South African Maritime & Aeronautical Search & Rescue Bill: briefing by National Rescue & Search Institute

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12 June 2002
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

12 June 2002

Mr J Cronin (ANC)

Documents Handed Out:
Legal Services submission (Appendix)
South African Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill [B23-2002]

The Committee continued with the informal consideration of the South African Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill and were briefed by the National Rescue and Search Institute (NRSI). The legal advisors to the Department of Transport also provided clarity on problematic clauses as indicated by members from previous meeting.

Briefing by NRSI
Mr Graham: NRSI's Operations Manager, explained that NRSI is a volunteer organisation which provides sea rescue operations services at sea in the event of distress. It depends on donor funds and has approximately 600 volunteers, 58 rescue ships and 27 rescue stations around the country. Mr Graham proudly announced that the NRSI is proud to announce that it will be hosting the international conference on sea rescue in March 2003.

Mr Graham pointed out that there is uncertainty about what is meant by crew licence of Clause 13(1) of the Bill under discussion. He also wanted clarity on Clause 14 regarding recovery of costs incurred due to a hoax reporting of emergency situations at sea by any person. The NRSI wanted to know if they will be entitled to any recovery for costs incurred under such circumstances.

Concerns were also raised on Clause 19 of the Bill and NRSI called for a single emergency national number. The NRSI viewed such a national number as an effective tool to reduce hoax reporting by members of the public.

Adv S Mphahlele (Department of Transport) replied that SAMSA could provide the best answer and his Department will refer this expression on "crew licence" to Department law advisers. On the hoax reporting issue, he replied that the intention of the Bill is not to impose a legal obligation on the public but to place a moral responsibility on them. Therefore this clause will be removed and substituted with one which encourages a moral duty to report. The view of the Department was that such a punitive clause will put an unfair burden on the general public.

On recovery of costs, Adv. Mphahlele replied that his team needed time to deliberate on Clause 14 and get back to the Committee with clarity. However the Chair added that it seemed the Minister of Transport is required to be an active claimant on behalf of NRSI and similar organisations who wants to recover loss incurred on grounds of negligence (i.e. hoax reporting).

Mr Farrow (DP) expressed the opinion that the clause is all inclusive but also generally covers just about anybody who suffered a loss.

Mr Graham said that the NRSI sees itself as key role-player in saving lives at sea more than financial gains of this exercise.

Mr Schneemann (ANC) asked if there is any funding mechanism proposed in the Bill as the Minister highlighted funding as one of the objects of the Bill.

A Member asked if there is any new role brought about by the Bill for NRSI.

Mr Graham replied that no new role was created by the new Bill suffice it to say that operations equipment is getting expensive and more capacity is being built.

Mr Slabbert (IFP) held the view that a need exist for more funding given safety requirements at sea. And asked if there is adequate tools for such provision to be made. The NRSI replied that all fishing boats/ships have to be checked and be sea worthy before they leave for sea. However the licensing requirements will mostly determine the distance and the route for certain boats. It follows thus a fisherman who sails beyond the distance granted by license does so at own risk.

A Member asked if there is any way of knowing the weather at sea. It was common cause that weather bureau reports on weather either on radio and other forms of media. The skippers or fishermen will normally go along with their barometers at sea, he added.

Mr Graham informed the Committee that the Institute has been overwhelmed by volunteers and expressed his satisfaction. There are other volunteers who use their own boats on rescue missions at auxiliary stations.

Mr. Graham explained that the Ugandan government has invited the NRSI to help them develop a sea rescue operation for their national territory. This will also assist in improving co-operation between these countries on such matters.

Mr Pillay (DP) asked who contacts the NRSI in cases of distress at sea. The NRSI replied that reporting comes through members of the general public. But such reporting would ideally be done at police stations. The idea of a single national emergency number will improve the efficiency of reporting, he asserted.

Mr. Farrow (DP) wanted to know if the Bill provides for education and training of people dealing with rescue operations. The Department and NRSI have co-operated to ensure training for police in the Durban area. Therefore there is a certain level of awareness now amongst those police regarding rescue missions.

Mr Pillay asked if these training programme cannot be continued and the rescue operations be kept under continues assessment.

The Chair cautioned Members against getting entangled in regulatory issues since the emergency system is working and only needs improvements. However this was not to dismiss issues raised by Mr Pillay, he assured them.

Adv Mphahlele announced that Clause 17 merely covers registration of emergency beacons but such requires cross-referencing to Merchant Shipping Act. The latter provides for registration of emergency beacons before any departure by ships. Simply put, the Act requires that owner or any person must file emergency plan with relevant regulatory authorities.

The Chair urged everyone to avoid anything that may render the Bill disempowering but to assist any effort to bring about efficiency in rescue services and operations. The Chair expressed his delight at the removal of Clause 19(3). He indicated that all Committee Members were content with this, except Mr Slabbert. The Chair said that Mr Slabbert (IFP) must obtain the mandate of his party to raise formal objection on the Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.

To: Adv Herman Smuts
From: Adv Sindiswa Dube
Subject: Queries on Search& Rescue Bill 2002 on clauses 17 and 19
Date: 11 June 2002

1. Introduction

1.1 The above mentioned Bill was presented by ourselves to the Transport Portfolio Committee on the 05 June 2002.

1.2 The following queries were raised by members of the committee and we require assistance in formulating a response.

2. SA Maritime & Aeronautical Search And Rescue Bill 2002

2.1 Query in terms of Clause 19

2.1.1 The query was to whom is this obligation to report imposed, what about the idea of false reporting, how does the bill handle that and also how do we intend to encourage general members of the public to report.

2.1.2 We are of the view that this clause does not seek to impose an obligation on the general members of the public, although they are encouraged to report as well. To impose an obligation and a sanction for failure to report would be an unnecessary burden on the public.

2.1.3 Even the Road Traffic Act no 29 of 1989 does not impose an obligation on the general public, but rather on drivers intimately involved in the accident.

2.1.4 The Bill defines 'person's including any institution or organization equipped to assist in a search and rescue, an organ of state, a government and an agency of government of a foreign country.

2.1.5 These are the 'persons' who have an obligation to report envisaged by this Bill. The challenge is how does one enforce this obligation to a government official of a foreign state.

2.1.6 We may improve the drafting of the clause in the following;

19 (1) Any person who knows or has reason to believe that an aircraft is in distress must report the occurrence at the police station nearest to that person or at such other office or facility as the executive may determine.

Please assist us in the following;

1. How would 'knowledge' be determined in terms of this clause?
2. How would false reporting be dealt with if it arises?

3. Query in terms of Clause 17

3.1 The question was which vessels must carry emergency locator beacons. And why are we not stipulating that all of them must carry them.

3.1.1 The Civil Aviation Regulations stipulate the following for aircraft;

Reg 91.04.26 (1) No owner or operator of

-An aircraft to be operated on extended flights over water or where search anr rescue would be especially difficult;

-Ah aircraft with a maximum approved passenger seating of more than 9 passengers

-A helicopter with a maximum approved passenger seating of more than 19 seats

3.1.2 We suspect that the Merchant Shipping Act may Stipulate for vessels; Please assist us in verifying in this regards.

3.2 Our view however is that the purpose of this Bill is not to regulate about requirements for carrying emergency locator beacons, but to make sure that if they are carried by any vessel, then they must be registered to assist in speeding search & rescue.

3.3 We are of the view that clause 17 is fine as is, but you may assist us in formulating a response on the query.

Thank You

Adv Sindiswa Dube


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