Biggest bust of Rhino Horn at a South African airport

Biggest bust of Rhino Horn at a South African airportSARS Customs officers at OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) last week intercepted over 41kg of rhino horns – with a total value of over R4.5 million – transiting through the airport. This is the biggest ever seizure of rhino horn by the SARS Customs team at OR Tambo International, Johannesburg.

As a result of profiling two foreign nationals travelling from Maputo to Vietnam via Johannesburg,  their baggage was intercepted during a stop-over at ORTIA. A Customs detector dog “Mimmo” reacted positively to two bags. The tags found on the bags also did not correspond to the tags presented to Customs officials during the initial questioning of the passengers. This is a practice commonly found with narcotics smuggling syndicates.

The bags had a strong garlic and glue smell, (a tactic to distract detector dogs). Further to the plastic wrapped horns, the zips of the bags were also glued in an effort to keep the odour intact and to make the inspection difficult. Subsequent physical inspection of the bags by Customs officials revealed the rhino horn allegedly being smuggled by the two travellers. Source: SARS

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Hundreds of dead animals found at South Africa airport

Some 400 endangered amphibians and reptiles have died from dehydration and improper shipping in South Africa, animal inspectors say.

More than 1,600 animals were discovered crammed into two crates at the OR Tambo International Airport. The survivors are being treated at a local zoo.

The animals, from Madagascar, had been without water and food for at least five days, reports say. They are believed to have been destined for the exotic pet market in the US.

The surviving animals have been taken to the Johannesburg Zoo, where they are said to be “stable”.

“A substantial number have stabilised, eating and drinking, there are about over 1,200 that have survived – others with irreparable damage,” the zoo’s veterinarian Brett Gardener told the BBC.

Mr Gardener said while some losses can be expected when shipping animals over long distances, what possibly exacerbated this particular case was the delay to the connecting flight to the US.

“The boxes arrived on Tuesday morning and were scheduled to connect on a flight that evening. The flight was delayed indefinitely due to bad weather and attempts to put them in another flight failed,” he said.

The animals were found on Wednesday after an inspector from the National Society for the Prevent of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) noticed “a bad smell” during a routine cargo inspection and found that some of the animals in the boxes had begun decomposing and some were barely alive.

The animals, which included at least 30 different species of frogs, chameleons, lizards and toads and geckos, had been placed in two crates about half a metre in size – one on top of the other.

The chameleons were tied in small muslin bags, while the other reptiles and amphibians were crammed into small plastic tubs.

Some of the animals were so tightly packed together that they were unable to move or turn around, local media report.

Many of the recovered animals were classified as endangered, vulnerable, or threatened, according to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

Those on Cites appendix II protocol, meaning that they can be traded, but only with a special permit.

The Star newspaper reports that they did have the authorisation but local animal rights groups have called for an investigating into how the consignment came to arrive in South Africa.

The NSPCA and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are further investigating the matter.

“The authorities suspect that there are South African agents involved [who work as middle men] and once investigations are finalised they would be charged with animal cruelty,” said Ainsley Hay, head of the NSPCA’s Wildlife Unit.

The department will be contacting authorities from Madagascar to discuss what should be done with the animals, until then they will be treated in some zoos locally.

Madagascar, the fourth largest island on the planet, is deemed one of the world’s biological hotspots. Source: BBC

Airport Cities – a view to a different trading environment for South Africa?

ace_skyscraper_237x352aerotropolisThis past week witnessed the first Airport Cities Convention in South Africa. It came at the timely announcement of the country’s first aerotropolis earmarked for development around Oliver Tambo International airport (ORTIA) and the surrounding industrial complex. While the City of Ekurhuleni gets prized possession of the ‘aerotropolis’ (in title) by virtue of the location of ORTIA, Johannesburg is set to benefit perhaps more greatly due to it being the epi-centre of South African commerce and trade. This represents significant ‘hinterland’ development which bodes well for future multi-modal transport and shipping activity for the Gauteng region and the country as a whole.

In support of government’s National Infrastructure Plan, is Strategic Integrated Project (SIPs) 2, otherwise known as the Durban-Free State-Gauteng logistics and industrial corridor. Infrastructure upgrades are already occurring to road and rail networks linking to the key cargo and distribution hub, City Deep. While the express purpose of an inland port, terminal or logistics hub is to provide relief for congested seaports, it likewise creates possibilities and opportunities to synergise with other transport forms. This serves to maximise capacity through integration offering local suppliers and foreign customers a host of trade, shipment and logistics options.

