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HomeInformationUPDATE : Cargo movement during South Africa lockdown - What is allowed...

UPDATE : Cargo movement during South Africa lockdown – What is allowed and not allowed

south africa cargo movementAs you are aware and has been reported here, South Africa has been on lockdown for COVID-19 since the 27th of March 2020..

The lockdown period has now been extended from the 16th of April 2020 to the 30th of April 2020..

From the time the first case of COVID-19 was announced in South Africa on the 5th of March 2020, there have been several changes in the regulations governing the movement of commercial cargo in SA via the ports..

Here is where things stand as of the 12th of April 2020 18th of April 2020 in South Africa..


Crew Change

Under sections 80(1) (g) of the National Ports Act, 2005 (Act No. 12 of 2005) as of 18th March 2020 crew change is prohibited till further notice in all eight commercial ports in South Africa – Durban, Richards Bay, Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Saldanha Bay, Port Elizabeth, Ngqura and East London..


  1. South African seafarers returning to South Africa via any of the sea ports will be allowed to disembark ;
  2. South African seafarers returning to South Africa via any means other than a ship calling at a sea ports will be subjected to the provisions of the applicable laws that govern the respective mode of transportation they use ; and
  3. All returning seafarers will be subjected to a quarantine period of up to 21 days as well as any measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus


Passenger movement

  1. All passenger vessels are prohibited from disembarking any passengers or crew at any of South African sea ports.
  2. Passenger vessels will be allowed to call at any of South African sea ports only for the following purposes:
    • Disembarking South African crew;
    • Disembarking returning South African citizens and holders of permanent
      resident permit;
    • Replenishing fuel, stores and provisions.
  3. The crew shall be allowed to disembark subject to mandatory quarantine laws as may be applicable.


Cargo Ports & Terminals

Bulk & Breakbulk Cargo Terminals (all terminals are working with reduced labour force)

  • Operations at all Bulk Terminals (mineral mining commodities) will be scheduled as per demand from mining customers, subject to approval by Department Public of Enterprises ;
  • Agri-Bulk products (grains, soya bean meal, fertilizer and woodchips) deemed an essential service will operate on a single berth operation at Port Elizabeth, East London, Richards Bay and Durban Agri terminals ;
  • Bulk fruit exports will work on a single berth operation at Cape Town and Durban Fresh Produce Terminal ;
  • The following Breakbulk Terminals (MPT’s) are operational with a single berth operation in order to handle essential break-bulk goods and containers –
    • Cape Town MPT, Richards Bay MPT and Durban Point MPT ;
    • East London MPT, Saldanha MPT, Port Elizabeth MPT and Maydon Wharf MPT are not operational ;
  • Automotive/RoRo Terminals in Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London are operational only for local imports (no transshipment) provided the shipping line gives the terminal a plan to evacuate the vehicles out of the port within a reasonable time ;
  • Automotive/RoRo exports are not allowed and only vehicles already in the terminal before lockdown can be loaded

Container Cargo Handling (all terminals are working with reduced labour force)

  • Durban Container Terminals (DCT) Pier 1 working on 1 berth and Pier 2 working on 3 berths ;
  • Ngqura Container Terminal (NCT), Port Elizabeth Container Terminal (PECT) are operational using 1 berth each  ;
  • Cape Town Container Terminal (CTCT) is operating with 2 berths ;
  • Cape Town Multi-Purpose Terminal (MPT) is handling containers at a single berth ;
  • Durban Point is operational on a single berth for both containers and essential breakbulk goods ;
  • East London will not handle containers during this period ;
  • Landside, inclusive of rail, will remain open during this period, albeit on a reduced resource basis ;
  • During the lockdown period, DCT Pier 2 will operate a mandatory truck appointment system for all containers ;
  • Reefer containers will continue to be prioritised over non-essential exports.

Shipping in South Africa - COVID-19 lockdown

Mandatory requirements

Each container vessel will be required to provide a mandatory import evacuation plan prior to berthing, to maintain stack fluidity during this
period.. This plan must be honoured in order to avoid the severe consequence of the terminal being blocked out during this period..

