/ 1 December 2023

SAMSA’s 25 Year Anniversary: Section Three

P10 Option 2 Pic
The SA Agulhas


  • Hamba kahle, arrivederci, totsiens, adeus, sara mushe, goodbye SA Agulhas! 
  • SAMSA@Work: An overview of SAMSA’s four regional offices
  • Promoting public’s maritime awareness
  • Maritime Law Reform on the go
  • Maritime Policy Development and Implementation

Hamba kahle, arrivederci, totsiens, adeus, sara mushe, goodbye SA Agulhas!

The ship served as a training facility for cadets to acquire the required sea time and exposure to enter the international maritime job market

The voluntary separation of ownership and management of the SA Agulhas from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) marks a bitter-sweet end of an otherwise illustrious era for South Africa’s first and only dedicated training vessel. 

The SA Agulhas, SAMSA’s only dedicated cadet training vessel for over 10 years, was recently sold to private buyers.

The SA Agulhas, which was formerly South Africa’s primary Arctic research and supply vessel, is in the process of being sold to a new entity following a tender process. This is due to the fact that SAMSA (an agency of the Department of Transport) can no longer afford the financial upkeep of the vessel among ongoing financial constraints.  

The global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that wreaked havoc worldwide also contributed significantly towards the decision to dispose of the SA Agulhas as a result of a decline in economic activity.

The vessel is currently laid up at Quay 500 in the Port of Cape Town, with only essential maintenance taking place in order to comply with the cost-saving measures being implemented throughout the maritime authority. The SA Agulhas had become a significant financial burden on SAMSA, with the potential to negatively impact the achievement of its mandated functions. 

In light of the fact that no sustainable funding model was available to avoid the continued drain on SAMSA’s funds, the decision was made to dispose of the vessel by means of an open tender.

Although an unfortunate ending to the SA Agulhas as South Africa’s first dedicated training vessel, the historical achievements of the vessel must not be forgotten.

The SA Agulhas was built in 1977 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, for the then Department of Environmental Affairs in 1977. It was an Arctic research and supply vessel that served as the primary support vessel for the South African Antarctic mission. 

In 2012, the SA Agulhas was replaced by the newly built SA Agulhas II and it was thereafter acquired by SAMSA to serve as South Africa’s dedicated training vessel. The intention was to maximise the potential of the emerging blue economy by providing a platform whereby South African seafarers would be able to obtain practical training on board an operational vessel. The vessel was therefore purposefully refurbished to contain functional onboard facilities such as classrooms, simulators and a library, kitchen and medical facility, among others. One of the main attractions was the significant amount of accommodation that the vessel was able to provide for the trainees as well as training officers.  

Schoolchildren from across the country, but particularly the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces, would grasp any opportunity to get onboard the SA Agulhas.

The SAMSA initiative, driven by the BIMCO/ICS Manpower Report, identified a significant skills shortfall among deck and engineering officers worldwide, which was predicted to increase exponentially each year. As such, a dedicated training vessel which provided for accelerated seafarer training was ideally suited to maximise the employment potential of the emerging blue economy.

The vision behind this vessel was to empower South African youth by means of ensuring that cadets emerging from our institutions of higher learning had the opportunity to acquire the required sea time and exposure to enter the international maritime job market. This initiative was in line with SAMSA’s third mandate, that being to promote South Africa’s maritime interests.

The rationale of this initiative was crucial at that time, given that SAMSA was the only public institution directly involved in seafarer training both in terms of its mandate under the SAMSA Act 1998, as well as its seafarers’ registration, licensing and education and training administration responsibilities linked to its direct association with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and related global maritime institutions such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The SA Agulhas was formerly South Africa’s primary Arctic research and supply vessel before it passed into the hands of the South African Maritime Authority.

An integral part of the vessel’s purpose was    the National Cadet Programme, which was established to facilitate the training of cadets within South Africa. This initiative, although fully funding the financial costs associated with the training programme, was never able to fund the direct running costs, including the maintenance costs of the vessel itself. As a result of this, this financial burden lay solely with SAMSA, which became unsustainable. Notwithstanding this, there were some very memorable moments during SAMSA’s custodianship of the SA Agulhas, two of the most notable of which are included below:    

  • The first vessel of its kind to be sailed by an African all-female crew from Cape Town to London and back; and
  • The first South African vessel with an all-female training component (20 cadets and two training officers) to sail to the Antarctic region for a research voyage chartered by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), based in Goa, India.

To ensure ongoing financial support for the vessel during this time, SAMSA (through its Cape Town-based vessel management division, Maritime Special Projects) facilitated her continued use as a research vessel available for commercial charters, to offset the costs of operating and maintaining a dedicated training vessel. The value add that was gained from these charters was that cadets would be allowed on board to undertake training activities during the charter voyage. 

Initially, the individuals who were identified for training onboard the vessel were cadets who had completed their academic qualifications from primarily two higher education institutions — the Cape Town-based Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and its Durban-based counterpart, the Durban University of Technology (DUT). 

