International Maritime Organization (MO).”

These include safety of property and life at sea, protection of the environment from pollution by ships, as well as active promotion of the maritime sector domestically, regionally and globally – all mandated through legislation to a strategically located agency, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to discharge, under the watchful eye of the national Department of Transport.

With eight specialised commercial ports and several small vessels harbours spread across the coastline from the border of Namibia to the west (Atlantic Ocean) to Mozambique in the east (Indian Ocean) – variously catering to an ever-growing global trade cargo, marine tourism and academic research fleet of vessels of various sizes – the country’s active and continuous contribution to IMO activities remains vital.

Delegates of countries that are members of the Indian Ocean Memorandum of Understandinng during ther annual general meeting in Cape Town in 2020

South Africa is also a part of the western Indian Ocean regions that contain 14 major commercial ports – seven of her own (Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Ngqura, East London, Durban and Richards Bay (South Africa) as well as those in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Maputo, Beira, Nacala, Quelimane, Pemba (Mozambique), and Mombasa (Kenya). These serve as hubs for traffic emanating from, and destined for, Europe, Asia, the Americas and the east and west coast of Africa.

In addition to the large cargo ships traveling internationally, the country says; many smaller boats serving local needs ply the coastal waters and harbours and, in the process, adding to the considerable navigation risks faced by large ships.

In its submission to the IMO Assembly’s 32nd Regular Session ahead of Friday’s IMO Council Elections, the country states: “South Africa as a fully democratic country continues to be an active and loyal member of the International Maritime Organization. The Government of South Africa is very keen to continuously work with the IMO towards promotion of safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping.

“South Africa has developed domestic legislation to implement the adopted Conventions and such pieces of legislation include the South African Maritime Safety Authority Act, 1998. The Act establishes SAMSA as an agency of government charged with the responsibility to promote safety of shipping; protect the marine and atmospheric environment and promote South Africa’s maritime interests.”

Senior Department of Transport officials during a visit of the South African Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre in Cape Town in 2020

To this end, South Africa boasts among other things; a dedicated Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC) that positions her as a regional leader in terms of hosting state-of-the-art search and rescue infrastructure and services for the Southern African Region:

“As a coastal State, we manage and maintain a system of AIDS to navigation including lighthouses, a fully-fledged Marine Hydrographic Service, as well as Emergency Response Capacity, which includes a Search and Rescue Centre, Emergency Towing Vessel, Information and Communication Systems.

“These systems give assurance to international shipping on the safety of shipping along the SA coastline as well as supports the entire Southern African Region.

“Our search and rescue region extend to Antarctica and our LRIT Data Centre caters for more countries in the region. We have over the years fully discharged our duty of ensuring order at sea by all the systems we have put in place, including our anti-piracy initiative in the Mozambique Channel.

Delegates from 22 African countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean during a four day conference in Cape Town in 2019 under the aegis of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) led Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern African (GI-WACAF) Project.

“South Africa (also) became a member COSPAS/ SARSAT programme since May 2001, and the system in Cape Town detects on a yearly average 607 Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacons (EPIRBS) that transmit on 121.5 MHz. Detection of the modern and new technology 406 MHz beacons is 4 increasing and at the moment, the averages are 200 detections per annum, and this is based on the information passed on to South Africa.

Alongside that aspect of work, SAMSA conducts inspections on foreign vessels visiting her ports and regionally, the country works in tandem with neighbouring countries conjoined by their borderline access to the affected oceans. South Africa is a member of two port state control regimes; the Indian Ocean Memorandum of Understanding and the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding.

It is also notable that South Africa was the first country worldwide to formally implement the International Labour Organisation (ILO) inspired and driven Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188) – a pioneering position that has since led to her consulting extensively with other countries still at early stages of the convention’s implementation.

Delegates from three South East Asian countries – Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand during a week long visit to South Africa in 2019 to glean the country’s experience with the implementation of the ILO C188 Convention.

At this year’s General Assembly, South Africa is backing fully the IMO General Assembly’s adoption of entry into force and implementation of the 2012 Cape Town Agreement. In her submission South Africa says that in terms of current arrangements, for the Agreement to be in force, at least 22 States with an aggregate number of the qualifying fishing vessels must ratify/accede to it.

