Western Cape legislature slams 'gross negligence' in Robben Island ferry sinking after report

2017-11-28 19:28
NSRI rescuing people from the sinking Robben Island ferry. (File photo, Twitter)

NSRI rescuing people from the sinking Robben Island ferry. (File photo, Twitter)

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Cape Town – The Western Cape legislature has criticised the "gross negligence and maladministration" revealed in a report into the partial sinking of a chartered Robben Island ferry in choppy seas and high winds while carrying more than 60 passengers in September.

The legislature has also sought legal advice as it wants to push ahead with an independent investigation into the incident.

On Tuesday, News24 reported that a preliminary South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) report into the partial sinking of the ferry had found that neither the skipper, vessel owner or Robben Island Museum had monitored the weather forecast or taken weather conditions into account.

It also found that there were conflicting statements on whether a safety briefing was held before the ferry left the island.

The skipper said a crew member had given the briefing, but the crew member denied this and passengers also said there had been no briefing.

READ: Robben Island ferry sinking: No one checked the weather, Samsa finds

On September 15, the weather changed suddenly and the Thandi started to sink about 3km from the V&A Waterfront, with 64 passengers and five crew members aboard.

A dramatic rescue operation was launched and everyone was brought safely ashore.

'Gross negligence and maladministration'

On Tuesday, Beverley Schäfer, chairperson of the Western Cape provincial parliament's standing committee on economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture, said Samsa's report "clearly highlights allegations of gross negligence and maladministration by the Robben Island Museum ferry service".

"The committee has sought legal advice with the view to launch an independent investigation into this matter," she said.

"We will reconvene in early February 2018 to plot the way forward with regard to this incident."

In October the committee expressed its frustration at the news that while the investigation into the partial sinking of the ferry would be concluded within a week, it would be a while before its results were released.

'Constrained investigation'

The Samsa report said that the investigation into the partial sinking of the Thandi "was constrained by the large workload of the Cape Town office".

Schäfer said the report revealed how "worryingly limited" Samsa's investigative capabilities were in Cape Town.

"This further warrants an independent investigation into Thandi to resolve the revelations of gross negligence and maladministration by the Robben Island Museum," she said.

The Samsa report had also found that no records of people who came aboard the vessel were kept.

It said the final passenger list was only provided by the Robben Island Museum on September 20 – five days after the incident.

Questions about awarded tenders

Schäfer said the report raised questions about how the Robben Island Museum was allowed to use ferries when it did not meet tender requirements and Samsa specifications dealing with passenger ferries.

"This begs the question as to whether previous tender awarding for Robben Island has been compromised," she said.

"The ferry disaster threatens to tarnish the reputation of Western Cape tourism at large, upon which thousands of our residents rely for employment."

In September News24 reported the Robben Island Museum appeared to have overlooked a warning contained in one of its own reports that the Thandi should "only be used in fine weather conditions".

EXCLUSIVE: Robben Island Museum 'not aware' of its own weather warning for ferry that nearly sunk

Asked at the time about the report, Regine le Roux, speaking on behalf of the museum, said: "We [are] not aware of this."

This report, a proposal request for a new high-speed passenger ferry, is available on the government's online tenders site and is dated 2016.

Read more on:    cape town  |  tourism

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