Archives For Trade Corridors

Mozambique flagThe Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI) recently published a communication informing it’s stakeholders about the Single Road Cargo Manifest as received from the Mozambican Revenue Authority (MRA).

The MRA has informed MCLI that the 2nd phase of the Single Road Cargo Manifest process will come into effect from the 16th of June 2017, when all international road carriers transporting goods to Mozambique through the Ressano Garcia border post will be required to submit the Road Cargo Manifest on the Single Electronic Window platform in compliance with national and international legislation. MRA Service Order Nr 17/AT/DGA/2017, in both Portuguese and English, is attached for your consideration.

For information and full compliance by all members of staff of this service, both (National and Foreign) International Cargo Carriers, Clearing Agents, Business Community, Intertek and other relevant stakeholders, within the framework of the ongoing measures with a view to adequate procedures related to the submission of the road cargo manifest, for goods imported through the Ressano Garcia Border Post, in strict compliance to both the national and international legislations, it is hereby announced that, the pilot process for transfer of competencies in preparation and submission of the road cargo manifest to Customs from the importer represented by his respective Clearing Agent to the Carrier is in operation since December 2016.

Indeed, the massification process will take place from 15th of April 2017 to 15th of June 2017, a period during which all international carriers (national and foreign) who use the Ressano Garcia Border, are by this means notified to register themselves for the aforementioned purposes following the procedures attached herewith to the present Service Order.

As of 16th of June 2017, the submission of the road cargo manifest into the Single Electronic Window (SEW) for the import regime, at Ressano Garcia Border, shall be compulsory and must be done by the carrier himself.

International road carriers must therefore register for a NUIT number with the Mozambican Revenue Authority between the 15th of April and the 15th of June 2017 and the necessary application form is included. Road carriers are urged to do so as soon as possible to enable the continued smooth flow of goods through the border post.

Specific details can be found here! 

Source: MCLI

The UK’s Daily Mail  reports the arrival of a freight train in east London has marked a new era for the 2,000-year-old trading route. It is the first freight train service from China to the UK. The route known as the ‘Silk Road’ once helped bring a wealth of goods from China to Europe.

The train pulled in to Barking after an 18-day journey from Yiwu, a wholesale market town in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. It had passed through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, finally crossing under the English Channel into Britain.

Laden with 68 twenty-foot equivalent containers, the train brought in a cargo of small commodities including household items, clothes, fabrics, bags, and suitcases.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, also known as The Belt and Road (abbreviated B&R), One Belt, One Road (abbreviated OBOR) or the Belt and Road Initiative is a development strategy and framework, proposed by Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily between the People’s Republic of China and the rest of Eurasia, which consists of two main components, the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) and oceangoing “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR). The strategy underlines China’s push to take a bigger role in global affairs, and its need for priority capacity cooperation in areas such as steel manufacturing. Wikipedia.

Ten containers were taken off at the German hub of Duisburg. The remainder arrived in London at Barking’s Eurohub freight terminal. The service is faster than sending goods by sea. Weekly trains will initially be run to assess demand.

A number of different locomotives and wagons were used as the former Soviet Union states have a larger rail gauge than the other countries involved. China Railway already has freight services to a number of European destinations, including Hamburg and Madrid.

They are part of China’s One Belt, One Road programme of reviving the ancient Silk Road trading routes to the West, initially created more than 2,000 years ago.

Run by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment, the Yiwu-London freight service makes London the 15th European city to have a direct rail link with China after the 2013 unveiling of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative by Chinese premier Xi Jinping.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May  said the relationship with China remains ‘golden’ as she seeks to bring in billions of dollars in Chinese investment as Britain prepares to leave the European Union. Read the full original Daily Mail article here!

inland-port-7The World Customs Organization (WCO) organized a National Workshop on Inland Depots under the sponsorship of the Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF)/Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). It was held from 20 to 22 September 2016 in Savannakhet Province, Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Twenty six Customs officers from the Lao Customs Administration participated in the workshop, along with guest Customs experts from The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Japan and JICA. Mr. Somphit Sengmanivong, Deputy Director General of the Lao Customs Administration, opened the workshop. He highlighted the importance of Inland Depots as a national strategy to secure his country’s economic growth and sought participants’ active participation in the discussions on this topic.

Presently, there is no clear definition of “Inland Depot” and many similar terms, such as Dry Port, Inland Terminal, Free Trade Zone and Special Economic Zones, are used in the international logistics. During the three-day workshop, participants discussed the functions and a possible definition of Inland Depot from a Customs perspective.