The agreement with regards to the training of the cadets consisted of a mandatory four months’ training at sea, before they could apply for berths on board any of the vessels of companies participating in the project. Those cadets who were not successful in securing berths in commercial vessels were allowed to complete their training on board the SA Agulhas.

From 2012-2018, following the acquisition of the SA Agulhas by SAMSA, a total of  283 cadets have undergone on board training. In addition, a total of 116 cadets were accommodated on board the SA Agulhas during commercial charters, bringing the total number of cadets who received training on board the vessel to 399.     

The SA Agulhas was a source of attraction to many a visitor.

Sadly, due to changing priorities and ongoing financial constraints, the decision was made in 2023 to dispose of the vessel in line with National Treasury guidelines. 

Even so, SAMSA has endeavoured to continue to seek socioeconomic advantage to ensure maximum return in the disposal process. This was done through incorporation of a significant number of sale conditions specifically designed to benefit the South African maritime economy. 

These included certain commitments as follows: 

  • Retention of the current crew on board the SA Agulhas. 
  • Employment of a certain percentage of South African seafarers on board the vessel. 
  • Maintaining the vessel registration on the South African Ship Registry.
  • Establishment of a local company footprint in South Africa; and
  • Allocation of training berths on board the vessel (or other available vessels) by the new owner. 

“Although SAMSA envisaged a dedicated training vessel being the pipeline through which the South African seafaring industry could flourish, a project of this nature required a significant capital investment which was unsustainable for SAMSA in the long run,” says SAMSA. 

That notwithstanding, according to SAMSA, it is worth bearing in mind that although the vessel will no longer be in its ownership, significant progress has been made in negotiating partnerships with international companies to support the training and placement of South African cadets and seafarers on board commercial seagoing vessels, which will go a long way in continuing to support South African trained and certified seagoing personnel.  

SAMSA@WORK: An overview of SAMSA’s four regional offices

The Western Region has the most volume of ships, but the Eastern Region has the busiest ports

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), a Schedule 3A public entity in terms of the Public Finance Management Act No. 1 of 1999 (“PFMA”) has since establishment on 1 April 1998 under the South African Maritime Safety Authority Act No.5 of 1998 been hard at work in fulfilling its mandate. 

The statutory mandate is on three critical aspects of South Africa’s maritime sector: 

  1. ensuring safety of life and property at sea; 
  2. preventing and combating pollution of the marine environment by ships; and 
  3. promoting the Republic’s maritime interests. 

Further, as since entrusted with by the Minister of Transport, in terms of section 356 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1951 (Act 57 of 1951), SAMSA is charged with implementation of the Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations 2007 that seek to promote boating safety across the length and breadth of South Africa. 

The regulations, now augmented by a Department of Transport (DoT) inspired South Africa Inland Waterways Strategy that forms part of the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy (CMTP), are focused on ensuring the operation of licensed boating vessels in sound condition, skippered by licensed personnel, and operating safely on all waters at sea and on rivers and dams across the country.

Against the backdrop, with a coastline of 3 200km from Port Nolloth on the West Coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the Northern Province, through to Richards Bay on the Indian Ocean rim in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as a network of major rivers, some with massive dams spread across all nine of South Africa’ provinces, SAMSA split the country into four regions, as follows:

  1. Western Region: incorporating the sea and inland waterways areas of the Northern Cape and parts of the Western Cape, from Port Nolloth to Stilbaai.
  2. Southern Region: incorporating the sea and inland waterways areas of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces, from Mossel Bay to Port St Johns.
  3. Eastern Region: incorporating the sea and inland waterways areas of KwaZulu-Natal, from Margate to Richards Bay, and 
  4. Northern Region: incorporating only the inland waterways of five provinces: the Free State, Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Led by a regional manager, each of these has a centralised regional office with a staff complement and skills blend commensurate to specific, dominant services demanded by and provided to clients.

Western Region: 

Ports (3)Regional OfficeStaffServices Offered
Cape Town, Saldanha Bay, Port Nolloth2 Long Street, Cape Town53Ship surveys, inspections, and certificationsCargo surveys, inspections, and certificationsAccreditation, Re-accreditation, and Auditing of training institutionsApproval, Re-approval, and Auditing of Medical PractitionersAccreditation, Re-accreditation, and Auditing of Seafarer Recruitment AgenciesApproval, Re-approval and Auditing of Equipment and Services providersConducting Level 3 assessments and related activitiesResponse, investigation, and overseeing incidents responses.

SAMSA’s Western Region, with its regional office located less than half a kilometre from the Cape Town passenger ship terminal, at 2 Long Street Cape Town (22nd Floor), with the Cape Town Operations on the same address on the 19th Floor, and two satellite offices in Saldanha Bay, and Port Nolloth, is by no means the largest of SAMSA’s regional offices in terms of geographic land and sea area. 

Yet, accounting for a sea space across three oceans, the Atlantic to the west, the Southern to the south and parts of the Indian to the east, it is certainly in the lead by far in terms of the highest density and diversity of water-going vessels, both domestic and global that it must serve. 

