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PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
18 September 2002
BRIEFING BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN MARITIME SAFETY AUTHORITY
Documents handed out:
Research Background on Maritime Security (Parliamentary Research Services)
The Committee was briefed by the Maritime Department in the Department of Transport on South African Maritime Zones. The Department spoke of a move to turn the South African search and rescue region into a Southern African search and rescue region which will be subsidised by the South African fund. The Department also argued for the establishment of a coast guard. It was seen to be crucial if SA wanted to become a major player in international maritime. The work done by a coast guard is presently being done by the Navy, but due to budget constraints their work is very limited. The Department hoped the Committee would take this forward.
The Department explained that the Jolly Rubino, which has ran aground at St. Lucia, had the right of innocent passage given to them in terms of an international convention to which South Africa is a signatory, and which allows them sail close to South African shores. In terms of salvaging the wreck, their goal has changed from towing out the vessel into deep sea and sinking it, to just pumping out the fuel oil because of the changing conditions.
Briefing on South African Maritime Zones
The representative first dealt with South African Maritime Zones, saying that in terms of South African law, SA has a twelve nautical miles zone and an exclusive economic 200 nautical mile zone, in terms of international law. South African convention divides the world into search and rescue regions and South Africa's region is from the north of Angola down to the South Pole. He acknowledged, however, that South Africa often does not have the resources to do search and rescue missions that far out. It was the role of the Department to co-ordinate these mission, but it was the South African Airforce that executes it.
Rev P Moatshe (ANC) asked how these search and rescue missions were carried out.
The representative replied that big convention ships carry signal distress equipment or self-floating beacons, which is activated by the salty seawater. The distress signal, which is carried by satellite, is picked up in Cape Town, where it relayed to the Silvermine base of the Air Force. He explained the different stages during such emergency:
-Discussion of the different scenarios which the ship may be in.
An aircraft starts the search with the help of a computer programme and if it is close to the shore, the NRSI simply fetches those on board.
The Chair congratulated them on a very good job rescuing the people in Antarctica. He asked whether the project was internationally funded.
The representative replied that it was the responsibility of the state to fund such rescue attempts. He acknowledge that they approached Parliament for extra funding, but there is a move to turn the South African search and rescue region into a Southern African search and rescue region which will be subsidised by the SA fund.
Rev M Chabaku (ANC) asked whether the Department deals with the towers in harbours and whether they are still in operation?
The representative replied that it falls under the National Ports Authority and that it is still operational and only controls the traffic in and out of ports.
Ms B Thompson (ANC) asked why the Jolly Rubino, which had ran aground at St. Lucia, sailed so close to the shore and what will happen to the oil on board the ship.
The representative replied that the Jolly Rubino had the right of innocent passage given to them in terms of an international convention to which South Africa is a signatory, and which allows them sail close to South African shores. With regard to the goal, their goal has changed from towing out the vessel into deep sea and sinking it, to just pumping out the fuel oil because of the changing conditions.
In concluding their presentation the representative argued the case for a coast guard for South Africa. He said that if SA wants to become a major player in international maritime, it should seriously consider the establishment of a coast guard. The work done by a coast guard is presently being done by the Navy, but due to budget constraints their work is very limited. He said that he has been pleading for this a long time and hoped that the Committee would take this further.
The Chair replied that information should first be obtained on how it is being done in other countries in order to get the coast guard going. SA should not make the same mistake as the USA, which has two coast guards operating under different names. He said that he would raise this at the next meeting of the Committee.
Rev. Moatshe commented that there are overlaps in the work being done by Departments and it is imperative that Departments should sit together and see where they overlap. Sometimes they fail because they operate alone.
The meeting was adjourned.
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