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Shipping and Logistics law, process and Examples in South Africa

- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - June 2019

There is an old adage that the open seas are lawless and no laws pertain to it – but this is in fact quite untrue. While a country may not extend its laws into open waters, there are still regulations that shipping companies, cruise liners and general maritime enthusiasts need to comply with. And of course, each country still has laws applicable to its coastlines. And we are going to discuss some laws that pertain to shipping and logistics and as it applies to those ships coming to and leaving our shores.

First let’s discuss liability when it comes to damages or collisions, as this is a hotly debated topic among maritime law experts. Under The South African Maritime Safety Authority Act No. 5 of 1998, an authority has been established and granted the power to investigate collisions and possible losses to determine liability. This is done in conjunction with consultation of the Apportionment of Damages Act No.34 of 1956 as well as relative international legislation – for example the law of the flag of the vessels.

As it applies to shipping and logistics law, one of the most important pieces of legislation to consult is the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act No.1 of 1986 as amended by the Shipping General Amendment Act 23 of 1997. This sets out the rules for the carriage of goods by sea where the shipping port is located in South Africa, as well as the bill of lading, receipts, contracts to carry goods by sea and transport of live animals by sea.

Under sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Merchant Shipping Act No. 57 of 1951, surveyors of the port authority have the right to inspect vessels and to interview their crew members while they are in a South African port. These powers also include declaring a vessel unseaworthy and detaining it until it is repaired. This is in line with the Indian Ocean MOU for Port State Control 1999.

Shipping and logistics law has many facets attached to it, and many regulatory bodies oversee the correct procedures to follow. It may also become more complicated as imports to South Africa are on the rise, particularly with the advent of online shopping apps like Wish, which often ship by sea. With that in mind, what other important pieces of legislation are there to consider when looking at shipping and logistics law?

  • Admiralty Jurisdiction Regulation Act 105 of 1983
  • Marine Living Resources Act 18 of 1998
  • Marine Pollution Control and Civil Liability Act 6 of 1981
  • National Ports Act 12 of 2005
  • Sea Transport Documents Act 65 of 2000
  • Ship Registration Act 58 of 1998

Of course shipping is not just limited to the seas and as technology has progresses so has the means by which we ship goods across the world and around the country. Therefore one must also consider the laws that pertain to aviation, specifically air-freight logistics. Much as there are ports for ships, airports have their own goods and imports section where cargo is off-loaded from freight carriers. And then of course we must also consider what happens to these goods once they make it past our ports – what logistics are in place to carry these goods to their final destinations. The law regarding this is tightly regulated and South Africa keeps a strict eye on imports while also levying heavy import duties on certain goods.

If you require any advice or input regarding shipping logistics and the applicable laws, why not reach out to us and we can put you in touch with a maritime law expert who can assist.

Shipping and Logistics law