AmatiComment – Inland container terminals serve as important hubs or nodes for the distribution and consolidation of imported and export destined cargoes. There are 16 Landlocked countries in Africa, which signifies the importance of hinterland logistics development and its consequential impact on regional trade groupings. Consequentially, it behooves governments to understand and support the logistics supply chain industry in maximizing inland transportation (multi-modal) infrastructures to achieve a common and mutually beneficial economic environment. Furthermore, the more facilitative these arrangements, the better opportunity there is for success and longer-term economic sustainability.

The WCO Secretariat made presentations on international standards for relevant procedures, including Customs warehouses, free zones, Customs transit, inward processing, clearance for home use and temporary admission. Experts from The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Japan described their national and regional experience of Customs warehousing, and Customs transit procedures. The JICA expert presented the bonded procedures applied by neighbouring countries to Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Lao Customs administration explained their national system for Inland Depots and a logistics company of Lao PDR shared its expectations on inland depots.

On the last day, participants discussed the challenges and possible solutions to enhance the functional and efficiency of Lao’s Inland Depots. Possible solutions, such as the use of modern information technology, further cooperation with the private sector, clear regulations on relevant procedures, coordinated border management and international cooperation were considered. Source: WCO

Recommended reading

containersThe following was penned by a long-time customs acquaintance Aires Nunes da Costa, who has kindly permitted me to post his article titled “Why unpack containers in Durban if you can have containers at your door step in Gauteng within 24 hours?” which first appeared on LinkedIN.

The Tambo Springs initiative involves creating a significantly improved intermodal capability for the movement of freight to and from Gauteng. This is to be achieved by the operational twinning of the inland port with other seaport, inland and cross border locations. The connectivity i.r.o. these twinned locations is achieved via sea, rail, road and air linkages, ideally involving seamless movement of freight between modes.

The Tambo Springs development incorporates a next generation inland port with a state of the art rail terminal facility designed to be developed in phases, with an ultimate capacity of 1 m TEU’S p.a., as well as, a sprinter freight land bridge.

The key elements are as follows:-

Direct Traditional Rail Link to Durban Harbour

The Tambo Springs Terminal will be linked to the Durban Container Terminal which currently handles the bulk of all container freight moving in and out of Gauteng, via an efficient rail service. The fixed rail infrastructure for this link already exists to the Tambo Springs site. This state of the art Terminal facility is designed to significantly increase the rail capacity for container freight to/from Gauteng, while simultaneously reducing real costs and significantly improving levels of service via:

  • a new technology “greenfields” terminal being more efficient;
  • a reduction of congestion issues in and out of the new inland port due to its location;
    improved efficiency of port operations;
  • having the facility serviced by improved rolling stock commissioned by Transnet;
    Sprinter Freight Rail Link to Ngqura Harbour In the Coega IDZ (Port Elizabeth)

In addition to the direct rail link with Durban harbour, the initial phase of this programme involves the twinning of the Coega IDZ and its adjoining Deep Water Container Terminal at the Port of Ngqura with Tambo Springs. This is to be undertaken by means of a Public Private Partnership type structure which utilizes the Transnet capability between the two locations as well as the participation of SARS.

The service level to be achieved for the movement of the freight via this land bridge has a goal of “24 hours” as opposed to the current 3 to 5 days service level achieved at City Deep. This is to be achieved by capitalizing on the creation of high efficiency intermodal activities integrated with the port functions and feeder network.

Truck Freight Movement

The Tambo Springs Inland Port will function as a multimodal logistics gateway serving the Gauteng Catchment area. It therefore provides ease of movement between individual transportation modes in addition to facilitating manufacturing, warehousing and distribution activities.

The operational plan is therefore designed to accommodate long distance (FTL) truck traffic in addition to regional (LTL) freight movement.

The principle truck markets the inland port will attract include:

  • FTL long distance movement of time sensitive freight from other ports or metropolitan areas. This includes both cross docking and stuffing/de-stuffing facilities within the inland port;
  • Rail/truck (intermodal) movement where product utilizing the rail links is transferred to truck in order to each its final destination;
  • LTL truck and Van short distance movement of freight, including a regional metropolitan distribution function.

The next generation inland port therefore capitalizes both on rail and road transportation modes with a focus on increased movement of long distance freight by sprinter rail.

Intermodal Movement

In order to achieve seamless intermodal movement of freight between sea, rail, road and air transport, it is essential to link Tambo Springs with other inland port and hub locations. The creation of such a twinned Inland Port Network provides a means to effectively participate in the Global Supply Chain in a manner which optimizes both existing and new facilities to enhance capacity. Hence, for example, Tambo Springs would be linked to City Deep via rail and road linkages and to other hub locations in Gauteng and elsewhere.