To date, 16 States with an aggregated fleet of 1907 eligible fishing vessels have ratified the instrument.

South Africa’s view is that: “South Africa, as the host of the International Conference on the Safety of Fishing Vessels held in Cape Town in 2012 and signed the Agreement and the 2019 Torremolinos Declaration, supports the adoption of the draft resolution on the entry into force and implementation of the Agreement.

“The entry into force of the Agreement will increase safety standards on fishing vessel design, construction and equipment will also positively impact the working conditions of fishing vessel personnel and the safety of the search and rescue and emergency response services in mitigating the consequences of fishing vessel casualties. Furthermore, the Agreement will assist in the prevention of marine pollution, including plastic pollution, from fishing vessels and in combatting IUU fishing.”

In addition, from a global marine law perspective, South Africa has a long tradition with the Maritime Law Association of South Africa populated by some of the world respected jurists, thereby ensuring that its maritime arbitration capability is one of the well-respected in the world.”

The country states: “South Africa can therefore, with its strategic position at the tip of the continent straddling three oceans, coupled with our well-established technical capability and skills base, make a meaningful contribution to the activities of the IMO Council in service to international shipping.

Delegates from 25 countries that are signatories to the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC) at an International Maritime Organization (IMO) three day workshop in Durban in November 2018

On global collaboration in general, South Africa was due to host the World Maritime Day Parallel Event in 2020 but the IMO had to postpone the event due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. The outgoing IMO Council had, however, approved retaining South Africa as host of the event in 2022 conditional to the COVID-19 pandemic trends.

During this year’s IMO Assembly, South Africa also intends to sign the Jeddah Amendment to Djibouti Code of Conduct (the Code) with the IMO Secretary General. The Code aims to suppress transnational organised crime and other illegal activities at sea.

On the elections of the new IMO Council for 2022-2023 biennium , while South Africa remains optimistic of retaining her seat, should things go completely awry for some inexplicable reason, the country may still stand a chance of returning to serve in the council as currently there is a proposal before the IMO Assembly to expand the council’s membership from 40 seats to 52.

The proposal, which South Africa has given her support, further calls for the IMO Council’s term of office to be extended from two (years) to four (years).

In her submission to the IMO Assembly’s 32nd Regular Session currently underway, South Africa states that: “South Africa would like to support the draft amendments to Articles 16, 17, 18, 19(b) and 81 of the IMO Convention and the associated draft Assembly resolution.

“We believe that the expansion of members to the IMO Council will ensure that there is diversity, geographical spread and representation of the interests of all IMO Member States.”

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Contestation for IMO’S 40-Member Council heats up, with elections due Friday! Five African countries in the run.

IMO GEneral Assembly bi-annual meeting (32nd Regular Session) underway in a hybrid model in London from Monday (06 December) through to next Tuesday (SAMSA File Photo)

Pretoria: 09 December 2021

Contestation among Member States for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) 40-member Council comes to a head this Friday when the organisation will announce who among the 48 contestants will either retain, lose or secure their seats; and South Africa is among five African countries in the list of contestants.

The Council is an executive organ of IMO, responsible for supervising the work of the organization. The Council is made up of 40 Member States, elected by the Assembly for two-year terms. The outgoing was elected in 2019.

An interesting new development before the IMO General Assembly’s 32nd Regular Session currently underway in a hybrid model in London, from Monday this week through to Wednesday week, is a proposal by the outgoing Council for the expansion of the body by an additional 12 members, to a total 52.

However, according to the world’s maritime regulatory body, until such proposal is approved and adopted by at least two thirds of the IMO Membership, or 116 Member States (based on the current membership of 174 Member States and two Associate Members), the status quo will remain.

Therefore, the IMO says; on Friday (10 December), a new 40-member IMO Council for the 2022-2023 biennium will be elected utilising in-person private ballot.

Contestation for the 40 seats falls into three categories;

  • Category A (10 States with the largest interest in providing international shipping services:),
  • Category B (10 States with the largest interest in international seaborne trade) and
  • Category C, (20 States not elected under (a) or (b) above, which have special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world.)

According to the IMO, 48 countries including South Africa are in the running. These include 10 Members States in Category A, 11 Members States in Category B and as many as 27 Members States in Category C.

