South African satellite helps protect from pirates

Installed as a contingency measure during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, a satellite navigation system has become a leading tool in the fight against piracy. The announcement was made in Durban by Karl Otto, Executive Head of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), during a conference of the Responsible Packaging Management Association of South Africa.

There is ever growing concern in regards to the risk of piracy in South African waters following Somali pirates having started to move ever further away from their bases. This has led to the South African Government deciding to send the navy vessel SAS Mendi to Mozambique to assist with patrols.

The need for greater surveillance of vessels in the region was prompted by the standard of shipping in South African waters, the volume of high danger level cargoes such as fuel and oils, as well as the threat of pollution.

During the conference Samsa CEO, Tsietsie Mokhele, expressed concerns that there will not be any changes to the piracy situation in Somalia until a series of issues have been properly addressed. The dumping of chemical waste is one such issue, Mokhele cited United Nations (UN) findings that indicate that a number of vessels from the Red Sea and the Mediterranean are dumping chemical waste in Somali waters undetected — there is no coast guard.

The chemical in question are killing the fish off the coast of Somalia and thus putting fishermen out of work, one of the factors cited by the UN as responsible for the surge in piracy.

According to Mr Otto, through its Centre for Sea Watch and Response, Samsa can identify and track vessels up to 1000 nautical miles away. Samsa’s long- range identification and tracking system can also follow South African flagged vessels anywhere in the world. Samsa’s Executive Head also told the conference that “until now, we had very limited capacity to identify, track and monitor beyond the horizon. Many ships have sailed our waters without our knowledge.” He added that South Africa had also been unable to identify and track vessels that might be transporting toxic or hazardous cargoes. Mr Otto also stated that over time the long-range identification and tracking system could be used to cove other African coastal.

Although under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea shipping enjoys unhindered passage through territorial waters, coastal states are required to protect their marine resources and to combat all forms of marine pollution.

Quade Corder, Chairman of the Responsible Packaging Management Association of Southern Africa, stated that improved environmental enforcement was required in order to prevent any further degradation of South Africa’s waters and rivers, adding chemical pollution was of particular concern.


Mark Lowe, Thursday 10 March 2011

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