South Africa’s plan to make its oceans and the potential in and on them into contributors to grow the national economy has been explored offshore for the first time, thanks to the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
IORA is a 20 coastal state co-operative community that has been in existence since 1997 and has at its core mandate the proper management of the Indian Ocean resource to the benefit of its members.
The Indian Ocean is the world’s third largest ocean. It carries half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments. It is a lifeline of international trade and transport. The region is woven together by trade routes and commands control of major sea lanes, the Association notes.
“The diversity and difference of the countries on the Indian Ocean rim are bound by it. For many centuries, explorers, pilgrims, fishermen, traders and merchants have traversed the Indian Ocean, establishing networks of communication and developing the economic and cultural inter-connectedness of the region,” is one of the bulwarks IORA fosters and nurtures.
This saw the Association stage its first ever Blue Economy conference as part of it rating the ocean economy a strategic priority. South Africa was a conference initiating member country in line with its commitment, via Operation Phakisa, to the blue economy.
Reporting back on the conference, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Nomaindiya Mfeketo said the Mauritius event was “an opportune platform to conceptualise the blue economy and enable co-operation on exploiting ocean resources”.
The conference concentrated on fisheries and aquaculture, renewable ocean energy, seaports and shipping as well as seabed exploration and minerals.
Mfeketo said the blue economy, in addition to providing work and revenue, highlighted the role of marine life and ecosystems in supporting economic activity in the maritime environment as well as enhancing food security.
In South Africa, the blue economy is one component of Operation Phakisa, which was launched by President Jacob Zuma in October last year. It includes marine manufacturing and transport, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas exploration as well as marine protection and governance.
The manufacturing component at present appears to be solely vested in building seven new platforms for the SA Navy. Tenders have closed and are being evaluated by Armscor for a hydrographic vessel to replace the SAS Protea and for three each inshore and offshore patrol vessels which, when commissioned, will be a major part of the maritime protection aspect of the blue economy in South African’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).