Methanol poisoning is believed to be the cause of the death of one crew member and hospitalization of five others in Durban, South Africa, from a Netherlands ship that was sailing past the country early this week.
According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) activated a rescue mission at about 7.51am on Tuesday after receiving a call for assistance from the Captain of the BOKA VANGUARD to help evacuate and seek urgent medical attention for five crew Brazilian crew members who had apparently fallen sick on board. An additional crewman had already died before MRCC was notified.
This occurred while the vessel – described as a heavy lift ship – was sailing on the Indian Ocean, approximately 276 kilometres East from the port city of Durban on its way from Qindao in China to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
On receiving the urgent call for assistance, MRCC said medical and evacuation support was activated involving the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the Western Cape Metro Emergency Medical Services, the South African Air Force as well as the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in Durban.
At the time of rescue and evacuation of the vessel’s sick crew, all five were in a critical condition with the potential risk of death, said the MRCC. It was reported by the Captain that the methanol poisoning happened during the evening but he only got to know about it that morning.
Both the TNPA and SAAF readied aircraft for use in the evacuation. The Air Force’s resources were utilised as it could carry all five casualties at once, while the NSRI also launched a boat from Durban as an additional safety measure. The MRCC described the sea and weather conditions during the operation as calm with the wind at 13 km/h and with a swell at 1.7 metres
At the time of writing, it could not be established what condition the sick crew were in since hospitalization on Tuesday.
MRCC Cape Town expressed its appreciation for the support provided by the SASAR Signatory Agencies and the contribution to the successful medical evacuation.
The fate of six stranded Asian sailors found in a desperate situation in a poorly conditioned vessel off the port of Cape Town recently may remain uncertain still, but their safety and general well-being going forward is ensured for time being, thanks to the timely intervention and assistance efforts of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
According to the agency, part of whose mandate is to ensure the safety of property and life at sea, the epic drama involving the six foreign sailors – two from Taiwan and four others from Mynmar, and some of whom now face possible legal sanction – apparently unfolded after SAMSA officials were alerted by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF) about a drifting, fuel-less and permit-less vessel spotted at sea, off the port of Cape Town on 02 December 2019.
Four of the six member crew of the Yong Qing Fa No.666 currently believed to have been abandoned by their employer and who are currently residing on board the crippled vessel at the port of Cape Town after it was detained following its unauthorized entry and anchorage in SA waters, and a subsequent C188 inspection that found it not seaworthy. The six member crew of the vessel consists of four seafarers from Mynmar and two others from Taiwan.
Captain Pierre Schutz, a deputy Principal Officer at SAMSA’s western region Cape Town office, recounted this week about how the agency’s officers scrambled to the rescue of the foreign seafarers to ensure primarily their safety and general welfare while their sea sailing troubles including legal issues were being interrogated for a possible resolution.
The legal woes facing both the owners and crew of the now quarantined fishing vessel known as the Yong Qing Fa No.666 but whose flag state has yet to be determined, it emerged, include the vessel’s unauthorized entry into South African sea waters, the absence on board of necessary documentation including certificates of nationality, tonnage, drawing plans, crew list, Voyage Management System (VMS) transmitting, and an off Automatic Identification System (AIS).
On entering South African waters without permission and dropping anchor near Cape Town harbor without authorization on 30 November 2019 due to apparent desperation for bunkers, the six member crew on board reportedly also initially failed to communicate properly their plight with local authorities due to language difficulties, until the Taiwanese Fisheries agency in South Africa got involved, almost a week later.
In fact, on entering the country’s waters in the Atlantic Ocean and putting anchor near the Cape Town port, according to SAMSA, based on TNPA reports, the vessel’s crew did so without following any protocols and had maintained complete radio silence, something unusual and illegal.
It had since emerged that the six crew members and their poorly maintained vessel had were likely abandoned by the owner, with four of the crew members having not been paid their wages.
According to SAMSA on Wednesday this week, two of the stranded seafarers, from Taiwan, had since been charged with certain law transgressions (unspecified) and were due to reappear in a Cape Town magistrate’s court on 27 January 2020.
Reporting about the drama, Capt. Schutz says SAMSA got drawn initially to the plight of the crew of the vessel – and which had since been established to have been sailing from West Africa to Mauritius – after respective authorities including the TNPA, DEFF and others, all bound by relevant legislation and protocols, were initially reluctant and refused it entry into a South African port without standard procedures having been fully observed.
