The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), published Marine Notice 21, dated 31 March 2020, which contains Directions issued by the Minister of Transport in terms of Regulation 10(7) of the Lockdown Regulations to deal with the movement of cargo in and out of South Africa's 8 commercial ports. The Government has recognised the challenges being faced by stakeholders in the supply chain and has published these Directions "in the interest of ensuring a functional supply chain across all portsthat all cargoes will be accepted for loading and off-loading and where possible essential goods shouldreceive preferential treatment over non-essential goods".
The Directions recognise that numerous instructions have been distributed by various entities, which has caused widespread uncertainty and confusion amongst service providers and shipping companies and that these Directions are issued to clarify all requirements during the lockdown period.
Notably, "Transnet will reactivate certain of its operations, these would be at a reduced level and not full capacity". In addition all stevedoring operations will continue in ports. This gives the impression that the intention of the Directions is to allow for the normalisation of operations albeit at reduced levels to allow for the free movement of non-essential goods in and out of the ports.
However, in relation to the Port of Durban we note that non-essential goods may only be transported as far as the depot at City Deep and only for the purpose of decongesting the Port. This appears to settle the question in relation to Durban as to whether non-essential cargo will be allowed to be delivered to its destination. We wait to hear from the joint command centres established in the various commercial ports for specific directions with regard to those ports, however, we caution that it is unlikely that the position will be different in the other ports. We also, await an amendment to the Regulations to provide legal certainty.
Operation of Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) during lockdown
In addition to the Directions issued by the Minister, Transnet recently published measures to be implemented by TPT and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA).
TPT will prioritise essential services as defined by the government and will facilitate imports and exports of containers as allowed. Where possible, essential goods such as reefer containers will receive preferential treatment over non-essential goods.
Operations at TPT relating to mineral-mining commodities will operate on a schedule based on demand from mining customers who have successfully applied and been given approval by the Department of Mineral Resources.
Each vessel will be required to provide a mandatory import evacuation plan prior to berthing, to maintain stack fluidity during this period. This plan must be honoured in order to avoid the severe consequence of the terminal being blocked out during this period.
TPT requires all clearance and assignment of containers prior to berthing. It will remain the responsibility of the shipping line to evacuate said containers to a suitable facility within the free period.
With regard to imported containers of cargo owners who have halted their operations due to the lockdown, shipping lines/freight forwarders will be tasked with moving the containers to a depot or bonded warehouse.
Measures implemented by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA)
In support of the overall Transnet strategy TNPA have introduced measures which will see the continued manning of Port Control on a 24hr basis so as to ensure the continued safe navigation of vessels.