Wednesday, May 29, 2024
shipping and freight resource services
HomeDemurrage and DetentionArticle 4 - Import process

Article 4 – Import process

Before we start the import process lets look at some definitions/explanations :

Consignee or Importer : Companies that are authorised by Customs and Govt authorities to import cargoes into South Africa from various countries..

Place of Origin : A place from which a certain cargo originates in order to be shipped to a certain destination as per the contract of carriage.. This place of origin could also be an inland destination..

Port of Load : A seaport from which the cargo can be loaded on board a ship..

Port of Discharge : A seaport at which the cargo is discharged from a ship..

Place of Delivery : A place to which the cargo is to be delivered as per the contract of carriage.. This place of delivery could also be an inland destination..

Storage Free Days : A period of time (usually about 3 days – depending on the port) specified by the port authorities within which period, the containers imported by the consignee must be cleared and moved out of the port or terminal.. Any containers that stay in the port or terminal over these free days will be subject to storage charges as per the port tariff..

Demurrage Free Days : A period of time (usually about 7 days – depending on the shipping line and whether the place of delivery is coastal or inland) specified by the shipping line within which period, the containers imported by the consignee must be cleared, and the empty container returned to the empty depot nominated by the shipping line.. Any containers that are not cleared within these specified free days will be subject to demurrage charges as per the lines tariff..

Arrival Notification : Also known as ANF – is a notification that is sent by the shipping line to the consignee and/or notify party mentioned on the bill of lading advising them of the expected date of arrival of the ship so that the consignee can arrange for the shipment to be cleared at customs either by themselves or their nominated customs clearing agent.. This ANF is general sent at least 7 days prior to arrival of the vessel..

Most of the shipping lines bill of lading indicate in the Notify Party field that the line is not liable in case of failure to notify and most lines consider it as an additional service to the client and are NOT obligated to send the ANF..

Carrier Haulage : Movement of the container from Point A to Point B under the control of the shipping line using a haulage contractor nominated by the shipping line.. In this case the consignee will pay for the same at the lines rate..

Merchant Haulage : Movement of the container from Point A to Point B directly by the consignee using his nominated haulage contractor.. In this case the consignee has the choice to negotiate his own rates for the same..

Redirection : This comes into play when the client would like to redirect a box from its original destination to another or change a mode of carriage from one to another.. Example :- A container is booked for final destination Johannesburg under the lines control and under carrier haulage.. Once the ANF is received from the shipping line, the client might exercise the option to change it from Carrier Haulage by rail/road to Merchant Haul by road.. The redirection request may or may not be accepted by the shipping line/port authorities depending on the time frame within which the request is submitted..

The Process

The import process essentially starts when the shipping line receives the copies of the manifest from their counterparts at the load port.. Once the manifest is captured by the shipping line or their agent into their systems, they should be able to generate an ANF that is sent to the consignee and/or the notify party nominated in the bill of lading..

Once the ANF is received by the consignee, they can then start the customs clearance process to file a B/E.. Once this B/E is filed and stamped by customs, the consignee can approach the shipping line for the release of the cargo upon arrival of the ship.. Normally below documents are required by the shipping line in order to release the cargo to the consignee :-

  • Bill of Lading – this can be either an Original or a copy in the case of an Express or Way bill depending on what has been issued for the shipment..
  • Bill of Entry in original authorised by customs
  • Cargo Dues Order authorised by TNPA

The consignee passes on this release document to his nominated haulage contractor for the container to be delivered at their nominated destination for unpacking.. In the case of carrier haulage, the movement is automatically done by the shipping line once the above docs have been received..

Once the container has been delivered to the nominated destination and the cargo unpacked, the consignee has to return the empty containers to the depot nominated by the shipping line within the specified free days allowed.. The shipping lines monitor the incoming stock into their depots on a daily basis and charge demurrage (as per the individual lines tariff) to the consignees that deliver the empty containers to the depot later than the free days..

Only once the empty container has been turned in, the import process between the shipping line and consignee is deemed to be completed.. Further on, the shipping line has to do their manifest acquittal with customs to close off their manifest..

Please subscribe to my RSS feed (link on the top right side bar of this and all other articles) for further updates and links to the other Articles..

Liked the content..??

Sign up below to receive the best and most reliable industry content for free from THE Definitive Online Resource for Shipping and Freight..




Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. We would like to know if the import containers are weighed at the terminal or the container yard in Tianjin and Qingdao.

  2. Hariesh, my question particularly relates to the legal implication on the Shipping Line when ‘redirecting’ a container.
    As you are aware, it is common practice in SA to redirect shipment between JHB & DBN.

    The redirection is exercised at the request of the Cosignee/consignee agent, usually without the knowledge or permission of the Shipper.
    Is this legal? Can it not be considered a breach of contract between the Shipper and Shipping Line?

    An example: A shipment is booked for final destination JHB, The Consignee requests the shipment be redirected for final destination DBN. The consignee takes release of the shipment, ex DBN. Enroute to JHB, the container is hijacked. Can the Shipper not make a claim against the Shipping Line for allowing the container to be released in DBN instead of JHB?

  3. I have a question regarding import duties and hope I am asking on the correct site?… How do import duties compare on example a pair of gumboots, waders, clothing TO South Africa FROM China vs USA vs UK? Thanks a lot. Helga

  4. hi. i am hoping you can help me, i am in the process of starting my own company. my main business will be selling 100% organic body and hair care products as well as 100% organically grown and harvested chinese herbal tea. i have to import because these products are not available locally. my stock is coming from italy, china and pakistan. what problems should i be anticipating regarding my stock? may you also help me with regards to the customs agents. i have contacted the department of trade and industry but my querie fell on deaf ears. please help, no one else will. thanking you in advance. Faye

  5. Hi , Sorry i am sure this question has come up numerious times , with regards to the SOB dates IRO rates of exchanges .Could you please advise what would be the correct SOB date that needs to be used if we have a ANF and a Bill of Lading as well the SHIPPING LINES have on their Websites the “LADEN ON BOARD” date Also where on the Sars Website can I get hard copy proof of this .

    • Hi Sugen, not sure what you mean.. Presume you are speaking about imports since you mention ANF.. If it is imports, i don’t see any relation between SOB and ROE.. The ROE for imports is generally fixed by the shipping lines as per their standard policies.. Some 7 days before vsl arrival, some 5 days, some use the ROE on the date of discharge..

      If you are speaking about SOB, then the SOB on the ANF and the BL should both match as both are issued by the shipping line..

  6. hey great thinking of starting my own distribution business but now the whole shipping thing confusing.i read in the site that i need agent can u tell me of any in jhb.and how difficult to import from china? thanks in advance.

    • Hi Andrew, i dont think there is any set “formula” as such for calculating duties.. That would depend on the country of importation and the rules and regulations set by the government..

  7. Excellent website!
    I have a question regarding the import of a car into SA build before 1975 . It is a left hand drive . The legislation is a bit unclear/grey in this case.
    First, can I import if I have the proof that the car was bought by me before 2000? And can I get it registered in SA in my name for road use today?
    As it was a restauration project of mine it was never registered in my name overseas!
    Import duty would be no problem but an oldtimer that can not be used once in a while would be pointless.
    Thanks so much!

  8. Thanks for the speedy reply, its so great to have such an efficient person on the other end of a south african inquiry, for a change..!

    How do I go about registering with SARS..?

    Whats the best way to get in touch with an approved agent, any recommendations..?

    Kinds regards


  9. Could you assist me please..

    I’d like to import about R20 000 worth of accessories for my car (body kit, etc). The shipping company says i will need a broker/agent to take care of duties and taxes etc..

    Im quite new to all these laws, and will probably only import like this once or twice in my life..

    Whats the best course of action for me..?



    • Hi Rhys, the shipping line is right indeed.. You as an importer need to be registered with SARS (Customs) for the importing and also you need a customs approved agent to do the customs documentation for you.. The agent will handle all your documentation with customs and pay the duties and taxes on your behalf and you will then pay the agent..

  10. Thank you Rob!

    Import permits export police clearances and Letter of Authority are done before I sail correct? Is there a contact address, email where I can get the forms to fill out?

    • Hi Santa, there is really no “separate” process or procedure for Cross Trades.. Cross trades are also exports from somewhere and imports to somewhere, so the normal export and import procedures would follow, of course always bearing in mind the local procedures at each of the countries..

      One VERY IMPORTANT thing is for you to ensure that matters relating to the freight and charges are clarified and cleared and place of payment confirmed prior to all arrangements being made for the cross trade.. You dont want to go through the whole shipment just to find that the monies have not been paid or will not be paid in time..

      You also need to find a reliable cross trade service provider preferably someone with a local office or agent, so that if anything did come up, you would have someone to work with locally..

      Trust this would help..

  11. Hi Alfred

    This is my opinion from your article.