These included a 21 day offshore containment period to determine the vessel and crew health condition that it did not carry any communicable diseases such as – in this case – Ebola, as the vessel had reportedly sailed from a West African region where the deadly disease is reputably rife.
He says 12 days after the drama ensued, with engagements ongoing among respective authorities, SAMSA appealed to the TNPA, DEFF and others to allow an inspection of the vessel and crew in order to facilitate provision of basic essentials to the crew, such as food and water. Crucially, this was also to ensure the safety of the vessel given its unauthorized anchorage which could prove hazardous to other sailing vessels in the vicinity if left unattended for too long.
By 13 December 2019, according to Capt. Schutz, the vessel was eventually allocated a berth in an isolated area at the port of Cape Town following to which nutrition was brought on board for the vessels’ crew while a variety of inspections were conducted.
He confirmed that a SAMSA inspection in terms of local and international legal instruments including the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) C188 – Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188) found the vessel to be not seaworthy and it was officially detained, while a DEFF inspection led to the arrest of the vessel’s skipper and his subsequent appearances in court.
As of last week, according to Capt. Schutz, the vessel still had no power and it still had no local agent appointed to attend to its needs as required by law. Meanwhile Taiwanese authorities in South Africa were still not taking responsibility for a majority of the crew members on board the vessel while DEFF officials’ efforts to seek assistance from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) had proved fruitless so far.
Capt. Schutz says: “The SAMSA (Cape Town office) is liaising with DEFF in terms of the court appearance of two of the seafarers. It is also liaising with the local Apostleship of the Seas in terms of welfare and food. Currently also, SAMSA is supplying food while awaiting for the court appearance.”
Regarding the detention of the vessel, Capt. Schutz says its release will be conditional to the owners carrying out the repairs it is so advised to do and on completion, inform SAMSA.
“Once so advised, SAMSA would conduct another inspection, and if the vessel is found in good condition, the vessel would be released from detention. There is no time frame attached to this,” he says, save for a range of port charges it will incur, accruing to the TNPA, for its safekeeping at a South African port, and which could escalate depending on how long it takes to repair it.
Capt. Schutz says further that the vessels’ crew will be repatriated once all matters related are finalized to the satisfaction of South African authorities.
“The responsibility however lies with the owners. There has been no final decision in this regard,” he says.
Please note that this story has been updated to provide additional details and correct certain inaccuracies.
Women empowerment in South Africa’s maritime sector took on yet another relatively small but highly significant and historical step forward at the weekend in Cape Town after the country despatched an all women cadet and training officers’ team on a three months voyage to the southern seas.
The 22 women- two officers and 20 young female cadets sailed from the port of Cape Town on Friday night, headed for Mauritius where they will be joined in 10 days by a group of Indian scientists for their three months sojourn into the Indian Ocean and Antartica region.
According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) – owners and operators of the SA Agulhas, the country’s only dedicated cadet training vessel – and the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) – the country’s agency for cadet training – the latest of three such training opportunities for the country’s cadets out sea was partly made possible by the out hiring of the SA Agulhas ship to the Indian National Centre for Antarctic Ocean Research (ICAOR).
Scientists from the ICAOR will be conducting research of the Indian and Southern Oceans waters over a period of two months through to the end of February 2020. During this period, the all female 18 deck and two engine cadets will receive extensive training and earn crucial sea time to advance them through their studies as future mariners.
SAMSA and SAIMI described the send off of an all female cadet team and all female training officers in Cape Town at the weekend as the first ever such adventure, deliberately aimed at advancing gender parity in the maritime sector through focused advancement of woman.
Two of the 20 cadets will likely qualify for the Officer of the Watch exam after earning sufficient sea time during this voyage. For several of the cadets, this voyage will be the first time away from home and will be their first ever training opportunity at sea.
SAMSA Acting CEO Mr Sobantu Tilayi emphasized the importance of this particular voyage; “It is important that we use every opportunity we get to open up the maritime industry to all and this voyage is proof that South Africa is on-board with the international drive to empower women and is committed to do away with the notion that the maritime industry is a male dominated industry” said Mr Tilayi.
Mr Ian Calvert, executive head of SAMSA’s Marine Special Services, who was on hand to see off the all female training crew said: “Addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality is the responsibility of all South Africans. Further to this, gender parity in the workspace remains of great concern.