A principle element of this approach is to create an efficient transportation service between all the individual entry/exit ports providing an improved level of service over and above that provided by a traditional network. The key to this is to rethink existing processes with a focus on efficiency savings in terms of the inbound and outbound process flow at Tambo Springs. This has been incorporated into the operational concept and addresses both operational and customs and regulatory efficiency issues as part of the supply chain. Source: Aires Nunes da Costa (Customs & Excise Specialist)

Tambo SpringsSouth Africa’s freight and logistics company Transnet this week launched its massive drive to bring private sector operators into the country’s freight system.

The company has issued a request for proposals inviting suitably qualified global logistics service providers to design, build, operate, maintain and eventually hand over its proposed inland container terminal in Tambo Springs, East of Johannesburg – a 630ha site located on land originally known as Tamboekiesfontein farm.

The concession will be over a 20-year period and will be Transnet’s biggest private sector participation project to date.

The proposed terminal is in line with Transnet’s drive to migrate rail friendly cargo off the country’s road network.

The terminal is expected to be in operation by 2019 and will have an initial capacity of 144 000 TEUs per annum, with an option to ramp it up to 560 000 TEUs, depending on demand.

The project entails the following:

  • Arrival and departure yard for handling cargo trains
  • Terminal infrastructure;
  • Terminal equipment;
  • Stacking area;
  • Warehousing space
  • Distribution centre
  • Inland Reefer facilities

Transnet Freight Rail will be responsible for the operation of the arrival and departure yard required to service the terminal.

The operator will be responsible for loading and offloading of containers and marketing of the facility. The winning bidder is expected to introduce new entrants – particularly black players – must have demonstrated technical expertise, a minimum of level 4 BBBEE status with a commitment to reach level 2 by the third year of operation.

Transnet currently operates 5 inland terminals in Gauteng, including the City Deep Container Terminal in Johannesburg, Africa’s largest inland port.

The proposed terminal is an integral part of the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Committee’s SIP 2, aimed at unlocking the country’s industrial development while boosting export capability. It is designed to complement Transnet’s container-handling capacity in the province.

This is the culmination of years of hard work and a demonstration of cooperative governance between Transnet, representing the national competence, and both the Gauteng Provincial Government and the Ekurhuleni Municipality.

The Tambo Springs terminal is one of three mega terminals that Transnet is planning to build in Gauteng over the next 20 years. It will be located in Ekurhuleni along the N3, just off the Natal Corridor.

The project is expected to create 50 000 jobs, and has stringent requirements for supplier development and skills transfer. Source: Transnet

Saldanha Bay South AfricaRecently while reading of Transnet’s terminal capex expansion plans, I came across this interesting if not highly improbable plan featured in an article by Harry Valentine on Maritime Executive. I say improbable given the current economic and labour situation prevailing in South Africa at this time, not to mention the fact that the Transnet controlled Port of Ngqura is considered South Africa’s transhipment hub. Nonetheless, I think its admirable that such ideas are conceived and with a bit of thought and application are presented for consideration. From a Customs’ perspective such plans – in particular the notion of a floating terminal – could pose some interesting challenges (err opportunities) for SARS particularly given impending new compliance, licensing and reporting requirements contained in the new Customs Control Act. 

The Port of Los Angeles has welcomed its first 18,000-TEU ultra-large container ship, and Brazil, with a population almost as large as the U.S. and with future prospects of increased trade with Asia, could see such ships arriving via South Africa.

The projected future volume of container traffic that will pass through Brazilian ports would warrant future operation of ultra-large container ships between Brazil and major Asian transshipment terminals. However, it would take much investment and likely many years before a Brazilian port and terminal would be able to berth and service these vessels. One option would be to develop a transshipment port in South Africa that could serve as a terminal for ultra-large container ships that sail from such ports as Busan, Inchon, Shanghai and Hong Kong carrying containers destined for South America.

South Africa offers two bays capable of accepting ultra-large container ships. Richards Bay in the Northeast offers a draft clearance of 19 meters, while Saldanha Bay just north of Cape Town offers a draft of 21 meters. Bulk and ore freight terminals operate at both locations. Saldanha Bay is larger than Richard’s Bay, located near the large City of Cape Town and is closer to the shipping lane between South America and the Far East. It is also close to St. Helena Bay where waiting vessels may drop anchor.

When Richards Bay is at capacity, alternative areas where waiting vessels may drop anchor with a measure of protection from stormy seas are located at much greater distances. The Port of Durban is still Africa’s busiest container port and regularly operates at near-capacity. However, Durban and companion ports at Maputo, Port Elizabeth, Coega, East London and Cape Town have insufficient depth to accommodate ultra-large container ships. Saldanha Bay is a natural inlet that offers the necessary depth and has available space to develop a transshipment terminal to the south of the ore terminal.

