Reg. Transport Plans
Friday, 13th October 2017
Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”
The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Clutching at Straws
As 2017 draws to a close the good reason for concern in the SADC regional road transport industry. The recent and recurring obstructions by regulators and the looming mass of planned bureaucratic interventions make it imperative for the industry to prepare for engagement at the highest possible levels. For this reason, FESARTA is developing strategic plans to ensure that the voice of the industry is not muted or obscured by an imminent tide of regulatory activity that is often contradictory, uncoordinated and based on impracticalities for achieving the stated mantras of “liberalisation”, “harmonisation”, “enhancement of trade”, and “regional integration”.
The various proposed interventions present a confused mixture of transport regulations and measures to monitor and control movement of goods.
This in a climate where taxes and charges and delays at borders contribute at least 50% of the total transport cost on the North South and other corridors and no evidence of political will to facilitate the private sector attempts at increasing efficiency and trade.
SADC- Tripartite formally initiated the Tripartite Transport and Transit Facilitation Program (TTTFP) in September 2017, with the overall objective “to facilitate the development of more competitive, integrated and liberalised regional road transport market in East and Southern Africa. The programme is purely aimed at the quality of road transport operations by harmonising regulations, instruments, systems and standards to be applied by Member States. These include, Transport Operator Registration, linked into the Integrated Transport Register and Information Platform System (TRIPS). Harmonised vehicle dimensions, specifications and equipment, vehicle testing stations, training, testing and licensing of drivers as well regulations for abnormal loads, dangerous goods, overloading control with uniform management and control systems at weighbridges. All of this is to be enacted under the Multilateral Cross Border Road Transport Agreement (MCBRTA) between all countries which will repeal current bilateral agreements. The basic objective is to identify and register compliant operators, so as to remove the need for permits and eliminate obstructions at borders and on corridors.
In South Africa the Cabinet Meeting 24th May 2017 approved the Road Freight Strategy for South Africa which is well aligned with the TTTFP programme as well including recommendations for several changes to RSA regulations that are currently unworkable.
At the same time however the CBRTA is still proceeding with its competitive “Operator Compliance Accreditation Scheme (OCAS)” which has the eclectic objectives; to enable road transport to play its role; enhance efficient regulation of Cross border transport, response to regional TTTFP compliance by operators with traffic regulations, advancing liberalisation and self-regulation, migration to quality regulation and harmonisation, Improvement in trade and efficiency. SA Revenue Service (SARS) has introduced mandatory Electronic Cargo Manifest Submissions at the Lebombo Border Post. From 01 November 2017, SARS will only accept electronic submissions of cargo manifests to their Manifest Processing System (MPR) at the Lebombo Border Post and at all other Ports of Entry in Mpumalanga. No manual cargo manifest submissions will be accepted after the 31st of October 2017.
COMESA: Secretariat has developed a Single Window (SW) electronic initiative called COMESA Virtual Trade Facilitation System(CVTFS) with the purpose of promoting trade through; facilitation of movement of data to stakeholders, increased connectivity in data sharing among various agencies, increased transparency, standardisation and predictability, monitoring of transaction progress across multiple steps within the process chain. The CVTFS started with real time cargo tracking and was developed to address many challenges associated with the movement of international cargo such as smuggling and diversion of cargo in transit, delays in clearance of cargo at the border posts and long cargo transit and release time.
African Union Commission has initiated the “Design and Costing of North South Corridor (NSC)” and “Dar es Salaam Corridor (DC)” as PIDA PAP Pilot Smart Corridors (PSCs) for Implementation. The characteristics of the SMART Corridor (SC) include vehicle tracking, electronic, integrated information systems, processing, and definition of procedures as well the appropriate corridor coordination and management for a SMART Corridor. The consultants say that “appropriate corridor coordination and management for the corridors are either in place or preparation for its establishment is at an advanced stage and there is nothing further to be done on this matter except for the stakeholders to finalize what they have already decided to do in strengthening or establishing the Corridor Management Institutions (CMI)”. The transport industry in the SADC region would disagree.
Zimbabwe has introduced the system of Customs applying electronic seals on all vehicles at border, defining routes and escorting convoys of vehicles which cannot be sealed. The resulting chaos has led to massive queues and delays at Zimbabwe borders. This adds to the FESARTA total of 992 Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) recorded in past 8 years of which 62 are still unresolved, and of course many of them were resolved by closing the discussions. According to TRALAC “the most prevalent NTBs hindering regional trade in the Tripartite Territory include customs procedures and administrative requirements, technical standards, government participation in trade and the lack of physical infrastructure. This is of particular importance to agricultural trade within the region. Cumbersome documentation requirements, stringent standards and inefficient road and rail networks cause time delays and increase the cost of intra-regional trade. This has a direct and indirect impact on the quality and price of agricultural products available in the regional market.
FESARTA and IRU have a MOU which includes evaluation of the potential for the International TIR system for handling interstate cargoes by all modes.
EU –SADC Trade Facilitation Programme - Lot 10: Trade, Standards and Private Sector is a programme intended to address the many issues obstructing trade in SADC region. FESARTA will be working with the team.
The number and variations in these plans and programmes may be contrasted with the very effective improvements that are in operation in the EAC region which include Single Customs Territory, standardised road charges, reduced bond costs and massive improvement to border delays through efficient OSBP development. The FESARTA team is contributing to these positive developments in EAC and with the support of the SADC and COMESA-based road transport associations and their members will be defining the issues and increasing engagement with the authorities in 2018.
To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there………. if you keep walking long enough” ….
but enough is enough!