“Today, women signify two percent of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers with 94 percent of female seafarers working in the cruise ship industry. There can be no doubt this is a historically male dominated industry, subsequently there needs to be a concerted effort to help the industry move forward and support women to achieve a representation that is in keeping with 21st century expectations.”
According to Mr Calvert, the historical event send off at the weekend, was not just a uniquely South African initiative that was out of sink with the rest of the world, but a significant contribution to global efforts championed currently by international agencies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Maritie Organisation (IMO).
He said: “Through its Women in Maritime programme, under the slogan: “Training-Visibility-Recognition”, the IMO has taken a strategic approach towards enhancing the contribution of women as key maritime stakeholders. In spite of this, the benefits of these and other initiatives still need to be fully felt in (South) Africa.
“For this particular voyage as a show of our continued commitment to the achievement of gender equality we have specifically dedicated it to the exposure of women in maritime,” said Mr Calvert
Further, he said, the initiative was in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, the African Integrated Maritime Strategy, National Development Plan, Operation Phakisa as well as the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy.
“It is an attempt to address gender empowerment and inequalities specifically in South Africa, in the year that the IMO declared The World Maritime Day theme as “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”.
For Mr Calvert’s remarks on the topic, click on video below.
SA Agulhas Antarctica Voyage 2019: First All Female Training Venture
This blog also chatted with some of the youg female cadets as well as the master of the vessel on this voyage, Captain Reagan Paul, to gain their views and expectations of experience during the next three motnhs. The young cadets, Ms Lona Jiba (Eastern Cape), Ms Puleng Ramasodi and Thabango Ngobeni (both from Gauteng), and Ms Sinethemba Mdlalose (KwaZulu-Natal) were beyond themselves with joy at their first sea voyage and particularly on board the SA Agulhas on its journey to the ice mountains of the Antarctica region.
The blog also heard from one of the onboard training officers, Ms Samantha Montes who’s stated other interest during the voyage would be an observation of the implementation of the Polar Code.
The general socio-political and economic mood might not have been the greatest in South Africa during the passing year, with good reason. But it is also just as true that – in the words of SA Ports Regulator, Mr Mahesh Fakir – there had also been ‘pockets of excellence’ the country simply can’t afford to ignore.
One such area of positive development, at least according to some of the country’s leading women in the maritime sector, has been noticeable progress achieved in the advancement of women in the sector.
It has been, according to them, a notable progressive achievement in South Africa capped late in 2019 by the appointment for the first time of a South African, and a woman, as President of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Assembly during its last sitting in London.
South Africa’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ms Nomatemba Tambo became the latest symbol of maritime sector gender representation transformation success after she was elected the IMO General Assembly’s President during its 31st session held in London from 25 November to 04 December.
It was also during that session in London that the 174 Member States of the IMO also adopted a resolution on “Preserving the Legacy of the World Maritime Theme for 2019 and achieving a Barrier-Free Working Environment for Women in the Maritime Sector”.
That stance encapsulated and reflected on a year during which the advancement of women in the maritime sector worldwide received the highest attention from both the international and regional bodies as well as individual countries, as the 2019 theme for World Maritime Day also directed focus on deliberate gender parity in the sector.
In Durban on Thursday evening (12 December 2019), the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) joined by the Department of Transport, hosted a stakeholders’ briefing function attended by various officials across the industry.
During the session, this blog took time to speak specifically to women present and who are leaders in the maritime sector in varied ways. They were, in no particular order; Ms Londiwe Ngcobo, Africa’s first black female Dredge Master; Ms Siyamthanda Maya, Managing Director of SA Marine Fuels; Ms Innocentia Motau, Director at Mediterranean Shipping Company and member of Women In Maritime South Africa; and Ms Kgomoto Selokane, Chief Executive Officer of COLT Marine.
Below are their views on business in general as well transformation in the maritime sector in South Africa.
Incidentally, it also emerged that one of the companies, MSC is aiming at creating no less than five (5) thousand jobs in the cruiserliner subsector over the next five years, working jointly with SAMSA.
Take a listen:
Ms Ngcobo: “South African has been so intentional to ensure success of women empowerment..”
Ms Maya: “We’ve seem the emergence of credible black companies….”
Ms Motau: “We launched Women In Maritime SA and we look forward to 2020 with anticipation and excitment…”
Ms Selokane: “Competing with well established companies not child’s play, but rewarding…”
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has expressed regret and disappointment that growth of the South African Ship Registry is failing to gather speed, this due partly to lack of common vision and understanding among State entities.
