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Cape Town – A local Hout Bay fisherman has raised concerns about the working conditions and absence of a legal framework for informal fishermen.
After heading to sea on December 7, 2020, Mario Jacobs, 59, and another fisherman, were injured after the battery box broke, slightly injuring the two on board the vessel belonging to Nalitha Fishing Group
“In the morning, between 6am and 10am, the battery box broke from the wheelhouse, and another fisherman and I were injured, and the vessel was rendered unseaworthy because there was no navigational equipment working and the lights were off,” said Jacobs.
“The battery hit me on my back. It was in the box but it broke. It was quite a heavy weight. But I wasn’t seriously injured.”
Jacobs was put off from work until December 14.
Jacobs passed some blame on the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), responsible for issuing safety compliance certificates.
“They faltered there, because for a vessel to go to sea, you need a valid safety certificate to proceed to sea to harvest any fishing that has been from the Department of Fisheries. So they can’t give you a fishing permit unless you have a valid safety certificate. How can SAMSA issue a valid safety certificate to that company?” asked Jacobs.
Fishing since the age of 17, Jacobs said this was not something new and several people, and especially informal fishermen working on fishing vessels, were injured due to faulty equipment, and that there were no systems in place – in the informal fishing industry – to protect them.
He continued to work for the group until February 2021, and said he was later dismissed from work through a phone call, after he had gotten sick while on a fishing vessel.
Nalitha Fishing Group chief executive Bonga Mavume confirmed that the incident took place during a routine sea trial.
“At the time, our concern was the safety of the two contract employees, who were present when this unfortunate incident occurred. As a precautionary measure, these employees were referred to a local doctor for screening and received treatment,” said Mavume.
“The employees were subsequently assisted with completing a form for the Workmens Compensation Fund that the company subscribes to. The matter involving the outstanding compensation is presently with the Workmens Compensation Association, and is at an advanced stage,” said Mavume.
Mavume denied allegations made against the company, regarding the safety of its vessels.
“In line with our health and safety protocols and the Merchant Shipping Act, all our vessels are safe. Additionally, all seagoing staff undergo training in line with the maritime legislation,” said Mavume.
Meanwhile, SAMSA deputy principal officer Pierre Schutz said: “In terms of the Merchant Shipping Act, no vessel may proceed to sea unless valid certification is onboard. SAMSA surveys vessels annually and, if found satisfactory, vessels are issued with the required safety certificates.”