These range from large sea trade transport, research and exploration and extraction ships to the country’s largest fleet of fishing trawlers, cruise and leisure, as well as sports, recreation and subsistence boating vessels of all shapes and sizes. As at the time of writing, the region was manned by a total staff complement of 53 personnel (32 males and 21 females) with 40 located in Cape Town (regional office), 11 in Saldanha Bay and two (2) in Port Nolloth. 

The staffing is broken up into two categories: administration (human resources, information technology and finance management) and technical (ship registration, naval architecture, radio surveys) for ports offices. 

The ports offices in turn provide direct services to SAMSA clients including, but not limited to, ship surveys, inspections, and certifications; cargo surveys, inspections, and certifications; accreditation, re-accreditation, and auditing of training institutions; approval, re-approval, and auditing of medical practitioners; accreditation, re-accreditation, and auditing of seafarer recruitment agencies; approval, re-approval and auditing of equipment and services providers; conducting level 3 assessments and related activities and response, investigation, and overseeing incidents responses.

In this region, office-bound services routinely carried out daily involve Seafarers assessments and certifications, Naval Architecture, Ship Registration and related activities. Otherwise, and highly significant is the fact that the dominant maritime sector services (field operations) carried out daily involve ship surveys and inspections as well as the auditing of accredited/approved organisations, with field operations requiring more attention involving mostly ships surveyors and inspections, where most clients are fishing vessels and recreational (commercial) vessels. In this regard, with the Western Cape being the mecca of the fishing industry, it is the region’s busiest.

For SAMSA’s Western Region, the busiest time of the year is the second half (June to December) with mostly cargo fires, groundings and losses of vessels being the main type of incidents regularly dealt with. The region’s weather also helps little even as the vibrancy of the fishing industry here provides welcome relief. On the downside, regional management here believes it could do even better with a bit more staff — a common request across all SAMSA regions.

Southern Region: 

Ports (4)Regional OfficeStaffServices Offered
Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Ngqura, East LondonHumewood, Gqeberha42Port state Control Inspections, Ship Surveys, Fishing vessel Surveys, Ad hoc Surveys, Accreditation of health care providers, fire fighters and training institutions and examinations, small vessel surveys.

As illustrated in the table above, SAMSA’s Southern Region accounts for the longest stretch of South Africa’s 3 200km coastline, an area of approximately 1 100km, stretching from Mossel Bay (officially part of the Western Cape province) to north of Port St Johns in the far northeast end of the Eastern Cape province. 

This is evidently also illustrated by the average distance between the ports for which it is in charge, with Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth/Ngqura separated by approximately 400km and Port Elizabeth/Ngqura and East London by an almost equivalent distance of approximately 290km.

The SAMSA Southern Region on the Indian Ocean rim also just so happens to be home to South Africa’s notoriously most dangerous ocean area, the “restless” Wild Coast, where among its most recent and globally recognised victims was a Greek cruise liner, the MTS Oceanos in August 1991.

SAMSA’s Southern Region, with its main regional offices located in a building overlooking the port of Port Elizabeth, at the entrance to the coastal beach suburb of Humewood, also just so happens to also be home to South Africa’s newest deep-water port, Ngqura, located a good 32km east of Gqeberha and around which is the country’s fastest emerging development zone, with a growing manufacturing hub dominated largely by mainly Chinese car producers, as well as mixture of gas and renewable energy investments.

For further differentiation, SAMSA’s Southern Region is also proudly a home to the country’s only river mouth port in East London – historical home to German luxury car maker, Mercedes Benz, through which exits into the sea the waters of the Nahoon River in the north and the Buffalo River to the south.

Lastly the regional management here also highlights as significant that their area just so happens also to be the only one (so far) in South Africa to host the country’s only offshore bunkering services, drawing in hundreds of vessels annually and in the process, generating an annual turnover of approximately R14 million that flows to this part of the Eastern Cape province’s economy. 

So, what differentiates it, if at all, from its counterparts in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in terms of maritime services rendered?

With its staff complement of 42 people, (19 females to 23 males) split proportionally to services demand in its four ports offices, main maritime sector services (field operations) that are carried out daily by the region include Port State Control Inspections, ship surveys, surveys of fishing and small vessels and accreditation of healthcare providers, firefighters and training institutions and examinations. The region also conducts survey administration, collection of fees, issuing of seafarer certificates, and vetting of bunkering vessels.

Fishing vessel surveys and ad hoc surveys are field operations that require and consume more attention and which in turn is reflective of the fact that most incidents occurring and attended to by the region involve fishing vessels, a sub sector with its busiest period  between March and August, just prior to smaller vessels demanding attention as owners prepare for the festive season.

Management here cites the region’s staff passion and dedication to their work as the most exciting about the SAMSA region generally, and prides itself also regarding its sound relations evidenced through ongoing close cooperation and in some cases, collaboration with various public and private institutions.

