Archives For City Deep Gauteng

Thaba Mufamadi, chairman of Parliament’s finance committee. Picture - Financial Mail

Thaba Mufamadi, chairman of Parliament’s finance committee. Picture – Financial Mail

Parliment’s standing committee on finance (SCoF) has decided to postpone its deliberations on two draft customs-related bills until next year to allow importers and the freight-forwarding industry more time to comment on the proposals which threaten the status of City Deep as an inland port. This followed an appeal by the South African Association of Freight Forwarders that it had had insufficient time to consider the substantially revised draft Customs Control Bill and Customs Duty Bill, which required that imported goods would have to be cleared at the first point of entry.

The association, supported by a range of other business organisations, including the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, warned that the bills could be challenged on constitutional grounds if the process of consultation was deficient. All political parties supported the proposal by finance committee chairman Thaba Mufamadi on Wednesday that the deliberations on the bills be postponed until next year. He instructed stakeholders to make their submissions to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) by December 15.

Mr Mufamadi also took cognisance of concerns raised by Business Unity South Africa that parliamentary processes did not allow sufficient time to comment, for example, on the medium-term budget policy statement. Industry has warned of port delays and trade disruption if the proposals were to be adopted. The Customs Control Bill proposes that goods be cleared at the first port of entry into South Africa. This will mean that inland ports such as City Deep in Johannesburg would no longer be designated places of entry or exit for customs purposes. In the past, containerised cargo could move directly to inland ports on arrival in the country under cover of a manifest. A new declaration — of the nature, value, origin and duty payable on the goods — would replace the manifests.

SARS said these did not provide sufficient information to undertake a risk assessment. Another bone of contention for industry was the “extremely severe” penalties proposed in the draft Customs Duty Bill. Following the uproar about the proposals SARS offered a compromise earlier this week as a way out of the impasse. Instead of a clearance at the port of entry, a mandatory advance customs clearance of the goods three days before their arrival at the first port of entry would be required. Goods consigned to inland terminals such as City Deep would be released conditionally. The system would be tested for the whole of next year to iron out any problems.

An alternative option would be for the goods to undergo a lesser form of clearance at the first point of entry. This would still entail providing customs authorities with the same level of information on the tariff, value and origin of goods, which would be submitted by electronic data interchange. The importer would be held accountable for the information that was provided. SARS official Kosie Louw said that because this document would not have the formal status of a clearance certificate, it would not disrupt existing legal contractual arrangements, as claimed. The goods would still move CIF (cost insurance and freight) from the port to City Deep. SARS has also proposed softening the penalty provisions so that errors not resulting in any prejudice to customs revenue will be subject to penalties only after three warnings. These penalties will be discretionary and applied leniently in the first 12 months of the bill coming into force to allow business time to properly prepare for the change. An appeal process has been included. Source: Business Day Live. 

Advertisements
Proposed Durban-Free State-Gauteng Logistics and Industrial Corridor Plan (SIP2)

Proposed Durban-Free State-Gauteng Logistics and Industrial Corridor Plan (SIP2)

Notwithstanding on-going discontent amongst industry operators in regard to proposed legislative measures mandating customs clearance at first port of entry, the South African government (GCIS) reports that work has already commenced on a massive logistics corridor stretching between Durban and the central provinces of the Free State and Gauteng. Most of the projects that form part of the second Strategic Infrastructure Project (SIP 2), also known as the Durban-Free State-Johannesburg Logistics and Industrial Corridor, are still in the concept or pre-feasibility stage, but construction has already started on several projects.

These include:

  • the building of a R2,3 billion container terminal at City Deep
  • a R3,9 billion project to upgrade Pier 2 at the Port of Durban
  • R14,9 billion procurement of rolling stock for the rail line which will service the corridor.

Work has also started on the R250 million Harrismith logistics hub development to set up a fuel distribution depot, as well as on phase one of the new multi-product pipeline which will run between Johannesburg and Durban and transport petrol, diesel, jet fuel and gas.

The aim of these projects and others which form part of SIP 2, is to strengthen the logistics and transport corridor between South Africa’s main industrial hubs and to improve access to Durban’s export and import facilities. It is estimated that 135 000 jobs will be created in the construction of projects in the corridor. Once the projects are completed a further 85 000 jobs are expected to be created by those businesses that use the new facilities. Source: SA Government Information Service

Interested in more details regarding South Africa’s infrastructure development plan? Click here!

