Ports & Ships Maritime News

Apr 24, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • SARS ready to order scanners

  • Kei Rail link from East London to Mthatha to be running by December

  • Concern over tariff cut deadline

  • EU reprieve for Kenya’s fishing industry

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    SARS ready to order scanners

    The South African Revenue Services (SARS) is preparing to reveal the name of the winning bidder or bidders who will supply 18 X-Ray scanners for installation at the country’s container terminals and border points.

    At present South Africa has but a single scanner in service at the Durban Container Terminal. Last year more than 3 million TEU entered or left the country via the ports, and large quantities also travelled across the borders with Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana.

    On 26 January this year SARS Commissioner Pravin Gordhan announced that SARS was preparing to acquire 18 x-ray scanners that will be placed at the various strategic entry points including the country’s ports.

    Gordhan was addressing a meeting to celebrate World Customs Day, and was accompanied by the Assistant Commissioner for US Customs, Keith Thomson. Gordhan said the first of the new scanners would be installed in Durban harbour by July to better manage the existing CSI (Container Security Initiative) programme run jointly with the US Customs.

    The 18 scanners would be of the static and mobile variety which would cost the department a total of R1Bn including training of personnel.

    It is believed that a total of five companies submitted tenders for the supply but have since been ‘thinned’ down to three bidders.

    Kei Rail link from East London to Mthatha to be running by December

    The Eastern Cape MEC for Provincial Roads and Transport says the proposed reopening of the rail link between East London and the former Transkei capital of Mthatha will be operating by December this year.

    MEC Thobile Mhlahlo announced this shortly after national Transport Minister Jeff Radebe indicated that the province would receive a share of the R7.7 Billion to be spent on rail infrastructure.

    Mhlahlo said there was a strong need to move freight back on to rail but this required the rail services to be efficient for both freight and passengers.

    The planned revival of the railway between the port of East London and Mthatha was first mooted about three years ago. At first there was talk of a high speed service although no indication has ever been given how this is to be achieved, and given the number of major watersheds that the line has to traverse this must remain doubtful.

    There has also been talk of using the 281km railway to bring timber to the port instead of having it taken by road to Durban and Richards Bay as at present – a considerably longer journey that is also blamed for the deteriorating roads in both the former Transkei and southern KwaZulu Natal.

    Mhlahlo indicated that the Eastern Cape Government envisages a private rail operator and not necessarily Spoornet operating the line, when he said that his department would be calling for submissions from rail operators to manage the line within the next two months and that a full-time rail operator would be operating the Kei Rail link by the end of this year.

    Concern over tariff cut deadline

    Johannesburg (IRIN): There is growing concern that World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries are unlikely to meet the 30 April deadline for broad agreement on agricultural and trade tariff cuts.

    "We are not very optimistic, but we still have a week, so it would be premature to say that the deadline will be missed," said Xavier Carim, South Africa's chief negotiator last week at the WTO in Geneva. He said the cuts were "critical" in enabling countries not only in Southern Africa, but the entire developing world to compete on an equal footing in the global economy.

    After a WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong last December made little progress, member countries set 30 April 2006 as the deadline for reaching agreement on how to reduce farm subsidies and cut tariffs on manufactured goods. The meeting followed the Doha round of WTO negotiations, launched in 2001 to lower trade barriers so as to boost the global economy and lift millions out of poverty in the developing world.

    The details of the overall broad framework, drawn up in Hong Kong, need to be finalised by the end of 2006, before US President George Bush's "fast-track" power to submit a trade deal to the US Congress expires in mid-2007. The power eliminates the possibility of Congress making any amendments to the deal.

    According to a WTO official, the heads of all delegations are to meet in Geneva on Monday to decide on a way forward.

    Carim said the main stumbling block was the negotiations on agriculture. He pointed out that while the US has suggested "ambitious" cuts related to agricultural tariffs on imports, the European Union's proposed reductions had been "inadequate" and the G-20 group of developing nations had met the required cuts midway. A reduction in import tariffs by developed nations would benefit developing countries wanting to sell their products at competitive prices in European or US markets.

    However, the Americans have not been forthcoming on cutting subsidies to their local farmers, making agricultural produce from developing countries seem a lot more expensive in US markets, according to Carim.

    "Rich, industrialised countries spend USD 1 billion each day to support their domestic agricultural system. African countries are not being given enough space to protect their vulnerable farmers or to promote fledging industry," said Mouhamet Lamine, trade campaign manager in the West Africa office of the development agency, Oxfam International. "What rich countries are offering right now is not nearly good enough - it is better to have no deal before 30 April than a bad deal."

    Lamine commented that although the EU and the US had agreed to eliminate agricultural export subsidies by 2013, they have not adequately addressed issues such as "dumping" cheap foods, including meat and poultry, in African markets. "Livelihoods of farmers are being destroyed across Africa. While cotton production supports 25,000 farmers in the US, it affects at least 15 million people in West Africa."

    A round of talks between the African Union and the WTO in Kenya last week also did not make much progress, he added.

    Development NGOs like Oxfam and ActionAid have insisted that the onus to reduce tariffs is on the developed world, as the Doha talks centered around uplifting poorer countries.

    (This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations)

    EU reprieve for Kenya’s fishing industry

    Kenya’s fishing industry has received a shot in the arm following the clean bill of health for the condition of the East African country’s beaches by the European Union (EU).

    Earlier there were threats that the EU might ban fish imports from Kenya on account of local facilities including the condition of the beaches. However an inspection team sent by the EU to Kenya spent a week visiting the respective facilities along the Indian Ocean coastline and the shores of Lake Victoria and found nothing untoward. The inspectors have since indicated that these facilities and conditions in Kenya are acceptable and that fish exports may continue.

    However, according to a report in The Nation Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries was advised by the EU inspectorate that the sanitation and state of fish-testing laboratories was not satisfactory and would have to be upgraded in order to avoid being placed on the ban list. “Shape up or be banned from exporting fish into their market,” said a source of the newspaper.

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