These relations allow the region’s management to also chip in and contribute to local socioeconomic projects, such as the province’s Rural Maritime Economic development (RMED) Programme. This is described as having huge potential to reduce high levels of poverty and food insecurity by enabling access to nutritious food and generating job opportunities in the coastal communities of  the Eastern Cape.

Eastern Region

Ports (3)Regional OfficeStaffServices Offered
Durban, Richards Bay, Pretoria21st Floor, Durban Bay House. Durban38Flag state surveys: Ship surveys, inspections, and certifications (Safety, IOPP, Load line, Hull. Etc); Port State: PSCI, Coastal State Casualty Investigations; Accreditation, Re-accreditation and Auditing of training institutions; Cargo loading approvals; Training Institution Accreditations site inspections, Medical Practitioners Accreditations site inspections; Cargo surveys, inspections and certifications; Accreditation, Re-accreditation and Auditing of training institutions; Approval, Re-approval and Auditing of medical practitioners; Accreditation, Re-accreditation and Auditing of Seafarer Recruitment Agencies; Approval, Re-approval and Auditing of equipment and service providers; Conduct level 3 assessments and other assessment activities, etc

SAMSA’s Eastern region whose regional office is located in a block on the shoreline northeast of the city of Durban, and offering all SAMSA services and products, is a tad complex in terms of its location spread. 

On the coastal side of the Indian Ocean rim, it accounts for an area — the real eastern region — constituted by a coastline of approximately 550km, stretching from Ponte da Oura on the border of Mozambique to Port Edward in southern KwaZulu-Natal.

But it also accounts for the “Northern Region”, with offices in Pretoria, responsible for the inland dams and significant inland waterways spread across no less than six provinces including KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga; together occupying a combined land area of 552 496 square kilometres, which is just over half of South Africa’s total land area! 

The six provinces have a combined total 84 dams of different sizes feeding off a network of rivers, with North West accounting for the bulk (21) followed by Limpopo (16) Mpumalanga, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal (14 each) and Gauteng – the tiniest of the provinces, with five, including the one of the largest dams in the area, the Vaal, on the river of the same name.

In the area nestles the country’s busiest ports, with Durban — the biggest — and Richards Bay handling an assortment of vessels of various sizes and types, including containers, general, tankers, bulk, and small vessels.

Main maritime sector services (field operations) carried out daily in Durban and Richards Bays include Flag State surveys involving ship surveys, inspections, and certifications as well as Safety, IOPP, load line, hull, Port State Inspections, Coastal State Casualty Investigations; accreditation, re-accreditation, and auditing of training institutions; cargo loading approvals; training institution accreditations, site inspections, and medical practitioners accreditations.

The list of activities also includes cargo surveys, inspections, and certifications; accreditation, re-accreditation, and auditing of training institutions; approval, re-approval, and auditing of medical practitioners; accreditation, re-accreditation, and auditing of seafarer recruitment agencies; approval, re-approval and auditing of equipment and service providers; conduct of level 3 assessments and other assessment activities.

Inland in Pretoria the office deals with inland waters, small boats, IMDG containers, accreditations of doctors and a related assortment of relevant services.

For the region, main maritime sector services (office based) that are carried out daily by the region include Level 3 assessments/seafarer examinations; seafarer Coc revalidation applications; eyesight tests; seamen’s record book applications; training institutions accreditation applications; medical practitioners accreditations applications; casualty investigations report writing, Flag state surveys; PSCI reports etc.

As could be expected, busy times between the region’s coastal area and the inland area differ markedly, with the ports in both Durban and Richards working round the clock throughout the year, while the inland waterways areas only ever get really busy in the autumn season.

Troublesome common incidents the Eastern Region must deal with regularly include stevedore casualties and mostly small vessel incidents which can stretch resources to deal with day-to-day emergencies/casualties. Teamwork is the key word here according to management.

Further, to ensure continuous appropriateness, improvement, enhancement, and sustainability of delivered services to the various segments of the maritime sector, as with all SAMSA regions, the Eastern Region keeps close contact for cooperation and collaboration with various relevant public and private institutions, some domestic and others global. 

These include the International Maritime Organisation, Department of Transport, Ministry of Forestry and Fishing, Abuja & Indian Ocean MOU,  Society of Master Mariners South Africa, South African Institute of Marine Engineers & Naval Architects (SAIMENA), Ports Welfare Committees, ITF, Fishing Forum, Seafarer welfare organisations, P&I Insurers, Ship Owners and Agents, Training Institutions and Universities, DIRCO, SA Navy, Department of Public Works South Africa, Ezemvelo Wildlife, Isimangaliso Wetland Park, DEA, DFFE and TNPA. 

Spreading the word about SAMSA

The South African Maritime Safety Authority is a state agency in South Africa, a predominantly maritime country

South Africa’s total geolocation space — surface and oceans combined — totals nearly three million square kilometres, making it one of the biggest countries in Africa after Algeria and more than five times the size of the United Kingdom in Western Europe. 

