South Africa’s new bunkering and ship-to-ship transfer codes of practice out for public comment: SAMSA

Pretoria: 08 November 2021

Current and aspirational bunkering and ship-to-ship transfer services providers in South Africa will have the next three weeks beginning this Monday to peruse and offer comments on the country’s proposed new bunkering and ship-to-ship transfer codes of practice, according to a public notice issued by the South African Maritime Safety Authority at the weekend.

The Marine Information Notice, according to the agency, “…serves to inform the general public and maritime stakeholders that SAMSA in collaboration with the Department of Transport and Transnet National Ports Authority have drafted a Bunkering Code of Practice and a Ship to Ship Transfer (STS) Code of Practice for purposes of bunkering and cargo transfers in the Republic of South Africa.

“The purpose of this Bunkering Code of Practice and Ship to Ship Transfer (STS) Code of Practice is to provide the framework for those involved in such operations, useful guidelines and an outline of the requirements for those involved in such operations. The codes also promote Maritime Industry Development for the benefit of South Africans which includes the employment of South African seafarers and developing the South African Ship Register,” says SAMSA in the notice.

South Africa currently has five bunker suppliers proper (excluding traders and companies only involved in deliveries), Shell, BP, Astron, Engen and FFS, and five bunker operators within the country’s ports, namely: AMSOL, Linsen Nambi, Minerva, South African Marine Fuels and Heron Marine.- the last three operating off the Algoa Bay coastline of the Indian Ocean.

Publication of the codes comes about as offshore bunkering services in particular are establishing a permanent presence especially on the coastline around Algoa Bay nearby the two ports in Gqeberha: the port of Port Elizabeth and port of Ngqurha.

The establishment of the offshore bunkering services in the area four years ago sparked a lot of controversy involving environmentalists concerned about the impacts of oil spillages in the area with possibly highly devastating effects to the environment and life both at sea and on adjacent coastal areas.

In fact, those fears were virtually realised in 2019 after a reportedly early morning bunkering incident led to spillage of between 200-400 liters of fuel into the ocean. Notwithstanding, and fully cognizant of the dangers, according to SAMSA, South Africa also realises the vast economic opportunity presented by the country’s geographic position at the foot of the African continent.

SAMSA states: “South Africa is the gateway to Southern Africa and has a well-developed port network. Additionally, and owing to its geographical and strategic position, approximately 1500 vessels traverse the South African EEZ every day, with 90% of them on passage, and therefore not calling at any of the South African ports. Most popular routes are East West – primarily the oil trade to North West Europe and the USA and West East, (involving) bulk carriers to China and oil from West Africa, as well as container ships in both directions.

“SAMSA, working with partners and industry, is committed to contribute towards South Africa unlocking the potential of the ocean economy through bunkering, including satisfying the following inclusive growth imperatives: localisation, transformation, development and growth of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), maritime capacity development and job creation (and) social cohesion and nation building.”

According to SAMSA, the same is true of ship-to-ship services and which encompass broadly, a whole set of value added services including fuel suppliers, hull cleaning, ship agency, lube oil traders, oil spill response, ship chandlers, launch operations, bunker surveying, crew change, hospitality (Guest houses and Hotels), provisions, spares, diving, seafarer employment, ship ownership,
bunker traders and slops / sludge disposal.

The proposed code of practice states in part that: “Conducting bunkering operations systematically and carefully in accordance with the requirements contained in this Code taking into account legislation as detailed in Chapter 9 of this code, requirements and the relevant parts of International publications, namely ISGOTT and the Ship to Ship Transfer Guide, should ensure that such operations are conducted in a safe manner.

SAMSA says the proposed code, put together with contribution from the International Bunker Industy Association (IBIA), consists of the requirements for obtaining approval and recommendations by SAMSA “in the interests of maintaining good operating practice in South African waters and reflects world best practice.”

“The principal objective is to ensure that bunkering operations are conducted with zero harm to the marine environment. This code details the requirements for accomplishing safe bunkering operations and in turn support commercial marine activity.”

Relating specifically to the economic objectives of the code, says SAMSA, the bunker operators are required to develop their own Maritime Industry Development Plan (MIDP), as part of their submission, which must be in line with the principles of the comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy (CMTP) and adhere to the vision, mission and goals as detailed in the document.

“The MIDP must facilitate the development of the sector by, among other things;

  • Promoting equitable access and participation of Black South Africans in the entire maritime value chain;
  • Deracialize enterprise ownership, control, skilled occupations and management of existing and new maritime enterprise;
  • Unlocking the full entrepreneurial skills and potential of Black South Africans in the sector;
  • Facilitating structural changes in maritime support systems and development initiatives to assist Black South Africans in owning, establishing, participating in and running offshore bunkering enterprises;
  • Socially uplifting and restoring the dignity of Black South Africans within the sector;
  • Increasing the extent to which communities, workers, co-operatives and other collective enterprises own and manage existing and new offshore bunkering enterprises, increasing their access to economic activities, infrastructure and skills training;
  • Increasing the extent to which Black South African women, people living with disabilities and youth own and manage existing and new enterprises, increasing their access to economic activities, infrastructure and skills training; and
  • Empowering rural and local communities to have access to maritime infrastructure, ownership and skills

SAMSA states that application of the code once operational, shall be characterised by consistency, objectivity and timeliness. “This code will be applied consistently. Each application received will be treated fairly with the sole objectivity of ensuring that approved operations will be conducted in a safe manner and protecting the marine environment from any harm.

“The application received will be dealt with as swiftly as practical, subject to all required information being submitted and any request for additional information is promptly provided. However, where the Authority has determined that certain areas/locations are deemed unsuitable for particular types of operations, the Authorities decision will be binding and no applications or supporting evidence will be accepted.

“The number of Operators may be limited in certain geographical areas, based on an area risk assessment including but not limited to, available anchorage areas, TNPA licencing conditions, weather, number of incidents, vessel size limitations, environmental risks, etc. If the limit, as established, by the Authority has been reached no further application will be considered by the Authority,” says SAMSA

Interested persons may submit written comments on these draft Codes on or before the 8th December 2021 to the Chief Executive Officer: SAMSA via email to

Electronic copies of both the Bunkering Code of Practice and Ship to Ship Transfer (STS) Code of Practice are available on the South African Maritime Safety Authority website or alternately may be requested by an email sent to