A full programme of talks by maritime industry leaders and experts will greet conference attendees at the inaugural Eastern Cape Ports and Maritime Conference, in Port Elizabeth today and tomorrow.
“The expressed aim of the conference is to chart a route to harnessing maritime potential and leveraging off existing industry assets,” said Mfundo Piti, Coega Development Corporation (CDC) Project Manager and the inaugural Eastern Cape Ports and Maritime Conference co-ordinator.
The event is an initiative of industry leaders and government, including the Eastern Cape Departments of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism and Transport, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), both the East London and Coega Industrial Development Zones (IDZs), the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Transnet and the Nelson Mandela Bay Maritime Cluster.
It is hoped that the conference will be the starting point for strengthened partnerships between these institutions.
The changing nature of ports – and its impact on the maritime industry – is one of the main topics for discussion, but dialogue points also include analysis on broad-ranging changes in the maritime industry.
Led by thinking from the highest office, the conference features a keynote address by the Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel, who will position the conference in the context of ports as enablers of economic development, delving into the role ports play in facilitating external trade and internal market changes.
Also providing papers and strategic insight are speakers from Transnet, the East London and Coega IDZs, the Nelson Mandela Bay Maritime Cluster, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and a line-up of national and international guest speakers.
“With three active ports in the province, the Eastern Cape is sitting on a goldmine of maritime resources and potential, but there is a need for a more collaborative and comprehensive joint approach to maximize existing and latent potential, and key to doing this is to flesh out the role ports play and to synchronise with industry potential,” says Ayanda Vilakazi, CDC head of marketing and communications.
“Through this approach we will unlock economic development opportunities in a range of sectors: from tourism to agro-processing, pure industry to possibly even ship repair. This is altogether a very exciting moment for the province and we are looking forward to the outcomes.”
The Coega Development Corporation, adjacent to the Port of Ngqura, manages the leading South African Industrial Development Zone (IDZ), the Coega IDZ.
Economic Development MEC Mcebisi Jonas will give the opening address, in an event that has become a pet project of his office. “As a province we are ready to seize on potential in the maritime sector – and to work together in a co-ordinated fashion to ensure that approaches to managing our vast resources are sustainable and informed by joint planning and implementation,” said Jonas.
The East London IDZ is also touting the collaborative nature of the conference. “There is a strong need to strengthen the province’s maritime cluster to allow us to maximise competitiveness on international and local trade, particularly in exporting goods manufactured in the two IDZs,” said East London IDZ chief executive, Simphiwe Kondlo.
“This can only go a long way in stimulating regional economy and in unleashing more potential in sectors such as agro-processing and aqua-culture. With the changing maritime industry and growing demand, all stakeholders involved need to work together to ensure that the value proposition of the region is not lost.
“As the East London IDZ we are looking forward to participating in the province’s inaugural Ports and Maritime conference and we are confident that we will come out of the gathering even more empowered. Of significance is to make sure we make full use of all available facilities in the region’s maritime cluster.”
ECDC is focused on the benefits greater maritime industry collaboration would have on the people of the province – particularly in unlocking economic opportunities.
“For ECDC to meet the vision of being an innovative leader for promoting sustainable economic growth and development of the Eastern Cape, it is necessary for us to participate in events of this nature to display our innovative leadership, become trusted partner for development and be known as stewards for public funds and prolonged financial stability and cash flow adequacy,” said Belinda Vabaza, ECDC Port Elizabeth regional head.
“It our strategic goal to stimulate economic activity through focused investments in vital sectors of the Eastern Cape economy, such as aquaculture and fish farming, to name a few, and also to optimise all resources so as to maximise investment returns and attain financial sustainability.”
The speakers on day one will take the minister’s lead and thrash out pivots of interest on the matter of ports. They will cover a range of topics on port-rail integration, the strategic importance of the Eastern Cape’s two IDZs and investment and development plans for the regional ports.
Some highlights include a discussion on the impact of ports on the maritime sector by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) Professor Richard Haines, a business sector view from Nelson Mandela Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler and major insight into
investment and development plans for the Eastern Cape Ports by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) chief executive Tau Morwe.
Similarly, the strategic importance and the role of the two IDZs in the development of the Eastern Cape Maritime Sector will be outlined by East London IDZ chief executive, Simphiwe Kondlo, with Karl Socikwa, chief executive of Transnet Port Terminals (TPT), discussing the role of TPT in the export-led growth strategy in the Eastern Cape.
Presenters also include Siyabonga Gama chief executive of Transnet Freight Rail, SAMSA chief executive, Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, and CDC chief executive, Pepi Silinga.
Day two will see the outlining of a roadmap for the development of an African Maritime Fleet and integration with the African Network of Maritime Clusters (ANMC) fleshed out by Funmi Folorunso, Maritime Consultant and Head of the Association of African Shipowners.
This will be followed by critical analysis and discussions on clusters a keynote address by Dutch shipping expert Sander Wubbolts.
Lwandile Mabuza, board member of eThekwini Maritime Cluster (EMC) and deputy manager of logistics in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism, will also speak on maritime clusters.
One of the expected key outcomes will be the development of a mutually beneficial co-operative alliance to connect an African Network of Maritime Clusters with the European Network of Maritime Clusters and other maritime clusters around the world, say organisers.
The way forward will be outlined by Tantaswa Cici, Manager of Maritime Safety Management in the Department of Transport.