Oceans 2015 and beyond

Frederick Jacobs, Chairman of Maersk SA
Frederick Jacobs, Chairman of Maersk SA (Pty) Ltd - a member of Maersk Group.jpg

South Africa is situated in one of the busiest and most prominent international sea routes, and the country’s geographical location therefore presents compelling opportunities for increased levels of trade—and a thriving maritime industry.

A study recently conducted by the Department of Environmental Affairs estimated that if this potential is ‘unlocked’ the maritime industry could contribute R177-billion to GDP and create up to a million jobs by 2033. Building skills within South Africa’s maritime industry is therefore essential to reaching the South Africa’s economic goals and predicted job creation targets.

So it is important to recognise the contribution that the maritime industry makes towards local and global trade, and to note that global trade is simply not possible without seafarers and the vessels on which they operate.

Following the 2015 theme for World Maritime Day, ‘Maritime education and training’, which highlights the need to focus attention on the wider spectrum of maritime education and training, to ensure the development of skills and the sustainability of a safe and secure maritime industry, Achiever spoke to Frederick Jacobs, Chairman of Maersk SA, about nurturing the skills of the maritime industry.

Jacobs says shipping is one of the most efficient and cost effective forms of cargo transportation globally, with approximately 90% of world trade transported by sea. And he firmly believes that in order to boost the ocean’s economy, we need to nurture the skills of the industry.

According to him it is important to recognise the wide range of challenges, risks and demands which seafarers face when out at sea. “Safety is a matter of skills development, training and behaviour. The only way to instil an efficient and safe working environment at sea is through continuous safety and wellness training that is of high quality and standard.”

In order for the maritime industry to grow sustainably and contribute towards economic development, the skills of South Africa’s youth needs to be developed through training facilities which provide maritime education and training to youngsters interested in careers at sea. In doing so, we can mitigate the youth skills gap in the country and improve South Africa’s economic growth status.

Can you please expand on the training facilities which your company supports and why it’s so important to invest in among others the work of the South African International Maritime Institute, South African Maritime Academy (SAMTRA) and Lawhill Maritime Centre?

Shipping is one of the most efficient and cost effective forms of cargo transportation globally, with approximately 90% of world trade transported by sea, which is why it makes good sense for South Africa to invest in maritime transportation and manufacturing to improve GDP growth. This highlights the need for ongoing maritime education and training in South Africa to ensure the sustainability of a profitable maritime industry. Training facilities which the Maersk Group support, include the South African International Maritime Institute, South African Maritime Academy (SAMTRA) and Lawhill Maritime Centre, which provide extensive training and fundamental knowledge about safety at sea.

Can you please give us a breakdown of the current skills shortages in the maritime industry?

Seafaring skills are required for the operation of vessels and the effective running of the broader maritime industry. Skills shortages in the industry include technical skills such as artisanship, engineering and technical skills. Leadership and management skills also need to be developed within the industry. Seafaring skills and sea-time experience are both very important to sea-based occupations, as well as a range of maritime shore-based careers including pilotage—a fixed visual reference used for guiding vessels on the sea, marine surveying, terminal/cargo operations, port operations, ship management, marine administration, and maritime education and training. In order to boost the ocean’s economy, sea personnel will be required to cope with the increased demand that Operation Phakisa will bring with it. Therefore a collaboration of private and public sector investment is required to avoid a shortage of trained and qualified sea personnel.

Going forward and taking the maritime industry to the next level, a lot of what needs to be done is relatively ‘new’. How much work is really awaiting the various role players when it comes to creating the expertise and developing skills of the work force?

A continuous effort and collaboration is required from all role players including government, the private sector, South African society and academia to develop skills within the industry. Currently there are talks of government establishing an international maritime institute to co-ordinate skills and capacity building activities. Institutions such as this, including SAMTRA and Lawhill Maritime Centre, as well as investment into training programmes and apprenticeships from private companies like Maersk, all add to the development of skills levels in the country.

South Africa is situated in one of the busiest and most prominent international sea routes. What will the main opportunities for businesses be on this route?

In terms of maritime transportation, the main opportunities lie with growing volumes of cargo. Reaching new markets, which previously couldn’t diversify product lines, will also contribute towards increasing levels of trade.

What role will Operation Phakisa play in establishing skills development and training in this sector?

South Africa’s maritime transportation and manufacturing sectors have been identified as a major focus of Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy, and is the first phase of the operation to be spearheaded. Projects are expected to contribute more than R20 billion to the country’s GDP by 2019. Operation Phakisa will fast-track the development of the marine transportation sector, simultaneously introducing an international maritime institute to coordinate skills and capacity building activities for all Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy initiatives. 

Looking at other world economies that has already embraced the notion of an ocean economy—who can we learn from?

Specifically looking at the implementation of Operation Phakisa, we have learned from Malaysia. The program is an adaptation of their ‘Big Fast Results’ methodology, which was successfully applied by the Malaysian Government in the delivery of its economic transformation program. It seeks to identify implementation areas and blockages, address these areas, monitor progress regularly and bring about alignment on implementation and government policy.

Creating up to a million jobs by 2033: what will our biggest challenges be?

There can be no growth in the sector without investing in skills development. With assistance from both the public and private sector in this regard, South Africa will not only be able to create more jobs, but also stimulate trade and improve business efficiency. Investing in today’s youth will count in our favour as it will have a knock on effect in stimulating South Africa’s economy and job opportunities.

Looking specifically at shipping—is SA doing enough to promote this industry with such huge potential to boost our economy?

The maritime industry is a robust national asset, and in order to guarantee a healthy and productive future for it in the country industry leaders need to promote careers within the sector to afford them with the opportunities to grow, network, inspire and be inspired. It is therefore up to the maritime industry to make a concerted effort to support and promote itself.

Shipping is one of the most efficient and cost effective forms of cargo transportation globally. What programmes are currently in place to ensure nurturing of the skills in your industry and are there any success stories you would like to share?

The skills of South Africa’s youth need to be continually developed and nurtured through training facilities such as the South African Maritime Training Academy (a non-profit organisation that provides maritime education and training solutions to young South Africans interested in a career at sea), and Lawhill Maritime Centre (a maritime training school for grades 10–12). Engineering cadet Masawutso Gaven Chisale is an example of a young South African who is currently undergoing training to become an engineer in the maritime industry. Gaven began his training at SAMTRA in 2012. His wish is to become a chief engineer and qualify to take charge of all sizes of ships. We believe that with the necessary help from SAMTRA Gaven will enter the maritime industry with confidence. With further guidance, hard work and dedication Gaven has great potential to earn his position as a chief engineer.

What would your best advice be to the private sector interested in getting on board the oceans economy when it comes to developing their human capital?

The maritime industry welcomes all investments that will assist in growing the industry. A collaboration of expert and financial investment from government, the business sector, South African society and academia is imperative to deliver on Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy objectives. In order to ensure that holistic solutions are identified, the government has provided stakeholders with the opportunity to participate in workshops and consultation processes and to get in touch with the Department of Environmental Affairs for further information. To address the skills gap, businesses can offer and/or sponsor training programmes and apprenticeships to seafarers or potential seafarers interested in a career in the maritime sector.

World Maritime Day at South African Maritime Training Academy.JPG _DSC9742 (1).jpg 102.jpg
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