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Industry body calls for new govt to re-set the country’s maritime agenda

14th June 2024

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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South African non-profit advocacy company, the Maritime Business Chamber (MBC), has called on the incoming seventh administration of democratic South Africa to re-set the country’s maritime agenda. “South Africa is yet to fully operationalise efforts to promote South Africa’s maritime interest,” affirmed the MBC.

The chamber acknowledged that there had indeed been progress since the inauguration of democracy in 1994. This progress included the creation of the South African International Maritime Institute and its seafarer development programmes, as well as investments in the country’s ports infrastructure, the promotion of maritime tourism and the expansion of maritime trade.

“New Bills, Policies and Legislations [sic] have been signed into law, but are all yet to be fully tested as we have seen 2014 Operation Phakisa becoming just a hype ‘theme’ with no concrete updates on the status report,” stated the MBC. Operation Phakisa had no real “political champion” to drive it, and thus had “failed to achieve its desired outcomes”. Likewise, the Oceans Economy Master Plan, intended to roll-out and push the Oceans Economy, lacked a clear direction. The Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy had “also been taking a slow turn in leveraging the Maritime Industry’s potential”.

The MBC also cited the example of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) effectively destroying the Algoa Bay bunkering (ship refuelling) business by detaining the barges that were being used to supply fuel to foreign vessels sailing around South Africa. “Even after numerous efforts of the industry reaching out to SARS to deliberate on the matters raised, the South African government’s revenue never reverted to industry,” reported the MBC.

And, while there had been some investment in the country’s ports, this had fallen short of what was required. More investment was needed for the ports to achieve efficiency, sustainability and competitiveness. The MBC also wanted the National Ports Act to be amended, to allow the involvement of small, medium-sized and microenterprises in port activities.

Regarding the fishing sector, that remained dominated by the long-established big players. Long-term (up to 20 years) fishing rights granted to them effectively excluded new entrants into the sector. And small-scale fishing rights, for coastal communities, remained “paper quotas” as the small-scale fishers lacked the resources to fully exploit them. Aquaculture, or fish farming, also remained largely untransformed, with “gate keepers” blocking new entrants. The fishing industry could, the MBC affirmed, address the country’s food security issues, if there was a dedicated food security ministry, which was something the chamber advocated for.

The MBC also highlighted the great potential of offshore oil and gas for South Africa. “It could create employment opportunities, attract investment, and contribute to government revenue through taxes, royalties, and other fiscal mechanisms.”

For the maritime sector to achieve its full potential, across all its subsectors, and to incorporate the previously disadvantaged and marginalised in its value chains, the MBC believed that the government should create a Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Shipping. The Chamber had first made this call in 2021 and pointed out that the Black Business Council had also repeated it, last November. “[T]he new Ministry will require sustainable management practices, responsible governance, and strategic investments to balance economic development with environmental protection and social equity.”

  

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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