Why cruise liners must move from the V&A Waterfront

DHA's Tariq Mellet says Cape Town Councillor Grant Pascoe got his basic facts wrong

Answers to Media Questions on Home Affairs and the issue of Cruise Ships at the V&A Waterfront

Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing in commenting on Home Affairs and Cape Town International Sea Port, unfortunately has a poor understanding of the issues involved at the Cape Town Harbour. Perhaps if the City Council took a greater interest in playing a role in Cape Town Harbour, its development and in Passenger Liner Tourism he would understand the issues at play. He has even his basic facts wrong.

Jetty 2 at V&A Waterfront has not been the regular docking berth for Cruise Ships, but has been occasionally used when E Berth in Duncan Dock or Eastern Mole has not been used, simply as a matter of commercial convenience by the Port Authority and Shipping Agents, who have avoided providing a decent permanent passenger liner berth and terminal for the security and comfort of passengers. Anyone looking at the real facts and bothering to consult the role-players charged with clearing passengers, would have clearly seen that cruise ship tourists are getting a raw deal.

South Africa has legislation which determines all aspects of how the affairs of the country is governed. In terms of the law, only the Minister of Home Affairs can declare which Ports and port limits can be ‘International Ports of Entry to the Republic' for the purpose of landing and clearing foreign persons into South Africa and foreign conveyances into South Africa. This is also an international practice.

Nowhere in the world are people and vessels allowed to just enter any national territory willy-nilly where they please. Nobody is above the law and this applies to shipping agents and the port authority as well. Shipping agents cannot be allowed to usurp government authority in South Africa's International Maritime Ports.

The mandate over ports of entry is also with national government Home Affairs and not with provincial or local government. Home Affairs approach is a careful balance between ensuring that Cape Town Harbour is a welcoming port to visitors and a secure port of entry where immigration security is being dealt with in the proper manner in keeping with legislation.

South African harbours like any other key borderline sites are keypoints for illegal entry and exit of persons, the illegal importation of drugs, grey goods, arms, and other contraband and for human trafficking, exporting poached items and so on. South Africa further has a growing stowaway problem with which it has to contend. Piracy and piracy intelligence is a further threat which has moved from the Horn of Africa down into the Mozambique channel and the South African Navy and security services are engaged in tackling this problem. Public commercial and recreational spaces are not geared for disaster management of a maritime nature nor for the minimisation of terrorist threat to Cruise Ships.

Indeed South Africa has a Maritime Passenger Tourism industry to protect. Harbour security is a major challenge and has many facets to it. A vital requirement is demarcation, security perimeter fencing, control exit and entry, unimpeded traffic flow for emergency evacuation and the ability to lock down and control the berth by South Africa's security agencies.

V&A Waterfront is not geared for this additional burden to its existing congested flows and it cannot be controlled effectively by all of the agencies mandated to do so. Home Affairs immigration cannot carry out its mandate under the conditions of V&A Waterfront. To properly implement the conducive security measures would negatively impact on the recreational and commercial activity presently enjoyed by the V&A Waterfront.

South Africa is a major tourist destination and has a growing Cruise Ship Tourism industry for which it must cater in a professional manner. International harbours in South Africa have been found grossly wanting in this regard and this has been confirmed by international experts on a study visit to Cape Town Harbour.

The port authority should be paying due regard to the security of the vessels and the passengers and to the comfort of the passengers. Because NO permanent and professional provision has been made by port authorities in Cape Town in this regard there is an impeding of the growth of this tourism sector which can grow to four times larger than the present scenario.

In Cape Town Harbour Cruise Ships are constantly moved around to wherever the Port Authority feels that they can fit the vessels in. In any season up to 52 vessels face treatment in this ad hoc manner, in disregard to regulations. This exposes as false, the claim that Jetty 2 at V&A Waterfront has been the main berth for Cruise Ships. The claim by a journalist which started this furore has its roots in the shipping agent community and is an attempt to divert public attention from the real issue of disregard for legislation and a degree of lawlessness in the harbour environment.

Home Affairs has communicated to the port authority that it wants nothing less than a dedicated berth for cruise vessels and a dedicated permanent passenger terminal, and the Minister, the department and the security agencies have identified a convenient berthing site for development of such a permanent, secure a pleasant facility in Duncan Dock.

The site needs major transformation and investment to be free of other commercial activity impacting on passengers, for parking and easy traffic flow, and for customs and immigration to be able to clear passengers quickly, securely and comfortably. There has been reluctance by the main stakeholders the port authority and shipping agents to invest in such a facility. Provincial and city authorities have also never shown any interest in the Cape Town Harbour, such a project, nor indeed in this important tourism sector.

