Cape Town: 20 June 2022
Stevedoring business at South Africa’s coastal areas, mainly the country’s commercial ports, has warmly welcomed the resumption of periodic safety meetings and workshops conducted for their businesses by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA). The gatherings bring together the stevedoring companies, Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) and Transnet Port Terminals (TPT).
This emerged strongly at the third and biggest of these meetings conducted so far this year by SAMSA at the TNPA House at the port of Cape Town a week ago – these being the first in quarterly series since being interrupted by the outbreak of the Covid-10 pandemic in South Africa in February 2020.
The meetings are primarily for safety issues. However, the practitioners in the subsector feel comfortable to bring industry development related issues to the forum.
According to SAMSA manager for Occupational Health, Safety and Maritime Welfare, Mr Sibusiso Rantsoabe, the stevedoring business meetings, now in their 12th year; are held among the main stakeholders with a view to periodically share both general information of good business practices in that specific maritime economy subsector, developments relating to applicable legislation governing both the conduct of stevedoring business, as well as matters concerning the maintenance of good health and safety standards.
Stevedoring essentially involves the loading and off-loading of goods from cargo vessels, as break bulk and containers as well as the conduct of business related thereto.
Generally, says Mr Rantsoabe, as many as 30 registered and licensed companies are responsible for stevedoring at the country’s ports: – from Richards Bay and Durban in the east, East London, Ngqurha, Port Elizabeth in the south, and Cape Town and Saldanha Bay in the west coastline.
In terms of applicable legislation, from a SAMSA perspective, the National Merchant Shipping Act, 1951 is primary; providing for codes of practices and regulations that govern matters of occupational health and safety and cargo handling on board vessels.
It is on the basis of this legislation and codes and regulations that SAMSA also conducts regular inspections as well as audits in the subsector at the country’s ports and stevedore premises, this deriving from its legislated mandate for ensuring the safety of life and property at sea.
In Cape Town on Wednesday last week, no less than 14 of these companies were represented at the first Stevedoring Safety Meeting since 2020 and the enthusiasm in the meeting room was palpable.
This was particularly apt given what was described by many as a most torrid time the stevedoring business in the country encountered during the major national lockdowns brought about by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Research findings shared by SAMSA at the Cape Town meeting indicated that while the majority (about 95%) of the stevedoring businesses were sparred the spate of Covid-10 pandemic deaths among their employees, however; close on half incurred either a ‘bit more’ or a ‘lot more’ business running costs compared with the pre-pandemic outbreak period.
It also emerged that during the periodically disrupted operations, stevedores were not provided with adequate Personal Protective Equipment, in addition to other associated challenges that included a lack of occupational safety inspections before the beginning of shifts, lack of supervision in instances where foremen and supervisors were not found on board vessels, signallers working without signalling equipment or found not in their correct positions during cargo operations.
However, with Covid-19 pandemic restrictions having slowly been lifted nationally over the past year, and goods shipment worldwide beginning to pick again, the stevedoring business is now almost fully back at work.
At the conclusion of the Cape Town Stevedore Business Safety Meeting, this blog spoke to Mr Whaleed Diedericks, a business owner of Pebblehouse Stevedoring at the port of Cape Town, to solicit his views on the significance and importance of these SAMSA conducted stevedore subsector meetings and workshops. To view, click on the 6 minutes video below.
Meanwhile, Mr Rantsoabe also took time to outline broadly the developments in the stevedore business from a SAMSA perspective, explaining why the meetings and workshops are pivotal to the success, sustainability as well as growth and expansion of this maritime economy business subsector: To view, click on the video below: