African Marine Waste Network joins global war against marine plastic pollution

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A typical overflowing street dirt bin full of plastic waste situated along the Swartkops River estuary and river mouth in Port Elizabeth that feeds directly into the Indian Ocean to the east of South Africa.

PORT ELIZABETH: 26 April 2018

The global war against oceans plastic pollution has been given yet another boost with the launch of a new plastic waste academy in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, this week.

The African Marine Waste Network Academy, an initiative of the Sustainable Seas Trust and funded by the Norwegian government, was launched at a day long ceremony held at the Nelson Mandela University on Tuesday, 24 April 2018.

The Nelson Mandela University is settled on the seashore of the Indian Ocean, one of three oceans surrounding the country at the most southern tip of Africa – the Southern Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean to the west – and which together combine to form a 3200 kilometer coastline and attaching to which is a 1.5 million square kilometers (km²) of an exclusive economic zone to which South Africa has control.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has direct statutory responsibility for environmental integrity of this vast ocean space particularly in terms of pollution prevention by sea going vessels, inclusive of plastic waste.

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Participants at the launch of the African Marine Waste Network Academy launch in Port Elizabeth included (top Left), Dr Malik Pourzanjani, CEO of Port Elizabeth-based South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) and (top) Mrs Nondumiso Mfenyana of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

In Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, it was announced that the new African Marine Waste Network Academy’s work will involve research, education and capacity building, economic incentives and enterprises development as well as communication and networking.

Guests attending the launch included Norway’s Ambassador to South Africa, Ms Trine Skymoen, British High Commissioner to South Africa, Dr John Wade-Smith, academics from South Africa and Norway among whom were the Nelson Mandela University Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Leitch, director of the African Marine Waste Networking group and CEO of Sustainable Seas Trust, Dr Anthony Ribbink and about 70 others, among them government, non-government, business and civil sectors representatives.

In a statement announcing the launch this week, the partners to the initiative described the setting up of the academy for the Africa region as a timely intervention especially in a continent fast assuming the dubious ranking of having the most polluted marine and maritime environment.

Apparently, no less than 700 kilograms of plastic waste was entering and accumulating in the seas on a daily basis, it emerged, with predictions that the mass of plastics in the oceans around the world would exceed that of fish in only 30 years from now.

“Plastic has a detrimental impact on all marine life and our environment and this negatively affects the livelihood of millions of people and society at large. The African Marine Waste Network was established in 2016 to address the issue of marine waste at pan-African level, and aims to facilitate collaboration between people and organizations across borders,’ said the parties in the statement.

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Among guests attending the launch of the African Marine Waste Network Academy launch in Port Elizabeth were (from Left) Nelson Mandela University Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Leitch, Sustainable Seas Trust CEO and Africa Marine Waste Network director Dr Anthony Ribbink, British High Commissioner to South Africa Dr John Wade-Smith and Royal Norwegian Embassy in South Africa official Dr Karl Klingsheim.

In 2017, the city of Port Elizabeth hosted the first ever African Marine Plastic Pollution conference to focus the continent on the problem and in finding solutions going forward. Some 42 African countries since became members of the African Marine Waste Network group.

Last month in Pretoria, the Norwegian government announced a R1.3-million sponsorship for the launch and work of the new academy. This followed an announcement by the Norwegian government of a NOK150-million fund to be dedicated to fighting plastic pollution worldwide.  At the time, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Børge Brende said the Africa region would be one of the focus areas of the fund.

In Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, the parties to the African Marine Waste Network Academy initiative explained what the first priorities of the academy would be in the sponsorship period.

Among these will be the launch of a feasibility study in the Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) area over a six months period to test ideas and develop proof of concepts.

“The feasibility study will involve cutting edge research to generate much needed data on the amount of waste in catchments, rivers and estuaries in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, deploying drones and other innovative technology to achieve this.

