R-140402-Cape Town- The opening of the first Cape Town Maritime Port of Entry Control Centre opened by the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan and the Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor, situated at the Cape Town Harbour. Reporter: Henriette Geldenhuys Picture: Angus Scholtz

Johannesburg - Ship turnaround times are expected to shorten at the Port of Cape Town, which on Friday opened the first integrated maritime port of entry control centre in South Africa.

The centre offers help to all government departments involved in the clearance and rummaging of vessels and their passengers. These include the Home Affairs Department’s immigration and inspectorate; the SA Revenue Service’s customs; the State Security Agency; border police and the departments of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and health.

So far, the police service has been the only border control authority at all ports.

The Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, said that to achieve the trade targets of the National Development Plan (NDP), South Africa needed to reduce delays at border posts and increase trade facilitation by implementing effective risk management systems at points of entry.

The NDP has set targets to increase South Africa’s inter-regional trade with the rest of southern Africa from 7 percent to 25 percent by 2030. It wants this to make up 30 percent of the country’s total trade, increasing from 15 percent.

Gordhan said about 90 percent of the country’s trade volume and 80 percent by value was seaborne. South African ports handled about 200 million tons of trade a year.

“Efficiency and risk-managed customs procedures at border posts will reduce the cost of moving goods.

“The co-operation of the private sector and adequate attendance to these processes will enable border authorities to process their imports and exports faster and thereby reduce costs,” said Gordhan.

Positioned strategically adjacent to the port’s E-berth, which has been earmarked for docking passenger vessels when Cape Town develops a cruise liner passenger terminal, the centre is also intended to tighten controls over illegal immigration.

Each vessel coming into the harbour will first be cleared by the Department of Health and then moved on to complete all other border control processes before leaving the harbour precinct.

“This comes in looking more at the security aspect at the ports. But it will affect operations in the sense that if a vessel is deemed to represent a risk, the people will be alerted and act,” said Transnet National Port Authority chief executive Tau Morwe.

He said the centre would help to reduce the influx of counterfeit goods into South Africa.

Morwe added that the Cape Town centre would be a pilot project and in due course this system would be implemented in all other ports in the country.

South Africa has 10 maritime ports of entry. The Minister of Home Affairs, Naledi Pandor, said ports were more complex borders to manage.

She said the launch of the control centre was a precursor to the planned border management agency, which is expected to be established by the end of 2016.

“We have been faced with a peculiar situation where people who hadn’t been through immigration are able to enter the city and sometimes they disappear,” Pandor said.

According to Pandor, a total of 6 173 commercial vessels and 55 passenger vessels entered and or left the port of Cape Town last year. About 62 570 people entered and or departed from Cape Town harbour.

The port processed 870 851 containers and 729 736 tons of dry bulk.

Gordhan said the centre introduced a new way of managing maritime port of entry into South Africa as the sea posed unique risks and challenges in immigration control.

“For those who intend to challenge the laws of our country, be warned that we intend to raise the bar of compliance by an order of magnitude.” - Business Report