However, with Category (A) having virtually no seeming contest (10 seats and 10 candidates), and Category (B) having 11 contestants for the 10 seats available; the biggest challenge is – for all intents and purposes – in Category C, the one in which South Africa slots, where 27 Members States are vying for the 20 seats available.

The IMO provided the names of candidate Members States for the 40-Member Council in each category as follows:

  • Category (A): China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • Category (B): Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates and the United States.
  • Category (C): Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vanuatu.

In terms of the current contest for seats and due to end Friday, in Category (A), all the listed Member States candidates are already serving, except for Northern Ireland. In Category (B), new candidates are the United States and Sweden, the former having slotted in Category (A) of the outgoing Council in 2019.

In Category (C) where the battle for a seat is truly hot, new contestants include Bangladesh, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, and Vanuatu – with Kuwait, which served in the outgoing Council, not listed as a candidate.

The newly elected Council to be confirmed on Friday will then meet on 16 December for the Council’s 126th session and will elect its Chair and Vice-Chair. 

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Seafarers’ well-being has South Africa’s unwavering support: Transport Minister on World Maritime Day 2021

Pretoria: 04 October 2021

South Africa may currently be accounting for no more than 0,65% (or 10 671) of registered world’s seafarers (approximately 1,7-million), but its commitment to contributing to their improved work and general social welfare conditions remains unwavering, according to the South African government.

To this end, confirmed South Africa’s Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula; the country has paved the way for all seafarers – domestic or international – to receive Covid-19 vaccination in the country subject to conditions periodically relevant in terms of domestic national lockdown regulations.

South Africa Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula

Mr Mbalula’s confirmation came in remarks he made in an opening address during the marking of the global celebration of World Maritime Day 2021 on Thursday last week. The Transport Department organised event held online and streamed live on social media occurred in the same week that the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) officially confirmed through a Marine Notice the extension of Covid-19 pandemic vaccinations to all seafarers on South Africa’s waters.

In terms of that Marine Notice (MN 19-21 [C+F+S+P]) dated 23 September 2021, all foreign seafarers in South Africa’s ports are eligible for vaccination, and to which a process guidline is provided. The South African government directive through SAMSA was given in support of efforts by various institutions locally and globally, including the International Maritime Organisation(IMO), the World Health Organisation and related, for seafarers to be prioritised for vaccination against the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his World Maritime Day 221 celebration address to an online audience of about 124 guests, Mr Mbalula said this latest initiative served as an ample demonstration of the country’s full commitment to contributing positively and sustainably to the improvement of the working conditions as well as general welfare of seafarers across the world.

He described as it as befitting therefore that the 43rd ocassion of the world’s celebration of World Maritime Day 2021 as guided by the IMO, to which South Africa is a Member State, was given a theme focusing attention on seafarers: “Seafarers: At the core of shipping’s future“.

Mr Mbalula said South Africa’s geo-location at the most southern tip of the African continent, surrounded by three oceans; the Atlantic to the west, the southern ocean and the Indian Ocean to the east, with a coastline of some 3800km, and an oceans based 1.5-million square kilometers of an Exclusive Economic Zone, made it an undoubted maritime country. For the reason, almost the entire country’s foreign trade depended centrally on shipping, and by extension, on the singular critical importance of seafarers manning those vessels.

“Seafarers play a strategic role in shipping and yet also bare the brunt of challenges facing the sector but especially now during the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. South Africa is among IMO Member States that were first to declare seafarers as essential workers.”

For his full remarks (+-8 minutes), click on the video link below.

Transport Minister Mr Fikile Mbalula’s opening remarks during South Africa’s celebration of World Maritime Day 2021 on 30 September.

Humanitarian crisis

For its part, the IMO that was represented by Senior Legal Officer, Mr Jan de Boer, acknowledged with appreciation South Africa’s continued strong support of the United Nations body, even as 250 000 seafarers across many parts of the world are still facing an uphill battle during especially the period of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Mr de Boer, difficulty with crews changes, inability to work and in some instances, cases of abandonment of seafarers were still a massive challenge, as was the need to prioritise seafarers for vaccinations. This occured against the backdrop of a situation where only about 57 of the IMO’s 167 Member States had so far designated seafarers as essential or key workers.