Significantly, the country at the foot of the African continent happens to have more land space under the oceans — an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) 1 535 538 sq km in size and the 23rd largest in the world — than its surface land area, split among nine provinces, which covers only approximately 1 220 813 sq km.

Schoolchildren attending a Day of the Seafarer event in Durban.

What it all boils down to is that South Africa is, by natural description, a maritime country, as in addition to the comparatively smaller size of its surface area relative to the oceans space, has almost two thirds of its surface area demarcated by a coastline of just over 3 300km.

A maritime country is described as distinguished by characteristics that include “…a significant length of coastline, which may span along oceans, seas, gulfs, or bays…and a coastline [that] provides access to marine resources and facilitates maritime trade and transportation”.

That said, a pertinent question that often arises is: do ordinary South Africans — the general person in the street — know their country as being a maritime country? 

While fish and chips has always been a staple food combination for many, easily obtainable and coming over the counter hot and nicely wrapped in a cooking oil-soaked newspaper from just about every corner café, or for people flocking to the oceans’ beaches annually during the festive season to bathe, the answer is surprisingly that far too few readily associate or know their country as being maritime in nature. 

There may be many reasons for this anomaly, but the most plausible reason is a basic and prolonged lack of basic maritime-related education for the majority of the population. 

The roots of this poor practice can be traced back to the colonial and apartheid eras, when most black people were not only restricted in movement in the country, but most were banished from the beaches and forced to live in inland areas demarcated as their “homelands”.

It is significant that at the time of South Africa’s adoption of a democratic dispensation in 1993, followed by the first democratic elections in April 1994, except for the then Transkei and small pockets of Ciskei and KwaZulu, seven out of 10 black homelands were in the country’s interior, hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away from the oceans.

With the collapse of the “separate development” political ideology that dominated the period, replaced by a democratic dispensation in 1994, it became apparent both to government and the private business sector that to both facilitate their ongoing education as well as increasing direct inclusion in the sector’s entire activities, a massive education campaign needed be launched and sustained to familiarise most South Africans with the maritime nature of their country.

Towards this end, with its founding on 1 April 1998, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) was mandated with, among other key objectives, promoting South Africa’s maritime interests. It was among other State, private sector and general societal institutions entrusted with the responsibility of raising and enhancing public awareness about the country’s maritime nature and its significance. 

Now in its 26th year of existence, SAMSA has covered the ground broadly in this respect, through an array of campaigns and programmes that raise basic awareness among South Africans about the country’s maritime sector. 

The activities — virtually all education oriented in nature — have ranged from the public’s exposition through events and exhibitions involving particularly young schoolchildren across the entire country, the issuing of education bursaries for both high school pupils and tertiary level students, support for and direct provision of training in various basic maritime skills, as well as recruitment drives for youths’ placement as seafarers on tourism and related vessels or institutions in the sector. 

These are some of SAMSA’s historical strategic approaches to promoting and sustaining public awareness about the country’s maritime sector.

High school development

Secondary schools focused awareness campaigns resulted in some schools initiating offerings in maritime studies. These include schools such as Sithengile High in the underdeveloped township of Clermont in KwaZulu-Natal. 

This school has produced a number of notable now high-ranking seafarers, among them being Captain Pretty Molefe, now Head of SAMSA’s Centre for Sea Watch & Response (incorporating the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre) in Cape Town. 

Others include Londiwe Ngcobo, the first black African female dredge master in Africa; Aubrey Sosibo, reputedly the first black African to be the academic head of maritime studies at Lawhill Maritime School in Simonstown; and Lindani Ntshangase, currently a lecturer at Durban University of Technology (DUT), who also was the first South African to graduate from Shanghai Maritime University in China.

By 2010 the Eastern Cape provincial government had, along with the Limpopo and the Free State governments, begun serious efforts to either support or have maritime education dedicated high schools, and was even looking into the establishment of a dedicated maritime university.  

School bursaries 

Over several years, in addition to events-driven maritime awareness campaigns, SAMSA has devoted millions of rands worth of school bursaries to pupils attending Lawhill Maritime School in Simonstown. 

It is highly significant that among these learners arose one who has since become a Masterclass 1 ship captain, Thobela Gqabu. He has also since come to serve at SAMSA as a regional manager of the entity’s Eastern Region (Durban and Richards) and who is an emerging global leader. In September 2023 he was elected the new chairperson of the Indian Ocean Memorandum of Understanding (IOMOU) on Port State Control governing body.  

Tertiary level education bursaries

Concurrent with high school bursaries, SAMSA has also devoted voluminous funding to tertiary level education students pursuing their studies, particularly through the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the Cape Town-based Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). 

In addition, through collaboration and in some cases, partnerships with interested and fraternal institutions, including the Transport Education and Training Authority (TETA) and Nelson Mandela University, SAMSA has contributed immensely to the fostering of relations and placement of more than three dozen South African Master’s level students with the World Maritime University in Sweden and China, as well as with the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta, among others. About half of a dozen of these graduates have been absorbed by SAMSA in its operations.

