20 in 2022: Quay words and phrases

Last week’s CMTP Midterm Review threw out some quay words and phrases that I thought I would highlight in this blog to create a general picture of the content of the conference that saw active engagement from a number of stakeholders.

  1. 4iR: The Fourth Industrial Revolution and all that comes with it including automation and innovation has been on the agenda for a few years now. The government has a 4iR policy and there are pockets of innovation taking places within universities and amongst incubators. The issue needs to be addressed from a skills and employment perspective within the maritime space.
  2. Action: The call for action on several outstanding and unresolved issues was loud and clear. It is clear that the industry is cynical about the lack of action that has taken place particularly with regard to the ports’ infrastructure and efficiencies as well as the promulgation of legislation.  
  3. Cabotage: Cabotage or a coastal shipping regime is not a new topic and has been debated for many years. The consensus seems to be, however, that a liberal policy should be implemented that is not too restrictive.
  4. Cadetships: While some people are still calling for the active recruitment of new seafarers based on the much-publicised expected shortage of officers within the world fleet, it should be noted that cadet berths continue to be a problem. Some solutions were put on the table including the purchase of a new vessel for training as well as the need to form better relationships with shipping lines. Some good news from SAMSA, however, highlighted that talks in this regard are taking place with the view of placing more cadets at sea.
  5. Collaboration: Let’s be clear on this one. Talking about collaboration and breaking down the silos does not equate to actually collaborating. While this topic has crept into all recent maritime conversations – there is not much clarity on how this can be achieved or what collaboration will look like in the maritime industry.
  6. Decarbonisation: This global ambition is both an opportunity and a challenge for South Africa and, indeed, Africa as a whole. We need to stay abreast of technologies, interventions and research in this regard and we need to position our own industry to take advantage of changes and developments.  
  7. Defining the value chain: This was an interesting issue that cropped up during the three-day event last week. Quite simply – without being able to accurately define the maritime value chain, we are not able to leverage the opportunities. The National Department of Transport (NDoT) announced the theme for the year as Benefitting from the Maritime Transport Value Chain on the first evening of the conference.
  8. Funding and Finance: As a capital-intensive industry that is not well understood by many financing houses and banks, stakeholders believe that more needs to be done to make potential funders aware of the realities of the industry. The establishment of a Maritime Development Fund was also once again raised, but no real action plan was revealed.
  9. Green Hydrogen: This topic deserves more than a single bullet point – but suffice to say that this is fast becoming a buzz word in the maritime sector. It will be interesting to watch how countries and companies position themselves in this regard as the return on investment looks to be long term with substantial capital outlay.
  10. International Maritime Centre: The ultimate aim of the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy is to see South Africa emerge as an International Maritime Centre on the African continent. This implies a healthy and growing subset of maritime sectors that are transformed, efficient, cost-effective and customer-centric. Government is seen to be an enabler in this regard, while the private sector will need to engage as well as collaborate (yes that word again) to ensure this vision is achieved. “South African businesses must be at centre of maritime development to provide services to international industries,” said Dumisani Ntuli of the NDoT in his opening remarks.
  11. Legislation and Policies: The need to fast track several key pieces of legislation was highlighted, but many of these still seem to be some way off being promulgated into law. Stakeholders expressed frustration about recent developments relating to the policy to allow additional STS transfers in Algoa Bay as well as the numerous Acts that are sitting in the legislative pipeline. In addition, there was a call to sign certain important conventions including the Clydebank Declaration.
  12. Maritime Awareness: Maritime awareness has been on the agenda for a number of years and much has actually been achieved in this regard. The concern, however, is the creation of false hope amongst the youth who have been exposed to a seafaring career without much thought as to how we will manage their cadetships and sea time. Nevertheless, stakeholders maintain that maritime awareness needs to start at school level and developments in qualifying maritime teachers was shared.
  13. National Shipping Carrier: Speaking at the opening of the event last week, the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula said that the establishment of a National Shipping Carrier was a priority. The aim is to be able to control ships and tonnage for the benefit of South African citizens and companies.
  14. Operation Phakisa: Yes, this is still on the agenda. Despite provoking some cynicism, Operation Phakisa still has a role to play in the development of the maritime agenda. For many, the need to align the newly created Ocean Economy Master Plan (which derives its course from Phakisa) with the CMTP document as well as the numerous government departments that are associated with it is paramount.
  15. Port City: The concept of integrating the port and city was mentioned as a way to move ports towards becoming more responsive to the needs of companies and stakeholders in its precinct as well as to create awareness of the greater logistics chain within adjacent cities.
  16. Port Efficiency: It is a pity that this topic remains a massive issue within the maritime industry in South Africa. Ports and the Ports Authority are seen as the gateway to the maritime sectors – and constituents of these sectors have long anguished over the lack of action taken within the ports to ensure productivity, efficiency, opportunities, and ease of doing business.
  17. Ships Register: Another topic that has been buzzing around conferences for close to two decades is that of bolstering the South African Ships Registry. There are some very practical steps that need to be taken in this regard – not least of which is the need to identify what shipowners are looking for in a Flag State. Shipowners have the luxury of choice in this regard and for a register to deliver the desired gains, we will need to create a framework that makes business sense for shipowners.
  18. Transformation: While there has been transformation in various sub sectors of the maritime industry, many believe that this is still not enough and that the BBBEE sector codes need to be implemented to achieve adequate transformation.
  19. Women and Youth: Part of the transformation agenda includes the inclusion of women and youth within the sector and actively making space for them within the existing structures.
  20. World Maritime Day: We have a massive opportunity to showcase our maritime sectors in October this year as we host the International Maritime Organisation’s World Maritime Day parallel event. We need to leverage this opportunity.