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Norwegian Ambassador to South Africa (centre with white jacket) Her Excellency, Ms Trine Skymoen and African Marine Waste Network director and Sustainable Seas Trust CEO, Dr Anthony Ribbink (with blue & white tie) together with the SST team assisting with the set-up of the new marine pollution academy for Africa in Port Elizabeth.

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Norwegian Ambassador to South Africa Ms Trine Skymoen

Norwegian ambassador to South Africa, Ms Trine Skymoen said lessons learned through the exercise will be shared “with a view to scale up and roll out long-term initiatives from 2019 to stem the flow of marine debris from Africa and its island states into the oceans.

‘Only by sharing the experiences and knowledge will we be able to find sustainable solutions to global challenges. Dr Ribbink and his team are leading the way to saving the oceans. Norway is proud to be a sponsor of SST and a partner to the African Marine Waste Network. We sincerely hope others too will support their activities,” said.

For a six minutes interview with Ms Skymoen, Click on the video below.

South Africa remains posed for a pioneering role in Africa’s ocean economy development: SAMSA

Pretoria: 14 March 2017

The SA Agulhas, South Africa’s dedicated cadet training vessel on arrival Port Elizabeth on Friday after a three month research and training expedition in the Indian and Antarctic oceans with 30 cadets on board.

South Africa is well positioned to play a pioneering role in the African continent’s drive for expansive growth of its ocean’s economy sector, but especially if stakeholders and key role players both in the public and private sector continue to strengthen co-operation and collaboration towards the goal.

That is according to South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) acting chief executive officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi in the wake of yet another highly successful collaborative effort that saw a group of Indian scientists along with 30 South African cadets complete on schedule a three-months long research and training expedition both along the Indian Ocean and the Antarctic region.

Crucially, according to Mr Sobantu, the expedition was successfully undertaken aboard the country’s only dedicated cadet training vessel, the SA Agulhas, this past week.

After dropping off the Indian scientists in Mauritius a few days earlier, the vessel – under the command of SAMSA – docked in Port Elizabeth on Friday, to a warm welcome by senior officials of several institutions in both the public and private sector. These included SAMSA, the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), the Transnet National Ports Authority(TNPA), the National Skills Fund under the Department of Higher Education and Training, recently established bunker services group, Aegean; the South African Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA, the Maritime Crew Services (MSC) and a few others.

The SA Agulhas was acquired by SAMSA in 2011 for training in support of the National Cadet Programme, which is being managed by the Port Elizabeth-based SAIMI.

The training is being funded by the National Skills Fund.

Mr Sobantu Tilayi, acting CEO of SAMSA greeting the 30 deck and engine cadets that were on board the SA Agulhas in in its three months research and training expedition to the Antarctic region over the last three months
Mr Sobantu Tilayi, acting CEO of SAMSA greeting the 30 deck and engine cadets that were on board the SA Agulhas in in its three months research and training expedition to the Antarctic region over the last three months

The vessel sailed on 14 December 2016 from Cape Town with 30 cadets under the guide of SAMTRA and MCS.

The group of seven (7) engineering and 23 deck cadets along with two training officers joined the South African crew on a research voyage chartered by India’s National Centre for Antarctic Research.

Her first port of call was Port Louis in Mauritius on Christmas Eve where she took on board the team of Indian scientists and five container loads of equipment. The ship sailed south from Mauritius before heading West of Kerguelen Island and on to Antarctica and back to Mauritius carrying out operations at various scientific stations along the way.

On completion of the expedition Friday, Mr Sobantu said the event was just one to possibly vindicate the brave stance taken by the maritime safety authority  a few years ago to acquire the vessel with the sole intention  of providing a viable yet necessary intervention in the development of a local cadre of seafarers.

More than 350 cadets have been trained aboard the SA Agulhas since 2012 after SAMSA acquired the vessel from the Department of Environmental Affairs and re-purposed the former Antarctic research and supply vessel as a training vessel to support the National Cadet Programme.

