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South African customs authorities are notoriously strict when it comes to transporting goods kept in bond. This article gives you an overview of the most important considerations when planning to transport your bonded imports within South Africa, or from South Africa to another destination country.

What are bonded goods?

This term refers to imported or excise cargo that is still under customs control because the import duties, excise duties, VAT, and other relevant customs fees have not yet been paid. Customs store these goods in bonded warehouses (usually at a border post or on third-party premises). Goods can only be released or cleared from bond when all payments have been settled.

Note: If you import goods to re-export them, the goods are exempt from customs duties. However, these goods need to be stored in a bonded warehouse. This is a provision to prevent the final importer from paying duties and taxes multiple times because South Africa is not the goods’ final destination.

Transporting goods in bond

Transportation of goods that are bonded is tightly regulated by customs, with provision being made to:

  1. Move these goods to a different bonded warehouse (for example, to be closer to your goods, or to perform processing and manufacturing work on the goods), or
  2. Export these goods across South African borders.

Depending on your circumstances, if you want to transport bonded imports you will need to register at customs for one or more of the below.

1. Remover of goods in bond

If you would like your company to transport the goods kept in bond from one destination to the next using its road transport, you can register as a Remover of Goods in Bond. To obtain a remover of goods in bond (RIB) license, you need to open a bond at customs.

Having a bond allows you to transport bonded goods within and across South African borders.

This is a useful way to transport your goods if you own your road transport.

Renewal: The remover of goods in bond licenses must be renewed annually.

2. Transporter/Remover of goods/Road Hauler

A transporter/remover of goods (previously known as a road hauler) is a third party (a hired company) that transports goods that are bonded on behalf of the client. The client or goods owner must possess a bond. They must also give the transporter a letter that states the transporter has permission to use the bond to transport the goods. A copy of the bond security alone is not sufficient – the owner’s letter must accompany it.

This is a useful way to transport goods when you possess a bond, but do not have the means to transport your goods yourself.

Renewal: Transporter/remover of goods/road hauler licenses must be renewed annually.

3. Foreign remover of goods

Foreign road cargo transporters that wish to transport bonded shipments within and across South African borders must be licensed to do so. They also have to appoint a South African-based agent to represent them at customs.

The foreign entity is not permitted to register their bond, rather the South African-based agent is required to take out a bond on the foreigner’s behalf. This bond is called a Consignor bond.

Renewal: Foreign remover of goods licenses must be renewed annually.

4. Carrier

If you’ve registered as any of the above and would like to cross national borders with your goods in bond, you also need to register as a carrier. A carrier registration is required to submit manifests (documents listing the cargo on a vehicle) and other compulsory documentation to customs when crossing a border.

Renewal: Carrier registration is a once-off registration with no annual renewals.

Note: Carrier registration applies to individuals or companies that transport goods across borders for COMMERCIAL reasons. Private individuals who want to transport their imports across borders for personal use do not need to apply.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

To submit manifests to customs electronically, the transporter must register on the customs Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) service – previously known as the MPR. This electronic communication system is fully automated and requires little to no user intervention. It also offers a 24-hour declaration submission and acceptance window and allows for quicker cargo retrieval and reduced clearing times compared to manual processing.

SARS is legally liable to enforce EDI registration, and as such, it is best to register as a carrier and for the EDI service simultaneously.

Frequently asked questions

Q: I am a foreign freight carrier based in my home country. Can I operate my business independently in South Africa?

A: All foreign carriers operating from their home country that want to transport bonded goods in and through South Africa can register as a foreign remover of goods in bond. They must be represented by a registered South African agent who has a permanent physical address in South Africa.

Q: Can I remove goods in bond through any port of my choice?

A: No. Customs will only allow goods in bond or transit to move through customs-designated land border ports of entry and exit.

Q: After transporting bonded goods, under what circumstances can I cancel my bond and security?

A: You no longer require a bond after the goods have arrived at their end destination under the following circumstances:

  • The goods are cleared for home use and all duties and VAT have been paid;
  • The goods are safely stored in customs warehousing;
  • The goods have been legally exported from South Africa (proof must be provided);
  • The goods are admitted for inward processing or temporary admission at a third-party, customs-controlled bonded warehouse.

Next steps

If you would like to get your goods moving, the first step is to register for your relevant transporter/remover and/or carrier licenses. The good news is that we can help make your registration quick and convenient.

Have any burning questions that weren’t answered in this article? Feel free to give our friendly consultants a call at 0861 0 (TRADE), or fill out this form and we’ll contact you.

Tracy Venter

Tracy transitioned from industry to founding Import Export License in 2011, aiding importers and exporters with customs compliance. In 2014, she launched Trade Logistics, focusing on supporting startups and SMMEs in international trade. Since then, Tracy's team has assisted 35,000+ businesses, reaching 32,000 traders monthly through newsletters. She's contributed to publications like Entrepreneurs Magazine and SME Toolkit, spoken at trade events, and participated in customs forums. Import Export License helped with the pilot trial to launch customs' new online registration platform (RLA). Through Trade Logistics she has launched 3 online import-export training courses. She holds an Honours degree from Stellenbosch University and a Cum Laude Masters from Middlesex University. In her spare time, Tracy enjoys running, mountain biking, playing piano, and cherishing moments with her husband and four children.