There are tentative plans to borrow a precedent from Egypt and anchor a floating LNG storage tanker in Saldanha Bay, perhaps near the southern end of the inlet, to serve a variety of customer requirements. Tanker vessels could regularly carry LNG from Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola to the floating storage terminal. Operational precedents established at the Port of Durban could ensure smooth operation of maritime vessels entering and leaving Saldanha Bay, especially with excess vessels being able to drop anchor in St. Helena Bay as well as nearby Table Bay at Cape Town some 60 nautical miles away.

Future ultra-large container ships of 22,000 TEUs would offer savings in terms of average cost per container on the segment between Saldanha Bay and distant East Asian ports at or near the South China Sea. Automated terminal operations that include transfer of containers among vessels could contribute to competitive transportation costs to a variety of destinations along South America’s Atlantic coast as well as several South African ports, perhaps extending as far north as Nigeria on the Atlantic Coast (Asia – Africa trade), Tanzania on the East Coast (Africa – South America trade), as well as domestic Africa -Africa trade.

While South Africa’s economy may presently be under-performing, South African authorities have the option of inviting foreign investors and developers to explore the option of developing a transshipment super port at Saldanha Bay. Future trade through Saldanha Bay would include containers sailing to and from East Asian transshipment terminals such as Port of Colombo and Port of Singapore to connect into the combination of West Coast Africa – Asia and Atlantic Coast South America -Asia trade. Such combined trade enhances prospects for potentially viable transshipment port and terminal operations at a South African bay.

A transshipment super port at the southern end of the African continent would mostly transfer containers that originate from and be destined for foreign ports. Only a minority of the containers would originate from or be destined for domestic South African ports. South African exporters and importers would benefit from lower transportation costs per container compared to the transportation costs per container aboard smaller vessels.

It’s an idea worth considering.

Floating Islands

Cape Town is at the crossroads of ships that carry the trade between Asian nations and nations along the Atlantic Coast of South America and sub-Sahara West Africa. There may be future scope for an offshore, floating transshipment terminal built at Saldanha Bay and assembled either at Cape Town or St Helena Bay to reduce per-container transportation costs along this trade route. Such a terminal would attract interest from overseas. A floating hotel partially surrounded by breakwaters and permanently anchored offshore near a coastal city could be connected to the mainland using floating bridges and water taxi service.

There may be scope to expand upon the technology to develop multiple floating structures in a calm water area, with bridges connecting between them at strategic locations to maintain navigable canals between them. While water taxis could shuttle visitors between mainland and an offshore floating island, semi-floating bridges could also connect between mainland and such islands that may include business districts and even residential areas.

Coupled floating structures may also serve as an airport with a runway for commuter size of aircraft and perhaps even comparable size of wing-in-ground effect vehicles that provide service between coastal cities.

Source: article by Harry Valentine.

Namport-rail-upgradeThe Namibian Ports Authority has completed the upgrade of all railway infrastructure at the Port of Walvis Bay at a cost of N$20M (US$1.3M)

The work was included in Namports maintenance programme in 2010, but is now part of wider plans to upgrade facilities at Walvis Bay in preparation for the completion of the new container terminal.

A total of 4.5kms of track inside the port and the section of railway running from the city into the port have been replaced using material that can cope with heavier loads.

A spokesperson for Namport said: “Although the project was of relatively low value, its execution was complex as we had to ensure minimum operational interruption to the track, which is in daily use.”

The new container terminal is being constructed on 40-ha of reclaimed land and will add 700,000 TEU of annual handling capacity to the existing 350,000 TEU. Walvis Bay is already attracting bigger ships and recently handled its biggest ever container vessel the CMA CGM DANUBE, a 112,580 dwt vessel with a nominal intake of 9200 TEU.

A statement from Namports read: “The visit of CMA CGM DANUBE complements our port expansion project, which accommodates greater carrying capacity. Following the completion of the port expansion project vessels such as this will be accommodated at the new container terminal.”

The Walvis Bay Corridor Group, which was set up to promote the use of the port among neighbouring states, is keen to improve ancillary infrastructure at Walvis Bay to make the most of the new terminal.

Namport manager for corporate communication Taná Pesat said: “The benefits are our safe and secure corridors to and from landlocked SADC markets. The frequency of direct ship calls and flexibility of doing business with ease.”

However, the plot of land at the port given to Zimbabwe in 2009 for the construction of a dedicated dry port has still not been developed. Source: World Cargo News

The SARS Customs Detector Dog Unit (DDU) recently deployed two trained detector dog handlers and dogs on foreign soil in Maputo, Mozambique. This forms part of a Customs co-operation agreement between the governments of South Africa and Mozambique.