The cadet programme enables aspiring sea-farers to obtain the practical sea-time experience required to attain a Certificate of Competency (COC) as either a Deck Officer or Marine Engineering Officer. The COC is an internationally recognised qualification, issued by SAMSA in accordance with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Convention on the Standards, Training and Certification of Watch-keepers (STCW), and opens up a global sea-faring career for these young South Africans.

The programme is a skills development initiative linked to Operation Phakisa which aims to grow South Africa’s participation in the maritime economy. The initiative is managed by SAIMI and financed by the National Skills Fund.

South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi

On Friday Mr Tilayi noted that: “The three-month cruise took the vessel and the cadets all the way down to 68 degrees south where they encountered severe weather. Both the vessel and the cadets passed with flying colours.”

Key to the success, he said, was ongoing cooperation and collaboration among a group of stakeholders, interested parties and the investment community. For Mr Tilayi’s full remarks (video), Click Here

Meanwhile, SAIMI chief executive officer, Dr Malek Pourzanjani was also full of praise of the success of the SA Agulhas’ latest venture into a research and training expedition.

“The fact that the Indian government was willing to entrust leading scientists and important multi-disciplinary scientific research to a South African training vessel crewed by South Africans is a tribute to the quality of our mariners and the training offered in South Africa,” Dr Pourzanjani.  For his full remarks, Click Here

Ms Phyllis Difeto, chief operations officer of TNPA was in agreement with her counterparts at SAMSA and SAIMI: “South Africa needs more world class maritime expertise at all levels,” she said, also stressing the need for

ongoing collaboration between TNPA, SAMSA, SAIMI and the private sector to ensure that South African mariners received world class training that would position them well for seafarer work around the globe.

For Ms Difeto’s full remarks, Click Here.

Meanwhile, the cadets on the expedition were full excitement, sharing their experiences as well as hopes for the future as seafarers. Two of the cadets, Afrika Masuku and Sandisiwe Ngcobo spoke briefly before their welcoming audience on Friday, thanking both their trainers and training sponsors for the opportunity. In separate interviews, five other cadets opened up about their experiences as did one of their trainers. For these interviews Click Here.

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Maritime sector industry clustering: from competition to synergy

Port Elizabeth: 07 June 2016

Dolphin's Leap on Port Elizabeth's beachfront, the venue of the Operation Phakisa: Ocean Economy seminar on clustering in the South Africa maritime economic sector, involving a range of thought leaders from South Africa and Norway
Dolphin’s Leap on Port Elizabeth’s beachfront, the venue of the Operation Phakisa: Ocean Economy seminar on clustering in the South Africa maritime economic sector, involving a range of thought leaders from South Africa and Norway

Establishment of clusters in South Africa’s maritime economic sector could have far more advantages for business owners in the sector than is derived by companies operating in isolation and in silos as is currently the case now. Among other things, the existence of a cluster would rather than eliminate competition, create synergies characterized by greater co-operation with shared benefits along values chains.

This was the strongest sentiment to emerge on the first day of a two day seminar on Operation Phakisa: Ocean Economy – Exploring opportunities towards a national maritime cluster for South Africa – attended by a range  of thought leaders from South Africa and on Norway, on the need for development of clusters in the country’s maritime sector.

Delegates to the Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) two day seminar currently being held in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.
Delegates to the Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) two day seminar currently being held in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.

Several speakers, among them Ms Judy Beaumont, acting Director-General of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Dr Malek Pourzanjani, CEO of SAIMI and Mr Prasheen Maharaj, CEO of Shipyards said the launch of Operation Phakisa: Ocean Economic in 2014 provided South Africa an ideal platform upon which industry in the country’s maritime economic sector and government could collaborate to ensure rapid and sustainable development of the sector for the benefit of all South Africans.

Crucial to it all, however; was intentional and determined engagement both within the maritime business sector with a view to establishing effective collaborative channels, but also between the sector and the public sector.