TPT requires all clearances and assignment of containers prior to berthing.. It is the responsibility of the shipping line to move the import containers to a suitable facility within the free period..

TPT has reserved the right not to berth a vessel should these requirements not be met..


Ship Operations

The following ships are allowed entry into the operational sea ports :

  • Cargo working ships ;
  • Passenger vessels allowed only for purposes of disembarking SA crew and returning SA citizens ;
  • Ships calling for refueling and supplies


Essential & Non-Essential Cargo

Only below goods classified as essential is allowed to be released to receivers or allowed to be exported..

Categorisation of Essential Goods during lockdown – Regulation 11A

  1. Food
    • Any food product, including non-alcoholic beverages ;
    • Animal food ; and
    • Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any food product ;
  2. Cleaning and Hygiene Products
    • Toilet Paper, sanitary pads, sanitary tampons, condoms ;
    • Hand sanitiser, disinfectants, soap, alcohol for industrial use, household cleaning products, and personal protective equipment ; and
    • Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any of the above
  3. Medical:
    • Medical and Hospital Supplies, equipment and personal protective equipment ; and
    • Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any of the above
  4. Fuel, including coal and gas ;
  5. Basic goods, including airtime and electricity ;
  6. Transportation of wines and any other fresh produce products at the sea ports designated as Port of Entry for export is allowed ;
  7. Agricultural Cargo is allowed to be transported to sea ports designated as Ports of Entry and exported to the relevant destination

In terms of delivery of containerised import cargo, below is the current government ruling :

  1. All cargo (essential or non-essential) may be evacuated from ports of entry to their intended destination, provided that such cargo:-
    • has been sanitised in a manner, at a time, and by such a person as may be prescribed by the relevant Government Department ; and
    • has been customs cleared and released prior to removal, or is removed (e.g. to City Deep) by an approved container operator on the basis of a manifest submitted to SARS ; and
    • is delivered to an approved or licensed temporary storage facility (e.g. container terminal, container depot, sea or air transit shed, air de-grouping depot, railway station, etc) located at the intended destination of the cargo ;
  2. Once goods have been removed from a port of entry to a temporary storage facility, the physical delivery thereof to any consignee is subject to the restrictions imposed by the Regulations in respect of essential services and goods for the duration of the lockdown ;
  3. Essential goods may be delivered from temporary storage facilities to consignees who perform essential services, subject to a valid customs clearance and release and, where applicable, any release authorisation by the relevant Government agency ;
  4. Until such time as the lockdown periods ends, or any further amendment to the Regulations are made that allows for the delivery of non-essential goods to consignees, such goods must be stored in temporary storage facilities (e.g. container depots, sea or air transit sheds, air de-grouping depots, railway stations, etc.) ;
  5. This means the entities exercising release controls on behalf of SARS (e.g. container operators/carriers, container depots, sea or air transit sheds, air de-grouping depots, railway stations, etc.) may not allow the delivery of non-essential cargo to any consignee until after the lockdown and any deliveries made will be in contravention of regulations and this may attract penalties as outlined in 11G of the regulations.
  6. In terms of exports, only essential cargoes as regulated by the Government will still be allowed and TPT will not support the export of non-essential cargo unless exemption is granted through the relevant regulatory body authorised to grant such exemption..
  7. But TPT have recognised that empty containers are required as a conveyance of essential goods and as such will allow the evacuation of empty containers as exports through their terminals..


It must be remembered that all through the lockdown, the requirement to clear all permitted import, export and transit cargo as prescribed in the Customs and Excise Act, 1964 (Act No. 91 of 1964) remains unchanged..

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All Government Gazettes maybe downloaded here..

Disclaimer : All above information has been consolidated from the various notices from the various authorities and provided in good faith for guidance only.. Please verify the requirements and status with the relevant authorities before taking any action based on above advice..


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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..


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