The capacity-building programme provides for the training of at least eight detector dog handlers and dogs for Mozambique in over a period of 14 weeks followed by a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ programme for purposes of sustainability.

The deployment of SARS Detector Dog Handlers and dogs trained to interdict endangered species and narcotics in Maputo will promote and strengthen a  cross-border intergovernmental approach in the prevention and detection of smuggling of illicit, illegal goods or substances via ports of entry between Mozambique and South Africa.

The programme is designed to capacitate Mozambique Customs in the establishment of its own canine unit that will further enhance its current non-intrusive scanning enforcement capability at ports of entry and exit. Source and pictures: SARS

AfricaFrom time to time it is nice to reflect on a good news story within the local customs and logistics industry. Freight & Trade Weekly’s (2015.11.06, page 4) article – “SA will be base for development of single customs platform” provides such a basis for reflection. The article reports on the recent merger of freight industry IT service providers Compu-Clearing and Core Freight and their plans to establish a robust and agile IT solution for trade on the African sub-continent.

In recent years local software development companies have facilitated most of the IT changes emerging from the Customs Modernisation Programme. Service Providers also known as computer bureaus have been in existence as far back as the early 1980’s when Customs introduced its first automated system ‘CAPE’. They have followed and influenced Customs developments that have resulted in the modern computerised and electronic communication platforms we have today. For those who do not know there are today at least 20 such service providers bringing a variety of software solutions to the market. Several of these provide a whole lot more than just customs software, offering solutions for warehousing, logistics and more. As the FTW article suggests, ongoing demands by trade customers and the ever-evolving technology space means that these software solutions will offer even greater customization, functionality, integration and ease of use for customers.

What is also clear is that these companies are no longer pure software development houses. While compliance with Customs law applies to specific parties required to registered and/or licensed for Customs purposes, the terrain on which the software company plays has become vital to enable these licensees or registrants the ‘ability to comply’ within the modern digital environment. This means that Service Providers need to have more than just IT skills, most importantly a better understanding of the laws affecting their customers – the importers, exporters, Customs brokers, freight forwarders, warehouse operators, etc.

Under the new Customs Control Act, for instance, the sheer level of compliance – subject to punitive measures in the fullness of time – will compel Service Providers to have a keen understanding of both the ‘letter of the law’ as well as the ability to translate this into user-friendly solutions that will provide comfort to their customers. Comfort to the extent that Customs registrants and licensees will have confidence that their preferred software solutions not only provide the tools for trading, but also the means for compliance of the law. Then, there is also the matter of scalability of these solutions to keep pace with ongoing local, regional and global supply chain demands.

The recent Customs Modernisation Programme realised significant technological advances with associated benefits for both SARS and trade alike. For the customs and shipping industry quantification of these benefits probably lies more in ‘improved convenience’ and ‘speed’ of the customer’s interaction with SARS than cost-savings itself. My next installment on this subject will consider the question of cross-border trade and how modern customs systems can influence and lead to increased regional trade.

AfricaMap_SADCThe following article titled ‘Cross-border projects dependent on cost’ was recently published by Transport World Africa. It deals essentially with cross border logistics and provides an insight into regional infrastructure and logistics projects – successes, failures and their impact on transport logistics. It emphasizes the need for greater and closer public and private partnerships, but alas sovereign states appear to be more focused inwardly on their domestic affairs. 

Implementers of projects have the knack of focusing on what they know very well, often leaving out what they do not know. Usually, this comes back to bite them. An example is in the integration of leadership. Countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region compete with each other for demand and capacity provision, which results in the inflated cost of logistics.

Rather, countries should work together. Integrating ports and funding is relatively easy. What is not available is integrated leadership in the region (excluding heads of various states), agreeing that SADC is ‘one country’. Logistics planning is still done at the country level, which is not practical, because then supply chains are being developed that are competing with each other. The sector should be cautious about acceleration, and about what is funded. One example is Transnet, whose plans should fit into regional plans, but right now they do not.

The softer issues in project development often go ignored, but they are at times the most important. There should be a halt to focusing mainly on mega-projects, since they take time and money, as well as resulting in complications (excluding Grand Inga). Despite this, mega projects do create a common vision for a region. Do sponsors have the capacity to support these projects? Institutional capacity is certainly needed. At the political level, southern Africa has done well, top–down approaches are there, but things go off course when there is the attempt to get others to plug-in to this.

One-stop border posts are very important. It was cautioned that the region must be careful not to follow the architecture of colonial extraction, which means focusing on intra-Africa trade rather than too great a focus on ports and exports. Government and private sector must both drive natural winners and losers in markets. There is sufficient funding and policies, but project preparation is limited. What is needed is to decide how to make hubs of excellence, and decide who is going to do what.

