The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has confirmed its launch of an investigation into the tragic boat incident at the Vaal River which claimed at least four (4) lives, including that of a toddler.
In a statement in Pretoria on Monday, SAMSA reported that according to a police report, the boating incident occurred at about 16h00 on Saturday when two small vessels, a boat with 10 people on board, and a barge; sailed past each other, and with one, due to its size, reportedly creating a large wake and the resulting waves leading to the other capsizing, and the people on board landing in the water.
“The vessel had reportedly launched at the SAM GROSS municipal site on the Vaal River with 10 persons onboard including the skipper. The vessel was reportedly cruising in the direction towards Vereeniging area when it came across a moving barge in the opposite direction.
“However, according to the report, it was assumed that the barge, due to its size, created a large wake and the resulting waves flooded the speed boat, leading to the speed boat being submerged and eventually capsizing.
“Regrettably, a woman/mother and her three (3) year toddler were trapped under neath the speed boat in the capsized position and drowned. Both were reportedly wearing personal flotation devices.
“The report further indicates that two (2) adults, also fitted with personal floatation devices drowned further away from the capsized speed boat. However, the skipper and other five persons survived the incident.
“According to the report, the SAPS Water wing arrived on scene at about 17:30 and assisted in retrieving all the deceased from the river, as well as all the survivors, within twenty minutes of the incident occurring. Paramedics were reportedly also on the scene and attended to the survivors. An investigation into this incident is ongoingm; “said SAMSA
Meanwhile, SAMSA conveyed its condolences to the family of the deceased.
Efforts by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and partners to spread countrywide the promotion of small vessels safety on all South Africa’s water spaces, at sea and inland, continues at pace this month, with focus on Gauteng’s major dams, including the Vaal and Haartebeespoort.
According to SAMSA, the Concentrated Inspections Campaign for small vessels safety promotion in the region, scheduled to coincide with the country’s Transport Month – an initiative of the Department of Transport (Dot) – kicked off this past weeked, beginning at the Vaal Dam area adjacent Vanderbylpark in Gauteng.
As an indication of the importance and seriousness of the campaign, at the Stonehaven-On-Vaal in Vereeniging where the campaign kicked off for Gauteng on Saturday, accompaning the contigent of SAMSA’s ship and small vessels surveyors from across the country were the top brass of the entity.
It included the Acting CEO, Ms Zamachonco Chonco; Acting Chief Operations Officer, Mr Vusi September; deputy Chief Operations Officer, Capt. Vernon Keller; SAMSA Boating Centre manager, Ms Debbie James; Regional Manager (Eastern Region), Capt. Thobela Gqabu and Principal Officer for Inland (northern) Region, Mr Imraan Davis.
The Stonehaven-on-Vaal, owned by Ms Rosemary Anderson, is one of major tourism attraction facilities in the area, with several small to medium size passenger water vessels offering cruises on the Vaal River. Incidentally, the chosen venue for the launch of the Gauteng leg of the Concentrated Inspection Campaign is only a stone’s throw way from Lake Deneys Yacht Club – the venue of the launch of the country’s Inland Water Strategy by SAMSA and the Department of Transport this time a year ago.
In a statement on Saturday, SAMSA explained: “In this specific campaign, SAMSA’s focus is to promote maritime safety and maritime interest through engagement with the public, particularly maritime community members such as vessel skippers and owners operating passenger vessels.
“SAMSA’s mandate has been extended to cover inland waters, which are composed of freshwater. Therefore, SAMSA has an enormous task to ensure that small boats operating in inland waters are safe and operate efficiently as a large percentage of SAMSA’s clientele are small boats.
“Some of the inland passenger vessels can carry as much as 200 Passengers, therefore it is absolutely essential that SAMSA maintains a watchful eye on these vessels to ensure that they are operated to the highest standards.”
On the significance of the SAMSA small vessels safety promotion campaign relative to the Inland Water Strategy, and the critical need for greater cooperation and collaboration with other State as well as private sectors entities in the sector; SAMSA said: “Our organisation s delighted that the strategy was approved, implemented, and launched last year.
“To date, SAMSA has appointed at least 45 enforcement officers nationally in cooperation with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), municipal officials, and law enforcement agencies. SAMSA appoints these appointees to monitor and enforce compliance on waterways or slips throughout the country.
