Shipping to South Africa


Sea Freight from/to South Africa


The most economical way to ship good from countries to others is sea freight. Moreover, with containerization, cargos transported by sea greatly increased, as well as the safety and the rapidity of transit.

If you want to ship goods by sea, there is several factors that should be considered, to evaluate the time for transit:

  • The periodicity of sailing
  • How long does the cargo transit to go from the departure port to the port of unload?
  • If there the sailing is transshipped or directly shipped to the final destination
  • In case of an inducement sailing, the boat will simply call the loading or discharge port if there is enough cargo

Shipping companies: different types

The three different types of shipping companies that serve South African ports are:

  • Charter operators: vessels used for specific voyage
  • Liner operators: the date of shipping and ports are previously determined and vessels carry 6 and 12 meter containers
  • Dry bulk and tanker operators: vessels carry bulk cargo like grains and oil

Non-conference vs conference 

Then, we can divide liner operators into the two following categories:

  • Non-conference or independent operators
  • Conference operators

Conference services

We call conference line a group of more than two shipping lines. They reach an agreement to choose how to use a common freight rate. Regular scheduled sailings are provided on particular routes. Conference lines have the advantage that the offer services that are regular scheduled, even for low volumes of shipment. Conference lines discharge port or call the loading port. Moreover, if you are late for the sailing of a conference vessel, you can take the next available boat, provided that it is a member of the same conference.

Non-conference or independent operators

Non-conference or independent operators, have their own sailing schedules and rate structures. They are not pledged to conference agreement. Their advantage is their competitiveness about structures of freight rate. However, independent operators do not possess same obligations than conference lines. They can modify their services to adapt to market conditions. But there are successful independent operators with regular sailings and competitive rates.

International trade: types of ships operating

Ports all over the world reveal the diverse types to ship. The most usual shipping types used in international waters are:

  • Multipurpose or cellular: vessels able to carry break bulks cargoes and containerized cargo.
  • Conventional, break-bulk: vessels just for carrying non-containerized, breakbulk cargo. They are more and more replaced by multipurpose or cellular.
  • Most of the time, cellular vessels can carry non-containerized / breakbulk cargos
  • Ro-ro: those vessels are multipurpose, stern ramps are added to quayside so cargos can be received and then dispatched.
  • “Reefer vessels”: vessels that are committed to carry refrigerated cargoes
  • Lo-Lo: those vessels own their crane and gantry on board. They can discharge and load their cargoes.

To get more information, website of South Africa’s customs.


Air freight from/to South Africa


In 1924, the first cargo was transported by air from London to Paris. Since then, the efficiency and capacity of aircraft has increased and developed dramatically. It is a very specialized business to move cargo by the air. It has many differences with sea freight. Aircraft itself impose naturally its own restrictions.

Airfreight: increasing importance

Air freight become more and more a conventional choice in order to transport products internationally because of two important chances that that happened during the recent years among several manufacturing industries.


This increase is explained by:

1) Technology-based products that are more and more important: smaller and lighter with greater value: it explains the expense of air freight;

2) Secondly, it is very fast comparing to sea freight and many industries use JIT (just-in-time) inventories. It is more effective when goods are moved by air. Advantages of “just-in-time” are:

  • – capital requirements are substantially reduced
  • – stockholding are substantially reduced

Cargo: load and stow

Air cargo needs to be particularly modified or prepared so cargoes are enable to fit into the aircraft. Dimension and mass limitations, the lower and upper deck configuration, the floor load factors and air temperature and pressure variations have to be considered by the shipper. Carrying capacities are limited in all aircraft. Moreover, it is not allowed to load beyond the safety limitations about volume and mass of the cargo. The defined limitations change depending on the type of aircraft.