The high-level work has been done, but now the sector is facing an implementation challenge. Governments do not do regional integration very well. The private sector does the regional integration, and they suffer most when it does not work. Regional infrastructure will not happen unless there is public support for it. The most successful cross-border project was a PPP: the M4 toll road. This had a large economic impact.

Also, the Port of Maputo has been successful in generating income. Ports without land side integration are useless. Projects need a soft-issue mediator; otherwise there are great ideas, but no implementation. The private sector should not see itself as a messiah, but should rather have a sense of responsibility for developing supply chains. There needs to be a clear understanding of soft issues, clear legal and policy understanding, and communication. SADC has been driving the implementation of harmonisation of vehicle load management for twenty years. A mediator between the public and private sector (such as Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI) is absolutely necessary.

It is a stark reality how little intra-African trade there is. To address this there should be a clear target for development in future. In Namibia, there are efforts to focus on the positives in regards to transport development, even with limited resources. Namibia has been independent for 25 years; 15 years ago the Walvis Bay Corridor was created as a focus on regional integration and regional development. There are 2.2 million people in Namibia, which means a small economy.

There is no real choice but to take into consideration the region and recognise the value Namibia can add. In regards to planning, in 1995 it developed its first transport master plan, and in 2014 it developed its second transport master plan (this was twenty years apart). In February 2015, it developed a logistics master plan to develop Namibia into a logistics hub in the region. It has focused on transport modes because it has a port emphasis. It started roads development.

Currently, Namibia is building its first dual-carriage road (65 km), which is a big step for such a small economy. It would like to do more with sufficient funding. Namibia is also looking into what to do with aviation. As a whole, the country is trying to develop as an alternative trade route for southern Africa. Five to seven years ago, Walvis Bay was just a fishing port, but now R500 million is coming into Namibia’s economy through this post (from zero rand 10 years ago). Namibia is trying to create a better alternative in the SADC region. Now it is looking to focus on developing the manufacturing sector. Namibia is working with South Africa to develop partnerships (excluding transport corridors to production corridors). Continue Reading…

WTO LogoThe following article is published with the kind permission of the author, Tapia Naula who is Principal Transport Economist at African Development Bank, based in the Ivory Coast. He is an international project manager and transport economist with experience in logistics business, research and trade facilitation. This article is a must for anyone associated with or working on the TFA on the African sub-continent, and a bit of a wake up call to those countries who have as yet done little or nothing to progress their participation.

In the World TFA Cup Asia is leading Africa 72 – 35. The first scores of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement are out as member countries submit their Category A notifications. Initial results of the African first series are somewhat unfulfilling. Some teams are playing defensive even if attacking tactic is the only way to win.

In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the Bali Ministerial Conference, as part of a wider “Bali Package”. Among trade facilitation practitioners the Agreement was received with great enthusiasm: finally there was a legal instrument, which is concrete enough to make a difference! TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of members have completed their domestic ratification process. Section I contains substantive provisions in 12 main Articles. The members are required to categorize and notify each provision of the Agreement as either A, B or C Category. The A Category commits a country to implement the provision upon entry into force of the TFA, or one year after for LDC’s. For B-Category there will be a transitional period. C-Category provisions are allowed a transitional period, technical assistance and capacity building.

First, let it be said loud and clear: the WTO TFA is an excellent collection of modern trade and transport facilitation instruments in one folder. In developing countries its implementation would mean reforms that would save time, money and efforts for regular business people and consumers. These reforms may be painful but the countries that can do it, will be the future winners of their regional competition and they will be the ones that will most benefit from joining the global value chains. TFA is the best vehicle for poverty reduction invented so far and that is why it is so important.

In August, 2015, 14 African countries and 25 Asian countries had submitted notifications for category A provisions. Asian countries had “accepted” 72 % of all the provisions as A-Category commitments on average where the respective share of the African countries is only 35 %. On Article-level African countries lag behind on every Article except one (Table 1).

In addition to the low overall share of category A-notifications, the African notifications generally look like “random picks” of sub-paragraphs, compared to many Asian members that have commonly chosen the strategy of basically accepting the whole Agreement and making exceptions for certain few paragraphs according to their particular needs.

Were African governments well-informed of the impact and substance of each paragraph – or are they just being cautious, perhaps trying to delay the final commitment? The patterns between African and Asian countries are in any case different.