A number of false statements have been made in the media about the situation in Cape Town Harbour. There has been no recent decision to ban anything. A longstanding problem of non-compliance with the Immigration Act has required the department to take steps last November 2011 to ensure compliance. The TNPA and BCOCC were again reminded of the Home Affairs directive in December and it was ignored.

The V&A Waterfront is a non-secured private enterprise commercial zone with general public access and is a recreational and retail multi-purpose entity. This can be likened to the South African zone at Cape Town International Airport. Duncan Docks is a declared secure International Port - declared as such by the Minister of Home Affairs. It has restricted public access, a security perimeter fence and 24 hour control gates.

Immigration, customs and border police as well as other state agencies charged with various mandates in law, control this area. This can be likened to the international zone at Cape Town International Airport. South Africa has both national and international commitments in this regard which have a direct effect on the national economy, international relations and the security of passengers and South Africa.

The Minister makes decisions on declaring ports of entry with due regard to South Africa's international commitments and impacts of compliance with these on our economy and security. The Port Authority has made unilateral decisions about berthing Cruise Ships without consulting the Minister of Home Affairs that have resulted in allowing passenger vessels to dock in an unsecured, private commercial/recreational area without regard to the law from time to time.

Although informed of this over three months ago TNPA in Cape Town Harbour were yet to become compliant and thus were again informed last Tuesday that they were breaking the law. While Jetty 2 is covered for general security for limited commercial purposes, Home Affairs does not accept that it is secure for immigration purposes and the processing of passengers. It also has no facilities for this purpose.

At a national level Public Enterprises and the TNPA has also informed Cape Town Harbour of the need to be compliant with legislation in this regard and of their support of the Minister's directive. It was baffling that regardless of this clearly communicated decision the port authority did not take heed of this in December 2011 and this led to the present furore in the press.

All passenger liners must berth at a dedicated passenger liner berthing point in the declared secure international port at Duncan Docks. Such a berth must be developed to ensure the security and comfort of passengers and the safe free flow of passengers and vehicles. All other vessels such as yachts entering a South African port for the first time, must first call in at Duncan Dock to be cleared by immigration as required by the Immigration Act and for its crews and passengers to be cleared into South Africa.

There is also non-compliance in this regard, with yachts simply calling in to V&A Waterfront, Hout Bay and elsewhere without regard to South Africa's immigration laws. Any vessel and person not doing so, are not in compliance and are breaking the law. It is disturbing that there is a widespread disregard for immigration laws as though people can pick and choose as to what may be seen as criminal.

The Minister and Deputy Minister of Home Affairs visited Cape Town Harbour and met with stakeholders last year. They toured the Harbour and looked at the present breaches of the law. Sites were examined carefully. Follow up meetings were held and decisions were taken to ensure compliance.

Contextual to these consultations between Home Affairs, Public Enterprises, Transnet National Port Authority, the Border Control Operations Coordination Committee, and the Inter-Agency Coordination Forum chaired by the Director General of Home Affairs, representing all of the different state security role-players, a number of measures were agreed upon to ensure compliance with existing laws:

  • Foreign shipping can only be cleared in South Africa's nine ports declared as International ports by the Minister of Home Affairs. Failure to do this is breaking the law, whether by large commercial vessels or by small recreational vessels. (V&A Waterfront is not a secured International Port)
  • Crews, passengers, goods and conveyances leaving the perimeter area will have to first be cleared in the same manner as when they leave an international zone at an airport.
  • Immigration offices must be within the controlled security perimeter of all of these declared international ports and these offices must be enhanced as soon as possible. Trained personnel would be increased as would be greater mobility for immigration and customs officials within the harbours so that immigration officials can board vessels to clear them as required by the Immigration Act.
  • It is envisaged that in the near future, seaborne patrols involving the Navy, Immigration, Customs and Border Police will ensure that legislated mandates are carried out within the harbour and with ships on anchorage.
  • The TNPA must ensure a dedicated berth for passenger liners and develop short term solutions while developing long term plans to develop professional passenger terminals similar to airport facilities for the safe, secure and comfortable embarkation and disembarkation of passengers at South Africa's two main passenger liner ports - Cape Town and Durban, with due regard to immigration security.

It was found that Cape Town Harbour facilities for international Cruise Ship passengers, has been very poor and poorly managed by the port authority for many years. Each time a vessel comes in; various departments have to scurry around to be able to clear passengers as a constantly new solution must be found.

It is false information that V&A Waterfront is the main berthing point for Passenger Liners. It is simply occasionally used by TNPA and Shipping Agents for the convenience of the port authority who has been asked by many over the years to provide a proper professional permanent berth and terminal for passenger liners.