These quay words and phrases can only provide a short snapshot into what was discussed last week and we will be publishing a full report back on the event before the end of the month.  

It’s time to vote

After finishing off writing up the profiles of our shortlisted nominees in the Blue Economy Champion Award – I can honestly say that the maritime sector has no shortage of passionate promoters who are keen to see the industry grow, transform and become sustainable. And, while our list includes some deserving candidates, I have no doubt that there are plenty more champions out there too.

The process does rely on the generosity of our maritime colleagues to not only nominate, but also to vote for those in the industry that deserve recognition. So often we don’t give (or receive) this type of acknowledgement and I do hope that this initiative goes a little way in providing a shout out and help them understand that we see them.

Although extremely pleased by the response to the call for nominations, I am hoping that future editions of this Award programme (yes, we want to continue this into the future) will attract even more input.

What the list of candidates also indicates is that there is a shift in the industry and transformation is taking place.

Thank you to everyone who nominated their peers. It’s now time to vote for your preferred candidate. Public voting closes on 28 March and will be followed by an adjudication process by a panel of judges.

PS: Since it is International Women’s Day, I thought I would point out that eight of the 23 candidates are women – that’s a little over 30 percent. That’s certainly better than the claimed two percent of representation of women in the global maritime industry.

Getting take-aways

Yesterday I picked up some maritime take-aways that did not involve fish and chips.

I accepted an invite to participate in a Maritime Security Roundtable hosted by the Institute for Security Studies Africa (ISS Africa) with a bit of trepidation based on my concern that I would not be able to add much value. Joining a group of varied maritime stakeholders, the discussion was interesting as well as diverse and highlighted several important issues that provided some important take-aways.

  • The marine and maritime space is far-reaching and complex in nature – making any discussion on governance and security equally diverse and complex.
  • Significant work is being done theoretically, academically and practically to improve South Africa’s and Africa’s ability to manage its own maritime domain – but much of this is not immediately visible or apparent.
  • This lack of visibility is, in part, due to the diverse range of stakeholders involved across government and industry – with the consequence of some duplication and gaps occurring.
  • While many consider Operation Phakisa a failed initiative, it did manage to provide deliverables in some areas. One such success is the creation of the Incident Management Organisation (IMOrg) within SAMSA.
  • An Ocean Economy Master Plan is scheduled to be completed by December this year – outlining aspects of the maritime economy that require attention and offer opportunity. Although the process is being driven by government, labour and industry, there is still a perception that it is being held behind closed doors by some.
  • There is a lack of willingness to coordinate data from the industry to help make over-arching decisions, with many government departments, NGOs and Universities all accumulating research without an understanding of what has already been undertaken in the space.
  • Coastal communities are often not part of the discussions for solutions and/or their specific challenges are not understood within the context of the historical and present dynamics.
  • Training within the maritime space needs to be offset against actual employment opportunities. Training for unemployment cannot be an option.
  • There appears to be a lack of review of policies to understand where interventions have worked and where they have not. In addition, policy briefs are often ignored or not produced.
  • The slow pace of policy as well as legal instrument development is a massive problem with important legislation often becoming stalled and remaining in the pipeline for many years.
  • It was suggested that a major maritime disaster or set-back may be needed to strengthen government’s resolve to tackle a number of issues that remain unresolved.
  • A dedicated maritime department within government was once again discussed as a solution to coordinating the maritime efforts of the country; and that the maritime agenda needs to be raised more often within government structures.
  • While regional and continental bodies exist, these cannot override national interests. The AU needs to strengthen its maritime desk.
  • In the absence of true collaboration and visibility; many private companies are simply just getting on with it while policy and government strategy lags behind.

