The South African Maritime Safety Authority (“SAMSA”) has issued a Marine Notice, No. 27 of 2016, regarding “lessons learnt” from three serious marine casualties that have occurred off the coast of South Africa over a six-month period. SAMSA has expressed concern regarding the “contributory factors” leading to the casualties, which it identifies as poor watchkeeping practices and inappropriate use of electronic navigation systems in relation to two of the casualties, and poor housekeeping in relation to the third.
To summarise the marine casualties:
- A collision between two vessels near Cape Town, with the subsequent abandonment and sinking of one, which is attributed to numerous contraventions, by both vessels, of the Merchant Shipping (Collision and Distress Signals) Regulations, 2005 (“the Regulations”) – specifically, contraventions of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (“the Collision Regulations”), which are annexed to the Regulations and are thereby incorporated into South African statute law;
- The foundering of a small pleasure yacht with subsequent loss of life, which is attributed to, inter alia, over-reliance on the electronic chart plotter as the sole method of navigation, without reference to paper chart plotting, and poor watchkeeping practices; and
- The abandonment of a fishing vessel with subsequent loss of life, which is attributed to, inter alia, poor housekeeping, in that loose gear blocked the freeing ports, which may have contributed to the vessel having listed heavily, and in turn to the decision to abandon ship.
The Notice seeks to highlight the importance of proper watchkeeping practices, compliance with the Collision Regulations and good housekeeping, as means of loss prevention. While these may be self-evident, equally they may serve as recommendations for the avoidance of similar marine casualties in the future.