South African Marine & Aeronautical Search & Rescue Bill: briefing by South African Search & Rescue Organisation; South African

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05 June 2002
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

5 June 2002

Chairperson: Mr J Cronin (ANC)

Documents Handed Out:
South African Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill [B23-2002]
Overview of the Bill by Information Services
Presentation by South African Search and Rescue Organisation [SASAR]
Briefing by South African Maritime Authority [SAMSA] (awaited)

The Committee considered the South African Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill, noting problematic areas. The South African Search and Rescue Organisation (SASAR) provided clarity on certain provisions, especially Clause 19 of the Bill. The South African Maritime Authority (SAMSA) gave a briefing on its vision of providing a competent regulatory and advisory service in maritime matters in South Africa.

The Chair noted that all Members were satisfied with the Committee Report on the recent oversight visits to Durban and the Gauteng Province, and the Report is thus adopted by this Committee.

The Chairperson of the Chairpersons Committee has communicated a proposal on the provision of training programmes for committees on certain technical and advanced aspects of particular pieces of legislation to be processed by those committees. This has been done by the Finance Portfolio Committee, for example, that enlisted the services of academia to bring its Members up to speed on the technical aspects of the Stock Exchange, to prepare that Committee for the Stock Exchange legislation it later dealt with. This will be discussed further during the next session of this Committee.

Briefing by South African Search and Rescue Organisation
Mr Dumisane Dube, Manager: Maritime Transport, introduced the following members of the delegation: Mr Botes, South African Maritime Authority (SAMSA) Head of Search and Rescue Operations in the Department and Advocate Sindiswa Dube, the Legal Representative from the Department. Mr Botes will provide Members with a brief overview of the South African Search and Rescue Organisation (SASAR) in South Africa.

Mr Botes explained that SASAR serves primarily two functions: firstly, to co-ordinate SASAR activities, such as the planning of search and rescue operations and, secondly, the actual execution of the search and rescue operation itself.

South Africa is responsible for responding to search and rescue incidences over a large area, which extends southward to the North Pole, to Argentina and Venezuela in the west, Australia, Madagascar and the eastern countries in the east and northerly to the neighbouring African states. This coverage area has also been extended to cover an even larger area.

Yet South African does not possess the necessary assets to properly service this entire area, and it thus has to rely on the co-ordinating function to rally support and resources to adequately respond to the situation. In this regard SASAR enlists the assistance of its various departments, to ensure the search and rescue incident is dealt with at the lowest level, which essentially entails enlisting the support of the port captains. Their area of responsibility is focused on search and rescue operations, as they oversee a specific geographical area close to shore, in as far as their available assets and resources allow them to. There is thus a drive to resolve the incident at the lowest level.

As far as the structure of the SASAR is concerned, he said it is interesting to note that the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) only occupies the third or lowest level of SASAR. This is because South Africa cannot afford a dedicated organisation that deals exclusively with search and rescue operations, as is done in the United States. The result is that the NSRI looks after "local people" exclusively, because it does not receive funding for larger operations but rather relies on sponsors.

With regard to the SASAR operational structure, the example of the Oceanos disaster and the SASAR response to it as an illustration of the efficiency of the SASAR search and rescue function. In this case SASAR had mobilised air control and aircraft support as well as army, airforce and medical facilities via the South African National Defence Force, and Telkom was enlisted its telecommunications capabilities. The support of the South African Police Services was also employed at the harbours to ensure the protection of the victims and the taking of statements and information. The Department also had an important role to play here, especially as far as funding is concerned, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs which secured access to the former Transkei for rescue workers. A local businessman even contributed 400 blankets.

Yet the disappointment lies in the fact that the SASAR disappeared completely after this successful search and rescue operation as it did not have any official representatives, but rather consisted of a number of independent and separate bodies that came together to execute the search and rescue operation.

It has also been suggested that South Africa accept a reasonable degree of responsibility for other African countries as far as their search and rescue capabilities are concerned, so that it may assist them in establishing their own capabilities. These include Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar and the Comores. It is thus clear that South Africa is responsible for an enormous area, and the need for the establishment of a proper SASAR is made all the more urgent and necessary.

Mr Dube added that the recent national consultative conference urged all relevant role players to rally support around the establishment of SASAR, including the provision of the necessary resources to achieve this goal. In this regard, he extended an invitation to the Committee to participate in this process.

Mr S Farrow (DP) stated that Mr Botes contended that the structure of the SASAR is contained in the document entitled "South African Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill", yet that document does not contain the organogram referred to.

Mr Botes informed Mr Farrow that that document does not contain the organogram, but does detail the composition of the SASAR.

Ms M Coetzee-Kasper (ANC) referred to Mr Botes' statement that the SASAR used to exist but is no longer in operation, and the aim of the South African Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill is to reintroduce it. Could he clarify its status?