“SAMSA is also glad to report that we are continually training external safety officers and external SAMSA small vessel surveyors to ensure compliance of the SAMSA Regulations. SAMSA has recently initiated a compulsory refresher built in buoyancy, passenger boat, pontoon boat and small vessel surveying training course for all surveyors and safety officers to attend.
“With less than 40 SAMSA full time SAMSA surveyors employed, and inland waters being one of the largest areas to cover with the limited resources and capacity, it is essential that the entity ropes in private organisations and other government entities to assist SAMSA to give full and complete effect to the regulations to ensure the safety of people and boats on our inland and coastal waters.
“It was also for that reason the Department of Transport also stated that the only practical way to control boating would be to share responsibility with local authorities and authorized agencies since they are given jurisdiction over specific demarcated section of inland waters
Next up; Free State, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo
“It is a continuous process to train and appoint enforcement officers. As there are quite a lot of small boat activities taking place in the inland region, SAMSA will soon roll out training and appointment for enforcement officers in Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo,” said SAMSA.
This blog also caught up briefly with two of the small vessels surveyors, Mr Vusimuzi Dube and Mr Neerish Sinath; for their views on the campaign in the two videos below.
The launch of the South African Inland Water Strategy by the Department of Transport on Friday (22 October 2021) might have marked a critical turning point in the effective and efficient management of the country’s inland waters – from rivers to dams and similar – but its successful implementation will depend largely on collaborative governance among all the parties involved.
At least that was the shared view of virtually all attendees to the event held on the banks of the Vaal River, at the luxurious Lake Deneys Yacht Club, some +-30 kilometers south of Vereeniging. Among them were senior officials representative of the South African Police Services (SAPS), the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DEFF), the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), boating and sailing organisations including SA Sailing, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the Free State provincial and local govenrments, and related.
Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga delivered the main address during launch of the Inland Water Strategy and about which she said it represented a major positive turning point as well as a clear framework for the effective and efficient management of the country’s inland waters, inclusive of clear regulations on the utilization of the facilities for the benefit of all citizens. The benefits, she said; included leisure, business investment as well as generation of much needed job opportunities and employment.
In terms of the Inland Water Strategy and whose launch this month formed part of the DoT’s National Transport Month, inland waters are made up of dams, lagoons, lakes, rivers and wetlands but exclude tidal lagoons and tidal rivers.On these, over 1,2-million small vessels of all shapes and sizes, operate – mostly for sport, recreation, tourism as well as fishing largely by local subsistence and recreational fishers.
According to Ms Chikunga, the launch of the Inland Water Strategy by the DoT on Friday came against the backdrop that legislatively, the Department of Transport is tasked with the responsibility to ensure that South Africa’s inland waterways are safe for public use. The strategy’s four major goals include: “safe and secure lives and property for all users and marine environment protection, standardised procedures and processes on all inland waters, improved maritime domain awareness on all inland waters as well as contribution towards alleviation of poverty of inland waters communities”.
Challenges however, in the absence of a formal Resource Management Plan, were noted to include unregulated boating activities that were resulting in accidents – some fatal – as was demonstrated recently by an incident in Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal and which is still under investigation. In addition, environmental pollution from such boating activities had also triggered the spread of invasive aquatic hyacinth plants now clogging some of the dams.
To counter some of the challenges, but specifically those relating to effective management of boating use, the Inland Water Strategy incorporated the implementation of the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations 2007, with focus on basic safety requirements related to commercial operations, approval of commercial and passenger vessels, the reporting of incidents as well as pollution prevention.
It was in this specific area, said Ms Chikunga; that SAMSA – the country’s dedicated agency for maritime safety now including inland water spaces – would play a critical role, working in tandem with all interested and affected parties both in the public and private sectors.
“We believe that this stratregy could and will greatly assist in promoting a culture of safe and responsible boating when implemented in the spirit of cooperative governance among all three spheres of government and in partnership with the maritime industry, she said.
Ms Chikunga further said that in addition to the anticipated high safety and pollution free conditions generally in inland waters as envisaged in the strategy, a similarly crucial aspect was a need for the optimal utilisation of the country’s inland waters productively in terms of its general economic contribution through both investment and jobs creation.
