The central thrust of this submission is that the National Ports Authority Bill treats South African ports as if they were somehow divorced from the broader urban and regional contexts within which they operate. There is little recognition in either the Bill or the White Paper which preceded it that ports are an integral and often major component of urban economies and have a direct impact on cities’ transportation systems and infrastructure. Increasingly, too, they are playing a major role in local tourism strategies.

We thus endorse the sentiment of the portfolio committee that a ports strategy cannot be isolated from a broader transport and industrial economic strategy.

The White Paper sets out by acknowledging this when it says –

"…there are indeed aspects in the administration of commercial ports that impact on both the provincial and local government spheres, and it is obviously in the public interest and in accordance with both the letter and spirit of co-operative government, that these aspects e meaningfully addressed. The Constitution stipulates that all spheres and all organs of Government must co-operate with one another in mutual trust and good faith by fostering friendly relations, assisting and supporting one another, informing one another of, and consulting one another on, matters of common interest."

Likewise, the White Paper lists as one of the objectives of the National Commercial Ports Policy "to ensure that strategic port planning is closely aligned with the integrated development planning process of the associated city".

But these acknowledgements are not carried forward into the body of the White Paper and do not find expression in the National Commercial Ports Bill.

International Practice

The following table demonstrates a dominant international trend by which major world ports are governed not by highly centralised national authority, but by the cities and regions in which they are located.






The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is a statutory board which was formed by the MPA Act of 1996. The MPA comes under the purview of the Ministry of Transport (MOT).




Rotterdam Municipal Port Management (RMPM) was created in 1932 and manages the 10 500 ha. port and industrial complex on behalf of the municipality of Rotterdam.

The Rotterdam Port Authority [RPA] is a division of the RMPM and is responsible for managing shipping traffic throughout the Rotterdam-Rijnmond area. The RPA is also responsible for traffic control and management, port operations control, and noxious and dangerous goods.

In 1998, the port earned the municipality R92 million guilders.


South Louisiana

South Louisiana is the largest tonnage port in the United States and the third largest in the world. The 7-member Board of Commissioners is appointed by the state’s Governor and each represents one of the local government parishes.

The Port serves primarily as landlord to eight facilities leased to operating companies such as Peavey, Occidental, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill. The exception is the Globalplex Intermodal Terminal, which the port purchased in 1992 and is currently redeveloping into a world class complex to accommodate a variety of dry bulk and break-bulk cargo.


Hong Kong

The Port of Hong Kong is unusual in that it does not have a port authority to provide and control all the port infrastructure. Most of the port facilities are privately owned and operated, with minimal interference from government. The Marine Department of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the port.



The Port of Houston Authority is an autonomous governmental entity authorized by a 1927 Act of the Texas Legislature. The seven-member Port of Houston Commission is the governing body for the Port of Houston Authority. The City of Houston and the Harris County Commissioners Court each appoint two commissioners. These two governmental entities jointly appoint the chairman of the Port Commission. The Harris County Mayors & Councils Association and the City of Pasadena each appoint one commissioner.



The Nagoya Port Authority is a special local government body that was jointly established by Aichi Prefecture and Nagoya City in 1951. It is a port administration body regulated by the Port and Harbor Law. The authority is responsible for the preparation of harbour plans and for construction and works for the improvement of port facilities, and administers and manages the port area. Intra-harbor traffic, preservation of the water surface, stevedoring works, etc. are handled by private enterprises

15 assemblymen from Aichi Prefecture and 15 Nagoya City assemblymen constitute the 30-person Port Assembly. The current president of the Assembly is the mayor of Nagoya City


New York/New Jersey

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a financially self-supporting public agency that receives no tax revenues from any state or local jurisdiction and has no power to tax. It relies almost entirely on revenues generated by facilities users’ tariffs, fees, and rents.

The Governor of each state appoints six members to the Board of Commissioners, subject to state senate approval. Board Members serve as public officials without pay for overlapping six-year terms. The Governors retain the right to veto the actions of Commissioners from his or her own state.

The Board of Commissioners appoints an Executive Director to carry out the agency's policies and manage the day-to-day operations.





The port is administered by an autonomous municipal body with a separate corporate identity, called the Antwerp Port Authority (APA). The APA owns the docks and the sites used by port operators and industries and also some of the port’s equipment. The Antwerp Port Authority has a workforce of 1,800. It owns and manages docks, berths, locks and bridges. It is responsible for planning, modernising and maintaining the infrastructure of the port, and for operating its own equipment, including floating cranes, shore cranes, tugs and dredgers. The Antwerp Port Authority leases sites and land, and distributes electricity in the port.





