It is with tremendous shock and dismay to discover that the Robben Island ferry service may have been operating outside of South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) regulation, including faulty ferry, Thandi, which capsized on 15 September this year.
According to these regulations, it is expected of all ship owners to compile a list of passengers boarding a vessel, a copy of which must be left with the harbour master upon departure.
The fact that RIM is only now enforcing a regulation, which necessitates prospective visitors to present a form of identification for ticket bookings in order for a ferry passenger list to be compiled, may indicate that since 1996, ferry operations have been conducted outside of the safety regulations put into place by SAMSA to protect the lives of passengers who visit the island.
I have written to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to make a request for the investigative report into this incident to be released to the committee as a matter of urgency.
This is perhaps why RIM, during a briefing to the Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism, and Agriculture on the 4th of October 2017, was unable to produce a passenger list for Thandi pending the vessel’s capsize. RIM was in possession of a list of ticket purchases for the day, but not a detailed passenger list of the ferry in question.
This also explains the initial uncertainty surrounding the number of passengers on Thandi at the time of the incident.
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an international tourist attraction visited by some 370 000 people every year, we must protect Robben Island and the much needed jobs in the tourist sector that it creates for our people. The severe mismanagement of the island and its services by the ANC are a further indication that the management of the island must be moved under provincial mandate.
As the DA in the Western Cape, we will continue to pursue this matter in the interests of passenger safety moving forward, and to ensure that Robben Island receives the world class ferry service that it so rightly deserves.
Beverley Schäfer, MPP
Standing Committee Chairperson on Economic Opportunities, Tourism, and Agriculture
DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Economic Opportunities, Tourism, and Agriculture