South Africa can create at least 5000 jobs by providing ship and oil rig repair and maintenance, the Minister of Transport Ben Martins said on Wednesday.
Addressing the 2012 South African Maritime Industry Conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), Martins said a reinvigorated maritime industry in South Africa could become a key driver of economic growth and job creation.
He said one of the biggest opportunities that had been identified in the maritime sector was that of positioning South Africa as a centre for ship and oil rig repair and maintenance.
Cape Town's harbour is already involved in the repair of a number of rigs each year, but this could escalate with 250 oil and gas explorations set to take place off the coast of West Africa in the next five years.
Repair work driven by the expected explorations could create about 4000 to 5000 direct jobs and a further 1000 indirect jobs, said Martins.
He said the government had developed a Draft Green Paper on maritime shipping which would be tabled before the Cabinet shortly.
Research had been done on, among other things, SA as a hub for the oil industry, marketing of cargo, logistics and passenger shipping.
A draft policy on making ports more competitive was also being compiled, Martins said.
He said one consideration was to set up a transhipment hub in a special economic zone (SEZ) to, among other things, carry out re-labelling and container repairs.
Over the next three days, delegates at the conference, which is hosted by the SA Maritime Safety Authority, are expected to debate how to make the maritime industry more competitive, including lessons from the Philippines and Nigeria.A huge expanse of sea - and no ships
Addressing the conference earlier, the chairperson of Parliament's portfolio committee on transport, Ruth Bhengu, said the country was robbed of creating jobs and building the maritime industry when the decision to sell 57 ships in its maritime fleet was taken in 1993.
She believed the time was right for the country to review the industry, particularly as it had the longest coastline of any African country, with an area of sea under its sovereignty of three times its land size.
Martins said that at present, the government had no plans to purchase a new merchant-shipping fleet.
He said any further decisions around the direction the government intended to take in the maritime industry, would be made following the release of Green Paper on maritime shipping.
He said over the next two weeks, his department would be talking to the chief executives and boards of the 12 public entities that report to the department to discover what improvements were needed.
"We don't want a nation that is dependent on charity. We want a nation that works, that has dignity," he said.
The Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant said a reinvigorated maritime industry had provided a huge opportunity to create jobs.
Oliphant said her department was still considering whether to craft a sectoral wage determination for seafarers.