CSIR contributing to blue economy growth


In its latest annual report, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) notes that the Oceans Economy component of Operation Phakisa will require the monitoring and governance of the country’s oceans and coastal areas.
“Protection and governance of the country’s oceans is crucial to unlocking the potential of the oceans economy,” the reports states, pointing out some challenges as being the size of the coastline and ocean regions, the number of (government) departments, institutions and national acts involved as well as different socio-economic contexts, development goals and habitats of coastal provinces.

As its contribution to the maritime component of Operation Phakisa, the CSIR has developed the oceans and coastal information management system (OCIMS). It integrates systems, information and expertise into a single cost-effective and user-friendly national system, providing access to interactive spatial information as a tool for decision making and predictive modelling.

First users of OCIMS are the departments of Environment Affairs and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as the SA Navy and Defence Intelligence. Among others OCIMS has to date provided access to allowing tracking of vessels in South African territorial waters.

The maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has the tasking of protecting national maritime resources, such as oil and gas as well as fish stocks. This is the heart of Project Biro, which originally set out to acquire six new patrol hulls – three each inshore and offshore. The acquisition of the three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) has been put on hold and Armscor has yet to announce a contractor for the three inshore patrol vessels (IPVs), although Damen Shipyards Cape Town was named the preferred bidder in February this year.

At present, the SA Navy relies on the four Valour Class frigates and three former strikecraft, converted to offshore patrol vessels, to monitor the country’s coastline. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries fleet includes four fisheries protection/patrol vessels (Victoria Mxenge, Ruth First, Lilian Ngoyi and Sarah Baartman) and two fisheries research vessels (Ellen Khuzwayo and Africana).
“South Africa’s exclusive economic zone is 1 535 538 square km and its diverse and rich marine ecology is an easy target for illegal fishing due to the difficulty in policing such an immense expanse.
“In 2016, CSIR-developed technology helped authorities track foreign vessels that had entered South Africa’s exclusive economic zone without permits and without declaring 600 tonnes of squid on board. The operators were apprehended, appeared in court and were fined.
“The CSIR technology is called SeaFAR and is one of the decision-support tools integrated into OCIMS. It uses satellite-based synthetic aperture radars, optical satellites and satellite automatic identification system data as well as satellite vessel management system data, coupled with machine learning algorithms, to detect and identify vessels displaying suspicious behaviour,” according to the report which also notes “the CSIR continues to improve and enrich OCIMS functions”.

Other CSIR work being done in support of the blue economy initiative includes developing decision support tools for sea search and rescue missions, monitoring oil bilge spills and pollution, providing sea state forecasts to small-scale fishing communities, supporting tourism with maps of coastal highlight areas and for marine spatial planning.

Government believes the ocean has the potential to contribute up to R177 billion to gross domestic product (GDP) and that it also has a potential to contribute between 800 000 and 1 million direct jobs by 2033. By comparison, the ocean economy generated R54 billion and served 316 000 jobs in 2010.

The sectors in which Operation Phakisa is focusing are marine transport and manufacturing activities such as coastal shipping, transhipment, boat building, repair and refurbishment; offshore oil and gas exploration; aquaculture and marine protection services; small harbours development, coastal and marine tourism and ocean governance.

In April 2016 President Jacob Zuma said more than R17 billion had been unlocked in the national economy since the launch of the blue economy sector of Operation Phakisa in 2014 and 4 500 jobs created.