Tertiary level institutions development 

Further, working in collaboration with various institutions including TETA, the private and higher education sectors and industry, SAMSA maritime sector awareness promotion led to the establishment of the Nelson Mandela University-based South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) in 2016, now responsible for cadet and seafarers training and skills development as well as research.

Also, while intensely engaged with the above initiative, through joint efforts with maritime sector employers and education institutions, SAMSA saw to the successful development of the first set of Training, Vocational and Education Training (TVET) syllabus for maritime education and training in 2016. Umfolozi TVET has since been accredited to offer some of the qualifications and has officially launched its maritime academy.

Basic skills development

Through its Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives, SAMSA successfully mobilised the donation of no less than five passenger boats to the community of Enkovukeni, KwaMhlabuyalingana, in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal, to facilitate mobility of the community and scholars across the 500m wide river. 

Crucially, the donation included the training of 10 local youngsters (five girls and five boys) as skippers of the vessels. A few years later, a small-scale fisheries programme undertaken in both Port St Johns and Northern KZN in joint partnerships with ABSA and the Moses Kotane Institute led to the sprouting of a handful of small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs) with a focus on maritime-related products and services in these areas. 

In addition to contribution of its CSI over the years, through its Maritime Youth Development Programme, ably supported by the Eastern Cape provincial government, in 2017 SAMSA successfully initiated a basic skills programme and placement of dozens of rural youths on MSC cruise vessels as seafarers. This has since culminated in SAMSA signing MoUs with the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provincial governments for provision of basic training and direct placement of an additional 500 rural youths of both genders on MSC cruise vessels as seafarers.

Alongside that initiative, through international partnerships, particularly Klaveness in Norway, SAMSA helped with recruitment, training and placement of 19 youngsters from the lower KwaZulu-Natal South coast area as ratings in their international fleet.

Advanced skills development

With the acquisition, ownership, and operation of the Arctic research vessel, the SA Agulhas, SAMSA notched a few milestones in the promotion of maritime skills development and the resultant placement of more than 300 male and female cadets trained as full-fledged seafarers, qualified to work on ships anywhere in the world.

Business development

Through collaboration with various institutions in the public and private sectors, SAMSA contributed directly and indirectly in the establishment of maritime business chambers and clusters, inclusive of the eThekwini Maritime Cluster (and in which one of SAMSA Centre for Industry Development officials, Mzwamandla Sosibo, served as a board chairperson), and the Buffalo City and the Eastern Cape Maritime SMME Chambers. The work has also involved the coordination of the South African Maritime cluster, focused currently on merging the effective roles of the existing clusters.

Tourism development 

Through collaboration and cooperation with maritime sector stakeholders in South Africa and abroad, SAMSA saw to the staging of the first national Oceans Festival at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town in 2016, linked closely with that year’s installment of the global Volvo Oceans Race. Within the same period, SAMSA also teamed up with the Eastern Cape provincial tourism body in a national campaign to promote tourism on the Wild Coast.

Broad maritime sector development 

Through consistent and active ongoing engagement with maritime sector stakeholders domestically and abroad, SAMSA proactively led the successful staging of South Africa’s inaugural national maritime industry (SAMIC) conference in Cape Town in 2012. This ultimately led to the launch of Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) in 2014 — the country’s first democratic era maritime sector-focused development programme.

Global events positioning 

Through collaboration with the Department of Transport, SAMSA hosts the rotational staging annually in coastal and inland areas of key IMO international events. These are the Day of the Seafarer on 25 June and World Maritime Day on 25 September each year, with the purposeful inclusion of schoolchildren in the events and exhibitions for their exposure to the maritime world.

As an icing on the cake, through active engagement and contribution through partnerships, domestically and abroad, SAMSA played a pivotal role in the organisation and successful inaugural staging on African soil of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) World Maritime Day Parallel event in Durban 2022.

In addition, in recent years, SAMSA has and continues to participate in and contribute to scheduled exhibitions and career expos, independently or in collaboration with the Department of Transport and sister transport entities reporting to it, and in support of the Presidential imbizos. 

These public awareness sessions, with some targeting women in transport as a concept, have led to some taking advantage of emerging opportunities. In KwaZulu-Natal, for instance, in 2022, two women successfully ventured into the maritime business space. One acquired for the first time a fishing boat, while the other secured contracts in the ship chandling space. 

In addition to these public-oriented activities, some SAMSA operations and services rendered within the country’s maritime sector are generally publicly performed outdoors, thereby enabling general members of the public to witness SAMSA employees in action, at work. 

Among such activities are small vessels variable inspections and safety promotions across fishing (business, recreational and subsistence) and boating communities, for regulations compliance and attendant training and feedback sessions.

In addition, SAMSA’s four regional operations’ personnel; in the Western (Cape Town, Saldanha and Port Nolloth), Southern (Mossel Bay, Gqeberha, East London and Port St Johns), Eastern (Durban and Richards Bay) as well as Northern (Pretoria and surrounding inland areas), are also often drawn to, and sometimes voluntarily participate in local water/sea-based various local events, where they share their knowledge and expertise in maritime activities.