This has largely not been done because it is deemed less financially attractive than a situation where there is no dedicated berth for passengers. Cruise Ships have not been docking and discharging passengers at Jetty 2 in the Victoria Basin for over 100 years as has been touted to the public through the media by so-called maritime experts. This too is simply false and emotive means of pulling the wool over the eyes of the public.

Duncan Dock was opened after the second world war and passenger operations were moved there from that time. Jetty 2 specifically was not used for Cruise Ships per se and in recent years it has only been occasionally used by Cruise Ships when particular interests of shipping agents, select tour companies and the Waterfront Commercial interests are served.

Visitors to Cape Town, whether cruise passengers or not, would still come to the Waterfront attractions regardless of the vessels docking in Duncan Dock. This is a spurious argument and indeed the tourism economic pie would be more equitably shared by the broader industry rather than being controlled by a greedy few and some of the scams that arise in the closed environment of the harbour.

The TNPA has never ever suggested that V&A Waterfront - Victoria Basin was a suitable site for a permanent Cruise Ship berth and neither have they, the privately run V&A Waterfront, the shipping agents nor the city of Cape Town ever been prepared to invest in this particular site. They have also never approached the Minister of Home Affairs for any dispensation to clear international passengers at Jetty 2 in the V&A Waterfront. All action has been unilateral in this regard and the public are not hearing the full story.

The majority of Cruise Ships have been berthed on an ad hoc basis all over Duncan Dock. The Jetty 2 is only 195m long and is not suitable for ships as large as 200m, neither is it deep enough for all cruise vessels and it has no facilities for processing passengers and coping with vehicles, stores deliveries and sight-seers. This particular area of the Waterfront is also highly congested and Cruise Ships are vulnerable to the kind of terror attack that we saw in this area of the harbour not so long ago.

Contrary to the false information that V&A Waterfront is the main berthing area for Cruise Ships which are now being forced to use Duncan Dock, Cruise Vessels are regularly moved around from one berth to another, to non-secure and even sometimes dangerous locations. Shipping agents and the port authority have paid poor attention to legislation, security and indeed to the needs of passengers. Every action taken is based on narrow financial interests. Transport parking facilities are ad hoc and chaotic too.

Customs, Immigration, Border Police, DAFF and the Department of Health are presented with major hurdles each time a Cruise Ship enters port and have to erect marquees and other temporary structures over and over again. Passengers have to navigate their way through often chaotic conditions, and at times immigration has had to inappropriately clear people on board the vessels so as to ensure the least inconvenience for passengers. This is not optimum as it denies immigration the use of using movement control technology.

During the FIFA soccer world cup during one such occasion, only by using an elaborate and cumbersome manual security approach initiated 2 days before the arrival of the vessel, and then clearing people on board which inconveniences both the vessel and the security services, a person wanted by Interpol was apprehended. Cruise ship travel cannot be assumed to be done by only law abiding persons.

This poor provision by the port authority and the disregard shown by shipping agents over and over again for national legislation requirements of sterility in carrying out immigration, customs and DoH tasks is a situation which cannot be allowed to continue without finding a permanent solution.

The present furore over Home Affairs ensuring compliance with legislation at Cape Town Harbour seems to have less to do with the V&A Waterfront venue when the facts are scrutinised and more about parties with vested interests wanting to buck the system and wanting a continuation of lax security in an environment where a host of scams and dodgy activities have been thriving for years.

More immigration officials have been committed to Cape Town Harbour - Duncan Dock representing a dramatic increase in numbers and immigration and customs will occupy new premises within the secured perimeter fencing. Access controls will be improved and ships regularly checked to ensure compliance with legislation. Shipping agents will also be held accountable for any breaches of legislation. Greater coordination is envisaged between all security role-players and a seaborne capacity will be developed.

Home Affairs has taken the lead in driving forward a process that hopes to see Cape Town Harbour having a pleasant, secure and professional permanent berth and passenger terminal, in line with the best international standards, for the first time. The Minister and department officials have visited and inspected such facilities in the Caribbean and elsewhere over last year to benchmark with the best in an area where Passenger Liner Tourism thrives.

Home Affairs has taken an important step that is in the interest of South Africa, our foreign visitors and economic development and growth of passenger tourism in an area where there has been a lot of muddying of the waters by narrow local interests in Cape Town Harbour and also by syndicates who find it convenient to have security-porous harbours

Tariq Mellet is Director Immigration: Maritime & Aviation Ports, Western Cape, Department of Home Affairs

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