Opening Address at the defenceWeb – 2009 Maritime Security for Africa Conference
Cape Town -13 October 2009
Program Director, Flag Officers, Fellow Senior Officers, Captains of Industry, and Friends from the media, ladies and gentlemen.
I feel greatly honored to be invited to open this auspicious inaugural conference in the company of fellow team members that experience similar maritime security concerns. We are here to collectively deliberate our future destiny, by ensuring that sea blindness does not hamper the prosperity and well being of the people of our country and continent.
I feel it is appropriate that 2009 Maritime Security for Africa Conference takes place in our mother city Cape Town and that these beautiful surroundings will inspire excellent and tangible results. The secret of success will lay in our ability to walk the talk.
Allow me to firstly digress just a little, in order to reflect on some of the issues discussed at the 19th International Seapower Symposium held in Newport Rhode Island from the sixth to the ninth of October 2009.
The conference was attended by more than one hundred nations, ninety of which were represented by their Chiefs of Navy. I participated in the panel that discussed ” bridging regional maritime domain awareness initiatives in support of partnerships”. This panel consisted of members as diverse as Malaysia, Italy, South Korea and Ecuador who presented papers on issues directly affecting their regions.
I was struck by the in-depth knowledge presented on this important maritime issue and willingness and effective flow of information within these region through co-ordination centers that accepts full responsibility to assist each other.
At the same time I came out of the conference fuelled with a spirit of service delivery.
A spirit that says to me – we need to do more to position Africa at the same level as the rest of the world in terms of Maritime Domain Awareness.
The overriding message I bring to you is twofold; firstly, the global maritime community is faced with similar and expanding challenges that transcend national border and across political boundaries.
And secondly; navies are required to co-operate with each other, and all other maritime stakeholders, that will then enable us to be employed in such a manner so as to ensure a safe and prosperous maritime environment for all.
I came out of this conference hungry to see the navies of our continent playing a role that supports national security efforts in individual countries through collaboration, co-operation and exchange of information.
Africa was represented by twenty countries and one representative from the African Union, who reported in his contribution that the African Union is busy producing a Maritime Policy for Africa. This therefore means, that if this Maritime Policy is for Africa, we need to roll up our sleeves, know what it contains and who the participants and participate actively in all process that will lead up to an adoption of that policy
Therefore your 2009 Maritime Security for Africa Conference has come at an appropriate time and is in line with all other regional conferences.
Further more, I recently attended the 2009 Chief of the Naval Staff Annual Conference held in Nigeria which discussed the Nigerian navy’s role to ensure the safety and security of their sea lines of communications within their maritime zones and how to position themselves as a navy that is capable of exercising local sea control, and how to build consensus in the region and promote co-operation in the West coast with the navy’s situated there.
This maritime conference will focus the participants on the various aspects of Maritime Safety and Security, and my hope is that you will retain a distinct African flavor during your deliberations so as to produce solutions that will enhance Africa’s regional and continental maritime security.
Africa requires to grow its capabilities to effectively control our maritime zones. We require innovative thinking to solve the security challenges that face our vast continent remembering that lakes and rivers connect us to the seas through the numerous harbours that makes trade and growth possible.
We must develop our capabilities to engage international role players as equals and to ensure our participation in all other conference such as the India Ocean Naval Symposium, Five plus Five etc and all other initiatives that will position the navies of the continent to protect their interests as equals.
The vast resources of hydrocarbon and protein that the sea holds requires continues monitoring and control to ensure that our people benefit fully from our marine wealth and the subsequent accrual of valuable currency to bolster the states income in support of a better life for all.
More than ninety precent of global trade and seventy precent of the world’s oil is transported by sea. Millions of people live in coastal regions and many sectors of our lives and the well being of many nations depend on the marine environment and this includes the landlocked countries that are critically dependant on sea trade.
Besides the securing of the sea lines of communications by exercising sea control, safe navigation at sea requires an effective and efficient hydrography service to reduce the risks of groundings and collisions that could result in the loss of live and damage to the environment by pollution. This aspect requires close co-operation through capacity building and training on our continent.
Hence, Maritime Domain Awareness is fundamental in ensuring that we are able to detect and track all shipping including those under flags of convenience, know their cargoes, crew and destinations and be able to react to ships in distress, and be ready to share this information with others if they ate to take action.
But, I ask the question, are we capable of sharing this information with our regional partners?
If the answer is no, then we need to say at this conference what we must do to promote Maritime Domain Awareness.
Allow me to reiterate on this isue by quoting the words of Theodore Roosevelt who said “A good Navy is not a provocation to war but it is the surest guaranty of peace.”
This is the forward thinking that will shape our future plans. In short it means that we are required to do much more with far less and herein lies the challenges to all of us.
This multilateral approach is in complete alignment with government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework – “Together doing more and better”. We are also proud to note the fact that the South African National Defence Force’s strategic objectives of “support to the people and support to the region” are clearly aligned with this new approach.
To support government intent of a “developmental democracy” the SA Navy’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the objectives as set out in the governments Medium Term Strategic Framework are fully supported with regards to maritime matters.
In broader terms, it requires the SA Navy to ensure that the seas around our coast are safe and that we use our capabilities to bring peace to those African regions that require our assistance.
I must assure this audience that the SA Navy’s commitment to ensure a safe maritime zone and that our contribution to Peace Keeping on the continent must in no way be doubted. The men, the woman and the ships and submarines of the South African Navy are ready to act decisively from the sea.
In addition it is clear that the responsibilities and challenges of navies worldwide are also expanding. Not only do navies have the enduring constitutional responsibility to protect the sovereignty of the state but also additionally our broader naval utilities are required to assist other State departments and both local and regional role players, in ensuring a safe and prosperous maritime commons.
The road to achieve these objectives is through enhanced co-operation
– to counter the scourge of piracy and maritime crime,
– to provide disaster relief and humanitarian assistance,
– to coordinate search and rescue at sea, including submarine rescue,
– to plan and conduct combined naval operations and joint law enforcement actions
-. to counter arms, drug and human trafficking,
as well as the policing of fisheries and pollution infringements.
Given the complex security background I have sketched my challenge to the conference and the participants are to explore possible technical solutions that could enhance the “bridges of trust”.
In this regard the concept of Maritime Domain Awareness and how we as a collective can enhance co-operation and information sharing to ensure a safe African maritime zone requires further investigation. Bearing in mind that Maritime Domain Awareness is all about generating actionable intelligence, which is the corner stone of successful maritime law enforcement operations.
Despite the economic turndown, the SA Navy is ever ready in all respects to rise and overcome the challenges emanating from the sea and contiguous landmass. I am further encouraged by excellent maritime contribution made during Exercise GOLFINHO where regional navies participated fully to operationalise the SADC’s Regional standby brigade during an extensive Peace Keeping exercise. As a region we have taken a big step forward to integrate our assets for the better good and have built bridges of trust into the future.
On that note, Programme Director, I am looking forward to being briefed on your deliberations and sincerely hope that your collective effort will contribute to a safe and prosperous African maritime zone thereby ensuring a bright and sustainable future for all the people of South African, the region and our beloved African continent.
Colleagues, let us roll up our sleeves and get down to work, fully understanding that the task to build the Africa that we all yearn for, is a common responsibility we all share.
I thank you.