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Article 1 – The Basics of Shipping

The Basics of Shipping

In this article we will cover the BASICS of Who is Who and what role they play in the South African Container Shipping industry..

The Authorities


  • Transnet Freight Rail (formerly known as Spoornet)
  • Transnet National Port Authority (formerly known as NPA)
  • Transnet Port Terminals (formerly known as Portnet, SAPO)

SARS – South African Revenue Services (Customs)

The Users of the facilities provided by the above authorities

  • Shipping Lines
  • Ships Agencies
  • Freight Forwarders
  • Clearing Agents
  • Haulage companies
  • Intermodal operators
  • Exporters
  • Importers
  • Surveyors

Details of the Authorities

Transnet is a government owned and operated entity that has operations in several sectors as below:

  • Transnet Freight Rail (formerly Spoornet – the freight rail division)
  • Transnet Rail Engineering (formerly Transwerk – the rolling stock maintenance business)
  • Transnet National Ports Authority (formerly the NPA – fulfils the landlord function for South Africa’s port system)
  • Transnet Port Terminals (formerly SAPO – managing port and cargo terminal operations in the nation’s leading ports), and
  • Transnet Pipelines (formerly Petronet – the fuel and gas pipeline business, pumps and manages the storage of petroleum and gas products through its network of high-pressure, long distance pipelines)

For the purpose of this blog we will concentrate only on below entities and what they do..

Transnet Freight Rail :

Provides rail infrastructure between the various corridors within South Africa and out of South Africa.. Most commonly operated routes are between :

Johannesburg (the terminal is known as City Deep), Durban (Bayhead), Port Elizabeth (Algoa Bay), Cape Town (Table Bay), East London (Buffalo Bay), Pretoria (Pretcon) for Imports into South Africa & vice versa for exports out of South Africa..

There are of course other routes operated by Transnet, which are not as common for the containerised traffic..

Trains operate on each corridor with different frequencies with the Durban/City Deep corridor being the most frequent..

They also operate the coal, ore links between the various ports in South Africa..


Transnet National Port Authority

In simple terms, Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) is considered to be the “landlord” of the country’s primary trading hubs = Richards Bay, Durban, Saldanha Bay, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Mossel Bay and Ngqura (Coega) in the Eastern Cape..

TNPA controls and manages the above ports and provides marine services (simple terms = bringing in and taking out the ships at the harbours) at all the above ports and in addition provides cargo operations at the various sheds/berths..


Transnet Port Terminals

They are the “tenants” of TNPA and handle the cargo operations at the various port terminals in South Africa.. The cargo terminal operations they handle are :

  • Container Terminals (Durban, Durban Pier 1, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London)
  • Car Terminals (Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth)
  • Breakbulk (Multipurpose) Terminals (Durban Point, Durban Maydon Wharf, Richards Bay, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Saldanha Bay)
  • Bulk Terminals (Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay, Agriport (Richards Bay)


South Africa Revenue Services (SARS)

SARS is the Customs authority of South Africa controlling all the sea and airports in the country.. They control all the duties and taxes of all cargoes coming in and going out of the country.. All cargoes must be cleared by them before it can be released to the client locally or exported overseas..

SARS have introduced a Single Administrative Document (SAD) which is a multi-purpose goods declaration form covering imports, exports, cross border and transit movements, in order to :

Make clearance easier and more convenient for importers, exporters, and cross-border traders

Incorporate all the information necessary for advance customs clearance and customs risk management purposes

Reduce paperwork and allow for quicker turnaround times, with fewer errors, less confusion, lower costs and improved trade efficiencies

Details of the Users

The users of the above port and customs facilities can be classified as :

Shipping Lines : Companies who operate the ships that actually carry the containers and cargo from load port to discharge port..

Examples : MSC, Safmarine, Hamburg Sud, Maersk

Ships Agencies : An entity that represents shipping lines, ship owners or ship managers and handle their marketing, sales, operations and accounting functions in a given port or range of ports or internationally – nowadays most of the shipping lines have their own offices instead of having an agent..

Examples : Diamond Shipping Services, Rennies Ships Agencies, Mitchell Cotts

Freight Forwarders : A freight forwarder is a person or company that arranges the carriage of goods and the associated formalities on behalf of an exporter or importer.. The duties of a freight forwarder include booking space on a ship, providing all the necessary documentation and arranging Customs clearance (own or outsourced)..

Examples : Safcor Panalpina, DHL Global Forwarding, Barloworld Logistics

Clearing Agents : An agent that works on behalf of the exporter or importer to assist them with the processing of documents with the relevant customs authorities in preparation for the cargo to be shipped.. This agent has to be accredited by Customs..

Examples : UTI, Metcon, Robin Shipping

Haulage companies : Companies that carry out the transportation of containers and/or cargo from A to B – usually by road..

Examples : Freight Haul, Freight Dynamics

Intermodal operators : Companies that carry out the transportation of containers and/or cargo from A to B using multiple modes of landside transport using road/rail..

Examples : Cargo Movers Kaserne Depot, Grindrod Intermodal

Exporters : Companies that are authorised by Customs and Govt authorities to export cargoes from South Africa to various countries..

Examples : SAPPI, Mondi, BHP Biliton

Importers : Companies that are authorised by Customs and Govt authorities to import cargoes from various countries to South Africa.. Examples : ABB, Siemens

Article 2 – Documentation used in the container shipping industry in South Africa


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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..


  1. Sir
    Your blogs are very easy to understand and inspiring.
    I have a request. Plz create a mobile app for this blogs…
    Its very useful for play store users….

  2. @Suhaib:

    Transshipment is a usual term used in the shipping and logistics industry mostly by the shipping lines.

    Now, When you ship your container from one port to another there are chances that it does not go to the destination port on the same ship that it was loaded on. What happens here is that you container reaches an intermediary port where it is offloaded on the port terminal from where another ship carries it to your destination port. This process is called transshipment.

    Its just like how you fly from one place to another with the same airline but with multiple halts. Put your cargo in place of you, its called transhipment in shipping terms.

  3. Thumbs up for this great article. I know from experience that shipping your personal possessions across the globe is nothing compared to just hiring a mover to move your stuff around the corner. It involves a lot of research and careful decision making.
    Nice read.

  4. Read your blog-great work. Trying to find trucking rates Jburg to Durban or Richards Bay for scrap steel. Any thoughts???


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