On Friday 15 September 2017, Thandi, one of Robben Island Museum’s (RIM) chartered passenger ferries, experienced trouble during its return trip to Cape Town. Once Port Control received the distress call from the ferry, Port Control immediately implemented emergency procedures, along with notifying the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) to get everyone back to shore safely.

“Due to the quick response and effective communication from all parties involved all 64 passengers and five crew members were returned safely to Cape Town. I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the NSRI, ER24, V&A Waterfront, all other emergency services and the RIM team for their quick response to the scene and for a successful rescue operation,” says Mava Dava, CEO of RIM.

RIM undertakes daily consultations with their ferry masters as a part of their stringent sea safety protocols. This is done to assess the condition and to make calls to determine whether a ferry should proceed to or from the island. The consultation on Friday confirmed that the forecast for the day was not a reason for concern. However the weather is very unpredictable and the strong winds soon caused unplanned adverse conditions that exceeded that of the forecast.

“We have risk mitigation plans in place that account for critical situations such as this,” says Dada. Once the alarm had been raised all the passengers were informed, fitted with life jackets and directed to the evacuation section on board before being picked up by the NSRI’s rescue vessels. “The success of having no casualties means that our current risk mitigation plans are working,” adds Dada.

“The safety of our passengers has always been a key priority for us. A strict requirement for any chartered ferry to conduct business with RIM is for the vessel to have a maintenance plan or maintenance schedule to ensure all machinery and equipment are always in perfect running condition, they are also required to have all the safety certificates for the vessels,” says Sandresan Thandroyan, Senior Manager Ferry Operations, Robben Island Museum. In addition to strict maintenance requirements all vessels  need to go through RIM’s mandatory safety briefing before carrying passengers to and from Robben Island.

Following this incident RIM have initiated an internal investigation which will determine the cause of the incident. South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) will also be conducting an investigation; RIM will support them throughout the process.

It is business as usual. The trips to Robben Island are continuing.

For more information about the daily tours, please visit http://www.robben-island.org.za/.