SAMSA Board Member, Ms Sekabiso Molemane told maritime sector stakeholders during a regular briefing in Durban last week that the organisation had failed to reach targets for ship registration under the South African flag that it has set itself two years ago, adding that this was both ‘deeply disappointing” and “regrettable.’
Ms Molemane described it as highly significant that private sector industries had been highly supportive of the Department of Transport’s agency, SAMSA, in its endeavours and instead, the greatest challenges seemed to emanate largely from lack of support by other State agencies; among them the South African Revenue Services.
Both Ms Molemane and SAMSA acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi went to great detail explaining how the poverty of support from other fellow State agencies or government was negatively affecting SAMSA’s efforts to develop and grow the SA Ship Registry.
She said: “We started the year with enthusiasm, hoping that by this time we’d maybe have 15 ships in our register…and we’d have addressed issues of tariffs. But disappointingly, we are still where we were two years ago.
“It is heartbreaking that, because when we consult with industry and we say we have a situation, it (industry) says, we are here to support you. But unfortunately we have challenges somewhere else. Somewhere else, where we are supposed to unlock, it’s always locked. It is either a change of Ministers, or it is something else. One thing I could not say though is that the industry failed us. I’d be lying,” Ms Molemane.
She added that the ship registry development was not the only one suffering lack of progress due to poverty of Government and State institutions’ support, but also systems development at SAMSA that both the agency and industry had identified as necessary to strengthen the effective performance of the organisation.
As a direct consequence, she said; issues that could be dealt with in a short period of time, sometimes took longer than necessary for SAMSA to deliver on. Even so, she told maritime sector stakeholders present at the function that: “Let’s not lose heart. Let’s hope that the best will come.”
For her full remarks, click on the video below.
Meanwhile, the South African Association of Ship Owners and Agencies (SAASOA), decried what it described as poor progress being made towards enhancing the country’s major ports cargo handling capabilities, citing a seeming apparent indifference by port authorities in addressing the matter.
SAASOA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Peter Besnard said it was now a matter of public record that the country’s ports poor cargo handling was a problem and which had surfaced as far as back as 2014.
He said: “Without a doubt, it is not something that has happened overnight. It has build up over time and I can safely say it started in 2014. But it appears to be overlooked or ignored and the situation has simply worsened. It is not a situation that can be sorted out overnight. It will certainly take a few years and a lot of money to get us back on track to where we were before.”
For Mr Besnard’s full remarks on the subject, click on the video below:
Also sharing some insights into the country’s trade ports state as well as an overview on recent and current developments was Mr Mahesh Fakir, the country’s Ports Regulator.
According to Mr Fakir, a major highlight on tariffs this year was a 20% reduction on export containers which he described as intended to enhance the competitiveness of local goods in international market even as it would impact overall revenue for ports authorities.
“It (reduction) gives the country that ability to go out there and face the international market at a lower price, and that’s what the country needs as a shot in the arm to take this economy forward,” he said.
Mr Fakir said he believed that the country’s ports could perform even much better in cargo handling than is currently the case, were certain configurations to be made to improve them.
He cited a Colombian model he and senior officials of both SAMSA and the Department of Transport recently observed while attending the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Assembly Parallel Event in October 2019.
He described it as a model featuring partial ownership of ports by the State and the private sector – the latter involving individuals in areas where ports are situated.
For his full views on the matter click on the video below.
Consultation and closer collaboration in the implementation of measures to prevent and combat oil pollution at the world’s oceans remains the key to success, delegates to an African regional conference of the Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern Africa (GI WACAF), heard in Cape Town on Monday.
The advice was shared by industry chair of the GI-WACAF Project, Mr Rupert Bravery during the opening of the four-day conference, from Monday to Thursday, and during which a further two-year agreement on a regional action plan is hoped to be discussed and endorsed.
As many as 100 delegates from about 22 west, central and southern African countries are attending the bi-annual conference, now in its 13th year, and led by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in collaboration with hosts, South Africa, via the Department of Transport’s Maritime Directorate as well as the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
Countries represented include Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
This year’s banner of the 8th conference of the GI-WACAF in Cape Town, South Africa from Monday to Thursday (28-31 October 2019)
According to the IMO, the main objectives of the conference are to address the challenges of oil spill preparedness and response in the region, to review the progress achieved since the last regional conference, and to highlight the benefits of the GI WACAF Project.
