Respected South African think-tank, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), maintains South Africa’s ambitious blue economy initiative has “so far achieved only modest results”.
Timothy Walker writes in “Securing a sustainable oceans economy – South Africa’s approach” that the country embarked on an ambitious course to align implementation of domestic and foreign policy goals regarding maritime security, development and governance.
“To successfully grow this oceans economy will also require the country to undertake maritime security operations and engage in chairing and reviving important international organisations.”
One of Walker’s seven key findings notes: “The inclusion of the Operation Phakisa oceans economy as one of the nine point plans for implementing the National Development Plan (NDP) was crucial but the initiative has so far only achieved modest results”.
Another finding points out that “South Africa’s geographic ‘gateway’ location places unique demands on it to provide maritime safety, security and governance for itself and others. This ‘gateway’ role requires the design and implementation of well-crafted domestic and foreign policy frameworks and plans”.
Also germane to the role the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) plays and will play in the blue economy is Walker’s finding that South Africa considers piracy to be a major threat and conducts a naval patrol in the Mozambique Channel despite a drastic decline in piracy incidents since 2012.
The SA Navy to a large extent is seen as the leading SANDF service in Phakisa as regards the safety and security of maritime assets with the SA Air Force (SAAF) also a player.
The maritime service has to protect assets such as fish stocks, offshore gas and oil deposits. This duty is currently assigned to its Valour Class frigates, Heroine Class submarines and converted strikecraft until such time as its new patrol vessels are taken into service. Here the Navy will also be hamstrung as its original plan to acquire six patrol vessels – three inshore and three offshore – has been cut back by half with only the inshore vessels going to be built.
The SAAF is arguably in a worse situation as regards maritime patrol aircraft with the tasking assigned to 35 Squadron at AFB Ysterplaat. There are currently eight C-47TPs on strength but not all are necessarily airworthy. Five of the aircraft are configured for maritime patrol, two for transport and one for electronic warfare. There is no indication of when they will be replaced and by what types.