Synergy sets sail on the big blue

SEA OF OPPORTUNITY: The EC Maritime Summit 2015 panel discussion at the Boardwalk ICC included, seated from left, Jessica Fraser of the NMMU business school, SA International Maritime Institute project coordinator Samantha Venter, Sustainable Seas Trust director Dr Tony Ribbink, MC5 president Gulam Mather, SA Gas Association chairman Mthozami Xiphu and, at the podium, Transnet’s Siya Mhlaluka. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
SEA OF OPPORTUNITY: The EC Maritime Summit 2015 panel discussion at the Boardwalk ICC included, seated from left, Jessica Fraser of the NMMU business school, SA International Maritime Institute project coordinator Samantha Venter, Sustainable Seas Trust director Dr Tony Ribbink, MC5 president Gulam Mather, SA Gas Association chairman Mthozami Xiphu and, at the podium, Transnet’s Siya Mhlaluka. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE

Plan for big and small business partnerships launched at ocean economy conference, writes Zandile Mbabela

BIG business in Nelson Mandela Bay has its work cut out tapping into the ocean economy, with calls made yesterday for it to attract major contracts that smaller businesses can benefit from.

At the Eastern Cape Maritime Summit at the Boardwalk International Convention Centre yesterday, it was highlighted that small businesses would not be able to take on business opportunities directly due to financial constraints.

The summit – attended by parastatals and other small or large businesses with potential to cash in on the national shift towards the blue economy – was to outline direct opportunities in the sector.

SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) chief executive Commander Tsietsi Mokhele said: “SMMEs will find it difficult to take the first bite. . . and it would also be stupid for big businesses not to incubate them.”

The drive to tap into the ocean, the blue economy, has gained momentum since the government launched Operation Phakisa last year, encouraging the public and private sectors to partner meaningfully and ultimately pump billions into the economy and create thousands of jobs.

Elaborating on Mokhele’s statement yesterday, Samsa chief operating officer Sobantu Tilayi said small businesses would not be disadvantaged.

“It’s ripe opportunity. Big business needs to go in there to bring the client here, then smaller business will get the benefit of supporting that one big venture,” he said. “Even as big businesses come in, let them comply with the country’s aspirations of transformation and so on. You’re not going to get a small business able to fork out R2.5-billion so a project would obviously go to a bigger one. But it had better be transformed.

“We need to ensure that this is representative from the get-go so that we don’t have to worry about exclusion to the economy years later.”

Tilayi echoed many of the speakers and panelists, saying maritime business opportunities extended far beyond shipping. “There’s one area that’s not been looked at that presents itself as a beautiful opportunity for Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape.

“This relates to the fact that PE is situated along a highway.

“All the ships that leave Brazil or other South American countries or Europe come by PE very closely.

“Now, you would know that ships would need to refuel. And PE presents exactly that opportunity.”

“So with [the fact that PE has good anchorage] there’s an opportunity for somebody to supply fuel to ships out there.

“But before doing that, for pollution control purposes, there needs to be somebody to supply booms to surround the ship.”

Tilayi said small businesses could buy boats that would ferry supplies to ships anchored off the city’s coast, while others could provide control measures, such as booms laid on the water around ships as they lay at anchor.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University vice-chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz said the institution was positioning itself as a world-class maritime and science institute in Africa.

Swartz said curriculums and qualifications were being established to meet the various career demands in the blue economy. NMMU had a fine design unit that would do well in shipping, he said.

The university recently announced a R60-million investment in the old Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) campus which it intends turning into the country’s first dedicated maritime studies centre of excellence.

“For the tourism aspect in this regard, we are looking at developing a hotel school to tap into that,” Swartz said.

Other opportunities identified in the sector include maritime transport and manufacturing, oil and gas, aquaculture and ocean governance.

This story appeared in Weekend Post on Saturday, 14 November, 2015 e-Edition

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