Push to develop metro as maritime hub


Swartz urges council to capitalise on ocean economy opportunities

NELSON Mandela Metropolitan University wants the political backing of the city’s decisionmakers to push for the metro to be the continent’s premier maritime economic hub.

With the government pushing business to tap into the ocean economy, NMMU vice-chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz yesterday urged councillors to ensure the city was at the forefront of those projects. The university has plans to establish a marine and maritime campus, which will provide a new generation of qualifications in the maritime sector.

The campus will be at the newly acquired Council for Scientific and Industrial Research building and will work closely with the South African International Maritime Institute to respond to the global shortage of maritime skills.

The ocean economy has become quite the buzzword in business circles since the government launched Operation Phakisa last year.

“The Presidency asked the university officially to take up the leading role among universities to support Operation Phakisa’s ocean economic strategy,” Swartz told a full council.

Touching on some of the industries the Bay could consider venturing into, he said there was huge potential for exploring shale gas, building a ship repair plant, manufacturing vessels, and fish-farming.

While the plan for a fish farm at Port Elizabeth’s Hobie Beach was vehemently opposed by political parties, business and residents, Swartz said there was a need to produce fish artificially to keep up with the demand.

“I know the mayor was concerned about the location of the proposed fish farm . . . If it can be properly located, there can be a lot of value.

“We cannot just draw fish from the sea, we are going to have to reproduce species artificially to feed our economies and our population If we move quickly on this, we could be the first.”

He said Nelson Mandela Bay could be built into a world-class hub for maritime training, research and innovation.

For a number of years, an oil refinery at the Coega IDZ, dubbed Project Mthombo, was on the cards for the city.

This has stalled, but Swartz said Project Mthombo could create major economic, skills development and job creation opportunities for the city.

“This city should be on top of those policy debates and right at the heart of shaping them, if we’re going to break the cycle of unemployment and inequality.”

Mayor Danny Jordaan said it was important for the city to look at other economic streams than the motor industry.

“We must make a contribution to grow the economy. The first thing people stop buying in a serious crisis is a motor car, and yet we depend on that car,” Jordaan said.

“And we can’t increase tariffs as a main source of income to the metro.”

He said the council should decide about what it wanted to do to grow the ocean economy.

Meanwhile, later in the day, Transnet’s Theo Sethosa presented a plan for a “people’s port” at the proposed Bay waterfront site, saying Transnet would move the manganese ore dumps by 2019 or 2020.

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