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13 June 2013 –

June 13, 2013, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal – South Africa should capitalise on the global shortage of seafarers by becoming a labour supply nation to the international shipping industry, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize said at the South African Maritime Safety Authority’s Maritime Careers Expo and Job Summit KZN in Durban last night.

He said this would go a long way towards reducing unemployment particularly in rural and township areas. Mkhize argued that South Africa was “sitting on its wealth and losing a strategic opportunity by not advancing the maritime industry in the country”.

Mkhize explained that the lack of skills development and proper co-ordination simply meant that countries like the Philippines, which are smaller than the rural town of Umkhanyakude in northern KZN, would increase their number from the current 250000 seafarers and unemployment in South Africa would persist.

Mkhize said KZN was unique because it played host to two of Africa’s largest ports, Durban and Richards Bay, and was therefore strategically positioned to be the logistics gateway into Africa and the rest of the world. The job summit signalled the end the three day SAMSA Maritime Careers Expo and Job Summit which saw at least twelve thousand school children from around the province attend the 50 career orientated exhibits during the course of the 3 days.

During this time, the learners were introduced to careers in the maritime sector and had a chance to tour SAMSA’s world renowned cadet training vessel, the Agulhas in the Durban harbour. SAMSA CEO, Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, told delegates at the job summit which brought marine experts, government departments and entrepreneurs together, that South Africa dominated the African maritime industry and had begun to explore its potential to secure a foothold in the international maritime agenda.

He explained that the Summit was intended to drive the growth in the maritime sector by encouraging a “breakthrough in linking effort to a tangible outcome and increasing the absorption of labour capacity in the industry.” For Mokhele, being the largest and busiest port on the African continent, Durban port had not always achieved its full potential. “It is a major travesty that we have poverty nodes next to the liquid diamond mines which the oceans represent in real economic terms. As we have observed around the world, nations have built massive wealth and reduced poverty through highly effective ports,” he said.

Mokhele said maritime trade accounted for over 85 percent of the global economy, and with Africa’s busiest ports, South Africa had the potential to play a major role in the international economy while alleviating high unemployment within the country. Speaking at the SAMSA event, Nigerian maritime expert, Barrister Chiedozie Ezeasor, drew parallels between the Nigerian and South African maritime sectors. While Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product growth rate of 7.1 percent sits substantially higher than South Africa’s 2.6 percent, and youth unemployment continues to be a major challenge in both countries, Ezeasor was confident that the “potential growth in the Maritime industry provided a key developmental resource, which could be fully accessed by SA’s advanced economic position and ability to better cope with challenges in the industry”.

In both South Africa and Nigeria, the maritime industry plays a significant role in trade and economic stability. Over 90% of all trade in South Africa is conducted through ports and the industry contributed almost 60 percent to the country’s total GDP. Despite the vital importance of the industry, South Africa’s maritime sector remains largely under-capacitated with only 10% of the 45000 necessary positions filled, a fraction of the 400 000 people the sector is believed to be capable of employing.

Representing the eThekweni municipality, Deputy Mayor, Councillor Nomvuzo Shabalala pledged local government’s support to the development of the local maritime economy and emphasised the need for improved educational initiatives and structures if the maritime sector was to grow; “Our first priority is to deal with the problems we face… our democracy can rise or fall by the levels of our education and this is where SAMSA can show its metal.”

Media queries:
Samukele Ngubane (sam@blueleafcomms.co.za), cell +27785560965
Shoaib Wahed (shoaib.wahed@fbicommunications.com), 031-2085525/cell +27735258723
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Issued on behalf of SAMSA by FBI Communications and Blue Leaf Communications

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