South Africa accelerates plans to stay on STCW White List

SAMSA headquarters in Pretoria, South Africa. Credit: SAMSA

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is working on a plan to keep the country on the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) Convention 1978 White List.

IMO member states that are on the list issue training certificates that are STCW compliant with the defined minimum competency requirements for all seafarers. South Africa has been on the White List since 2001.

However, at a meeting in Manila in 2010, the IMO introduced new technological and operational requirements to these training standards. STCW signatories were then required to submit a report to the IMO showing that their training institutions for seafarers met the new standards of the Manila amendments. The IMO also required a quality assurance report from an independent evaluator.

Implementing the amendments has been problematic because countries simply do not have the training capacity to meet the new requirements. Then, in April 2019 the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) published a circular stating the committee’s intention to remove all non-compliant countries from its White List. If this were to happen, 58% of the member states, including Bahamas, Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, would be affected.

For South Africa, removal from the list would mean 5,000 locally trained seafarers could no longer work in international shipping. When the MSC excluded the non-compliant flag states, it had not followed procedures in line with IMO requirements, SAMSA acting CEO, Sobantu Tilayi, told the members of the South African Institute of Marine Engineers and Naval Architects in Cape Town recently.

The situation was corrected following a meeting between the IMO and member states, and a timeline was created to meet the amendments. Tilayi admitted that SAMSA had made compliance submissions to the IMO three times so far but all had been rejected, primarily because the authority had misinterpreted the requirements on sea service and it also didn’t have an adequate quality management process in place.

“[We thought] sea service through RPL [recognised prior learning] from fishing and naval vessels was allowed. Sea service needs to be appropriate towards the certificate. [We did not have] a quality standards system sufficient to meet the STCW convention, therefore an independent evaluation to assess compliance with STCW convention regulation 1/8 cannot be conducted,” Tilayi said.

SAMSA has set up an accelerated timeline to become compliant. This involves three broad activities: securing IMO assistance in compiling the report required in terms of the convention; speeding up a SAMSA process to set a relevant quality management system; and constant engagement with stakeholders.

Former UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency chief examiner, Captain Peter Towner, will visit South Africa in October to assist with the process. The quality management independent review is expected to be closed out by March 2020, and SAMSA is planning to have the necessary regulations gazetted in February 2020, in preparation of resubmitting its report to the IMO in March 2020.

Tilayi said the maritime sector would be updated throughout the process and occasionally involved directly in reviews of legislation and related matters.