Ms Judy Beaumont, acting Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs
Ms Judy Beaumont, acting Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs

Ms Beaumont outlined the nature and purpose of the Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) programme as well as the milestones achieved to date since its formal launch in 2014. She described the programme as intended to both develop and transform the sector for integration into the country’s mainstream economy for the benefit of all South Africans.

According to Ms Beaumont, the initiative has certain characteristics among which is the need for speed in implementing identified projects, but also the work undertaken jointly through cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders.

In his adress Dr Pourzanjani said; “This seminar is being held under the banner of Operation Phakisa to explore the establishment of a national maritime cluster. As with Operation Phakisa itself, the success of such a cluster will depend on the involvement and collaboration of all maritime role-players and sectors – it is not something that a single entity or authority can make happen on their own.”

Dr Malek Pourzanjani, Chief Executive Officer of the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI)
Dr Malek Pourzanjani, Chief Executive Officer of the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI)

According to Dr Pourzanjani, industrial clusters are not a new phenomenon and already exist in some other business and industrial sectors, such the country’s motor manufacturing, tourism and other services industries.

In Europe, he said; the European Network of Maritime Clusters drew its membership from 17 countries and just two weeks ago had met with the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, where optimism was expressed that “maritime clusters are blooming across Europe”.

These maritime industries, according to Dr Pourzanjani accounted for about five-million jobs and just less than five percent of the E.U’s G.D.P.

He said:” The value of clustering lies in their supportive environment for collaboration and innovation, which in turn assists industrial and small business development, employment creation, and overall value-added economic growth.”

Mr Maharaj said a currently dominant sense of self-preservation and advancement among especially what he described as a “few large companies and few Government employees” was not helping South Africa’s cause as the attitude to business development enabled only a handful to live well “while millions of our people are left jobless and poor.”

Dr Prasheen Maharaj, Chief Executive Officer, SA Shipyards
Dr Prasheen Maharaj, Chief Executive Officer, SA Shipyards

According to Mr Maharaj, quoting Algeria president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as newly appointed head of ECOWAS, “Africa is not poor, it is poorly managed.”

He said: “Through Operation Phakisa, the Government is unveiling a new Marine Manufacturing and Industrial policy framework. This policy focuses on opportunity, growth and innovation in niche markets where South Africa can compete.

“It recognizes the value of marine transportation as an important industrial infrastructure, with environmental as well as economic benefits. And it focuses on partnerships, as it is only by working together that we can succeed. So the key to success is collaboration to drive innovation, resulting in greater efficiency and competitiveness.”

The same view was shared by Mr Peter Miles co-founder and executive of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Maritime Cluster established some three or so years ago.

According to Mr Miles, each of the port cities along the coast of South Africa should have a maritime cluster and through which a national cluster could be anchored, with a coordinating role. He suggested also that there should be a fund established to assist the formation and ongoing administration of the clusters.

According to Mr Miles, the funding could be raised through a rand-for-rand contribution from both the public and private sectors.

Meanwhile, a host of Norwegian industry, research and education experts have and continue to share their experience of clusters in that country’s maritime economic sector, with their overwhelming message being that South Africa’s sustainable success with its Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) will depend largely on such collaborative structures.

Norwegian ambassador to South Africa Ms Trine Skymoen in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape on Monday.
Norwegian ambassador to South Africa Ms Trine Skymoen in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape on Monday.

Led by Norway’s ambassador to South Africa, Ms Trine Skymoen, the Norwegian continent includes Ms Anne Lene Dale, Director for Economic and Commercial Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Ing Alf Egil Jense of the Norwegian Science & Technology, Dr Aase Kaurin of the Norway Research Council, Mr Svein Fjose of Menon Economic), and Dr Kristin Wallevik, the Dean of the University of Agder.

The two day seminar wraps up with a tour of the port of Port Elizabeth on Tuesday afternoon.

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