Operation Phakisa: Boosting South Africa’s Ocean Economy

By Jessie Taylor 

A network, spearheaded by private sector stakeholders, has been established to encourage South Africa’s maritime economy. The newly established Maritime Industry Transport Development Task Force Network offers a significant boost for the oceans economy, by cutting red tape in the industry and supporting government efforts to create jobs through maritime activity.

Capturing A Larger Share Of The Maritime Market

With CEO of Durban-based Sandock Austral Shipyards, Prasheen Maharaj at the helm as president of the Maritime Transport Development Network, the organisation has the full support of the Department of Transport. The initiative aims to support the government’s Operation Phakisa programme. The programme aims to create one million new jobs and unlock R177 billion of value to the GDP through the maritime sector.

The Chief Director of Maritime Transport: Policy and Legislation, Dumisani Ntuli said the government welcomes public private partnerships, especially as the maritime sector is critical for economic growth. He added that around 80% of the economy depends on the maritime sector. Every year, around 300 million tons of cargo moves through South Africa’s ports in imports and exports. In addition, 1.2 million tonnes of liquid fuels move along our coast, while the rapidly expanding offshore oil and gas activities require a supporting fleet of vessels.

In addition, South Africa is ideally positioned to serve the cargo traffic travelling between the East and West, as well as the continent’s booming offshore oil and gas industry. However, Despite this competitive advantage, we currently capture only one % of the global market of ship repair and refurbishment. Of the eighty oil rigs estimated to be in the range of the Western Cape, only four rigs are serviced per year, showing significant potential for growth.

Operation Phakisa aims to increase maritime activity in key areas, including by gaining a 10% increase in the local manufacturing and ship repair capacity. Mr Maharaj estimates that around 90% of goods that come in and leave South Africa through maritime transport, making the sector a key enabler of economic activity. This includes essential products such as crude oil and fuel. “It therefore becomes critical that our maritime transport economy not only survives but thrives,” he says.

A Private Sector Led Programme

The network is a departure from previous attempts to increase ocean economy activity, said Mr Maharaj, in that it is not government-led. “This is private sector driven but supported by the government with the Department of Transport being the secretariat. The words Network and Task Force were chosen very deliberately. The Network underscores the cooperative and collaborative nature of the undertaking – we need to work closely together to leverage each other’s strengths and resources for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders,” he said.

The task force will identify impediments to the growth and efficiency of the maritime transport economy and ensure solutions are implemented on time and within reasonable costs. Operation Phakisa, meaning “hurry up” in Sesotho, is modelled on the success of the Malaysian “Big Fast Results” methodology. Launched in 2014, the programme looks to work with stakeholders to develop detailed and practical plans that will allow the government to fast-track implementation in a number of key ocean economy sectors.

The programme looks to harness the largely untapped economic potential of the ocean, surrounding South Africa on three sides. Operation Phakisa has the critical work of stimulating the South African economy, with all sectors having the potential to produce as many as one million jobs by 2033.

Operation Phakisa has six priority potential growth areas: Marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, marine protection services and ocean governance, small harbours development, as well as coastal and marine tourism. The network will work hand-in-hand with the Department of Transport under its Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy. This policy hopes to unlock billions in value through the marine sector.

The goal behind the network is to provide a platform for the country’s maritime sector collaborate in the rapid development of the country’s maritime industry. The network represents several sub-sectors in South Africa’s maritime industry work streams or task forces. Six of these task forces have been established and are already in operation. The network will promote collaboration between government and other stakeholders, to drive investment and business development with the goal of promoting inequality, unemployment and poverty.

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