THE GOVERNMENT has turned its gaze sharply towards the oceans economy in a bid to attract new investment that could help South Africa’s recovery from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula yesterday unveiled multimillion-rand investments in three major South African ports to shore up the Operation Phakisa initiative.
Operation Phakisa focuses on unlocking the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans which could contribute up to R177 billion to the economy by 2033 through marine transport, manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, marine tourism, and create up to 1 million direct jobs.
Mbalula yesterday said the ports infrastructure had been identified as a strategic area to drive government objectives of economic inclusion, particularly the participation of the historically disadvantaged communities in the maritime sector.
“To date, working closely with the minister of public enterprises and the Transnet National Ports Authority, we have given a green light in respect of a number of investments in the ports,” Mbalula said.
“The investments that will be unveiled are a catalyst towards attracting investments in the construction of new world-class infrastructure and advancing the competitiveness of our ports as strategic drivers of economic growth.
“We call on the private sector to participate in the broader agenda of developing and improving our ports operations.”
Mbalula said the Strategic Fuel Fund will construct an onshore Liquid Natural Gas regasification facility estimated at R22.5bn at the Port of Ngqura to respond to the country’s energy security.
He said Mnambithi Terminals would also develop and operate a liquid bulk terminal worth R1.5bn at Maydon Wharf 6 in the Port of Durban, creating more than 1 500 temporary direct and other indirect job opportunities.
Hillside Aluminium, the largest aluminium smelter in the southern hemisphere, would also renew existing leases in the Port of Richards Bay, benefiting Transnet and the municipality with a revenue stream of R338 million and local procurement spend of R2bn a year.
Meanwhile, Dormac Marine Engineering will renew existing leases, which would generate rental income for Transnet and the eThekwini Municipality currently standing at R17.5m a year.
Mbalula said these investments were a catalyst towards the realisation of tangible economic interventions, improving the competitiveness of the ports and growing the maritime sector.
“Our ports infrastructure has been identified as a strategic area to drive government objectives of economic inclusion, particularly in relation to the participation of the historically disadvantaged communities in the maritime sector, including women and youth.”
Professional associate at the Nelson Mandela University’s (NMU) infrastructure development and engagement unit Bongani Mankewu has for years been decrying the lack of government attention given to the oceans economy.
The NMU commissioned an Ocean Strategic Road Map highlighting 59 projects, their establishment values, contribution to the economy and potential for creating jobs.
Mankewu said the ocean could become the new economic frontier with its immense resource wealth and potential to boost economic growth, employment, and innovation. “There is no denying that the ocean serves as a source of trade, transport, energy, food, tourism, recreation and many other goods and services around the world,” he said.
Globally, the ocean economy is becoming more significant within the policy and economic realm, as landbased resources near their peak extraction.
“Worryingly, South Africa’s government has a hazy comprehension of this resource,” he said.
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