Industry to hold SAMSA accountable for IMO white listing
South Africa alongside many countries facing removal from IMO White List
Almost 60 percent of the countries currently listed on the International Maritime Organisation’s so-called STCW White List face being culled if recommendations by the organisation’s Sub-committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) are accepted.
A circular issued by the HTW sub-committee in February this year effectively indicates that the IMO intends to cull the parties listed in MSC.1/Circ.1163/Rev.11 from 129 countries down to just 54.
The fact that South Africa is included amongst the culled countries has not gone unnoticed by stakeholders in the local maritime industry who are concerned about the impact that this may have on South African seafarers as well as training providers.
The Society of Master Mariners of South Africa issued a statement of concern this month saying; “This document certainly shows the urgent need for SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) to sort this out as a priority.”
And, according to Acting CEO of SAMSA, Sobantu Tilayi, the Authority intends to address this as a matter of urgency – indicating that they do acknowledge the impending removal of South Africa from the list as a crisis that needs to be avoided.
Tilayi confirms that there is now a plan in place that will be finalised following the conclusions of HTW meetings scheduled for next week. “Indications are that the matter will be referred to MSC (Maritime Safety Committee) and that they will have to develop guidelines which will be tabled at HTW in 2020,” he says highlighting how this will provide the country with a respite for a period of one year to rectify its standing.
With two local representatives currently attending the sub-committee meetings in London, Tilayi anticipates that these “assumptions” will be confirmed during the course of next week.
“We will confirm this, together with our entire plan once HTW concludes and we are in possession of the report,” he adds.
Although certain proponents of the local maritime sector are baying for SAMSA’s blood and criticising the Authority for allowing the situation to come to a head, Tilayi denies that the process has been mismanaged.
“You will recall that the regulations we are referring to were signed off in 2013, and it was not immediately apparent that the panel of competent persons from IMO evaluating the South African System were not happy with our approach,” he explains.
South Africa’s identified shortfalls relate to an inadequate Quality Standard System as well as to additions made to the Training and Manning Regulations.
“South Africa sought to use the opportunity of rewriting the regulations (for purposes of Manila Amendments) to also address an issue of integrating our four different training regimes,” says Tilayi explaining that the fishing regime had never been integrated into the STCW and that the seatime of masters as well as engineers on fishing vessels was not recognised for the purpose of reissuing certificates for conventional vessels.
“We had thought we would make the allowance on the regulations in order to solve this problem, but the IMO rejected our report on that basis,” he adds.
Addressing the crisis
Tilayi is now assuring the industry that the Authority has fast-tracked a process to rectify the issues. “We had started a project at the end of 2018 that was due to be completed in March 2020 to address the above two matters. This will now be fast tracked to be completed within a period of four months. We are also getting an international consultant who is familiar with the process,” he told Maritime Review Africa.
When asked what the likely immediate to long term impact being dropped from the list would have, Tilayi responded; “I can safely say that we will avoid this eventuality.”
Tilayi adds that they are also addressing the negative findings of an audit undertaken by the European Maritime Safety Authority. “There is work that the training institutions are required to do. This relates mainly to the quality system as well as ensuring that they have adequate capacity that complies with regulations,” he says.
Although South Africa is in good company with countries like the Philippines and the UK also facing the axe, this will not console local stakeholders or indeed South African seafarers if the worst should happen.
There is no doubt that the industry intends to hold SAMSA accountable for ensuring that the country remains on the list and avoids putting its seafarers at risk. There have been a number of worried voices from the sector over the last few years that have pointed to this as a possibility and the Authority will need to take heed to ensure that its naysayers are not proven right.