CSIR looks to unlock SA’s maritime potential


The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has commenced the implementation of the Oceans and Coasts Information System (OCIMS).

The system aims to implement an overarching and integrated ocean governance framework for sustainable growth of the oceans economy, while ensuring adequate protection of the ocean environment.

It forms part of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA’s) Phakisa Oceans Economy Programme. The project was initiated in 2014 following an analysis which found that nine sectors of SA’s ocean economy could generate an estimated GDP contribution of R129 billion to R177 billion by 2033. This programme falls under initiative six of Operation Phakisa.
“The main focus of OCIMS is to apply satellite remote sensing and geospatial information; provide operational wide area monitoring; and avail information products to support and enhance decision-making for the governance of the South African Oceans (Exclusive Economic Zone) and coasts,” says Lee Annamalai, CSIR’s Earth observation systems and information technology manager.
“The mature geo-information ICT capabilities that have resulted in solutions like AFIS (a satellite-based fire information tool that provides near real-time fire information to users across the globe), Azimuth (a surface deformation monitoring system) and SEAFar (a deep sea monitoring system) are combined with the CSIR’s intensive research in marine remote sensing, coastal spatial analysis and satellite synthetic aperture radar as well as satellite data analytics to develop OCIMS and its decision support tools,” says Annamalai, who is also the OCIMS contract manager.

Since the DEA contracted the CSIR to research, develop and implement the system, the CSIR has convened a user and stakeholder workshop. At the workshop, the oceans and coasts technology user community presented research on similar oceans and coasts systems and also demonstrated an initial set of decision support tools to government users.

The CSIR has drawn up a technology roadmap to identify mature technological solutions, which address a variety of end-user needs within the oceans and coasts domain.

The technical solution areas include early warning support for harmful algal bloom detection and oil spill detection; operations support for small or large vessels planning operations at sea; compliance and enforcement around regulation of fishing, vessel tracking and pollution monitoring; and planning and assessment support for marine spatial planning.

The end-users of OCIMS range from government-based users who are involved in overall governance; industry users involved in socio-economic activities, such as large-scale and artisanal fishing, aquaculture, oil and gas exploration; and public users involved in recreational activities.