Foremost, an inland port is a hub designed to move international shipments more efficiently and effectively from maritime ports inland for distribution throughout the heartland. Think of the logistics of inbound freight as a barbell. At one end, inbound containers flood into a seaport, spreading across local storage facilities as they are unloaded. If they aren’t moved quickly enough from the port, they create a bottleneck that bogs down the entire distribution cycle as containers wait longer to get off ships, to get into warehouses, and to get back out and onto trucks and trains for final shipment. The Emergence of the Inland Port (credit: Jones, Lang, LaSalle)

In a world of increasing global integration, focussing more on global distribution of goods and services, it behoves our country to understand the dynamics of global trade and what in fact makes commerce tick. Today’s number 1 spot is not going to remain intact without continuous re-evaluation and innovation. It would indeed be arrogant (if not suicidal) of us to think that our current prominence and strength in the sub-saharan region will remain without innovation for the future. At the same time South Africa should welcome increased competition from its neighbours, both immediate as well as further north in Africa. The latest fDI 2013 Report indicates a decrease in foreign direct investment in South Africa (-5%) and Kenya (-9%), while at the same time a significant increase in foreign investment in Nigeria (+20%) and Egypt (+20%), respectively. True, the latter countries are far removed from South Africa’s immediate ‘playing field’, however do we fully understand the drivers which cause the named countries to attract FDI at such an increasing rate – are they capitalising somehow on our deficiencies, shortcomings, or lack of opportunism?

The National Infrastructure Plan can only be seen as a single cog in the machinery to keep South Africa competitive. And, while it is encouraging to witness these developments, a corresponding economic and commercial enterprise on both government and private sector is required to maximise these developments. Some smidgen of hope could lie in the Department of Trade and Industry’s economic principles which support Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs), for example, however, several business commentators have already voiced concerns on exactly how these support the Infrastructure Plan. A further question lies in our country’s ability to facilitate trade, not only at our ports, but more importantly the ‘hinterland’ of our country and the neighbouring regions. Do our existing and future laws adequately provide for expeditious and facilitative procedures in the treatment of import and export goods? Are we sure that we are addressing all real and potential trade barriers?

Anyone desiring more information on the ‘aerotropolis’ concept should find some interest at the following websites – Aerotropolis.com, and the City of Ekurhuleni

Aerotropolis for Gauteng…stuff’s about to happen

Oliver Reginald Tambo International Airport (east of Johannesburg) to become Africa's first aerotropolis

Oliver Reginald Tambo International Airport (east of Johannesburg) to become Africa’s first aerotropolis

The Gauteng Provinicial government has announced that Africa’s busiest airport, OR Tambo International Airport is set to become the location for the continent’s first aerotropolis. Work on the development of the aerotropolis, centred at OR Tambo International Airport, seeks to leverage public and private sector investment at the airport and surrounding areas. In supporting industrial development in this precinct, approval has been granted for the creation of an Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in the area surrounding the airport. Heard this all before, but what’s different this time around?

An aerotropolis is an urban plan in which the layout, infrastructure, and economy is centered around an airport, existing as an airport city. It is similar in form and function to a traditional metropolis, which contains a central city core and its commuter-linked suburbs.The term was first proposed by New York commercial artist Nicholas DeSantis, whose drawing of a skyscraper rooftop airport in the city was presented in the November 1939 issue of Popular Science.The term was revived and substantially extended by academic and air commerce expert Dr. John D. Kasarda in 2000, based on his prior research on airport-driven economic development. Wikipedia

Jack van der Merwe, who successfully oversaw the development of the Gautrain project, has been appointed to lead the initiative of developing the aerotropolis. The proposal for the airport to become a terminal city with air, rail and road networks fuelling economic development. It is envisaged to include a commercial component, hotel, conferences, exhibitions and a residential component.

One of the key initiatives of the national government is the e-Thekwini-Free State-Gauteng freight and logistics corridor, known as the Strategic Infrastructure Project 2 (SIP2), which seeks to improve the movement of goods from the Durban port to Gauteng, and to business enterprises nationally as well as in southern Africa.

