A South African Police Service (SAPS) instruction has been issued that all permits for vessel protection must now be sent directly to the Central Firearms Registry (CFR) in Pretoria, which is effectively defunct.
Until three weeks ago any firearms aboard a ship were collected by the local Port Authority police, and held until the vessel was about to depart our shores, when they were returned.
As piracy in the Mozambican Channel and East African shores is now endemic, most captains ensure their crew is armed.
This new instruction has the potential to seriously damage the commercial viability of South Africa's ports, as until a permit is granted by the CFR, a vessel may not enter our ports.
Instead of burdening ships with red tape and undermining the commercial viability of our ports, the Minister of Police must intervene and ensure that this decision is reversed.
The Ports Authority police have thus far efficiently managed the weapon collection process. It is therefore hard to explain why the CFR must now be involved, given that the current system is working, and the potential impact that this decision will have on the ability of ships to enter our ports.
Section 27 of the Port Rules clearly states that all weapons and explosives on board a vessel, irrespective of whether or not they are intended for import or transit, should be locked up in a secure place and disarmed. Only if the weapons or explosives are to be imported into or transported through the Republic does section 73 of the Firearms Control Act apply.
There is therefore no basis in law for permits to be issued for weapons, carried on vessels, that are not going to be brought into the country.
It makes little sense to place the commercial viability of our ports, and the jobs of the people who work there, in jeopardy by altering a system that is working
Dianne Kohler Barnard, Shadow Minister of Police