25 March 2015 by defenceWeb
In six weeks’ time the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), of which South Africa is a member, will, along with the Human Sciences Research Council, host a blue economy workshop in Durban, to which the South African Navy will be paying close attention.
Titled “Promoting Fisheries, Aquaculture, Maritime Safety and Security Co-operation in the Indian Ocean region” it dovetails neatly with the maritime component of the South African government’s Operation Phakisa.
Late last year Rear Admiral Sagaren Pillay, Director Maritime Strategy at Navy headquarters in Pretoria, told defenceWeb “from a mandate perspective, the Navy remains responsible for the protection of South Africa’s territorial integrity and sovereignty with the maritime border being the Navy’s responsibility”. After Phakisa was announced, the Navy began looking at the implications of direct future force employment missions resulting from the Operation.
Phakisa comes from the “Big Fast Results” methodology employed by Malaysia and it is seen as being a launch platform for delivery of priorities set out in the National Development Plan. “Phakisa” means “hurry up” in Sesotho.
Speaking in Durban last June where he officially put the first implementation phase of Phakisa into operation, President Jacob Zuma said it would be led by the Department of Environment Affairs and would have four priorities. These are marine transport and manufacturing; offshore oil and gas exploration; aquaculture and marine protection services.
“South Africa is bordered by the ocean on three sides. With the inclusion of Prince Edward and Marion islands in the Southern Ocean, the coastline is over 3,900 kilometres long,” Zuma said, adding the full economic potential of this marine space remained largely untapped.
The President sees it as having the potential to contribute up to R177 billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while creating up to a million new jobs by 2033. By comparison, the ocean economy generated R54 billion and served 316 000 jobs in 2010.
One item on the Phakisa ocean agenda of particular interest to the maritime arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is marine protection services. This will include improving protection of South Africa’s oceans, particularly around critically endangered ecosystems.
Ahead of the May 4 and 5 blue economy core group workshop, IORA notes the Indian Ocean rim region is home to nearly a third of the world’s population.
“Additionally the region possesses a variety of resources vital for the well-being of its inhabitants. As such, IORA has placed more emphasis on growing the blue economy in the region,” the Association said.
Other IORA members include Australia, India, Malaysia as well as SADC countries Kenya, Mozambique and Seychelles.
The May workshop will concentrate on maritime safety and security as well as fisheries and aquaculture. One of the planned outcomes is improved knowledge on member states’ capacities, requirements, priorities and weaknesses in the area of maritime safety and security.
The workshop will also be looking into funding and regional co-operation for the important issues of safety and security as a precursor to oil and gas exploration and exploitation. Indications from government are the South African EEZ (exclusive economic zone) is home to nine billion barrels of oil and 11 billion barrels’ equivalent of natural gas. These reserves are equal to 40 years of South African oil consumption and 375 years of gas consumption.
The SA Navy is internationally accepted as a small one but it has a clear blue water capability in the form of four Valour Class Frigates and three Heroine Class Type 209 submarines. The fleet currently includes three revamped strikecraft serving as offshore patrol vessels. This number will be augmented by another three in the next three to four years as well as three dedicated inshore patrol vessels.
At this stage there is no indication from government on what role, if any, the SA Air Force (SAAF) will have in the maritime security sector of the ocean phase of Operation Phakisa. The defence force’s airborne arm is dependent of ageing C-47TP aircraft, operated by 35 Squadron out of AFB Ysterplaat. The SAAF is seeking to acquire maritime surveillance/patrol aircraft to replace these vintage aircraft.