“The event will also be used to agree on a two-year action plan (2020-2021) to strengthen oil spill preparedness and response in the region. In view of the risks that these pollution events represent for the marine environment, it is paramount to foster cooperation between the countries of the region so that they can respond to oil spills in an effective manner. Cooperation with the local oil industry, a key aspect of the project, is also strongly encouraged,” said the IMO.
It added that the success of the GI-WACAF Project depended heavily on the involvement of the countries themselves.
In his opening address on Monday, Mr Bravery expressed pride and delight in the achievements of the GI-WACAF Project over the last few years, saying that consultation and collaboration, along with adaptability in response to changing needs of individual countries in the group were the hallmark of the success being achieved. For his full remarks click on the video below.
In her welcoming remarks, Ms Patricia Charlebois, deputy director of the IMO highlighted a number of achievements that were being made in efforts to combat oil pollution globally. Among these was the issue of compensation for countries affected by oil pollution, improving cooperation and collaboration between industry and institutions such as the IMO, as well as an encouraging increase in the number of women now visible in country representations such as GI-WACAF conference in Cape Town. For her full remarks, Click on the video below:
Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula; Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane said South Africa was delighted to be the host of the conference as it would help enhance its own learning and state of preparedness for oil spills prevention and combating at a time when oil and gas exploration in the country’s coastline was increasing and other economic activities such as bunkering were taking shape.
Ms Taoana-Mashiloane said South Africa had embarked on an initiative called Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) intended broadly to expand inclusive economic activity at three oceans, inclusive of oil and gas based industries, this in addition to managing increasing ships traffic utilising the southern African corridor for transportation of trade goods between the east and the west.
The expansion in oceans based economic activity was leading to clashes between business, government and environmental groups which she described as unnecessary.
This notwithstanding, the oceans based expanding economic activity required South Africa to be at the top of its game when it comes preparedness for oceans environmental protection. For her full remarks, click on the video below.
Following to her presentation, this blog chatted to Ms Toaona-Mashiloane for further clarity on some of the issues she raised, inclusive of South Africa’s preparations for the inaugural hosting of the IMO’s World Maritime Day Parallel Event in the coming year.
She described the country as excited and looking forward with great anticipation to hosting the IMO’s biggest annual event in Durban for the first time in October 2020. Click on the video below for her remarks.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) which has worked closely with the IMO over the past few months in preparation for the 8th GI-WACAF conference in Cape Town, said in addition to contribution to discussions on the planned action plan to be adopted for the next two years, it would be taking advantage also of the several experts in oil pollution combating attending the gathering to milk them for their knowledge while they were still in the country.
SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, Captain Vernon Keller said South Africa had experienced a few oil spills and it was to its advantage to draw knowledge and experience from other countries in order to prepare itself effective strategies to prevent and manage oil spillages at sea. For his remarks click on the video below:
There will be more conference news updates on this block in the next couple of days. Among these will be SAMSA’s Captain Ravi Naicker on the role of the GI-WACAF Project and South Africa’s involvement in it, as well as his presentation to the conference on South Africa’s ‘wish list’ for assistance by member countries.
The blog will try to capture and present here the reports of Tuesday’s two working group’s discussions on legislation, shoreline response and waste management and trans-boundary co-operation.
An envisaged reorganization and alignment of education and training in South Africa’s maritime sector is a welcome development, but role players would be well advised not to waste South Africans’ time with skills sets that won’t lend them jobs, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation was warned.
The warning came from the department’s head of Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy), Mr Mpumzi Bonga while addressing delegates to a two-day conference organised by the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) in Durban last week.
The indaba, in Durban on Monday and Tuesday, according to SAIMI, was organised against the backdrop of a realization that while the oceans economy in South Africa and the rest of the African continent was being probed anew as the future frontier of economic development, South Africa is inadequately prepared as it does not have the manpower with the skills to match present and anticipated future demand in the sector.
According to SAIMI acting chief executive, Mr Odwa Mtati: “In order to activate the potential, we need the skills to match the demand….”
However, Mr Bonga in an overview address of the overall performance of the Government driven Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) since launch in 2014, said investment performance had so far exceeded expectations, but it was simply not creating the number of jobs anticipated.
