South Africa’s support for international shipping

gillBy Gill Price

South Africa has the second longest coastline on the African continent and spans two oceans. This prime geo position is at the heart of international shipping with more than 30 000 ships sailing around the country every year. The route links Asia to the East Coast of South America and the East and West coasts of Africa. 
In overseeing this vital international shipping corridor, the country has invested in a deeper understanding of maritime operations with a view to support seafarers need to safely navigate around the Cape.

Apart from our strategic position at the southern tip of Africa, we have much to contribute to international shipping as we are at the forefront of matters on international shipping in the region and the broader developing world.
Under Operation Phakisa: Unlocking the economic potential of South Africa's oceans – The Oceans Economy Lab was launched in July 2014 in Durban and concluded on 15 August 2014.  

Over 180 delegates from national and provincial government departments, the private sector, civil society, labour and academia participated in the oceans Lab. This collaboration contributing towards concretising the Oceans Economy, as a priority programme, to contribute to the country's GDP.

An Oceans Economy Master Plan has also been created benefitting co-operatives who have been awarded licences by the National Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE). The Master Plan also advances stabilisation, revival and growth of the sub-sectors (Marine Manufacturing and Repair; Marine Transport; Offshore Oil and Gas; Aquaculture; Fisheries) within the Oceans Economy to aid job creation, GDP, economic recovery and potential growth.

Moreover, in line with the our commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, South Africa is committed to decarbonisation of shipping and ports through the use of zero or low carbon technologies, fuels and infrastructure. We continue to work towards combatting climate change and its threats by advancing the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Initial Strategy on the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emission from International Ships.

Through our Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy, we aim to develop South Africa as an International Maritime Centre in Africa.  While we have recently experienced logistical challenges at some of our ports, these backlogs are being addressed by concrete interventions through our ports operator Transnet. 

Following an internal diagnostic review by the company, there are plans to invest R160 billion to address the infrastructure challenges at our ports. It includes procuring 16 gantry cranes and acquisition of four ship-to-shore cranes to address slow turnaround times affecting the docking and offloading of containers at the port.

Furthermore, Transnet plans to deepen and lengthen two berths at its Durban Container Terminal Pier 2 as part of efforts to ease backlogs. This pier handles about 65 percent of the country’s containerised cargo and deepening project will help expand the ports capacity from the current 2.7 million Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) to 4.5 million TEUs over the next 10 years.

In elevating the country as a desirable destination for cruise ships, last year we opened the Nelson Mandela cruise terminal which is a R296.7 million Public Private Partnership between Mediterranean Cruise Company (MSC) Cruises and Transnet. We are confident that similar partnerships and innovative ideas will help streamline operations at our nation’s ports. 

South Africa plays an important role in maritime management along our coasts to ensure safe passage of seafarers navigating the Cape Route. It includes the provision of navigation aids in the form of lighthouses, vessel traffic services and a fully-fledged marine hydrographic service.

We also provide emergency response services ranging from emergency towing of vessels through our 24/7 Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre and security through our Maritime Security Coordination Centre that is responsible for clearing of vessels destined for South African ports.

These efforts offer assurance to international shipping on the safety of shipping along the South African coastline and support the entire Southern African region. These safety efforts are further enhanced by South Africa’s anti-piracy operations.

Since our readmission to the IMO in February 1995 after many years of isolation due to the policies of the then apartheid government, we have actively participated in various structures and activities of the IMO.

In 1997, our country was voted to the IMO Council and we served as Vice Chair for 10 years. Our membership of the IMO is founded on our long-term commitment to support the international community in ensuring safety and security of shipping and the protection of the marine environment. 

Through the years, South Africa has continuously supported the work of the organisation in regulating safety, security and the protection of the marine environment. The country also has a permanent representation at the IMO. 

Our country will continue to use our wealth of experience to advance international shipping and support the shipping corridor around the country. Our efforts will not only boost our economy but support the global logistic system. 

Gill Price is Director: Communication Resource Centre at Government Communication and Information System