South Africa has extended the validity of seafarers’ certificates to 31 December 2020 to mitigate the constraints of COVID-19 on maritime administration.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the maritime value chain, including the ability of maritime administrations and the recognised organisations to deliver services necessary for statutory certification of seafarers and vessels. Furthermore, the issues about manning of ships, crew changes, and search-and-rescue services are receiving necessary attention,” the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) said in a statement.
The extension is not automatic and seafarers and/or their employers must apply from SAMSA to issue letters of extension in accordance with the applicable Marine Notice issued by the authority.
“Seafarers whose medical certificates expire while on board a ship may continue to serve on that ship for three months from the expiration date in accordance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers [STCW] Regulation I/9,” SAMSA said.
In terms of safe manning, ship operators must inform SAMSA about any challenges they may face in re-validating and obtaining an endorsement for seafarers holding foreign certificates of competence (CoC).
However, SAMSA said it cannot issue an endorsement to a foreign CoC unless the certificate is still valid, except in cases where the other country’s maritime administration has a policy to cover this.
The arrangement is similarly applicable to vessel certificates, which are due to expire during the lockdown, provided an application is made well in advance. “Vessels that are subjected to international conventions and whose statutory certifications are due for renewal, and there is difficulty with the attendance by a surveyor, may apply for extension of certificates by up to three months. Such application shall be made within reasonable time to ensure continued compliance with all statutory requirements.”