He said investment to date in the targeted maritime sector subsectors had risen to above R40-billion – about R9-billion above target – in the five years since launch of Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) and yet anticipated job creation on the other hand, had only yielded less than 10 000 direct jobs – a far cry from the 77 000 jobs hoped to be created.
Even with indirect jobs accounted for, Mr Bonga said the jobs creation picture in the maritime sector remained dismal. The mismatch in growing direct investment and job creation by the sector in the five year period, he said, could be explained by the fact that the bulk of the investment generated to date had been by the off shore oil and gas subsector, directed largely at seismic surveys and exploration, which required very highly specialized skills and fewer people to perform.
Even so, he said it was barely an acceptable fact that the maritime sector in general, and specifically the targeted subsectors, were not delivering on the promise the launch of Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) gave at inception.
“Continued implementation of Operation Phakisa reveals that we have attracted so far R41-1-billion and less than 10 000. The anticipation was to grow the GDP contribution by R171-billion and create a million jobs by 2033. Now, this is five years on and not the 16-17 year horizon that we used for planning.
“In today’s terms, we were supposed to have grown the GDP contribution by R32-billion this year, and created 77 000 jobs. If we look at a leniarity constant between investment made and the GDP we can happily say we have exceeded the investment that was expected. But can we say the same of job creation, and the answer is decidedly, no!” he said.
A star performer in investment attraction was the off-shore oil gas and MPG subsectors which were responsible for the large bulk of the R41.1-billion investment made to date. Laggards on the hand included the maritime transport and manufacturing and the tourism subsectors – the subsectors with the greatest potential to create jobs.
Part of the reason this was not happening, Mr Bonga suggested, was an apparent mismatch of skills with jobs requirements, coupled with very slow transformation of the sector in terms human capital population demographics.
“The reason I am bringing this up is so that we should sober up when we plan the skills development that we are planning for, and to remind us that as when we do what we do, we be mindful that we do not have the luxury of time, as the majority of people out there are becoming restless. There is no room for mistakes.
“Whatever skills we plan for, South Africans will not take kindly if you gonna plan to train them in skills that will not be beneficial to them, skills that will not change their material conditions, ” said Mr Bonga.
There is no gainsaying that South Africa geographically is, for all intents and purposes, a maritime country. But are South Africans a nation all at sea, without a single drop of water in sight?
This was one of the questions to arise at this past week’s two day conference organised by the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) at the Durban International Convention Centre, and to which question a clear answer seemed elusive.
One strong view to emerge though, and stated without equivocation by one delegate from the academic sector, Ms Theresa Williams, was that: “South Africa may be a maritime country, but South Africans are not a maritime nation!” And this, according to her, has serious long term implications for a whole range of issues, but particularly maritime education and training.
Conference attendees, among them top academics, researchers, teachers, seafarers, heads of public and private sector companies and institutions, government representatives and associated came from across South Africa to Durban at the invitation of the Port Elizabeth based SAIMI.
For one and half days they’d discuss how best the country could effectively organise and manage its education and training of a future workforce that’s suitably prepared to develop and advance the country’s maritime economic sector in the 21st century and beyond.
South Africa’s maritime features include a country of 59-million inhabitants on a land area at the most southern tip of the African continent surrounded by a 3 200 kilometres long coastline spanning three oceans, the Indian to the east, the Southern to the south and the Atlantic to the west, with as much as a 1.5-million square kilometres of an exclusive economic zone, and possibly soon to be extended.
Through that corridor thousands of world trade vessels pass, while some dock at the country’s major ports. The seascape is also full of flora, fauna and other natural resources and whose responsible exploitation could contribute to expanded economic activity and wealth creation leading to jobs creation.
The indaba, in Durban on Monday on Tuesday, according to SAIMI, was staged against the backdrop of a tanking realisation backed by a recent assessment study that while the oceans economy in South Africa and the rest of the African continent was being probed anew as the future frontier of economic development, with a potential to generate domestically more than a million jobs and contribute as much as R177-billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the next decade, South Africa simply does not have the manpower with requisite skills to match present and anticipated future demand in the sector.
SAIMI acting chief executive, Mr Odwa Mtati said: “In order to activate the potential, we need the skills to match the demand….Notwithstanding inroads that have been made at post-school education and training institutions in recent years, SAIMI’s 2018 Oceans Economy Skills Development Assessment (report) for South Africa highlighted a potential mismatch between current skills being produced and the actual industry needs.