At the end of the day, most agreed that adding another maritime intervention or initiative to the space would simply further the fragmentation of efforts. More collaboration and coordination are the ultimate solutions. Sadly, this is a common refrain and will take significant effort for stakeholders to pay more than lip service to the notion of breaking down silos.

Thank you to my hosts and fellow-panellists for a most interesting afternoon of discussions. It was also good to get out from behind the computer screen and zoom meetings to engage in person – albeit behind masks.

If your dreams can fit into your pocket – they are not big enough

Back: Arielle Kuper of Solution Strategies and Clare Gomes, Chairperson of WISTA-SA. Middle: Paula Giusti of Trade Ocean and Jane Cotton of One Eighty. Front Nolwandle Mboweni of Vela International and Eva Moloi of Vice Chairperson of WISTA-SA.

It is not often that you walk away from a maritime industry function feeling inspired to dream bigger, but I left last night’s WISTA-SA’s networking meeting feeling resolute to follow through on some major plans for 2020.

“If your dreams can fit into your pocket – they are not big enough,” Nolwandle Mboweni, CEO of Vela International told WISTA members.

With roots in teaching that continue to define the way she interacts in industry, Nolwandle was nudged into the business world by her father and her husband. Today she is lightyears away from the classroom as she occupies seats in a number of boardrooms – and is currently actively seeking new opportunities in the maritime sector.

Patting her hip pocket and smiling, she was clear that pocket-sized dreams would not have helped her participate in delivering the Gautrain – Africa’s first high-speed train or seen her become a director of companies such as Afrisun Gauteng, Total SA, Allpay Gauteng and more.

Ariella Kuper’s energetic and entertaining description of her road to becoming a major player in the ship auctioning business was equally as inspiring.

“Stars need darkness to shine,” she enthused, telling WISTA members that she had actively sought out male-dominated environments during her career.

Having started out in the steel sector almost by accident and by subsequently “tricking” her way into a job at Macsteel, Ariella’s career culminated in her co-founding the biggest mining auction house in South Africa.

But, following two bouts of cancer, she decided to regroup and focus on what had become a passion for ship auctions. Now she heads up Solution Strategist and is actively involved in ensuring that tonnage moves hands.

For Paula Giusti the path to the maritime sector was also accidental. Arriving in South Africa from Argentina 20 years ago with an agriculture qualification and in need of employment, it was her ability to speak Spanish that landed her a job at a ships’ agency.

Now she is driven by a desire to see Cape Town amplify its position as a super yachting destination and is working with industry players to promote this exciting niche maritime market.

Host for the evening, Janet Cotton of One Eighty has had no less inspirational journey in a very male-dominated sub sector of the industry. She’s the person to call if you need more information about mechanical or structural failures on your vessels or equipment.

Like many women in the industry she has had a number of laughable interactions based on her decision to show up in a workshop environment where she now commands respect.

The services of the One Eighty laboratory in Cape Town is used by many insurers and companies to help piece together the puzzles associated with equipment failure and, in many cases, provides a better understanding of how to prevent similar occurrences in future.

One thing is clear – none of these women ever kept their dreams in their pockets. They now represent significant clout in their respective sectors and are helping eliminate stereotypical reactions to the presence of women in the maritime domain.

 

Crowdfunding as a tool for the boat building sector

One of the most common moans made by delegates at many of the maritime conferences is the lack of access to capital for start-up projects in the maritime sectors. By its nature, the maritime sector is a capital intensive space to play in and many entrepreneurs’ dreams are dashed sitting in a chair at their bank.

Crowdfunding has emerged internationally as a potential source to deliver funds to enthusiastic entrepreneurs who have a good idea to sell. Can this form of finance be harnessed for the likes of the small boat builder keen to bring a unique platform to the market?

Cape Town-based entrepreneur, Jako Laubscher is testing the waters with his River Lounge concept on the Indiegogo platform which claims to have raised over $1 billion in crowdfunding for projects around the world. The platform has successfully hosted a number of other boat-related projects including the HYPAR smart boat, and the Keelcrab Sailone.

