Ships in dangerous condition in South Africa

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At the end of February I spent a week in Cape Town, South Africa. It was a fantastic place in many ways, but it also has a port where a lot of tonnage in very bad condition arrives. During my visit there, among other people I met inspector Azwimmbavhi Muladzi, who works at the South African shipping authority, SAMSA. He has a theory that shipping companies use their newer, better ships for traffic to and from Europe, and when they start to get old and worn they are used in traffic to Africa. Inspections by authorities along the African coast are, according to Azwimmbavhi, largely non-existent in many countries. Another person in Cape Town who meets seafarers in the risk zone is the ITF inspector, Cassiem Augustus. He tells me about hopeless living conditions, maltreatment and even cases where seafarers have disappeared without a trace at sea. The worst conditions are in fishing fleets, where seafarers work seven days a week, 18 hours a day for over a year before they come ashore. Now and then desperate seafarers contact Cassiem and he often makes inspections on ships. But during the last few years it has become increasingly difficult for him to do his work. The state-owned port has engaged a private security company to take care of security in the area, and they do not want to allow ITF in. As a result, Cassiem is forced to request a police escort to enter the port area. The police are willing to provide this, but the new security procedure is difficult for them and for Cassiem. We can only hope that the Marine Labour Convention that comes into force in August will be a small step in the right direction, and mean that seafarers around the world can have a better life.

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