EXCHAGING NOTES: (From Left: Ms Sobantu Tilayi (SAMSA), Ms Theresa Williams (MAISA), Mr Pieter Coetzer (SAMTRA), Ms Lyn Bruce (Klaveness) and Mr Victor Momberg (TETA) listening attentively to presentations during the Seafarer Development session of the SAIMI conference in Durban
“The study suggests that while the supply of skills is adequate in numbers, there is a disconnect between the type of skills being produced and those required by the industry hence the need for greater industry participation in shaping outcomes of the skills production system.”
Mr Mtati said the two day conference in Durban on Monday and Tuesday, under the moniker: “Forward Thinking for Maritime Education and Training Excellence” would hopefully produce ‘actionable outcomes to strengthen maritime education and training.’
“This conference offers a collaborative platform for stakeholders in industry, academia and government to review current maritime skills supply capacity against future demand, and to consider collaborative and collective ways to address deficits in the current system and close gaps,” said Mr Mtati.
This was repeated by Dr Sibongile Muthwa, the chairperson of SAIMI’s advisory committee and Vice-Chancellor of the Nelson Mandela University that’s home to SAIMI, in her opening remarks of the conference, all contained in the video above.
Meanwhile, as the conference wrapped up on the second last day, Mr Mtati was upbeat and confident that the gathering had achieved some of its objectives.
In a brief interview as delegates dispersed, Mr Mtati said: “Our sense is that out of the many stakeholders that participated, there is an acceptance of the need for engagement in meaningful discussions. Going forward, one of the outcomes that we will pursue is the development of a collaborative model to ensure that all the voices are accommodated.”
Further, he said, there was a strong commitment made by some of the stakeholders to get directly involved in the establishment and implementation of solutions to some of the challenges identified. Click on the video below for his full brief assessment,
Parallel Session: Seafarers Development
The conference had been packaged in sessions, first a full plenary soon followed by two parallel sessions – one focused on seafarers development and another directed towards skills needs assessment for the off shore oil and gas sub-sector.
This blog, tagged along with delegates that engaged in the seafarers development session and below, it features all the contributions of the seven main presenters during the discussion.
The insights into seafarer development in South Africa were breathtaking in some instances as they were astonishing in another. Poor coordination in training and education, lack of funding and requisite infrastructure such as a ships for berths, a poor orientation of youths keen on seafaring and a general poor public awareness of the country’s maritime status, were among issues identified.
At the same time, major opportunities lay still for exploration and exploitation, and therefore much work lay ahead for those willing to put in the hours.
The videos of the main presenters are loaded below for a full perspective of the nature of the discussion. A video of floor contributors will follow soon.
Mr Sobantu Tilayi
Mr Abdrew Millard
Ms Theresa Williams
Mr Pieter Coetzer
Ms Lyn Blake
Mr Victor Momberg
Captain Ian Hlongwane
Mr Sobantu Tilayi, Acting CEO of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) headed the session giving an overview of the country’s seafarer education and training landscape, along with a brief history of the challenges facing the sector.
Mr Andrew Millard, CEO of Vuka Marine gave a shipowners view of the seafarer landscape in South Africa with focus much on employer expectations.
Ms Theresa Williams of the Maritime Academic Institutions of South Africa focused on challenges and opportunities facing academic institutions currently offering maritime education and training, as well as dwelt at length on the nature of the youth in South Africa currently keen on maritime education. Pulling no punches, she says it is truly an uphill battle. Do note that Ms Williams’ contribution is in two parts, in two videos.
Mr Pieter Coetzer, Commercial Manager: South African Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA) shares an independent cadets trainer’s perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing the sub sector.
Ms Lyn Bruce, Project Coordinator at Klaveness Shipping also shared an employer’s viewpoint of the South African seafarer with specific focus on her company’s activity in contributing towards development of the country’s seafarers,
Mr Victor Momberg, Executive Officer of the Maritime Chamber of the Transport Education and Training Authority (TETA) spoke on the role of the authority and the need for Technical, Vocational and Education and Training (TVET) institutions to be enrolled into the maritime sector education and training network.
Captain Ian Hlongwane, Manager, National Cadet Programme at SAIMI shares SAIMI perspective on the conference.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has confirmed an incident of the sinking of an offshore Luxembourg registered tug 1200 nautical miles of Martinique Island on which a South African seafarer was reportedly on-board.
In a media statement issued on Tuesday, SAMSA said the sinking of the vessel took place 60 nautical miles South-South East from the eye of a Category 4 hurricane storm named Lorenzo.