    Depending on what your milling machine is for, ie plastic & wood TH84.65 and metal TH84.59, both duty free. You need to check on Import permits as all used items require one.

    IRO your 2 motor vehicles, only one per family is permited duty free under specific conditions set out under Rebate Item 407.04 and will have to pay the duty on one. You will require export police clearances and import permits and a SABS Letter of Authority for the vehicles and motor cycle.

  12. Thank you for your response. I hope I may continue dialog with you to assist me with this overwhelming international move. I apologize in advance if ask too many questions or bother you too much. I have no one to look after me and I have too much to lose.

    I’m trying to save money by packing it myself. The companies I have contacted want to pack my property in 2 containers. I know I don’t have that much to pack. Everybody wants to make maximum profits. I am a competent person with engineering knowledge and can do as good a job as anyone, packing a container so long as I have official protocol, if any, to follow.

    Last I checked, I am allowed to import left hand drive cars up to the year 2000. One is 1967 and the other 1973. These cars were modified/upgraded by myself and I’m hoping this will impress perspective clients to generate work. They are only used on weekend drives.

    I checked tariffs regarding the milling machine and there are none listed. I’m not surprised. This machine will create work within SA and it will generate more in taxes on the parts I make with it, than they will on import duties, not to mention it was made in 1948.

    Can you recommend a good customs broker on this side? I’ve been told to be vary wary on who I deal with in the shipping industry. Can you also direct me to who I can contact on the SA side of customs, to officially tell me what I can and can’t bring in?

  13. Hi Alfred, i presume you would be using the services of a packing company to pack your container..

    In the case of the car, it is highly recommended that you lash the car inside the container securely.. when you receive the empty container (whether you are using the shipping lines container or the container that you buy) pls check to ensure that you have the lashing points..

    But before all that, i suggest that you get hold of a reliable customs broker as it really depends on how you are going to import your cargo.. Whether as personal effects or as commercial cargo.. If it is personal effects, there will be restrictions on what you can declare as personal effects and i dont think the milling machine fits that category..

    Also left hand drive vehicles are not allowed for import into SA..

    So before you start with anything, suggest you contact a good broker your end..

  14. I am immigrating to South Africa from the USA. I was quoted $20,000 USD for door to door service. If a company was paying for it to relocate me, I would be thrilled. Another problem is I don’t have a “door” to deliver to.

    I’m looking to buy a certified for international shipping 40′ container (+- $3500 USD), pack it myself, and when it arrives, I’ll park it on my property in Cape Town while I build my house. I was quoted a price of $4,300 USD from Long Beach to Cape Town.

    Included in the container will be, 2 small sports cars, a 250cc motorcycle, Bridgeport milling machine and various other related and non related tools. Is there a protocol I must follow to pack the container? Should the cars be chained or can I block the tires or just set the parking brake? It doesn’t matter if they get scratched they need to be restored anyway.

    Also, what can I do to make life as easy as possible for the officials on the South African side? Photos or video while packing? 18 years ago, I shipped the motorcycle from South Africa to the USA. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

  15. hello tishan.. you say you pay fuel sucharge on the gross weight, but you pay the consolidator the “higher weight”.. which is the higher weight than the gross weight..?? i presume you are talking about volumetric weight..??

    There is no regulation on this as far as i know.. Consolidators are allowed to charge according to their tariffs..

    Hope this helps..

  16. i have a question with regards to imports and export and fuel surcharge. when you export aor import a shipment direct with the airline, you pay fuel surcharge on the gross weight, but export or import using a consolidator, and you pay using the higher weight. does anyone know if there is a regulation with regards to this?

  17. Hi Sonja, generally SARS would send a notification of any customs stopped containers to the shipping line advising them of the same.. The shipping line in turn would send this to the client advising them of the same.. In the case of any customs stop and any costs accruing thereof, the client would be liable for the same..

    In your case, if you have not received this intimation then the best option would be to take it up with the line and discuss with them..

  18. Hi
    My container was released by Maersk Line on Friday and CTO accepted by Portnet.

    Upon approaching Portnet to uplift this container the driver was advised that there is a customs stop on it.

    This was the first time that we hear that this container was stopped.

    This container will now be on storage on Monday.
    Who is responsible for the storage charges and are they allowed to do this.

    I would appreciate your help

  19. I’ve just started working in MSC and your blogs helped me to clear my concepts regarding the shipping industry. Thank you very much! 🙂


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



Sign up below to receive the best and most reliable industry content for free from THE Definitive Online Resource for Shipping and Freight..



FBX - Freight Indices