For her full remarks (duration: 18 minutes), click on the video below
The South African Navy Hydrographic Office (part of the country’s national Defence Force) took advantage of the event to handover a set of dams navigational charts to the DoT, while the depatment and SA Sailing also used the opportunity of the event to ratify a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
Meanwhile, SAMSA which has already been working on the implementation of the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations 2007 for a few years now – warmly welcomed the formal launch of the overall strategy especially with regards the extent of its formal inclusion of various other players critical to inland water safety controls, both in the public and private sectors.
SAMSA deputy Chief Operations Officer, Capt. Vernon Keller who attended the event along with several senior SAMSA officials, among them the Acting Chief Executive Officer, Ms Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane and SAMSA Boating Centre manager, Ms Debbie James; said: “The launch of the Inland Water Strategy today (Friday) is the result of a collaboration of all the stakeholders to make boating safer on inland waters. It’s about cooperative governance among parties that include the South African Police Services, Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment, as well local municipalities and other agencies to all work together to make it safer.
“And so, from a SAMSA perspective, we are excited because it is now putting a spotlight on boating, and boating is normally one of those areas that is overlooked because people always focus on the big ships. There are also a lot of opportunities out there to develop youth and generate careers for them in small boating, like delivering yachts, or (getting) in the boat building or fishing industries, said Capt. Keller.
For Ms James, however, the greatest opportunity and challenge for SAMSA was in ensuring the development and placement of measurements to ensure effective implementation of boating regulations for sound management of boating activities on inland waters evenly across the country, anchored on ongoing co-operation and collaboration among the various authorities and communicaties.
For its part, she said; SAMSA has since about two years ago started rolling out training workshops for both internal and external boat surveyors and boat safety officials in terms of the National Small Vessels Safety Regulations. Following to the launch of the Inland Water Strategy, this work would now be intensified, she said. For both Capt. Keller and Ms James remarks, click on the respective videos below (average duration +-3.11 minutes)
Several other attendees to the launch event of the Inland Water Strategy also shared their views about the event relative to their assigned roles. In the list are SA Sailing deputy President, Mr Vernon Brown, SAPS Emergency Services Unit, Brigadier M. de Meillon; Depatment of Fisheries, Forestry and Environmental Affairs national coordinator, Environmental Projects, Ms Debbie Muir, as well as representatives of the Metsimahulu local municipality as well as the Free State provincial government.
For their respective full remarks, please click on the video below: (duration: +-35 minutes)
The launch of South Africa’s inland waters strategy by the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula at the Vaal Dam in southern Gauteng province on Friday this week marks a critical and crucial turning point for the country in terms of effective and efficient management of inland water spaces, particularly with regards to collaborative efforts towards enhancement of human and environmental safety and wellness.
That is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA, the country’s primary agency statutorily for maritime and marine safety inclusive of both people and water vessels across the country’s three oceans as well as inland waters such as dams and rivers.
SAMSA’s main focus area in terms of the country’s inland waters is the promotion and enhancement of safety as well as environmental protection with regards boating use in various categories in terms of the South African Merchant Shipping Act 57 of 1951 (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulation, 2007, as amended; which extends its overall original 1998 founding Act mandate to include inland waterways within or accessible to the public within the Republic.
According to SAMSA, the legislation provides for, among things; regulations for each specified category of vessels – from small to big – with particular regard to requirements for their construction and use,whether for commerce, leisure or such other use on South African waters.
The Inland Waters Strategy to be launched on Friday itself, according to the Department of Transport, aims to “find the right balance between an emphasis on education and encouraging personal responsibility and the need for the implementation of the National Small Vessel Safety (NSVS) Regulations in a manner of co-operative governance and other measures for an effective inland waterway safety regime.
“The implementation of the goal-oriented, intergovernmental co-operative strategy that underpins regulation, compliance, education, communication and awareness will greatly assist in promoting a culture of safe and responsible boating. This must be implemented in the spirit of co-operative governance between national, provincial and local government, as well as Industry and communities using, or living next to the inland waters.”
Therefore SAMSA has been working closely both with the Department of Transport – its parent government department – other national and provincial government bodies and institutions as well as private sector and independent bodies to contribute to formulation of the Inland Water Strategy.
In addition, SAMSA says it had also begun rolling out a series of training programmes and workshops for small boats owning or operating communities across the country since about a year ago, all to assist South Africans with both enhanced awareness and knowledge of the requirements of the raft of NSVS regulations under the Act.
