SA plans to convert its geographic advantage into a strategic opportunity by positioning itself as the gateway to Antarctica. Pictured is Minister Barbara Creecy and Norwegian ambassador, Astrid Helle. Picture: Mwangi Githahu/Cape Argus
Cape Town - South Africa plans to convert its geographic advantage into a strategic opportunity by positioning itself as the gateway to Antarctica.

This was the message from Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy at the launch of the 2019/2020 Antarctica season at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

“We are fully committed to the Antarctic Treaty and see the peaceful international science-based collaboration that underpins it as a model for how the world must respond to the climate crises. We need to plan, provide and maintain infrastructure for operations in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to ensure that it remains safe and fit for purpose,” Creecy said.

Creecy said, “Along with our proximity to Antarctica, South Africa’s collaboration with our international partners in the sphere of research and collaboration holds numerous advantages and we must optimise support for a science and logistics gateway services for all countries active in Antarctica.”

Speaking at the launch, Norwegian ambassador Astrid Helle said, “It is very important that countries that have common interests work together in a peaceful manner in order to promote these interests . In the case of our two countries it is also very important that we both protect the area because it is very vulnerable to environmental degradation and climate change.”

Helle said: “But also we must consider among ourselves how to make sustainable use of the resources in Antarctica. This is also important for countries like SA as it creates jobs and stimulates economic growth.”

Meanwhile, the delayed establishment of an Antarctic Centre at the Port of Cape Town, which is one of the department’s deliverables as part of its “Antarctic strategy”, will be the focus of discussions next month between the department and the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA). The TNPA’s Cape Town port manager Mpumi Dweba-Kwetana said the department was its strategic partner in the project and that the purpose of the centre would be to “bring the Antarctica continent closer to the citizens of SA and promote economic opportunities”.

Said Creecy: “It is very important that we have an appropriately equipped centre that can allow scientists to undertake that preliminary work before they return to their institutions of origin.”

The establishment of the centre was discussed last year at the first launch of the Antarctic Season. At the time the department’s director-general, Nosipho Ngcaba, said, “The centre will accommodate the Antarctic Logistics Network, which will be a virtual network of members that provide advice, assistance and referrals as businesses that understand polar conditions.”

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