Licensing of paddle craft and river leaders

SAMSA logoA new situation has developed in the paddling industry, with an agreement concluded between the African Paddling Association (APA) and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA). A notice issued by the marine authority (4MB) outlines what is to happen. Basically the agreement provides for the official regulator, SAMSA, to licence river craft at fees far less than would have been charged to individual boat owners. The notice also provides for Trip Leaders to be formally recognised through APA. River operators are required to join APA to gain the cost savings and to accept the standards set by APA.

  • Important is that SAMSA inspectors may need to acquaint themselves with the nature of our industry, the boating craft, the whitewater challenges and the way of working. We aren’t on the sea or lagoons (or not very much) and our skills and rivercraft are highly specialised for inland waterways that move!

The agreement and official notice set a precedent for outdoor adventures on water. By recognising APA and endorsing the right of the association to register and represent all operators, the marine authority has acknowledged the importance of voluntary associations that regulate their own affrighttop_crocodileairs. It has been a hard struggle in South Africa to bring official bodies around to this open attitude.

The annual licensing process will entail numbering every boat and paying a fee of R780 an hour (by perhaps 2 hours) for the official inspection. Operators are warned not to show any boats that are not in fact working on the water. They must also comply with certain other equipment requirements and show that they are c0rrectly set up for operations.

The APA and SAMSA deserve congratulations for working through what must have been detailed and difficult issues. The emphasis on safety, good practice and accountability among paddling operators is indeed welcome and long overdue for official endorsement. It should help to promote a far better professional image for the industry and boost research, marketing and co-operation.

The Operating Standards for Flatwater and Swiftwater and the Safety Briefing (included in the marine notice) are a major step in the right direction, requiring compliance (at long last) with professional standards. Codes of  Safety and Practice have remained virtually unchanged since  the late 1990s and will now have official status.

As a service provider to guides and operators, Adventure Standards Africa (ASA) is taking detailed legal advice on aspects of the agreement and marine notice and will report back to you. We are available to provide advice and insight into the industry.

– Graeme Addison

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