South Africa: Transport Minister Seeks to Unlock Potential in Maritime Sector
Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele says more resources must be channelled towards research, innovation and skills development if the country is to take full advantage of the potential in its maritime sector. Tuesday, 20.Mar.2012, 22:39 (GMT+3)
Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele says more resources must be channelled towards research, innovation and skills development if the country is to take full advantage of the potential in its maritime sector.
Speaking at the 10th Anniversary of the Umyezane Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Conference and Business Awards â€” which this year placed emphasis on the maritime sector â€” Ndebele said South Africa could do much more to reap benefits from its maritime resources.
â€śWe need to be organised as communities, business â€“ particularly black people and women. We need to establish strategic and operational or service specific clusters, as key drivers of inclusive participation, competitiveness and coordination.
â€śWe need to create effective regulatory frameworks which remove red tape, expedite transactions and bring in incentives for enterprise development,â€ť said Ndebele, emphasising the need for the country to invest in skills development to further boost the sector.
According to SARS, in 2009, all of the 200 million tonnes of South Africaâ€™s trade was carried by foreign flagged ships, costing the South African economy in excess of R37 billion per year.
Although the province of KwaZulu-Natal boasts two ports â€“ one of which is the biggest on the African continent â€“ and has one of the longest coastlines in the country, it has not been able to exploit the potential of the maritime industry.
Ndebele said the control of shipping was a key instrument in seeking economic emancipation.
â€śTrade constitutes about 58 percent of the countryâ€™s wealth measured as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), of which 98 percent of that trade by volume, or above 80 percent by value, is carried by ships, and that includes African trade.
â€śConsidering that South Africa is amongst the worldâ€™s top 15 shipping nations by tonne per mile measurement, these factors would normally lead to a country prioritising a sector so critical to the success of its entire economic and socio-political programme and future,â€ť said Ndebele.
The marine resources industries were the new investment priority areas by the state, in seeking both food and energy security for South Africa and definitely the continent.
Ndebele said government would also need to prioritise the development of two key pillars of freight markets: South African flagged tonnage (ships) and the commodity trading (exchange) facilities.
These two pillars in freight market influence would assist in justifying the billions earmarked for infrastructure development mentioned in President Jacob Zumaâ€™s State of the Nation Address.
Zuma announced a R300 billion spend on the expansion of, primarily, the countryâ€™s maritime freight corridors, split between rail and ports.
â€śIt still begs the question, who is to move those freight volumes to markets and facilitate trading?â€ť asked Ndebele.
The Department of Transport, through the South African Maritime Safety Authority, was currently completing an audit of the fishing boats, which would lead to some level of recapitalising the fishing fleet. More than 60 percent of about 1 700 of those boats may have to be rebuilt in South Africa.
Government said it was completing the development and revamping of the maritime industry and its shipping regulatory frameworks, including the Maritime Transport Policy and its Shipping Policy instrument, Tonnage Tax and related legislation.
â€śThe lack of national tonnage denies the country the strategic options. The State may have to give a strong lead on the transportation of strategic commodities such as oil, maybe iron ore as well, so as to ensure security and add value to the supply chain,â€ť said Ndebele.
The cruise shipping industry has emerged strongly in South Africa and KZN in particular, and has shown signs of becoming a key driver of the tourism market with combined effort from vital stakeholders.
â€śThis past cruise season saw more than 45 000 cruisers and over 60 calls in our ports, with Durban accounting for the most numbers.
â€śThe decision by the province and port cities of this area to establish maritime clusters as key drivers of the maritime industry is key to the realisation of the goals of transforming the province into a premier maritime province, including Cruise as a key component of the marine tourism industry,â€ť said the minister.