The main representative bodies in the freight industry intend to appeal to the minister of transport to redraft the contentious consignor/consignee regulation (part of the National Ports Act) – which legal advisers have described as “very badly drafted, and  probably unenforceable”. At an emergency meeting held in Durban last week, the panel was unanimous in stating that the regulation’s intention – to control vehicle overloading and dangerous point loading – was admirable. But, in its present form, it did  little more than present industry legal teams with a lucrative playing field because of the “vague and imprecise” wording, which  “rendered large sections completely impractical”. And in the panel and audience were representatives and members of a broad  cross section of the freight industry. The points that were raised by the panel members, each of whom had five minutes to make their  comments, and from the floor in general discussion, were wide and varied. But all focused on five major issues: The sheer  impracticality of the regulation the way it was worded, and the many problems that would arise from its implementation.

That it allowed such a wide interpretation of the definitions of the terms consignors and consignees that it would result in lawyers having a wide number of choices, and that this would invariably end up with the one or ones with the “deepest pockets”.

That these loose definitions could include parties in the supply chain (like shipping lines and stevedore companies) that should not be included. That it was unenforceable in its present context.

That the demand for all the parties in a supply chain to be certain of the mass of each load would require everyone to acquire  impossibly expensive weighbridges or other mass-measuring equipment. After all the points had been raised, and sometimes answered, clearing and forwarding agent Lionel Dwyer, chairman of Saaff KZN, asked the question: “What are we going to do about it? “My answer is to make a submission to the department of transport to explain the difficulties and get them to amend the act.” After some discussion, this approach was approved. But that, according to Dwyer, left the question of which was the best way  of doing this.  Two alternatives were raised. Either a letter signed by all the relevant bodies sent directly to the minister, or the use  of a recognised lobbying body to make the approach, backed by a letter of authorisation from all these bodies. The means of  approach and details of the necessary communication(s) were to be further discussed and decided after the meeting.