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Comment Sought on Draft Merchant Shipping Bill

March 6, 2020

Department of Transport

A draft bill designed to provide for the registration and licensing of ships in South Africa has been published for comment.

The transport department published the Draft Merchant Shipping Bill in Government Gazette 43073.

The draft bill aims to:


• provide for the powers and duties of the Minister and the South African Maritime Safety Authority in the administration of this Act;
• provide for the registration and licensing of ships in the Republic;
• provide for the application of the labour laws to seafarers, to provide for the conditions of employment of seafarers and the health and well-being of seafarers on board a vessel;
• promote the safety of life at sea;
• establish inspection and enforcement mechanisms including those for marine casualties and crimes committed on ships;
• provide for the regulation of marine traffic, provide for legal proceedings and jurisdictional matters, to recognise and incorporate international conventions to which the Republic is bound in terms of the provisions of the Constitution and its incorporation into domestic law in terms of laws repealed by this Act;
• provide a transition framework to the new requirements of this Act; and
• provide for matters incidental thereto.

Chapters focus on administration; ship registration, tonnage, licensing of vessels and notifications of intention to build vessels; seafarers; maritime safety; marine casualty and marine incident investigations; marine traffic; offences and penalties; proceedings by authority and legal proceedings; regulations and general provisions.

Comment is invited within 60 days of the date of publication.

Meanwhile, in Gazette 43080, the department announced public and stakeholder information and consultation meetings to be held on the draft bill.

The meetings kick off on 9 March 2020 in Johannesburg and conclude in Pretoria on 31 March 2020.

In a separate matter, the department, in Gazette 43079, announced its intention to table the Draft Railway Safety Bill in parliament during 2020.

The draft bill was published for comment in March 2018.

The proposed legislation is aligned to the Draft White Paper on National Rail Policy and government’s plan to move passengers and freight from road to rail.

According to the department, once enacted, the draft bill will facilitate an improvement in general safety within the railway environment.

This will ensure that rail becomes an attractive mode of transport and contributes towards economic growth.

The draft bill seeks to:


• provide for the regulation of railway safety in the Republic;
• provide for the continued existence of the Railway Safety Regulator;
• provide for the board and governance structures of the Regulator;
• provide for railway safety permits;
• provide for railway safety critical grades and safety management systems;
• provide for a national railway safety information and monitoring system;
• provide for a legal framework to enforce compliance with the Act and to deal with railway occurrences;
• provide for an appeal mechanism;
• provide for transitional arrangements and the repeal of the National Railway Safety Regulator Act, 2002; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.