Table 1

TFA includes also “low hanging fruit” – sections that require little technical expertise to be implemented. At least some of these should have been easy for member countries to accept. “Publication and Availability of Information” is one of those sections. Access to information through internet is routine and affordable. It should not require transition periods or particular technical assistance. Donors are even competing to assist governments with such low cost and high-return activities. Still, less than one third of the African Governments notified this Article.

Here are some other peculiar findings:

  • Out of 14 African countries only Morocco accepted “Border Agency Cooperation” as A –Category provision. Three of the others countries that did not notify it are landlocked countries;
  • Only four out of 14 African countries had fully notified “Freedom of Transit.” Transit challenges in Africa are probably the single most significant source of inefficiency in trade logistics;
  • One of the foundations of modern customs management is the introduction of Risk Management. Only 3 out of 14 African countries had notified this provision;
  • Only Morocco notified Trade Facilitation Measures for Authorized Economic Operators (AEO), which gives certain privileges to traders and transport operators, who show high level of compliance to regulations. One wonders why Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania did not notify it as we know that an AEO program is being piloted in the East African Community;
  • Only Senegal notified the sub-Article on Single Window, which is probably the most important one of the whole Agreement. Senegal perhaps deserves this honor – being the first truly African-based single window country – and also representing the good practice of SW management. Yet, according to the African Alliance for e-Commerce, currently there are at least 16 other single windows either already operational or under development in Africa. Why weren’t these developments recognized?

Despite the above “peculiarities” the African situation is fortunately nowhere near as somber as the A-Category notifications indicate. There are plenty of trade and transport facilitation initiatives under implementation – and Africa is indeed “on the Move.” We should on one hand side make sure that the valuable TFA Agreement is not becoming a separate formal process alongside the practical actions on the ground, but rather a framework for coaching governments in climbing up the stairs toward greater competitiveness. On the other hand, the countries should not ignore the existing achievements. A lot has been achieved in Africa in recent years and this process should go on and gain speed. Some sub-regions, which have been less successful in this field need  benchmarks, encouraging and coaching. This is where African and international organizations can play a role.

Although the direct cost of TFA implementation is relatively low, the indirect cost may be extremely high. The indirect cost concerns existing structures, which generate income for organizations and individuals, who often greatly benefit from the status quo. Some governments have entered into concessions outsourcing critical government functions such as pre-customs clearance operations and processing and submissions of declarations to customs. Western firms have efficiently seized the opportunity and negotiated deals, which guarantee profits for in many cases for decades to come. Single Windows in certain countries are good examples for these. In an unnamed Southern African country for example, humanitarian aid is exempt from taxes and duties in import. If however a UN agency for example imports a container of pharmaceuticals worth five million USD, it will have to pay for a Single Window fee of 42,500 USD! Such Ad Valorem fee arrangements are against the TFA. Such concessions are often built inside structures, which profit from the concessions and in exchange – protects its operations and continuity. This is why they are difficult to tackle. This is an example of the problematics that African policy makers must deal with when taking a position in committing in TFA provisions. It may be a whole lot more complicated than what it looks like.

Association between % Share of Sub-Article Level A-Category Commitments and the Corruption Perception Index Score (CPI). Sources: WTO and transparency International.
Association between % Share of Sub-Article Level A-Category Commitments and the Corruption Perception Index Score (CPI). Sources: WTO and transparency International.

The diagram above shows the association of share of the provisions that have been covered by A-Category notifications and the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score of the countries. For African countries the correlation is moderate (correlation co-efficient: 0.42) but for Asian countries the association is strong (correlation co-efficient: 0.73). The association of the two variables is understandable: the less corruption a country has (the higher the CPI rank is), the more reforms the government is in liberty to conduct (the higher coverage of TFA as A-category Notifications).

We need to better understand the underlying reasons why policymakers cannot let reforms take off. Traditions, corruption and outdated structures are usually the biggest obstacles. These cannot be overcome by merely providing short-term technical assistance and bench-marking the world best practices but only strong political leadership can make the change. Developing partners should raise this topic on the highest political level and “live together” through the reforms with the counterparts.

The Northern Corridor (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda) provides an encouraging example how multiple reforms can be carried out in very short time. Only two years ago it took staggering 27 days to transport a container from Mombasa Port and deliver it in Kigali, Rwanda. Today it takes only seven days. The improvement was enabled by series of reforms, which were championed by the Heads of States of the Corridor member countries. The example proves that major improvements can indeed be achieved in very short time. On the other hand, even with the most sophisticated instruments, reforms will not succeed if there the high-level ownership is not there. Author: Tapio Naula

Harrismith, Free State, South AfricaThe South African Cabinet has ratified a decision by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to designate the Maluti-A-Phofung (MAP) logistics hub, in Harrismith, in the Free State, an industrial development zone (IDZ), further approving the granting of operator permit for this zone to the Free State Development Corporation.