Specifically tasked with the assignment is its dedicated boating section led by Ms Debbie James as manager, along with a set of highly technically skilled officers that serve both as surveyors as well as training providers.
Recently added to the SAMSA boating section team are a group of youths with basic seafaring skills and experience who are undergoing training as Marine Officers over a two year period. (see video below)
Over the next few years the SAMSA boating section team will be intensifying its reach across South Africa’s thousands of dams that are geographically widespread, some on 23 large rivers and many estuaries located over a large area of the country, in all nine provinces, to engage for law compliance owners and operators of as many as an estimated 1.2 million small vessels, commonly known as boats, that operate in South Africa, mostly for sport, recreation, tourism and subsistence fishing by local communities.
On Friday this week SAMSA will further outline with much finer detail the length and breadth of current and future planned activity relating to the Inland Waters Strategy and the latter whose detail is scheduled to be unpacked by both its owners, the Department of Transport as well others key roleplayers; among them the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DEFF), the South African Police Services (SAPS), the South African Navy, boating associations and related institutions both in the public and private sectors.
In the meantime, this blog caught up with members of the SAMSA boating section embarking on the nationwide training workshops programme to glean on their recent and current activitity. For that story, please see the section below.
This SAMSA blog also took time to chat to the three young seafarers at the agency undergoing training as Marine Officers and part of whose current training involves boating surveys. For the full interview click on the video below.
SA’s small watercraft vessels owners and users’ compliance with law is receiving a boost with SAMSA’s increasing national training workshops.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and its sickness and fatal impacts on people the world over, has without doubt affected negatively a whole range of human activity across sectors of society, inclusive of leisure involving the widespread use of small vessels in South Africa’s open water spaces, both adjacent the oceans as well as inland.
With people having endured no less that a year and half under national lockdown characterised by intermittent levels of lockdown intensity – from a total shutdown at Level 5 to a more relaxed one at Level 1 – and now with vaccinations on a wide scale, a reasonable expectation is that many are itching for social outdoor leisure to begin in earnest.
For some this means taking time out for boat ride on the country’s rivers, dams, lagoons and related if only for a care free relaxation.
However, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) boating section, a “carefree relaxation” on small water vessels anywhere in the country actually comes with a lot of responsibility both for those that own the small watercrafts, just as is the case for those that board them on water, for any reason.
In addition to general safety, that’s partly because in terms of South African law, all vessels used for any reason on South African waters, both at sea as well as on open water spaces such as rivers, dams, lagoons and similar; must be approved for such use inclusive of licencing of both the vessels as well as crew personnel in some cases.
Governing the use of small vessels in the country under SAMSA is a set of regulations contained in the Merchant Shipping Act 57 of 1951 as amended periodically. The legislation provides for regulations for each specified category of vessels – from small to big – with particular regard to requirements for their construction and use, whether for commerce, leisure or such other use on South African waters.
To assist South Africans with both awareness and knowledge of the requirements of this raft of regulations under the Act, SAMSA conducts training courses and some in cases, licensing for both owners of vessels as well as State appointed rangers, peace officers, surveyors and related with a direct role in ensuring the proper utilisation of the vessels.
Pontoon boats training
Among most recently held courses conducted periodically, on an ongoing basis countrywide was one for pontoon vessel surveyors in June 2021 in Saldanha Bay over two days. According to SAMSA, pontoon boats, otherwise also known as rafts and used on sheltered waters (Category R vessels), are of unique construction.
“A pontoon boat is a boat used for navigation on water, however propelled or moved, consisting of two or more flotation (hull) units to which a deck or decks are attached and on which persons are able to be supported on. The essential difference between a pontoon boat and a conventional boat is that the deck(s) are not integral to the hull of the boat.”
In terms of legislation, as articulated in SAMSA’s Marine Notice 26 of 2011, construction and functionality of the class of small vessels is governed by the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations, 2007 along with all non-pleasure vessels of less than 25 GT which proceed to sea and/or are used on sheltered waters, pleasure vessels of less than 100 GT which proceed to sea and/or are used on sheltered waters and all vessels used on inland waters.