Mr Botes informed the Committee that in the past no legislation regulated the search and rescue operations in South Africa. The purpose of the Bill is to serve as regulatory mechanism in search and rescue services of institutions like SASAR. Carriage by an aircraft or vessel, whether voluntary or mandatory must be registered with relevant authorities, he asserted. However many small aircraft which are registered are not licensed. He argued that all level of government are well represented in
the SASAR, as required by the Bill. Nonetheless, municipalities have a critical role to play in situations of distress as they have disaster management facilities. SASAR deals primarily with search and rescue operations for aircraft and vessels in distress. It was mentioned that SASAR does not deal with oil pollution or protection of marine resources and neither does it deal with salvage missions.

The Chair asked if the passing of this Bill will bring positive results regarding activities of SASAR. This question is posed in the light of the recent aircraft crash in which Hansie Cronje was killed.

Mr Botes replied that the model currently being used in our country has a relatively high success rate. However he conceded that it needs to improved and hence the need for legislation such as the Bill under consideration. Legislation will ensure that no investigation is conducted without the embodiment of SASAR.

Furthermore this Bill will help in coordinating search and rescue operations and funding sources connected thereto.

Mr Pillay (DP) asked who should be held liable if a person reported the situation of distress to police and the latter failed to respond.

The Chairperson explained that liability ends with an individual and such person would have executed the duties as required by Clause 19 of the Bill. However he expressed concern that this clause seem to be over-prescriptive as it unfairly place s citizens under threat of criminal prosecution. Members of the public must be encouraged to report these situations of distress on voluntary basis.

Mr Slabbert (IFP) opposed Clause 19 on basis that it did not adequately mete out long period of
imprisonment. Six months imprisonment penalty for failure to report is inadequate given the seriousness of distress.

Mr Botes replied that such reporting is only meant to encourage people to report these incidents or accident. Therefore the Bill also required that any passenger or pilot-in command must report such situations of distress.

Mr Farrow suggested that an awareness campaign must be launched to get the public more involved in search and rescue activities around the country. This was proposed as an alternative to the criminal prosecution of any person found at fault in this regard.

Mr Botes argued that it is required by law for any aircraft to submit its flight plan prior to a flight. This requirement serves as a safety valve in making search and rescue less complicated and efficient.

Presentation by South African Maritime Authority
Mr Sipho Miskinya: Chief Executive Officer, SAMSA, gave a brief historical background of SAMSA and asserted that the vision of SAMSA should be to promote SA as a world class maritime nation. He stated that South Africa used to produce ships at lower costs and this should serve as impetus to achieve success in maritime matters. He said that half of our country's exports are carried out by sea. It is required of us to build a strong shipping industry in order to be competitive in the global economy. However he expressed regret that South Africa's shipping register is unfriendly at present. He referred the Committee to the AGOA Act, which gave preferential treatment of any goods exported from Africa into the United States economy.

Mr Manamela of SAMSA submitted that 70% of their income comes from shipping levies. SAMSA also renders services on behalf of government, which constitutes 20% of their current income. Services rendered for the government includes provision of advice on safety at sea and other administrative matters. These are merely consultancy services provided by SAMSA on behalf of the state. It is reported that such services and activities of SAMSA constitute R46 million of our total revenue. However a major component of costs at SAMSA is attributed to salaries and staff training programs.

He pointed out that they have initiated a transformation process of restructuring the organisation. Previously SAMSA concentrated on safety and protection of the environment at sea. Protection of life and property at sea is critical and requires further investigation on how to improve it.

Mr Msikinya then requested Captain W Dernier to elaborate further on sea accidents and fishing activities. He held the view that fishing posed a grave danger to safety and causes harm to marine species. It is important to educate fishermen about these dangers and added that an awareness campaign will start around September, 2002. The purpose of the campaign is to educate people, especially fishermen about the importance of safety at sea. The Fishing Vessel Safety Act was enacted with the view of creating safe fishing activities and less burdensome on marine resources. South Africa is signatory to international conventions which required certain safety standards to be incorporated into the Fishing Vessel Safety Act. However he argued that this Act requires review as it stands now, especially on issues such as insurance on sea and role of trade unions. He pointed out that insurance is being provided through trade unions.

Mr Farrow asked what the wisdom is of increasing staff as salaries are taking large chunk of their budget of R46 million.

Mr Manamela replied that SAMSA is undergoing transformation in order to ensure that the shipping industry is reflective of our diverse society. Transformation in this regard does not only refer to equity in employment, he cautioned. However, he conceded that any organisation that fails to keep costs of salaries at minimal would experience problems.

Mr Msikinya added that restructuring would also focus on improving their information systems. This will enhance ship surveying and co-operation of co-ordination centres in our country.

Mr Mudau suggested that SAMSA should give priority to insurance and should consider ship registers which are not trade union friendly.

Mr Dernier replied that there are beacon emergency systems in place. But the biggest problem was ineffective use, which resulted from lack of training.

Mr Msikinya informed the Committee that cadets are being overpaid, which results in high costs of salaries. He warned that this problem may leak to the press. The Chair urged the CEO not to divulge this to the press but to resolve it through the Transport Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.


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