Visit by specialised agency to audit SA's marine operations is a huge milestone |Chikunga.
By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga has officially welcomed the International Maritime Organisation audit team.
The team is in the country to conduct a mandatory audit under the IMO's Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS).
Speaking at Monday's opening meeting in Cape Town, Chikunga described the gathering as a milestone as the country forges ahead with upholding international standards and compliance in maritime operations.
The International Maritime Organisation, which South Africa became a member of in 1995, is a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) responsible for regulating and promoting responsible shipping on a global scale.
South Africa's participation in the IMO, enables the country to contribute to the development of international maritime policies and standards, mainly related to maritime safety, pollution prevention and the welfare of seafarers.
"South Africa also benefits from IMO initiatives that support capacity building, technical assistance and development in the maritime sector."
The IMO's audit scheme has created a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and implemented. It also promotes a safe and secure environment and efficient and sustainable shipping.
During this audit, the Minister said key areas will be scrutinised, ranging from ship safety and security to environmental protection measures.
"South Africa's focus is on fostering compliance with the international maritime conventions and how it meets those obligations, ensuring that our practices align with global standards set by [the] IMO."
South Africa has since reviewed the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy, while some key pieces of legislation are under review and will soon be enacted.
These include the Merchant Shipping Act, the Marine Pollution Bill and the Oil Pollution Preparedness Response and Cooperation Bill.
The Minister believes that the legislative process is critical to giving full effect to the convention by accelerating adoption, incorporation into national laws, and development of regulations to mainstream implementation and enforcement of IMO instruments in South African territorial waters.
The commencement of the IMSAS audit comes after it was postponed due to the aftermath impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. The audit will begin with preparatory work by all entities with the mandate on maritime policy, legislation and operations.
"A pre-audit questionnaire and an exercise were completed to collect and verify documents and all that is left is for the auditors to satisfy themselves on the audit requirements and completeness of South Africa's compliance to international rules and standards."
This will be followed by a preliminary audit outcome report, expected to be submitted at the end of the week-long undertaking.
The team will audit the Department of Transport and its implementing agency and the maritime administration, South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA.
They will also assess the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre supported by Telkom on radio communications, Transnet National Ports Authority, the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment, the South African Weather Services and the South African Navy Hydrography Office.