SA making haste slowly on Megaports Initiative


The South African Revenue Service says it has established an interdepartmental task team to coordinate the country’s involvement in the Megaports Initiative (MPI), but admits that there has not been much progress since Cabinet last year authorised cooperation with the US.

The task team first met on March 17. The cause of the delay is not immediately apparent.   

Cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko at the time explained the MPI was a US government initiative that aimed to create a bilateral cooperation network to prevent the illicit movement of nuclear materials and other radio active isotopes that might be used for weapons of mass destruction.

“In this regard, an Interdepartmental Task Team (ITT) will be set up to consider the implications of South Africa`s possible participation in the initiative. The Task Team will consist of the departments of Trade and Industry, Foreign Affairs, National Intelligence Agency, Transport, Public Enterprises and Science and Technology,” he said.

SARS in October said it was then engaging with various domestic stakeholders concerning the setting up of the ITT “to collectively and more fully explore the MPI before further discussions with the US“.

The MPI is already operational in 12 international ports, with implementation at various stages in a further 18, including in China, Egypt and Malaysia.

The US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) says it is targeting approximately 75 ports worldwide as part of the MPI.

The NNSA says the MPI is “a key component of a layered, multi-agency approach designed to prevent terrorists from acquiring, smuggling and using dangerous nuclear materials to develop a weapon of mass destruction or radiological dispersal device in an attack against the United States or its global partners.”

The MPI involves equipping ports with “state-of-the-art radiation detection equipment, sophisticated software packages, and communications systems that operate in concert to indicate the presence of special nuclear material (SNM) or other radioactive material in cargo containers as they move through a port. 

“To ensure the long-term maintenance and sustainability of installed systems, a strong emphasis is placed upon training host country personnel to operate and maintain the systems,” the NNSA`s web site notes.
“As an integral element of the US maritime security strategy, NNSA has established a close partnership with the Department of Homeland Security`s (DHS) Secure Freight Initiative (SFI), Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America, Container Security Initiative (CSI) and complements the efforts of DHS` Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), US Coast Guard`s International Port Security Program (IPSP) and the Department of State`s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).”

Locally, SARS has been a CSI partner since 2003.

“SA has also committed to implementing the World Customs Organisation`s (WCO) Framework of Standards to secure and facilitate global trade (SAFE Framework), along with 153 other WCO members,” the SARS spokesman said last year.