Transport Minister announces reviewal of restrictions at SA ports

Pretoria: 31 March 2020

Following to concerns and consultations between Government, industry and affected parties, the Department of Transport has announced relaxation of some of the strict restrictions on maritime sector activities, particularly around the country’s ports.

The revised measures aimed at alleviating pressure on particularly trade goods movement and handling as well as personnel such as ships crews were announced by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a new Marine Notice 21 issued in Ptetoria on Tuesday, as approved by the Department of Transport recently.

DOTIn particular, the Marine Notice addresses such issues as crew changes at the country’s commercial ports, revised regulations on the management of cargo vessels as well as the loading and off loading of cargo, all of which faced tough measures before, some of which included an outright ban.

According to SAMSA in the notice, these tough measures had come about as a result of the spread of the corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic globally following its outbreak in China in December 2019.

SAMSA states: “On 23 March 2020, the President of the Republic (of South Africa) declared a lockdown, effective from 23:59 on Thursday, 26 March 2020, for a period of 21 days, to stop the spread of the COVID-19 corona virus until 23:59 on Thursday, 16 April 2020. 

SAMSA Master Logo“In compliance with the lockdown, the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) has sent out numerous communications on how the ports will be operating during this period.”

Following the revision of the tough restrictions since put in place at the outset of the national lockdown, SAMSA confirmed the following were now effective:

  • All South African ports remain open for port operations
  • Cargo operations will continue in all ports
  • Stevedore operations will continue in all ports and
  • All types of cargo will be allowed to be loaded and off loaded (and not just essential cargo).

According to SAMSA: “The Department of Transport recognises that there have been numerous instructions distributed by various entities, causing confusion amongst various entities, service providers and shipping companies. The Department of Transport would therefore like to clarify all requirements during the lockdown period as follows.

SOUTH AFRICAN PORTS

DSC_8149All South African Commercial Ports will remain operational for Cargo Work. These are Cape Town, Saldanha, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Port of Ngqura, East London, Durban,  and Richards Bay.

CARGO OPERATIONS

DSC_0872Following on the initial announcement by the President, there have been changes such as the enablement of the mining companies to approach their regulator Ministry on an individual basis and seek authorisation to continue operations, albeit on a limited basis.

Government has now decided that in the interest of ensuring a functional supply chain across all ports, that all cargoes will be accepted for loading and off-loading. Where possible, essential goods should receive preferential treatment over non-essential goods.

Transnet will be in a position to communicate which of its operations will be reactivated with the relevant customers and logistics partners.

Transnet will reactivate certain of its operations, these would be at a reduced level and not full capacity. The reactivated operations will be dictated to by the applicable regulatory framework, national priorities and contribution to the health of the economy and Transnet’s ability to deploy its resources, having regard to people safety, which is of paramount importance.

Transnet’s current priorities, in addition to all the essential services previously communicated, are: .

  • The integrated container logistics system mainly around the Port of Durban and the link to the economic hub in Gauteng – ensuring that the complex system remains efficient to enable the movement of priority and essential containerized goods; this includes the movement of non-essential cargo to City Deep, only for purposes of decongesting the Port of Durban, .
  • The heavy haul rail and ports export system from the Northern Cape to the Port of Saldanha; and .
  • The domestic and export Coal and other GFB cargo through the Port of Richards Bay.

All other specific approvals granted by Government, which are dependent on the rest of the South African rail and ports system will be considered on a case by case basis, and our ability to respond responsibly will be communicated directly to customers making applications based on Government approvals granted.

Customers are to ensure thatall applications and evidence of approvals are submitted to the Transnet Customer Nerve Center via email at transnet.cnc@transnet.net

Commodity managers and key account executives normally dealing with each customer remains the primary point of contact and channel of communication with all our customers.

STEVEDORING OPERATIONS

DSC_8531The provision of Transnet’s service is subject to customers and their cargo handlers/siding operators taking necessary measures to protect Transnet staff who interface with their operations.

All port personnel (both Transnet, private stevedoring and any other category of employees) must have access to hygiene services, e.g. sanitation, soap and water which each employer shall cause to be provided together with standard operating procedures to ensure the highest hygiene practices.

This therefore means strict adherence to health and safety protocols will not be compromised. Customers must provide Transnet with the Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and update Transnet daily on the status of their employees.

VESSEL OPERATIONS

DSC_5977Masters are to ensure that where possible the following standards are adhered to by the ship’s officers and ratings:

  1. Social Distancing maintained (between 1-2 meters between persons) .
  2. Crew to follow hand hygiene protocols i.e. regular washing of hands (20 seconds or more) .
  3. Personal Protective Equipment to be utilised i.e. Face Masks, Gloves, Boiler Suites, Disposable Boiler Suits (where possible), Safety Boots, Hard Hats, Safety Glasses .
  4. Any medical condition that develops during the ports stay are to be reported to Port Health immediately, focusing specifically on the following symptoms:
  • Dry Cough
  • Consistent Fever (>38.5°C)
  • Difficulty in Breathing (severe cases)
  • Tiredness

If any crew member displays these symptoms, they are to be immediately isolated until advised otherwise by Port Health. Failure to comply may result in unduly delays to vessels in port or prevent cargo operations from continuing.

