New Merchant Shipping Bill under spotlight

New Merchant Shipping Bill under spotlight

DoT hosts public consultation roadshow on new Merchant Shipping Bill

SOUTH AFRICA: The National Department of Transport (DoT) is currently hosting a roadshow to engage with maritime stakeholders on the new Merchant Shipping Bill that now awaits public comment before undergoing the process of promulgation.

The meaty draft Merchant Shipping Bill aims to effectively repeal the Merchant Shipping Act of 1951, the Marine Traffic Act of 1981 as well as the Ship Registration Act of 1998.

It is therefore anticipated that the more than 400-page document is likely to draw significant comment from a wide spectrum of industry sectors ahead of the promulgation process.

While attendance at the Johannesburg and Cape Town sessions has been low, some stakeholders say that the document deserves significant scrutiny and question whether it will pass in its current form.

Speaking philosophically about the new Bill, Dumisani Ntuli, Chief Director for Policy and Legislation at the DoT, said that it lays the foundation for the future of the maritime industry and is informed by the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy (CMTP).

“It is our current duty to consult on the document with industry,” he told stakeholders in Cape Town yesterday, adding that the Department’s intention was to create a product that was owned by the entire sector.

Noting that the country’s future economic growth would be underpinned by an inclusive maritime sector, Ntuli said that legislation should not be drafted at the expense of the nation and with narrow interests in mind.

“South Africa needs to play a role in shipping transport in terms of its exports and imports,” he said alluding to the need for additional tonnage on the South African ships’ registry.

To this end, the new Merchant Shipping Bill seeks to re-integrate the Ship Registration Act and makes for a number of new provisions in this regard including:

  • The CEO of SAMSA will become the Ships’ Registrar
  • The introduction of a tonnage based ship registration fee system
  • Mortgage as a security for a loan
  • Mortgagee will not be deemed the owner of the ship
  • Mortgagee has absolute power to dispose of the ship or share subject to a limitation where there must be concurrence with other mortgagees.

Coastal shipping

The inclusion of a regulated coastal shipping regime in the document should not come as much of a surprise. The Bill states; “No ship, other than a South African owned ship, is permitted to engage in coastwise traffic for the conveyance of goods between ports in the Republic.”

It further states that ships engaged in coastal shipping need to apply for a licence to do so and that this licence will be issued for a period of ten years.

If and when this comes into effect, foreign vessels will need to choose one port of call in South Africa to offload all cargo destined for South Africa irrespective of its ultimate destination within the country. Ntuli says that this will help stimulate opportunities for local shipowning along the country’s coast – and ultimately within the SADC region.

It is also viable, however, that cargo may not be transhipped via a coastal shipping network and may end up being diverted to trucks and rail for onward moving. Ntuli conceded that more studies relating to the implications for ports and logistics will need to be undertaken to ensure adequate planning in this regard – and highlights that a cabotage regime could only be fully implemented over a number of years.

Seafarer employment

Another section of the document that will probably receive significant scrutiny is the chapter relating to seafarers. Given the global nature of the shipping sector, provision for seafarers to access the CCMA and the Labour court as well as the legal right to strike will draw some comment from industry.

Some discussion from the floor at yesterday’s session in Cape Town highlighted a few grey areas that will necessarily need to be addressed in terms of wording specifically relating to discipline and offences.

Towards promulgation

Stakeholders will now have the opportunity to submit official comments on the draft legislation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Government Gazette.  These comments will be reviewed over the period of one month after the submission deadline and the revised Bill, along with the comments, is likely to be sent to State advisors by the end of June.

The advisors will have at least 40 days to consider the revisions and the comments before the document is passed on to the Director General Cluster and finally to cabinet.

According to Ntuli, the Bill will reach cabinet by October or November this year and will only be tendered to parliament in early 2021.

Considering the broad scope of the Bill that aims to repeal three previous Acts in full – industry will have to muster effectively to ensure that the final product meets the needs of current and the future potential landscape envisioned for the maritime industry.


  • 13 March: Mossel Bay
  • 18 March: Port Elizabeth/East London
  • 20 March: Richards Bay
  • 24 March: Durban
  • 26 March: Northern Cape
  • 27 March: Saldanha Bay
  • 31 March: Pretoria




Terms Of UsePrivacy StatementCopyright 2022 by More Maximum Media
Back To Top