Op Phakisa’s blue economy component needs new Navy platforms to provide patrol services


With a handful of exceptions the blue economy component of government’s Operation Phakisa appears becalmed.

The Department of Public Works has embarked on a major programme for coastal infrastructure and there has also been movement on further development of small harbours. On the other side of the ledger patrolling and keeping a watchful eye on maritime resources via dedicated platforms for the SA Navy is currently a non-starter.

In February this year Armscor announced preferred bidders for both the in- and offshore patrol vessels (Project Biro) the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) needs to up its patrol capabilities. Since then there has been no official movement but unofficial sources suggest build of the three offshore patrol vessels has been pushed back by at least a year. Indications are the defence and security acquisition agency will still this year make an announcement on the contractors to build three inshore patrol vessels.

Maritime and naval insiders are also predicting an announcement before year-end on exactly who will be the main contractor for the Navy’s new hydrographic vessel (Project Hotel).

South Africa is a respected member of the international hydrographic community and the SA Navy’s hydrographer, Captain Abri Kampfer, was named first director of the International Hydrographic Organisation. He takes up the position in September.

The current SA Navy hydrographic vessel SAS Protea will be replaced by a new one as per Project Hotel and it is expected that it will also contribute to the blue economy by way of charting for maritime resources and sea routes.

There has, as yet, not been any indication of how the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) fleet of patrol and research vessels will be utilised in the maritime patrol and protection roles.

As far as knowledge of the maritime domain is concerned, also an important factor when it comes to making it one where economic interests can be followed and exploited, the CSIR is a contributor.

Its Datawell Waverider MK-111 buoy performed “as advertised” during the heavy mid-year storms experienced in the Western Cape.

An unusually large and violent storm resulted in wind speeds exceeding 120 km/h, with significant wave heights of up to 11 metres recorded by the buoy which survived the storm.
“It did not break free from its mooring and to this day, has kept on recording,” said CSIR coastal technologist Sarel Haasbroek, adding the CSIR technical team has to be acknowledged for their integral part in maintaining these systems, not only at Cape Point, but all around the South African coastline. “They ensure that quality data reaches our shores.”

In partnership with Transnet, the CSIR monitors wave conditions near the main ports – Saldanha, Cape Town, Ngqura, East London, Durban and Richards Bay – as well as monitoring long waves inside the Ngqura, Cape Town and Saldanha Bay ports.

The Department of Public Works is at the heart of a multi-million Rand spatial and economic development initiative for harbour and coastal properties. This has seen R400 million allocated for dredging and removal of sunken vessels in Hout Bay, Gordon’s Bay and Kalk Bay as another contribution to Operation Phakisa.

President Jacob Zuma said at the launch of the blue economy component of Operation Phakisa three years ago it would bring together business, labour, academia and government to “further develop and expand South Africa’s ocean economy”.

Estimates are the blue economy can contribute R13 billion to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and create a million jobs by 2033. Much of this depends on the ability to patrol and control maritime resources ranging from oil and gas through to protein in the form of fish and other maritime species.