Opportunities ‘Lost’ at Sea
It is surprising that, with almost three-quarters of the continent’s trade conducted by sea, Africa is the only region in the world that has no merchant tonnage of note under its control. As a result, the continent is unable to handle its own coastal intraregional and extraterritorial seaborne trade.
Arriving well before the programme was scheduled to start allowed the CEO magazine team that attended the event to get an in-depth understanding of the work that goes into the final stages of preparing such an ‘out of this world’ event as the one held at the end of August 2014. One could hardly
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is one of the world’s foremost voices in the maritime industry and, with such a seemingly sad state of affairs on the continent, the Authority is concerned that lost economic opportunities abound. These lost opportunities can be found across the board, but, for the purpose of this article, we shall focus on those that have a direct and long-reaching
impact on the maritime sector. The continent’s export activity entails that Africa imports transport and logistics services with every import. In the absence of adequate infrastructure to support this, the Authority says that the result is that revenue is lost, as no tax- and tonnage-related benefits are collected. A skewed balance of trade against Africa has been the result.
Because there is no full exploitation of the maritime resources available on the continent, it follows, according to SAMSA, that there may be decimation of maritime services expertise – both sea-based and ashore – as well as diminishing the motherland’s competitiveness. Africa, as one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, has to have all the investments that it can get coming in and staying in Africa. However, with nearly non-existent African ship registries, the lost opportunities for possible investment in shipping by Africans are huge. This has the short- and long-term effect that the continent becomes vulnerable to geopolitical and geo-economic pressures.
The challenge regarding the unavailability of Africa’s ship registries undermines the establishment of a viable coastal industry that can complement the respective land and aviation national transport infrastructure and services. At a time when the continent should be creating wealth and as many opportunities for employment for its burgeoning, it is not. Instead, with regard to the maritime sector, there are lost opportunities in respect of domestic industrial development and vital job creation. It remains incumbent on stakeholders such as SAMSA and other bodies to ensure that, if Africa is to take its place at the table of world’s maritime powers, a coordinated approach in dealing with the maritime sector should be adopted ‘yesterday’.
Lastly, according to SAMSA, the lack of ship registries and shipping in general in Africa results in a weak continent in many respects. Africa has a weaker position in coordinating intraregional African coastal trade strategies and there is also the weakening of countries and governments’ capacity to govern their ocean territories as well as guarantee safety and security in respect thereof.
CASE IN POINT | SAMSA
by Andrew Ngozo