The Vancouver Port Authority (VPA) was established in 1998 in terms of the Canada Marine Act, which is "an Act for making the system of Canadian ports competitive, efficient and commercially oriented". Among other things, the Act establishes the governance model for the Board of Directors, setting criteria for the qualifications, terms of appointment, eligibility, and other matters related to the Board of Directors.

The relative autonomy of the VPA Board allows it to make most key business decisions in the region instead of seeking approvals from Ottawa. Board members are selected by both industry and government. Business plans and capital budgets are approved by the VPA Board, and do not have to go to Ottawa. The Board is able to approve borrowing up to $225 million for port improvements without having to seek central agency approval from the Treasury Board/Federal Minister of Finance.




The Port of Melbourne is Australia's largest and busiest container port, handling 37 per cent of Australia's container trade. It is also the largest automotive port in Australia.

Melbourne Port Corporation (MPC) is a corporatised port authority, established in 1996 with objectives and functions as defined in the State of Victoria’s Port Services Act of 1995. The MPC owns and manages the 493 hectares of land within the Port of Melbourne. Portfolio responsibility rests with the Minister for Ports.




The Sydney Ports Corporation was established in 1995 after a series of reforms to the former Maritime Services Board aimed at bringing greater commercial focus, inter-port competition and customer responsiveness to the management of international shipping.

United Kingdom



In 1991 First Corporate Shipping Limited, a private company owned by Terence Mordaunt and David Ord, purchased a 150 year lease of the Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Dock Estate from Bristol City Council.

United Kingdom



The Port of London Authority is a public trust established in 1908 to ‘administer, preserve and improve the Port of London’. Currently it is constituted under the Port of London Act of 1968. It has no equity capital and all its operations are financed from revenue with no outside support. Finance for capital works comes from internally generated funds, supplemented by commercial loans and leasing.


Long Beach


The Port of Long Beach is governed by the City of Long Beach through the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. The five members of the Harbor Commission are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Commissioners appoint the executive director to head the Harbor Department, a 300-person department of the City of Long Beach that carries out port policies and manages port development.
The Port of Long Beach operates as a landlord. The Board of Harbor Commissioners leases port shipping terminals and other facilities to private firms. Port revenues are reinvested in new facilities and improvements.

California laws require ports to earn and spend their revenues only on activities related to commerce, navigation, marine recreation and fisheries. The port receives no funding from the city General Fund.

The City Charter created the Long Beach Harbor Department to promote and develop the port. Under the Charter, the five-member Board of Harbor Commissioners is responsible for setting policy for the port and the management and control of the Harbor Department.


Los Angeles



The Port of Los Angeles is a department of the City of Los Angeles and is often referred to as the Los Angeles Harbor Department. The Port is operated and managed under a State Tidelands Trust that grants local municipalities jurisdiction over ports and stipulates that activities must be related to commerce, navigation and fisheries. A five-member Board of Harbor Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Los Angeles City Council to provide direction and create policy for the Port.

As a proprietary and self-supporting department, the Port is not supported by taxes. Instead, revenue is derived from fees for shipping services such as dockage, wharfage, pilotage, storage, property rentals, royalties and other Port services. Considered a landlord port, the Port of Los Angeles leases it property to tenants who then, in turn, operate their own facilities



As is clear from the above, it is overwhelmingly the global trend for city authorities to be directly involved in the administration of ports within their areas of jurisdiction. These arrangements are dictated by the very obvious interdependence that exists between ports and their hinterland city and regional areas. A review of international practice indicates that such municipal involvement in port management usually takes the form of an independent local port authority in which the host city is one of a number of core stakeholders.

In contrast to the majority of these major port cities, South African maritime local authorities have virtually no say in the development, operation or regulation of the ports which form not only the raison d’etre of their original establishment, but the very backbone of their strategic and economic focus. Historically, Portnet has undertaken both the landowner and regulatory functions of national ports and provided marine services, and the National Ports Authority Bill perpetuates this highly centralised and exclusionary pattern of control.

Key Issues

The following key issues arise out of our consideration of the National Ports Authority Bill.

  1. The Bill fails to afford proper acknowledgement to the constitutional principle of cooperative government, which requires the cooperation of not just the three spheres of government, but also stakeholders from outside government in processes that impact on their interests and activities. In this context it is imperative that any approach to restructuring the administration, management and asset holdings of a structure such as Portnet should be subject to input from local authorities and other stakeholders in the regions where such entities are based.
  1. The Bill fails to recognise the role of ports in local economic development (LED).