City Deep Container Terminal, Johannesburg

City Deep Container Terminal, Johannesburg

Online media company Engineering News reports that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Johannesburg (JCCI) would take its objections of certain aspects of the recently tabled Customs Control Bill to Parliament and called on South African business and interested stakeholders to provide input as well.

The South African Revenue Services’ (Sars’) newly drafted Customs Control Bill, which, in conjunction with the Customs Duty Bill, would replace the current legislation governing customs operations, declared that all imported goods be cleared and released at first port of entry.

“The Customs Bill, cancelling the status of inland ports as a point of entry, will be before Parliament very soon, and only a short notice period for comment is expected,” JCCI former president Patrick Corbin said.

While all other comments and suggestions relating to the Bill were adequately dealt with, this remained the one disagreement that had not been satisfactorily resolved, he stated.

Corbin invited all parties to voice their concerns to ensure “all areas of impact and concern were captured”, adding further weight to the JCCI’s presentation. The implementation of the new Bill would directly impact the City Deep container terminal, which had been operating as an inland port for the past 35 years, alleviating pressure from the already-constrained coastal ports.

Despite customs officials assuring the chamber that the operations and facilities at City Deep/Kaserne would retain its licence as a container depot, Corbin stated that the Bill had failed to recognise the critical role City Deep played as an inland port and the impact it would have on the cost of doing business, the country’s road-to-rail ambitions, the coastal ports and ease of movement of goods nationally and to neighbouring countries.

“The authorities do not accept the fact that by moving the Customs release point back to the coast, a vessel manifest will terminate at the coastal port. There will not be the option of a multimodal Bill of Lading and seamless inland movements, as all boxes or the unpacked contents will remain at the coast until cleared and released by the line before being reconsigned,” he explained.

Citing potential challenges, Corbin said that only the containers cleared 72 hours prior to arrival would be allocated to rail transport and that those not cleared three days before arrival would be pushed onto road transport to prevent blocking and delaying rail operations.

This would also result in less rail capacity returning for export from Johannesburg, leading to increased volumes moving by road from City Deep to Durban.

He warned of the Durban port becoming heavily congested with uncleared containers, causing delays and potential penalties, while hampering berthing movements and upsetting shipping lines’ vessel schedules.

The release of the vessel manifest at the coastal port also placed increased risk on the shipping operators delivering cargo to Johannesburg following the clearance of goods at customs and required reconsignment at the country’s shores.

However, Transnet remained committed to investing R900-million for upgrading the City Deep terminal and the railway sidings, while Transnet CEO Brian Molefe had accepted the assurances from customs that “nothing would change and the boxes would still be able to move seamlessly once cleared”.

The Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport Department had allocated R122-million for the roadworks surrounding the inland port, while Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport Dr Ismail Vadi said the department’s focus this year would narrow to the expansion and development opportunities at City Deep/Kaserne.

The department was also progressing well with the development of a second inland port, Tambo Springs Inland Port and Logistics Gateway, expected to be completed by 2017.

Vadi recently commented that the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport, which was currently developing a terminal master plan for the project, would link the freight hub through road and rail transport to and from South Africa’s major freight routes and other freight hubs, including City Deep, which was about 33 km away.

The National Economic Development and Labour Council, under which the Bill had been drafted during a three-year development process, had agreed to fund an impact assessment study, led by Global Maritime Learning Solutions director Mark Goodger. The study was “close to completion” and would be presented alongside JCCI’s objections in Parliament. Source: Engineering News

You will recall a recent challenge by trade to SARS’ proposed implementation of mandatory clearance of national transit goods inland from port of initial discharge – refer to Revisiting the national transit procedure – Part 1.

First, some background

Now lets take a step back to look at the situation since the inception of containerisation in South Africa – some 30 years ago. Customs stance has always been that containerised goods manifested for onward delivery to a designated inland container terminal by rail would not require clearance upon discharge at initial port of entry. Containers were allowed to move ‘against the manifest’ (a ‘Through Bill’) to its named place of destination. This arrangement was designed to expedite the movement of containers from the port of discharge onto block trains operated by Transnet Freight Rail, formerly the South African Railways and Harbours (SAR&H) to the inland container terminal at City Deep. Since SAR&H operated both the national railway and the coastal and inland ports, the possibility of diversion was considered of little import to warrant any form of security over the movement of containers by rail. Moreover, container terminals were designed to allow the staging of trains with custom gantry cranes to load inland manifested containers within a ‘secure’ port precinct.

