Join the great debate

Logos are being suggested and talk about creating a National Shipping Line for South Africa is ongoing, but not without some dissenting voices. And, to be honest, it’s not a new debate.

Since losing the iconic Safmarine brand and the pride associated with owning the pristine Big Whites, as their containerships were affectionately known, South African maritime stakeholders have been divided about whether the advantages of a State-owned shipping line outweigh the challenges.

Even ChatGPT gave me a rather watery response when I asked the question.

For this reason I am inviting you to join our April Maritime Industry Dialogue to have a formal debate on the subject. I encourage you to apply to be on the panel for or against this development. Normal rules of debate will apply and we will open voting to the audience to determine which side has the most support at the close of the session.

Voting will be anonymous to promote the freedom to express one’s views without prejudice.

Since our usual slot for the Maritime Industry Dialogue sessions falls on Freedom Day, we will be scheduling the debate for 26 April at 15:30.




I asked ChatGPT about starting a National Shipping Line

With all the hype around ChatGPT internationally and the local debate about whether or not South Africa should start a national shipping line, I thought I would test out GPT’s intelligence and pose the question.

For those of you who may have been hiding in the engine room of a ship somewhere and have not yet heard about ChatGPT, it was launched in November last year and is designed to provide “articulate answers across many domains of knowledge” according to Wikipedia. I have heard from some individuals that they are using it to create speeches and assist in the writing of research papers.

So I decided to pose the question: Should South Africa launch a National Shipping Line?


Whether or not South Africa should launch a National Shipping Line depends on a variety of factors, including economic conditions, the country’s strategic goals, and the potential risks and benefits. Here are some factors to consider:


  • South Africa is an important trading nation and a National Shipping Line could provide the country with greater control over its shipping operations, ensuring the safety and quality of its goods, as well as setting competitive shipping rates.
  • Launching a National Shipping Line could create jobs for South African citizens and stimulate economic growth.
  • A National Shipping Line could help to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign shipping companies and increase national pride.


  • Starting a National Shipping Line can be expensive, with high start-up costs for ships, ports, and other infrastructure.
  • The shipping industry is highly competitive and volatile, with unpredictable demand and fluctuating freight rates, making it a risky investment.
  • Established shipping companies may already have a stronghold on certain routes, making it difficult for a new National Shipping Line to compete.
  • Political interference could lead to inefficiencies and potential corruption.

Overall, whether or not South Africa should launch a National Shipping Line depends on a thorough analysis of the costs, risks, and potential benefits, as well as a clear strategy for success. It may be wise for the government to consult with industry experts and stakeholders to make an informed decision.

While this all took only a few minutes to generate and the information is obviously accessible on the internet somewhere, the ChatGPT service does not indicate any of the sources of its information. For me, as a journalist, this is somewhat problematic for a number of reasons.

Firstly – it is important to know the source of information in order to make an informed decision as to whether you believe it to be accurate and factual.

And, importantly, the information that GPT digs up may be protected by copyright laws and using it may expose you to potential infringement suits.

Nevertheless, GPT may serve as a good port of call for obtaining basic information from which to launch a more indepth investigation into matters that require critical interrogation and where the nuanced data is not required.