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COVID-19: A consolidated update on regulations in South African ports

4 August 2021
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There have been several notices and regulations issued recently by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and local government relating to COVID-19 protocols in force across the various ports within South Africa.

Keeping up to date with the frequent changes to the regulations can be challenging. We have therefore set out a brief synopsis of the current position below:

  • At present South Africa is under an adjusted level 3 lockdown in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002;
  • Crew changes are permitted at all nine South African sea ports in accordance with SAMSA Marine Notice 47 of 2020;
  • The replenishment of fuel, stores, provisions, spares and conducting of critical vessel maintenance and repairs are permitted;
  • The transfer of stores and spares for vessels situated off port limits (OPL) is permitted subject to strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols;
  • Vessel masters must make accurate maritime declarations of the health and well-being of all on-board crew to the authorities. If a master issues a false declaration by failing to record any illness which is later discovered by the port health authorities, this will constitute an offence in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002. Any false declarations could result in imprisonment of the master as well as the imposition of a fine and/or other punitive measures;
  • Vessel masters must make a declaration of all crew who joined the vessel in the last 30 days, the transit points they passed through and provide details of stowaways on-board (if any). All information must be accurately reflected on the pre-arrival notice;
  • A declaration must be submitted providing details of the vessel’s last 10 ports of call prior to entering a South African port;
  • Vessel masters must maintain a medical log of daily temperature screenings of all persons on board, and this must be presented to the port health officer, TNPA and other relevant authorities, on request;
  • All crew signing off the vessel must undergo an appropriate COVID-19 test prior to arrival at any South African airport and all luggage must be sanitised;
  • All signing-on crew must produce a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test certificate or other valid certification reflecting a COVID-19 negative test result at the first South African port of entry. The test result must have been obtained not more than 72 hours prior to the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory and in line with World Health Organization requirements;
  • In the event of a crew member failing to produce a valid PCR test certificate, such failure will result in the crew member having to quarantine, at the crew member’s own cost;
  • All persons embarking and disembarking vessels must undergo temperature tests, and fill in COVID-19 declaration forms, wear personal protective equipment (PPE), maintain physical distancing of at least two meters where possible and ensure good hygiene;
  • The vessel bridge, equipment and any stationery which is to be used must be sanitised prior to the pilot embarking and after the pilot has disembarked the vessel;
  • Limited interaction between bunker barge operators and vessels is permitted. Crew members must ensure that gloves are provided and used when handling mooring lines and that all COVID-19 preventative precautions are strictly observed;
  • Technicians, surveyors, and essential maintenance personnel are permitted to visit vessels in port and at anchorage – subject to strict compliance with all COVID-19 protocols;
  • No person will be allowed to board a vessel unless on official business. An accurate record/log recording the entry of persons and body temperature testing must be kept ready for inspection by any authority. Temperature screening records of the crew must be maintained on a daily basis and any persons boarding the vessel must be screened. Vessel’s COVID-19 plans must include restricted access to the vessel. No food or beverages may be consumed by any TNPA personnel or other persons whilst visiting a vessel;
  • The wearing of masks in public or when interacting with shore personnel is mandatory – failure to use a mask is punishable by a fine or imprisonment or both. Disposable PPE from every vessel must be disposed of as hazardous waste. A separate medical waste bin must be provided on every vessel for this purpose;
  • Shore leave for crew will be permitted for essential reasons only or in case of an emergency. Any prevailing lockdown level regulations applicable in South Africa must be adhered to. There is currently a restriction on the movement of persons between the hours of 22h00 and 04h00. Non-compliance with the regulations is considered serious and may result in a fine or imprisonment or both;
  • Passenger vessels are not permitted to call at any South African ports except to replenish fuel, stores, provisions and to carry out repairs. Crew and passenger shore leave remains prohibited; and
  • Medical evacuations as well as search and rescue operations are permitted.  

The TNPA have reiterated the importance of security incident reporting in line with the South African Merchant Shipping (Maritime Security) Regulations, 2004. Specifically, there is a duty on the masters of vessels and vessel operators to report security incidents under regulations 111 and 112 respectively. The regulations place an obligation on the aforementioned parties to ensure that all maritime transport security incidents are reported to:

  • the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC);
  • the South African Police Service;
  • if the ship is within a security regulated port, the port operator for the port; and
  • if the ship is using a port facility within a security regulated port, the port facility operator for the port facility.

Failure to comply is a criminal offence under the regulations and any person found to be in contravention may be subject to a fine or imprisonment of 12 months.

It is important to ensure that all vessels entering South African ports are aware of the latest protocols and regulations as well as the potential penalties for non-compliance.

The information contained within this summary was correct as at the date of publication, but may be subject to change at short notice by the South African Government or transport authorities.