The designation would result in the establishment of a logistics-orientated platform 10 km outside of Harrismith, primarily to service the automotive, light manufacturing, agro-processing, distribution and logistics sectors.

The Harrismith hub had become part of a key nodal point of the Durban–Free State–Gauteng Corridor, which was identified in the 2005 National Freight Logistics Strategy approved by Cabinet. According to the DTI, the MAP IDZ would become a multi-sector processing, manufacturing, engineering, logistics services, transport and logistics complex, serving the needs of the upstream value-adding, beneficiation, processing and production service companies operating across sectors and geographical areas in Southern Africa.

The zone would further look to provide efficient IDZ and customs-controlled area operations and processes that would facilitate timeous and cost-effective operations for international and domestic investors.

141212174829-yixinou-worlds-longest-train-journey-horizontal-large-galleryThe longest rail link in the world and the first direct link between China and Spain is up and running after a train from Yiwu in coastal China completed its maiden journey of 8,111 miles to Madrid. En route it passed through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany and France before arriving at the Abroñigal freight terminal in Madrid.

The railway has been dubbed the “21st-century Silk Road” by Li Qiang, the governor of Zhejiang province, where Yiwu is located. Its route is longer than the Trans-Siberian railway and the Orient Express. The first train was met by the mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, and Spain’s minister of public works, Ana Pastor. It consisted of 30 containers carrying 1,400 tonnes of cargo – mostly toys, stationery and other items for sale over Christmas across Europe.

Yiwu is the world’s largest wholesale hub for small consumer goods and plays host to a vast 4 sq km (1.5 sq mile) market where tens of thousands of traders work daily. The journey was a test run to assess the viability of adding Spain to a route that already links China with Germany five times a week. Those trains link Chongqing, the huge industrial city in south-west China, with Duisburg, and Beijing with Hamburg.

China is Spain’s biggest trading partner after the EU, with bilateral trade worth around £16bn. It is also Spain’s third largest source of imports, after Germany and France. About half of these imports are made up of mobile phones and clothing. The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was in China in September, where he signed deals reported to be worth more than £6.3bn.

A major advantage of the rail route is speed. The train took just three weeks to complete a journey that takes up to six weeks by sea. It is also more environmentally friendly than road transport, which would produce 114 tonnes of CO2 to shift the same volume of goods, compared with the 44 tonnes produced by the train – a 62% reduction.

However, the cargo had to be transferred three times during the journey as a result of incompatible rail gauges. The locomotive also had to be changed every 500 miles. The service is being operated by InterRail Services and DB Schenker Rail and in Spain by DB’s Spanish offshoot, Tranfesa.

LAPSSETKenya’s high court on Friday ordered a halt to the long-delayed development of a mega-port on the country’s northern coast for at least two weeks to allow a lawsuit lodged by local landowners over compensation to move forward.

The $25.5 billion project, known as the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project, would eventually link landlocked countries South Sudan and Ethiopia to the Indian Ocean via Kenya and include a port, new roads, a railway and a pipeline.

The LAPSSET project involves the development of a new transport corridor from the new port of Lamu through Garissa, Isiolo, Mararal, Lodwar and Lokichoggio to branch at Isiolo to Ethiopia and Southern Sudan. It will comprise of a new road network, a railway line, oil refinery at Lamu, oil pipeline, Isiolo and Lamu Airports and a free port at Lamu (Manda Bay) in addition to resort cities at the coast and in Isiolo. It will be the backbone for opening up Northern Kenya and integrating it into the national economy.

It was first conceived in the 1970s but has been gaining traction after commercial oil finds in Uganda and Kenya.

Judge Oscar Angote suspended the project and said the land compensation case would be heard on 8 December 2014. Source: Maritime Executive

There are unconfirmed reports of five drivers burnt to death at the Kasumbalesa border post in Zambia. According to a report from FESARTA the incident occurred at around 17:00 Zambian time on Monday, 24 November. To watch the Truck inferno which killed two Zimbabweans (Video) – click here!

Two Zimbabwean truckers are believed to be among the four dead at Kasumbalesa Border Post, linking Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo

Unconfirmed reports allege a petrol tanker was leaking and the petrol spread to an area where drivers were cooking. In the ensuring fire and explosion unconfirmed reports allege a 100 trucks were affected.

The area does not have a dedicated fire department and unconfirmed reports claim the fire lasted until the early hours of Tuesday, 25 November.

It is unknown how many drivers were injured in this explosion.Source & pictures: Glen Tancott, TransportWorldAfrica

Update! FESARTA update on fire in Kasumbalesa DCDG (Transport World Africa)