The Department of Transport (DoT), together with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), hosted stakeholder engagements in Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth where industry had the opportunity to raise concerns and address issues related to training, selection and wellbeing of seafarers.
During the roundtable sessions, delegates heard that the DoT had committed to enhancing the wellbeing of seafarers by proposing to add specialised health services in vessels. Dumisani Ntuli, head of Maritime Transport in DoT, said through the assistance of the Department of Health, the health services onboard would be “beefed-up”.
“We are determined to roll out services to help elevate the health status of the seafarers, while working at sea. Psychological, medical and physiological services will help ease the burden faced by seafarers, while removed from land services. Health professionals will soon be travelling with seafarers,” said Ntuli.
Cadet program attracts attention
Industry stakeholders, however, challenged the government to rethink its cadet program in the light of the high drop-out rate as well as the lack of real opportunities that seem to actually exist for South African seafarers – many of whom remain unemployed after completing costly training.
The notion that these youngsters were being trained for failure was highlighted and debated at the session in Cape Town where honest and robust feedback delivered 10 key points to be addressed going forward.
Panellists and delegates highlighted the need for cadets to be more prepared for what they face at sea and what is expected of them under the Merchant Shipping Act. It was noted that the industry may have over-glamourised the opportunities presented by a career at sea in an attempt to encourage the youth to sign up to become seafarers.
Developing a ships’ registry
The option to address some of the issues currently being faced through the development of a more robust ships’ registry was also discussed, but represents a medium to long term solution.
Similarly, considerations around cabotage laws to favour South African manning of coastal vessels could alleviate some of the challenges being faced in placing seafarers. Maritime Review Africa