South Africa boasts more than 1,700 miles of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Despite this, the country does not have a single South African flagged ship in its registry. SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) CEO Tsietsi Mokhele told Parliament’s transport portfolio committee that the country relies on foreign flagged vessels and operators to move cargo along its coastline and import and export cargo from its ports. In 2011 98 percent of all imports and exports, an estimated 264 million tons of freight, were moved by foreign flagged vessels and foreign operators at a cost of R45 billion ($5.7 billion USD) a year.
Mokhele also presented the fact that the BRIC countries have well developed merchant fleets: Brazil with 172 merchant vessels, Russia with 1,891 vessels, India has 534 vessels, and China is operating 2,044 merchant ships. He also told the committee that most of what left South Africa’s port last year were sent out of the country as “free on board,” meaning the point of sale for the product was the port from which it is exported – benefiting the nations nominating the export. Currently South Africa’s only role in the export of products is delivery to the port.
South African cargo makes up 3.5 percent of the global seaborne cargo. Interest in the South African maritime industry is great and the committee was urged to look at financing to support this important sector of the country’s economy and develop a coastal and blue water fleet.