Ministers Snub Maritime Industry, Ignore Sleeping Giant

Article excerpt

Last week the SA Maritime Safety Authority, which has charge of the country's maritime affairs, held a three-day conference to invite input on ways in which the immense wealth and opportunity of the maritime industry can be unlocked.

Driven with passion by its chief executive, Samsa invited captains of industry to put their shoulders to the wheel to discuss how to awaken what we all know to be a sleeping giant.

The conference was by invitation, and was well attended. Busy businesspeople, academics and government officials from various levels, and significant and high-level delegations from our sister African countries - Nigeria, in particular, has a lot to teach us about making full use of our domestic maritime industry - all gave their time and their wisdom and enthusiasm freely.

It was an eye-opener. Youthful optimism pitched against the conservatism of experience. Wonderful stuff - the stuff that feeds true growth and transformation.

All were quick to realise that the maritime industry needs full government support if its riches are to be unlocked. That has been what it has sorely lacked for decades. The government pays scant attention to the seaboard. Essential legislation spends years stuck in the bureaucratic pipe.

There was romantic talk of the huge area of offshore SA that is largely untapped being the country's 10th province, and its largest and richest.

So what was lacking?

The conference was supposed to have been opened by President Jacob Zuma. This was seen as a strong sign that we could at last expect serious commitment from the top. Many delegates came in anticipation of this commitment.

Did our president come and support us? …