Describing the situation of seafarers worldwide as a “humanitarian crisis”, he said movement restrictions were also still a major challenge this despite the existence of a framework of protocols established as well as resolutions by the IMO and associated organisations in order to help assist efforts towards addressing problems faced by seafarers.

For its part, said Mr de Boer, the IMO has in place a Seafarer Crisis Action Team that seafarers and related may direct inquiries for assistance.

For Mr de Boer’s full remarks (about 5 minutes), click on the video link below.

Mr Jan de Boer, ILO Senior Legal Officer’s remarks during South Africa’s celebration of World Maritime Day 2021 on 30 September.

In SA, seafarers are essential workers

Meanwhile, according to SAMSA; continued engagement with seafarers is vital to ensuring an orderly, inclusive approach to both confronting the challenges facing seafarers as well as working out appropriate measures aimed at improving their working conditions and securing a sound social welfare future.

Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane. SAMSA Acting CEO

SAMSA acting CEO, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane recounted various steps the country has undertaken to address especially the pressing problems brought about by the outbreak of Covid-19 in China in 2019.

Over the past year since about May 2020, in addition to an early designation of seafarers as essential workers, the country sought to ensure limited restrictions of both vessels and their seafarers on South Africa sea waters while also making provision for both the extension of their certificates of competency and related, as well as facilitating for the renewal of passports.

Undertaken jointly with various government and private sector institutions in the maritime sector, similar measures relevant to seaferers in the fishing and related sectors such as leisure were also made thereby ensuring that no seafarers were left stranded while in or nearby the country’s borders.

She said: “… It is befitting that the IMO has made a clarion call to all of us to make 2021 a year of action for seafarers, who daily face unprecedented adversity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite their vital role as essential workers supporting global supply chains,

“As of this month, with the South African government having secured enough volumes of Covid-19 pandemic vaccinations for both South Africans and non-residents, SAMSA has facilitated for the vaccination of all Seafarers on our shores.

“We acknowledge that there is still more work to be done especially in ensuring that seafarers are fully recognised as “Essential Workers” in the country. Engagements with our partners are ongoing.”

Further, according to Ms Taoana-Mashiloane, similar to the IMO’s STAC, SAMSA as the country’s registrar of seafarers, also has a dedicated office to seafarers welfare that they can refer issues of interest or concern to, by email: welfare@samsa.org.za

For her full remarks, click on the video link below.

SAMSA Acting CEO, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane’s address during South Africa’s celebration of World Maritime Day 2021 on 30 September

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SAMSA outlines measures to curb spread of Covid 19 by ships and crew at South Africa seas

Pretoria: 17 March 2020

The South African Maritime Authority (SAMSA) has set out guidelines on how management of sea going vessels falling within its scope of activities shall be dealt with, following the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid19), and which partly suspends some of its activities, such as ship surveys for a limited period of time.

The publication of two Marine Notices due for release this week, follows fresh on the pronouncement by the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula on Monday this week on steps the maritime safety agency will embark upon. That in turn came in the wake of South Africa President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa announcing on Sunday a National Disaster declaration aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid19 virus now rampant in just about every country in the world, from its outbreak in China last December.

The first of the new Marine Notices announces the temporal suspension of ship surveys, audits or inspection from this week until 30 March 2020. “As of 16 March 2020, all statutory surveys, audits and inspections will be suspended for a period of 14 days.”

The second notice; “serves to inform vessels, Masters, crew, passengers, ship agents, Stevedores, surveyors, Ship managers, Ship owners and all other stakeholders with additional information in order to manage any suspected outbreak of Covid-19 onboard a vessel in the best possible way.”

In the former notice (temporal suspension of certain services) SAMSA states in part that: “Recognizing that, due to the outbreak of the COvid-19, the industry is facing challenges in meeting statutory requirements stipulated in the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006) and other relevant IMO Conventions, SAMSA has decided to provide guidance for dealing with the circumstances for example, extending seafarer periods of service onboard vessels, delaying periods for surveys, inspections and audits in a pragmatic and harmonized approach.

The agency then urges affected parties to read carefully the Marine Notice in order to ensure a clear understanding of its contents and how to enlist help when necessary.

