Energy Minister Dipuo Peters. (AFP) ~ AFP
Pretoria - All stakeholders in the maritime industry must accelerate transformation in the sector, according to Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters.
Opportunities should also be unlocked for women, black women in particular.
"A big challenge for SA's institutions of higher learning has been to realign their scientific training capacity to serve its black majority, by providing opportunities for black students to enroll in the nation’s best universities," according to Peters.
Another challenge is the brain drain.
She spoke on Wednesday at the send-off of the first group of 30 South Africans to start masters and doctoral study at the World Maritime University in Sweden.
"While political turbulence in other Sub-Saharan African countries has attracted talent to South Africa, job prospects in the developed world have also lured doctors, maritime experts, engineers and other skilled workers to the West," she said.
"One of our immediate tasks is to find solutions that speak to the retention of those in possession of scarce skills and competencies, particularly in the maritime sector."
The scholarships to study in Sweden provide an opportunity for the further intellectual and scholarly development of the graduates, Peters said.
She quoted former president Nelson Mandela in saying "if there is one appeal I could make, it is that young people must take it upon themselves to ensure that they receive the highest education possible so that they can represent us well in future as future leaders”.
The programme will contribute significantly to the development of the maritime industry in a changing world, according to Peters.
She would like to see SA's institutions of higher learning putting a focus on maritime law, engineering, transport economics, piloting, seafaring and all related fields.
"The ANC government is fully aware of the fact that the education of the youth is central for any nation’s development," she said.
"It continues to shape the future. In our development, maritime and science have been areas of continuity for South Africa during its myriad of political changes. But its role has not been problem-free." Job creation
She said the government must make sure that education and research in SA's maritime sector benefit the poor.
"We must understand that science creates jobs. We cannot remain consumers of maritime, science and technology from other countries," she said.
"In the maritime sector, black people are still largely excluded from ship ownership, operating, chartering, cargo surveying, marine tally and working with port equipment."
She would like to see SA becoming part of the 35 nations that enjoy a 95% monopoly of the world’s merchant vessels "sighted moving in and out of our waters".
South Africa has a 3 000km coastline straddling a major shipping route. Close to 80% of SA's trade is by sea.
"Yet SA has a weak maritime industry that does not adequately complement its land, aviation infrastructure and related services," she said.
"Our geopolitical positioning should necessitate that we reappraise the maritime sector and probe the further contribution it could make to job creation and regional trade."
About 60% of the country’s bulk commodity exports are transported by sea.
"A disturbing reality is that most of these are carried by foreign flagged ships, to the detriment of our own economy," she said.
"The knowledge and experiences you will acquire in Sweden will go a long way in alleviating some of these challenges."
Countries like China, Brazil, India, Russia, Norway, the USA, United Kingdom, France, Canada and South Korea are increasing revenue derived from the maritime sector, she said.