The River Lounge concept is seeking crowdfunding to take it to the next phase of development.

There are, however, a number of projects that do not seem to have gained traction yet including Laubscher’s River Lounge. Although currently in its concept stage, the River Lounge idea is an interesting one that could potentially attract interest from local and international investors.

The River Lounge is a fully automated hydraulically platform with hidden units that open and close with your remote control. It is a fully roadworthy product that can open on its own trailer for a 42m2 two bedroom apartment with amenities, air con, braai area, fridge, freezer (under deck), kitchenette AND/OR launch onto the water for a day out on the dam/river.

For international shipping it fits into a 40ft container or your garage. Weighing less than 2,5t your average truck or sizable car can tow the River Lounge to various destinations.

In contrast to the slick presentation and detailed drawings associated with the River Lounge on the Indiegogo platform is the rather crude conceptualisation of a kit to change a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) into a motor boat. Unsurprisingly the idea – which seems to consist of literally tying a chair and small outboard onto a SUP – has not garnered much attention.

Monty Furmie is another South African with maritime funding aspirations on Indiegogo. This Cape Town-based software developer is hoping to get crowdfunding to launch a sport fishing boat and charter business to be known as Kraken Oceanic. Capital raised via the platform will be used to train currently unemployed people in the skills associated with the building of the required vessel for the business.

In addition, Furmie states as one of the goals, the ambition to create open source software and systems for all communications, energy, GPS and Sonar/Radar requirements. “This software will be released as open source software and made available from our website as well as a publicly accessible GitHub repository,” he writes in his overview of the project on the platform.

Choosing a platform

Indiegogo is one of many international platforms that host start-up projects as well as fundraising opportunities for charities, but local South African versions are also available. The choice of platforms is one of the first steps towards running a successful crowdfunding campaign as one needs to consider their audience reach as well as their business model.

The South African based Jumpstarter platform has an “all-or-nothing” protocol built into their business model. As a registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO), Jumpstarter states that all projects must be 100 percent funded before its time expires to be able to claim the funds. Funds relating to projects that do not meet this requirement become usable for other live Jumpstarter Projects as credits or pledges.

They maintain that this reduces the risk for all involved as it does not compel the project originator to follow through on a concept without the full financial support required.

By contrast the Indiegogo site offers two funding models and allows campaigners to access funds even if their full project goal is not met if they choose the flexible funding model. Choosing the fixed funding model, however, sees contributions returned if campaigners do not meet their goal. The choice depends on whether the project could go ahead without the funding goal being reached or not.

Obviously a commission fee is structured into the pricing and the platforms stipulate the percentage of funds raised that they claim. This can vary across the different platforms and can additionally include commissions and charges on funds that are transferred via a credit card.

Luring funders

Whatever the platform, however, the project really needs to catch the attention and emotions of potential funders who are generally everyday internet browsers that need to be persuaded to be parted from their cash.

This necessarily begs the question of trust. Will South African, and indeed African campaigners, be deemed to be trustworthy on international funding platforms where perceptions of a corrupt continent may thwart calls for investment?

Most platforms make it fairly easy to create a funding project or campaign – but on the surface it does not seem that even the most reputable sites are immune to hosting scams. Indiegogo, for example, recently hosted a scam that netted a campaigner $850,000 in a couple of days for a innovative artificial gill that “lets you breathe underwater”.

A company called Triton seems to have capitalized on the lack of knowledge surrounding marine ecosystems by claiming to have invented a device that was able to filter the oxygen out of seawater and allow scuba divers 45 minutes of shallow shipwreck exploration.

Bearing in mind that this is not an isolated scam, investors need to understand that they could be operating in a potentially grey area while those seeking funding need to realise that they need to overcome any skepticism that may exist by being transparent as well as open to questions.

One can be sure that these online platforms that act as facilitators for this funding have built-in terms and conditions that protect them when the fish does not hit the net so to speak.

It is interesting to note that, given the huge potential for crowdfunding to promote entrepreneurship and financing on the African continent, the establishment of the African Crowdfunding Association (ACfA) was established to promote effective self-regulation as well as “build trust and transparency between all actors in the African crowdfunding ecosystem”.

The take-home has to be, however, that both campaign developers as well as investors need to be circumspect about their expectations when using crowdfunding platforms. That said, it could be an interesting space for some maritime sectors to seek finance. Quite honestly, though, it is the platforms that are actually raking in the funds for the role in facilitating the deal – and it is therefore not surprising that a massive plethora of available crowdfunding sites exist.

