• Yachts sail through Durban Harbour at the Port of Durban. (Photo: Kevin Sutherland/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
    Yachts sail through Durban Harbour at the Port of Durban. (Photo: Kevin Sutherland/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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The Daily Maverick. By Sasha Planting.

About 30 international yachts headed for Richards Bay and Durban are about to receive an unpleasant surprise. The South African government will not clear them for entry.

They have travelled from Reunion, Seychelles and Tanzania – countries that are not on South Africa’s list of high-risk countries – and will have been at sea in the Indian Ocean for 15 to 20 days before presenting themselves at Richards Bay or other ports. This is longer than the average quarantine.

The yachts, or cruisers in maritime parlance, have been arriving since 1 October. After initially denying them entry, South African officials have granted one person per boat permission to disembark, refuel and reprovision. Beyond that, they may not enter the country. And only essential maintenance is permitted.

While it is clearly impossible to present a PCR  (polymerase chain reaction) test that is not older than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa, these vessels can present proof of their port of disembarkation, including the time stamp.

The crew on the vessels that have arrived have all taken the required Covid test and tested negative.

When contacted for comment, Stephen van Neel, the director of Ports of Entry at the Department of Home Affairs, said that the rules governing the entry of maritime vessels into South Africa can be found in the latest Government Gazette.

Actually, the latest rule regarding maritime travel is government notice 496, issued by the Department of Transport on 4 May 2020. It clearly states that no cruise liners may enter South African ports, while passenger vessels may enter SA ports only to replenish fuel, stores and provisions. It further states that crew may disembark subject to Covid-19 regulations.

Unfortunately, the government notice, which was issued during the hard lockdown, makes no reference to yachts, and this is clearly where the confusion arises.

Read the rest of the story at the Daily Maverick.

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