Customs and Immigration
25 October 2012 | Richards Bay
Dr. Izak Labuschagne
Customs officials accompanied by a large contingent of Border Control and Water Wing Police conducted a raid on all foreign registered yachts early in September.
Apparently similar raids took place at ports further down the coast. Yachts were arrested and impounded and fines where levied.
The officials alleged that the law states that if a foreign vessel was in the country for more than 6 months it needed to be imported and various duties paid etc.
They also alleged that foreign vessels needed to be inspected by the South African Maritime Safety Authority before being allowed to sail along the coastline.
The usual visa extensions issued when yachtsmen wanted to do refits in South Africa have also been denied on several occasions.
It was also alleged that any foreign vessel traveling along the South African coast has to clear customs every time when leaving or entering a South African port.
None of these regulations previously appeared in any cruising guides and apparently no disclosure was made of these requirements by customs and immigration to visiting yachts or yacht clubs previously.
It was reported by at least one international yachtsman that some of these requirements and some fines have since been dropped when the officials where challenged to prove the laws alleged. Those international yachtsmen that challenged the officials did not have to pay anything. Those that took the least line of resistance all paid.
The local newspapers published an article in which they expressed their mystification about the laws purportedly enforced. A senior customs official from the capital city said that the law applies to commercial vehicles entering South Africa only and not to yachts.
Arresting and impounding of international yachts falls under the Admiralty Jurisdiction of the High Court of South Africa so the arrests are highly questionable.
As a result, Customs and Immigration officials in South Africa have raised suspicions amongst international yachtsmen that some of their members were just pulling a fast one or engaging on some corrupt extortion scheme, pretty much in character with the reputation that has developed in other government departments in South Africa over the last few years. Be that as it may, most international yachtsmen that where subjected to that kind of behavior have vowed never to return to South Africa and to discourage others from coming here.
Please check directly with Customs and Immigration in South Africa before arriving. Contact the KZN dept. of Home Affairs on +27 31 5838800 Cell: 082 906 8334 or Fax:(031) 5838843 and Customs +27 11 602 2093. Ask for full and frank disclosure of all their regulations and ask for an indemnity against any laws not disclosed. Better still, engage an agent as the ships do - it is not that expensive.
PS Noonsite also did a report on this issue, see http://www.noonsite.com/Countries/SouthAfrica/south-africa-richards-bay-durban-foreign-yachts-charged-new-tax They where quoting from an article in the witness at http://www.witness.co.za/index.php?showcontent&global[_id]=88913
and on Captainwiki at http://www.captainwiki.com/index.php5?title=South_Africa