The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) investigation into the near sinking of the small passenger vessel “Thandi”, on 15 September 2017, has been completed. Robben Island Museum (RIM), who charted the ferry to transport passengers to and from the Island, has commended SAMSA on their detailed and swift investigation.

“The report has helped us evaluate our current safety procedures and to provide an even better and safer experience for all the visitors to the Island,” says Mava Dada, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RIM. “Safety is and always has been our main priority. Based on the learnings highlighted in the report and our own internal assessment, we will be implementing a number of additional safety measures to further improve the current safety protocols,” adds Dada.

One of the key drivers that led to the incident was as a result of the weather conditions. To take even further precautions to the current weather assessment, RIM will install additional wind monitoring equipment on the Island so that actual wind conditions can be monitored in Cape Town and at Robben Island. RIM will also be appointing a Harbour Master for Murray’s Bay Harbour at Robben Island.  RIM will ensure and insist that all ferries are fitted with wind monitoring equipment, which will also be frequently monitored during trips.

As an additional precaution, RIM has updated its systems and processes for the monitoring of weather conditions and weather warnings. Steps have been taken to improve the frequency and quality of reports as well as the interactions with masters with regard to weather conditions. RIM are engaging with Transet National Port Authority to agree on added reporting processes.

Over and above the existing regulatory framework, which RIM already complies with, RIM will carry out additional assessments of all their vessels serving Robben Island; this is to affirm their suitability for continued operations, and to enhance safety measures as well as add to the comfort of passengers and crew.  These additional restrictions will apply to both the current vessels and any future vessels that RIM may engage or operate.

RIM will carry out further investigation into the type and characteristics of vessels that are sustainable, reliable and comfortable to provide a consistent passenger and crew experience in the unpredictable and sometimes severe weather conditions of Cape Town. RIM is determined to ensure that the vessels serving Robben Island are of a type, size and condition that supports the provision of a reliable, safe, comfortable and world class service to visitors.

There are a number of improvements and changes that RIM have already implemented. Visitors to and from the Island are scanned prior to the commencement of every voyage. Each visitor needs to show identification when boarding a ferry, a similar process as to when you board an aeroplane.

“We recognise and commend the recommendations made by SAMSA with regards to the possible changes to the regulations and legislation relating to passenger ferry operations, which will play a significant role in ensuring both higher quality vessels, as well as improved quality of operations.

“We assure visitors to Robben Island that the measures already in place, and the updated safety measures now being implemented are such that visitors are assured of the best possible safety standards on all our vessels,” concludes Dada.

‘’On the 15th September 2017 the small passenger vessel “Thandi”, a third party owned and operated vessel chartered by RIM to ferry passengers, took on water after departure from Robben Island, resulting in difficulties which prompted the master to request urgent assistance from emergency services, with the ultimate safe evacuation of all passengers and crew. All passengers and crew were safely transported back to Cape Town.

Thandi is not currently in commission.

For more information on Robben Island and daily tours, please visit www.robben-island.org.za