Port St Johns: 28 September 2017
The development of South Africa’s maritime sector is now formally in full swing under the banner of the Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) initiative, with billions of rand of State funds currently being invested in particularly ports and related infrastructure.
However, now absolutely crucial is a need to ensure that all South Africans are on board and involved, and central to strategy is a need to both broaden and entrench fully education and skills development of especially the young, Minister of Transport, Mr Joe Masangwanyi told hundreds of people – among them 400 high school children – attending this year’s World Maritime Day celebrations held in Port St Johns, Eastern Cape.
Port St Johns, a little town settled in a picturesque area of South Africa’s Wild Coast along the Indian Ocean, midway between East London and Durban, was chosen by the Department of Transport for this year’s observation of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) driven World Maritime Day on September 28 for a number of reasons.
Among these is that the town symbolizes one of the most under-developed areas of South Africa settled along the country’s 3200 km long coastline. It used to fall under the jurisdiction of the former Transkei homeland or Bantustan whose development was simply ignored by the apartheid government.
The town is now among coastal areas of the country earmarked earlier this year as part of a coastal and marine tourism initiative for a rapid development plan over five years beginning in 2017.
Port St Johns also falls under the O.R Tambo District Municipality which is home to former African National Congress president, Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo whose contribution to the country’s liberation struggle is being celebrated in 2017.
The World Maritime Day event held in the town on Thursday (28 September) was the second of its kind with an international maritime theme to be held in the region, the first having been the international Seafarers’ Day held in Mbizana in June.
Also preceding the event were a number of marine skills and related project targeting close on 300 youths from the region since June this year.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) driven initiatives included a Maritime Youth Development Programme (MYDP) for youths keen on working on cruise vessels; a Corporate Social Investment Youth Skills project for youths keen on sea diving, life-guarding and related), a Coastal and Marine Tourism initiative aimed at facilitating infrastructure development and enhancement, job creation and entrepreneurship.
At Thursday’s event, Mr Masangwanyi said these maritime sector related initiatives were a clear indication of Government’s expressed commitment to driving new investment into areas that are both underdeveloped and with great potential to contribute to the country’s economy through business investment and job creation.
According to Mr Masangwanyi, there is no longer a reason why populations of people living in the country’s coastal provinces (Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal) should not be in the lead in the development of the country’s maritime economic sector.
Infrastructure development, education and skills development would be the key drivers for investment; he said.
“Government has identified the maritime sector as an important sector of the country’s economy
“Various ports across the country are receiving billions of rand in investment to enhance their capacity – facts of which will be fully revealed when President Jacob Zuma reports to the nation about the progress of Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) in Durban next month.
“We are not going to leave behind Port St Johns. Among highlights of projects in the area is the expansion of the N2 and which will formally link the town of Port St Johns to increased road traffic between the major cities of East London and Durban. As much as R8-billion is being invested in the Wild Coast road construction project.
“The cabinet has approved the comprehensive maritime transport policy, it provides further opportunity for investment in the country’s maritime transport sector.
“This welcome development indicates that as a country, we cannot remain consumers of maritime services of other countries while we have such coastal heritage.
“Gone are the days when our people are consumers. Now is the time that our people should also contribute to productions of services. Gone are the days when our oceans are dominated by big shipping companies from Europe, America and Asia. Now is the time that vessels should be owned and operated by South Africans and in the main, Africans.
“Through the maritime transport and manufacturing projects we will create between 40-56 000 job opportunities, whereby our people will be involved in maritime construction, telecommunication technologies and equipment manufacturing. These will contribute between R21-25-billion to the economy of South Africa. In order achieve these goals within the set timeframes, it cannot be business as usual,” he said.
To listen to his full speech (about 20 minutes) Click on the video below.