The Department of Transport has developed a maritime policy green paper, newly appointed Minister Ben Martins told delegates at the opening session of the South Africa Maritime Industry Conference (SAMIC), in Cape Town, on Wednesday.
“Based on the findings and analysis of a comprehensive study the department has compiled a draft green paper on maritime shipping. The green paper will follow the normal Cabinet and Parliamentary processes before being launched for public comments,” the Transport Minister said.
In carrying out the work for the development of the green paper, Martins said the department had done extensive studies in a number of vital maritime sectors and during the process had also identified key job drivers and areas of potential for small business ventures. The first identified was ship and oil rig repair and maintenance.
“This industry, we are told, can employ between 4 000 to 5 000 workers directly and there is opportunity for another 1 000 indirect jobs. There are 250 explorations for offshore oil mining envisaged off the coast of West Africa over the next five years. This implies considerable opportunities for oil rig repairs and maintenance that can take place in South Africa where there is capacity, mainly at Durban and Cape Town harbours,” said Martins.
The SAMIC conference was being held for the first time in 2012 and had been organised by the South African Maritime Safety Authority. The intention was to bring together industry experts, policy makers and strategists to discuss key maritime issues and work towards developing a clear, multistakeholder maritime sector investment strategy and programme of action.
Also speaking at the opening of the event, Portfolio Committee on Transport chairperson Ruth Bhengu said she felt the conference was a step forward for various maritime sectors in South Africa, which were facing a number of challenges.
“South Africa was robbed of an opportunity of creating jobs . . . and transporting goods using South African ships . . . in 1993 when a decision to sell 57 ships was taken. That decision put South Africa where we are today, where we spend R37-billion to provide security to ships that are not owned by South Africans.”
She said the lack of a fleet of South African ships was limiting many opportunities for the country, notably taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the vast 3 000 km coastline, which was the longest in Africa.
“I think the time is right for South Africa to position the maritime industry as one of those industries that will open opportunities for our young people to acquire the skills that are required to develop the economy of this country . . . and to use maritime for job creation,” said Bhengu.
Bhengu urged the delegates at SAMIC to look at the bigger picture and see opportunities in the maritime sector rather than obstacles.