Over the years, rail freight lost market share to the emergence of cross-country road hauliers due to inefficiencies. The opening up of more inland terminals and supporting container unpack facilities, required Customs to review the matter. It was decided that road-hauled containers moved ‘in bond’ by road would lodge a customs clearance (backed with suitable surety) for purposes of national transit. Upon arrival of the bonded freight at destination, a formal home use declaration would be lodged with Customs. Notwithstanding the surety lodged to safeguard revenue, this has the effect of deferring payment of duties and taxes.

Diversification of container brokering, stuffing and multi-modal transport added to the complexity, with many customs administrations failing to maintain both control and understanding of the changing business model. Equally mystifying was the emergence of a new breed of ‘players’ in the shipping game. Initially there were so-called ‘approved container operators’ these being ocean carriers who at the same time leased containers. Then there were so-called non-approved container operators who brokered containers on behalf of the ocean carrier. These are more commonly known as non-vessel operating common carriers or NVOCCs. In the early days of containerisation there were basically two types of container stuffing – full container load (FCL) and less container load (LCL). The NVOCCs began ‘chartering’ space of their containers to other NVOCCs and shippers – this also helped in knocking down freight costs. This practice became known as ‘groupage’ and because such containers were filled to capacity the term FCL Groupage became a phenomenon. It is not uncommon nowadays for a single FCL Groupage container to have multiple co-loaders.

All of the above radically maximised the efficiency and distribution of cost of the cellular container, but at the same time complicated Customs ‘control’ in that it was not able to readily assess the ‘content’ and ownership of the goods conveyed in a multi-level groupage box. It also became a phenomenon for ‘customs brokers/clearing agents’ to enter this niche of the market. Customs traditionally licensed brokers for the tendering of goods declarations only. Nowadays, most brokers are also NVOCCs.  The law on the other hand provided for the hand-off of liability for container movements between the ocean carrier, container terminal operator and container depot operator. Nowhere was an NVOCC/Freight Forwarder held liable in any of this. A further phenomenon known as ‘carrier’ or ‘merchant’ haulage likewise added to the complexity and cause for concern over the uncontrolled inland movements of bonded cargoes. No doubt a disconnect in terms of Customs’ liability and the terms and conditions of international conveyance for the goods also helped create much of the confusion. Lets not even go down the INCOTERM route.

Internationally, customs administrations – under the global voice of the WCO – have conceded that the worlds administrations need to keep pace and work ‘smarter’ to address new innovations and dynamics in the international supply chain. One would need to look no further than the text of the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) to observe the governing body’s view on harmonisation and simplification. However, lets now consider SARS’ response in this matter.

SARS response to the Chamber of Business

Right of reply was subsequently afforded by FTW Online to SARS.

Concerns over Customs’ determination to have all goods cleared at the coast – expressed by Pat Corbin, past president of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry in last week’s FTW – have been addressed by SA Revenue Service.  “One of the main objectives of the Control Bill is the control of the movement of goods across South Africa’s borders to protect our citizens against health and safety risks and to protect the fiscus. “In order to effectively determine risk, SARS has to know the tariff classification, the value and the origin of imported goods. This information is not reflected on a manifest, which is why there is a requirement that all goods must be cleared at the first port of entry into the Republic.“It appears that Mr Corbin is under the impression that the requirement of clearance at the first port of entry has the effect that all goods have to be consigned to that first port of entry or as he puts it “to terminate vessel manifests at the coastal ports in all cases”. This is incorrect. “The statutory requirement to clear goods at the first port of entry and the contract of carriage have nothing to do with one another. Goods may still be consigned to, for example, City Deep or Zambia (being a landlocked country), but they will not be released to move in transit to City Deep or Zambia unless a declaration to clear the goods, containing the relevant information, is submitted and release is granted by Customs for the goods to move. The release of the goods to move will be based on the risk the consignment poses to the country.“It is definitely not the intention to clog up the ports but rather to facilitate the seamless movement of legitimate trade. If the required information is provided and the goods do not pose any risk, they will be released.”

So, where to from here?

The issue at hand concerns the issue of the ‘means’ of customs treatment of goods under national transit. In Part 3 we’ll consider a rational outcome. Complex logistics have and always will challenge ‘customs control’ and procedures. Despite the best of intentions for law not to ‘clog up the port’, one needs to consider precisely what controls the movement of physical cargo – a goods declaration or a cargo report? How influential are the guidelines, standards and recommendations of the WCO, or are they mere studies in intellectual theories?