South Africa is a major sea trading nation with a relatively open economy that accounts for approximately six per cent of real world seatrade. This performance places South Africa within the top 12 international maritime trading nations. The literature reviewed clearly shows the importance of maritime transport costs and their ability to significantly impede international trade. South Africa's atypical increasing transport cost rate on imports is identified, along with some of the potential determinants. South African shipping policy is shown to be one of the most liberal maritime policy regimes in the world. Regulatory intervention is all but absent, although maritime fiscal policy is less favourable as the international policy environment has evolved to a point where South African shipowners and operators now compete internationally on an inequitable fiscal basis. South African ports policy is investigated with the focus on the changing tariff environment. In addition, some of the benefits and costs of the new tariff structure on cargo owners and ports are revealed.