Neither the National Ports Forum, which is mentioned in the White Paper but not provided for in the Bill, nor The Port Consultative Committees which are provided for in section 63 of the Bill are satisfactory vehicles for such partnerships. They are purely advisory in nature, incorporate too disparate a number of stakeholders, have too limited a mandate, and are dependent on too wide a ministerial discretion in setting their agendas.

In respect of the regional competitive advantage which is promoted by competition within and between the various ports in South Africa , it is noted that the numerous

submissions to the portfolio committee have stated that the White Paper fails to explicitly recognize these types of competition, and is inadequate to that extent.

  1. In the field of urban transport planning, the White Paper stipulated that in the context of integrating land transport planning processes, the National Land Transport Transition Act and the Municipal Structures Act will remain the key documents informing a holistic approach to transport planning and will enable coordination between national, provincial and local governments and the National Ports Authority. In furtherance of this objective, it was envisaged that municipalities’ Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) would be integrated with a National Port Development Framework Plan. However, this intention is not explicitly carried into the Bill, and in the absence of adequate institutional arrangements to develop such a framework it is unclear how the integration will take place, especially in relation to cost apportionment.
  1. Urban Planning Issues

dimension of planning and towards an understanding that developmental spatial planning decisions can not be made without reference to the full range of social, cultural, economic, political, environmental and technological issues which impact upon, and which are affected by, those decisions. The move to a principle-led, normative approach to planning introduced by the Development Facilitation Act (DFA) of 1995 heralded in a paradigm shift in planning in South Africa. The so-called DFA Chapter 1 principles apply to all land development and spatial planning in the Republic, emphasising the importance of environmental sustainability, the use of land development to promote human development, the maximum use of public participation and conflict resolution.

The principles apply to all forms of planning which affect land development, including spatial planning and policy formulation, the decisions of all public authorities affecting land development under any law, and all legislation, including all land control systems and instruments affecting the development of land.

The principles are also binding on all future actions of legislatures at national, provincial and local government levels. This means all laws, regulations and by-laws which are passed or changed must conform to the principles.

It is the emphasis on integrated planning and development which is largely ignored in the Bill through its failure to view port planning and management in its broader urban context.

  1. Institutional Framework Issues
  1. The very complex issues of environmental management and the impact of port development on the ecosystems of coastal cities will not be adequately addressed in the absence of a meaningful role for local government in port planning. As the CSIR has already pointed out to the portfolio committee, the major component of port planning is land use and land availability. Inevitably, this implies the expansion of port activities into the marine environment, where the costs of such expansion on water quality are substantial compared to the cost of landward expansion. Hence, Cape Town has experienced beach erosion on the northern shores of Table Bay as a result of dredging sand other construction activities in the Port of Cape Town, while in Saldanha Bay port expansion into the water body has been linked to a change in circulation patterns within the bay, which affects the natural fluctuations of nutrients within the system.
  2. Neither the White Paper nor the Bill deals adequately with financial and fiscal matters. The municipality as host city carries costs for providing infrastructure and services, which have major implications on the efficiency and the performance of the port.
  3. Constitutional Issues

  1. While it is acknowledged that the National Ports Authority Bill was preceded by both a Draft White Paper and a White Paper, it is regrettable that the consultation and public participation processes have not been subjected to greater debate. It is particularly regrettable that consideration of the Republic’s commercial ports policy was not extended to a broader discussion about the relationship between commercial ports and their host municipalities, the role of commercial ports in local economic development, and the principle of subsidiarity in the governance of South Africa’s commercial ports.

In this respect, we concur with the view of Dr Gustav de Monie, which was placed before the portfolio committee when it was conducting public hearings on the White Paper -

"What is, however, lacking in the present draft policy document and will prove to be critical to ensure the port operational efficiency that the government is aiming for, is the requirement for the National Ports Authority to apply the principle of "subsidiarity" and thus to delegate maximum possible power for planning, management and operations to the individual port branches. The relationships between the centre and the individual ports should either form a substantial section of the new port policy document or should be an essential part of the ‘Ports Act.’"


It must be accepted that Government’s policy in respect of South Africa’s commercial ports rests on the basic principle articulated in the White Paper that "port system development, management and enhancement will primarily remain a national function".

However, it remains a major concern that insufficient importance has been attached to the role of local authorities in the exercise of this function. They are consequently left with little more than a tenuous advisory role which fails to recognise the considerable importance of commercial ports to the economic, financial, social and environmental well-being of South Africa’s maritime municipalities.