Over the past two decades, during shipping and small vessels emergencies at sea involving seafarers’ rescues and ship recoveries, SAMSA officials are usually featured in interviews on  local, regional and national media, inclusive of television news and actuality programs. 

Also, taking advantage of evolving technological advancements, SAMSA publishes volumes of information about itself regularly online via its website and blog, as well as social media platforms including YouTube, X (formerly Twitter), LinkedIn and related sites. 

Maritime law reform on the go

An overview of SAMSA and South Africa’s maritime law reform for global compliance

South Africa’s claim to and sustenance of its stature as a member of the international community in good standing hinges on, among other things, its fulfilment of collectively defined objectives. These include ensuring that all international maritime statutes, treaties, conventions and related, binding to it, are domesticated through timely, relevant and appropriate legislation and regulations.

Through the Department of Transport (DoT) the country continues reforming maritime legislation considered to be a critical pillar in terms of developing and growing South Africa to be an International Maritime Centre (IMC) in Africa by 2030.

The DoT works closely with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) upon which, in terms of the latter’s founding legislation, the South African Maritime Authority Act, 1998 (Act No. 5 of 1998) (the Act), the duty of developing regulations is entrusted.

The review of regulations which the Minister remains responsible for promulgation is undertaken in order of priority for each particular financial year and finds expression in the SAMSA Annual Performance Plan (APP), as is required by section 7(2) of the Act. 

It is a historical sad fact that with this process, maintaining consistency has not always been possible and it is with delight that greater momentum is being gained towards ensuring that the country is up to date with domestication of international instruments for effective global maritime administration.

Highly significant is that for a period of a week in November 2023 (27 November to 01 December) the DoT will be conducting stakeholder consultative meetings for input into drafts of no less than seven pieces of legislation and regulations proposed for promulgation in South Africa to bring it up to speed with domestication of international instruments of maritime administration.

The pieces of legislation and regulation for public consultation comprise the following: 

  • Draft Ballast Water Management Bill; 
  • Draft Wreck Removal Bill; 
  • Facilitation of Maritime Traffic Convention; 
  • Marine Pollution (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Regulations; 
  • Draft Maritime Zones Amendment Bill; 
  • Marine Oil Pollution (Preparedness, Response and Cooperation) Regulations; and 
  • National Ports Act Regulations.

Also scheduled for or already undergoing a public consultation process by SAMSA are:

  • A Draft Notice in terms of the anticipated Marine Pollution (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Amendment Bill, which seeks to insert section 2A to incorporate amendments to Annex 1 to Annex VI inclusive of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, into South African law and empower the Minister to reflect amendments to the Convention by Notice in the Government Gazette. Work on this is scheduled for finalisation and submission to the DoT in March 2024, with stakeholder consultation including publication in the Government Gazette planned for December 2023 and January 2024.
  • The Draft Merchant Shipping (Training, Certification and Safe Manning) Amendment Regulations, which intends to propose amendments to the 2021 Regulations, and about which comments and stakeholder consultation processes are currently underway. A notice calling for public comments was published on 10 November 2023 in Government Gazette Number 49618 and Notice Number 4041 issued for this purpose.  
  • The Draft Merchant Shipping (National Small Vessel Safety) Regulations, being reviewed to repeal the 2007 version of the regulations.
  • Additional regulations currently under scrutiny for review by SAMSA include:  The Amendment to the Maritime Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 1994 and about which several internal workshops have been held to align and incorporate comments, with the last internal workshop held on 13 October 2023. The draft is now being finalised for resubmission to the DoT before the end of the 2023 calendar year. 
  • The Draft Merchant Shipping (Construction and Equipment of Fishing Vessels of 24 Metres in Length and Over) Regulations, and which, following stakeholder consultation, is also under final review for resubmission to the DoT before the end of the 2023 calendar year.
  • The Draft Merchant Shipping (Construction and Equipment of Fishing Vessels of Less Than 24 Metres in Length but More Than 55 Gt.) Regulations which, also following stakeholder consultation, are under final review for resubmission to the DoT before the end of the 2023 calendar year.

The list above will join other proposed pieces of regulations, namely, the Amendments to the Merchant Shipping (Construction Regulations), 1968; and Amendments to the Marine Traffic Regulations, 1985, The Draft Merchant Shipping (Crew Accommodation) Regulations, which seeks to repeal the 1961 Regulations, the Draft Amendments to the Merchant Shipping (Safety of Navigation) Regulations, 1968 and the Draft Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods) Amendment Regulations, which seeks to amend the 1997 regulations. 

Maritime research from a developmental perspective

An overview of research topics to which SAMSA is contributing and why they are important

There is no gainsaying that there is a global consensus that South Africa is a country with a rich maritime heritage and a strategic location at the most Southern tip of the African continent, and which in turn, makes it a key player in the blue economy. 