“SAMSA has received information that the tug, the Bourbon Rhode, sank on the 26th of September and that 14 crew members were declared missing. It has since been established that three (3) crew members had been rescued, four (4) bodies have been recovered and seven (7) were still missing. A search and rescue effort by the Regional Operational Centre of Surveillance and Rescue (Cross) Antilles-Guyane and other parties for the missing crew was currently underway.
“SAMSA has made contact with the owners of the sunken tug and is on standby to offer any support to the family of the missing seafarer. SAMSA continue to monitor the search and rescue efforts and to release information as and when it becomes available,” the agency said.
The reduction and prevention of deaths of fishermen along South Africa’s coastal area is among key priorities of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and efforts towards this goal are beginning to pay off, thanks in part to strategic partnerships forged with like-minded institutions domestically and abroad.
One such partnership is that with the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA) which has over the past year seen more than 1 000 small high tech vessel tracking devices acquired and distributed among particularly artisanal or subsistence fishermen across the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape provinces in order to enable them to quickly and seamlessly request for assistance whenever in trouble while out fishing at sea or on inland waterways.
The project known as ‘Project Oasis”, the first of its kind aimed subsistence fishermen, is being funded to the tune of R10-million by the UKSA and is operated by SAMSA. The UKSA is also working closely with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in the distribution of the device.
A UKSA team of officials, senior director of UKSA’s Caribou Space programme, Mr Tim Hayward and UKSA’s International Partnership Programme Director,Ms Athene Gadsby, visited South Africa recently to meet in Cape Town with SAMSA and the NSRI as well as a community of fishermen in Lamberts’ Bay on the Atlantic Ocean coastline north west of Cape Town to conduct an assessment of the impact of the project so far.
It was UKSA’s first visit of the region since launch of the project.
Outlining UKSA’s involvement in the project, according to the officials, the South Africa project is among 33 other worldwide project (37 countries) funded through the agency’s International Partnership Programme’s UK£30-million annual funding for developmental projects.
They said the ‘Project Oasis’ focus was in the distribution of a satellite technology based identifying and tracking devices known as the ‘SAT-AIS em-Trak I100 identifier trackers’ for small boats (less than 10 meters long). The target group for distribution and utilization of the device were artisanal fishermen – most of whom were generally poor.
The aim, they said, was to support SAMSA’s efforts in reducing casualties among the country’s subsistence fishing communities and reduction in exorbitant expenses incurred during rescue efforts.
While statistics of casualties shared with the agency by SAMSA reflected a significant decline in the number of fishermen dying at sea over the past decade, they also showed that the most at risk category of people at sea were subsistence fishermen who generally did not have the safety and communication equipment necessary to summon assistance and be located quickly when needed. They are generally poor and with only small boats that were hard to locate when in difficulties.
Explaining the exact functionality of the fishing boat tracking and identifier units, the UKSA officials said the devices were designed to be tracked in near real time using a set of exactEarth’s constellation of polar and equatorial orbiting AIS satellites, thereby allowing SAMSA to gain an up-to-date location of the small boats with an up-to-date last known position.
The devices also provide an SOS button that transmits a distress signal when an incident has occurred thereby enabling rescuers access to accurate information about the location and situation of a small fishing vessel.
The device which has since evolved to include a locally manufactured solar powered one, at an estimated cost of about R5 000 per unit, is distributed to small vessel fishermen in South Africa for free.
In a three minutes video interview, Ms Gadsby spoke more on the project. Click below.
Meanwhile according to SAMSA’s head of the Sea and Rescue Centre in Cape Town, Captain Karl Otto who led a SAMSA team of officials in welcoming and meeting with the UKSA officials, revealed that the project had been beneficial not only to South Africa but also five other neighboring countries; Namibia, Mozambique, Kenya, Mauritius and the Comoros.
He acknowledged that the project was still at its infancy and was encountering challenges,d among which was resistance by some subsistence fishermen based on apparent suspicion that the tracking device was also being used to police their activity.
“The true and sole objective to is enhance their safety and in the process also reduce the huge costs involved during search and rescue. We’d rather rescue fast than spend more time search, and the devices addresses exactly that need,” said Captain Otto.
In a 22 minutes in-video chat at his office shortly after the meeting with the UKSA officials, Captain Otto explained fully about the project: Click Here;