DSC_4428In justification of the termporary suspection of services, SAMSA states: “SAMSA surveyors frequently travel to smaller fishing communities where there are no proper medical facilities in the area, other than a local clinic. SAMSA surveyors may therefore inadvertently spread the coronavirus to a local fishing community when visiting.

“Vessels operating from these communities, whose safety certificates expire before 15 April 2020, may request an extension on their safety certificates for up to 60 days, subject to change.

“In cases where Local General Safety Certificates (LGSC) are already expired, a re-issue of an LGSC will be considered on a case by case basis provided that the previous LGSC has not been expired for more than 60 days. To this end, payment for re-issue will need to be made.”

The Marine Notice then expands on the set of other services affected and provides guidance on how affected parties shall solicit and receive medical and related services under given sets of conditions and circumstances.

In the other Marine Notice, SAMSA provides extensive detail of measures currently being undertaken in South Africa to prevent the spread of the killer CoVid19 and arrangements, inclusive of contact details, to be utilised by affected parties in the maritime sector.

These also include recommended preventive measures against the spread of the virus within South African borders.

Key contact numbers being offered to affected stakeholders are follows:

  1. CORONAVIRUS PUBLIC HOTLINE: Tel. 08 000 29999
  2. MARITIME RESCUE COORDINATION CONTACT DETAILS (24 / 7 / 365): Tel: +27 (0) 21 938 3300 or mrcc.ct@samsa.org.za
  3. TRANSNET NATIONAL PORT AUTHORITY: Tel: +27 (0) 83 378 8877 or Tel: +27 (0) 83 306 1228
  4. SOUTH AFRICAN DESIGNATED COASTAL HOSPITALS

Western Cape          Tygerberg Hospital  Cape Town   +27(0) 21 938 4911

KwaZulu-Natal         Grey’s Hospital         Pietermaritzburg       +27(0) 33 897 3000

Eastern Cape           Livingstone Hospital   Port  Elizabeth       +27(0) 41 405 9111

Northern Cape          Kimberley Hospital  Kimberley      +27(0) 53 802 9111

Designated hospitals for managing Coronavirus –

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1u86kN7ZVxPBG-s5pzHc93b29fkpKGC16&usp=sharing

On publication, the two marine notices can be accessed from the SAMSA website by following this link:

http://www.samsa.org.za/Pages/default.aspx

 

Meanwhile, the outbreak of the Covid19 virus and its ferocious, insatiable and unstoppable appetite to infect large numbers of people globally at an alarming rate has put paid to South Africa maritime sector’s celebration of the return of the country’s sole cadet training and research vessel, the SA Agulhas, from its historic sojourn through the Indian and Southern Oceans, including Antarctic this week.

Make history of the SA Agulhas’ journey to the ocean region this time around, and which began on its departure on 27 December 2019 from Cape Town, was part of its all female crew of 22 cadets and two female training officers – the first of its kind ever to undertake the journey, along with a group of Indian scientists periodical studying that part of the world.

Cadets muster during safety drill onboard SAAGThe SA Agulhas’ historic all female cadet crew and training officers was scheduled to be celebrated during a now cancelled event scheduled for East London, one of South Africa’s major coastal cities on the Indian Ocean, on Friday 20 March 2020.

Now with strict restrictions on people’s gatherings and precisely their close contact in groups, as well as other considerations related to current efforts aimed at prevention of the spread of the Covid19 virus, the reception will no longer take place, confirmed SAMSA in Pretoria this week.

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Injured crew members rescued from weather rattled vessel off South African coast

KS_FLORAPretoria: 06 June 2018

The South African Maritime Safety Authority’s (SAMSA) Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC)  in Cape Town had to spring into fast action early on Wednesday after two crew members of a bulk carrier departing from South Africa for Brunei reportedly suffered serious injuries while sailing through choppy waters on the Indian Ocean.

Working in collaboration with a number of local institutions as well as a medical doctor in the Eastern Cape, the MRCC dispatched a South African Air Force aircraft from Port Elizabeth to pluck the injured crew members from the bulk carrier for medical attention in East London.