The “blue economy” is generally understood to infer the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. There is agreement however, that for this ideal to be fully realised, a key component is maritime research, for developing and broadening understanding and placement of proper and effective management strategies for the ocean and its resources, such as marine life, ecosystems, climate, fisheries, shipping, energy, tourism and more.

Within the context of the foregoing, the third objective of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Act 5 of 1998 stresses the importance of promoting the maritime interests of the republic. From its broad and all-encompassing perspective this puts a huge responsibility on the Maritime Administration to lead the maritime industry into an efficient, effective and competitive industry. 

Against this backdrop, SAMSA has recognised the importance of scientific and evidence-based research to assist the organisation in further developing the South African maritime sector. 

Broadly, it is important that policies, strategies, and operations that get developed are informed and driven by proper research. By the same token, for SAMSA to provide leadership, there is a requirement that it gets informed by research for purposes of driving the country’s maritime agenda and strategy.

The research function within SAMSA

SAMSA has an established Research Unit within its Centre for Legal, Policy and Regulations aimed at informing and influencing the strategic, operational direction and programmes of the organisation, as it leads and regulates the maritime industry.  

The SAMSA Research function is also responsible for:

  • Managing external research requests and research service providers on behalf of SAMSA;
  • Fostering research collaborations and partnering with other external stakeholders on relevant maritime research matters;
  • Informing development, monitoring and evaluation of policy implementation; and
  • Leading, planning and dissemination of SAMSA research findings to relevant stakeholders.

Highlights of achievements to date

The Research Roadmap

In 2016, SAMSA in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology, launched the document titled “A Research, Innovation and Knowledge Management Road Map for the South African Maritime Sector — Charting a Road to Maritime Excellence by 2030”. This followed an intensive consultative process involving no less than 400 stakeholders in the country’s maritime sector. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) compiled this research roadmap to unlock South Africa’s maritime potential of being a globally recognised maritime nation by 2030. 

According to the roadmap, realising this vision requires that, to affirm the following outcomes by 2030, the country has: 

  • a maritime culture in place and recognise and learn from our maritime history; 
  • an enabling governance framework for the maritime sector;
  • an efficient system of coordination, collaboration, and knowledge sharing; 
  • utilisation of resources sustainably and protects natural resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); 
  • a relevant and well-functioning knowledge management system; 
  • a structured financing of initiatives and sustained maritime economic growth; 
  • prioritised safety and security and military protection within and beyond our EEZ; and 
  • national and international presence and recognition. 

This roadmap is a handy guide for researchers and students on the type of research topics they may pursue.

Other current key research projects

SAMSA has been able to develop various research studies, some of which emanated from the various national engagements such as the workshop on Risk and on the Sulphur Cap. 

Some other notable research topics aimed at facilitating evidence-based decision and policy making included assessing the existing capacity within the maritime environment with regards to the capabilities to respond effectively and efficiently to maritime incidents, within the South African Economic Exclusive Zone. 

SAMSA deemed it critical for South Africa to undertake its own study to give a sense of the required assets, resources and investments necessary to ensure efficient and effective response to incidents and accidents in our waters. Further work is currently underway to facilitate and encourage that these resources are developed and acquired by the respective role players. 

Also, following the global implementation of the IMO regulation related to reducing the amount of sulphur content in fuel oil used by ships operating outside emission-controlled areas (ECA), some countries decided to ban usage of open loop scrubbers in their waters. 

SAMSA commissioned a three-year study related to the scientific observation on the environmental impact of scrubber wash water discharge on the South African seawater quality, with the intent to utilise its results as an input to developing a policy on permissibility or restriction of open loop scrubber usage. The study, undertaken in collaboration with the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) is currently in the final phase, with the results expected in the 2023-2024 financial year end. 

In the meantime, South Africa was selected by the IMO to be one of the countries to participate in the IMO GreenVoyage2050 Project aimed at supporting shipping’s transition towards a low carbon future. 

The overall goal of the project is to support effective implementation of the 2023 IMO GHG Strategy and provide support to developing countries in their efforts to reduce GHG emissions from ships. It is envisaged that the project will strengthen MARPOL Annex VI compliance, facilitate sharing of operational best practices, catalyse the uptake of energy efficient technologies and explore opportunities for low- and zero-carbon fuels.

Furthermore, through the SAMSA research initiative, South Africa was selected to be one of the participants in the IMO Glonoise project, with the overall objective of establishing a truly global partnership to engage and assist developing countries to raise awareness, build capacity, define baselines, and promote international policy dialogue on mitigation of underwater noise from shipping. This project will be launched by the IMO late in 2023 or early 2024. 

Back at home, for the past three years, SAMSA has continued to lead and organise the maritime session of the Southern Africa Transport Conference, a participation and contribution that is important as it encourages current and prospective researchers to contribute to growing the South African maritime industry and body of knowledge.

Further domestic engagement is done partly through the establishment of a panel of researchers, and collaborative partnerships and agreements with several maritime institutions.