The South African Marine Research and Exploration Forum (Samref) was launched on Friday by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor. The forum is a joint initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Offshore Petroleum Association of South Africa (Opasa). The launching occurred with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the DST and Opasa.
The creation of Samref signifies that the B3 element of Operation Phakisa has been successfully started. Operation Phakisa, launched in 2014, is concerned with developing and protecting South Africa’s marine resources and ecosystems. B3 covers using offshore oil and gas exploration activities to support broader research activities.
Samref will encompass members of government and State-owned companies, research agencies, the oil and gas industry and other representatives of the private sector. It is intended to improve voluntary cooperation and data exchange between all the member organisations. Daily management of the forum will be vested in the National Research Foundation (NRF), an agency of the DST.
“Business and government need to work together to increase South Africa’s gross expenditure on research and development from the current 0.7% of GDP to 1.5% by 2019,” highlighted Pandor. “While the target is ambitious, we are committed to achieving it.”
“Samref . . . is a step in the right direction for understanding the offshore environment in which we operate, and provides a research conduit that drives policy and precision in decision-making and strengthens capabilities in effective mitigation strategies, based on the best available science,” pointed out Opasa chairperson Sean Lunn. NRF Knowledge Fields Development executive director Dr Andrew Kaniki added that “[t]his is an opportunity for the public and private sectors in South African marine research to work together and utilise the resources generated by offshore oil and gas exploration. We, as the NRF, are pleased to be the managing agency of this great initiative.”
Oil and gas is one of Operation Phakisa's four main target sectors. The other three are marine transport and manufacturing, aquaculture, and marine protection services and governance. Successful development of the country’s marines resources could increase the country’s gross domestic product by in excess of R20-billion over five years.