In a statement, the MRCC said the rescue scramble occurred early on Wednesday after the bulk carrier, KS Flora, sailing from the deep water port of Ngqurha in Port Elizabeth and while approximately 81 kilometers south west of East London, on its way to the Maura Port in Brunei, sent and emergency call for assistance with two injured crew members

“Today at 0934 SAST MRCC Cape Town received a call from RSC East London advising of two injured crew members on-board Bulk Carrier ‘KS FLORA’ approximately 81 kilometres from East London. The vessel had left Algoa Bay (Ngqura) bound for Muara Port in Brunei. The two crew got injured  due to vessel experiencing bad weather. One crew suffered severe left knee injury and the other suffered severe fracture left foot.

“MRCC then requested our coastal radio station (PORT ELIZABETH Radio) to connect the vessel to the METRO doctor for him to make a medical judgment on the condition of the two crew.

“The Metro doctor advised that one of the crew should be evacuated as soon as possible and he suggested air evacuation due to the urgency in the casualty requiring treatment. The vessel was diverting to East London as it was the closest port from their position.” said the MRCC.

A South African Air Force aircraft dispatched from Port Elizabeth rendezvoused with the vessel during the day approximately 36 kilometres from shore, for evacuation of the injured crew members and who have since been admitted to a hospital in East London.

The MRCC confirmed that the bulk carrier had since returned onto its journey to Brunei.

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To learn more about the role of the SAMSA MRCC, please click here:

https://www.samsa.org.za/service/rescue-co-ordination/mrcc

IMO Africa week-long seminar on member States agreement for the promotion of fishermen safety ends on high note in Cape Town.

DSC_1745

Pretoria: 24 October 2017

South Africa and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will continue engagement with African countries in efforts to have all maritime countries in the region who are member States of the IMO to formally ratify a global agreement established to encourage and enforce the protection of fishermen across the world.

The continued engagement, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), will encompass the provision of particularly technical assistance to those African region countries requiring it – the aim being to secure sufficient IMO member States’ support to enable formalization of the now five year agreement into a convention instrument that will binding on all states.

This was the conclusion of a five day seminar on the IMO ‘Cape Town Agreement’ held in Cape Town last week.

DSC_1771 (3)
Sharing notes: (From Left: International Maritime Organization (IMO) representative, Ms Sandra Rita Allnut with South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) deputy COO, Captain Nigel Campbell during last week’s Africa seminar on the IMO  ‘Cape Town Agreement 2012’.

African countries represented at the seminar held at the Castle of Good Hope included Mauritius, Seychelles, Uganda, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Somali, Tanzania and South Africa. Among those also invited but did not attend were Angola and Kenya.

The primary focus of the seminar was on establishment of facilitative interventions to enable the implementation and ratification of the Cape Town Agreement 2012 to 1993 Torremolinos Protocol relating to the 1977 Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels.

At its founding in South Africa five years ago, the ‘Cape Town Agreement 2012’ involved as many as 58 countries from across the world.

The five day seminar for Anglophone African countries in Cape Town last week dealt with a number of issues concerning the agreement including, the state of marine fisheries globally inclusive of the number of fishing vessels relevant to the agreement (24-meter vessels), the IMO’s work on the safety of fishing, the Cape Town Agreement and challenges in its entry into force, envisaged advantages to the maritime and fisheries sector through the entry into force of the agreement and matters related.

DSC_1728.JPG
Part of the Castle Good Hope, a venue for the IMO’s Africa seminar on the IMO ‘Cape Town Agreement 2012’ held last week.

During the ensuing discussions, it emerged that a key constraint for most countries involved in the seminar was lack of administrative capacity, both legal and technical.

The conclusion was that South Africa, a member State of the IMO and an early signatory (one of seven so far) of the agreement, would avail itself to assist those countries requiring it, in direct and close collaboration with the IMO.

According to SAMSA, South Africa is already way ahead in terms of development of draft regulations facilitative of implementation of the IMO ‘Cape Town Agreement 2012’ and will share these with countries in need of such assistance.  The technical regulations currently in draft form still, and intended to replace a set of 1968 regulations, are with the Department of Transport (DoT) for consideration and promulgation for public comment.

The South Africa chairman of the IMO seminar in Cape Town, SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, Captain Nigel Campbell described the event as a success overall, particularly from South Africa’s position as a host country.

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