In order to have safer and quicker loading, all air cargo is grouped by airline personnel into bigger units on containers or pallets. We call it ULD’s or Unit Load Devices. United Load Devices have an important role in the discharging and loading of aircraft. To facilitate movement, roller beds are set out on the floor of aircrafts. Since the creation of ULD’s, discharging is quicker and the reduction of damages and theft is really important.

More information by contacting the South African Association of Freight Forwarders about logistics in South Africa.


shipping to south africa

South Africa: information about road freight


Road haulage, also called road transport or road freight happens to be most of the time the most efficient mean of transport for countries in Southern Africa, especially for exportation to the countries of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia that are land-locked.

Road transport is also operating between Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, certain Mozambique parts, the DRC, Angola, Namibia, Tanzania and South Africa. Road freight is considered to export inside Africa, but not only. Land-locked cities like Johannesburg, Pretoria, Kimberly, etc, exports to the ports (Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Durban) by road.

To transport goods to quayside from your factory, you will certainly take the road even for factories based next to a port. That’s why you will surely have to take road freight into consideration even if your goods are shipped by sea or air. Moreover, remember that for countries in the US, Europe, Australia, etc., road transport is likely to represent an important part of the transport, because the merchandize is shipped from the unloading port to final destination.

Road hauler services

The following services are offered by road hauler:

  • Door-to-door: road hauler takes the merchandise from an exporter to the final destination outside the country.
  • Depot-to-depot: facilities are installed to collect goods at the departure to deliver it in the final country.

Quality system: road transport

Concerning RTSQ, Road Transport Quality System, road transport is strictly monitored, because to transport goods, a hauler need to have a permit. When a hauler overload or operate vehicles that are sub-standard, he won’t it’s permit renewed or issued. Regardless of the kind of cargoes carried by road haulers, a local permit is compulsory if they want to transport goods to the final country but also for the country they will travel to reach the destination.

Road freight  

Local authorities of road traffic are in several African countries hesitant to deliver transport permits if the hauler is not established in the country. It can be explained by possible delays and transshipment problems. Some haulers decided to set up local office to face and get through these problems. Thanks to these offices, the hauler in foreign country will communicate more effectively with the exporter in South Africa.

Why should you choose road transport for export? Influencing factors.  

Many factors influence to decision to take a road hauler to realize part or the whole transit to reach foreign destination.


Over-the-border consignment are often quicker by road than by train and it can even be quicker than by train. It can in part be explained by the controls, which are quicker by road because they are directly controlled to the arrival destination (close to the border and no from the main airport).

Accessibility of distribution 

For goods exported to neighboring countries, a road transport service can be delivered directly to a practical point or to the importer.

Freight rates

In general, road freight rates are lower than air freight rates. However, don’t forget to take into account that it is riskier by road and one prove is the insurance that cover for riots and war does not exist for goods shipped by rail or road freight. If you want to export by road, you have to prepaid. Indeed, road haulers are recalcitrant to transport goods through African countries if the freight is not prepaid.

Customs requirements and VAT for road shipment

Customs clearance is responsible for many delays at the boundaries. To avoid dispensable delays, it’s important that the exporter with the freight forwarder prepare all the needed documentation and check with meticulous care that documents are correctly completed. It will facilitate the movement at border posts.

Into countries of Africa, the exporter can clear goods at the nearest customs office at the place of origin. The documents required are:

  • Commercial invoice
  • Customs-authorized bill of entry

You don’t have standard documents for road transport, contrary to sea or airfreight. Each hauler determines its own waybills; it is like road manifest. Excise and customs need a border cop of the bill of entry, stamped, to prove the exportation. If the exporter is not able to have the receipt, the importer has to be charged VAT and the amount will be declared on the commercial invoice.

Information: Import permits

Foreign exchange shortages are severe in most African countries. Before exporting goods, the importer should obtain an import permits. The exporter has the responsibility to assure the availability of the import permit, when the goods will be cleared at customs. The necessary documents should have the import permit number. Documents needed are :

  • Road consignment note
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Packing list

More information on the official website Export help.