The training workshop’s co-coordinator, SAMSA Centre for Boating manager Ms Debbie James, said the two-day workshop held in Saldanha Bay in June was targeted at all boating surveyors, (both SAMSA’s and those external) as well as safety officers and focused solely on Category R pontoons not used for ferrying passengers. Training on passenger-ferrying pontoons is limited to SAMSA surveyors as, according to Ms James, they are the only one allowed by law to inspect that class of the small vessels.
She said: “The aim was to provide guidance on the application of the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations, 2007, to pontoon boats, which are not passenger vessels, on issues of construction, stability, watertight integrity and survivability in the event of damage which are important survey elements for the issue of Local General Safety Certificates or Certificates of Fitness,”.
Crucially, she said; the one other reason the training workshop was extremely important for all boat surveyors was because “pontoon boats used primarily on inland waters (Category R), require additional clarification of the application of the provisions of the National Small Vessel Regulations.”
For the reason, it was necessary for especially external surveyors and safety officers intending to survey small pleasure pontoon vessels to attend the training course as consistent with their licensing requirements.
The inclusion of six of SAMSA’s boat surveyors in the training workshop also had a specific objective. “The concept behind holding the workshop was also to ‘train the trainer’ and for SAMSA to develop a pool of internal SAMSA surveyors able to present this particular training when required.”
Of course, the small boats training workshop at Saldanha Bay was one of a series held over the last few years, and which were highly negatively impacted over the last year by the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
Commercial paddling ops training workshop
In fact, just a month or so ahead of the national lockdown in March 2020, SAMSA had just conducted one such training workshop for operators of commercial paddling operations along the Orange River through to the Oranjemund river mouth on the Atlantic Ocean west of the country.
NEW MARINE OFFICERS READY FOR THE TASK!
Three new SAMSA young officers, Mr Esethu Hlokoza, Mr Tora Lombard and Ms Khanyisiwe Mthethwa joined SAMSA recently as seafarers undergoing training as Marine Offivers over two years.
Below is the story of two of the Marine Officer trainees, Ms Mthathwa and Mr Lombard about their first month on the training programme.
“We joined the programme at beginning of September as trainee surveyors. During the first three weeks, we attended variouss mall vessel, pontoon, passenger and buoyancy courses which detailed about what to look out for when doing the survey and regulations that goes with them. We were then given a chance to put what we had learned in theory into practical use as CE Jonathan Hartzenberg took us to survey the small vessels with him applying all that was taught during the course.
“As illustrated in the above picture. we went to survey two sister fishing vessels in Hout Bay where we learned more about the processes of LGSC on small vessels.”
“Cape Town and Saldanha Bay have quite a few wooden vessels in their waters, so during our fourth week we attended a wooden vessel course in the port of Saldanha Bay where we learned more about the structural integrity of wooden vessels and how to survey them. We then applied this knowledge to the Zay-Yaan, (see above pic) a wooden fishing vessel in the port of Hout Bay.
“We also visited a river-rafting company, where we surveyed their inflatable boats, better known as “crocs”. (see pic above). As a commercial company these crocs are surveyed as a group under one certificate. This allowed us the opportunity to test for the floatation requirements after chamber deflation.
“We further had the opportunity to break away from the small vessels and complete an LGSC and IOPP survey on a large Fishing Trawler. As IOPP’s aren’t applicable to small vessels, it was a good learning experience to survey these items and the greater scope of the LGSC on such a large vessel as compared to the small vessels.
“It was an interesting four (4) weeks. Coming from larger vessels, the exposure to small vessels came as quite a surprise as to how large and complicated the small vessel industry really is and the large role it plays in maritime safety within South Africa. We are excited to see what the new month has in store for us.”
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) says it has begun a preliminary investigation into the tragic vessel incident that occurred on the Vaal Dam this past weekend and which reportedly claimed the lives of five while two others were injured.
SAMSA in a statement in Pretoria on Monday said: “The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has commenced with the preliminary enquiry to the cause of the small vessel tragic incident that happened this past weekend on the Vaal River.
“The incident took place on Saturday, 17 October, where a vessel capsized with seven (7) persons on board. Two (2) survivors were picked up by another vessel and after a search, five (5) bodies were recovered by the SAPS (South African Police Services) divers. The casualty vessel was also recovered.
“SAMSA is an agency of the Department of Transport whose mandate includes the regulation of inland waterways (only waterways accessible to the public) within the Republic and to ensure boating safety on our waters.
“Condolences are conveyed to the families of the deceased.”