City Deep/Kazerne cargo terminals and the planned Tambo-Springs Freight and Logistics Hub are to be the focal points for the movement of goods for the export market. Phase 1 of the City Deep/Kazerne Terminal expansion and roads upgrade was underway at the continent’s largest and busiest in-land container terminal. This includes a redesign and upgrading of the roads network in and around the City Deep Terminal to provide for better flow of freight traffic and linkages with the national highways – the cost of the road works would amount to R122 million. At some point the issue of non-tariff barriers to import/export trade will need to be discussed…..and overcome.

Transnet has completed the first phase in the actual improvements of the terminal. It will be investing R900 million in upgrading the terminal. A detailed road design work, including feasibility studies and the development of a master plan, are underway for the Tambo-Springs Inland Port. Now, we’re talking…….

Gauteng  Province is to get 2 484 new modern trains as part of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) rolling stock for fleet recapitalisation and refurbishment programme.

The province will be making major investments in road infrastructure in the coming financial year and these include reconstruction and upgrading of the R55 (Voortreker Road) to a dual carriageway road between Olievenhoutbosch and Pretoria West; rehabilitation of the remaining section between Main Road and Maunde Street in Atteridgeville; reconstruction and upgrading of William Nicol Drive (K46) between Fourways and Diepsloot as well as reconstruction and improvement of the remaining section of the Old Pretoria to Cullinan Road between the Chris Hani Flats and Cullinan, among others. Wow, and the toll fees?

The department has been allocated a budget of R4.77 billion for the 2013/14 financial year. Of this amount R1.4 billion has been earmarked for roads maintenance and upgrading, R1.7 billion for public transport operations and R802 million for the running cost of the Gautrain Management Agency. Source: EngineeringNews

So, all-in-all, the above together with other recent noises of incentives and benefits for foreign and local investors in SEZs, the future holds some promise and interest…..

IDZs to be replaced with SEZs

Department of Trade and Industry (South Africa)Heard this before? In line with the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the New Growth Path, the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) aims to continue fostering its efforts to create employment and economic growth by establishing a strong industrial base in South Africa. The new initiative aims to improve on the concept of industrial development zones (IDZs) which have enjoyed mixed success since being introduced in December 2000 through the Manufacturing Development Act. 

An IDZ is a purpose-built industrial estate linked to an international airport or seaport which is tailored for the manufacturing and storage of goods. It offers investors certain rights within the zone, in addition to incentives such as customs duty and VAT relief. One important priority of the IDZs is to boost job creation and skills in underdeveloped regions. The IDZ programme led to the establishment of five zones – Mafikeng, OR Tambo International Airport, Richards Bay, East London and Coega. The Richard’s Bay IDZ only commenced its first phase of development in September last year while OR Tambo International Airport is not yet fully operational.  The Industrial Policy Action Plan, issued by the Department of Trade and Industry in February 2011, has also identified, as a key milestone, the establishment of an additional IDZ at Saldanha Bay. 

The Special Economic Zones (SEZs) programme is one of the most critical instruments that can be used to advance government’s strategic objectives of industrialisation, regional development and job creation. Moreover, the programme can assist in improving the attractiveness of South Africa as a destination for foreign direct investment.

In order to ensure that the SEZ programme is an effective instrument for industrial development, the dti has developed the SEZ Policy and Bill. Through the Bill there will be a dedicated legislative framework for special economic zones.

The main objectives of the SEZ Bill are to provide for the designation, development, promotion, operation and management of Special Economic Zones; to provide for the establishment of the Special Economic Zones Board; to regulate the application and issuing of Special Economic Zones operator permits; to provide for the establishment of the Special Economic Zones Fund; and to provide for matters incidental thereto.

Furthermore, the SEZ Bill will enable government to move towards a broader Special Economic Zones Programme, through which a variety of special economic zones can be designated in order to address the economic development challenges of each region and address spatial development inequalities.

Although national laws may be suspended inside industrial zones, government is currently not offering regulatory incentives to derogate from labour rules, a concession which is seen by some as crucial to stimulate investment in special zones. It is however unlikely that a relaxation of labour laws will be considered under the SEZ initiative. Benefits are rather expected to come in the form of enhanced incentives for labour intensive projects and additional tax relief for investors. A further question arises – just how flexible an inventive will the customs and VAT requirements be allowed to be?

The key provisions include the establishment of a Special Economic Zones Board to advise the Minister of Trade and Industry on the policy, strategy and other related matters; establishment of the Special Economic Zones Fund to provide for a more coherent and predictable funding framework that enables long-term planning; strengthening of governance arrangements including clarification of roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders. Source: Department of Trade and Industry.