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE MARITIME NATIONAL JOINT OPERATIONS COMMITTEE (MNJOC) FOR THE COORDINATION OF THE MARITIME SECTOR DURING THE COVID 19 DISASTER MANAGEMENT

The Department of Transport has established a Maritime National Joint Operations Committee in order to coordinate the maritime sector for the period of the COVID 19 Disaster Management.

The MNJOC is linked to the National Command Council and comprises the following entities; Department of Transport, Transnet National Ports Authority, SAMSA and Ports Regulator

All queries related to the maritime sector during this period can be addressed to: mnjoc@samsa.org.za

(For the full and complete Marine Notice 21: 2020 please click the following link: http://www.samsa.org.za/Pages/Marine-Notices.aspx?RootFolder=%2FMarine%20Notices%2F2020&FolderCTID=0x0120003FE4AD37303F0248BE054A403FCF70C5&View=%7BF8CE201C%2DE919%2D4C08%2DB8DC%2DD9DD160A2FA2%7D)

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SA ship registry continue facing headwinds: SAMSA

Pretoria: 17 December 2019

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has expressed regret and disappointment that growth of the South African Ship Registry is failing to gather speed, this due partly to lack of common vision and understanding among State entities.

SAMSA Board Member, Ms Sekabiso Molemane told maritime sector stakeholders during a regular briefing in Durban last week that the organisation had failed to reach targets for ship registration under the South African flag that it has set itself two years ago, adding that this was both ‘deeply disappointing” and “regrettable.’

DSC_9665 (2)
Ms Sekabiso Molemane. SAMSA Board Member

Ms Molemane described it as highly significant that private sector industries had been highly supportive of the Department of Transport’s agency, SAMSA, in its endeavours and instead, the greatest challenges seemed to emanate largely from lack of support by other State agencies; among them the South African Revenue Services.

Both Ms Molemane and SAMSA acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi went to great detail explaining how the poverty of support from other fellow State agencies or government was negatively affecting SAMSA’s efforts to develop and grow the SA Ship Registry.

She said: “We started the year with enthusiasm, hoping that by this time we’d maybe have 15 ships in our register…and we’d have addressed issues of tariffs. But disappointingly, we are still where we were two years ago.

“It is heartbreaking that, because when we consult with industry and we say we have a situation, it (industry) says, we are here to support you. But unfortunately we have challenges somewhere else. Somewhere else, where we are supposed to unlock, it’s always locked. It is either a change of Ministers, or it is something else. One thing I could not  say though is that the industry failed us. I’d be lying,” Ms Molemane.

She added that the ship registry development was not the only one suffering lack of progress due to poverty of Government and State institutions’ support, but also systems development at SAMSA that both the agency and industry had identified as necessary to strengthen the effective performance of the organisation.

As a direct consequence, she said; issues that could be dealt with in a short period of time, sometimes took longer than necessary for SAMSA to deliver on. Even so, she told maritime sector stakeholders present at the function that: “Let’s not lose heart. Let’s hope that the best will come.”

For her full remarks, click on the video below.

Meanwhile, the South African Association of Ship Owners and Agencies (SAASOA), decried what it described as poor progress being made towards enhancing the country’s major ports cargo handling capabilities, citing a seeming apparent indifference by port authorities in addressing the matter.

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Mr Peter Besnard. Chief Executive Officer: SAASOA

SAASOA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Peter Besnard said it was now a matter of public record that the country’s ports poor cargo handling was a problem and which had surfaced as far as back as 2014.

He said: “Without a doubt, it is not something that has happened overnight. It has build up over time and I can safely say it started in 2014. But it appears to be overlooked or ignored and the situation has simply worsened. It is not a situation that can be sorted out overnight. It will certainly take a few years and a lot of money to get us back on track to where we were before.”

For Mr Besnard’s full remarks on the subject, click on the video below:

Also sharing some insights into the country’s trade ports state as well as an overview on recent and current developments was Mr Mahesh Fakir, the country’s Ports Regulator.

Fakir 2019.jpg
Mr Mahesh Fakir. SA Ports Regulator.

According to Mr Fakir, a major highlight on tariffs this year was a 20% reduction on export containers which he described as intended to enhance the competitiveness of local goods in international market even as it would impact overall revenue for ports authorities.

“It (reduction) gives the country that ability to go out there and face the international market at a lower price, and that’s what the country needs as a shot in the arm to take this economy forward,” he said.

Mr Fakir said he believed that the country’s ports could perform even much better in cargo handling than is currently the case, were certain configurations to be made to improve them.

He cited a Colombian model he and senior officials of both SAMSA and the Department of Transport recently observed while attending the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Assembly Parallel Event in October 2019.

He described it as a model featuring partial ownership of ports by the State and the private sector – the latter involving individuals in areas where ports are situated.

For his full views on the matter click on the video below.

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