South Africa’s maritime economic sector development programme, Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) will need to speedily live up to its name and ‘hurry up’ sooner than later if it is to draw any significant investment into the sector, in the process laying conducive conditions for business development and job creation, Mr Christopher Sparg, Managing Director of Dormac has warned.
Mr Sparg was among 60 odd maritime sector industry principals gathered for the event in Kalk Bay on the eve Mr Zuma’s SONA speech and in which he was expected to share Government’s perspective and goals about the specific programme.
The idea, according to SAMSA was to allow for the sharing of views and engagement with Government policy owners many of who were in the city for the opening of Parliament.
In his speech, Mr Zuma made reference to Operation Phakisa as among key priorities areas of government’s focus in overall economic development activity. Highlights of planned action included the inclusion of marine tourism as part of the package, and also the dedication of Simonstown as the “government garage for all state-owned vessels, including the maintenance and repair of government-owned vessels, through the newly established South African Navy/ARMSCOR/Denel partnership.”
From a maritime economic sector industry perspective however, the launch of Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) in 2014, essentially to speed up processes towards unlocking bottlenecks and creating a conducive environment to increased investment, business development and job creation, was simply not living up to expectations, charged Mr Sparg.
“We’ve yet to experience the speed about which Operation Phakisa was launched” said Mr Sparg, adding that this was leading to uncertainty and frustration among especially those already invested in the local economy.
Mr Sparg leads Dormac Marine and Engineering, a division of Southey Holdings that is a major player in the country’s ship repair, industrial fabrication and oil and gas maritime fields.
Continued collaboration through regular engagement and exchange of ideas, views and opinions among key role players and interested parties remains the key to any positive achievements in the redevelopment and growth of the country’s maritime economic sector, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
This, according to SAMSA Board Chairman Mr Mavuso Msimang, was the underlying message behind a networking session hosted by the organization in Cape Town this past week, involving more than 60 officials from across subsectors of the country’s maritime sector as well as State departments and organizations.
Several of the industry principals and government officials were in the Mother City for Thursday’s 2017 State of the Nation Address(SONA) in Parliament by President Jacob Zuma.
The networking session, a feature of SAMSA’s stakeholder engagement program, served also this year as a precursor to more robust formal engagements in the next few months among which will be the 2nd South Africa Maritime Investment Conference (SAMIC 2017) currently earmarked for Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape in the first half of this year.
This will occur just over two years after the launch of Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) in 2014 which event firmly placed the country’s maritime economic sector central to the country’s broad economic development goals.
On Wednesday evening, Mr Msimang, flanked by some members of the SAMSA board as well as executive managers including acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi; hosted the exclusive networking dinner for the maritime sector leaders at the Harbour House restaurant located in the heart of a quaint small fishing habour in Kalk Bay – some 30km south east of central Cape Town.
Global economic uncertainty remains
In his brief remarks to the group, Mr Msimang noted that global economic activity was not at its best and that recent political developments around the world, but specifically the exit of Great Britain from the European Union (a.k.a Brexit) and the recent outcome of the United States presidential elections had added economic risk factors with unpredictable consequences for global trade currently.
He said the same could be said of South Africa’s own socio-political and economic situation.
Mr Msimang said it was against the scenario that it remained absolutely important that various partners to the country’s maritime economic development sector continue to work closely together in managing and solving emerging challenges as well as in exploring for profit all opportunities.
He said SAMSA appreciated its role as facilitator and committed it that: “We will endeavor to promote events like this with the hope that the platform provided will enable people to talk and engage much more easily. We will support the industry in its deliberations with various government policy owners as well as playing our part in the governance of the maritime economic sector.”
Meanwhile, in his welcoming remarks, Mr Tilayi noted that while the country’s maritime economic sector continued to experience a set of problems and challenges requiring sustained engagement with particularly government, there were reasons to be optimistic.
He said current joint efforts between government and industry could see more positive outcomes achieved, particularly in relation to policy development, ships registration under the country’s flag, a rejuvenation of the country’s fishing sub-sector vessels fleet through recapitalization, as well as renewed impetus in efforts towards the sustained development of the country’s cadre of seafarers and related.
Mr Tilayi emphasized however, the critical importance of continued engagement among key role players in the sector, also stressing SAMSA’s continued facilitation role between industry and government.
Mr Andrew Millard, a director of shipping group, Vuka Marine – Cape Town based owners of the first three shipping vessels to carry South Africa’s flag in 2015 – expressed appreciation of the role played by SAMSA and indicated that while there were numerous challenges facing the sector still, there were also numerous reasons for optimism, particularly with regards expansion of a vessel fleet carrying the country’s flag – a particular development deemed vital to especially the training of a cadre of South African seafarers.