Transport dept moots idea of SA maritime fleet

In a document tabled before Parliament, the CEO of the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), Tsietsi Mokhele, called for a policy framework to enable the establishment of both a coastal and a blue-water merchant fleet.

The meeting with Samsa followed a request by National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu who called for more information on where South Africa stood with regard to maritime affairs internationally.

Mokhele told Parliament’s transport portfolio committee that about 98 percent of South Africa’s total import and export trade was currently carried by foreign ships and currently South Africa does not have a single own-flagged commercial vessel on its shipping register,

“South Africa has no ships on its register and paid in 2007 about R37 billion in maritime transport services to foreign owners and operators and had approximately 12,000 vessels visiting the country’s eight commercial ports each year”, he said.

Some 264 million tons are moved by sea at an estimated cost of R45bn to the country, the committee heard, and in the BRICS group South Africa stood alone with no vessels whilst Brazil operated a fleet of 172 merchant vessels, India 534, China 2044 and Russia 1891.

“We are almost 100 percent dependent on foreign shipping to get our goods to market, despite South Africa being a maritime country, with over 3000km of coastline and a vast seaward economic exclusion zone.”

Mokhele told parliamentarians that the country’s sea-borne cargo constituted a “significant” 3.5 percent of global sea trade. “Yet all the benefits of shipping cost overheads to export destinations in the case of South Africa accrue to the nation from which the ship transport emanates “, he said.

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