Perhaps I will start one aimed directly at the maritime industry – anyone keen to fund this for me?

 

New DoT Minister misses maritime 

It is disheartening to note that the first briefing given by the new Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, yesterday outlining the immediate tasks for his department made no mention of the maritime industry. 

This, despite the recent revealing of the DoT’s Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy as well as the central role that the DoT’s agency, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), plays in the government-driven Operation Phakisa focused on growing the maritime sectors. 

This, despite the need for that agency to see the finalisation of an appointment of a permanent CEO and despite many other initiatives that are currently receiving and in need of attention. 

His briefing understandably looks primarily at road transport issues and we give cognizance to the importance of this sector in his stable. It also briefly mentions rail in relation to the agreement with China to build the Moloto Rail Development Corridor, but it fails to even give a nod to the maritime sector. 

And, as it refers to the proud history of struggle heros who dedicated their energy to fighting for better quality of life for their comrades and his commitment to patriotism as well as the National Development Plan, he may well have taken note that the maritime industry is the sector in his portfolio that offers a great opportunity for delivering on these promises. 

It would be disappointing if the current momentum gained in the industry in sensitising government to the potential impact of the maritime sector is lost. We are fortunate, however, in the fact that the Deputy Minister, Sindiswe Chikhunga, is already known to be a driver for maritime awareness within the Department and it is hoped that her voice will continue to be heard. 

An African passport by 2018?

One of the many challenges that the highly mobile people of the maritime industry face is that of accessibility to jurisdictions within Africa. This is particularly frustrating for Africans aiming to work on the African continent and may even hamper emergency response to potential maritime incidents.

Discussions at the recent World Economic Forum meetings in Kigali, Rwanda refocused attention on the idea of introducing an African passport by 2018 – a move that will surely be welcomed by proponents of the maritime industry who face delays when responding to clients’ emergency requirements in other African countries.

Leading a session, South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and Chairperson of the National Planning Commission, Jeff Radebe, implored delegates to reflect on the continued need for visas in Africa and to meet the 2018 deadline of creating an African passport.

In February this year the African Development Bank released the Africa Visa Openness Report 2016, which highlights the fact that the continent remains largely closed off to African travellers. According to the report:

“On average Africans need visas to travel to 55 percent of other African countries, can get visas on arrival in only 25 percent of other countries and don’t need a visa to travel to just 20 percent of other countries on the continent.”

 

The clock is ticking on the African Union’s (AU) goal and vision for Africa as set out in Agenda 2063 which envisions the establishment of an African passport and an end to visa requirements for all Africa citizens in Africa by 2018. There are no clear indications from the AU as to the progress that has been made in this regard, but it is clear that it falls within the Union’s Flagship Projects in the First Ten Year Plan.

However, three years into the First Ten Year Plan, many of the goals remain largely aspirational and it is not clear where or what the stumbling blocks would be to the realisation of an African Passport. Common sense, however, suggests that without the reality of a peaceful and secure Africa as envisioned by Agenda 2063 – the likelihood of an agreement on free movement on the continent is more than 18 months away.

Chairperson of the AU, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma writes in her foreword to the report, however: “We believe that the free movement of people is possible, which is why Agenda 2063 calls for the abolition of all visa requirements within the period of the Ten Year Implementation Plan and the creation of an African passport.”

Perhaps regional visas are more realistic in the short term, but  any move to finalise agreements in this regard will certainly be welcomed by the African maritime community.

 

Conference Call

The fact that “some 90 per cent of trade is carried by sea” is the most over-used statistic at maritime conferences. If you are that way inclined, you may be tempted to create a drinking game out of how many times this is presented during any given conference programme. Maritime professionals just love this fact – we highlight it every chance we get. Enough already!

Use this pearl of wisdom in non-maritime related forums or at dinner parties with your accountant friends where such information is still likely to astound your audience, but for heaven’s sake – those of us working in the industry know this already  – and would counter this as an exact statistic anyway.

Unfortunately this highlights another issue relating to conferences, workshops, exhibitions, summits and expos. There are just so many of them and a great deal of them are pulling the same speakers and addressing the same topics. The question has to be: how do members of the industry choose which event to support and attend without resorting to FOMO* as a decision making tool?

With all due respect to industry-related magazines – we offer little assistance to industry in this regard. Most conferences approach us to be “event partners” to gain some free advertising and promotion before and after the event. In exchange we are offered the opportunity to dish out our magazines; a delegate pass and our logo on their promotional material as a media partner.

Conferences are seldom selective in choosing their media partners and publications usually accept every partnership they are offered – oftentimes with no intention of attending, but with every intention of getting rid of back issues that we are too emotionally attached to to send for recycling.

Make no mistake – there are still some very good conferences on the calendar and not everyone attends these events to absorb presentation after presentation. Often the real value lies in the networking opportunities and the card exchanges. It’s in the opportunity to sit next to someone you have never met before and develop a new connection.

It is, of course, an added bonus if the material presented blows you away. Sadly not much is done by conference organisers to really mould and shape their programmes. I realise it’s probably difficult when they only receive the content of Power Point Presentations at the last minute (and sometimes even as the speaker walks into the conference venue).

But I do feel that the organiser has the responsibility to their delegates (who are often paying a good few thousand to attend) to play a stronger role in content delivery. Not everyone has the ability to develop and present a paper – and the vetting process should go beyond a person’s job title at a specific company or entity.

By way of comparison – it would be like an editor of a magazine accepting article contributions without reading them and simply sending the magazine off to the printer without verifying that content is not repeated; is relevant and of a decent quality.

So my goal for the year is to engage with event organisers and delve a little deeper into what the calendar holds in the hope of providing some definitive feedback to the industry at the end of the year.

*FOMO: Fear OF Missing Out – accepted abbreviation amongst social media platform users. 

 

TETA is on the take!

The Transport Education and Training Authority (TETA) collects levies from its registered members annually and is tasked to redistribute the money to fund relevant training in the maritime sectors.

So, if you clicked on this blog thinking the title referred to a scandal at the Authority, I hope you will not be too disappointed to learn that the money they are taking from the industry appears to be doing a lot of good.

It’s being channelled into the upliftment of people who probably would not have the means to pursue formal training. It’s helped develop human capital in the maritime sectors. And it’s spurred on many individuals’ ability to progress along career paths.

This is a modern day Robin Hood story

I’ve had the opportunity to interview Malcolm Alexander at TETA twice now. Last week, in his office, I came close to resigning from the magazine and begging him to let me work there. The scope to make a difference is palpable and his energy is infectious. He really believes in the system and trying to make it work for companies as well as individuals.

He is the first to admit, however, that not everything is perfect. But at least they are delivering and people are benefitting. He highlights the significant contributions made by some of the companies in the industry and notes in particular the likes of Talhado Fishing, Sea Vuna and I&J as championship league players in the training game. Malcolm also points out that many registered levy players do not use the system to their advantage and encourages companies to speak to them about the opportunities that exist.

So yes, TETA is on the take, but they’re redistributing what they take into verified training initiatives that are upskilling our sector. If your company is not participating fully within the TETA levy and grant system, watch out for their series of workshops this month around the country to get more information.

So next time you pay across your levy begrudgingly – take a pause and consider the impact that training actually has on the lives of those who receive it. This is truly about building a better South Africa one skill at a time.

The forthcoming issue of Maritime Review will include a look at Education and Training in the Maritime Sector.

Coastline confusion

Can anyone tell me exactly how long South Africa’s coastline is? I am talking about our coastline – excluding any islands that we may have jurisdiction over.

Situated at the southern tip of Africa and surrounded by sea on “three sides,” we like to assume that we have access to a generous coastline, but the actual length does not seem to be cast in stone.

I’ve had the opportunity to dwell on this elusive fact over the last few months while writing and editing a number of pieces for a variety of sources. I was even tempted to take out a length of string and attempt to do something I last did in High School during map work in Geography, but decided rather to spend my evening drinking wine with friends (achieving life/work balance).

But yesterday I received a press release that stretched our coastline to its limits. Apparently South Africa now has “almost 4,000 kilometres” of coastline to be proud of.  And it does not seem that the PR company was adding any offshore coast from island territories to this accumulation.

I am used to receiving press releases that peg the coast at anywhere between 2,500 km and 3,000 km long, so this additional 1,000 kilometres is really a windfall for the country.

Perhaps this is part of Operation Phakisa’s strategy to expand the maritime industry (the press release did allude to this Government-led project), but I am not sure that our neighbours would be too happy with us claiming a portion of their coastline in order to increase our maritime prospects.

So – can anyone tell me the real, undisputed length of our coastline?